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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Avoiding full disclosures-how companies avert the reporting norms of accounting standards

The Indian accounting standard setter(ICAI) sets Indian accounting rules based on global IFRS norms. And they are quite good. However, management still has a discretion to avoid their application, and some do it with impunity. Let us see the examples where this is done
  1. Segment Reporting:- Both for quarterly reporting and annual report purpose, companies are expected to identify their segments(either geographic/functional), and accordingly report allocated segment P&L/assets and liabilities. But companies either take the plea of having merely one reporting segment(like in realty industry) or that it is not practical to identify fixed assets used in the company’s business or liabilities contracted, to any of the reportable segments, as the fixed assets are used interchangeably between segments(Jet Airways etc). Either way, it legally defeats the purpose. One reason companies oppose cost record audits, is that segmental reporting is mandatory under those rules. 
  2. Capacity calculation/inventory valuations:-While the auditor is expected to verify these himself, you often see this phrase 'this being a technical matter, the management certification is accepted'. Such a weasel phrase is not good practice, given that auditors are anyway liable for such blond faith acceptance of management certificates. Now, agreed that the management is often the best knowledgeable in its field. But where the valuations are critical to profit/net worth, the auditor should not abdicate responsibility, and should hire a technical expert(under due confidentiality/independence requirements) to verify the computations. 
  3. Deferred tax assets accounting:- Since accounting data typically exceeds the actual tax liability(due to tax exemptions etc), companies prefer to avoid booking deferred tax on a quarterly basis
  4. Accounting for MTM changes:- Whether it be due to FX, potential FCCB repayment etc, companies claim that they would not account for 'volatile'/'unrealistic' negative MTM movements on derivatives; or even where FCCB redemptions loom near, companies still claim them as contingent. 
  5. Doing related party transactions without fully disclosing fairness to shareholders:- Sample this extract from the auditor's report of Adani Power(to be fair several Indian companies are guilty of this!)-some of the items purchased are of special nature and suitable alternative sources are not readily available for obtaining comparable quotations. This excuse is often adopted for related party purchases, which is quite surprising given India's competitive market.

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