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The Financial Numbers Game: Detecting Creative Accounting Practices Hardcover – 1 Mar 2002

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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  • The Financial Numbers Game: Detecting Creative Accounting Practices
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  • Financial Shenanigans:  How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks & Fraud in Financial Reports, Third Edition
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  • Creative Cash Flow Reporting and Analysis: Uncovering Sustainable Financial Performance
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (1 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471370088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471370086
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 3 x 26 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 308,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"With the collapse of Enron Corp., the January debut of the "Financial Numbers Game" could not have arrived at a more perfect time. The book focuses on educating investors on how to spot "creative accounting Practices." Co-Author Charles W. Mulford outlines a few basic guidelines for detecting-and preventing-creative accounting." ("SmartPros/Accounting News and Insights," March 2002)

"The author's purpose is "to equip the financial statement reader to better detect the use of creative accounting practices and avoid the equity-investment and credit-granting mistakes." A book for it's time" (Strategic Finance, March 2002) "With the collapse of Enron Corp., the January debut of the "Financial Numbers Game" could not have arrived at a more perfect time. The book focuses on educating investors on how to spot "creative accounting Practices." Co-Author Charles W. Mulford outlines a few basic guidelines for detecting-and preventing-creative accounting." (SmartPros/Accounting News and Insights, March 2002)

From the Inside Flap

To hide falling profits, some managers ply the flexibility found in accounting principles to alter their financial reports. Others go further and use fraud in their deception. It is vitally important that investors, analysts, and other users of financial statements detect these creative accounting practices as early as possible in order to avoid negative earnings surprises and potential share-price declines. The Financial Numbers Game identifies the steps businesses may take to misstate financial performance and helps its readers to identify those situations where reported results may not be what they seem. Authors Mulford and Comiskey also describe the flexibility built into the GAAP principles and discuss ways companies can take advantage of that flexibility while remaining within the rules of proper reporting. The role of the SEC in enforcing securities laws is explored, as are the specific statutes the SEC uses to prosecute those it deems to have gone too far. The authors present the results of a survey of important financial professionals on their views of the propriety of many financial reporting practices and on the steps they use to detect creative accounting practices. This survey shows a wide range of opinions on what is allowable and the best methods for detecting what is not allowable. The Financial Numbers Game presents an expert analysis of creative accounting procedures, as well as: * Real-world examples of aggressive and fraudulent financial reports * What signs to look for in detecting earnings manipulation * Ready-made checklists for detecting accounting misdeeds * Advice from such experts as analysts, CFOs, and CPAs * Help for anyone interested in understanding true financial performance The Financial Numbers Game offers all users of financial statements a comprehensive resource for understanding, detecting, and avoiding the vast assortment of creative accounting techniques found in practice today.

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Format: Hardcover
A special note in the preface of this book explains that it went to press just as the Enron story was beginning to break. Three of its chapters provide almost all the information anyone would have needed to spot the problems at Enron, not to mention at the other big corporations whose scandals made recent headlines. Spotting fraud isn't that hard. The authors provide a very useful toolkit that even a novice investor can use. Some of their coverage of the regulatory apparatus will no doubt have to be changed in future editions, as the regulations themselves keep changing, but this enlightening introduction to the nitty-gritty of skeptical financial statement analysis will have enduring utility. It's written by accountants, so it gets a bit plodding in spots, but their anecdotes relieve the tedium and their information is invaluable. We recommend this reality check for every investor's bookshelf, as well as every employee's and every financial reporter's. Anyone who depends on corporate performance or who uses corporate financial statements should read it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this book. It has helped me a lot. Loads of important insights and advice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x956e2720) out of 5 stars 34 reviews
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x962ad548) out of 5 stars Too basic and the title is really a misnomer 8 Mar. 2005
By Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Given the promise of the book's title, I was disappointed. "The Financial Numbers Game" is really alomst a misnomer as the book spends many pages on explanations of basic accounting principles - much like an introductory textbook - and then discussed some of the more obvious creative accounting practices. What you do get from this textbook is an overall solid overview of basic GAAP, with a large number of real world examples (which is good). What you don't get is real insight into some of the more interesting ways companies use to manage earnings and their balance sheet. For example, I could not find anything on special purpose entities, off balance sheet financing, dirty surplus accounting, a meaningful discussion of EBITDA beyond the basics, and anything beyond the obvious, really. I also thought the discussion of receivable days was problematic (chapter eight). This may go into too much detail but the authors calculate this ratio based on the ending balance of accounts receivable rather than some average (eg, beginning and ending balance if nothing else is at hand). This actually distorts the ratio and results in an incorrect analysis of the development of receivables where they change between periods. This is not good for two academics.

As previous reviewers pointed out, the book has too many repetitions which a good editor should have caught.

I like the solid accounting overview and the multitude of examples the text provides and that merits three stars. If you are an MBA student who is interested in an accounting refresher, this may be a book for you. If on the other hand you are a professional analyst or investor - what the authors call serious readers of financial statements in their preface - then this will disappoint you.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95a9118c) out of 5 stars Excellent Texts for Improving Security Analysis 8 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Having recently worked through all three of Mulford and Comiskey's financial reporting texts, I'd like to comment on them as a group.

The Financial Reporting Game contains unique material which I have not seen outside of specialized academic journals, and discusses most of the parameters I use in my own earnings manipulation model, developed through painful experience and correspondence with other practitioners. I suggest this text as a more efficient means to acquire this knowledge. The first five chapters of introductory material discuss the motivation and consequences of earnings manipulation from the viewpoint of the regulator, the reporter, and the user of financial statements. While the preliminary chapters are less quantitative than the rest of the book, I believe they cover the subject far more comprehensively than Fridson's Financial Statement Analysis, or any other text I can recall.
Guide to Financial Reporting and Analysis is indispensable, and one of the most practical texts on applied security analysis available. The efficient search procedure for non-recurring items is alone worth the cost of the book. I'm convinced that one of detriments to effective use of periodic and annual financial statements is the opacity of the notes to consolidated financial statements and their frequently indecipherable relation to the consolidated tables themselves. The authors propose and demonstrate a framework for relating complex financial notes into the core activity of the security analyst, which is measuring the sustainable earnings power of the corporation under study.
Financial Warnings predates Guide to Financial Reporting and Analysis by four years. Its focus is on how corporate accounting choices can change perceptions and calculations of sustainable earnings power [and consequently stock valuation]. Financial Warnings suggests and demonstrates clear techniques for analyst restatements. I found it helpful to work through Financial Warnings after I had completed Guide to Financial Reporting, in order to test my understanding of the accounting principles discussed.
To sum up, I strongly feel that if you take the time with a spreadsheet and a 10K to work along with the dozens of examples provided by the authors in each of the texts, the quality of your financial analysis will improve both in accuracy and in rigor.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95b0ef6c) out of 5 stars Frustrating but valuable 31 July 2002
By Buce - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mulford and Comiskey badly need an editor, clear-sighted and heartless. There is a wonderful book here, but it is maddeningly difficult to extract from the text as presented -- ill-organized and repetitive and in coverage, perhaps even haphazard (another reviewer note that they don't cover reserves -- true, and I wonder if this is simply an oversight?). That said, this remains the best introduction that I've seen to games managers play (and in which accountants cooperate). More extensive (and less jaunty) than Howard Schilit (Financial Shenanigans). For broader coverage on the limits of accounting, move on to Eccles, etc., "The ValueReporting (sic) Revolution." After the dust settles from the Enron imbroglio, M&C will surely want to do a new edition: here's hoping they keep the same wonderful content, with better focus and analysis.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95695d08) out of 5 stars Mildly disappointed 29 Mar. 2002
By ChristineRS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had already read one of the authors' previous books, and unfortunately this one didn't break any new ground.
The other book was very good; and perhaps, had I read this one first it would rate higher than three stars. There was quite a bit of repetition, also. Not only from book to book but within this book itself. The chapters can be very redundant. Did I mention the chapters can be very redundant ;-)
I kept waiting for the 'meat' and it never seemed to come. The first half of the book seemed more like filler material. Okay, I thought, when they get to the analysis it will all be worthwhile. Unfortunately, that fell short as well. Want to know their secret to detecting Accounts Receivable and Inventory trouble? Well, it's Days Sales Outstanding and Days Inventory Outstanding.
If those are new concepts for you the book probably rates a 4; if that's old hat then it's more in the 2-3 range.
There are nice examples and a decent chapter in the end on discovering 'tricks' used in the Statement of Cash Flow.
Keep in mind, my bias of reading the other book first; but it now seems they've written the same book three times (though the price of the books keeps coming down - that's good!) w/o advancing the ball too far down the field.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95e14d08) out of 5 stars Whoa! Excellent book to explain creative accounting ... 22 Feb. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
So what is a shareholder to believe? The analysts? The accountants? FASB? SEC? Who has our best interest at heart? And who can you trust anymore? Caveat Emptor. Buyer beware... I began a search to find the best book I could to educate me on corporate creative accounting and this is it. EZ to understand. You don't need to know debits and credits. I know what to look for now when I study 10k's. It's all in this book. Timely. Published just as Enron broke. Lots of companies mentioned, which I won't mention here. You just might be shocked at what you find out. Chapters include 'How the Game is Played', 'Misreported Assets and Liabilities', 'Getting Creative with the Income Statement, 'Earnings Management', 'Problems with Cash Flow Reporting', and many more. Complete with exhibits, charts, footnotes. EZ read. Have to go now and re-evaluate my favorite corporate annual reports!
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