Disclosures in Financial Statements

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In recent years, the number of disclosures that firms have to make about future obligations has proliferated. Consider, for instance, the case of contingent liabilities. These refer to potential liabilities that will be incurred under certain contingencies, as is the case when a firm is the defendant in a lawsuit. The general rule that has been followed is to ignore contingent liabilities which hedge against risk, since the obligations on the contingent claim will be offset8 by benefits elsewhere. In recent periods, however, significant losses borne by firms from supposedly hedged derivatives positions (such as options and futures) have led to FASB requirements that these derivatives be disclosed as part of a financial statement. In fact, pension fund and health care obligations have moved from mere footnotes to actual liabilities for firms.

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