The commitments and contingencies note frequently includes interesting information about what agreements companies have already entered that would commit them for future payments. A common example is leases, were companies lease equipment or buildings. What is particularly interesting, is to examine changes to those commitments. Calcbench offers an easy way to do that. You can go to the disclosures page, choose a disclosure you are interested in and click on Compare To Previous Period. For example, comparing 3M’s (MMM) leases as disclosed in 2017 to what was disclosed in 2016, we can see the rentals went from $318M in 2016 to $343M in 2017. You can also see potential changes by examining what was added or deleted from the document.
Another interesting example is with litigation. Companies disclose litigation they are involved in within this note. When comparing Merck’s (MRK) 2017 disclosure to the 2016 one, we can see that the litigation around a product liability lawsuit for Vioxx was resolved since it was taken out from the note.
There is a wealth of information in these changes in disclosures just waiting to be discovered.
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