A major restatement by Hertz has been in the news in recent weeks, and thanks to two of our community, Bill Story and Eric Braschwitz, for their timely heads up notice about this restatement. Hertz was late with their 2014 10-K, filing it in early July. And it is a major restatement.
The magnitude of the issues, the nature of the organizational issues involved, the impact that leadership had on financial reporting, and all the other issues that seem to be at the root of this restatement are old stories, and somehow seem to harken back to days before SOX. Much has been written about these issues and we won’t rehash them here.
But there is one issue we do want to bring out.
As a preliminary note, if you want to dig into the filings involved, you will find Hertz Global Holdings, which is the publically owned company, and another filer, Hertz, which is the operating company, and is wholly owned by Hertz Global Holdings. You will find the restatement issue in the Form 10-K for each of these businesses.
If you look back at Hertz Global Holdings’ 2013 Form 10-K, you will find this ICFR Report:
ITEM 9A. Controls and Procedures
Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures
(This section is omitted for this blog)
Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as such term is defined in Rule 13a-15(f) under the Exchange Act, as amended. Our internal control over financial reporting is a process designed 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.
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
Under the supervision and with the participation of our management, including our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, we conducted an assessment of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2013. The assessment was based on criteria established in Internal Control—Integrated Framework 1992 issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. Based on this assessment, management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2013. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, our independent registered public accounting firm, has issued an attestation report on our internal control over financial reporting. Their report is included in this Annual Report under the caption “Item 8—Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”
So, everything looks like “situation normal” at Hertz. Then, for 2014, here is what happened.
From Hertz’ 2014 10-K, Item 9A is really long, so we will put our concluding comments here.
And, note the focus on tone at the top!
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!
From Hertz’ 2014 Form 10-K
ITEM 9A. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
Restatement of Previously Issued Financial Statements
As described in additional detail in the Explanatory Note to this Annual Report on Form 10-K, in June 2014, we commenced an internal investigation of certain matters related to the accounting during prior periods. The investigation was undertaken by outside counsel, along with independent counsel for the Audit Committee. Counsel received assistance from outside consultants and new senior accounting and compliance personnel. The internal investigation is complete, although our outside counsel and the independent counsel to the Audit Committee continue to provide forensic and investigative support in connection with certain proceedings discussed in Item 3, “Legal Proceedings” and in Item 8, Note 14, “Contingencies and Off-Balance Sheet Commitments” to the consolidated financial statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K involving our restatements and related accounting for prior periods.
Based on the internal investigation, our review of our financial records, and other work completed by our management, the Audit Committee has concluded that there were material misstatements in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 consolidated financial statements. Accordingly, our Board and management concluded that our consolidated financial statements for these periods should no longer be relied upon and required restatement. The restated consolidated financial statements for 2012 and 2013 are provided in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The unaudited restated selected data for 2011 is included in Item 6, “Selected Financial Data” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures
Our senior management has evaluated the effectiveness of the design and operation of our disclosure controls and procedures (as defined under Exchange Act Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e)) as of the end of the period covered by this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Based upon that evaluation, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer have concluded that as of December 31, 2014, due to the identification of material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, as further described below, our disclosure controls and procedures were not effective to provide reasonable assurance that the information required to be disclosed by us in the reports that we file or submit under the Exchange Act of 1934 is recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the SEC’s rules and forms, and that such information is accumulated and communicated to management as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure.
Management’s Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting
Management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as such term is defined in Exchange Act Rule 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f).
A material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of our annual or interim financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.
Management, including our new Chief Executive Officer and our Chief Financial Officer, assessed the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014. In making this assessment, management used the criteria set forth by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (“COSO”) in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013). Based on this assessment, management has concluded that we did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014 due to the fact that there are material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting as discussed below.
The control environment, which is the responsibility of senior management, helps set the tone of the organization (including a commitment towards openness, honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior), influences the control consciousness of its officers and employees, and is an important component affecting how the organization performs financial analysis, accounting, and financial reporting. A proper organizational tone can be promoted through a variety of means, such as policies and codes of ethics, a commitment to hiring competent employees, the manner and content of oral and written communications, and structures that promote and reward openness, strong internal controls, effective governance, and ethical behavior.
As of December 31, 2014, we did not maintain an effective control environment primarily attributable to the following identified material weaknesses:
- Our investigation found that an inconsistent and sometimes inappropriate tone at the top was present under the then existing senior management that did not in certain instances result in adherence to accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”) and Company accounting policies and procedures. In particular, our former Chief Executive Officer’s management style and temperament created a pressurized operating environment at the Company, where challenging targets were set and achieving those targets was a key performance expectation. There was in certain instances an inappropriate emphasis on meeting internal budgets, business plans, and current estimates. Our former Chief Executive Officer further encouraged employees to focus on potential business risks and opportunities, and on potential financial or operating performance gaps, as well as ways of ameliorating potential risks or gaps, including through accounting reviews. This resulted in an environment which in some instances may have led to inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information critical to an effective review of transactions and accounting entries, such as certain changes in accounting methodologies, to the appropriate finance and accounting personnel or our Board, Audit Committee, or independent registered public accounting firm
- We did not have a sufficient complement of personnel with an appropriate level of knowledge, experience, and training commensurate with our financial reporting requirements to ensure proper selection and application of GAAP in certain circumstances.
- We did not establish clear reporting structures, reporting lines, and decisional authority responsibilities in the organization.We did not design effective controls over the non-fleet procurement process, which was exacerbated by the lack of training of field personnel as part of our Oracle ERP system implementation during 2013.
These material weaknesses in the control environment resulted in certain instances of inappropriate accounting decisions and inappropriate changes in accounting methodology and contributed to the following additional material weaknesses:
- We did not design and maintain effective controls over certain accounting estimates. Specifically, we did not design and maintain controls over the effective review of the models, assumptions, and data used in developing estimates or changes made to assumptions and data, related to information technology expenditures; reserve estimates associated with allowances for uncollectible amounts receivable for renter obligations related to damaged vehicles; and accrued unbilled revenue.
- We did not design and maintain effective controls over the review, approval, and documentation related to journal entries.
- We did not design and maintain effective controls over changes to our policies and procedures over GAAP, as well as the review, approval, and documentation related to the application of GAAP.
We did not effectively design controls in response to the risks of material misstatement. This material weakness contributed to the following additional material weaknesses:
- We did not design effective controls over certain business processes including our period-end financial reporting process. This includes the identification and execution of controls over the preparation, analysis, and review of significant account reconciliations and closing adjustments required to assess the appropriateness of certain account balances at period end.
Information and Communication
As of December 31, 2014, we did not maintain effective controls over information and communications. Specifically, we did not have an adequate process for internally communicating information between the accounting department and other operating departments necessary to support the proper functioning of internal controls. This material weakness led to misstatements in the capitalization and timing of depreciation of non-fleet capital.
We did not design and maintain effective monitoring controls related to the design and operational effectiveness of our internal controls. Specifically, we did not maintain personnel and systems within the internal audit function that were sufficient to ensure the adequate monitoring of control activities. This control deficiency resulted in some instances of the internal audit function’s failure to identify or sufficiently follow through on the analysis of certain inappropriate accounting decisions and changes in accounting methodology.
One or more of the foregoing control deficiencies contributed to the restatement of our financial statements for the years 2012 and 2013 and each of the quarters of 2013, including the misstatements of direct operating expenses, accounts payable, accrued liabilities, allowance for doubtful accounts, prepaid expenses and other assets, and non-fleet property and equipment and the related accumulated depreciation. Additionally, the foregoing control deficiencies could result in material misstatements of the consolidated financial statements that would not be prevented or detected. Accordingly, our management has determined that these control deficiencies constitute material weaknesses.
The effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2014 has been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an independent registered public accounting firm, as stated in their report, which appears in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Other Considerations Impacting our Historical Accounting
Our incorrect accounting was caused by the foregoing control deficiencies along with a complex mix of structural and environmental factors. One of those factors was the tone set and pressures imposed by our former Chief Executive Officer, which were inappropriate in certain instances, and may have been a factor influencing one or more employees to record an accounting entry now determined to be improper. Other factors affecting the overall historic accounting environment and employees included the distraction caused by the multiple, conflicting business initiatives; challenges related to managing complex, inefficient legacy systems; the lack of a sufficient complement of personnel with an appropriate level of knowledge, experience, and training with GAAP; unclear reporting structures, reporting lines, and decisional authority in the organization; and other matters. Taken together, these factors fostered a control environment and other control deficiencies that in some instances enabled inappropriate accounting.
Remediation Plan and Status
We have, and continue to, identify and implement actions to improve the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures, including plans to enhance our resources and training with respect to financial reporting and disclosure responsibilities and to review such actions with the Audit Committee. Leading this process is our Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, who was hired in December 2013 and is being assisted by our new Chief Accounting Officer, who was hired in May 2014.
During 2014 and 2015, we have hired personnel with the appropriate experience, certification, education, and training for all of the key positions in the financial reporting and accounting function and in some cases have created new positions. Consequently, the employees involved in the accounting and financial reporting functions in which misstatements were identified are no longer involved in the accounting or financial reporting functions. In addition, we have taken, or will take, appropriate remedial actions with respect to certain employees, including termination, reassignments, reprimands, increased supervision, training, and imposition of financial penalties in the form of compensation adjustments.
In addition, we have taken, and continue to take, the actions described below to remediate the identified material weaknesses. As we continue to evaluate and work to improve our internal controls over financial reporting, our senior management may determine to take additional measures to address control deficiencies or determine to modify the remediation efforts described in this section. Until the remediation efforts discussed in this section, including any additional remediation efforts that our senior management identifies as necessary, are completed, the material weaknesses described above will continue to exist.
Our Board has directed senior management to ensure that a proper, consistent tone is communicated throughout the organization, which emphasizes the expectation that previously existing deficiencies will be rectified through implementation of processes and controls to ensure strict compliance with GAAP and regulatory requirements. We also have taken steps to effect a proper tone through changes in our personnel and policies.
On September 7, 2014 our former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer resigned his position. On November 20, 2014, a new President and Chief Executive Officer was named from outside the Company following a national search led by a special committee of the Board, with the assistance of an executive search consultant.
Our new President and Chief Executive Officer is one of four new members of our Board. The three other new directors joined our Board pursuant to the nomination and standstill agreement dated September 15, 2014 between the Company and the Icahn Group, which is included as Exhibit 99.1 to our Form 8-K filed on September 16, 2014.
In addition, since December 2013, we have hired the following additional key employees into the following positions who reflect our standards for integrity and ethical values:
- Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
- Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel
- Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer
- Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer
- Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer
- Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer
- Senior Vice President and Chief Audit Executive
- Senior Vice President, Procurement, Fleet and Project Management Office
- Senior Vice President, Financial Planning and Analysis
In addition to the senior management changes detailed above, in order to ensure we have a sufficient complement of personnel with an appropriate level of knowledge, experience, and training commensurate with our financial reporting requirements, during 2014 and 2015 we have hired personnel for all key positions in the financial reporting and accounting function and in some cases have created new positions, including:
- Senior Vice President and Controller (Corporate Finance)
- Senior Vice President and Controller (U.S. Rental Car Operations
- Vice President, SOX Compliance
- Assistant Controller (Corporate Finance)
- Vice President, Reporting, Research and PolicyVice President, Financial Systems
- Vice President, Accounting and Assistant Controller Global Fleet
- Vice President, Dublin Financial Shared Service Center
- Senior Director, Oklahoma Financial Shared Service Center
- Senior Director, Program Accounting
- Senior Director, Financial Reporting
- Director, U.S. Rental Operations Finance Consolidation and Analytics
- Director, Financial Systems
- Director, Technical Accounting
- Director, Corporate Accounting
- Director, Consolidations
- Director, Policies and Procedures
- Director, Global Procure to Pay
- Director, SOX Compliance
- Director, North America General Accounting
To assist in the restatement activities we augmented our personnel with qualified consulting resources and they will continue to be augmented by the consulting resources for the remainder of 2015.
Further, in 2014, we reinforced the importance of adherence to established internal controls and Company policies and procedures through formal communications, town hall meetings and employee trainings. To communicate a proper ethical tone and corporate culture, Hertz’s intranet website provides information on our philosophy and values. These philosophies and values, in addition to being addressed at personnel meetings, are periodically communicated to our employees via email notifications throughout the year.
In addition, we have established procedures for ensuring clear reporting structures, reporting lines, and decisional authority responsibilities in the organization and have enhanced communications with our operational departments, accounting, Board and Audit Committee.
To address the material weakness over the non-fleet procurement process, we have strengthened processes and controls for manual accruals and journal entries. In addition, we have enhanced an accrual methodology to ensure completeness over our non-fleet procurement liabilities.
To address the lack of training related to the implementation of our Oracle ERP system, in 2014 management engaged consulting resources to assist in the following:
Completed a library of training modules for the Oracle application;Completed a series of live trainings for Oracle users; andImplemented enhanced knowledge management tools and protocols.
Other activities completed in 2014 and 2015 related to the Oracle ERP system include:
- Established a Financial Information Systems Steering Committee co-chaired by the Chief Accounting Officer and the Chief Information Officer to monitor activities and developments associated with our financial information systems;
- Established a data governance team to monitor activities associated with the data integrity of our financial information systems;
- Implemented changes within the Oracle application to enhance the quality of data and the timeliness of processing financial results; and
- Implemented security rule changes to enhance the quality and timeliness of reported results.
To further enhance the financial close process and address the remediation of this material weakness, our management is currently completing activities associated with our chart of accounts and utilization of Oracle ERP features.
We have taken steps to improve our design and maintenance of effective controls for accounting estimates, including:
- Where necessary, identified, implemented and documented controls over appropriate accounting methodologies for certain accounts;
- Held trainings with accounting staff in the first quarter of 2015 to ensure there is a thorough understanding of the underlying methodologies implemented;
- Established policies and procedures for the approval and implementation of new or modified accounting methodologies;
- Hired accounting personnel with an appropriate level of knowledge and experience to execute the underlying accounting methodologies; and
- Established policies and procedures for the review, approval and application of appropriate GAAP for transactions and accounting methodology changes.
In addition, to improve our controls over the processing of manual journal entries, we have reinforced procedures to ensure that manual journal entries recorded in our financial records are properly prepared, supported by adequate documentation, and independently reviewed and approved.
We are establishing mechanisms to identify, evaluate, and monitor risks to financial reporting throughout the organization to remediate our material weakness in the risk assessment process and monitoring, as described below.
We have designed and where appropriate enhanced controls over the preparation, analysis and review of transactions and, execution of balance sheet and significant account reconciliations. In addition, we have reinforced existing policies and procedures and enacted policy and procedures changes, where necessary, to better define requirements for effective and timely reconciliations of balance sheet and significant accounts, including independent review. We have also implemented a training program specific to the review and preparation of account reconciliations.
We are updating our global risk assessment. In addition, we have updated our internal audit plan to include internal audit monitoring activities responsive to the issues identified in our internal investigation and review of our financial records.
We have implemented new procedures and enhanced controls governing our internal management-led Disclosure Committee, sub-certification, and external reporting processes associated with the review and approval of the content of our SEC filings and other public disclosures.
Information and Communication
We have formalized procedures to ensure appropriate internal communication between the accounting department and other operating departments necessary to support the proper functioning of internal controls.
In addition, we are in the process of updating the corporate-wide accounting policies manual to ensure proper accounting for transactions in compliance with GAAP and consistently applied across all locations. Additional policies will also need to be developed and issued and corresponding training will need to be provided.
To address deficiencies in our internal audit function, we hired in 2015 a Senior Vice President and Chief Audit Executive, with global responsibilities. In addition, we have commenced recruiting for additional staff members and have recently hired a senior auditor. We are currently supplementing our personnel resources with a substantial number of internal audit consulting resources with financial accounting expertise.
We also have increased the number and quality of personnel assigned to management’s internal controls assessment process. In 2014, we hired a Vice President of SOX Compliance and a Director of SOX Compliance. During 2014 and 2015 we have supplemented our personnel resources with a substantial number of consulting resources experienced in controls and SOX compliance.
During 2014 and 2015, the internal audit and SOX compliance teams enhanced (i) our processes associated with the scoping and identification of processes and key controls, (ii) the documentation of these processes and (iii) our testing procedures to promote the consistency and accuracy of conclusions, deliverables and disclosures associated with SOX compliance. An automated tool is being implemented to monitor these activities.
Changes in Internal Control over Financial Reporting
Our remediation efforts are ongoing. During the quarter ended December 31, 2014, we completed account reconciliation and internal controls trainings for our accounting personnel, created and completed Oracle trainings, enhanced data governance and implemented changes within the Oracle application to enhance the quality of data and the timeliness of processing financial results. There were no other material changes in our internal control over financial reporting that occurred during the quarter ended December 31, 2014 that materially affected, or that are reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.