BHP and OK Tedi
This case study will focus on the limitations of financial reports and the role that journalism can play in addressing the question of corporate accountability. The context for this discussion is Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which seek to ensure that company reports provide regulators, shareholders and other interested parties with a degree of transparency when looking at a company's activities over the previous 12 months. One question in particular arises: if a corporation is the subject of media scrutiny, should the issues raised by journalists be covered in the annual report or reports that cover the period in question? This case study will look at the accounting treatment of the then BHP-owned Ok Tedi Mine in PNG in an attempt to answer questions surrounding the role of journalists and media organisations in holding major corporations to account for policy decisions that may have had a significant social and economic cost. When media coverage of an issue disagrees with the so-called 'reality' conveyed by the financial reports, important questions need to be raised about the capacity of large corporations to down play the impact of such disasters on their balance sheets and in their role as responsible corporate citizens.
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