By Fred R. Kaen
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Extra resources for A Blueprint. Corporate Governance
But Lynn Turner, the former chief accountant at the SEC, says that even though the accountingspeak in the significant accounting policies footnote tends to make many individual investors’ eyes glaze over, it is simply too important for most investors to skip. “It’s a good place to find out how aggressive the company is being,” Turner says. Many other pros also consider this footnote critical to understanding the rest of the footnotes. Even reading it quickly can help you understand how far the company is willing to push the accounting envelope.
While Enron’s related party transactions footnote was by far the biggest warning sign, pros say that other things also stood out in Enron’s filings. * Accounting rules say that it’s perfectly legal for companies to make their own assumptions here. But for a pension fund with hundreds of millions of dollars in it—Enron’s stood at $853 million at the end of 1999—even an extra half of 1 percent could add millions to the company’s income statement. ) That’s one of the reasons why professional money managers like Chanos and Olstein, who read 10-Ks on an almost daily basis, say that pension footnotes can be a strong (and relatively quick) signal to individual investors as to whether a company is engaging in aggressive accounting.
Some people want you to believe that reading 10-Ks and 10-Qs is next to impossible, that you need to have a background in finance, be a certified public accountant, and have a solid understanding of the many accounting rules put out by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). None of that would hurt, of course, but 16 Don’t Get Fooled Again chances are that anyone who’s telling you that reading the Ks and Qs is too difficult has a vested interest in keeping you uninformed. If that’s the case, you had better hope that you’re paying that person enough money to read these filings for you.
A Blueprint. Corporate Governance by Fred R. Kaen