Summary of Statement No. 53

Statement No. 53
Accounting and Financial Reporting for Derivative Instruments
(Issued 06/08)

This Statement addresses the recognition, measurement, and disclosure of information regarding derivative instruments entered into by state and local governments. Derivative instruments are often complex financial arrangements used by governments to manage specific risks or to make investments. By entering into these arrangements, governments receive and make payments based on market prices without actually entering into the related financial or commodity transactions. Derivative instruments associated with changing financial and commodity prices result in changing cash flows and fair values that can be used as effective risk management or investment tools. Derivative instruments, however, also can expose governments to significant risks and liabilities. Common types of derivative instruments used by governments include interest rate and commodity swaps, interest rate locks, options (caps, floors, and collars), swaptions, forward contracts, and futures contracts.

Governments enter into derivative instruments as investments; as hedges of identified financial risks associated with assets or liabilities, or expected transactions (that is, hedgeable items); or to lower the costs of borrowings. Governments often enter into derivative instruments with the intention of effectively fixing cash flows or synthetically fixing prices. For example, a government with variable-rate debt may enter into a derivative instrument designed to synthetically fix the debt’s interest rate, thereby hedging the risk that rising interest rates will negatively affect cash flows. Governments also enter into derivative instruments to offset the changes in fair value of hedgeable items.

A key provision in this Statement is that derivative instruments covered in its scope, with the exception of synthetic guaranteed investment contracts (SGICs) that are fully benefit-responsive, are reported at fair value. For many derivative instruments, historical prices are zero because their terms are developed so that the instruments may be entered into without a payment being received or made. The changes in fair value of derivative instruments that are used for investment purposes or that are reported as investment derivative instruments because of ineffectiveness are reported within the investment revenue classification. Alternatively, the changes in fair value of derivative instruments that are classified as hedging derivative instruments are reported in the statement of net assets as deferrals.

Derivative instruments associated with hedgeable items that are determined to be effective in reducing exposures to identified financial risks are considered hedging derivative instruments. Effectiveness is determined by considering whether the changes in cash flows or fair values of the potential hedging derivative instrument substantially offset the changes in cash flows or fair values of the hedgeable item. In these instances, hedge accounting should be applied. Under hedge accounting, the changes in fair values of the hedging derivative instrument are reported as either deferred inflows or deferred outflows in a government’s statement of net assets.

Much of this Statement describes the methods of evaluating effectiveness. The consistent critical terms method considers the terms of the potential hedging derivative instrument and the hedgeable item. If relevant terms match or in certain instances are similar, a potential hedging derivative instrument is determined to be effective. The other methods are based on quantitative analyses. The synthetic instrument method considers whether a fixed rate or price has been established within a prescribed range. The dollar-offset method evaluates changes in expected cash flows or fair values over time between the potential hedging derivative instrument and the hedgeable item. The regression analysis method considers the relationship between changes in the cash flows or fair values of the potential hedging derivative instrument and the hedgeable item. In these methods, critical and quantitative values are evaluated to determine whether a potential hedging derivative instrument is effective. Quantitative methods other than those specified in the Statement are permitted, provided that they address whether the changes in cash flows or fair values of the potential hedging derivative instrument substantially offset the changes in cash flows or fair values of the hedgeable item.

The disclosures required by Technical Bulletin No. 2003-1, Disclosure Requirements for Derivatives Not Reported at Fair Value on the Statement of Net Assets, have been incorporated into this Statement. The objectives, terms, and risks of hedging derivative instruments are required disclosures. Disclosures also include a summary of derivative instrument activity that provides an indication of the location of fair value amounts reported on the financial statements. The disclosures for investment derivative instruments are similar to the disclosures of other investments.

The requirements of this Statement are effective for financial statements for periods beginning after June 15, 2009. Earlier application is encouraged. For potential hedging derivative instruments existing prior to the fiscal period during which this Statement is implemented, the evaluation of effectiveness should be performed as of the end of the current period. If determined to be effective, hedging derivative instruments are reported as if they were effective from their inception. If determined to be ineffective, the potential hedging derivative instrument is then evaluated as of the end of the prior reporting period.

How the Changes in This Statement Improve Financial Reporting

The guidance in this Statement improves financial reporting by requiring governments to measure derivative instruments, with the exception of SGICs that are fully benefit-responsive, at fair value in their economic resources measurement focus financial statements. These improvements should allow users of those financial statements to more fully understand a government’s resources available to provide services. The application of interperiod equity means that changes in fair value are recognized in the reporting period to which they relate. The changes in fair value of hedging derivative instruments do not affect investment revenue but are reported as deferrals. On the other hand, the changes in fair value of investment derivative instruments (which include ineffective hedging derivative instruments) are reported as part of investment revenue in the current reporting period. The disclosures provide a summary of the government’s derivative instrument activity and the information necessary to assess the government’s objectives for derivative instruments, their significant terms, and the risks associated with the derivative instruments.

Unless otherwise specified, pronouncements of the GASB apply to financial reports of all state and local governmental entities, including general purpose governments; public benefit corporations and authorities; public employee retirement systems; and public utilities, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and colleges and universities. Paragraphs 4–6 discuss the applicability of this Statement.