CFO Magazine has published the results of the first in a series of surveys of CFOs of publicly traded companies. Senior financial executives at 141 publicly traded companies participated in the survey. While not definitive, the results are fascinating.
Results of this first survey, the CFO Survey of Corporate Financial Planning, show that a surprising 42% of the companies surveyed use special-purpose entities, of the sort that got Enron into trouble, to keep debt off of their financial statements. Fifty-nine percent said their company has disclosed more to shareholders in the past three months than in prior time periods, and 57% said they would do so or continue to do so in the ensuing 12 months. Most of the disclosures (70%) are expected to be found in footnotes to financial statements.
Fifty-four percent of companies report they use pro forma results in quarterly earnings press releases, and of that 54%, 18% do not reconcile their pro forma results to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), even though the Securities and Exchange Commission has advised companies to perform this reconciliation. Five percent of companies say their reporting practices violate GAAP.
Expectations are that in the future, investors will be more attentive to company financial statements and will be more likely to disregard disparities based on accounting changes that have no bearing on the actual financial condition of a company.