Donald trump told the US securities regulator to consider abandoning quarterly reporting-a practice criticized as too short-term by some businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.
Trump said a leading company boss told him switching to twice-yearly disclosure of accounts would reduce costs and be good for business. If enacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the change could allow more UK companies to join a trend away from quarterly reports.
The US president tweeted:
In speaking with some of the world’s top business leaders I asked what it is that would make business (jobs) even better in the U.S. “Stop quarterly reporting & go to a six month system,” said one. That would allow greater flexibility & save money. I have asked the SEC to study!
Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, has criticised the short-term thinking of analysts and investors. Explaining earlier this month why he was considering taking the electric carmaker private, he told employees: “Being public … subjects us to the quarterly earnings cycle that puts enormous pressure on Tesla to make decisions that may be right for a given quarter but not necessarily right for the long-term.”
JP Morgan’s boss, Jamie Dimon, and Warren Buffett, the world’s richest investor, argued earlier this year that companies should stop publishing quarterly earnings guidance that puts too much weight on hitting short-term targets. However, they said quarterly reporting should stay because it made companies accountable to the public.
Quarterly reporting has been a fixture of US corporate life since the Great Depression. Trump cannot order the SEC to scrap the practice and a rethink could face fierce opposition from some of the regulator’s commissioners.
The Trump administration has been dismantling regulations – including relaxing post-crisis banking rules and limits on drilling for oil in Alaska – claiming less red tape will help business and create jobs.
In the UK, half-yearly reporting was the norm until 2007, when companies were told to publish quarterly statements between their first half and annual results. Then, regulators believed more frequent reporting would hold companies to account but the financial crisis prompted a rethink.
The UK removed the requirement to report quarterly in 2014, resulting in many companies abandoning the practice.
In the year to August 2017, the number of FTSE 100 companies reporting quarterly fell from 70 to 57. For more UK-focused midsize companies in the FTSE 250 the number fell from 111 to 83.
The Investment Association, which represents big UK fund managers, has been encouraging companies to ditch quarterly reports, arguing it is costly and distracting.
Chris Cummings, the Investment Association’s chief executive, said: “Asking the SEC to study the effect of quarterly reporting, with a view to moving to a longer-term model, is a significant and positive intervention by the president. We look forward to working with the SEC on this important development in corporate governance.”
Unilever’s chief executive, Paul Polman, scrapped quarterly reporting when he took over in 2009. He told investors that Unilever’s plans were long term and that if they did not agree with his move they should put their money elsewhere.
The 2012 Kay review of equity markets argued against the “tyranny” of short-term reporting that had arguably driven some banks close to collapse. When National Grid ditched quarterly reporting it said management would gain an extra month a year to think about subjects other than presenting figures to the City.