August 01, 2012

Washington News Briefs

FINANCIAL ACCOUNTING STANDARDS:  The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) voted July 9 to withdraw proposed amendments to the Financial Accounting Standards that the ABA maintains would have substantially increased the amount of privileged information companies must report in connection with periodic disclosures of litigation loss contingencies. The board voted 5-2 to end the five-year effort to write a new accounting standard for loss contingencies after concluding that “improvements to financial reporting are more likely to be achieved through robust compliance than through additional standard setting,” according to FASB Chairman Leslie Seidman. FASB issued an initial exposure draft in 2008 and addressed many of the ABA’s concerns when it issued a revised draft in 2010. In the ABA’s subsequent comments submitted to the board in September 2010, however, then ABA President Stephen N. Zack said the ABA continued to question the need for FASB to change existing disclosure standards with regard to loss contingencies. Following the FASB decision to withdraw its proposed revisions, the board issued an invitation on July 12 for stakeholders to comment on a proposed overall financial statement disclosure framework as a first step in collecting broad input on ways to improve the effectiveness of disclosures. The invitation to comment suggests a number of possibilities rather than proposing specific changes, and FASB plans to hold several interactive forums on the proposal. The deadline for comments on the new proposed disclosure framework is Nov. 16.

ADAM WALSH REAUTHORIZATION:  Earlier this month the House passed H.R. 3976, legislation to reauthorize the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which seeks to protect communities from those who have committed sex crimes against children. The bill, introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), would reauthorize key programs of the act for five years at amounts reflecting the fiscal year 2012 appropriations levels. One of the programs reauthorized would be the Sex Offender Registry and Notification Act (SORNA), a uniform system of sex offender registries that applies to all offenders. The ABA, which opposed the original act’s treatment of juvenile offenders as adults, adopted additional policy in 2009 urging Congress to amend the Adam Walsh Act regarding sexual crimes committed by juveniles to require juvenile court judges to consider factors relevant to the specific offense and the individual juvenile offender in determining whether they should be placed on sex offender registries, subjected to sex offender registration requirements and community notification of their offenses, or otherwise face additional restrictions generally placed on adult sexual offenders. According to the ABA, sexually inappropriate behavior by children requires a response that recognizes the major differences between youth and adult sex offenders in order to best serve the interests of the child as well as those of the community. H.R. 3976 responds to those concerns by modifying key provisions in the act to reduce its overly severe treatment of juvenile offenders, including requiring placement of such offenders on registries viewed only by law enforcement entities and not on public registries.

WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN: Rep. Susan A. Davis (R-Calif), the ranking minority member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, and former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey of the Department of State Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan spoke about the status of women in Afghanistan at a panel discussion sponsored July 19 by the Women in National Security Initiative of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security and the ABA Governmental Affairs Office. Davis described a recent House Armed Services Committee oversight trip to Afghanistan where a bipartisan delegation of members of Congress and professional staff visited Kabul, Helmand and Kandahar to receive updates on progress in Afghanistan. They also met with Afghan women during a female shura, or consultation. While overall conditions for women have improved since 2001, there have been recent attacks against women, including the assassination of the country’s director of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and acid attacks at several schools for girls. Healy said that she believes that education is the key to gender equality, and there are about 2 million more girls in school now than there were when the Taliban fell in 2001. Davis described the conditions in detention centers where women are detained for various moral crimes, such as running away from an abusive household. ABA President Laurel Bellows, who introduced the panelists, said “there is no question that the women of Afghanistan have a long road to travel before they achieve full equality, but events such as this help raise awareness and provide depth to the discussion.” The panel’s moderator was Jill Rhodes, a member of the ABA standing committee. Also participating in the event were Jaime Cheshire, senior advisor to House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep.  Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), and Debra Wada, deputy minority staff director for the committee.

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