Tag Archives: MD&A

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!

A Very Picky Reminder – ICFR and Accounting Standard Implementation Reporting

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

SAB 74 (SAB Codification 11-M) disclosures surrounding the new revenue recognition, leasing and financial instrument impairment standards have been receiving a lot of attention lately, especially with the SEC Staff announcement about them at the September EITF meeting.

This is not the only reporting that a new accounting standard might involve. Since these new standards could have an impact on ICFR, this is a good time to remember the requirements to report material changes in ICFR. These requirements apply to both Item 9A in Form 10-K and Part I Item 4 in Form 10-Q. They begin with 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. Is this the type of change 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:

  1. 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!

Three Years of Fun – Planning the “Big Three” New FASB Statement Transitions

by: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey, SEC Institute

We have all heard about the major projects the FASB has completed in recent years. Together with their implementation dates for public companies and allowed transition methods they are:

Revenue recognition: January 1, 2018. (F/Y’s beginning after December 15, 2017)

Early adoption is allowed to the original effective date, F/Y’s beginning after 12/15/16). Either a retrospective or modified retrospective with a cumulative effect adjustment transition may be used.
Leases: January 1, 2019. (F/Y’s beginning after December 15, 2018)

Early adoption is allowed. A retrospective transition must be used. The retrospective approach includes several practical accommodations.

Financial Instrument Impairment: January 1, 2020 (F/Y’s beginning after December 15, 2019)

Early adoption to years beginning after December 15, 2018 is allowed. The transition method is essentially a “modified retrospective approach with a cumulative effect adjustment” with adjustments for certain types of financial instruments.
The revenue recognition and lease changes have been widely discussed, but the financial instruments impairment change has not been as “hot” a topic. It could be problematic for some companies as it will apply to all financial instruments, including accounts receivable. Many companies could face significant challenges gathering the information to move from the current incurred loss model to the new expected loss model.
While the impact of each new standard will vary from company to company, every company needs to think about how to manage these three transitions. Will it be best for your company to adopt all three at once, or will it be best to adopt them sequentially? Or perhaps mix and match a bit?
There are several considerations in these implementation date decisions. How they will affect investor relations is a major issue. The time and other resources required, systems issues and ICFR impact are among the other inputs to this decision. Each company has to evaluate these considerations based on their own circumstances.
Given the potential magnitude of these changes and their widespread discussion in the reporting environment, disclosures about these changes have become more and more important to users. With the recent SEC Staff Announcement at the September EITF meeting about SAB 74 (SAB Codification Topic 11-M) disclosures, disclosing where you are in this process has become almost required. The more or less simple “standard” disclosures about “we have not selected a transition method” and “we do not yet know the impact” may not be enough. Qualitative information about where you are in the process may be a required disclosure.

There are strong incentives to move diligently on these transitions and to tell investors where you are in the process. And, anyway, who really wants to look unprepared?
Three years of sequential fun or big change? Spread it out or rip off the Band-Aid? Slow burn or big bang? We all get to decide what will be best for our company and our investors, the key issue is to make this decision on a timely basis!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Understanding the Interplay between Company’s Financial Statements and SEC Reporting – Key to grasping MD&A for Lawyers

 

Lawyers involved in the preparation, drafting and review of SEC filings often struggle with Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation (“MD&A”) as it involves not only an understanding of the company’s business, but an ability to understand the company’s financial statement information and how it intersects with the SEC reporting process. Register today to attend our upcoming live workshop, MD&A In-Depth Workshop for Lawyers 2016 being offered October 18th in San Francisco, October 26th in Chicago and November 4th in New York City. This Workshop will help you build an in-depth understanding of how the financial statements fit together, the information they provide, and how to use financial statement information to make appropriate MD&A disclosures about financial position, changes in financial position, liquidity, results of operations, cash flow and other areas.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/MDA_In_Depth_Workshop_for_Lawyers_2016/_/N-1z10w3yZ4k?ID=279583

News From the CAQ – Still no Simple Answer for the RevRec/S-3 Issue!

Back in June of 2015 we posted about the Center for Audit Quality, or CAQ. This organization, which has its roots with the AICPA, advocates for issues surrounding public company auditing with the goal of building and maintaining the public’s trust in the auditing process. You can learn more about the CAQ at their web page.

One important part of the CAQ is the SEC Regulations Committee. This group meets regularly with the SEC Staff to discuss emerging issues in practice. The summaries of their meetings are generally very useful resources and reviewing them on a periodic basis can help deal with complex and emerging issues.

In their June meeting the Committee and the SEC Staff discussed one of the issues we have blogged about earlier in the summer, the impact of retrospective adoption of a new accounting standard (revenue recognition and leases of course!) on a registration statement filed after you file a 10-Q in the year of adoption but before the end of the year. It is conceivable that the S-3 could require applying the new accounting standard to an additional earlier year. (Check out this post if you need to refresh your memory.)

Here is the summary of discussion about this issue from the SEC Regulations Committee June meeting:

Requirement to provide restated financial statements when a Form S-3 registration statement is filed after the registrant has filed its first Form 10-Q reflecting full retrospective adoption of the new revenue standard

As a follow-up to a topic discussed at the March 2016 Joint Meeting, the Committee and the staff discussed Deputy Chief Accountant Wes Bricker’s remarks at the 2016 Baruch College Financial Reporting Conference on transition activities for the new revenue recognition standard. Specifically, the Committee and the staff discussed the provision in ASC 250-10-45-5 which indicates that “[a]n entity shall report a change in accounting principle through retrospective application of the new accounting principle to all prior periods, unless it is impracticable to do so.” ASC 250-10-45-9 provides guidance on the term “impracticable.”

The staff indicated that they are available for consultation with registrants that have concluded it would be impracticable to revise one or more comparative prior periods, but they also noted that consultation is not required.

So, it is all still a bit grey!

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Disclosures About Risks and Uncertainties

All the news about Apple’s international tax situation, a significant uncertainty that they and many other companies face, presents a great opportunity to review how uncertainties and the big questions they pose should be disclosed.

Developing disclosures about uncertainties is never simple. One reason for this complexity is how many areas they can affect in a 10-K or 10-Q. The key places to focus are:

Risk Factors

Financial statements – GAAP contingency disclosures

MD&A – possible known trend disclosures

The key disclosures will be in the three above items, and that is where we will focus for now. It is important to remember though that other areas could be involved. Disclosure might be included for example in legal proceedings in Item 3 (which would generally be similar to the financial statement disclosures but would likely include more details) and perhaps even the business description in Item 1 if the uncertainty was a significant general development.

Risk Factor Disclosure

S-K Item 503(c) contains this requirement:

(c) Risk factors. Where appropriate, provide under the caption “Risk Factors” a discussion of the most significant factors that make the offering speculative or risky. This discussion must be concise and organized logically.

Clearly a material uncertainty could fall into this disclosure requirement. Apple talked about tax issues in their most recent Form 10-Q Part II Item 1A disclosure (emphasis added):

The Company could be subject to changes in its tax rates, the adoption of new U.S. or international tax legislation or exposure to additional tax liabilities.

The Company is subject to taxes in the U.S. and numerous foreign jurisdictions, including Ireland, where a number of the Company’s subsidiaries are organized. Due to economic and political conditions, tax rates in various jurisdictions may be subject to significant change. The Company’s effective tax rates could be affected by changes in the mix of earnings in countries with differing statutory tax rates, changes in the valuation of deferred tax assets and liabilities, or changes in tax laws or their interpretation, including in the U.S. and Ireland. For example, in June 2014, the European Commission opened a formal investigation of Ireland to examine whether decisions by the tax authorities with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by two of the Company’s Irish subsidiaries comply with European Union rules on state aid. If the European Commission were to conclude against Ireland, it could require Ireland to recover from the Company past taxes covering a period of up to 10 years reflective of the disallowed state aid, and such amount could be material.

The Company is also subject to the examination of its tax returns and other tax matters by the Internal Revenue Service and other tax authorities and governmental bodies. The Company regularly assesses the likelihood of an adverse outcome resulting from these examinations to determine the adequacy of its provision for taxes. There can be no assurance as to the outcome of these examinations. If the Company’s effective tax rates were to increase, particularly in the U.S. or Ireland, or if the ultimate determination of the Company’s taxes owed is for an amount in excess of amounts previously accrued, the Company’s financial condition, operating results and cash flows could be adversely affected.

 

Financial Statement Disclosures

After the risk factor, where perhaps we use an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach, Apple goes further. In the notes to the financial statements they included this disclosure. Note here that ASC 450 dealing with contingencies and the three levels of probability — probable, reasonably possible and remote — would apply, along with guidance about uncertain tax positions. Here, along with disclosure about other tax issues, Apple discloses the issue again (check out the last paragraph in particular).

Note 5 – Income Taxes

As of June 25, 2016, the Company recorded gross unrecognized tax benefits of $7.6 billion, of which $2.8 billion, if recognized, would affect the Company’s effective tax rate. As of September 26, 2015, the total amount of gross unrecognized tax benefits was $6.9 billion, of which $2.5 billion, if recognized, would have affected the Company’s effective tax rate. The Company’s total gross unrecognized tax benefits are classified as other non-current liabilities in the Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets. The Company had $1.5 billion and $1.3 billion of gross interest and penalties accrued as of June 25, 2016 and September 26, 2015, respectively, which are classified as other non-current liabilities in the Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets.

Management believes that an adequate provision has been made for any adjustments that may result from tax examinations. However, the outcome of tax audits cannot be predicted with certainty. If any issues addressed in the Company’s tax audits are resolved in a manner not consistent with management’s expectations, the Company could be required to adjust its provision for income taxes in the period such resolution occurs. Although timing of the resolution and/or closure of audits is not certain, the Company believes it is reasonably possible that its gross unrecognized tax benefits could decrease (whether by payment, release or a combination of both) in the next 12 months by as much as $800 million.

On June 11, 2014, the European Commission issued an opening decision initiating a formal investigation against Ireland for alleged state aid to the Company. The opening decision concerns the allocation of profits for taxation purposes of the Irish branches of two subsidiaries of the Company. The Company believes the European Commission’s assertions are without merit. If the European Commission were to conclude against Ireland, the European Commission could require Ireland to recover from the Company past taxes covering a period of up to 10 years reflective of the disallowed state aid. While such amount could be material, as of June 25, 2016 the Company is unable to estimate the impact.

One of the areas the SEC focuses on in reviewing contingency disclosures is the “reasonably possible” probability level. In this situation disclosure is required and an amount must be disclosed if it can be estimated. If it can’t be estimated disclosure is still required.

 

MD&A

 

And, lastly MD&A requires disclosure of known trends and uncertainties. The language in S-K Item 303 includes this requirement:

 

 

(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.

 

Here is an excerpt from Apple’s MD&A.

 

 

On June 11, 2014, the European Commission issued an opening decision initiating a formal investigation against Ireland for alleged state aid to the Company. The opening decision concerns the allocation of profits for taxation purposes of the Irish branches of two subsidiaries of the Company. The Company believes the European Commission’s assertions are without merit. If the European Commission were to conclude against Ireland, the European Commission could require Ireland to recover from the Company past taxes covering a period of up to 10 years reflective of the disallowed state aid. While such amount could be material, as of June 25, 2016 the Company is unable to estimate the impact.

 

 

Uncertainty disclosures are never easy, and with all the areas that can potentially be involved, a place to be very careful!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Year-End Planning – Number Four – Recently Issued Accounting Standards and a Few Example Comments

In recent weeks we have been posting about areas to deal with in advance of year-end. So far we have addressed:

Issues in the Statement of Cash Flows

Evaluating and Auditing ICFR

The New Item 16 Form 10-K Summary

 

The spirit and rationale behind these posts is that it is always a good idea to proactively anticipate problems that may arise and act to keep issues from becoming problems.

As we continue this series our next post is about SAB 74 (Topic 11-M in the SAB Codification), the requirement for disclosures about recently issued accounting standards.

 

With the major changes coming from the new revenue recognition standard, the new lease standard, and for financial companies the new financial instrument impairment standard, these disclosures become increasingly important. Users need to be forewarned about the expected impact of these new standards. This is essentially a known trend disclosure in your MD&A.

 

Here is an excerpt from Topic 11-M. You can read the entire SAB here.

 

Interpretive Response: The staff believes that the registrant should evaluate each new accounting standard to determine the appropriate disclosure and recognizes that the level of information available to the registrant will differ with respect to various standards and from one registrant to another. The objectives of the disclosure should be to (1) notify the reader of the disclosure documents that a standard has been issued which the registrant will be required to adopt in the future and (2) assist the reader in assessing the significance of the impact that the standard will have on the financial statements of the registrant when adopted. The staff understands that the registrant will only be able to disclose information that is known.

 

The following disclosures should generally be considered by the registrant:

 

A brief description of the new standard, the date that adoption is required and the date that the registrant plans to adopt, if earlier.

 

A discussion of the methods of adoption allowed by the standard and the method expected to be utilized by the registrant, if determined.

 

A discussion of the impact that adoption of the standard is expected to have on the financial statements of the registrant, unless not known or reasonably estimable. In that case, a statement to that effect may be made.

 

Disclosure of the potential impact of other significant matters that the registrant believes might result from the adoption of the standard (such as technical violations of debt covenant agreements, planned or intended changes in business practices, etc.) is encouraged.

 

 

As a company gets closer to the adoption date for a new standard these disclosures should evolve. And although “[t]he staff understands that the registrant will only be able to disclose information that is known”, the other side of this disclosure is that when you know something, you should disclose it!

 

One last heads up – when you file your 10-K for the year before adoption, in other words you will adopt the day after that year-end, the staff will likely expect robust disclosure, including quantification of the impact of adoption.

 

When a company has decided which method it will use to adopt, it should disclose that information!

 

As a company researches and builds an understanding of how much a new standard will affect the financial statements, this impact should be disclosed.

 

Frequently we are concerned that there is uncertainty in this process, and that is never comfortable to discuss in an SEC report. Here are two excerpts that are examples of this disclosure from a June 30, 2016 Form 10-K. They deal with this uncertainty (emphasis added):

 

Leases

 

In February 2016, the FASB issued a new standard related to leases to increase transparency and comparability among organizations by requiring the recognition of lease assets and lease liabilities on the balance sheet. Most prominent among the amendments is the recognition of assets and liabilities by lessees for those leases classified as operating leases under previous U.S. GAAP. Under the new standard, disclosures are required to meet the objective of enabling users of financial statements to assess the amount, timing, and uncertainty of cash flows arising from leases. We will be required to recognize and measure leases at the beginning of the earliest period presented using a modified retrospective approach.

 

The new standard will be effective for us beginning July 1, 2019, with early adoption permitted. We currently anticipate early adoption of the new standard effective July 1, 2017 in conjunction with our adoption of the new revenue standard. Our ability to early adopt is dependent on system readiness, including software procured from third-party providers, and the completion of our analysis of information necessary to restate prior period financial statements.

 

We anticipate this standard will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. While we are continuing to assess all potential impacts of the standard, we currently believe the most significant impact relates to our accounting for office, retail, and datacenter operating leases.

 

Revenue from Contracts with Customers

 

In May 2014, the FASB issued a new standard related to revenue recognition. Under the new standard, revenue is recognized when a customer obtains control of promised goods or services and is recognized in an amount that reflects the consideration which the entity expects to receive in exchange for those goods or services. In addition, the standard requires disclosure of the nature, amount, timing, and uncertainty of revenue and cash flows arising from contracts with customers. The FASB has recently issued several amendments to the standard, including clarification on accounting for licenses of intellectual property and identifying performance obligations.

 

The guidance permits two methods of adoption: retrospectively to each prior reporting period presented (full retrospective method), or retrospectively with the cumulative effect of initially applying the guidance recognized at the date of initial application (the cumulative catch-up transition method). We currently anticipate adopting the standard using the full retrospective method to restate each prior reporting period presented.

 

The new standard will be effective for us beginning July 1, 2018, and adoption as of the original effective date of July 1, 2017 is permitted. We currently anticipate early adoption of the new standard effective July 1, 2017. Our ability to early adopt using the full retrospective method is dependent on system readiness, including software procured from third-party providers, and the completion of our analysis of information necessary to restate prior period financial statements.

 

We anticipate this standard will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. While we are continuing to assess all potential impacts of the standard, we currently believe the most significant impact relates to our accounting for software license revenue. We expect revenue related to hardware, cloud offerings, and professional services to remain substantially unchanged. Specifically, under the new standard we expect to recognize (Product A) revenue predominantly at the time of billing rather than ratably over the life of the related device. We also expect to recognize license revenue at the time of billing rather than over the subscription period from certain multi-year commercial software subscriptions that include both software licenses and Software Assurance. Due to the complexity of certain of our commercial license subscription contracts, the actual revenue recognition treatment required under the standard will be dependent on contract-specific terms, and may vary in some instances from recognition at the time of billing.

 

We currently believe that the net change in (Product A) revenue from period to period is indicative of the net change in revenue we expect from the adoption of the new standard.

 

Lastly, as we always like to do, here are two example comments to reinforce the issues in this disclosure:

 

Please revise your disclosures to fully comply with Question 2 of SAB Topic 11:M for each standard listed. Specifically, if early adoption is permitted, you should state the date that you plan to adopt the standard. You should also discuss the impact that adoption of each standard is expected to have on your financial statements or, if applicable, make a statement to the effect that you are still assessing the impact that adoption of each standard will have on your financial statements and the impact is not known or reasonably estimable at this time.

 

Please revise to include a discussion of the potential effects that recently issued accounting standards will have on your financial statements when adopted in a future period. Refer to SAB Topic 11.M. For example, please revise to disclose the potential effect of ASU No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers.

How Prepared are you for SEC Annual Reporting Season or your next 10-Q?

It has been a very active time at the SEC, FASB and PCAOB. Have you stayed on top of recent developments, activities and proposals? For example, the Leases Standard is final and the FASB is awash in simplification and other projects. Register now for our upcoming live seminar and webcast, 32nd Annual SEC Reporting & FASB Forum being held November 14-15 in Dallas, December 12-13 in New York City and December 19-20 in San Francisco. Prepare for year-end and reporting season by attending this highly anticipated and popular annual seminar and hear a roundtable discussion of current events, including simplification overload, disclosure effectiveness, juggling Rev. Rec., Leases, CECL adoptions and more. Our expert faculty will also discuss the new CDIs on non-GAAP measures, the Regulation S-K Concept Release, frequent accounting and disclosure comments, Revenue Recognition and guidance on lease accounting, MD&A disclosure and much more.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/32nd_Annual_SEC_Reporting_FASB_Forum/_/N-1z11c8sZ4k?ID=262904

Year End Planning Topic 3 – The New Item 16 Form 10-K Summary (and Disclosure Philosophy!)

Everyone who works with SEC periodic reports knows that making changes to disclosure is not a simple process. Reporting involves so many stakeholders and so many approval points that without an early start it is almost impossible to make improvements (or even simple changes such as formatting!).

This post is about one possible change that will need some time for consideration, adding the new Item 16 summary. With this reminder hopefully you will have enough time to consider whether this optional item makes sense for you.

This kind of summary has always been permitted, or at least never prohibited. However, in the process of making periodic reports more about communication than compliance, the FAST Act required the SEC to formally put a summary into Form 10-K, hence new Item 16. You can read the text of Item 16 in this post.

Your Communication Philosophy

If you read a lot of Form 10-K’s (and what is more fun than that?) you will see a variety of communication styles. We discuss different communication styles or “philosophies” in our workshops. We encourage companies to articulate their “philosophy” of disclosure.

To simplify a bit, some companies adopt a very “compliance” based philosophy for disclosure. In this model companies disclose what the SEC requires to be disclosed and essentially nothing more. This can be done in a fairly mechanical fashion and is usually very simple and direct, if not almost terse.

At the other end of a disclosure spectrum some companies adopt a more “communications” based philosophy where they disclose more than the bare bones requirements in an effort to tell a more complete “story” of how their company operates.

A simple example of this difference can be found in Form 10-K Item 1. This is the description of the business and the required disclosures are in Regulation S-K Item 101. Nowhere in Item 101 is there any requirement to disclose a company’s business strategy. And many companies do not say anything about the strategic orientation of their business. And yet, many companies discuss their strategy at length. Check out the differences in these two companies:

Here is a very well done example for an SRC (Golden Enterprises) of the compliance approach. Golden makes snack foods and does a simple, direct presentation. (Also, best potato chips ever!)

Here is another well-done example of a company (Square) that uses a more communications oriented approach. Square is a payment processor and supports businesses in many ways.

To be clear, there is no right or wrong way in this discussion; we are talking about a judgment you need to make. So, why do some companies disclose more than the S-K requirement?   These companies are considering disclosure as more than a compliance process. They are using the reporting process as a communications tool.

If you are going to focus more on communication the SEC’s Interim Final Rule about a Form 10-K summary could be a new element in your communication strategy. Almost every business writer will suggest that an executive level overview for a long document is a good communication strategy.

FR 72 suggested this for MD&A way back in 2003:

Many companies’ MD&A could benefit from adding an introductory section or overview that would facilitate a reader’s understanding. As with all disclosure, what companies would appropriately include in an introduction or overview will depend on the circumstances of the particular company. As a general matter, an introduction or overview should include the most important matters on which a company’s executives focus in evaluating financial condition and operating performance and provide the context for the discussion and analysis of the financial statements. Therefore, an introduction or overview should not be a duplicative layer of disclosure that merely repeats the more detailed discussion and analysis that follows.

In recent remarks the SEC staff has said they are seeing more companies using their filings as communication documents and this trend certainly fits into the SEC’s disclosure effectiveness program.

So, as you get into your annual reporting process, be sure you articulate this overall strategy for disclosure, and if you think it appropriate, put consideration of the new Item 16 summary into your thought process.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Cash Flows Topic One – Comment of the Week and EITF Fun!

High risk accounting and reporting areas, those most prone to problems and the risk of amendment or restatement, are discussed in all our conferences and workshops. We always encourage folks to be aware of these risks and to address them in their reporting processes.

 

Now that we are into August, is it fair to put some of these issues on the planning calendar for year-end? Yes, because many of them require significant amounts of time and work to address. (For example, have you ever tried to make improvements in your MD&A?) So, even though it is only August, we are going to start a series of posts with some considerations for year-end planning! We will also bring all of them together later in the fall.

 

Perhaps surprisingly, one of these frequent problem areas is preparation of the statement of cash flows. For a variety of reasons the statement of cash flows is the source of many SEC comments and even restatements. Perhaps this is because the statement of cash flows is usually prepared late in the reporting process, perhaps because it is sometimes viewed as a mechanical process, perhaps because it is sometimes prepared by less experienced professionals and/or perhaps controls are not effective in this area. There are likely many underlying causes for the statement of cash flows being a frequent problem area, but if we are forewarned there is no reason that we should have problems here.

 

As a starting point, here are some example SEC comments.

 

Statement of Cash Flows

We note your presentation on the statement of cash flows of sales and maturities of short- term investments as one combined line item. In light of the fact that short term investments represent a significant part of your balance sheet, please revise to present sales and maturities of these investments as separate line items within the investing section in accordance with ASC 320-10-45-11.

The comment above is a great example of where a seemingly logical combination of similar cash flows runs afoul of the codification guidance. The referenced paragraph is not even in the ASC section about the statement of cash flows! What it says is:

Cash flows from purchases, sales, and maturities of available-for-sale securities and held-to-maturity securities shall be classified as cash flows from investing activities and reported gross for each security classification in the statement of cash flows. Cash flows from purchases, sales, and maturities of trading securities shall be classified based on the nature and purpose for which the securities were acquired.

Here is another example:

Please tell us how you determined it was appropriate to classify restricted cash collateralizing your outstanding letter of credit and cash secured loans as investing activities in the statement of cash flows. Please reference the authoritative accounting literature management relied upon.

This is an area where there may be no clear guidance. The distinction between operating and investing seems like an easy question to ask here. And, as you will see below, this is a question that was taken to the EITF.

 

Here are a few more comments with similar issues. This first one is pretty darn long!

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows, page F-8

Please tell us your basis for recording the deposit related to the acquisition of land use right as operating activities as opposed to investing activities. Refer to ASC 230.

We note your line item, advances to suppliers, in your balance sheets and other trade receivables included in Note 4 on page F-30 related to your lending provided to some of your suppliers. Please tell us the nature of your lending activities to your suppliers and the difference in amounts included in the two accounts. Additionally, please tell us your basis for recording amounts in operating activities as opposed to investing activities in your statements of cash flows. Refer to ASC 230.

Please reconcile for us the purchase of property and equipment for 2014 in the amount of $256,027,300 to the change of $301,716,262 derived from your disclosure in Note 7.

 

This one seems fairly straightforward:

We note cash flows from financing activities include non-cash transactions consisting of common shares issued for debt conversions and as compensation for services as well as losses on settlement of debt through equity issuances. Please refer to ASC 230 and revise to separately disclose non-cash financing transactions in supplemental disclosure of noncash investing and financing activities and to disclose losses on debt settlements in cash flows from operating activities. Please note that this comment also applies to Form 10-Q filed February 2, 2016.

 

The Need For Clarification – The EITF to the Rescue!

 

Because of the frequent nature of these issues and diversity in practice surrounding many of them the EITF has two projects that are at the Exposure Draft stage and should finish before year end:

 

EITF Issue 16-A: Restricted Cash would require the statement of cash flows to reconcile the total change in cash including restricted cash.

 

EITF Issue 15-F: Statement of Cash Flows: Classification of certain cash receipts and cash payments deals with a variety of issues in the cash flow statement, including:

 

Issue 1—Debt Prepayment or Debt Extinguishment Costs

Issue 2—Settlement of Zero-Coupon Bonds

Issue 3—Contingent Consideration Payments Made after a Business Combination

Issue 4—Proceeds from the Settlement of Insurance Claims

Issue 5—Proceeds from the Settlement of Corporate-Owned Life Insurance Policies, including

Bank-Owned Life Insurance Policies

Issue 6—Distributions Received from Equity Method Investees

Issue 7—Beneficial Interests in Securitization Transactions

Issue 8—Predominant Cash Receipts and Cash Payments

 

 

With all of this comment activity and related standard setting going on, it is advisable to “scrub” your process for preparing the statement of cash flows in your upcoming periodic filings.

 

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!