THE SUITS: Well up to the mark

Articles on finance cannot be dashed off flippantly. Stringent rules ap ply, says Roger Trapp

Every month, a slight shudder goes through Britain's corporate world as an innocuous-looking envelope arrives an the desks of directors and commentators. The envelope contains a monitor of financial reporting practice called Company Reporting.

Dry stuff, maybe. But it is a life's work for David Tonkin, the editor of this Edinburgh-based publication. In these slim reports, he looks at compliance with the Cadbury Code and accounting standards, and assesses the overall financial reporting environment.

Even when there have been no serious transgressions, he can generally find something to complain about - and therefore attract a few lines in the financial press.

Not content with monthly comment, he has been joint editor of the Institute Of Chartered Accountants' annual survey of published accounts for more than a decade.

The latest edition - produced with Len Skerratt, an accounting professor at Manchester University who once trained for the priesthood - has just appeared.

The following comment from the preface might be considered typical: "It is clear that some of the radical changes taking place in financial reporting have resulted in a variety of disclosure and measurement practices. The authors have argued that this diversity often contributes to confusion for readers."

Mr Tonkin, 47, started his career with Price Waterhouse. He then joined the staff of the Institute of Chartered Accountants before moving to the Accounting Standards Committee, precursor to the Accounting Standards Board, where he helped develop standards.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the thesis for his doctorate from Glasgow University was on the process by which standards are produced.

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