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Pixel Poverty

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<FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 7px”>

Whoever accepts responsibility for composing the HTML version of Pfizer‘s 2007 annual statement should be stretched out on the rack for embedding tags such as the above within its table of pension plan asset allocation information. Even worse, to do so rather arbitrarily, mixing those tags up with numbskull HTML/CSS amalgams that read –

<FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 7px” face=arial>

– and just in case you had any doubt as to whether they were drinking while putting this table together, sometimes choosing instead to mix things up with –

<FONT style=”FONT-SIZE: 7px” face=ARIAL>

In case you’ve been only reading properly designed documents and have not yet encountered 7-px content, this is what it looks like. Except worse – here, general context will tell you what letters too small to be legible actually are. In a table of numbers, the content quickly becomes meaningless. Also worse because here, I’m briefly indulging in 7-px font size only to make the point of how ridiculous it is for Pfizer to use this font size for its disclosure; whereas what possible purpose might Pfizer have, other than to avoid properly presenting the disclosure?

Did they actually code up their annual statement manually, directly typing in HTML tags directly into a text file? This hardly seems like what one would expect of any good WYSIWYG editor of the quality that a Fortune 500 firm ought to be able to afford for so critical a document. Have their writers not heard of CSS style sheets? And are there no SEC standards or other rules that would require information to be readable (which of course 7px-high letters ain’t)?

Pfizer’s use of an assortment of internal tags renders IE’s “View / Text Size” impotent. If you download Pfizer’s file to your local drive, it’s possible to tug and bite that file enough to squeeze the information from a modified file, but that ought not be necessary. In this annual statement user’s own personal opinion, this is nothing short of noncompliance with generally accepted accounting standards and regulatory disclosure rules: you’ve not made proper disclosure when you intentionally render the information unreadable without a microscope. What good does it do FASB to seek more rules-based accounting detail in this pension asset allocation information when sophisticated filers like Pfizer can merely turn all their numbers into microdots?

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Written by macheide

31 March 2008 at 5:24 pm

Posted in capslock

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