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Slimming reports

26 Mar 08

Ian Marchant says company reports seem to contain more and more material, without being any more useful

Ian Marchant is a CA but he is also chief executive of energy utility Scottish & Southern Energy, so he has a degree of licence to be rude about the profession.

He certainly came out with some plain talking as guest speaker at the Bank of Scotland Finance Director of the Year awards, held in Edinburgh at the end of February.

Marchant said company reports and accounts seem to contain more and more material without being any more useful.

He cited his own group’s report, which had gone up from 25 pages in 1996 to 51 pages for the most recent set – and in smaller type.

Accounts do not tell us what we need to know about sustainability, Marchant said, and they are too complex. He recalled the famous “duck test”, applied by Sir David Tweedie, chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board, to dodgy off-balance-sheet entities set up to conceal debt and other liabilities. Marchant said: “Sir David used to say: ‘If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.’ Now, he’d have to say it’s ‘an egg-generation unit, with an embedded meat option’.”

See also Reporter, Page 10

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