Standard-setters are people
The first issue is that the IASB is a collection of people, originally 14, now 15 and in 2012, 16. They each have opinions, sometimes strongly held, sometimes less so. Commentators tend to say: ‘The IASB thinks this …’ or ‘The IASB does this …’, which implies that the IASB is a single, coherent institution with a single point of view. Of course that is not the case, and when the IASB takes an official line, this is the result of a debate and a majority vote.
During the standard-setting process, the same issues will be debated several times, and the less there is agreement, the more often a subject will be debated. There is generally a spectrum of opinion within the Board, with some at each extreme and some in the middle – ‘floating voters’. As a consequence you can have (say) a vote 8–7, which is insufficient to pass an exposure draft (a super majority of nine is needed). There is a further debate and one or two people who are in the middle will think to themselves that they will maybe change their vote so that a decision can be taken. Also people have different states of mind on different days. Someone who has stepped off a transatlantic flight straight into the boardroom will have a different frame of mind from someone who has slept in their own bed and just made a short commute within London. In a close vote, two people changing their mind can switch the Board between two completely opposite points of view.
the IASB is a collection of people