(p. B1) General Electric Co.’s chief financial officer was taken aback by the industrial conglomerate’s 246-page annual report.
The 10-K and supporting documents his finance team and others at the company produced was meant to give investors a comprehensive picture of GE’s businesses and financial performance over the previous 12 months. It did everything but.
Packed with text on the company’s internal controls, auditor statements and regulator-mandated boilerplate on “inflation, recession and currency volatility,” the 2013 annual report was 109,894 words long. “Not a retail investor on planet Earth could get through” it, let alone understand it, said GE finance chief Jeffrey Bornstein.
Companies are spending an increasing amount of time and energy beefing up their regulatory filings to meet disclosure requirements. The average 10K is getting longer–about 42,000 words in 2013, up from roughly 30,000 words in 2000. By comparison, the text of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has 32,000 words.