Tag Archives: Revenue Recognition

Frequent Comment Update: Part Two – Cash Flows

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

In our blog post “Time Again for a Frequent Comment Update”, we listed the frequent comment areas that CorpFin Staff members have been discussing at our Midyear Forums. In that post, we also highlighted a number of recent comments about non-GAAP measures. In this post, we turn our attention to comments about the statement of cash flows.

 

In the last several years there have been a number of restatements related to the statement of cash flows, some undoubtedly related to comment letters. Additionally, the FASB and EITF have issued two ASU’s to address various issues in the statement of cash flows.

 

ASU 2016-15 in August 2016

Provides guidance on 8 specific cash flow issues

 

ASU 2016-18 in November 2016

Provides guidance on classification and presentation of restricted cash

 

 

There is much discussion about root causes for cash flow statement problems. Theories range from the idea that the statement is prepared late in the reporting process and perhaps tends to be a more mechanical, “do it the way we did it last year” process, to the fact that there are some areas that are ambiguous in the cash flow statement guidance. Whatever the causes, there is clearly a need for care and review in preparing the statement of cash flows.

 

This first comment is about being sure you are familiar with the statement of cash flow requirements and also addresses a frequent problem area of ASC 230, discontinued operations:

 

We note your presentation of the decrease in cash and cash equivalents from discontinued operations in one line item. Please note that ASC 230-10-45-10 requires that a statement of cash flows shall classify cash receipts and cash payments as resulting from investing, financing, or operating activities. Please revise your current presentation to classify the cash flows from discontinued operations within each of the operating, investing and financing categories.

 

Whether to show cash flows from financing activities on a gross or net basis is not a mechanical decision. It requires judgment about the substance of the financing as this comment demonstrates:

 

We note from your financing activities section in your statement of cash flows that you present net proceeds (repayments) of short-term borrowings rather than on a gross basis. Please explain to us your basis for this presentation. Refer to ASC 230-10-45-7 through 9.

 

Another interesting aspect of cash flow statement preparation is how to treat hybrid items that have an element of two different types of cash flows. This comment demonstrates this is not always a mechanical process:

 

We note your presentation of payments for the costs of solar energy systems, leased and to be leased. Given that approximately 61% of your revenues for the year ended December 31, 2015 and 64% of your revenues for the period ended June 30, 2016 represented solar energy systems and product sales, please tell us how you reflect the costs of solar energy systems sold on your statements of cash flows pursuant to ASC 230.

 

These last two comments are not strictly speaking financial statement comments. They are common MD&A comments, and definitely needs to be part of the statement of cash flows conversation. Frequently MD&A tries to explain operating cash flows with confusing or mechanical language relating to items in the indirect method reconciliation from net income to operating cash flows.

 

Note the mention of drivers in this comment:

 

We note that your discussion of cash flows from operating activities is essentially a recitation of the reconciling items identified on the face of the statement of cash flows. This does not appear to contribute substantively to an understanding of your cash flows. Rather, it repeats items that are readily determinable from the financial statements. When preparing the discussion and analysis of operating cash flows, you should address material changes in the underlying drivers that affect these cash flows. These disclosures should also include a discussion of the underlying reasons for changes in working capital items that affect operating cash flows. Please tell us how you considered the guidance in Section IV.B.1 of SEC Release 33-8350.

 

Lastly, note the focus on underlying reasons for change in this comment:

 

You say that in the statement of cash flows, you provide reconciliation from net loss to cash flows used in operating activities where you have provided quantitatively the sources of your operating cash flows. However, as you use the indirect method to prepare your cash flows from operating activities, merely reciting changes in line items reported in the statement of cash flows is not a sufficient basis for an investor to analyze the impact on cash. Therefore, please expand your disclosure of cash flows from operating activities to quantify factors to which material changes in cash flows are attributed and explain the underlying reasons for such changes. Refer to Section IV.B.1 of “Interpretation: Commission Guidance Regarding Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” available on our website at http://www.sec.gov/rules/interp/33-8350.htm for guidance. Provide us a copy of your intended revised disclosure.

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

SEC Reporting and FASB Updates Specific to Small and Mid-Sized Companies Take Center Stage

The Financial Reporting Regulatory landscape is chock full of recent updates and new regulations, chief among them is the new FASB Revenue Recognition Standard and revised Lease Accounting. Most surveys agree that filers are well behind schedule in implementing the changes needed to comply. Practitioners at small and mid-sized companies will receive the essential information and advice needed to get up to speed by attending SEC Reporting & FASB Forum live program September 14-15 in Las Vegas.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/13th_Annual_SEC_Reporting_FASB_Forum_for/_/N-1z10lptZ4k?ID=298604

 

Time Again for a Frequent Comment Update

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Every six months, when we do our Midyear Forums in May and June and again when we do our Annual Forums in November and December, we discuss the SEC Division of Corporation Finance’s presentation of frequent comment areas. At our recent Midyear in Dallas the staff discussed the topics below, which are not in any particular order:

 

  • Non-GAAP Measures
  • Statement of Cash Flows
  • Segments
  • Income Taxes
  • Business Combinations
  • Fair Value
  • Goodwill
  • Revenue Recognition
  • Disclosure of Recently Issued Standards
  • Compensation
  • Internal Control over Financial Reporting

 

As usual the list contains many familiar topics and themes. In the next several weeks we will post about each of these topics.

 

For this first post, we’ve chosen non-GAAP measures which shouldn’t be a surprise. We are all likely familiar with the SEC’s focus on this area and the C&DI’s they issued in May 2016. For our review here we thought we would explore three of the more problematic C&DI’s and recent staff comments for each of them:

 

Question 100.01, which is about whether or not presentation of certain adjustments, although not explicitly prohibited, result in a non-GAAP measure that is misleading,

 

Question 100.04, which is about attempts to build tailored accounting principles that are not in accordance with GAAP, and

 

Question 102.10, which discusses “equal or great prominence”.

 

 

When is an Adjustment Misleading, Even if it is Not Specifically Prohibited?

 

The full text of this C&DI is:

 

Question 100.01

 

Question: Can certain adjustments, although not explicitly prohibited, result in a non-GAAP measure that is misleading?

 

Answer: Yes. Certain adjustments may violate Rule 100(b) of Regulation G because they cause the presentation of the non-GAAP measure to be misleading. For example, presenting a performance measure that excludes normal, recurring, cash operating expenses necessary to operate a registrant’s business could be misleading. [May 17, 2016]

 

 

The idea of “normal, recurring, cash operating expenses” can be subjective. Here is an example where that C&DI is translated into a comment:

 

We note that you exclude pre-opening expenses as part of your calculation of Adjusted EBITDA. Please explain to us why these are not normal, recurring, cash operating expenses necessary to operate your business. In this regard, we note pre-opening expenses for all periods presented, along with your discussion throughout the Form S-1 that your growth strategy is to expand the number of your stores from 71 to 400 within the next 15 years. Please refer to Question 100.01 of the updated Non-GAAP Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations issued on May 17, 2016.

 

Here is another similar example:

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (Non-GAAP measure)

 

Please tell us how you concluded that the amounts in the acquisition-related adjustments reconciling item were appropriately excluded from your non-GAAP measures (e.g., adjusted EBITDA, adjusted gross margin and adjusted SG&A) presented here and in your Item 2.02 Forms 8-K filed October 25, 2016 and December 8, 2016. It appears that in each period presented you may be reversing a portion of your GAAP rental expense and removing recurring cash operating expenses, like sponsor fees and other costs. Refer to Non-GAAP Financial Measures Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation, Questions 100.01 and 100.04, which can be found at:

 

http://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/nongaapinterp.htm.

 

What is a Tailored Accounting Principle?

 

The full text of the C&DI is:

 

Question 100.04

 

Question: A registrant presents a non-GAAP performance measure that is adjusted to accelerate revenue recognized ratably over time in accordance with GAAP as though it earned revenue when customers are billed. Can this measure be presented in documents filed or furnished with the Commission or provided elsewhere, such as on company websites?

 

Answer: No. Non-GAAP measures that substitute individually tailored revenue recognition and measurement methods for those of GAAP could violate Rule 100(b) of Regulation G. Other measures that use individually tailored recognition and measurement methods for financial statement line items other than revenue may also violate Rule 100(b) of Regulation G.   [May 17, 2016]

 

Here are two comments to illustrate that a company should not try to tinker with GAAP to create their own accounting principles. This first comment is an attempt to adjust revenue recognition so that a non-GAAP measure would include revenue that is deferred under GAAP:

 

  1. We note your response to prior comment 4. The adjustment “change in deferred amusement revenue and ticket liability” in arriving at your non-GAAP measure “adjusted EBITDA” appears to accelerate the recognition of revenue associated with the deferred amusement and ticket liability that otherwise would not be recognized in any of the periods for which adjusted EBITDA is presented. Accordingly, adjusted EBITDA substitutes a tailored revenue recognition method for that prescribed by GAAP and does not comply with Question 100.04 of the staff’s Compliance & Discussion Interpretations on Non-GAAP Financial Measures. Please remove this adjustment from your computation.

 

This second comment shows an attempt to undo business combination accounting:

 

Refer to the line items, ‘purchase accounting adjustments,’ and ‘purchase accounting amortization’ within the reconciliation of net income to adjusted income before income taxes. Please explain to us the basis behind these adjustments as they appear to portray tailored accounting principle under GAAP for business combination. Refer to the guidance under Questions 100.01 and 100.04 of C&DI on Non-GAAP Financial Measures.

 

What Does Equal or Greater Prominence Mean?

 

The text of this much-discussed C&DI is:

 

Question 102.10

 

Question: Item 10(e)(1)(i)(A) of Regulation S-K requires that when a registrant presents a non-GAAP measure it must present the most directly comparable GAAP measure with equal or greater prominence. This requirement applies to non-GAAP measures presented in documents filed with the Commission and also earnings releases furnished under Item 2.02 of Form 8-K.  Are there examples of disclosures that would cause a non-GAAP measure to be more prominent?

 

Answer: Yes. Although whether a non-GAAP measure is more prominent than the comparable GAAP measure generally depends on the facts and circumstances in which the disclosure is made, the staff would consider the following examples of disclosure of non-GAAP measures as more prominent:

 

Presenting a full income statement of non-GAAP measures or presenting a full non-GAAP income statement when reconciling non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures;

 

Omitting comparable GAAP measures from an earnings release headline or caption that includes non-GAAP measures;

 

Presenting a non-GAAP measure using a style of presentation (e.g., bold, larger font) that emphasizes the non-GAAP measure over the comparable GAAP measure;

 

A non-GAAP measure that precedes the most directly comparable GAAP measure (including in an earnings release headline or caption);

 

Describing a non-GAAP measure as, for example, “record performance” or “exceptional” without at least an equally prominent descriptive characterization of the comparable GAAP measure;

 

Providing tabular disclosure of non-GAAP financial measures without preceding it with an equally prominent tabular disclosure of the comparable GAAP measures or including the comparable GAAP measures in the same table;

 

Excluding a quantitative reconciliation with respect to a forward-looking non-GAAP measure in reliance on the “unreasonable efforts” exception in Item 10(e)(1)(i)(B) without disclosing that fact and identifying the information that is unavailable and its probable significance in a location of equal or greater prominence; and

 

Providing discussion and analysis of a non-GAAP measure without a similar discussion and analysis of the comparable GAAP measure in a location with equal or greater prominence. [May 17, 2016]

 

This C&DI created perhaps the most confusion, or maybe consternation, raising issues of what is bolded and which measure is presented first. This first example comment is about a recent earnings release:

 

Your headline references “Record Q1 Non-GAAP Revenues and EPS, Growing 29% and 44% Respectively Year-over-Year” but does not provide an equally prominent descriptive characterization of the comparable GAAP measure. We also note several instances where you present a non-GAAP measure without presenting the comparable GAAP measure. This is inconsistent with Question 102.10 of the updated Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations issued on May 17, 2016 (“the updated C&DI’s”). Please review this guidance when preparing your next earnings release.

 

This second example is from a recent MD&A:

 

Management’s Discussion and Analysis Non-GAAP Measures

 

Return on Invested Capital, page 47

 

Please present the comparable GAAP measure with equal or greater prominence and label the non-GAAP calculation as “adjusted” or similar. Refer to Item10(e)(1)(i)(A) and Question 102.10 of staff’s Compliance and Discussion Interpretation on Non-GAAP Financial Measures for guidance.

 

And this last comment is from a 2016 earnings release:

 

  1. We have the following observations regarding the non-GAAP disclosures in your fourth quarter 2016 earnings release:

 

  • Your statement of “net sales growth across all segments” in the earnings release headline is inconsistent with the segment results table on page 3 and appears to be based on pro forma adjusted results excluding foreign currency translation impact. In this regard, we note that both the Consumer and Other segments had a decrease in the reported net sales in 2016.

 

  •  It appears that you provide earnings results discussion and analysis of only non- GAAP measures in the body of the release without providing a similar discussion and analysis of the comparable GAAP measures.

 

  •  The measure you refer to as “free cash flow” is adjusted for items in addition to what is commonly referred to as free cash flow.

 

Please revise future filings to use titles or descriptions for non-GAAP financial measures that accurately reflect the amounts presented or calculated, and are not the same as, or confusingly similar to, GAAP measures. Also, to the extent you continue to discuss your results based on non-GAAP measures, you should also provide the comparative measures determined according to GAAP with equal or greater prominence. Refer to Question 102.10 of the updated Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations issued on May 17, 2016.

 

Stay tuned for our next topic, the statement of cash flows next week, and 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 August 23rd in Grapevine, Tx. Get up to date in-depth information on all the latest developments and practical tips on applying existing financial reporting requirements, including pushdown accounting, debt issuance costs and commitment fees, discontinued operations and dispositions, segment reporting and goodwill impairment.

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

Rev Rec Trail Blazers? We Can Learn Together!

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

What do United Health Group, Alphabet, and Ford have in common? What if we also included Raytheon? That’s right, all these companies have early adopted the FASB’s new revenue recognition standard! Microsoft and Workday have also indicated that they plan to early adopt. Microsoft has indicated they will adopt as of July 1, 2017 and file their first 10-Q under the new method for the quarter-ended September 30, 2017. Workday has said that they will early adopt as of February 1, 2017 and hence their first 10-Q under the new method will be for the quarter-ended April 30, 2017, which should be filed soon. Here is a summary of some of the early adopters:

 

Early adopters who have filed with ASU 2014-09:

Alphabet                                        January 1, 2017           Modified Retrospective

Ford                                                 January 1, 2017           Modified Retrospective

United Health Group               January 1, 2017            Modified Retrospective

First Solar                                     January 1, 2017            Full Retrospective

General Dynamics                     January 1, 2017            Full Retrospective

Raytheon                                     January 1, 2017            Full Retrospective

 

Planned adoptions – no filing yet:

Workday                                  February 1, 2017         Full Retrospective

Microsoft                                July 1, 2017                 Full Retrospective

 

(If you know of any other companies that have early adopted it would be great if you could mention them in a comment on this post or email Carol or George – Thanks!)

 

As is always the case with a major new standard, it is helpful to learn from the experience of folks who have gone past the frontier to the leading, and hopefully not the bleeding, edge! Here are a few highlights and links to Form 10-Q’s with the new standard adopted.

 

From Alphabet’s Form 10-Q for the first quarter of 2017:

 

In May 2014, the FASB issued Accounting Standards Update No. 2014-09 (Topic 606) “Revenue from Contracts with Customers.” Topic 606 supersedes the revenue recognition requirements in Topic 605 “Revenue Recognition” (Topic 605), and requires entities to recognize revenue when control of the promised goods or services is transferred to customers at an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled to in exchange for those goods or services. We adopted Topic 606 as of January 1, 2017 using the modified retrospective transition method. See Note 2 for further details.

 

Alphabet’s disclosures, including how they decided to disaggregate revenues, make for interesting reading!

 

From Fords Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2017:

 

On January 1, 2017, we adopted the new accounting standard ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers and all the related amendments (“new revenue standard”) to all contracts using the modified retrospective method. We recognized the cumulative effect of initially applying the new revenue standard as an adjustment to the opening balance of retained earnings. The comparative information has not been restated and continues to be reported under the accounting standards in effect for those periods. We expect the impact of the adoption of the new standard to be immaterial to our net income on an ongoing basis.

 

You can read about the impact of the change on revenues and review Fords Note 3 – Revenue to see how they decided to present the new disclosure for disaggregated revenues.

 

Raytheon, who had previously announced they would early adopt, did so in their Form 10-Q for the First Quarter of 2017, which you can find here.

 

Note 2: Accounting Standards

In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), which replaces numerous requirements in U.S. GAAP, including industry-specific requirements, and provides companies with a single revenue recognition model for recognizing revenue from contracts with customers. The core principle of the new standard is that a company should recognize revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the company expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. The two permitted transition methods under the new standard are the full retrospective method, in which case the standard would be applied to each prior reporting period presented and the cumulative effect of applying the standard would be recognized at the earliest period shown, or the modified retrospective method, in which case the cumulative effect of applying the standard would be recognized at the date of initial application. In July 2015, the FASB approved the deferral of the new standard’s effective date by one year. The new standard is effective for annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017. The FASB permits companies to adopt the new standard early, but not before the original effective date of annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2016. Effective January 1, 2017, we elected to early adopt the requirements of Topic 606 using the full retrospective method.

 

Raytheon’s disclosures for the full retrospective adoption, and the volume of their disclosures overall because of their government contracting business, are great reading for anyone facing similar issues.

 

From United Health Groups Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2017:

 

In May 2014, the FASB issued ASU No. 2014-09, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606)” as modified by subsequently issued ASUs 2015-14, 2016-08, 2016-10, 2016-12 and 2016-20 (collectively
ASU 2014-09). ASU 2014-09 superseded existing revenue recognition standards with a single model unless those contracts are within the scope of other standards (e.g., an insurance entity’s insurance contracts). The revenue recognition principle in ASU 2014-09 is that an entity should recognize revenue to depict the transfer of goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services.

 

The Company early adopted the new standard effective January 1, 2017, as allowed, using the modified retrospective approach. A significant majority of the Company’s revenues are not subject to the new guidance. The adoption of ASU 2014-09 did not have a material impact on the Company’s consolidated financial position, results of operations, equity or cash flows as of the adoption date or for the three months ended March 31, 2017. The Company has included the disclosures required by ASU 2014-09 above.

 

General Dynamics early adopted with the full retrospective method. From their Form 10-Q for quarter one 2017:

 

The majority of our revenue is derived from long-term contracts and programs that can span several years. We account for revenue in accordance with ASC Topic 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, which we adopted on January 1, 2017, using the retrospective method. See Note Q for further discussion of the adoption, including the impact on our 2016 financial statements.

 

 

First Solar also early adopted and used the full retrospective transition method. Here is an excerpt from their Form 10-Q for quarter one of 2017:

 

 

In May 2014, the FASB issued ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), to clarify the principles of recognizing revenue and create common revenue recognition guidance between U.S. GAAP and International Financial Reporting Standards. Under ASU 2014-09, revenue is recognized when a customer obtains control of promised goods or services and is recognized at an amount that reflects the consideration expected to be received in exchange for such goods or services. In addition, ASU 2014-09 requires disclosure of the nature, amount, timing, and uncertainty of revenue and cash flows arising from contracts with customers.

 

We adopted ASU 2014-09 in the first quarter of 2017 using the full retrospective method. This adoption primarily affected our systems business sales arrangements previously accounted for under ASC 360-20, which had required us to evaluate whether such arrangements had any forms of continuing involvement that may have affected the revenue or profit recognition of the transactions, including arrangements with prohibited forms of continuing involvement. When such forms of continuing involvement were present, we reduced the potential profit on the applicable project sale by our maximum exposure to loss.

 

Microsoft and Workday will also be filing with the new standard this year, so watch for their first 10-Q’s this year. Here is Microsoft’s SAB 74 disclosure (not included here is the section in which they say it is their intent to also early adopt the new lease standard as of July 1, 2017), followed by Workday’s SAB 74 disclosure for revenue recognition.

 

Microsoft:

Revenue from Contracts with Customers

In May 2014, the FASB issued a new standard related to revenue recognition. Under the standard, revenue is recognized when a customer obtains control of promised goods or services in an amount that reflects the consideration 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 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 (modified retrospective method). We plan to adopt the standard using the full retrospective method to restate each prior reporting period presented.

 

The standard will be effective for us beginning July 1, 2018, with early adoption permitted as of the original effective date of July 1, 2017. We plan to adopt the standard effective July 1, 2017. While our ability to early adopt using the full retrospective method depends on system readiness, including software procured from third-party providers, and completing our analysis of information necessary to restate prior period consolidated financial statements, we remain on schedule and have implemented key system functionality to enable the preparation of restated financial information.

 

We have reached conclusions on key accounting assessments related to the standard. However, we are finalizing our assessment and quantifying the impacts related to accounting for costs incurred to obtain a contract based on guidance issued by the FASB Transition Resource Group as part of their November 2016 meeting. We will continue to monitor and assess the impact of any changes to the standard and interpretations as they become available.

 

The most significant impact of the standard relates to our accounting for software license revenue. Specifically, under the standard we expect to recognize Windows 10 revenue predominantly at the time of billing rather than ratably over the life of the related device. We expect to recognize license revenue at the time of contract execution 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 depend on contract-specific terms and in some instances may vary from recognition at the time of billing.

 

We expect revenue recognition related to our hardware, cloud offerings including Office 365, LinkedIn, and professional services to remain substantially unchanged.

We are nearing completion of retrospectively adjusting financial information for fiscal year 2016 and are progressing as planned for fiscal year 2017. We estimate our revenue would have been approximately $6 billion higher in fiscal year 2016 under the standard primarily due to the net change in Windows 10 revenue recognition.

 

 

Workday:

 

We have closely assessed the new standard and monitored FASB activity, including the interpretations by the FASB Transition Resource Group for Revenue Recognition, throughout fiscal 2017. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017, we finalized our assessment of the new standard, including completing our contract reviews and our evaluation of the incremental costs of obtaining a contract. Based on our assessment, we decided to early adopt the requirements of the new standard in the first quarter of fiscal 2018, utilizing the full retrospective method of transition.

 

The impact of adopting the new standard on our fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2016 revenues is not material. The primary impact of adopting the new standard relates to the deferral of incremental commission costs of obtaining subscription contracts. Under Topic 605, we deferred only direct and incremental commission costs to obtain a contract and amortized those costs over the term of the related subscription contract, which was generally three years. Under the new standard, we defer all incremental commission costs to obtain the contract. We amortize these costs over a period of benefit that we have determined to be five years.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome! And if you hear of or know of any other early adopters please put that in a comment to this post, or email George or Carol

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!

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!

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!

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!

The Move to The New Revenue Recognition Standard – Is the Pressure On?

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

Now that year-end is over for most calendar-year companies the transition to the new revenue recognition standard is a major focus area. In recent weeks there have been two interesting sources of comment and information about this transition.

 

First, on March 21, 2017 Chief Accountant Wesley Bricker spoke before the Annual Life Sciences Accounting & Reporting Congress in Philadelphia. (If you are thinking “that sounds familiar”, it was at this same conference a year ago that former Chief Accountant Jim Schnurr made some serious comments about the use of non-GAAP measures that previewed the May C&DI’s!).

 

In his remarks, Mr. Bricker focused on the transition to the new revenue recognition standard, saying:

 

“Let me now turn to implementation of the new revenue standard.  This area deserves close attention, both to make sure that the standard is implemented appropriately and timely and to ask whether the appropriate transition disclosures are being made so that investors and other market participants have sufficient time to absorb the anticipated effects of the new standard.

 

…………………………..

 

In the worrisome column, however, some companies need to make significant progress this year in their implementations.  In a survey of public companies released in October 2016, eight percent of respondents at that time had not started an initial assessment of the new revenue recognition standard, while an overwhelming majority of the others were still assessing the impact.

Particularly for companies where implementation is lagging, preparers, their audit committees and auditors should discuss the reasons why and provide informative disclosures to investors about the status so that investors can assess the implications of the information. Successful implementation requires companies to allocate sufficient resources and develop or engage appropriate financial reporting competencies.”

 

The second recent development is the release by Deloitte in a “Heads Up” newsletter in April 2017 of their most recent updated survey “Adopting the New Revenue Standard — Where Do Companies Stand?”

 

In the survey, Deloitte found that many companies that had originally contemplated using a full retrospective have moved more towards the modified retrospective method. And, along with the worries of the Chief Accountant above, they also found:

 

“Slightly more than half of respondents had started to implement the new standard, but most were in the very early phases of adoption.”

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!