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GMI Ratings Releases List of ‘Black Swan’ Companies

By John Morgan   |   Thursday, 06 Dec 2012 08:07 AM

GMI Ratings released a new “Black Swan Risk List” identifying 40 big North American companies with what it deems as having the highest risk of major drops in share prices within the next six months.

The list, drawn from a universe of companies with market caps between $5 billion and $100 billion, focuses on those with the most aggressive accounting practices, the research firm said.

“Inclusion in this list signifies an elevated risk of adverse events that can materially affect share price,” declared CEO James Kaplan.

Editor's Note: How You Lost $85,000 During the Last Decade. See the Numbers.

The firm’s initial “Black Swan” list attracted attention because it was released a day before day before Hewlett-Packard announced an unexpected $8.8 billion write-down associated with its acquisition of Autonomy. Hewlett-Packard was included on that initial list.

The Fiscal Times declared the inclusion of Hewlett-Packard allowed GMI to “trumpet the value of forensic accounting in general and the need to constantly question the validity of reported financial statements.”

Technology, industrial and healthcare companies represented the most common sectors on the list. The most prevalent risk factors GMI cited were associated with the companies’ mergers and acquisitions track record, instances where the chairman was also the CEO and compensation incentives for top executives, The Times reported.

“In the wake of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the misleading accounting of companies like Enron, WorldCom and Tyco, one might be forgiven for thinking that this is a lesson investors already have learned,” The Times said. “Evidently not.”

The “Black Swan” list included both companies that have recently been in the news for unflattering reasons and companies that have to date attracted little adverse attention for their accounting practices.

Some of the companies on the list include: Automatic Data Processing, Agilent Technologies, BMC Software, Boston Scientific, Caterpillar, Chesapeake Energy, Express Scripts, Harley-Davidson, International Paper, Kinder Morgan, Marathon Oil, MasterCard, Mattel, MetLife, Monsanto, Motorola, Bank of New York Mellon, Western Union, Tiffany and Yum! Brands.

“GMI may not be correct in predicting gargantuan losses for all 40 names on its Black Swan list, but the company is right to remind us that these issues matter, however difficult they may be to understand,” The Times stated.

Editor's Note: How You Lost $85,000 During the Last Decade. See the Numbers.

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