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Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value

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Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value

Michelle Leder

ISBN: 978-1-119-09026-7 September 2003 208 Pages

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FINANCIAL FINE PRINT

"A must-read for any investor serious about knowing what they own. With the help of some of the best financial detectives, Michelle Leder provides a roadmap for delving beneath the surface — where most investors dare not tread."
—Herb Greenberg, Columnist, TheStreet.com and Fortune magazine

"Obfuscators beware! Michelle Leder has cracked the code. In this invaluable guide to combing the footnotes of financial statements for indicators of accounting tricks and attempts to hide the bad news needles in a haystack of numbers. This is a clear, sensible, and, above all, practical guide that will be indispensable for anyone who invests in, does business with, or works for a corporation."
—Nell Minow, Editor, The Corporate Library

"Too many companies would prefer that you not read the footnotes," observes former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt. "That should be incentive enough to delve into them." In fact, not only do companies prefer you ignore the details they are required to report—the pesky particulars on exactly how they account for those whopping earnings—they take calculated steps to make this information as hard as possible to understand. But for those who know how to look, the facts that predict a company's true prospects are usually hidden in plain sight.

Financial Fine Print gives you the tools you need to break down annual reports and SEC filings, make sense of the deliberately cryptic language of footnotes, and get the real goods on a potential investment. To make money in today's tough market, investors have to make eliberate, well-researched choices. To do this requires not only having the right information, but also knowing how to decode it. With their obscuring tactics, companies won't help you any. So be advised: those who would help themselves—and expect to profit—should get down to the nitty-gritty of Financial Fine Print.

Foreword xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Don’t Get Fooled Again 7

Chapter 2 Reading the Fine Print Like a Pro 19

Chapter 3 You Don’t Need to Be a Pro 37

Chapter 4 Charge It! 49

Chapter 5 Optional Illusions 67

Chapter 6 All in the Family 85

Chapter 7 Pensions in Wonderland 103

Chapter 8 Debt by Many Other Names 125

Chapter 9 Five Common Ingredients 139

Chapter 10 Changing the World 153

A Few Final Words 163

Appendix A A Cheat Sheet for Reading Key SEC Filings 165

Appendix B A Brief Walk through Qwest’s Fine Print 169

Notes 175

Index 183