The Enforcement Division Found Evidence How?????

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Earlier in March the Enforcement Division announced a settled case against homebuilder Desarrolladora Homex S.A.B. de C.V. This company fraudulently inflated revenues by reporting the sale of over 100,000 homes that had never been built or sold! This was a huge fraud, over $3 billion!

All of that is interesting, but what is really fascinating is how the SEC found that the homes had never been built. They used satellite imagery! You can see one of the pictures here.

We are tempted to say “watch the skies”, but that sounds too much like a 50’s sci-fi movie trailer…..

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

A Bit of SEC News and a Hopefully Enjoyable Video

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

In the first few weeks of the new Administration there was news from the SEC including reconsideration of the Conflict Minerals and Pay Ratio disclosures as well as the legislative repeal of the Resource Extraction Payment disclosure.

While there have not been as many highly publicized developments in recent weeks, the Commission is continuing its normal business. A final rule for Hyperlinks to Exhibits, a proposal to for Inline XBRL, approving an XBRL Taxonomy for IFRS, and a Request for Comment to consider changes to Bank Holding Company Disclosures in Guide 3 are a few of the normal course of business things going on at the SEC. The Enforcement Division continues its normal process with cases ranging from an auditor trading on inside information to a Ponzi scheme involving resale of Hamilton tickets. And, of course, CorpFin continues its review program, and after reviewing over 50% of all companies last year it will be interesting to see the numbers this year.

In a way, especially with so many of our SEC reporting community working on year-end and quarter-end reports, it is nice to have a normal flow of work from the SEC instead of big stories!

So, enjoy the lull! And, to have a bit of fun in this lull, here is a hopefully entertaining diversion. The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has, via its investor.gov website, produced a number of educational videos for investors. This one, titled “Don’t let someone else live the life you’ve been saving for”, is particularly entertaining! Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/59iJmRDdeqY

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Jeepers – More Whistleblower Enforcement Cases? – Do We Have the Message Yet?

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Just a few weeks ago we did the latest in a series of posts about the SEC’s Whistleblower program. That post focused on two significant enforcement cases where companies attempted to impede whistleblowers. For other posts in our whistleblower series, see:

Our post discussing the background of the SOX and Dodd/Frank whistleblower programs

Our post about the total amount being paid-out to whistleblowers exceeding $100,000,000 (It is even more today!)

Our post discussing a company having to pay a $500,000 fine for firing a whistleblower

SEEMS LIKE THE MESSAGE SHOULD BE CLEAR BY NOW! Don’t try to limit how employees can blow the whistle.

But, the Enforcement Division is not done!

In a case announced on January 17 a company paid a $650,000 fine for including language trying to restrict whistleblower rights in over 1,000 severance arrangements. After removing the language the company also voluntarily agreed to conduct annual training for employees about their whistleblowing rights.

In a case announced on January 21 the SEC found a company that actively searched for a whistleblower, to the point of essentially threatening employees. The reason for the hunt was clear, the treasurer and the company had manipulated information related to hedge accounting and was actively trying to hide the fact that certain hedging relationships were not effective. When the SEC began to ask questions about the issue, the company suspected someone had blown the whistle. The company tried to ferret out the whistleblower, compounding their offenses. The company and the treasurer both paid fines.

There is a very important reason for these cases. In many situations a fraud would go undetected if it were not for the conscience and courage of whistleblowers.

It would seem that the SEC is actively searching for more enforcement cases to make the point that it is illegal for a company to try and prevent or impede employees from blowing the whistle.

Not to be too preachy, and hopefully to be a bit practical, here are two thoughts:

For all of us who may see a need to blow the whistle, know that this is never easy, and know that you have rights and protections.

For companies, don’t try to hide problems and make sure any agreements surrounding employee departures don’t have these kinds of restrictions!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

XBRL for Foreign Private Issuers Using IFRS

By George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Foreign Private Issuers (FPI’s) who file using IFRS have been in a conundrum about XBRL because there was no usable IFRS taxonomy. The SEC excepted these FPI’s from XBRL until an appropriate taxonomy was developed.

A usable IFRS XBRL taxonomy was formally announced by the SEC on March 1, 2017. The announcement includes a link to the IFRS XBRL Taxonomy that FPI’s must use.

The SEC indicated that FPI’s who use IFRS may begin to submit XBRL financial statements immediately, and that they MUST submit XBRL financial statements for periods ending on or after December 15, 2017.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

First Quarter 2017 Form 10-Q Hot Topics – SAB 74 and Beyond!

Are you prepared to effectively deal with current and evolving SEC reporting issues, particularly SAB 74 disclosures and recently issued accounting standards in your first quarterly report on Form 10-Q this year?   Attend our April 28th One Hour Video Briefing, First Quarter 2017 Form 10-Q Hot Topics as our expert faculty review the key issues to address in your Form 10-Q quarterly reporting.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/First_Quarter_2017_Form_10_Q_Hot_Topics_SAB/_/N-4kZ1z109q6?No=25&Ns=sort_date%7c0&ID=312741

Hope you Don’t Need This One!

As we discuss in all our programs, litigation is one of the issues and risks in the public company world. Our program “Securities Litigation 2017: From Investigation to Trial” on April 5, 2017 includes an expert faculty of practitioners and government officials. Included on the agenda are:

The steps involved in a securities case

The initial government investigation

Filing of the civil case, and

Settlement or the trial

 

Again, hope this is not one you need!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

Can You Prepare an IPO?

In almost any market, understanding the IPO process is an essential skill for both legal and business advisors. Attend our live seminar and webcast, How to Prepare an Initial Public Offering, being held April 5th in New York City. Hear from an experienced faculty, including attorneys, underwriters, accountants and a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission staff, on the nuts and bolts of an initial public offering.

 

http://www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/How_to_Prepare_an_Initial_Public_Offering/_/N-4kZ1z10oon?fromsearch=false&ID=289760

 

Solid Knowledge and Tips Needed to Successfully Navigate SEC Reporting

Financial reporting professionals that are armed with the foundational knowledge and practical experience are better prepared to complete and review the SEC’s periodic and current reporting forms, including the 10-K Annual Report, the 10-Q Quarterly Report and the 8-K Current Report. Attend an upcoming SECI live workshop, SEC Reporting Skills, being held in March in San Francisco, New York and San Diego with additional dates and locations.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/SEC_Reporting_Skills_Workshop_2017/_/N-1z10od0Z4k?ID=290554

Non-GAAP Measures – The Saga Continues

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

The sometimes fuzzy distinction between non-GAAP liquidity measures and non-GAAP performance measures is a major concern of the SEC’s Non-GAAP Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI’s) and the comment letters the Staff issues focused on this topic. In the middle of this grey question are EBITDA and “adjusted EBITDA”. Whether these measures are liquidity measures or performance measures can be a very complex, subjective question. To take some of the grey away the SEC included this C&DI in their May 2016 changes:

Question 103.02

Question: If EBIT or EBITDA is presented as a performance measure, to which GAAP financial measure should it be reconciled?

Answer: If a company presents EBIT or EBITDA as a performance measure, such measures should be reconciled to net income as presented in the statement of operations under GAAP. Operating income would not be considered the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure because EBIT and EBITDA make adjustments for items that are not included in operating income. In addition, these measures must not be presented on a per share basis. See Question 102.05.  (emphasis added) [May 17, 2016]

 

The last sentence in this answer is all about the potential confusion between EBITDA and cash flow from operations. GAAP and the SEC guidance specifically prohibit presenting cash flow per share because of the potential confusion between earnings per share and cash flow per share. (This goes all the way back to ASR 142 and old SFAS 95!) EBITDA, even when intended by management as an operations measure, is so close to this line that it cannot be presented on a per share basis.

 

In an interesting sequence of comment letters and responses the SEC has pushed its concerns about these kinds of non-GAAP measures to a new level. After a number of back and forth letters with a registrant focusing on whether a “non-GAAP adjusted net income” was a performance or liquidity measure the staff included this language in a late round comment:

 

Finally, in light of our discussions about this matter, we will evaluate the industry practices you described to us and consider whether additional comprehensive non-GAAP staff guidance is appropriate.

 

It is extremely unusual, as was even reported in The Wall Street Journal on February 13, 2017, to see a statement like this in a comment letter.

 

Even more eyebrow-raising is this comment in the SEC’s closing letter:

 

Although we do not agree with your view, in light of the circumstances, we have completed our review of your filing. We remind you that the company and its management are responsible for the accuracy and adequacy of their disclosures, notwithstanding any review, comments, action or absence of action by the staff. (emphasis added)

 

If you are presenting an EBITDA or similar measure it would be smart to review these letters.

 

You can find the first of the comment letter series here. The company’s responses (CORRESP documents) and the follow-up comment letters (UPLOAD documents) appear in this EDGAR list.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.