Tag Archives: disclosures

Going Concern Reporting – The Gap in GAAP Versus GAAS – Part One

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

This is the first of three posts about an interesting conundrum in reporting that arose last year. The FASB, with ASU 2014-15, now requires disclosures by companies about going concern issues. However, there can be gaps between what companies are required to disclose and impact of going concern issues on the auditor’s report.

ASU 2014-15 added subtopic 205-40 “Disclosure of Uncertainties about an Entity’s Ability to Continue as a Going Concern” to the Accounting Standards Codification. This update became effective for periods ending after December 15, 2016. Previously there was no specific requirement for management to make these disclosures. (This is of course Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP).

Auditors have had guidance in this area for many years courtesy of the PCAOB’s standard in AU section 341, which is now section AS 2415 in the PCAOB’s reorganized auditing standards. (This is Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, or GAAS).

 

To explore the gap between GAAP for companies and GAAS for auditors when reporting going concern issues we are going to present a series of three posts:

 

This first post will present an example of a going concern disclosure by a company and whether or not the auditor’s report was modified. (Spoiler – there was no mention in the auditor’s report!)

 

The second post will explore company disclosure requirements.

 

The third and last post will review auditor’s reporting requirements and detail the gaps between company and auditor reporting.

 

Sears Holdings, the retailer that owns Kmart and Sears, provided an example of this gap in their Form 10-K for the year ended January 28, 2017. In their financial statements Sears Holdings included this language:

We acknowledge that we continue to face a challenging competitive environment and while we continue to focus on our overall profitability, including managing expenses, we reported a loss in 2016 and were required to fund cash used in operating activities with cash from investing and financing activities. We expect that the actions taken in 2016 and early 2017 will enhance our liquidity and financial flexibility. In addition, as previously discussed, we expect to generate additional liquidity through the monetization of our real estate and additional debt financing actions. We expect that these actions will be executed in alignment with the anticipated timing of our liquidity needs. We also continue to explore ways to unlock value across a range of assets, including exploring ways to maximize the value of our Home Services and Sears Auto Centers businesses, as well as our Kenmore and DieHard brands through partnerships or other means of externalization that could expand distribution of our brands and service offerings to realize significant growth. We expect to continue to right-size, redeploy and highlight the value of our assets, including our real estate portfolio, in our transition from an asset intensive, historically “store-only” based retailer to a more asset light, integrated membership-focused company.

 

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. However, we cannot predict, with certainty, the outcome of our actions to generate liquidity, including the availability of additional debt financing, or whether such actions would generate the expected liquidity as currently planned. In addition, the PPPFA contains certain limitations on our ability to sell assets, which could impact our ability to complete asset sale transactions or our ability to use proceeds from those transactions to fund our operations. Therefore, the planned actions take into account the applicable restrictions under the PPPFA.

 

If we continue to experience operating losses, and we are not able to generate additional liquidity through the mechanisms described above or through some combination of other actions, while not expected, we may not be able to access additional funds under our amended Domestic Credit Agreement and we might need to secure additional sources of funds, which may or may not be available to us. Additionally, a failure to generate additional liquidity could negatively impact our access to inventory or services that are important to the operation of our business. Moreover, if the borrowing base (as calculated pursuant to the indenture) falls below the principal amount of the notes plus the principal amount of any other indebtedness for borrowed money that is secured by liens on the collateral for the notes on the last day of any two consecutive quarters, it could trigger an obligation to repurchase notes in an amount equal to such deficiency.

 

Sears Holdings used the term “substantial doubt”, but indicated that they believed their plans mitigated this “substantial doubt”.

 

This was the report of Sear’s Auditors:

 

In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of Sears Holdings Corporation and subsidiaries as of January 28, 2017 and January 30, 2016, and the results of their operations and their cash flows for each of the three fiscal years in the period ended January 28, 2017, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. Also, in our opinion, such financial statement schedule, when considered in relation to the basic consolidated financial statements taken as a whole, present fairly, in all material respects, the information set forth therein. Also, in our opinion, the Company maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of January 28, 2017, based on the criteria established in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission.

 

No mention of a going concern issue at all in the auditor’s report! What is an investor to think? Historically, when the only concrete guidance was in GAAS, it was very rare to see this issue not discussed in both the financial statements and the auditor’s report.

 

This is, of course, part of the gap between GAAP and GAAS. In our next post we will begin to explore the space in this gap!

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

ICFR Changes and the New Revenue Recognition, Leases, and Financial Instrument Impairment Transitions

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

In his recent, much publicized speech, Chief Accountant Wesley Bricker discussed the transition to the new revenue recognition standard. A bit later in the speech he addressed a not so frequently discussed issue, the requirement to disclose material changes in ICFR as it relates to implementation of the new revenue recognition, leases, credit losses and other standards. Here is an excerpt:

 

Over the next several years, updating and maintaining internal controls will be particularly important as companies work through the implementation of the significant new accounting standards. Companies’ implementation activities will require careful planning and execution, as well as sound judgment from management, as I have mentioned earlier in illustrating areas of judgment in the new GAAP standards.

 

In his remarks, well worth the read, he also comments on two crucial ICFR concerns in these new standards:

Having the requisite skills in the accounting and financial reporting area to make the many new, complex judgements required by these standards, and

Setting an appropriate tone at the top to assure these judgments are made in a reasonable, consistent and appropriate manner.

 

We did a post about reporting changes in ICFR in November 2016. To refresh your memory, or if you are not familiar with this area, here is a summary of the disclosures required for material changes in ICFR. This applies to material changes made to implement new accounting standards as well as any other material changes.

 

These requirements begin with Item 9A in Form 10-K and Part I Item 4 in Form 10-Q. They both refer to S-K Item 308(c):

 

(c) Changes in internal control over financial reporting. Disclose any change in the registrant’s internal control over financial reporting identified in connection with the evaluation required by paragraph (d) of §240.13a-15 or 240.15d-15 of this chapter that occurred during the registrant’s last fiscal quarter (the registrant’s fourth fiscal quarter in the case of an annual report) that has materially affected, or is reasonably likely to materially affect, the registrant’s internal control over financial reporting.

 

With changes to ICFR for revenue recognition for information about contracts and estimates, like stand-alone selling price and when control transfers, and changes to ICFR for capitalization of all leases, these new standards could require material changes to ICFR. Are these the types of changes included in the S-K 308(c) disclosure requirement?

 

This is an excerpt from the ICFR C&DI’s, number 7, about SOX reporting which you can find here:

 

After the registrant’s first management report on internal control over financial reporting, pursuant to Item 308 of Regulations S-K or S-B, the registrant is required to identify and disclose any material changes in the registrant’s internal control over financial reporting in each quarterly and annual report. This would encompass disclosing a change (including an improvement) to internal control over financial reporting that was not necessarily in response to an identified material weakness (i.e. the implementation of a new information system) if it materially affected the registrant’s internal control over financial reporting. Materiality, as with all materiality judgments in this area, would be determined upon the basis of the impact on internal control over financial reporting and the materiality standard articulated in TSC Industries, Inc. v. Northway, Inc. 426 U.S. 438 (1976) and Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988). This would also include disclosing a change to internal control over financial reporting related to a business combination for which the acquired entity that has been or will be excluded from an annual management report on internal control over financial reporting as contemplated in Question 3 above. As an alternative to ongoing disclosure for such changes in internal control over financial reporting, a registrant may choose to disclose all such changes to internal control over financial reporting in the annual report in which its assessment that encompasses the acquired business is included.

 

 

The SEC Regulations Committee of the CAQ has also discussed a particularly intricate issue in this transition. What if you change your ICFR this year, but the change is for future reporting when you begin to report under the new standard next year? This issue is still in play, as this excerpt from the minutes discusses:

 

Changes in ICFR in preparation for the adoption of a new accounting standard

Item 308(c) of Regulation S-K requires disclosure of changes in internal control over financial reporting (“ICFR”) during the most recent quarter that have materially affected or are reasonably likely to materially affect the registrant’s ICFR. The Committee and the staff discussed how this requirement applies to changes in ICFR that are made in preparation for the adoption of a new accounting standard when those changes are in periods that precede the date of adoption and do not impact the preparation of the financial statements until the new standard is adopted.

 

The staff indicated that they are evaluating whether additional guidance is necessary for applying the requirements of Item 308(c) in connection with the transition to the new revenue standard.

 

So, as you begin implementing systems and processes for these new standards, don’t forget this part of the reporting!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

The New Going Concern Disclosures – An Example

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Sears, a storied retailer with a rich history, provides a perhaps not unexpected example of the new going concern disclosures in their recently filed 10-K. In their financial statements on page 66 of the 10-K you will find these disclosures:

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. However, we cannot predict, with certainty, the outcome of our actions to generate liquidity, including the availability of additional debt financing, or whether such actions would generate the expected liquidity as currently planned. In addition, the PPPFA contains certain limitations on our ability to sell assets, which could impact our ability to complete asset sale transactions or our ability to use proceeds from those transactions to fund our operations. Therefore, the planned actions take into account the applicable restrictions under the PPPFA.

If we continue to experience operating losses, and we are not able to generate additional liquidity through the mechanisms described above or through some combination of other actions, while not expected, we may not be able to access additional funds under our amended Domestic Credit Agreement and we might need to secure additional sources of funds, which may or may not be available to us. Additionally, a failure to generate additional liquidity could negatively impact our access to inventory or services that are important to the operation of our business. Moreover, if the borrowing base (as calculated pursuant to the indenture) falls below the principal amount of the notes plus the principal amount of any other indebtedness for borrowed money that is secured by liens on the collateral for the notes on the last day of any two consecutive quarters, it could trigger an obligation to repurchase notes in an amount equal to such deficiency.

This, as the bolded sentence above illustrates, is an example of the situation where there is substantial doubt about the ability of Sears to continue as a going concern, but the substantial doubt is mitigated by the company’s plans. The new reporting requirement for going concern disclosures has a two path approach. The first is:

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):

  • 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)
  • Management’s evaluation of the significance of those conditions or events in relation to the entity’s ability to meet its obligations
  • Management’s plans that alleviated substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

The second disclosure path is:

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:

  • Principal conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern
  • Management’s evaluation of the significance of those conditions or events in relation to the entity’s ability to meet its obligations
  • 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.

Sears provides us an interesting example and the delicate dance of the wording in their disclosure sheds light on how challenging this new requirement can be for companies.

And, to close the loop, here is the opinion paragraph from the auditor of Sear’s financial statements:

In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of Sears Holdings Corporation and subsidiaries as of January 28, 2017 and January 30, 2016, and the results of their operations and their cash flows for each of the three fiscal years in the period ended January 28, 2017, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

Also, in our opinion, such financial statement schedule, when considered in relation to the basic consolidated financial statements taken as a whole, present fairly, in all material respects, the information set forth therein. Also, in our opinion, the Company maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of January 28, 2017, based on the criteria established in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

When Disclosure Obligations Reach Beyond Financial Reporting

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Disclosure Effectiveness – The Saga Continues

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

A not so long, long time ago (OK, sorry Arlo Guthrie), and over a very reasonable period, the SEC began its Disclosure Effectiveness initiative. As you have likely heard (and can read about here), the Staff has sought comment and feedback about a variety of issues, including a lengthy release dealing with Regulation S-K and another dealing with various “financial statements of others” requirements in Regulation S-X.

The latest disclosure simplification development is a 26-page Staff report required by the FAST Act titled “Report on Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K”. It addresses a variety of areas ranging from properties to risk factors. Included are several interesting ideas such as requiring year-to-year comparisons in MD&A for only the current year and prior year and including hyperlinks to prior filings for prior comparisons.

The report is a thoughtful and interesting step in this challenging process.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Happy Thanksgiving!

All of us here at the SEC Institute wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope that you have a wonderful time with loved ones and enjoy this time of year.

And, to add a smile, we have been building a list of things we are thankful for!

  1. All of you and your support of our programs!
  2. Disclosure Effectiveness

OK, we tried to add some humorous SEC and accounting related items to this list, but when we started to think about all the change in our profession and we got to revenue recognition and leases, we weren’t sure if we were thankful for them or not!

So, even with all the change in the world around us, Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for your participation and support!

 

The SEC Institute Team

Year-End Planning Topic Number 5 – Disclosure Effectiveness

Our year-end conferences have begun with the presentation of our 12th Annual SEC Reporting & FASB Forum for Mid-sized & Smaller Companies in Las Vegas last week and will continue with our 32nd Annual SEC Reporting & FASB Forums in November and December.

Disclosure effectiveness is a theme that is already emerging from CorpFin at these conferences.

As we think about how we communicate with shareholders this is another year-end planning consideration. We have done a number of posts about disclosure effectiveness and how the SEC (and FASB) are working on projects to make disclosure more effective. This project has roots that go back a good way, and both the JOBS Act and the FAST Act have helped it build momentum.

You can find a nice review of the SEC’s Concept Releases and related proposals about disclosure effectiveness here. All this rule making will, of course, require time as the SEC requests comments and revises its proposals based on constituent feedback.

In the meantime, the Staff is sending a clear message to make disclosures more effective right now. At our recent conference, CorpFin reminded everyone that SEC reports are intended to be communication documents as well as compliance documents and suggested actions we can all take in the context of current rules to make communication more effective:

 

Streamline disclosures,

Eliminate outdated information,

Tailor disclosures, focusing on factors unique to the company,

Don’t use comment letters in a generic sense.

 

These ideas fit nicely with the Staff’s previously discussed ideas we have been discussing for quite a while:

 

Reduce repetition,

Focus disclosure,

Eliminate outdated and immaterial information.

 

All of this dovetails together with a speech by Keith Higgins that started the initiative in 2014. And, with this much mention by the Staff, clearly change is in the wind, and we all have an opportunity to get ahead of the change and make communication better.

 

Making changes to annual and quarterly report disclosure is never a simple process, as the number of stakeholders and reviewers make change very challenging. And, thinking about how best to meet the information needs of investors is never easy.

 

However, many companies are already making changes to disclosure. If you want to find examples, check out American Express and GE. Both have been very proactive in this arena.

 

Now is a good time to consider and search for opportunities to make current disclosure more effective!

 

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!

 

 

Comment of the Week – Market Risk Reminder

 

We have been discussing the topic of Market Risk Disclosures a lot in this environment of volatile exchange rates, bumpy commodity prices and uncertain interest rates. This disclosure is one of the most confusing parts of Regulation S-K. Without going into a whole lot of details about S-K Item 305 (which we covered in an earlier blog at seciblog.pli.edu/?p=489), as we move towards the end of the first quarter it will continue to be important to focus on getting this disclosure right.

 

So, with this post as a reminder, here is a quick example in a recent comment:

Item7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk, page 63

  1. Please provide an analysis on whether your “cash flow hedges,” discussed in the second- to-last paragraph of page 63, are material, such that you would need to provide the disclosure in Item 305(a) of Regulation S-K. Please see General Instruction 5.B to Item 305(a) and (b).

 

As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

10-K Tip Number Seven for 2016 – Cybersecurity

 

Is there a hotter disclosure topic than cybersecurity in the SEC reporting world right now? That of course is why we included it as a hot topic on our 2016 Form 10-K Tune-Up (Which is now available on-demand with CLE and CPE credit at:

www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Second_Annual_Form_10_K_Tune_Up/_/N-4nZ1z116ku?fromsearch=false&ID=278540   )

 

As perhaps the most important cybersecurity 10-K drafting reminder, don’t forget to review Corp Fin Disclosure Guidance Topic 2 as you draft and review. The Disclosure Guidance Topic is at:

www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/cfguidance-topic2.htm

 

And, for some examples and other thoughts, we have done a number of posts in our blog about cybersecurity. You can review them at:

Cybersecurity – What the what??

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=318

 

Comment of the Week Cybersecurity Risks Galore

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=253

 

Cybersecurity – The Continuing Saga

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=225

 

 

Cybersecurity – Help Managing the Risk

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=436

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!