The International Accounting Standard’s Committee Foundation
(IASC) has denied its chairman of trustees has a conflict of
interest after being appointed chief executive of newly
nationalised Dutch bank ABN AMRO, which has merged with Fortis
Bank.

Gerrit Zalm, the current chairman of the International
Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) oversight body, said he does
not believe his new appointment affects the independence of the
IASB.

“There is no constitutional restriction on the chairman of the
trustees holding other executive or non-executive roles,” Zalm
said.

A spokesperson from the IASC confirmed there was no
constitutional restriction.

Zalm, a former Minister of Finance for the Netherlands, said
there was a clear split between the work of the trustees, which is
responsible for the governance of the organisation, and the
technical work of the IASB.

“As chairman of the trustees I do not get involved in the
standard setting process,” he said. “However, my role certainly is
to support the organisation wherever I can to achieve our goal of a
single set of standards used throughout the world, and for this to
happen the independence of the IASB is vital.”

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By GlobalData

Zalm’s appointment comes at a time when the IASB has been under
pressure to amend accounting rules, especially from banks, and
defend itself against political interference. Last month Zalm wrote
to G20 ministers on behalf of the IASC asking them not to tamper
with existing accounting rules.

Before his appointment at ABN AMRO, Zalm was chief financial
officer of DSB Bank in the Netherlands.

The IASC said many of his fellow trustees also hold senior
executive roles in large financial institutions. Their experience
in leading such organisations contributed to the knowledge and
diversity of the trustees, it noted.

One of Zalm’s fellow trustees is Pedro Malan, chairman of
Brazilian bank Unibanco, which merged with Banco Itaú in September
to create the largest bank in Latin America.

UK Accounting Standards Board chairman Ian Mackintosh said the
issue was less a matter of a conflict of interest issue and more
whether Zalm could handle the workload.

“I think the two roles can be fitted together, although you
appreciate that the role of chairman of trustees of the IASB
Foundation is particularly testing at the moment. It is okay but he
is going to really have to be working,” Mackintosh said.

Zalm said that as a former deputy prime minister and finance
minister he was used to working under time constraints and knew how
to handle many things at the same time. He said it was also
important for the IASC to have continuous leadership at this point
in time.

Nicholas Moody