Comment of the Week – Be Consistent in All Communications

One of the themes we discuss in our workshops is how the SEC does not limit their review process to information in a company’s SEC filings. Here is an example of a comment (which also deals with known trends and uncertainties, another favorite topic) that demonstrates how the Staff finds issues by looking in places such as earnings releases, conference call recordings and web pages:

 

Results of Operations, page 23

 

  1. Please expand your discussion to address any known trends or uncertainties that are reasonably expected to have a material impact on revenue, cost of revenue, or income from operations. For example, we note that during your 2015 fourth quarter and full year earnings call on February 11, 2016, your management quantitatively described the volume increase, as well as discussed your customer mix changes by segment and certain trends in 2016. In addition, disclosure appearing on page 11 of your filing on Form 10-K under your risk factors indicates that extended periods of low fuel prices can also have an adverse effect on your results of operations and overall profitability, as well as on the valuation of inventory to the extent your hedges are not effective at mitigating fluctuations in fuel prices. However, you have not provided a discussion in your filing with respect to an analysis of known material trends, demands and uncertainties.

 

Refer to Section III of Financial Reporting Release No. 72, codified in FRC §501.12 and Item 303 of Regulation S-K.

 

It is important to assure that all the vehicles you use to communicate with your shareholders and the rest of the public are consistent and that issues raised in one place are appropriately dealt with across all communication channels.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Comment of the Week – Critical Accounting Estimates

It has been a while since we posted about critical accounting estimates. While this is now a normal part of MD&A it is surprising how many folks in our workshops don’t know where the “official” guidance for this disclosure is found.

 

There is a bit of confusion in the history of this disclosure. It all started in the post-Enron period with concerns about the quality of accounting principle selection discussed in FR 60 (the FRs are Financial Reporting Releases, interpretations that are approved by the SEC Commissioners). This release addressed the aggressive use of accounting principles and required disclosure in plain English of “Critical Accounting Policies”. FR 60 did not describe in great detail exactly what a critical accounting policy was or what disclosures should be made. You can find this brief FR, for perhaps historical purposes, here.

 

FR 60 was issued as a “quick fix” and the SEC planned to follow it with a formal rule for this disclosure. The rule was proposed, but it was never actually finalized. Instead the SEC dealt with this disclosure in FR72. If you scroll to Section V towards the end of FR 72 you will find the requirements for disclosure of critical accounting estimates.

 

www.sec.gov/rules/interp/33-8350.htm

 

(As you read this FR, note the evolution in terminology from Critical Accounting Policies to Critical Accounting Estimates.)

 

Don’t forget to look at the most recent Staff guidance in this area in FRM Section 9500, which gives guidance on disclosure of critical accounting estimates in the area of goodwill impairment.

 

Here are a few key issues about disclosure of Critical Accounting Estimates:

 

  1. Critical accounting estimates are not the same as significant accounting policies, and this part of MD&A should not simply duplicate this information from the financial statements. The focus should be on estimates and assumptions used in GAAP that have a material impact on financial condition and operating performance and on comparability over time.
  2. This disclosure should focus on why the estimate is “critical” and what is challenging about the estimate. Why is it difficult to make this estimate and what creates uncertainty about the precision of the estimate?
  3. Most companies won’t have that many of these “critical” estimates. Most companies start with a few and build from there. Often, lessons from past changes in estimates can help your identification process.
  4. The staff sometimes will ask about the quantified sensitivity analysis discussed in the last part of FR 72, so if information is available and will help investors understand the significance of the estimate and its uncertainty, consider disclosing it.

 

To help understand this disclosure, here is a recent comment from the SEC:

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

  1. In future filings please provide a more robust discussion of your critical accounting policies and estimates to focus on the assumptions and uncertainties that underlie your critical accounting estimates rather than duplicating the accounting policy disclosures in the financial statement footnotes. Please quantify, where material, and provide an analysis of the impact of critical accounting estimates on your financial position and results of operations for the periods presented. In addition, please include a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the sensitivity of reported results to changes in your assumptions, judgments, and estimates, including the likelihood of obtaining materially different results if different assumptions are applied. If reasonably likely changes in inputs to estimates would have a material effect on your financial condition or results of operations, the impact that could result given the range of reasonable outcomes should be disclosed and quantified. Please refer to SEC Release No. 33-8350. In your response, please show us what your disclosure would have looked like if these changes were made in your most recently filed Form 10-K.

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated!

Getting the New Revenue Recognition Standard into Perspective

As we all know, the new revenue recognition standard will be effective for public companies for periods beginning after December 15, 2017. This change will have challenges for everyone. Even if the new five-step, contract based model does not dramatically change the timing of your company’s revenue recognition, documenting how the new model applies in your case will require some time, and all of us will have to deal with the significant increase in disclosures, particularly the requirement to disaggregate revenues.

 

One place we see some confusion is about what these challenges will look like. This new standard is a complete departure from our old revenue recognition guidance and the detailed, rule based nature of the old standards. Some writers still talk about the “hundreds of pages” of guidance that must be dealt with. This makes it sound like the new standard is a large collection of detailed rules that simply replaces the large collection of detailed rules in the old revenue recognition GAAP.

 

This is not the case.

 

In the ASU the core of the new revenue model starts on page 14 and ends with the last of the disclosures on page 48.   Seems pretty short!

 

It is very principles base guidance! In our workshops, the broad, principles based nature of the new standard creates some of the biggest challenges for companies.

 

The whole standard is based on this principle, from paragraph 606-10-10-2:

 

“the core principle of the guidance in this Topic is that an entity shall recognize revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services.”

 

Notice the lack of language about an earnings process being complete or revenue being “realized or realizable”.

 

Each of the five steps and the disclosure requirements also start with a broad principle. Here is an example from step three, determining the transaction price (606-10-32-2):

 

“An entity shall consider the terms of the contract and its customary business practices to determine the transaction price. The transaction price is the amount of consideration to which an entity expects to be entitled in exchange for transferring promised goods or services to a customer, excluding amounts collected on behalf of third parties (for example, some sales taxes). The consideration promised in a contract with a customer may include fixed amounts, variable amounts, or both.”

 

On interesting aspect of this principle is that if there is variable consideration in a contract, it must be estimated! That is a whole new principle and each company will have to assess how to apply it to their circumstances.

 

Because this new revenue recognition model establishes a whole new set of principles, the FASB knew we would all need some help in how to interpret these principles. So, the standard, after the disclosure requirements, includes a number of implementation guidance discussions to explain what the principles are intended to mean. Terms such as “satisfied over time” and “distinct within the context of the contract” are explored. But you won’t find any detailed rules.

 

After the implementation guidance are a number of examples, and here you can find some actual interpretations of the principles which are very helpful. There are not too many of them.

 

As a last source of support for your process of learning about these principles and how to interpret and apply them don’t forget about the TRG. While the TRG does not issue formal guidance, their discussions are rich with examples of how some very experienced professionals are interpreting the standard. And, as you may have heard, the SEC Chief Accountant has said if companies depart from TRG discussions, they should be prepared to support such positions to the SEC staff. (You can read more about that in this speech.)

 

 

So, our tip for today, as you move through your implementation be ready to build an understanding of the principles and how to apply them to your specific circumstances!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Audit Committee Learning Opportunity

In a constantly changing world Audit Committee members know they need to be continuous learners to fulfill their responsibilities. To help them in this process PLI offers a variety of programs, and in June we will present:

Audit Committees and Financial Reporting 2016: Recent Developments and Current Issues.

The program is on June 21, 2016 and will be presented live in New York and via webcast.   You can find details here. The program features industry and SEC speakers, including Jim Schnurr the Chief Accountant.   The agenda includes:

SEC Developments You Need to Know About PCAOB Developments: What’s Happening in the Auditing Arena? Evolving Expectations for Audit Committees, including Audit Committee and Company Communications Financial Reporting Developments: What Audit Committees Need to Know Networking Break Risk Management & Compliance: What Audit Committees Need To Know Evolving Ethical and Liability Challenges for Audit Committee Advisors: 2016 Edition
As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated!

Form S-3 and the New Revenue Recognition Standard

The new revenue recognition standard allows for two transition methods. One is a kind of hybrid “retrospective with a cumulative effect” approach, where in the year of adoption a company records the cumulative effect and goes forward (with some significant “old GAAP” disclosures). The other is full retrospective implementation.

The full retrospective implementation comes with a lot of baggage beyond the amount of work it might require.

One question is what about the five-year summary? In Form 10-K is it necessary to retrospectively adjust the two earliest years in the five year summary along with the three years in S-X audited financial statements? The SEC staff has addressed this question and said this is not necessary. The CorpFin Financial Reporting Manual now states:

11100 REGISTRANT FINANCIAL INFORMATION

 

11100.1 Selected Financial Data

 

Question

A registrant elects to adopt the new revenue standard using the full retrospective approach. Must it apply the new revenue standard when reporting selected financial data (S-K Item 301)) for periods prior to those presented in its retroactively-adjusted financial statements?

 

Answer

No, but registrants must provide the information required by Instruction 2 to S-K Item 301 regarding comparability of the data presented.

This second question is a lot more intricate. What if a company does an S-3 after the first quarter of implementation? To set this issue up, here is a fact set:

Company year-end: December 31

Revenue Recognition Standard adoption date: January 1, 2018

Full retrospective method of adoption is used. In this method, for the 2018 Form 10-K the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 would be presented using the new revenue recognition standard.

Now assume that in 2018 (thus before the December 2018 Form 10-K is filed), the company reports for the first quarter of 2018 and files Form 10-Q on April 30, 2018. If the company then files an S-3 to raise capital on May 31, 2018, the previous Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017, would be incorporated into the Form S-3. That Form 10-K would have financial statements for 2017, 2016 and 2015. The financial statements for 2015 are the key issue here, as they would not be required in the December 31, 2018 Form 10-K. But, since they are incorporated into the S-3 and the company has adopted the new revenue recognition standard, Item 11(b) in Form S-3 will apply (emphasis added):

 

Item 11. Material Changes.

 

(a) Describe any and all material changes in the registrant’s affairs which have occurred since the end of the latest fiscal year for which certified financial statements were included in the latest annual report to security holders and which have not been described in a report on Form 10-Q (§249.308a of this chapter) or Form 8-K (§249.308 of this chapter) filed under the Exchange Act.

 

(b) Include in the prospectus, if not incorporated by reference therein from the reports filed under the Exchange Act specified in Item 12(a), a proxy or information statement filed pursuant to Section 14 of the Exchange Act, a prospectus previously filed pursuant to Rule 424(b) or (c) under the Securities Act (§230.424(b) or (c) of this chapter) or, where no prospectus is required to be filed pursuant to Rule 424(b), the prospectus included in the registration statement at effectiveness, or a Form 8-K filed during either of the two preceding years:

 

(i) information required by Rule 3-05 and Article 11 of Regulation S-X (17 CFR Part 210);

 

(ii) restated financial statements prepared in accordance with Regulation S-X if there has been a change in accounting principles or a correction in an error where such change or correction requires a material retroactive restatement of financial statements;

 

(iii) restated financial statements prepared in accordance with Regulation S-X where one or more business combinations accounted for by the pooling of interest method of accounting have been consummated subsequent to the most recent fiscal year and the acquired businesses, considered in the aggregate, are significant pursuant to Rule 11-01(b), or

 

(iv) any financial information required because of a material disposition of assets outside the normal course of business.

 

This would seem to require that the new revenue recognition standard be applied to the year ended December 31, 2015.

Not a happy outcome!

This question has come up in earlier accounting standard transitions, and the SEC Staff is clearly aware of this issue. Wes Bricker, Deputy Chief Accountant, said this in a recent speech:

“I am also aware that registrants have expressed concern about the requirement to provide restated financial statements when a Form S-3 registration statement is filed after the registrant has filed its first Form 10-Q reflecting adoption of the revenue standard. This requirement to restate the financial statements means that companies that adopt the revenue standard under a full-retrospective transition approach would be required to restate an additional year in its Form S-3 to show the effect of the new revenue standard on that earlier period.

While this issue is not specific to the new revenue standard, the pervasive impact of the new revenue standard amplifies the issue.

To this, I would observe the transition provisions in the new revenue standard reference existing GAAP, which provides for an impracticability exception to retrospective application if, for example, a company is unable to apply the requirement after making every reasonable effort to do so. OCA is available for consultation if a registrant believes that, based on its facts and circumstances, a retrospective application of the new revenue recognition standard to all periods required to be presented in a Form S-3 is impracticable.”

The actual language he refers to in the excerpt above is from ASC 250:

250 – 10 – 45 – 5

An entity shall report a change in accounting principle through retrospective application of the new accounting principle to all prior periods, unless it is impracticable to do so.

And:

Impracticability

250 – 10 – 45 – 9

It shall be deemed impracticable to apply the effects of a change in accounting principle retrospectively only if any of the following conditions exist:

  1. After making every reasonable effort to do so, the entity is unable to apply the requirement.
  2. Retrospective application requires assumptions about management’s intent in a prior period that cannot be independently substantiated.
  3. Retrospective application requires significant estimates of amounts, and it is impossible to distinguish objectively information about those estimates that both:
  4. Provides evidence of circumstances that existed on the date(s) at which those amounts would be recognized, measured, or disclosed under retrospective application
  5. Would have been available when the financial statements for that prior period were issued.

That’s where this issue is for now, and this could well be a problematic issue for any company raising capital in the year of adoption of the new revenue recognition standard!

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

SEC News – The FAST Act Form 10-K Summary

The SEC, on June 1, 2016, adopted an Interim Final Rule and Request for Comment to implement the Form 10-K summary provisions of The FAST Act. Passed earlier this year, the FAST Act contains a number of SEC reporting requirements, many of which the SEC has already implemented.

 

The Interim Final rule provides that a company may, at its option, include a summary in its Form 10-K. Each item in the summary must include a cross-reference by hyperlink to the material contained in the company’s Form 10-K to which the item relates.

 

The summary is a new Item 16 in Form 10-K:

 

Item 16. Form 10-K Summary.

 

Registrants may, at their option, include a summary of information required by this form, but only if each item in the summary is presented fairly and accurately and includes a hyperlink to the material contained in this form to which such item relates, including to materials contained in any exhibits filed with the form.

 

Instruction: The summary shall refer only to Form 10-K disclosure that is included in the form at the time it is filed. A registrant need not update the summary to reflect information required by Part III of Form 10-K that the registrant incorporates by reference from a proxy or information statement filed after the Form 10-K, but must state in the summary that the summary does not include Part III information because that information will be incorporated by reference from a later filed proxy or information statement involving the election of directors.

 

 

While perhaps not particularly dramatic, this is a nice step towards making Form 10-K a better communication tool, which is of course a big part of the disclosure effectiveness activities of the SEC. We could even debate whether such a rule is necessary as some companies, GE in particular, already provides such a summary.

 

You can read the Interim Final Rule and request for comment here.

 

And, if you have not read it recently, Carol and George, your bloggers, suggest taking a look here at the GE Form 10-K. You will find it interesting and the summary is on page 217.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

Cybersecurity’s “Evilution”

In our tech involved world the risk of cyber attack is constantly transmogrifying into ever more complex and evil modes. From phishing to ransomware to who knows what next, this risk is constantly changing.

 

To help you keep up-to-date with regulatory issues concerning this risk and to help make appropriate disclosures PLI is presenting a new One-Hour Briefing: Cybersecurity in the Age Of Regulators Gone Wild

 

You can read all about the briefing at:

 

http://www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Cybersecurity_in_the_Age_of_Regulators_Gone/_/N-4kZ1z10qbc?Ns=sort_date%7c0&ID=286898

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

Jeepers, You Say There is More Non-GAAP News?

In the latest step in the SEC’s continuing efforts to, in the words of Corp Fin Chief Accountant Mark Kronforst, “crack down” on the inappropriate use of non-GAAP measures, on May 17, 2016 the SEC updated their Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations about the use of non-GAAP measures.

(At this point we almost want to apologize for how many recent posts we have done about non-GAAP measures, but this new guidance is important.)

You will find them at:

www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/nongaapinterp.htm

If you use non-GAAP measures anywhere, earnings releases, MD&A, wherever, read them!

To help you get started, here are a couple of highlights.

This first question is a broad theme in current SEC public remarks, as we have discussed them in recent posts:

Question 100.01

Question: Can certain adjustments, although not explicitly prohibited, result in a non-GAAP measure that is misleading?

Answer: Yes. Certain adjustments may violate Rule 100(b) of Regulation G because they cause the presentation of the non-GAAP measure to be misleading. For example, presenting a performance measure that excludes normal, recurring, cash operating expenses necessary to operate a registrant’s business could be misleading. [May 17, 2016]

This C&DI clarifies issues about per-share presentations:

 

Question 102.05

Question: While Item 10(e)(1)(ii) of Regulation S-K does not prohibit the use of per share non-GAAP financial measures, the adopting release for Item 10(e), Exchange Act Release No. 47226, states that “per share measures that are prohibited specifically under GAAP or Commission rules continue to be prohibited in materials filed with or furnished to the Commission.” In light of Commission guidance, specifically Accounting Series Release No. 142, Reporting Cash Flow and Other Related Data, and Accounting Standards Codification 230, are non-GAAP earnings per share numbers prohibited in documents filed or furnished with the Commission?

 

Answer: No. Item 10(e) recognizes that certain non-GAAP per share performance measures may be meaningful from an operating standpoint. Non-GAAP per share performance measures should be reconciled to GAAP earnings per share. On the other hand, non-GAAP liquidity measures that measure cash generated must not be presented on a per share basis in documents filed or furnished with the Commission, consistent with Accounting Series Release No. 142. Whether per share data is prohibited depends on whether the non-GAAP measure can be used as a liquidity measure, even if management presents it solely as a performance measure.  When analyzing these questions, the staff will focus on the substance of the non-GAAP measure and not management’s characterization of the measure. [May 17, 2016]

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Lots Happening at the PCAOB!

Since its inception with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act the PCAOB has faced many challenges in fulfilling its responsibilities to establish GAAS for public company audits, inspect audit firms and enforce when auditors do not fulfill their responsibilities. As the PCAOB has evolved one important lesson we have all learned is that their activities and agenda do not affect just auditors. All public company reporting participants have a stake in what they do. For example, the recent audit standard about related party issues was important not just for auditors, but companies needed to assure they would have the information the new standard required auditors to obtain. Some companies even modified their D and O questionnaires in this process.

To help us be aware of where the PCAOB’s activities could impact us all, here are a few items of note going on at the PCAOB right now.

  1. Auditor’s Involvement in non-GAAP Measures

If you use non-GAAP measures in an earnings release, MD&A or other communication vehicles you will want to follow the events of the May 18-19, 2016 meeting of the PCAOB’s Standing Advisory Group. A significant part of the first day’s agenda is a discussion of “Company Performance Measures and the Role of the Auditor”. The meeting will include breakout discussion sessions and a report of the breakout discussions on day two of the meeting. You can find the agenda and how to access a webcast at:

pcaobus.org/News/Releases/Pages/SAG-meeting-agenda-May-18-19.aspx\

  1. Anticipating and Avoiding Accounting and Auditing Problems

The PCAOB inspections staff has published a “Staff Inspections Brief” which provides a preview of their observations from 2015 inspections. Interestingly the number of audit deficiencies identified for annually inspected firms, those with over 100 public clients, has decreased. For firms with less than 100 public clients, who are inspected every three years, the inspection staff found “an overall high number of audit deficiencies”. Areas with frequent deficiencies were:

Auditing internal control over financial reporting

Assessing and responding to the risk of material misstatement

Auditing accounting estimates, including fair value

Audit areas affected by economic risks, including factors such as oil prices

 

The report also discussed several financial reporting issues including business combination accounting, the statement of cash flows, revenue recognition and income taxes.

 

Auditor independence continued to be a problem area, particularly for triennially inspected firms.

You can read the whole Staff Inspection Brief at:

pcaobus.org/News/Releases/Pages/staff-inspection-brief-2015-issuer-inspections.aspx

 

  1. A Board Member’s Perspective on Inspections, Enforcement and Standard Setting

This speech, delivered by Board Member Jeanette Franzel, is a wide ranging summary of “progress in audit oversite” and has some interesting perspectives on changes that could be in store for the inspection process. She comments that inspections of large firms are showing fewer audit deficiencies but that at smaller firms there are still some that “just don’t get it”. She also provides summaries of the enforcement program and standard setting at the PCAOB.

You can read the speech at:

pcaobus.org/News/Speech/Pages/Franzel-progress-in-audit-oversight-Baruch-5-5-16.aspx

 

  1. A “Darker” Staff Practice Alert

The PCAOB inspectors continue to see enough instances of auditors making changes after audit workpapers are supposed to be “locked down” that they have issued a Staff Practice Alert to remind, or perhaps warn, auditors not to make changes inappropriately in advance of an inspection. You can read the Alert at:

pcaobus.org/News/Releases/Pages/staff-audit-practice-alert-improper-alteration-of-documents-4-21-16.aspx

Interestingly, the last section of the new release has a link to the PCAOB’s tip line……

 

  1. Re-proposed Changes to the Auditor’s Report?

The Board met on May 11, 2016 to consider re-proposing changes to the standard auditor’s report. The current pass/fail model would be retained, but the original proposal and the potentially revised proposal hope to provide additional information to make the report more relevant and informative. Stay tuned for updates on the results of the meeting; in the meantime you can read about the meeting, the revised proposal and related original proposal at:

pcaobus.org/News/Releases/Pages/PCAOB-5-11-16-open-meeting-announcement.aspx

 

  1. Naming the Audit Partner is a Done Deal and the PCAOB’s Standard Setting Agenda

 

Last, as you may have heard, the SEC has approved the PCAOB’s new Auditing Standard requiring disclosure of the names of audit partners and information about other firms involved in an audit beyond the principal auditor. To learn about that change and to see what else is on the horizon, here is a link to the PCAOB’s current rulemaking agenda:

pcaobus.org/Standards/Pages/Current_Activities_Related_to_Standards.aspx

Clearly, the PCAOB is busy!

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

SEC Non-GAAP Concerns Ratchet Up

We discuss non-GAAP measures frequently in our blog. We also did a One-Hour Briefing “Non-GAAP Measures and Metrics: Getting it Right” on April 1 which you can find at:

www.pli.edu/Content/Non_GAAP_Measures_and_Metrics_Getting_it/_/N-1z10vnyZ4n?ID=282910

 

While we try to avoid being “preachy” we do see some real problems in how companies are using non-GAAP measures. Our most recent blog post about these non-GAAP measure problems is at:

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=615

 

To reinforce these issues from the SEC’s perspective Deputy Chief Accountant Wesley Bricker and OCA Chief Accountant Mark Kronforst both addressed the use of non-GAAP measures at a recent conference.

 

You can read Mr. Bricker’s speech at:

www.sec.gov/news/speech/speech-bricker-05-05-16.html

 

In his speech he outlines four major areas where the SEC believes that companies may not be using non-GAAP measures appropriately. He even makes the comment that if a company uses a non-GAAP revenue measure they can expect a comment from the staff.

While Mr. Kronforst’s speech is not on the SEC web page, he reportedly used the words “crack down” when talking about how the SEC will be reviewing the use of non-GAAP measures.

The message is clear, be thoughtful and careful with non-GAAP measures!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!