The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America

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9780375508806: The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America

In this commanding big-picture analysis of what went wrong in corporate America, Alex Berenson, a top financial investigative reporter for The New York Times, examines the common thread connecting Enron, Worldcom, Halliburton, Computer Associates, Tyco, and other recent corporate scandals: the cult of the number.

Every three months, 14,000 publicly traded companies report sales and profits to their shareholders. Nothing is more important in these quarterly announcements than earnings per share, the lodestar that investors—and these days, that’s most of us—use to judge the health of corporate America. earnings per share is the number for which all other numbers are sacrificed. It is the distilled truth of a company’s health.

Too bad it’s often a lie.

The Number provides a comprehensive overview of how Wall Street and corporate America lost their way during the great bull market that began in 1982. With fresh insight, wit, and a broad historical perspective, Berenson puts the accounting fraud of the past three years in context, describing how decades of lax standards and shady practices contributed to our current economic troubles.

As the bull market turned into a bubble, Wall Street became utterly focused on “the number,” companies’ quarterly earnings. Along the way, the market lost track of what companies are really supposed to do—build profitable businesses with sustainable futures. With their pay soaring, and increasingly tied to their companies’ shares, executives were more than happy to give Wall Street the predictable earnings reports it wanted, what-ever the reality of their businesses. Accountants, analysts, money managers, and individual investors played along, while the Securities and Exchange Commission found itself overwhelmed and underequipped to cope with the earnings game.

The Number offers a unified vision of how today’s accounting scandals reflect a broader system failure. As long as investors remain too focused on the number, companies will find ways to manipulate it. Alex Berenson gives anyone who has ever invested in—or worked for—a public company the tools necessary to see beyond the cult of the number, understand accounting and its limits, and recognize patterns that can lead to fraud. After two decades of stock market hype, The Number offers a welcome dose of truth about the way Wall Street and corporate America really work.

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From the Back Cover:

Advance praise for TheNumber

“This will surely be the most important financial book of the year. Every CEO, CFO, CPA, broker, money manager, and congressperson in America will want to read it—that’s a given. But plain old investors will, too. ‘So that’s what happened to my 401(k),’ they will say.” —Andrew Tobias, author of The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need

The Number is number one. A first-class account of how the 1990s got that way.” —James Grant, editor, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

About the Author:

Alex Berenson graduated from Yale University in 1994, with degrees in history and economics. After working at The Denver Post and TheStreet.com, he joined The New York Times in 1999 as a business reporter specializing in financial investigative reporting. He has three times been named one of the top thirty business reporters under the age of thirty. He lives in New York City.

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Book Description Random House, 2003. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: The Number provides a big-picture analysis of the scandal of corporate America--how it happened and what to do about it--by Alex Berenson, a top financial investigative reporter for The New York Times. Every three months, publicly traded companies report sales and profits to their shareholders. Those quarterly announcements are the lodestar that investors--and these days, that's most of us--use to judge the health of corporate America: earnings per share, the number for which all other numbers are sacrificed. It is the distilled truth of a company's health. Too bad it's often a lie. Alex Berenson's book provides a comprehensive overview of how Wall Street and corporate America lost their way during the great bull market that began in 1982. With wit and a broad historical perspective, Berenson puts Enron, WorldCom, and the other accounting disasters of the last two years in context. As the bull market turned into a bubble, Wall Street became utterly focused on "the number, " companies' quarterly earnings. Accountants, analysts, money managers, and individual investors played along, while the Securities and Exchange Commission found itself over-whelmed, underequipped to cope with the earnings game. The Number will be the one book that explains how the wheels came off the wagon, giving readers the information and analysis they need to understand Enron, Tyco, Halliburton, and the rest of the accounting calamities of the last two years. Author Alex Berenson also of. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0375508805

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