Red Flags, Not Blue Chips

The SEC has its watch list for troubled financial institutions. But who watches the watchers? Answer: Disclosure Insight.

John Gavin is the president of this organization, and focusing on risks instead of returns, his group has raised red flags over some troubled entities.

There's one flying over Nuance Communications, for instance.

"Nuance is a growth-by-acquisition story," Gavin told CNBC. "They do voice-recognition software. I think they make fantastic products. I use them myself. Nineteen deals in five years, six deals done last year alone. Most studies show that most acquisitions fail. We found unfavorable trends in receivables, returns on invested capital that are poor, and operating income that exceeds interest expense only twice in the last eight quarters."

He said it was very difficult to get clean period-to-period data from the company.

Disclosure Insight has raised another red flag over Shaw Group.

"It's a good story stock, engineering and construction," Gavin said, but added, "We do not trust the numbers, and valuation is also in a place we don't like."

Checking 100 risk factors over five years, Disclosure Insight found five restatements, four instances of delayed filings, three internal investigations, persistent charges and internal-control problems and a change of auditor.

"The cherry on that sundae is a CEO who sold $63 million worth of stock last year," he said.