Barry Diller, head of InterActiveCorp
A chunk of Morgenson's article took Diller and InterActive to task for the company's purported earnings release "spin." She characterized InterActive's financial reports as "maddeningly complex" and called him out for reporting pro forma figures alongside GAAP results.
While we aren't big fans (to say the least) of pro forma accounting, in InterActive's case, Morgenson's criticisms are overreaching. A look at the most recent second-quarter earnings release reveals a company that spits out loads of information, including a statement about InterActive's "Principles of Financial Reporting." This isn't a company with a disclosure problem.
Sure, the press release is long and detailed, but this isn't a simple company in a single line of business. InterActive is made up of several web properties including Expedia, Hotels.com, LendingTree, and Match.com, among others. The company's segments provide their own revenue streams and contribute their own results to the overall picture. Moreover, because InterActive acquired these businesses at different points along the way, it's not difficult to imagine the financial labyrinth this situation necessarily creates.
However, Diller and InterActive do try to offer the means by which investors and shareholders might accurately compare results and measure the company's progress. Diller isn't using pro forma accounting to hide anything, but rather as a basis for comparison. The company points out that any non-GAAP numbers it presents are not "substitutes for or superior to" GAAP results.
In fact, InterActive goes further than many companies do. It provides its cash flow statement and reports free cash flow in its earnings releases. And the company fully identifies and defines the various accounting terms and measurements it presents.
Morgenson's other criticisms about InterActive may hold water, but the contention that Diller isn't concerned about full disclosure doesn't.