The New Zealand Securities Commission surveys company financial reports regularly. Oops, 20 of the last year's sample of 30 had problems.
This isn't as bad as it seems. Some problems were related to a change in reporting standards, and the commission said that "satisfactory agreement with the companies was reached in 92 per cent of the matters raised." The aim of the surveillance programme is to encourage companies to improve the quality of their financial reporting, which the commission said was "inextricably linked to the fairness, efficiency and transparency of securities markets".
The high failure rate reminds us just how difficult it is to write clearly, accurately and transparently, and also to meet standards.
The thing is, most annual reports are written by professional writers who specialise in this type of pubication. These are the expert business writers: few companies of any substance would dare entrust the annual report to an amateur. Even so, errors occur in most cases.
So why should we be surprised that most knowledge workers find writing clearly such a difficult task? It's not an intuitive skill granted to all and sundry.