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Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 072-3812491810
ISBN-10: 0471433470
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A must read for any investor serious about knowing what they own." (Herb Greenberg, Columnist, TheStreet.com, Fortune Magazine)

"It's beautifully written, combining both warmth and clarity, and as easy to read as it is to understand." (Better Investing Magazine, October 2003)

"The Financial Fine Print here is readable, useful and potentially profitable!" (Barron's Magazine, December 1, 2003)

"In my opinion "Financial Fine Print" is a must-read for any investor who wants to pick his or her own stocks." (Pittsburgh Tribune, December 21, 2003)

"With a book as indispensable as this, there's no...excuse to avoid wading into the thicket of footnotes before making financial decisions." (Better Investing Magazine, December 2003)

"Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value is one of the most informative books ever written for investors" (From the Foreword by Thornton "Ted" Oglove)

From the Inside Flap

"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.

With the knowledge and techniques detailed in Financial Fine Print, you’ll learn:

  • Why one number buried deep within the pension footnote can speak volumes about whether the company’s other numbers are trustworthy
  • What sorts of insider transactions investors need to pay close attention to
  • Where companies tend to hide their debt and other obligations
  • How some companies seem to take "special" charges every quarter and how that impacts the bottom line
  • When to avoid a stock because the red flags are simply too numerous

"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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471433470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471433477
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Chungst on February 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Financial Fine Print", in my opinion, provides insufficient analytically challenging insights for those who work in the financial service industry, mainly as an Analysts or Portfolio Managers. However, for those who new to the financial statement / analysis process, the book is a decent primer to understand the importance of financial reports (i.e. footnotes). The biggest disappointment about the book was that it was over-hyped. The book not only read like it was hastily assembled but felt like a 30-page pamphlet of footnote tidbits stretched to 173 pages.
Firstly, I completely disagree with the subtitle of the book: "Uncovering a Company's True Value" as it is misleading. Gaining information from Ms. Leder's book will not result in uncovering a company's **true** value. The book will allow the novice or untrained Analysts / PMs to focus on areas that may shed more light on the company's financial operating results, financial condition, and/or cash flow generating abilities. However, such cursory coverage of said materials is insufficient to arrive at a company's **true** value.
Secondly, the writer fails to fully understand the analytics related to a majority of the subject matters. Allow me to use Chapter 8 that addresses off-balance obligations. On page 133, the writer describes a "Synthetic Lease" but fails to explain or differentiate the lease from any other FASB #13 operating lease. Second, on page 130, the writer tries to educate the reader on the importance of off-balance liabilities with the following remark: "... is to imagine how your bank account balance would improve if you didn't have to account for the monthly mortgage payment." However, her example is faulty and dangerously misleading.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brian Thompson on October 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As an active long-term investor who reads a lot, I was always frustrated by all those experts who kept telling me to read the footnotes, without giving me any clues as to what I was supposed to be looking for. This book, which I zipped through in a weekend -- gives me exactly what I need to know to avoid potential problems: options, pensions, and my personal favorite, recurring special charges -- using examples from actual SEC filings. With Leder's help, I now feel comfortable skimming these hefty documents. Also good: her website, [...] where she provides daily updates of things -- both good and bad -- that she finds buried in SEC documents. It's become part of my daily routine!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Josh Brackeen on February 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Is there any way an ordinary investor can protect themselves from shady corporate accounting? YES!! Michelle Leder's book Financial Fineprint has given me the tools to become a better investor.
Not only does she do an excellent job of breaking down annual reports and SEC filings in a very organized and clearly written manner , she also provides an invaluable service by guiding the reader through the footnotes of financial statements, pointing out indicators of accounting tricks and obscuring tactics. Ms. Leder gives the average investor the means to find out for themselves about the companies they invest with. I can now spot those Inflated profits, questionable related party transactions, hidden expenses, etc., before I decide to buy a particular stock.
This book is not simply a "How to" book, however, as it is written in a more narrative and reader friendly style, with personal accounts and fun annecdotes.
I highly reccomend this book for anyone who wants to have as much knowledge at their fingertips as possible before making important financial decisions.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In the aftermath of the corporate accounting scandals, it's hard to know what companies to trust enough to put your money behind them. Financial Fine Print has helped me research companies much more thoroughly. By showing me step-by-step methods to dissect the footnotes in the corporations' financial statements and annual reports, I've learned where all of the unflattering yet legally accountable information is usually hidden in order to make better decisions. I heartily recommend this book for any savvy investor who is unwilling to invest in a company without having personally researched it first.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The investment club that I'm in wound up losing a lot of money on Healthsouth, so we've been very cautious over the past year. But with the market rising, we know that all of this caution has wound up costing us money. Luckily, one of our members received Financial Fine Print as a Christmas present this year. Over the past month or so, this book -- now dog-eared -- has made its way to all 15 of us and we now feel as if we're better investors as a result. I finally decided to buy my own copy because I think it's one of the best books available for individual investors who are looking to do their own research on stocks. There's so many great examples of the sorts of things companies try to hide from their investors in their SEC filings -- information investors need to have before they put their money on the line.
One of the things our group has done over the past month is to go back and look at Healthsouth's SEC filings to see if we would have made the same mistakes. Now armed with Ms. Leder's expert advice, we found numerous "red flags" that would have prompted us to sell the stock before Healthsouth's problems became so apparent. Yes, hindsight is always 20-20, so it's easy to say that now. But we all still feel that we've learned so much from this book that we can now invest with a lot more confidence, instead of being pre-occupied with the fear that we're buying another company that's much more interested in enriching its executives at the expense of their shareholders.
Most of the other accounting-related books our group has read -- and we've read a bunch -- all seem to be aimed at a professional audience and can be a bit dry unless you're the type of person who thinks FASB is fascinating. Not this book. Using easy to understand language and examples that help you put the complicated accounting into perspective, this excellent book is an individual investor's best friend!
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