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Financial Statement Analysis: A Practitioner's Guide, Fourth Edition by FERNANDO ALVAREZ, MARTIN FRIDSON

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Preface to Fourth Edition

This fourth edition of Financial Statement Analysis, like its predecessors, seeks to equip its readers for the practical challenges of contemporary business. Once again, the intention is to acquaint readers who have already acquired basic accounting skills with the complications that arise in applying textbook-derived knowledge to the real world of extending credit and investing in securities. Just as a swiftly changing environment necessitated extensive revisions and additions in the second and third editions, new concerns and challenges for users of financial statements have emerged during the first decade of the twenty-first century.

A fundamental change reflected in the third edition was the shift of corporations’ executive compensation plans from a focus on reported earnings toward enhancing shareholder value. In theory, this new approach aligned the interests of management and shareholders, but the concept had a dark side. Chief executive officers who were under growing pressure to boost their corporations’ share prices could no longer increase their bonuses by goosing reported earnings through financial reporting tricks that were transparent to the stock market. Instead, they had to devise more opaque methods that gulled investors into believing that the reported earnings gains were real.

To adapt to the new environment, corporate managers became far more aggressive in misrepresenting their performance. They moved beyond exaggeration to outright ...

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