Global accounting body steps up attack on 'data dump' company statements

People walk past the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

LONDON (Reuters) - Companies should produce more concise and crisper financial statements and annual reports, cutting out unnecessary “boilerplate” and “data dump” material, a global accounting body said on Thursday.

The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) published guidance to encourage more selective judgments about relevant information in such statements.

IASB Vice Chairman Sue Lloyd said there was too much clutter as companies and their auditors cover themselves by including every detail, rather than stepping back and saying what really matters for investors and leaving out the rest.

Auditors in over 100 countries, including the European Union, apply IASB standards. Judgments can relate to core issues like recognizing losses or gains, and measuring them.

The guidance sets out a four-step process to identify, assess, organize and review whether a piece of information is material.

“If I am a bank, do people really care about my property, plant and equipment in the scheme of things?” Lloyd said.

“If that’s how you think about it then the result is you just end up with pages and pages of stuff that’s not really relevant at all to investors. You have to wade through the morass to find the stuff that really matters for them.”

The IASB hopes that statements and annual reports will become more concise.

It wants a “behavioral change” among companies, auditors and even regulators, some of whom put pressure on firms to include every piece of information in statements, Lloyd added.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Keith Weir