New SEC Rules Have Made GAAP Great Again (in Press Releases Anyway)
For some time now, I've been featuring various worries by various people about non-GAAP reporting in the morning roundup. You see, lots of people think that GAAP = Good and non-GAAP = Bad because non-GAAP reporting often presents a rosier picture of a company's financial performance. This made non-GAAP reporting immensely popular among public companies […]
If the Federal Government Were a Business, It Would Be WorldCom
Deroy Murdock seems to feel that the government should revisit its accounting practices since it appears government accounting is little more than legal fraud. Obviously he has absolutely no idea how accounting really works or he’d call the entire thing fraudulent (I mean, let’s be real, it is and everyone knows it), so let’s humor his opinion for a moment and consider government accounting.
Rep. John Shimkus (R., Ill.) grilled Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius about this before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. He wondered how, in essence, the Obama administration could move $500 billion from its left pocket (Medicare) to its far-left pocket (Obamacare) and somehow finance $1 trillion worth of Medicare and Obamacare.
“Your law cuts $500 billion in Medicare,” Shimkus reminded Sebelius at a March 3 hearing. “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to say you’re funding health-care [reform]. Your own actuary says you can’t do both.”
“So,” the eight-term congressman continued, “are you using it [the $500 billion] to save Medicare, or are you using it to fund health-care reform? Which one?”
Secretary Sebelius confessed: “Both.”
“So, you’re double-counting,” Shimkus replied.
“The same dollar can’t be used twice,” observed Health Subcommittee chairman Rep. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.). “This is the largest of the many budget gimmicks Democrats used to claim Obamacare would reduce the deficit.”
As any college business major knows, such double counting would earn a big, fat F on an accounting final. Far worse, this is illegal.
Obviously Joe Pitts is not at all familiar with how accounting works. The funny part, as Murdock points out, is that the SEC does not consider non-GAAP financial statements to be anything but misleading and inaccurate. It’s a good thing the federal government won’t be trying to file an IPO any time soon.
Peep Title 17, Part 210 of the Code of Federal Regulations:
Financial statements filed with the Commission which are not prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles will be presumed to be misleading or inaccurate.
Question: is there a particular reason “generally accepted accounting principles” is not capitalized? Because GAAP and gaap are two different things, one of which is a set of rules (not principles, no matter what James Kroeker may believe) while the other is basically a bunch of bullshit that we call “accounting” and agree is OK. Sort of like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for financial statements.
Will Apple’s Accounting Encourage Others to Drop Non-GAAP Measures?
A tipster pointed us to Apple’s transcript from last night’s earnings call, noting that the company has indicated that they will no longer be providing non-GAAP measures. This is a result of the solid that the FASB did for Apple back in September:
We are very pleased by the FASB’s ratification of the new accounting principles as we believe they will better enable us to reflect the underlying economics and performance of our business and therefore we will no longer be providing non-GAAP financial measures.
Our tipster noted that since using non-GAAP measures are a commonly used by companies and analysts, Apple’s declaration that they would not be “providing non-GAAP financial measures,” could potentially change things. It’s one thing if say, Koss were to say they’re not going to provide non-GAAP numbers, but this is Apple.
The company enjoys a top of the mind position, so other companies may embrace this method of engaging with analysts and other users. And since Apple isn’t shy about controlling the information they provide (e.g. Steve Jobs’ pancreas) this seems to be another way for them to dictate the information they are providing.
It’s not a stretch to say that many companies try to emulate Apple; whether or not they will emulate Apple’s financial reporting methods remains to be seen. Strange, because we figured they were just innovative on the gadget front.