"Oops! Can I Take Back That Earnings Release" by Michelle Leder appeared in the New York Times' Dealbook on October 24, 2012. To view the article, please click here.
Google was not the only company suffering from premature release of its earnings.
Just a few days after Google’s earnings were inadvertently released hours ahead of schedule, Dow Chemical and Daimler both found themselves in similarly awkward positions.
But unlike the error at Google, which the company blamed on an outside filing agent, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, the situations at Dow and Daimler appear to be a result of internal mistakes.
On Tuesday evening around 9:55 p.m., someone at Dow inadvertently e-mailed a draft copy to Bloomberg News about the company’s announcement to cut 2,400 jobs, which contained news about a financial charge for the fourth quarter of 2012 related to the restructuring.
It did not have the third-quarter earnings data but that mistake forced the company to rush its earnings news release on Tuesday night and hastily reschedule its conference call with analysts for Wednesday morning.
“We had an inadvertent premature release, and we moved quickly to take care of it,” said Rebecca Bentley, a spokeswoman for Dow. She said she could not say if Dow had ever released its earnings that late in the day before.
Daimler, too, hit the “send” button too soon. Shortly before 1 p.m., a person on Daimler’s corporate communications staff sent out an e-mail to about 50 reporters with the subject line “Daimler’s earnings once again at a high level.” That e-mail was quickly followed by another message asking readers to ignore the previous message.
“It was just a mistake. I realized it instantaneously,” said Andrea Berg, a spokeswoman based in New York. “I prepared an e-mail and instead of saving as a draft, I pushed the send button.”
But as the cliché goes, once the cat was out of the bag, Daimler had no choice but to officially release its earnings about 12 hours ahead of schedule.
While Google’s premature filing was the most prominent example, other companies have also inadvertently made their earnings public over the years. Two years ago, Microsoft, the Walt Disney Company and NetApp used Web addresses similar to previous releases to upload current earnings information before they were publicly available. That gave anyone looking for the earnings an instant edge.
Jeffrey Schoenborn, a principal at Casteel Schoenborn Investor Relations in Williamsville, N.Y., said that the three early releases were clearly mistakes, but they should serve as a cautionary tale to companies, outside firms and others involved in corporate earnings.
“These incidents should serve as a reminder for everyone in the business to provide enough time to process the work properly so that the information can get out in the right place and the right time,” he said.