Well, since cash flows from operations not counting the refund are higher than last year's, I don't know on what grounds you can say that management is proferring excuses. Companies are expected to explain why this year's figures are different from last year's, and a large tax refund assigned to operations would explain that. It really does sound like you're calling it a weakness that a nonrecurring cash flow did not actually recur.
Perhaps when you get over that tendency you will attain my averaged annual return of 119%.
Accusing Asta Funding of a 4x collapse in operating cash flows because of a nonrecurring event isn't information; it is the opposite of information. Especially since without the tax refund, operating cash flows are actually up as compared to the first nine months of last year.
Perhaps as a value investor you might look all the way back to the first three quarters of 2009, where cash flow from operations was $21.5 million. In 2010 when cash flow from operations was $64.8 million, Asta Funding's shareholders were not saying "Eureka! Cash flows from operations tripled from one year to the next! This company has found the holy grail of debt collections!" Of course not. We said "Oh look, they got a tax refund."
The tax refund was allocated to operations, as opposed to investing or financing activity. Cash from operations didn't drop by 4x in 2011; the drop off is simply the result of a nonrecurring event that, surprisingly enough, did not recur.
I would expect a self described value investor to know that.