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Louder Than Words

Concerns about the increasing complexity and decreasing relevance of corporate reports have been growing in recent years. Many people point to the increasing length and detail of annual reports – and the regulations that govern them – as evidence that we have a problem. Others are more worried that reports no longer reflect the reality of the underlying businesses, with key messages lost in the clutter of lengthy disclosures and regulatory jargon.

Users of corporate reports tell us that so far all is not lost – but that substantial improvements can and should be made.

We set out to investigate the complexity and relevance of corporate reporting. As we began, the unfolding credit crisis raised an additional issue: the risk of further complexity arising from uncoordinated responses to the crisis by regulators and standard setters. This emphasised the importance of the coordination advocated in this paper – which was also called for by world leaders at the G20 summit in April 2009.

This discussion paper provides the results of our initial investigation and offers practical recommendations for improvement. We confined
the scope of our activities to UK publicly traded companies to make the task manageable, but we hope that there are lessons here for all companies.

This paper is a first step towards reducing complexity, not the end goal. We will continue working towards implementation of our ideas after it is published. We also hope our work will stimulate productive
discussions not only in the UK but around the world, and provide a platform for lasting improvement in corporate reporting.
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