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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shelley Taylor, UK: 44(0)20-7243-3438 or shelley@infofarm.com

NEW STUDY WARNS: PERFORMANCE ANXIETY OF
CORPORATE EXECUTIVES PUTS EARNINGS AT RISK

London, 5 February 2003 Global 1000 companies have no road map for the future and fail to provide voluntary disclosure of key operational information that serves as the basis of good corporate governance and accountability, according to a new international study released today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. The research, published every other year since 1992, presents reporting differences between UK, European and US companies in annual reports and corporate web sites and shows how corporate executives have buried their heads in the sand..

The findings of Full Disclosure 2002, based on more than 300 proprietary evaluation criteria established through interviews with the world's most influential money managers, show that few companies offer direction for the future:

  • only 44% of chairmen mention corporate strategy in their letters to shareholders
  • only 36% of reports provide any clearly stated objectives, (down from 76% in 2000!)
  • only 16% of companies provide any forward looking statements despite the fact that most reports include boiler plate Safe Harbor language
  • less than half (44%) of companies describe the challenges, risks and uncertainties they face (down from 70% in 2000)
  • only 28% of reports mention bad news (down from 72% in 2000), although most companies must have something to share
  • only 2 of 50 companies have clearly stated board policies for hiring, firing and evaluating CEOs
  • less than half of annual reports (44%) offer information about management
  • there is rarely any correlation between the quality of an annual report and the web site; this disparity amplifies and broadcasts strategic dissonance to shareholders

 "Although most of last year's headlines of accounting and corporate governance scandals focussed on accounting irregularities, statutory requirements for financial reporting account for only a small portion of information disclosed by companies. Statutory disclosure focuses on the past but voluntary disclosure provides insight into the future and a basis for holding corporate executives accountable. Voluntary disclosure has deteriorated at a time when it is most critical. This deterioration can be blamed for current dismal performance. Taylor added, "What hope is there of turning around performance if, in the vain hope of escaping closer scrutiny and criticism by investors, corporate executives avoid their reporting responsibilities?"

Best Annual Reports (ranked 1st, 2nd): GlaxoSmithKline, BT, Vodafone, AstraZeneca, Aviva

Worst Annual Reports (ranked 50th, 49th): UBS, Tesco, Berkshire Hathaway, Deutsche Telekom, Kingfisher

Best Web Sites (ranked 1st, 2nd): Kingfisher, UBS, SCA, Cisco, Stora Enso

Worst Web Sites Reports (ranked 50th, 49th): Berkshire Hathaway, Disney, Home Depot, Tesco, Gannett

OTHER KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • UK companies have the best annual reports (8 of the top 10 are British) as they generally provide a high level of operational, governance and social reporting
  • the best continental European company report is SCA, ranking 6th of 50
  • the highest ranking US annual report, Citigroup, comes in 10th
  • some of the companies that might be expected to understand the medium of the internet ranked quite low for their web sites (Verizon 15th; BT, 18th; Vodafone, 21st; Deutsche Telekom, 23rd; AOL, 32nd; Cable & Wireless, 33rd)

Corporate Governance:

  • UK governance disclosure is somewhat better than US but both are vastly superior to Europeans; 4 out of the top 5 in governance are British (Vodafone ranked number 1 for corporate governance, followed by BT, Aviva, Reuters, and then Citigroup)
  • all of the bottom 10 are European and not a single European company makes into the top 30 in corporate governance
  • only 30% of US and 53% of European companies offer a mention of governance policies, structures and guidelines in contrast to 100% of UK companies; furthermore, only 32% of reports state who is responsible for the corporate governance within the company
  • while 35% of US and 20% of UK companies (an increase from 8% two years ago) have a system for reviewing performance of senior executives, none of the Europeans do so

Corporate Values:

  • UK social reporting is somewhat better than European efforts but both are significantly more developed than US practices; the top 5 in social reporting are all from the UK (BT, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are tied for 1st place in social reporting), whereas 8 of the bottom 10 are American
  • only 48% of reports discuss company values and management philosophy
  • only 18% of annual reports mention ethics or codes of conduct (only 2 US companies)
  • fewer than half of companies (46%) discuss their environmental policies in their annual reports vs. 84% that provide this information on the web

Information Underload:

  • the longest reports in our sample actually contain less information than their shorter cousins: the average number of pages for US reports is 65, compared to 100 for UK companies and 150 for European companies
  • UK reports are best on average but are not the longest and SCA's report, the best European report, has only 80 pages
  • UBS has the longest report, 264 pages, but ranked lowest in the annual report ranking

 

Published every two years since 1992, Full Disclosure 2002, an international study of company reporting analyzes the voluntary disclosure practices of 50 Global 1000 companies. The sample includes companies from the US, UK, France, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and other countries. Shelley Taylor & Associates is a management consulting and business publishing firm focusing on management quality issues, with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information contact 44-207-243-3438(UK), or visit our web site at www.infofarm.com.

Note: Executive Summary is available to journalists upon request.

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