CNN has a fun article up about how some people believe the concept of “mark to market”, which states that companies have to report the value of their assets as though they would be sold today (i.e. the market value), is behind the financial crisis. Specifically, that because companies have to mark down the value of the mortgage-backed securities they own since the market value has collapsed, they can no longer afford to lend because they cannot maintain adequate capital ratios.
“The SEC has destroyed about $500 billion of capital by their continued insistence that mortgage-backed securities be valued at market value when there is no market,” said William Isaac, a former chairman of the FDIC.
I love the inherent contradiction in the line above. That mortgage backed securities should not be valued at their market value since there is no market, which is largely because they are considered worthless.