One dirty little secret of financial reporting is off-balance-sheet financing.

Managers strive after it like the Holy Grail, wanting to take on debt while reporting none or only some of it as liabilities on their balance sheets. They hope that depriving investors and other statement users of vital information will drive their stock price higher. Adding insult to injury, pulling off OBSF almost always means spending a lot of shareholders' money to structure transactions, just to keep those shareholders in the dark.

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