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.

More Change – Final – Resource Extraction Payment Rule Repealed

By: George M Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

On February 14, 2017 President Trump signed the law eliminating the resource extraction payment disclosure provisions of the Dodd Frank Act.

From:

www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/14/president-trump-cutting-red-tape-american-businesses

 

GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE WAY: Today, President Donald J. Trump signed legislation (House Joint Resolution 41) eliminating a costly regulation that threatened to put domestic extraction companies and their employees at an unfair disadvantage.

H.J. Res. 41 blocks a misguided regulation from burdening American extraction companies.

By halting this regulation, the President has removed a costly impediment to American extraction companies helping their workers succeed.

This legislation could save American businesses as much as $600 million annually in regulatory compliance costs and spare them 200,000 hours of paperwork.

The regulation created an unfair advantage for foreign-owned extraction companies.

 

 

As always your comments and thoughts are welcome.

 

Communicate Consistently – It Really Does Matter

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 
As we discuss in our workshops, it is crucial that companies communicate consistently across all the channels they use. Here are a couple of SEC comments that illustrate this point.

This first comment refers to articles in the news. Yes, the SEC staff does read the paper! This means that companies need to monitor news stories to assure that publically disseminated information is consistent with other disclosures.

General

  1. Recent articles indicate that Yahoo’s November 2014 agreement with Mozilla contains a change-in-control provision that provides Mozilla with the right to receive $375 million annually through 2019 if Yahoo is sold and Mozilla does not deem the new partner acceptable. As this provision appears to take the agreement out of the ordinary course of business, please provide us with your analysis of the materiality of this agreement for purposes of Item 601(b)(10) of Regulation S-K.

 

Here is another frequent theme, how the staff monitors earnings calls and other presentations.

Results of Operations, page II-7

 

  1. We note in your September 8, 2015 earnings call, your chief executive officer made reference to verbal commitments from customers to escalate contract prices when oil prices improve. Given the importance of the price of oil on your results, please tell us and consider disclosing in more detail whether such verbal commitments represent a known event. Refer to Item 303(a)(3)(ii) of Regulation S-K and SEC Release No. 33- 8350.

 

As a parting thought, have all the members of your disclosure committee, and in particular the persons involved in drafting and reviewing MD&A, reviewed your earnings calls as part of their process? (And yes, the second comment is one of our favorite MD&A topics!)

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Things are Changing More!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

On February 6, 2017, Acting Chairman Michael Piwowar announced that the SEC will be reconsidering implementation of the Pay Ratio Rule required by the Dodd Frank Act. Chairman Piwowar’s announcement said in part:

“I am seeking public input on any unexpected challenges that issuers have experienced as they prepare for compliance with the rule and whether relief is needed. I welcome and encourage the submission of detailed comments, and request that any comments be submitted within the next 45 days.

I have also directed the staff to reconsider the implementation of the rule based on any comments submitted and to determine as promptly as possible whether additional guidance or relief may be appropriate.”

As you know this new disclosure, unless changed, applies for years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Things Are Changing!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Two of the provisions of the Dodd Frank Act relating to disclosures by public companies are being considered for change in Washington, DC.

 
Conflict Minerals Disclosures
Acting Chairman Piwowar has directed the Staff to reconsider whether the 2014 guidance on the conflict minerals rule is still appropriate and whether any additional relief is appropriate. You can read his announcement including his formal statement and information he gathered on a trip to Africa here.

 
Resource Extraction Payment Rule
Congress has begun the process of revoking the Resource Extraction Payments provisions of the Act. The House passed this provision earlier and the Senate voted to revoke the provision Friday, February 3, 2017. You can read about the Senate vote here.

 

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Revenue Recognition – Raytheon Sets the Pace!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

Reed Wilson, our Form 10-K In-Depth Workshop leader, closely follows reporting by major companies. He found that Raytheon, in its fourth-quarter earnings release, announced it has adopted the new revenue recognition standard as of January 1, 2017, a full year before the required adoption date. Raytheon also elected the full retrospective adoption method. (Nice catch Reed!) You can find the earnings release here.

Here is an excerpt from the earnings release:

Effective January 1, 2017, the Company adopted the new revenue recognition standard utilizing the full retrospective transition method. Under this method, the standard was applied to each prior reporting period presented and the cumulative effect of applying the standard was recognized at the earliest period shown. The impact of adopting the new standard on the Company’s 2015 and 2016 net sales and operating income was not material. The 2016 net sales, effective tax rate and EPS from continuing operations in the financial outlook table below have been recast to reflect this change.

While it will obviously be a while until Raytheon reports a full quarter on the new method, this SAB 74 disclosure from its third-quarter Form 10-Q provides the story of the company’s adoption process. It provides an understanding of the steps in the process, and the depth of the process. Notice the comment about frequent reports over a two-year period! And all this work was in spite of the fact that the new standard did not have a material impact for Raytheon!

 

Note 2: Accounting Standards

 

In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), which will replace numerous requirements in U.S. GAAP, including industry-specific requirements, and provide companies with a single revenue recognition model for recognizing revenue from contracts with customers. The core principle of the new standard is that a company should recognize revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the company expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. The two permitted transition methods under the new standard are the full retrospective method, in which case the standard would be applied to each prior reporting period presented and the cumulative effect of applying the standard would be recognized at the earliest period shown, or the modified retrospective method, in which case the cumulative effect of applying the standard would be recognized at the date of initial application. In July 2015, the FASB approved the deferral of the new standard’s effective date by one year. The new standard is effective for annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017. The FASB will permit companies to adopt the new standard early, but not before the original effective date of annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2016.

 

In 2014, we established a cross-functional implementation team consisting of representatives from across all of our business segments. We utilized a bottoms-up approach to analyze the impact of the standard on our contract portfolio by reviewing our current accounting policies and practices to identify potential differences that would result from applying the requirements of the new standard to our revenue contracts. In addition, we identified, and are in the process of implementing, appropriate changes to our business processes, systems and controls to support recognition and disclosure under the new standard. The implementation team has reported the findings and progress of the project to management and the Audit Committee on a frequent basis over the last two years.

 

We have been closely monitoring FASB activity related to the new standard, as well as working with various non-authoritative groups to conclude on specific interpretative issues. In the first half of 2016, we made significant progress toward completing our evaluation of the potential changes from adopting the new standard on our future financial reporting and disclosures. Our progress was aided by the FASB issuing ASU 2016-10, Identifying Performance Obligations and Licensing, which amended the current guidance on performance obligations and provided additional clarity on this topic, and the significant progress of the non- authoritative groups in concluding on specific interpretative issues. We also made significant progress on our contract reviews and detailed policy drafting. Based on our evaluation, we expect to early adopt the requirements of the new standard in the first quarter of 2017 and anticipate using the full retrospective transition method.

 

The impact of adopting the new standard on our 2015 and 2016 total net sales and operating income is not expected to be material. We also do not expect a material impact to our consolidated balance sheet. The immaterial impact of adopting ASU 2014-09 primarily relates to the deferral of commissions on our commercial software arrangements, which previously were expensed as incurred but under the new standard will generally be capitalized and amortized over the period of contract performance, and policy changes related to the recognition of revenue and costs on our defense contracts to better align our policies with the new standard. The impact to our results is not material because the analysis of our contracts under the new revenue recognition standard supports the recognition of revenue over time under the cost-to-cost method for the majority of our contracts, which is consistent with our current revenue recognition model. Revenue on the majority of our contracts will continue to be recognized over time because of the continuous transfer of control to the customer. For U.S. government contracts, this continuous transfer of control to the customer is supported by clauses in the contract that allow the customer to unilaterally terminate the contract for convenience, pay us for costs incurred plus a reasonable profit, and take control of any work in process. Similarly, for non-U.S. government contracts, the customer typically controls the work in process as evidenced either by contractual termination clauses or by our rights to payment for work performed to date to deliver products or services that do not have an alternative use to the company. Under the new standard, the cost-to-cost measure of progress continues to best depict the transfer of control of assets to the customer, which occurs as we incur costs. In addition, the number of our performance obligations under the new standard is not materially different from our contract segments under the existing standard. Lastly, the accounting for the estimate of variable amounts is not expected to be materially different compared to our current practice.

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

When Disclosure Obligations Reach Beyond Financial Reporting

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Good accounting requires good communication. Many times information that is well-removed from the financial reporting and accounting functions has impacts on the financial statements or other parts of the SEC reporting process, especially MD&A. The Sarbanes Oxley Act built on the internal accounting controls guidance in section 13(b) of the FCPA Act in expanding the evaluation, audit and reporting requirements for internal control over financial reporting, or ICFR, and creating the concept of disclosure controls and procedures, or DCP.

A recent enforcement action brings home, at this important year-end time, the importance of effective disclosure controls throughout the company, with perhaps redundant controls that search beyond traditional financial reporting functions for issues that may impact the financial statements or require disclosure in other parts of a periodic report. It reinforces the idea that responsibility for disclosure is a company-wide obligation, and that companies need to build reliable infrastructures to ensure that investors receive all of the information they are supposed to receive.

ICFR and its related requirements have been part of the reporting process for decades. ICFR is formally defined in Exchange Act Rule 13(a)-15 as:

a process designed by, or under the supervision of, the issuer’s principal executive and principal financial officers, or persons performing similar functions, and effected by the issuer’s board of directors, management and other personnel, to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and includes those policies and procedures that:

(1) Pertain to the maintenance of records that in reasonable detail accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the issuer;

(2) Provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the issuer are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the issuer; and

(3) Provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use or disposition of the issuer’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

ICFR is all about the financial statements and that of course includes all of the relevant disclosures in the footnotes to the financial statements.

Here is how SOX expanded this process and formally defined disclosure controls in Exchange Act Rule 13(a)-15:

For purposes of this section, the term disclosure controls and procedures means controls and other procedures of an issuer that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the issuer in the reports that it files or submits under the Act (15 U.S.C. 78a et seq.) is recorded, processed, summarized and reported, within the time periods specified in the Commission’s rules and forms. Disclosure controls and procedures include, without limitation, controls and procedures designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by an issuer in the reports that it files or submits under the Act is accumulated and communicated to the issuer’s management, including its principal executive and principal financial officers, or persons performing similar functions, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure.

What is clear in this definition is that DCP relates to the entire report, not just the financial statements. And, both ICFR and DCP are relevant to the financial statements.

The terms “accumulate and communicate” are particularly relevant for this case. DCP clearly applies to the concept of a known trend in MD&A, which may not be relevant to the financial statements. It also applies to information that may be relevant to accounting for contingencies, even when that information is in an operational area.

In the enforcement case mentioned above the company paid “a $1 million penalty to settle charges that deficient internal accounting controls prevented the company from properly assessing the potential impact on its financial statements of a defective ignition switch found in some vehicles.” Further,

“[t]he SEC’s order finds that the company’s internal investigation involving the defective ignition switch wasn’t brought to the attention of its accountants until November 2013 even though other (company) personnel understood in the spring of 2012 that there was a safety issue at hand. Therefore, during at least an 18-month period, accountants at the (company) did not properly evaluate the likelihood of a recall occurring or the potential losses resulting from a recall of cars with the defective ignition switch.

This case clearly addressed accounting for contingencies and the related GAAP disclosures. In other situations there may not be a contingency disclosure, but there could be a known trend in MD&A. Both are relevant issues as we work through year-end. What this all builds to is that the disclosure process, including both ICFR and DCP, has to reach beyond the information required for financial statement reporting.

It is all about communication! And this might be a good time to communicate this issue to your disclosure committee and all the parts of your organization.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Whistleblower Reminders

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

On December 19 and 20, 2016, as a year-end reminder, the SEC’s Enforcement Division announced two more cases to emphasize that companies MUST NOT do anything to impede employees from blowing the whistle.

You can find a lot more background about this issue in this post.

In the first case NeuStar Inc. paid a fine of $180,000 for putting restrictive language in severance agreements.

The SEC found that NeuStar was “routinely entering into severance agreements that contained a broad non-disparagement clause forbidding former employees from engaging with the SEC and other regulators ‘in any communication that disparages, denigrates, maligns or impugns’ the company.” The agreements were structured harshly. Departed employees would lose all but $100 of their severance pay if they violated the agreement. This language impeded at least one former employee from contacting the SEC.

In the second case Oklahoma City-based SandRidge Energy Inc. agreed to pay a fine of $1.4 million. Even though the company reviewed their severance arrangements several times after new Dodd/Frank rules were put in place, they continued to include language “restricting” former employees from blowing the whistle to regulators.

The SEC found that “SandRidge fired an internal whistleblower who kept raising concerns about the process used by SandRidge to calculate its publicly reported oil-and-gas reserves.”

The message is clear – Don’t try to limit a former employee’s ability to blow the whistle! Instead, take steps to investigate the matter!

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Non-GAAP Measures – Rise of the Enforcement Message!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

On January 18, 2017, the SEC ended the speculation about whether or when we would see enforcement actions focused on non-GAAP measures.   MDC Partners, a New York marketing company, paid a fine and consented to an SEC cease-and-desist order without admitting or denying the findings. The case dealt with two issues, non-GAAP measures and failure to disclose certain perks properly. The non-GAAP measure issue related to amounts disclosed for “organic revenue growth” which the company did not calculate consistently from period to period. In addition the company did not present the comparable GAAP measure with equal or greater prominence, as Regulation S-K Item 10(e) requires in an earnings release.

 

Both issues are frequently discussed areas in the SEC’s May 2016 C&DI’s about non-GAAP measures.

 

You can read the related release here.

 

 

IPO’s – Getting Ready and Keeping Up

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

If you are contemplating an IPO or advising companies in this process, PLI’s “Securities Offerings 2017: A Public Offering: How it is Done” will provide you with valuable knowledge and how-to tools about the IPO process. The program simulates an offering from start to finish, builds a foundation in the law and SEC guidance, and walks through each step in the process. The program is on March 3, 2017 and you can learn more here.

The program also includes up to 2 hours of ethics credit (see program page on www.pli.edu for credit by state).