Eleven foundation trusts are being scrutinised for failing to hit performance targets they claimed they would meet.
The trusts told regulator Monitor they expected to hit all healthcare targets under a system that allows them to 'self-certify' performance.
But they failed to live up to their plans, Monitor's second quarterly report has revealed. The regulator has asked the trusts to commission urgent independent reviews into their self-certification processes.
Monitor executive chair Bill Moyes said it would not publish the list because it was not a 'naming and shaming exercise'.
'I don't think they're lying to us or have set out to deliberately mislead us. But there is something, somewhere that's not quite right associated with information or systems at board level.'
He said it could be the board was not getting the right information or that the trust did not have the right information. Alternatively, 'the board was not asking the right questions' or had been 'too optimistic'.
Monitor has asked each of the 11 to appoint one of four accountancy firms to carry out the reviews, which are due by the end of this month.
Foundation Trust Network director Sue Slipman said trusts had not set out to mislead. 'They went into it sincerely believing they were going to be able to manage,' she told HSJ.
She said the reviews were likely to show that achieving year-on-year progress was 'extremely hard if you're already doing well'.
The report - which includes risk ratings for finance, governance and mandatory services - shows some trusts are struggling in other areas.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals foundation trusts were rated red for governance, which signals concerns that a trust is 'in significant breach of its terms of authorisation'.
Financial performance was strong, with 72 out of 73 achieving a surplus by September 2007. Tavistock and Portman was the only one still in the red. The foundations' combined surplus was£210m by the same date.
Meanwhile, Monitor's latest board papers reveal foundations have complained to the regulator about letters sent to them from Department of Health officials, in contravention of their independence. The letters related to national initiatives to improve hospital cleanliness and increase the number of matrons.