Potential disasters in financial statements
In a perfect world, investors, board members, and executives would have full confidence in companies’ financial statements. They could rely on the numbers to make intelligent estimates of the magnitude, timing, and uncertainty of future cash flows and to judge whether the resulting estimate of value was fairly represented in the current stock price. And they could make wise decisions about whether to invest in or acquire a company, thus promoting the efficient allocation of capital.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happens in the real world, for several reasons. First, corporate financial statements necessarily depend on estimates and judgment calls that can be widely off the mark, even when made in good faith. Second, standard financial metrics intended to enable comparisons between companies may not be the most accurate way to judge the value of any particular company—this is especially the case for innovative firms in fast-moving economies—giving rise to unofficial measures that come with their own problems. Finally, managers and executives routinely encounter strong incentives to deliberately inject error into financial statements.
Despite the raft of reforms, corporate accounting remains murky. Companies continue to find ways to game the system, while the emergence of online platforms, which has dramatically changed the competitive environment for all businesses, has cast into stark relief the shortcomings of traditional performance indicators.
? • Why are these issues still around? You can discuss your opinion on this issue, providing examples of your prior experiences (personal or professional) or current experience on the matter as necessary to support your arguments. (5 marks)
? • Discuss at least 5 areas where there are potential disasters in financial statements and why. Be specific with examples rather than generic remarks? (10 marks)