Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

1. Understand the reasons that financial statements might not be fairly presented.

2. Describe the mission of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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3. Explain the purpose of the EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering and Retrieval) system.

4. Discuss the times when state laws apply to corporate securities rather than the rules and regulations of the SEC.

5. Explain the relationship of the SEC and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

Question: The potential importance of financial statements to any person making an analysis of a business or

other organization appears rather obvious. The wide range of available information provides a portrait that

reflects the company’s financial health and potential for future success. However, a degree of skepticism seems

only natural when studying such statements because they are prepared by the company’s own management.

Decision makers are not naïve. They must harbor some concern about the validity of data that are self-

reported. Company officials operate under pressure to present good results consistently, period after period. What

prevents less scrupulous members of management from producing fictitious numbers just to appear profitable and

financially strong?

Why should anyone be willing to risk money based on financial statements that the reporting entity itself has


Answer: The possible presence of material misstatements (either accidentally or intentionally) is a fundamental

concern that should occur to every individual who studies a set of financial statements. Throughout history, too

many instances have arisen where information prepared by a company’s management has proven to be fraudulent

causing decision makers to lose fortunes. In fact, the colorful term “cooking the books”1 reflects the very real

possibility of that practice. Enron, WorldCom, and Madoff Investment Securities are just recent and wide-ranging

examples of such scandals.

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