Category Archives: Hot Topic

Sustainability Disclosures – It’s Time to Explore!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

Sustainability disclosures are being mentioned more and more in the news, in company reporting and in regulatory discussions. While it may seem like it is “early days” for this information, it may not be as early as we all think. Here are summaries of a few of the things going on now.

 

Sustainability information has been touched on by the SEC in their disclosures effectiveness project. In the voluminous 2016 Regulation S-K Concept release the SEC included this language:

We are interested in receiving feedback on the importance of sustainability and public policy matters to informed investment and voting decisions. In particular, we seek feedback on which, if any, sustainability and public policy disclosures are important to an understanding of a registrant’s business and financial condition and whether there are other considerations that make these disclosures important to investment and voting decisions. We also seek feedback on the potential challenges and costs associated with compiling and disclosing this information.

Enough companies are already disclosing sustainability information that the AICPA has published a Guide for Attestation Engagements on Sustainability Information. The AICPA also has a very informative web page about sustainability disclosures in general.

 

Standard setters in other parts of the world have also begun discussion about sustainability information. Here is an excerpt from a speech Hans Hoogervorst, Chair of the IASB, delivered in April 2017 at the IIRC Council Meeting in New York:

In their latest review of structure and effectiveness, from 2015 to 2016, the Trustees of the IFRS Foundation confirmed the current approach of the International Accounting Standards Board (the Board) to wider corporate reporting. Broadly, this approach is to cooperate with organisations like the Corporate Reporting Dialogue (CRD) and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).

The Board was also asked to study further what its future role should be in the wider corporate reporting landscape. The Board is examining this question now. During the Board meeting of March 2017, we devoted public discussion to this issue for the first time.

As we wind down from second-quarter reporting (or whenever your fiscal-year has a less busy period!), this might be an opportune moment to learn a bit about these disclosures. There are several sources of information you can begin with:

The Sustainability Standards Board (SASB) maintains industry specific sustainability accounting standards that help public corporations disclose material, decision-useful information to investors. The members of the SASB are appointed by the SASB Foundation, a structure similar to that of the FASB and the FAF. The SASB Foundation is chaired by Michael Bloomberg and both the Foundation Board and the SASB itself have members with deep capital markets, business and academic experience.

The International Integrated Reporting Council defines integrated reporting as “a process founded on integrated thinking that results in a periodic integrated report by an organization about value creation over time and related communications regarding aspects of value creation. An integrated report is a concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of value in the short, medium and long term.”

Both of these organizations are focused on providing information beyond our existing financial reporting and SEC reporting models. And, interestingly, many companies are already responding to demand for such information. In a report from the SASB titled “The State of Disclosure – An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Sustainability Disclosures in SEC Filing – 2016,” the SASB reviewed the reports of up to the top 10 companies in 79 industries. Among their findings were:

Overwhelmingly, companies have recognized the existence of, or the potential for, material impacts related to the sustainability topics included in SASB standards. Indeed, 69 percent of companies in the analysis reported on at least three-quarters of the sustainability topics included in their industry standard, and 38 percent provided disclosure on every SASB topic.

With this background, our next few posts will help you build an understanding of the state of these disclosures in current reporting, the nature of investor demand for these disclosures, and the standards that the SASB is developing to help investors get the information that they believe they need.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

FASB, SEC and PCAOB Update for SEC Reporting Professionals Workshop

FASB, SEC and PCAOB Update for SEC Reporting Professionals Workshop

Taking place August 23rd in Grapevine, TX.

What You Will Learn:

  • The latest FASB developments, including:
  • The new lease accounting model in-depth and related implementation steps
  • Implementation issues for the new revenue recognition standard and the latest Transition Resource Group developments
  • Statement of cash flow classification issues
  • Other recently issued standards, including the simplification project standards
  • Practical tips on applying existing financial reporting requirements
  • Current SEC developments, including Disclosure Effectiveness and status of Dodd-Frank disclosures
  • SEC review comment letter priorities via case studies and detailed discussion
  • Current PCAOB proposals and rulemaking projects, including the auditor’s report
  • Common findings from PCAOB reviews and the potential impact on both the Independent Public Accountant and their public clients
  • Emerging issues and challenges in merger and acquisition accounting

What You Should Bring

Customize your Workshop experience by bringing your company’s or a client’s most recent SEC filings, including Forms 10-K, 10-Q, and a recent 8-K. If you are in the process of an IPO, bring a copy of your latest filing and the SEC’s most recent comment letter. If you work with a company that is not yet public, filings from a company in your industry are a reasonable alternative.

How You Can Register:

http://www.pli.edu/Content/FASB_SEC_and_PCAOB_Update_for_SEC_Reporting/_/N-1z10odqZ4k?ID=290526

 

 

Projects, Pronouncements and Developments Affecting Your SEC Reporting

How do the latest SEC, EITF, PCAOB and FASB updates affect your reporting? Attend FASB, SEC and PCAOB Update for SEC Reporting Professionals Workshop being held August 23rd in Grapevine, TX. Get up to date in-depth information on all the latest developments and practical tips on applying existing financial reporting requirements, including pushdown accounting, debt issuance costs and commitment fees, discontinued operations and dispositions, segment reporting and goodwill impairment.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/FASB_SEC_and_PCAOB_Update_for_SEC_Reporting/_/N-1z10odqZ4k?ID=290526

Demystifying Alternative Financing Solutions for Emerging and Growing Companies

Auditors and Financial Officers of companies who raise capital with complex financial instruments often find themselves drowning in convoluted accounting issues and restatements. Avoid the confusion by attending the live workshop, Debt vs. Equity Accounting for Complex Financial Instruments being held September 13th in Las Vegas. Through a detailed review of the accounting literature and numerous examples and case studies this Workshop will help you build the knowledge and experience to appropriately recognize, initially record and subsequently account for these complex financing tools

http://www.pli.edu/Content/Debt_vs_Equity_Accounting_for_Complex_Financial/_/N-1z10odmZ4k?ID=290522

 

The MD&A Know Trend Test – Staying Out of Trouble!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

In our last post we reviewed a recent MD&A enforcement case focused on failure to disclose bad news. This forward looking “known-trend” disclosure requirement arises when management is aware of some “trend, demand, commitment, event or uncertainty” that could cause a material problem and fails to disclose this information to shareholders.   The S-K Item 303(a)(3)(ii) language creating this requirement is:

 

Describe any known trends or uncertainties that have had or that the registrant reasonably expects will have a material favorable or unfavorable impact on net sales or revenues or income from continuing operations.

 

One of the challenging parts of this requirement is the “reasonably expects” probability threshold. What exactly does this mean? The Staff addressed this requirement in FR 36 with this language:

 

Where a trend, demand, commitment, event or uncertainty is known, management must make two assessments:

 

(1) Is the known trend, demand, commitment, event or uncertainty likely to come to fruition? If management determines that it is not reasonably likely to occur, no disclosure is required.

 

(2) If management cannot make that determination, it must evaluate objectively the consequences of the known trend, demand, commitment, event or uncertainty, on the assumption that it will come to fruition. Disclosure is then required unless management determines that a material effect on the registrant’s financial condition or results of operations is not reasonably likely to occur.

Each final determination resulting from the assessments made by management must be objectively reasonable, viewed as of the time the determination is made.

 

The language that makes this test challenging is the first part of paragraph (2). In essence, if management cannot make the assumption that a known trend is “not reasonably likely to come to fruition” in step one it must assume that it will come to fruition.

 

What would this mean if there were a 50/50 chance of something bad happening? As an example, suppose that your goodwill is not impaired this year-end, but the numbers in step one of the impairment test have been deteriorating with this trend:

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         2014              2015              2016

Fair value of reporting unit                $3,000             $2,500             $1,900

Carrying value of reporting unit         $1,800             $1,800             $1,800

Excess of FV over CV                                 $1,200             $   700             $   100

 

 

There is clearly a trend here, and while management is likely doing all they can to make the business work, what if their assessment is that there is a 50/50 chance that the goodwill may be impaired next year? While there is no accounting recognition, the MD&A known trend disclosure requirement would say that this potential impairment, if it is material, should be disclosed.

 

This is not an easy determination, but the enforcement case in the last post makes it clear that it is crucial to get this disclosure right!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

MD&A: A New Known-Trend Enforcement Case

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

One of the “golden rules” of MD&A we discuss in our workshops is “no surprise stock drops”. (Thanks to Brink Dickerson of Troutman Sanders for the rules!) Actually, it is OK if management is surprised with a stock drop. However, it can be problematic if management previously knew of some issue that, when disclosed, causes a surprise stock drop for investors.

 

The classic start to a known trend enforcement case is a company announcement that results in a stock price drop. On February 26, 2014, UTi, a logistics company, filed an 8-K with news of a severe liquidity problem. UTi’s shares fell to $10.74, a decline of nearly 30% from the prior day’s close of $15.26.

 

The reason this is an SEC reporting issue is this paragraph from the MD&A guidance in Regulation S-K Item 303 paragraph (a)(3)(ii):

 

Describe any known trends or uncertainties that have had or that the registrant reasonably expects will have a material favorable or unfavorable impact on net sales or revenues or income from continuing operations. If the registrant knows of events that will cause a material change in the relationship between costs and revenues (such as known future increases in costs of labor or materials or price increases or inventory adjustments), the change in the relationship shall be disclosed. (emphasis added)

 

If management knows of some sort of uncertainty that could result in a material impact if it comes to fruition, they must evaluate whether they “reasonably expect” this to happen. If they do “reasonably expect” this to happen then it should be disclosed in MD&A.

 

When there is a surprise stock drop like the one experienced by UTi, the questions the SEC Enforcement Division will ask, to borrow from another context, are “what did management know about the problem” and “when did they know it?”

 

Enforcement Release, AAER 3877 revealed that the genesis of UTi’s liquidity problem was an issue in the implementation of a new IT system that created billing problems. And, it was clear from the facts, including an internal PowerPoint presentation, that management knew they had a problem well before they filed the 8-K.

 

However, in their 10-Q for their third quarter ended October 31, 2013, which was filed in December of 2013, UTi did not disclose the liquidity problem. In fact, they said:

 

Our primary sources of liquidity include cash generated from operating activities, which is subject to seasonal fluctuations, particularly in our Freight Forwarding segment, and available funds under our various credit facilities. We typically experience increased activity associated with our peak season, generally during the second and third fiscal quarters, requiring significant disbursements on behalf of clients. During the second quarter and the first half of the third quarter, this seasonal growth in client receivables tends to consume available cash. Historically, the latter portion of the third quarter and the fourth quarter tend to generate cash recovery as cash collections usually exceed client cash disbursements.

 

They also made no mention of the implementation problems with their new IT system. They actually said:

 

Freight Forward Operating System. On September 1, 2013, we deployed our global freight forwarding operating system in the United States. As of that date, based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to operational acceptance testing and other operational milestones having been achieved, we considered it ready for its intended use. Amortization expense with respect to the system began effective September 2013, and accordingly, we recorded amortization expense related to the new application of approximately $3.3 million during the third quarter ended October 31, 2013.

 

Hence the surprise when the 8-K disclosed the problems. Both the CEO and CFO are also named in the Enforcement Release and paid penalties.

 

As mentioned above, the probability standard for disclosure is “reasonably expects”. More about this complex probability assessment in our next post!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Business Combinations Accounting Guidance Now Delivered in a Pragmatic, Practical Way

Gain an in-depth understanding of how to apply the FASB standard (codified in ASC 805) on business combinations, including recent related ASUs, how to make journal entries in specific situations, the areas where estimation and judgment is required, the SEC requirements for financial statements and pro forma information for significant business combinations, and the appropriate financial statement disclosure. Attend SECI’s live interactive workshop, Accounting for Business Combinations being held August 16th in New York City. http://www.pli.edu/Content/Accounting_for_Business_Combinations_Workshop/_/N-1z10od5Z4k?ID=290625&t=WLH7_ADDP

Master SEC Reporting and Prepare to Tackle New Challenges

The complicated world of SEC reporting has now gotten even more complicated! Be sure you are prepared to comply with the recently enacted changes and have a plan in place to deal with the SEC staff “hot buttons”. Attend SECI’s live workshop SEC Reporting Skills Workshop 2017 being held July 20-21 in Las Vegas, August 17-18 in New York City and August 21-22 in Grapevine with additional dates and locations listed on the SECI website.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/SEC_Reporting_Skills_Workshop_2017/_/N-1z10oe8Z4k?ID=290534

An IPO Benefit for All – And Perhaps a Look at Policy Direction?

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

One of the most popular parts of the IPO on-ramp created by the JOBS Act allows Emerging Growth Companies (EGCs) to request confidential review of their initial 1933 Act registration statements. Confidential review allows EGCs to keep sensitive financial and other information out of the public spotlight until 15 days before they begin marketing their stock.

 

On June 29, the SEC announced that they will provide this kind of confidential review to all companies in the IPO process. The new benefit will begin July 10. Additionally, the SEC will also permit confidential review for most offerings made within one year of a company’s IPO. The Staff also posted FAQs related to the announcement.

 

 

New Chair Jay Clayton said this about the policy change:

 

“By expanding a popular JOBS Act benefit to all companies, we hope that the next American success story will look to our public markets when they need access to affordable capital. We are striving for efficiency in our processes to encourage more companies to consider going public, which can result in more choices for investors, job creation, and a stronger U.S. economy.”

 

Capital formation is an important part of the SEC’s mission, and this change clearly supports that process.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Going Concern Reporting – The Gap in GAAP Versus GAAS- Part Two

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

In our last post, we looked at Sears Holdings’ disclosures about its going concern issues and saw that the company used the language “substantial doubt exists related to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern” in the footnotes to their financial statements. We also saw that Sears Holdings’ auditors did not mention this issue in their report.

 

While this might seem like a bit of a disconnect, it turns out that there is a gap between the disclosure requirements for companies and the reporting requirements for auditors. (Actually, there are multiple gaps!)

 

This post reviews the GAAP requirements of ASU 2015-15, which became effective for companies for years ending after December 15, 2016.

 

In the third and last post of this series we will explore the auditor’s reporting requirements and the “gaps” between company requirements and auditor’s requirements.

 

Company Requirements

 

Here is a brief summary with some excerpts from the requirements for companies in ASC 205-40-50:

In connection with preparing financial statements for each annual and interim reporting period, an entity’s management shall evaluate whether there are conditions and events, considered in the aggregate, that raise substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued (or within one year after the date that the financial statements are available to be issued when applicable).

 

……………………………..

 

Management shall evaluate whether relevant conditions and events, considered in the aggregate, indicate that it is probable that an entity will be unable to meet its obligations as they become due within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued. The evaluation initially shall not take into consideration the potential mitigating effect of management’s plans that have not been fully implemented as of the date that the financial statements are issued (for example, plans to raise capital, borrow money, restructure debt, or dispose of an asset that have been approved but that have not been fully implemented as of the date that the financial statements are issued).

 

……………………………..

 

When relevant conditions or events, considered in the aggregate, initially indicate that it is probable that an entity will be unable to meet its obligations as they become due within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued (and therefore they raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern), management shall evaluate whether its plans that are intended to mitigate those conditions and events, when implemented, will alleviate substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

 

……………………………..

 

With this as the general requirement for an evaluation, the disclosure requirement comes with a binary determination about the impact of management’s plans:

 

Disclosures When Substantial Doubt Is Raised but Is Alleviated by Management’s Plans (Substantial Doubt Does Not Exist)

 

ASC 240-40-50-12

 

If, after considering management’s plans, substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern is alleviated as a result of consideration of management’s plans, an entity shall disclose in the notes to financial statements information that enables users of the financial statements to understand all of the following (or refer to similar information disclosed elsewhere in the notes):

 

  1. Principal conditions or events that raised substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern (before consideration of management’s plans)
  2. Management’s evaluation of the significance of those conditions or events in relation to the entity’s ability to meet its obligations
  3. Management’s plans that alleviated substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

 

 

 

Disclosures When Substantial Doubt Is Raised and Is Not Alleviated (Substantial Doubt Exists)

 

ASC 240-40-50-13

 

If, after considering management’s plans, substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern is not alleviated, the entity shall include a statement in the notes to financial statements indicating that there is substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued. Additionally, the entity shall disclose information that enables users of the financial statements to understand all of the following:

 

  1. Principal conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern
  2. Management’s evaluation of the significance of those conditions or events in relation to the entity’s ability to meet its obligations
  3. Management’s plans that are intended to mitigate the conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

 

An interesting difference between these two levels of disclosure is that there is no requirement to use the terminology “substantial doubt” when management’s plans alleviate the uncertainty.

 

The language Sears Holdings used was:

 

Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. We believe that the actions discussed above are probable of occurring and mitigating the substantial doubt raised by our historical operating results and satisfying our estimated liquidity needs 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements.

 

 

The company used the term “substantial doubt” even though they believed their plans mitigated this “substantial doubt”. Their disclosure went beyond the requirements of the standard.

 

In our next post, we will explore how this interacts with GAAS for auditors.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!