guttentag writes "The Securities and Exchange Commission has wrapped up its two-year investigation into Microsoft's accounting practices. The investigation focused on "cookie jar" accounting practices in which a company reports that it earned less money than it actually did, secretly storing the unreported money to artificially boost earnings in the future. The SEC called off its investigation in exchange for Microsoft's promise that it will not break the rules in the future, though the company is not admitting that it broke rules in the past. Microsoft publicly states that it has $40 Billion on hand." Gates realized a long time ago that regardless of actual performance, if you "beat estimates" people will buy your stock. So, he's arranging it so that no matter what the actual performance is, Microsoft always "beats estimates". If your analyst estimate is low 61 out of 63 times, either A) you need a new analyst or B) someone is feeding the analyst bad numbers. In this case, probably both.