Monthly Archives: April 2016

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!