Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value
January 10, 2004
"Always read the fine print." It’s one of life's basic maxims, and for the individual investor, still smarting from recent market meltdowns, the saying goes double. Too many claims of miraculous earnings have been revealed as accounting mirages, with small shareholders among the biggest losers.
Prudent investors want the whole story, not just the rose-colored version of events that managers tend to portray. Yet how do you uncover it, given the huge amount of available information? The trick is simply knowing where and how to look.
Financial Fine Print is a great place to start. Written by veteran financial journalist Michelle Leder, this book lays bare the accounting tricks companies use to whitewash their numbers. Using a clear, no-nonsense style and pointing out numerous scandals and red flags, Leder sheds light on the most obscure yet most essential aspect of annual reports and SEC filings: the footnotes. "Too many companies would prefer that you not read the footnotes," notes former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt. "That should be incentive enough to delve into them." As investor skepticism builds and the specters of Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia, and Global Crossing loom large, companies trying to prove themselves above-board have added more footnotes and documentation than ever to their reporting. This makes learning the lessons of Financial Fine Print all the more important. Because the simple fact is that if you want to own individual stocks, you need to do your homework.
Michelle Leder has been writing about personal finance and investing for the past fifteen years, including ten years spent as a business reporter and later editor for daily newspapers in New York, Florida, and Connecticut. A freelance journalist for the past five years, her articles have appeared frequently in the New York Times, as well as dozens of other publications appealing to a wide range of ages and income levels from AARP: The Magazine to Parents. Previously, she was the personal finance columnist for LifetimeTV.com's "Money" and "Career" pages. As a daily journalist she won numerous awards, including the Society of Business Editors and Writers' prestigious Best in Business award and numerous awards in annual Associated Press contests in New York, Florida, and Connecticut. She holds a degree in economics from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and lives in Peekskill, New York, with her husband, Scott, and dog, Kumara. This is her first book.