Tag Archives: FASB/IASB

Challenging Accounting Judgments, Principles Based Standards and ICFR

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

As you have undoubtedly heard from a variety of sources (including this post we made last December), the new revenue recognition, financial instruments impairment and lease standards all involve many new and sometimes complex accounting judgments and estimates.

 

Issues ranging from how to estimate current expected credit losses to what is stand-alone selling price confront us with new, difficult, and subjective judgment calls.

 

Even the Chief Accountant has discussed this issue in a recent speech, which we discussed in our blog. In his remarks, the Chief Accountant focused on ICFR, specifically mentioning:

 

“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.”

 

To help us all deal with these challenges the Anti-Fraud Collaboration, a group made up of the Center For Audit Quality, FEI, NACD and IIA, has issued a report titled “Addressing Challenges for Highly Subjective and Complex Accounting Areas”.

 

This report is built on a foundation of detailed analysis of several SEC and PCAOB enforcement cases, a webcast and two workshops. The report has a robust discussion of several of the issues underlying these enforcement cases. One important conclusion drawn from this work is that a lack of controls surrounding subjective and complex accounting judgments is frequently a root cause underlying reporting problems. Based on this conclusion, the report includes a discussion of ways to help establish appropriate controls for such estimates and judgments. In fact, one of the enumerated objectives of the report is to:

 

“Facilitate a robust discussion about accounting policy, centering on highly subjective and complex accounting areas, and the design and operating effectiveness of ICFR”

In the report, there are several insights into ICFR issues surrounding complex judgments. For example:

 

Difficult Accounting Issues

 

Three accounting issues were problematic for companies under investigation: revenue recognition, loan impairment, and valuation. Both highly subjective and complex, these three areas were under stress during the financial crisis and therefore more prone to manipulation or error. The analysis of the AAERs also highlighted issues with the accounting policies pertaining to these areas. In the enforcement actions studied, the SEC cited that the companies either did not have an adequate accounting policy or procedure for the issue being investigated; the company was non-compliant with their existing policy or procedure; or that management acted to override the company’s accounting policy.

 

 

The report goes on to state:

 

For all members of the financial reporting supply chain, the importance of tone at the top cannot be overstated. In most cases of alleged financial fraud, the SEC names the CEO and/or the CFO in the complaint. Commission staff noted that the driver of earnings management—the catalyst for most fraud cases—is often top management, such that the focus on the CEO and CFO is not surprising. In cases the PCAOB has brought against individual auditors, it is usually the lead audit engagement partner or other senior members of an audit engagement team who are disciplined.

 

 

Hopefully, as you think about the design of ICFR over the new estimates and judgments required to implement the revenue recognition, lease and financial instrument impairment standards, you will find some helpful ideas in this report.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

 

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 June 12th in Orlando. 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=290525

But Wait … there’s More!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

If the words above seem to be “borrowed”, they are. Their source is the iconic Ron Popeil, founder of Ronco. From the Veg-o-Matic to the Beef Jerky Machine, and all the creative products in between, it is hard to find a person who does not know of Ronco products.

 

In this “deal”, the “more” that Ron Popeil always promises is that Ronco is in the process of selling stock. Hoping to raise as much as $30,000,000, the Company is using Tier 2 of Regulation A and has a Form 1-A available to view on its website.

 

This is an interesting example of the Reg A process.

 

But wait ….. for there’s more – You can also order a Deluxe Veg-o-Matic on the same web page!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Broker – Dealer Regulation Update

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

The pace of change challenged many broker-dealers and their auditors when the PCAOB became the standard setter for audits of broker-dealers. This is illustrated by the topics addressed in this PCAOB “Annual Report on the Interim Inspection Program”. Problems were found in areas including independence rules, auditing revenue recognition and auditing the Net Capital Rule.

 

To help broker-dealers and their auditors and attorneys keep up to date with this complex regulatory landscape we are offering our Fundamentals of Broker-Dealer Regulation program on July 17, 2017. The program will be presented in New York at our PLI Center. It will be webcast and groupcasts are available in several locations.

 

This program will help you build a solid foundation in the regulatory regime applying to broker-dealers, including what to expect next regarding broker-dealer regulation.  You will learn how the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, FINRA rules and state securities laws interact in governing the brokerage industry.

 

Significant focus will also be placed on recent exam and regulatory enforcement activity by the SEC, FINRA, and the states and about how broker-dealers are responding to these developments and the challenges ahead for the industry.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Learn About Recent Whistleblower Developments

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

We have done several posts about whistleblowing and the related SOX and Dodd-Frank whistle blower regimens. It is hard to overstate the importance of whistleblowers in the SEC’s enforcement efforts.
On April 25, 2017, the SEC announced a $4 million payout to a whistleblower who provided industry-specific experience and expertise to the staff as they conducted their investigation. In that release they also announced that whistleblower payouts now total approximately $153 million!
Keeping abreast of whistleblowing developments is an important part of governance and compliance.   To help in this process we are offering our Corporate Whistleblowing program on June 28. This program will provide in-depth perspectives on recent regulatory and legal developments, including:

  • What direction the federal whistleblower protection programs will likely take under the new administration
  • What to expect in case law and regulatory enforcement developments in the coming year
  • Best practices in responding to whistleblower reports
  • Key ethical considerations in conducting internal investigations of issues raised by whistleblowers.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Are There Consequences for Reporting ICFR Problems? – The Chief Accountant Speaks!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

In a recent speech SEC Chief Accountant Wesley Bricker, towards the end of his remarks, made some interesting overall comments about the evaluation of ICFR. These comments are an interesting step in the ongoing conversation about whether the SOX 404 evaluation of ICFR makes any difference in investor behavior. There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence and much discussion about this question. Mr. Bricker’s comments are not based on supposition, inference or piecemeal observation. His comments have their roots in articles from various academic journals, including the Accounting Review and The Journal of Accounting Research. Research in these peer-reviewed journals is based on statistical analysis of quantitative data. (If you have never heard of these journals, they are very prestigious academic journals, so if you decide to read any of the articles grab a cup of coffee and a calculator!)

Here are some excerpts from his remarks. The footnote numbers are references to the academic papers which support his points. We left them in so you could follow-up if you would like to review the quantitative research underlying his comments.

 

Recent experience with disclosures 

Another point related to ICFR is consideration of disclosures.  Investors tend to incorporate disclosure of ICFR deficiencies in the price they are willing to pay for a stock.  For example, companies disclosing material weaknesses are more likely to experience increased cost of capital, and to face more frequent auditor resignations and restatements.[11]

 

Recent academic research suggests:

 

Companies disclosing internal control deficiencies have credit spreads on loans about 28 basis points higher than that for companies without internal control deficiencies; [12] and

 

After disclosing an internal control deficiency for the first time, companies experience a significant increase in cost of equity, averaging about 93 basis points. [13]

 

Remediation of ineffective ICFR tends to be followed by improved financial reporting quality, reduced cost of capital, and improved operating performance.[14]   For example,

 

Companies that have remediated their prior disclosed internal control deficiencies exhibit an average decrease in market-adjusted cost of equity of 151 basis points; [15]  and

 

Remediating companies also experience increases in investment efficiency and in operating performance, suggesting that accounting information generated by effective ICFR is more useful for managerial decision-making. [16]

 

A disclosure of material weaknesses, combined with demonstrating progress toward remediation, can provide investors with information about the company’s ability to function as a public company.  Some companies, for example, voluntarily disclose material weaknesses in their registration statements along with their plans for remediating those weaknesses. [17]

 

You can find citations in to the relevant articles in the text of the speech.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

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 May 16-17 in Dallas and May 24-25 in San Francisco with additional dates and locations listed on the SECI website.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/SEC_Reporting_Skills_Workshop_2017/_/N-1z10od0Z4k?ID=290558&t=FLY7_DPAD

Significant New Changes in SEC Accounting & Auditing Demand Clarity

The world of financial reporting is complicated and ever-changing. 2017 brings a host of new issues. Implementation deadline of the FASB’s revenue recognition standard is fast approaching and the new lease accounting challenges filers. Attend SECI’s 32nd Midyear SEC Reporting & FASB Forum. This live program is being held May 18-19 in Dallas, June 8-9 in New York City along with a live webcast and June 19-20 in San Francisco. Get practical advice on how to successfully tackle these challenges and more.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/32nd_Midyear_SEC_Reporting_FASB_Forum/_/N-1z10oddZ4k?ID=290510&t=LLM7_9DPAD

Conflict Minerals Reporting Developments

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

As you may have heard, on April 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered final judgment in the on-going litigation over the Conflict Minerals Reporting Rule and remanded the case to the SEC.

 
This follows the action of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which in August of 2015 reaffirmed its prior holding that Section 13(p)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 13p-1 “violate the First Amendment to the extent the statute and rule require regulated entities to report to the Commission and to state on their website that any of their products have ‘not been found to be “DRC conflict free”’. (Nat’l Ass’n of Mfrs., et al. v. SEC, No. 13-CF-000635 (D.D.C. Apr. 3, 2017))

 
Now that the decision has been remanded to the Commission, how this part of the statute and the related rule will be dealt with is uncertain. Since the requirement is part of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Commission is in a complex position. Even more uncertain is how companies should approach this part of the reporting process as they prepare to File Form SD by May 31 of this year.
To help companies deal with this situation the SEC has issued two Public Statements.

 
The first, a Public Statement by the Division of Corporation Finance, discusses how the SEC will approach the issue until further rule-making or other developments take place. CorpFin’s position is summarized in the following quote:

 
The court’s remand has now presented significant issues for the Commission to address. At the direction of the Acting Chairman, we have considered those issues. In light of the uncertainty regarding how the Commission will resolve those issues and related issues raised by commenters, the Division of Corporation Finance has determined that it will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission if companies, including those that are subject to paragraph (c) of Item 1.01 of Form SD, only file disclosure under the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b) of Item 1.01 of Form SD. This statement is subject to any further action that may be taken by the Commission, expresses the Division’s position on enforcement action only, and does not express any legal conclusion on the rule.

 
In the Instructions to Form SD it is instruction (c) which requires “due diligence” if the “reasonable country of origin inquiry” determines that a company’s conflict minerals did or could have originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or one of the adjoining countries.

 
The second, a Public Statement by Acting Chairman Piwowar, discusses plans for future Commission action and expresses various thoughts about the cost and related enforcement aspects of the rule. In the Public Statement he says:

 
The Court of Appeals left open the question of whether this description is required by statute or, rather, is solely a product of the Commission’s rulemaking. The Commission will now be called upon to determine how to address the Court of Appeals decision – including whether Congress’s intent in Section 13(p)(1) can be achieved through a descriptor that avoids the constitutional defect identified by the court – and how that determination affects overall implementation of the Conflict Minerals rule.

 

I have accordingly instructed our staff to begin work on a recommendation for future Commission action. In preparing its recommendation, the staff will consider, among other things, the public comments received in response to the January 31, 2017 request for comment.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!