The SEC requires companies to disclose the risks they face in their annual 10-K filings. This is to protect you, the investor. But how reliable is the information that companies provide?
John Vechey of PopCap Games recently joined The Motley Fool for a climate change summit. Among his guests were Stu Dalheim, vice president of shareholder advocacy at Calvert Investments, and Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility for Green America. In the video below, audience members ask Larsen and Dalheim about SEC filings, and about Germany's experiences with renewables. Is there a way to make 10-K filings more meaningful, and why did the European country pull back after pouring so much into solar and other renewables?
Dalheim addresses a phenomenon in which some utilities characterize pending EPA clean air regulations in their SEC filings as no big deal, only to file public comments on the rules that suggest that Armageddon would ensue if the rules were to go forward.
Ceres, a sustainable business NGO, has covered this issue extensively. The group highlighted Southern (NYSE:SO), American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP), and Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-B) MidAmerican Energy as having aggressively sought to delay the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule. The companies' comments opposing the rule stand in stark contrast to their treatment of the issue in public filings.
One can only take this as an indicator that the companies are not ready to comply. Consider the contrast with Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), which during the same period was explaining on earnings calls all the steps that it had taken to modernize its fleet with advanced pollution control systems.
Watch the video below to learn more about this discrepancy in corporate communication.
Sara Murphy has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow her on Twitter @SMurphSmiles. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway and Southern Company. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.