Slipped through the cracks…

modelt.jpegIn all that has been written about Ford Motor Co. (F) in the past 24 hours — and there’s been a lot — I missed the mention that the thing that prompted the company’s pending restatement all the way back to 2001 was a comment letter received by the SEC. Though that tidbit was missing from Ford’s release that it put out yesterday, it was in the 8-K that accompanied the release.

Indeed, the press release makes it seem as if Ford and its diligent accountants at PwC just happened upon the mistakes at Ford Motor Credit Company which is prompting the restatement. Ford even goes so far as to say in the release that it "discovered" the problem and goes on to say how complicated this type of accounting is, which, of course, is a fair statement. But it’s in the 8-K that Ford provides a bit more of the back-story, though just a bit. Though it acknowledges the comment letter, it doesn’t say, for example, when it received the comment letter. And, as careful SEC observers know, very few of the comment letters that companies receive ever see the light of day, despite the fact that this was — theoretically at least — supposed to change last year. A quick search of Ford’s filings shows there’s no prior mention of the words "comment letter" so we can assume it arrived sometime over the past six months. Ford’s 2005 10-K was filed on March 1 of this year.

Given everything else that’s going on at Ford these days, it’s easy to see how this could slip through the cracks. But it’s another reminder that the press release, which often gets picked up practically verbatim by the various news wires, rarely tells the full story. For that, you still need to troll through the filings.