AMR plays the guessing game…

October 20, 2008

Last week, we learned that Merrill (MER) was being coy by refusing to answer questions about its exposure to Lehman’s (LEHMQ) bankruptcy filing.

As it turns out, they’re not the only ones. In the 10Q it filed last week, AMR (AMR), the parent company of American Airlines did an even bigger dance around what is presumably its exposure to Lehman. Here’s a snippet from the Q:

In September 2008, a counterparty to certain of the Company’s fuel hedging derivative contracts filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Per the contract, the Company was able to terminate its hedge positions with this counterparty as a result of the counterparty’s default. Due to the decline in fuel prices subsequent to the Chapter 11 filing, the Company was in a liability position to this counterparty at the time the hedge position was terminated. The Company incurred a charge of $26 million associated with these contracts during the period subsequent to the Chapter 11 filing and prior to termination, when the derivative contracts no longer qualified for hedge accounting under SFAS 133. The charge was recorded to Miscellaneous-net in the accompanying condensed consolidated statement of operations. Had the Company retained these hedge positions, this charge would have been incurred as fuel expense over the next two years assuming a static fuel price from the termination date.

Anyone want to take a guess as to who that counterparty might be? A quick skim of AMR’s previous filings shows that the last time Lehman was mentioned was all the way back in 2004. Still, given the disclosure in the Q, it’s hard to imagine who else that counterparty might be.

So why not just come out and disclose it? After all, playing coy works (maybe) when you’re a teenager. But when it comes to a company’s finances, it gets old pretty quickly.

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