Bad Data in Official Places: the UK’s National Storage Mechanism.

04.01.21 | BY Simon Mahony

Like most people when possible we prefer to get our data from the official source, we also like it when companies are compelled to provide the data under pain of legal or regulatory penalties. One example of that is the National Storage Mechanism, the official document storage for companies listed in the UK – now maintained by the FCA, but for a long time outsourced to Morningstar. According to Listing Rule 9.6.1. companies are supposed to forward their annual reports to the FCA’s document viewing facility (i.e. the NSM) and issue a notification via an RIS (i.e. the RNS). Many people assume that when the source is official and the data collection is governed by regulations that the underlying data will be reliable – but here we show you a couple of examples demonstrating this is not always the case.

So if we look at Tesco we see the system working like it should, on 13th May 2020 they issue an RNS notifying the market that they have published the Annual Report and have submitted it to the NSM.

If we check the NSM we find that annual report with the correct date:

However, the system doesn’t always work the way it should. Particularly in the Morningstar era we routinely come across examples like this:

This date is clearly incorrect: the 31st of December is the financial year end not the publication date (which is usually months after the financial year end). The same thing happens with Sage, where we can see the correct date from this RNS:

But again on the NSM the ‘publication date’ is in fact the financial year end:

The NSM is not the only party to blame, sometimes the company fails to carry out its obligations under the Listing Rules properly. If we look at Sage again, for 2018 and 2017 they did not publish an RNS when they released the annual report meaning there is now no extant public record of when that document was published. Some other FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies that have similarly failed at least once include Wood Group, Inmarsat, Arm, Sports Direct, Amlin, Polyus Gold, Imagination Technologies, International Power, and Aberdeen Asset Management.

This should serve as a reminder that (1) official sources are by no means immune from mistakes and (2) that something is a legal or regulatory requirement does not guarantee companies will follow it. On a more positive note the FCA’s recent decision to bring the NSM back in-house appears to have made a significant difference to the quality meaning we may have less of these issues in future.