General Electric, the giant American industrial conglomerate, filed its 2015 annual report (10-K) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on February 16, 2016. The annual report document contains 276 pages of text, numbers, tabular presentations and pictures. Large accelerated filers, or large public companies, are required to file their annual financial reports, also termed as Form 10-K, within 60 days of their fiscal year-end unless they are smaller public firms in which case they have either 75 days (accelerated filers) or 90 days (non-accelerated filers) to file depending on their market capitalization.
In an effort to make annual reports more understandable to investors, in a game-changing disclosure strategy, the company released its first ever “Integrated Summary Report.” The key objective is to provide a comprehensive yet concise view of the company using the lens of the Board and management. The compact report contains only 66 pages with pertinent information from several mandated documents including 10-K, proxy statements, and sustainability report. The document establishes links between strategy, performance, board oversight, compensation and sustainability but it remains outside the realms of the heavily regulated financial reporting.
Navigating through any 276-page document can be challenging for an individual, let alone one that is derived from a complex set of accounting rules and regulation. The Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt, said “our priority is to provide meaningful information that all investors can readily access. For investors to make investment and voting decisions, we don’t believe that more information is necessarily better. Instead, we’ve challenged ourselves to provide better information. Over the past several years, we have already been enhancing our reporting in response to feedback from investors, and they have told us how much they like it. This year, we are taking it even further.”
According to a GE spokesman, investors downloaded the integrated and summary report 2,300 times in the first 24 hours after it was published. In contrast, GE’s combined downloads of its 10-K and proxy reports 24 hours after they were filed last year were only 638.
The integrated summary report includes a discussion on the following subjects:
- Chairman’s Letter
- Strategy and results
- GE’s Businesses, Portfolio & Capital Allocation
- Margins and Financials
- Risk, Governance and Compensation
- Shareowner Proposals
- Annual Meeting
- Forward-Looking Statements
It remains uncertain whether other large companies will follow GE’s pathway and start disclosing similar condensed annual reports. The SEC has been deliberating ways to simplify financial reporting so GE might become the vanguard of simplified annual reporting.
New York, April 7, 2016; 2.40Pby