A Few Disclosure Control Reminders

In our Workshops, participants almost always have a reasonable understanding of Internal Control Over Financial Reporting (or ICFR).   And this makes sense; the concept of internal control in the financial reporting process has existed for decades. When SOX required all companies to evaluate their ICFR, the way banks had been evaluating ICFR since the FDICIA Act of 1991, it was not a brand new idea.

 

But what about controls over the preparation of information which is outside of the financial statements? Prior to SOX there was no “control” process for non-financial information. Recognizing that the non-financial information in a filing can be as important if not more important than the financial statements, SOX created a new category of controls, disclosure controls and procedures (DCP for short).

 

This post reviews some background about DCP and then we dive more deeply into four common DCP problem areas and include some example SEC comments. (If you are comfortable with the concept of DCP, you can skip to the comments at the end.)

 

The technical definition of DCP is in Exchange Act Rule 13a-15:

 

(e) 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.

 

From this definition it is clear that DCP applies to the entire report. So, for example, in a Form 10-K, while ICFR applies to the financial statements in Item 8, DCP applies to the whole report, Items 1 through 15, including MD&A, includes a substantive portion of ICFR in the financial statements.

 

When SOX created a requirement to evaluate ICFR, it also created a requirement to evaluate DCP. Again, from Rule 13a-15:

 

(b) Each such issuer’s management must evaluate, with the participation of the issuer’s principal executive and principal financial officers, or persons performing similar functions, the effectiveness of the issuer’s disclosure controls and procedures, as of the end of each fiscal quarter, except that management must perform this evaluation:

(1) In the case of a foreign private issuer (as defined in §240.3b-4) as of the end of each fiscal year….

 

Both Form 10-K in Item 9A and Form 10-Q in Part I Item 4 refer to S-K Item 307:

 

 

  • 229.307   (Item 307) Disclosure controls and procedures.

Disclose the conclusions of the registrant’s principal executive and principal financial officers, or persons performing similar functions, regarding the effectiveness of the registrant’s disclosure controls and procedures (as defined in §240.13a-15(e) or §240.15d-15(e) of this chapter) as of the end of the period covered by the report, based on the evaluation of these controls and procedures required by paragraph (b) of §240.13a-15 or §240.15d-15 of this chapter.

[68 FR 36663, June 18, 2003]

 

One important difference between ICFR and DCP is that a newly public company does not have to report on the effectiveness of its ICFR in its first 10-K and in fact an Emerging Growth Company does not have to report on the effectiveness of its ICFR while it is an emerging growth company. But DCP must be evaluated immediately in the company’s first 10-Q or 10-K. And this evaluation must be performed each quarter.

 

DCP Problem Areas

 

Here are four common issues with some example comments about the DCP reporting process:

 

Have you documented your evaluation of DCP?

Have you said DCP are or are not effective?

Have you considered the impact of ICFR issues on DCP?

When you remediate, remember to disclose what you did.

 

Have you documented your evaluation of DCP?

 

One challenging issue in the evaluation of DCP is how much documentation is required? As a brand new concept with SOX, DCP does not have the history that ICFR has. Companies may have a Disclosure Committee, use sub-certifications, or have CEO and CFO meetings with operations managers, all of which would be part of DCP. But there is no formal “framework” for DCP and much more judgment is required. The same is true of the evaluation process. That said, it is clear it is required:

Controls and Procedures, page 105

  1. We note the disclosures under subsections (a) and (b) under this heading refer to management’s evaluations and conclusions of the effectiveness of disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting as of and for the year December 31, 2013. In your response please confirm, if true, that company’s management performed the annual assessments as of the end of the period covered by this report, December 31, 2014. Please also provide us with the revised disclosures, with the applicable period, that includes the following:
  • the evaluations and conclusions of the principal executive and principal financial officers, regarding the effectiveness of the company’s disclosure controls and procedures as of the end of the period covered by the report, as prescribed by Item 307 of Regulation S-K; and
  • a report from management on the company’s internal control over financial reporting with the elements prescribed in Item 308(a) of Regulation S-K.

 

Have you said DCP are or are not effective?

Just as with ICFR a conclusion that DCP are or are not effective is required when they are evaluated. Note that in both the following comments the SEC is requiring the company to amend their filing:

Item 4. Controls and Procedures, page 35

  1. Based on the evaluation of disclosure controls and procedures as of June 30, 2014, your chief executive officer and chief financial officer concluded that your disclosure controls and procedures were effective as of June 30, 2014, except for the impact of material weaknesses in your internal control over financial reporting. We believe that Item 307 of Regulation S-K requires your officers to conclude if your disclosure controls and procedures are “effective.” We do not believe it is appropriate for your officers to conclude that your disclosure controls and procedures are effective “except for” certain identified problems. Your officers must definitively conclude whether your disclosure controls and procedures are effective or ineffective. Your officers should consider the identified problems in determining if your disclosure controls and procedures are effective. If your officers conclude your disclosure controls and procedures are effective, please disclose the basis for their conclusion in light of these material weaknesses. If you determine that your disclosure controls and procedures were ineffective as of June 30, 2014 when considering these identified problems, please amend your Form 10-Q for the period ended June 30, 2014 to include your revised assessment of your disclosure controls and procedures.

 

  1. In the first paragraph of this section, you disclose that your disclosure controls and procedures were adequate. Meanwhile, in the second paragraph of this section, you disclose that your disclosure controls and procedures were not effective. In an amendment to your Form 10-K, please revise to disclose your conclusion that your disclosure controls and procedures are effective or ineffective, whichever the case may be. Refer to Item 307 of Regulation S-K.

 

Have you considered the impact of ICFR issues on DCP?

 

As described above DCP includes ICFR as a subset of DCP.   This means that if a company has a material weakness in ICFR it likely also impacts on DCP.

Item 4. Controls and Procedures, page 21

  1. As reported in your Form 10-K for the year ended July 31, 2015, management identified material weaknesses in internal controls over financial reporting, and you disclose that your remediation of the material weaknesses in your internal control over financial reporting is ongoing. Given this, please tell us the factors that management considered in concluding that disclosure controls and procedures were effective for the period.

When you remediate, remember to disclose what you did.

Lastly, just as with ICFR, when you remediate a problem area, be sure to appropriately disclose what you did to fix a control problem

Evaluation of Disclosure Controls and Procedures, page 7

  1. We note that you conclude that your disclosure controls and procedures were not effective on June 30, 2015. Please expand your disclosures to clearly discuss the material weakness identified, when it was discovered and your plans to remediate it.
  2. We note your conclusion indicating that your disclosure controls and procedures were not effective as of your June 30, 2015 fiscal year end due. Further, we note your management concluded that disclosure controls and procedures in your Form 10-Q filed on November 16, 2015 were effective and there were no changes in your internal control over financial reporting during the quarter ended September 30, 2015. Please revise to expand your disclosures to explain how management determined that its disclosure controls and procedures were effective at September 30, 2015 given that the company concluded that they were ineffective at year end. In this regard, tell us and disclose how you remediated the material weakness that caused you to conclude that your disclosure controls and procedures were not effective at June 30, 2015. Also, please revise your disclosures to comply with Item 308(c) of Regulation S-K to include details of any changes that may have materially affected or are reasonably likely to materially affect the company ́s internal control over financial reporting.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Message From Enforcement: Metrics Matter!

Metrics, measures of performance drivers outside the financial statements, have become a larger part of how companies communicate with investors in recent years. As with all communication tools, a carefully planned, balanced presentation is important. Well-designed metrics can provide greater insight into the fundamentals of a company’s operations.

As with other elements of financial reporting, metrics can be misused. A metric could be poorly designed and not really correlate with financial performance. A metric could also be misstated or manipulated.

Poorly Designed Metrics

Many tech companies have complex and hard to understand revenue models. Measures such as “daily active users” and “monthly active users” can help users understand a company’s performance. That said, the link between the metric and performance needs to be clear. The CorpFin Staff has written many comments about this issue. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. In your various quarterly earnings calls, we note your discussion of the performance of your business in terms of the “add/quit metric” and “uniform wearer losses” (based upon changes in the number of uniform wearers within particular sectors of your customer base). We further note this is your fourth consecutive quarter of negative uniform wearer losses. Please expand your MD&A to include this information as well as a discussion of any trends or uncertainties. Additionally, the add/stop metric appears to have a meaningful impact on operating margins and growth rate. Please expand your disclosure to provide a complete picture of the relationship between the add/quit metric, operating margins, and growth rate for each material sector of your customer base. Please refer to Item 303(a)(3) of Regulation S-K and Section III.B.1. of SEC Release 33-8350.

 

  1. We note your statement that your results are highly dependent on comparable store sales. We further note that your comparable store sales have declined over the last three years and within each year have generally declined each quarter. We also note your statements that your comparable store sales are difficult to predict in the current competitive landscape and may get marginally worse before they get better. Given the importance of this metric to your results and its significant decline over the last three fiscal years, please tell us and disclose in more detail the factors that contributed to this decline, such as any significant declines in prices, including significant increases in your promotional activity, any significant declines in the volume of items sold, any change in the mix of products being sold or any other material factors that had a significant impact on the decline in your comparable store sales. While this decline in comparable store sales may ultimately be driven by your competitive environment, we believe a more detailed discussion of changes in intermediate factors such as price and volume will provide more transparency to your investors as to how you are affected by this competition, any steps management has taken to mitigate the impact of this competition and the success of management’s strategies. Refer to Item 303(a)(3)(iii) of Regulation S-K and SEC Release No. 33-8350.

 

Misstated Metrics and Enforcement

When companies present metrics, they should be very careful to use a balanced approach to the information and use the metric consistently to avoid presenting potentially misleading information. We discussed many of these issues in our One-Hour Briefing about Non-GAAP Measures and Metrics. You can find the briefing at:

 

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

 

One really “old school” example metric would be the financial ratio gross margin. It is not a non-GAAP measure so long as it is computed using the revenues, cost of sales and gross margin lines on a company’s income statement. For retailers, it is a crucial measure of performance. Gross margin trend over time can have a significant impact on how investors view a retailer.

In a recent enforcement case the SEC fined a large outdoor products retailer and its CFO for manipulating their gross margin and then misstating why gross margin changed. The source of the issue was a fee the company charged to its wholly owned banking subsidiary. In the retailer’s financial statements the fee was used to reduce cost of sales and thus increase gross margin. Such a fee would normally be eliminated in consolidation. Here though, the company failed to eliminate this intercompany transaction. As a result, in the consolidated financial statements the net income of the financing part of the business was understated and the gross margin of the retailing part of the business was overstated. Additionally, the company did not disclose that this intercompany fee had increased their gross margin and actually attributed the increase to other causes.

 

Here is a quote from the enforcement order:

This in turn increased ——– merchandise gross margin percentage, a key company-specific financial metric that signaled the profitability of the company and was referenced by the company in earnings releases and analysts calls.

 

The end result: Enforcement!

And, a clear message, manipulating metrics can get a company into just as much trouble as manipulating the financial statements!

You can read the enforcement release at:

www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2016/34-77717.pdf

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

A non-GAAP Measure Subtle Trap

One of the more complex traps when presenting non-GAAP measures is this question:

Which source of SEC non-GAAP measure guidance applies to your earnings release:

Reg G, or

S-K Item 10(e)?

In case you are not familiar with Reg G and S-K Item 10(e) and when each of them applies:

Reg G applies when you use a non-GAAP measure in a non-filed source, and

S-K Item 10(e) applies when you use a non-GAAP measure in a filed document.

You can learn more about these two non-GAAP rules in some of the earlier posts on our blog. Here is a post with the basics:

 

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=401

 

You can also check out our one-hour briefing about non-GAAP measures from March 2016 at:

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

 

The trap here is this: You might believe that since an earnings release is not a filed document Reg G is the applicable guidance, and all you have to do is present the most directly comparable GAAP measure and provide a reconciliation.

That is NOT the case. The reason that S-K Item 10(e) applies to your earnings release is actually very subtle. It is in the instructions to Form 8-K. Tucked away in the earnings release 8-K, Item 2.02, is this instruction:

 

  1. The requirements of paragraph (e)(1)(i) of Item 10 of Regulation S-K (17 CFR 229.10(e)(1)(i)) shall apply to disclosures under this Item 2.02.

 

Thus, the first part of S-K Item 10(e) DOES apply to your earnings release, even though it is not “filed” and even though the Item 2.02 8-K is not a filed document!

 

So, to be very detailed, this part of S-K Item 10(e) applies to year earnings release (there are other requirements in S-K Item 10(e) that do not apply, we won’t list them here):

 

(e) Use of non-GAAP financial measures in Commission filings. (1) Whenever one or more non-GAAP financial measures are included in a filing with the Commission:

 

(i) The registrant must include the following in the filing:

(A) A presentation, with equal or greater prominence, of the most directly comparable financial measure or measures calculated and presented in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP);

 

(B) A reconciliation (by schedule or other clearly understandable method), which shall be quantitative for historical non-GAAP measures presented, and quantitative, to the extent available without unreasonable efforts, for forward-looking information, of the differences between the non-GAAP financial measure disclosed or released with the most directly comparable financial measure or measures calculated and presented in accordance with GAAP identified in paragraph (e)(1)(i)(A) of this section;

 

(C) A statement disclosing the reasons why the registrant’s management believes that presentation of the non-GAAP financial measure provides useful information to investors regarding the registrant’s financial condition and results of operations; and

 

(D) To the extent material, a statement disclosing the additional purposes, if any, for which the registrant’s management uses the non-GAAP financial measure that are not disclosed pursuant to paragraph (e)(1)(i)(C) of this section; and

 

One area the staff will comment on is the “equal or greater prominence” requirement in paragraph (A) above. Here is an example comment:

 

  1. We note that in the Financial Highlights section of your press release furnished on Form 8-K, you disclose Total Segment EBITDA, a non-GAAP financial measure, without the disclosure of the most comparable GAAP measure. Please note that under Item 10(e)(1)(i)(A) when a non-GAAP financial measure is presented, the most directly comparable financial measure calculated in accordance with GAAP must be disclosed with equal or greater prominence. Please revise accordingly. See also Instruction 2 to Item 2.02 of Form 8-K.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

 

Non-GAAP Measures in the News

How companies use non-GAAP measures is one of the “hot topics” that we post about frequently. This is not just because we think it is interesting. (Although we do!). More to the point, it is a subject of frequent SEC comment, and in the last several weeks both SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Chief Accountant James Schnurr have expressed their concern about more aggressive use of non-GAAP measures. And a recent report from FACTSET (mentioned in more detail below) bears out this concern.

Carol and George, your blog authors, recently did a One-Hour Briefing about Non-GAAP measures.

You can find the archived One-Hour Briefing at:

www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Non_GAAP_Measures_and_Metrics_Getting_it/_/N-4nZ1z10vny?fromsearch=false&ID=283312

 

In the Briefing we included this quote from Mr. Schnurr’s March 22, 2016 speech to the 12’th Annual Life Sciences Accounting and Reporting Congress in Philadelphia, PA:

 

Non-GAAP measures

Before I conclude today’s remarks, I’d like to provide my perspectives on non-GAAP measures, which is a topic that continues to receive attention from investors, those at the SEC, as well as the general news media.

The Commission adopted rules in 2003 addressing the disclosure of non-GAAP financial measures, both generally and with respect to inclusion in SEC filings. While the Commission’s rules allow companies to provide non-GAAP measures to investors as alternative measures that supplement information in the financial statements, the rules are clear that the non-GAAP measures must not be misleading. The SEC staff has observed a significant and, in some respects, troubling increase over the past few years in the use of, and nature of adjustments within, non-GAAP measures by companies as well prominence that the analysts and media have accorded such measures when reporting on the results of the companies they cover.

 

Non-GAAP measures are intended to supplement the information in the financial statements and not supplant the information in the financial statements. However, when the financial news networks report quarterly earnings, they very frequently report the non-GAAP measure of earnings with no reference to the actual GAAP earnings, often not even identifying it as having been adjusted. In addition, I am particularly troubled by the extent and nature of the adjustments to arrive at alternative financial measures of profitability, as compared to net income, and alternative measures of cash generation, as compared to the measures of liquidity or cash generation. In my view, preparers should carefully consider whether significant adjustments to profitability outside of customary measures such as EBITDA or non-recurring items or other charges to the business, such as the sale of portions of the business in order to provide the user with an understanding of how these events impact trends and future performance, are appropriate. As it relates to cash measures, I believe those measures should be reconciled to cash flow from operations.

 

Staff in the Division of Corporation Finance continues to monitor non-GAAP disclosures as part of its selective review process and regularly issues comments on this issue. The staff also provides guidance on the application of Commission rules through speeches and other mechanisms — and of course, staff comment letters are publicly available. You can expect that the staff will continue to be vigilant in their review of the use of these measures for compliance with the rules.

 

The proliferation of non-GAAP reporting measures among registrants, and reliance and reporting by analysts, should warrant increased focus by management and the audit committee. I believe the focus should go beyond determinations that the measures comply with the Commission’s rules and include probing questions on why, in contrast to the GAAP measure, the non-GAAP measure is an appropriate way to measure the company’s performance and is useful to investors. In addition, companies should ensure that the measure is prepared in a manner that includes appropriate controls and oversight procedures.

 

You can find the whole speech at:

www.sec.gov/news/speech/schnurr-remarks-12th-life-sciences-accounting-congress.html

 

Chair White’s Speech at an AICPA conference in December included these remarks:

  • Another financial reporting topic of shared interest and current conversation is the use of non-GAAP measures.  This area deserves close attention, both to make sure that our current rules are being followed and to ask whether they are sufficiently robust in light of current market practices.  Non-GAAP measures are allowed in order to convey information to investors that the issuer believes is relevant and useful in understanding its performance.  By some indications, such as analyst coverage and press commentary, non-GAAP measures are used extensively and, in some instances, may be a source of confusion.
  • Like every other issue of financial reporting, good practices in the use of non-GAAP measures begin with preparers.  While your chief financial officer and investor relations team may be quite enamored of non-GAAP measures as useful market communication devices, your finance and legal teams, along with your audit committees, should carefully attend to the use of these measures and consider questions such as:
    • Why are you using the non-GAAP measure, and how does it provide investors with useful information?
    • Are you giving non-GAAP measures no greater prominence than the GAAP measures, as required under the rules?
    • Are your explanations of how you are using the non-GAAP measures – and why they are useful for your investors – accurate and complete, drafted without boilerplate?
    • Are there appropriate controls over the calculation of non-GAAP measures?

 

So, the message has clearly been sent, be thoughtful about the use of non-GAAP measures and be careful to not be misleading.

 

How are companies responding to these messages?

For now, it does not look like they are listening. FACTSET has done a very detailed study that includes all the earnings releases for the Dow Jones Industrial Average companies for their most recent year-end. Their results are available at:

 

www.factset.com/insight/2016/03/earningsinsight_03.11.16#.Vw5yo2OPAQK

 

Their findings are very dramatic. For companies that released a non-GAAP earnings measure the difference between GAAP EPS and non-GAAP EPS from 2014 to 2015 widened from 11.8% to 30.7%. And that is just one of may statistics that highlight growing differences between GAAP and non-GAAP measures. Of course, the non-GAAP measures all seem to look better…

 

So, we suggest careful review by your audit committee and management of the use of non-GAAP measures. And, be sure to look back to the comments above and ask the questions Chair White asked:

 

  • Why are you using the non-GAAP measure, and how does it provide investors with useful information?
  • Are you giving non-GAAP measures no greater prominence than the GAAP measures, as required under the rules?
  • Are your explanations of how you are using the non-GAAP measures – and why they are useful for your investors – accurate and complete, drafted without boilerplate?
  • Are there appropriate controls over the calculation of non-GAAP measures?”

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome!

Carol and George

 

Get the Message: SEC Enforcement Case Deals With Evaluating ICFR Weaknesses!

By sending a clear message through the enforcement process, the SEC has come full circle in their concerns about whether ICFR audits are finding material weaknesses. The staff has said on numerous occasions that they see too many situations where a company identifies a control deficiency but the company’s analysis fails when assessing whether the control deficiency is in fact a material weakness.

Over the last few years the SEC Staff have emphasized their concerns in numerous speeches and other public settings. As they sometimes do when they don’t see companies listening, they have also emphasized this issue through enforcement.

This enforcement is dramatic, involving:

The company

Two company officers

The audit partner

The ICFR consulting firm partner (a surprise here!)

 

This excerpt from a December 2015 speech by Deputy Chief Accountant Brian Croteau summarizes the SEC’s concerns:

Still, given the frequency with which certain ICFR issues are identified in our consultations with registrants, I’d be remiss not to remind management and auditors of the importance of properly identifying and describing the nature of a control deficiency and understanding the complete population of transactions that a control is intended to address in advance of assessing the severity of any identified deficiencies.  Then, once ready to assess the severity of a deficiency, it’s important to remember that there are two components to the definition of a material weakness – likelihood and magnitude.  The evaluation of whether it is reasonably possible that a material misstatement could occur and not be prevented or detected on a timely basis requires careful analysis that contemplates both known errors, if any, as well as potential misstatements for which it is reasonably possible that the misstatements would not be prevented or detected in light of the control deficiency.  This latter part of the evaluation, also referred to as analysis of the so called “could factor,” often requires management to evaluate information that is incremental to that which would be necessary, for example, for a materiality assessment of known errors pursuant to SAB 99. The final conclusions on severity of deficiencies frequently rest on this “could factor” portion of the deficiency evaluation; however, too often this part of the evaluation appears to be an afterthought in a company’s analysis.  Yet consideration of the “could factor” is very important. 

The issue is clear; too often companies are finding a control deficiency but not appropriately evaluating the severity of the issue to determine if it is a material weakness.

In a “classic” example this SEC enforcement involves a company that performed its annual ICFR evaluation and stated in its form 10-K that ICFR was effective at year-end. Then, shortly after that report in their Form 10-K, the company restated its financial statements and disclosed the existence of a material weakness. It is very unlikely that the material weakness arose between the year-end of the Form 10-K and the date of the restatement.

You can read about the enforcement in this press release, which also has links to the SEC Enforcement Orders for the company and the individuals involved:

www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2016-48.html

 

The fact that the company and auditor were named is not surprising. What is surprising is that the firm the company retained to provide SOX 404 services, which included assisting “management with the documentation, testing, and evaluation of the company’s ICFR” and no external report, was included in the enforcement.

This is a loud and clear message to all participants in the process! Be thorough and complete in your evaluation of control deficiencies!

If you would like to delve a bit deeper into this issue one of our follow-up posts to this year’s Form 10-K Tune-Up One Hour Briefing focused on ICFR issues, including the issue raised in this enforcement case.

You can read our post at:

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=530

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated!

 

An Audit Committee Update

We (that is Carol and George, your blog authors), frequently post about audit committee issues.  For audit committees that want to perform at the highest level possible, PLI has a great program in June.

 

PLI’s Audit Committees and Financial Reporting 2016: Recent Developments and Current Issues program will be presented June 21, 2016 in NYC.  It will be groupcast in several cities and also available via webcast.  Topics discussed will include current SEC reporting issues, audit committee oversight of the implementation of new accounting standards such as revenue recognition and leases, and PCAOB developments for the audit committee.

 

You can learn more about the detailed agenda and how to register at:

 

www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Audit_Committees_and_Financial_Reporting/_/N-4kZ1z11i36?fromsearch=false&ID=259781

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Disclosure Effectiveness – Looking for A Deeper Dive?

Last week we lightheartedly posted about the fun of listening to a live webcast of an SEC meeting and being “cool” and “in the know”. The meeting we mentioned is on April 13th and includes this agenda item:

 

The Commission will consider whether to issue a concept release seeking comment on modernizing certain business and financial disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K.

 

Concept releases explore issues and very frequently provide insight into the direction that future policy making will take. As an example you could check out the SEC’s recent concept release about audit committee disclosures in this post:

 

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=462

 

Also, in some words that may be familiar to folks who have attended our SEC Workshops, here is a quote about MD&A from FR 36:

 

The MD&A requirements are intended to provide, in one section of a filing, material historical and prospective textual disclosure enabling investors and other users to assess the financial condition and results of operations of the registrant, with particular emphasis on the registrant’s prospects for the future. As the Concept Release states:

 

The Commission has long recognized the need for a narrative explanation of the financial statements, because a numerical presentation and brief accompanying footnotes alone may be insufficient for an investor to judge the quality of earnings and the likelihood that past performance is indicative of future performance. MD&A is intended to give the investor an opportunity to look at the company through the eyes of management by providing both a short and long-term analysis of the business of the company. The Item asks management to discuss the dynamics of the business and to analyze the financials.

 

Most importantly, the SEC listens and very often thoughtfully takes into account the issues discussed in comment letters in their subsequent rulemaking.   All this leads us to the conclusion, especially since the Disclosure Effectiveness process has been underway for quite a while, that this could be an important meeting!

 

If you would like to learn a bit more after the meeting, PLI will be presenting a One-Hour Briefing titled “SEC’s New Concept Release on Modernizing Regulation S-K” on April 25, 2016. Four speakers, including former CorpFin staffers, will present the briefing to help build a deeper understanding of the process. You can learn more at:

 

www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/SEC_s_New_Concept_Release_on_Modernizing/_/N-4kZ1z10szo?Ns=sort_date%7c0&ID=283018

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

 

The SEC Comment Process – What if?

In all our workshops and seminars, when we discuss the SEC review process we always emphasize that when you get a comment from the staff you do NOT immediately change disclosure in response to the comment. As the staff says in their on-line “Filing Review Process” document, they view the process of issuing comments as a “dialogue with a company about its disclosure”.

You can find the filing review process document, which is updated on a regular basis at:

www.sec.gov/corpfin/Article/filing-review-process—corp-fin.html

 

To illustrate, here is a real life comment example.

 

STEP ONE – COMMENT RECEIVED

What would you do if you received this comment?

 

Reportable Segments, page 39

  1. Your segment discussion and analysis only refers to non-GAAP amounts. Pursuant to Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K, we remind you that more prominence should not be given to non-GAAP financial measures compared to GAAP financial measures. In this regard, please revise your discussion and analysis to first provide a discussion of the corresponding GAAP amounts for each segment ensuring equal prominence to that of your non-GAAP amounts.

The comment uses the language “please revise”, which is a bit scary, and in the back of our minds we hope we can push the comment to an “in future filings” comment if we decide the staff is on-point. The comment is focused on the use of non-GAAP measures in MD&A as discussed in operating segment disclosures. Of course, the use of non-GAAP measures in segment disclosures is appropriate if in fact your chief operating decision maker uses non-GAAP information. So, your first step in the research process for this comment might be to go review that part of ASC 280.

 

 

STEP TWO – REVIEW GAAP LITERATURE

Here is the relevant section:

Measurement

50-27     The amount of each segment item reported shall be the measure reported to the chief operating decision maker for purposes of making decisions about allocating resources to the segment and assessing its performance. Adjustments and eliminations made in preparing a public entity’s general-purpose financial statements and allocations of revenues, expenses, and gains or losses shall be included in determining reported segment profit or loss only if they are included in the measure of the segment’s profit or loss that is used by the chief operating decision maker. Similarly, only those assets that are included in the measure of the segment’s assets that is used by the chief operating decision maker shall be reported for that segment. If amounts are allocated to reported segment profit or loss or assets, those amounts shall be allocated on a reasonable basis.

ASC 280 then goes on to require disclosure about the measurement basis used for segment disclosures:

50-29     A public entity shall provide an explanation of the measurements of segment profit or loss and segment assets for each reportable segment. At a minimum, a public entity shall disclose all of the following (see Example 3, Cases A through C [paragraphs 280-10-55-47 through 55-49]):

  1. The basis of accounting for any transactions between reportable segments.
  2. The nature of any differences between the measurements of the reportable segments’ profits or losses and the public entity’s consolidated income before income taxes, extraordinary items, and discontinued operations (if not apparent from the reconciliations described in paragraphs 280-10-50-30 through 50-31). Those differences could include accounting policies and policies for allocation of centrally incurred costs that are necessary for an understanding of the reported segment information.
  3. The nature of any differences between the measurements of the reportable segments’ assets and the public entity’s consolidated assets (if not apparent from the reconciliations described in paragraphs 280-10-50-30 through 50-31). Those differences could include accounting policies and policies for allocation of jointly used assets that are necessary for an understanding of the reported segment information.
  4. The nature of any changes from prior periods in the measurement methods used to determine reported segment profit or loss and the effect, if any, of those changes on the measure of segment profit or loss.
  5. The nature and effect of any asymmetrical allocations to segments. For example, a public entity might allocate depreciation expense to a segment without allocating the related depreciable assets to that segment.

 

ASC 280 also includes this reconciliation requirement:

 

50-30     A public entity shall provide reconciliations of all of the following (see Example 3, Case C [paragraphs 280-10-55-49 through 55-50]):

  1. The total of the reportable segments’ revenues to the public entity’s consolidated revenues.
  2. The total of the reportable segments’ measures of profit or loss to the public entity’s consolidated income before income taxes, extraordinary items, and discontinued operations. However, if a public entity allocates items such as income taxes and extraordinary items to segments, the public entity may choose to reconcile the total of the segments’ measures of profit or loss to consolidated income after those items.
  3. The total of the reportable segments’ assets to the public entity’s consolidated assets.
  4. The total of the reportable segments’ amounts for every other significant item of information disclosed to the corresponding consolidated amount. For example, a public entity may choose to disclose liabilities for its reportable segments, in which case the public entity would reconcile the total of reportable segments’ liabilities for each segment to the public entity’s consolidated liabilities if the segment liabilities are significant.

 

With this, our review of the relevant GAAP literature is well underway, and substantially complete.

 

STEP THREE – REVIEW THE RELEVANT SEC NON-GAAP GUIDANCE

As you research the SEC’s requirements surrounding the use of non-GAAP measures, most of us are familiar with Reg G, which applies to non-GAAP measures in documents that are not filed, such as earnings releases. But this comment is about S-K Item 10(e) which applies to non-GAAP measures included in MD&A. As you read Item 10(e) you would find:

(5) For purposes of this paragraph (e), non-GAAP financial measures exclude financial measures required to be disclosed by GAAP, Commission rules, or a system of regulation of a government or governmental authority or self-regulatory organization that is applicable to the registrant. However, the financial measure should be presented outside of the financial statements unless the financial measure is required or expressly permitted by the standard-setter that is responsible for establishing the GAAP used in such financial statements.

Where to go from here? Lets get into the specific facts in the company’s Form 10-K.

 

 

STEP FOUR – APPLY THE RESEARCH TO THE COMPANY’S DISCLOSURES

Here is an excerpt from the company’s segment note:

 

“We prepared the financial results for our reportable segments on a basis that is consistent with the manner in which we internally disaggregate financial information to assist in making internal operating decisions. We included the earnings of equity affiliates that are closely associated with our reportable segments in the respective segment’s net income. We have allocated certain common expenses among reportable segments differently than we would for stand-alone financial information. Segment net income may not be consistent with measures used by other companies. The accounting policies of our reportable segments are the same as those applied in the consolidated financial statements.”

Here is an excerpt from the MD&A disclosure that the SEC comment is focused on:

When compared to the same period last year, core earnings increased in the twelve months ended December 31, 2013 by $202 million, or 13%, driven by the following items:

 

· Higher core earnings in the Optical Communications, Life Sciences,

Environmental Technologies and Display Technologies segments in the

amounts of $59 million, $44 million, $11 million and $7 million, respectively; and

·  

Lower operating expenses in the amount of $49 million, driven by a decrease in

variable compensation and cost control measures implemented by our segments.

 

You can find the company’s Form 10-K at:

files.shareholder.com/downloads/glw/1822865217x0xS24741%2D15%2D15/24741/filing.pdf

 

You can read the issues the SEC is commenting about in MD&A on page 39, and the segment note starts on page 137.

At this point we are ready to make an informed judgment about the comment. And this one follows a really twisty path! First, the MD&A clearly includes non-GAAP measures for “core” operations. And, interestingly, these are not the measures that are disclosed in the segment note in the financial statements. Since the measures used in the MD&A are not in the segment note the provision in S-K Item 10(e) excluding disclosures required under GAAP does not apply, and so the company must comply with the provisions. The next step is to, as we said above, make a case with the staff that it will be appropriate to fix this comment in future filings and not amend the current Form 10-K.

 

STEP FIVE – RESPOND TO THE COMMENT

Here is the company’s response to the comment, and the staff did allow this to become a future filings comment:

We acknowledge the Staff’s comments and, beginning with our Form 10-Q filed for the second quarter of 2014, will revise our future disclosure to ensure that more prominence is not given to non-GAAP financial measures when compared to GAAP financial measures.  With respect to the request to revise our discussion and analysis to first provide a discussion of the corresponding GAAP amounts for each segment, we provide the following updated disclosure, which we propose to use in future filings.

You can read the response letter and the complete version of the response to comment 8 including the proposed disclosure at:

 

www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/24741/000002474114000025/filename1.htm

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Some XBRL News and A Few Tidbits

XBRL has not really been in the news much lately, but on March 29, 2016 the SEC released a second DERA study about tagging processes. The study, titled “Staff Observations of Custom Axis Tags” is at:

www.sec.gov/structureddata/reportspubs/osd_assessment_custom-axis-tags.html

Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the report:

As part of our ongoing process to monitor registrant compliance with the requirements to report their financial information in their eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) exhibits, staff in the SEC Division of Economic and Risk Analysis recently assessed certain aspects of the XBRL exhibits that affect the data quality of the disclosures provided. Specifically, the staff examined the use of custom axis tags in XBRL exhibits that reporting companies submitted with their annual reports on Form 10-K. An axis tag in XBRL allows a filer to divide reported elements into different dimensions (e.g., revenue by geographical area, fair value measurement levels, components of total equity (e.g., common, preferred)) while also showing the relationships between separately reported elements.

……………

The staff’s analysis resulted in a few key observations. First, unlike our previous staff observations that revealed a lower average rate of custom line item tags among large filers, staff observed a higher average use of custom axis tags as filer size increased, with the rate of custom axis tags highest for large accelerated filers. Second, for a random sample of filings that staff reviewed, staff observed instances of filers creating custom axis tags unnecessarily when an appropriate standard axis tag existed in the U.S. GAAP taxonomy.

 

This is an interesting development, and clearly demonstrates the SEC’s work to help make XBRL information more reliable and useful.

The earlier information the SEC has issued about XBRL include:

A “Dear CFO” letter about calculation structures that is at:

www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/xbrl-calculation-0714.htm

This earlier DERA study of extension use at:

www.sec.gov/dera/reportspubs/assessment-custom-tag-rates-xbrl.html

 

Getting XBRL Right

Next, here is a good reminder to make sure that your XBRL submissions are prepared properly and tagging is done appropriately. While XBRL is not subject to ICFR and there is no requirement for any sort of auditor review, XBRL submissions are subject to your disclosure controls and procedures. As a result you should have appropriate controls to assure that your XBRL submission:

“is recorded, processed, summarized and reported, within the time periods specified in the Commission’s rules and forms.”

The above quote is from the definition of Disclosure Controls and Procedures in Exchange Act Rule 13a-15 which is at:

www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=8e0ed509ccc65e983f9eca72ceb26753&node=17:4.0.1.1.1&rgn=div5#se17.4.240_113a_615

This requirement is highlighted in a recent Form 10-K/A filed by Goldman Sachs to make some corrections in their XBRL submission. Goldman filed their original 10-K on February 19, 2016 and on March 1, 2016 filed a Form 10-K/A. As is required by the Exchange Act Rules for amendments, Goldman included this explanatory note:

EXPLANATORY NOTE

Due to an error by our external financial printer, our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2015 (Original Form 10-K) was filed with an incorrect version of Exhibit 101, which provides items from our Original Form 10-K formatted in eXtensible Business Reporting Language.

This Amendment No. 1 on Form 10-K/A (Amendment) to our Original Form 10-K, filed on February 19, 2016, is being filed in accordance with Rule 12b-15 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the sole purpose of including the correct version of Exhibit 101.

This Amendment does not amend or otherwise update any other information in the Original Form 10-K and does not reflect events occurring after the date of the Original Form 10-K.

Goldman was perhaps doing something that is appropriate, which we discuss in our workshops. After the filing someone likely double checked the XBRL submission and found the problem, and they fixed it as soon as possible. This is an example of disclosure controls in action on a detective basis, and again, while the SEC has not really indicated that they will do a lot of review of XBRL submissions, we need to make sure they are done appropriately. And, who knows, it is possible the SEC pointed this out to Goldman.

 

Taxonomy Update

On March 7, 2016 the SEC updated the EDGAR system to accept the 2016 XBRL taxonomies previously released by the FASB. The announcement is at:

www.sec.gov/structureddata/announcement/osd-announcement-030716—xbrl-taxonomy-update.html

 

Using XBRL Information

While we still don’t hear a lot about users taking advantage of all the information in the XBRL database, user tools are continuing to evolve. One tool that provides a nice way to access and use XBRL data comes from a company called Calcbench. If you do peer group analysis or are searching for comparable disclosures, this is a very useful tool. You can learn more at:

www.calcbench.com

 

As usual your thoughts and comments, including any insights you have about people using XBRL or XBRL user tools, is welcome!

Ever Been to an SEC Event? Mark out April 13 for a webcast!

In our workshops we sometimes joke (a bit) about how fun it is to listen to a webcast of an SEC meeting. And yes, we do say the same thing about FASB meetings. (Total Geek-Out For Sure!)

These meetings are interesting in that you can observe the process the SEC Commissioners and the FASB follow. The depth of the discussions and their careful consideration of the issues is always fascinating to observe.

These meetings generally do not tell you what might happen in the short-term, but do provide a longer-term glimpse into the directions of policy-making and standard setting.

Disclosure effectiveness is a major longer-term initiative at the SEC right now. On April 13, 2016 the SEC is going to discuss “whether to issue a concept release seeking comment on modernizing certain business and financial disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K.”

As you know, this kind of change is something the SEC staff has wanted to do for years. In addition, provisions of both the JOBS Act and the FAST Act focused on disclosure effectiveness. And here is the logical next step – this meeting will likely help illuminate the future direction of disclosure effectiveness.

 

In addition, this meeting may offer ideas that you can implement now to help make your disclosure more direct and useful to investors.

 

So, perhaps this is the time to listen to one of the meetings? You could play it on your computer, have the sound coming out of your speakers, and think how many of your colleagues would join you and listen! SEC Party time perhaps? If you can’t make the live webcast, you can find all of the archived meetings at http://www.sec.gov/news/openmeetings.shtml

 

You can learn more at:

sec.gov/news/openmeetings/2016/ssamtg033016.htm

 

where the original meeting was announced and at:

www.sec.gov/news/openmeetings/2016/ssamtg041316.htm

where the date was changed from March 30 to April 13, 2016.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!