Investors who've been burned by numerous corporate accounting scandals in recent years have increasingly turned their attention from questionable earnings reports to cash flow when gauging a company's financial performance.
But cash-flow reports may not be any more trustworthy a measure, according to a new book, Creative Cash Flow Reporting: Uncovering Sustainable Financial Performance, written by accounting professors Charles Mulford and Eugene Comiskey of Georgia Tech's College of Management and published by Wiley.
The authors, who will hold a book signing at 5:00 PM on March 10 at the Management building, describe how generally-accepted accounting practices can be used to produce misleading operating cash-flow statements. "Managers are well aware of the importance placed by analysts, investors, and creditors on operating cash flow," write Mulford and Comiskey. "Cash flow is the lifeblood of any organization. A boost in operating cash flow, even as total cash flow remains unchanged, communicates enhanced financial performance."
Their book, aimed at individual investors and other serious readers of financial statements, provides detailed instructions for revealing a clearer picture of a company's financial performance by calculating sustainable cash flow. Profitable operations are a must to produce sustainable cash flow, which is recurring cash, but companies often can generate positive operating cash flow without actually turning a profit, Mulford and Comiskey explain.
"I always assumed that operating cash flow was the last word when it comes to evaluating a company's results," writes Harry Domash, publisher of the Winning Investor newsletter and an investing columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and MSN Money. "No more! Mulford and Comiskey's latest effort opened my eyes to what really counts: sustainable cash flow."