Tag Archives: Tax

The New Revenue Recognition Standard – When to Start Implementation?

Implementing the new revenue recognition standard is a major challenge that many of us face between now and January 1, 2018 (or whatever fiscal year you have that begins after that date of course.) Many professionals are happy to be close to retirement at this point in time!

With the magnitude of the change in this new standard, including the significantly expanded disclosures which apply to everyone, when is the appropriate time to begin implementation efforts? This is a very complex question. There are still some moving parts as the FASB and IASB continue to make changes to the final standard. The new standard can have varying impacts across companies depending on such issues as complexity of contracts, how product is delivered, do you have software licenses, and principal versus agent issues, to name a few. While the TRG has addressed many issues, there are only a few left to be resolved. While this may seem to be a good sign, the SEC staff has stated concerns that there are not more issues being raised, attributing the low number as a sign that perhaps implementation initiatives are not far enough along or are not being elevated to the TRG (see the September 17th speech by Wesley Bricker, Deputy Chief Accountant in the SEC’s Office of Chief Accountant at: http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/wesley-bricker-remarks-bloomberg-bna-conf-revenue-recognition.html)

There is much discussion about when to begin implementation discussions. To date there has not been much hard data about what companies are actually doing. The Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), which is an affiliate of FEI, and PwC have teamed up to survey companies about this issue.

As nearly as we can tell, this is the first really good data about where companies are in the implementation process. You can find the study at:


The survey deals with a number of issues surrounding the impact and implementation of the new standard. It is a good read, and worth spending some time digesting. Here are a couple of things to ponder while you read.

  1. Do you have a reasonable understanding of how the new standard will affect your accounting and disclosure?
  2. What resources will you need in this effort?
  3. What level of organizational involvement across functional areas will be necessary (e.g., sales, legal, etc.)?

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome!

Comment of the Week – The Mystery of Market Risk Disclosures

Market Risk Disclosures are one area that many participants in our workshops seem to shy away from. This Item is one of the less well understood disclosures in Forms 10-K and 10-Q. The mechanics of writing the disclosure are, well, at best, mysterious.

With all the volatility in exchange rates, oil prices and other markets in the current environment these disclosures will likely become more important for many companies this year end. Because of this, we thought “going to go back to the basics” of this disclosure would be helpful in many companies’ year end process. So, this post includes a review of the objective of the disclosure and some tips to navigate the requirements in S-K Item 305 as you prepare the disclosure.

Since this is a comment of the week post, there are also some comments at the end of the post. If you are already comfortable with what market risk disclosures are about and how they work, you can skip to the end!

Objective of the Disclosure

To prepare these disclosures well it is crucial to understand their objective, what they are supposed to tell a reader. To understand this objective the first step is to understand what kind of risk the term “Market Risk” means. Market risk is a term that can be interpreted in a number of different ways ranging from the market for a particular product to market driven rates such as interest rates or commodity prices.

Deep in the body of Regulation S-K – Item 305, likely one of the most challenging reads in all of Regulation S-K, you find these instructions:

Instructions to paragraph 305(b): 1. For purposes of disclosure under paragraph 305(b), primary market risk exposures means:

  1. The following categories of market risk: interest rate risk, foreign currency exchange rate risk, commodity price risk, and other relevant market rate or price risks (e.g., equity price risk); and
  2. Within each of these categories, the particular markets that present the primary risk of loss to the registrant. For example, if a registrant has a material exposure to foreign currency exchange rate risk and, within this category of market risk, is most vulnerable to changes in dollar/yen, dollar/pound, and dollar/peso exchange rates, the registrant should disclose those exposures. Similarly, if a registrant has a material exposure to interest rate risk and, within this category of market risk, is most vulnerable to changes in short-term U.S. prime interest rates, it should disclose the existence of that exposure.

To paraphrase, these disclosures are not about the “market” for a product like computers or smartphones. They are about the risks a company faces from market driven prices like interest rates or commodity prices. So, while the market for smart phones could affect a company, the Market Risk Disclosures are about issues like how a change in interest rates could affect a company if the company has significant investments or borrowings.

And that brings us to the next step in understanding the objective of these disclosures. Once we know what sort of market risk we need to describe, what should we say about it?

In S-K Item 305(a)(1)(ii)(A) you will find this language:

“sensitivity analysis disclosure that expresses the potential loss in future earnings, fair values, or cash flows of market risk sensitive instruments resulting from one or more selected hypothetical changes in interest rates”

In other words, this disclosure is designed to help a reader assess how much a change in a market driven price, such as an interest rate or a commodity price, would affect the business.

Conceptually what this disclosure is about is fairly easy to understand. However, the application of S-K Item 305 is complex. It requires both qualitative and quantitative information   Our review here is fairly brief. S-K Item 305 has a maze of detailed rules. If you will be drafting or reviewing the disclosure you should refer to the actual S-K language. Also, the comments below illustrate several of the complexities in this rule.

Qualitative Disclosures

The logical place to start drafting is with qualitative disclosures. Knowing what a company’s market risks are is necessary before quantitative information will make sense to a reader. Unfortunately, in Item 305, the qualitative disclosures are sort of hard to find, as they are not the first thing listed. You can find them in paragraph (b), which says:

(b) Qualitative information about market risk.

(1) To the extent material, describe:

(i) The registrant’s primary market risk exposures;

(ii) How those exposures are managed. Such descriptions shall include, but not be limited to, a discussion of the objectives, general strategies, and instruments, if any, used to manage those exposures; and

(iii) Changes in either the registrant’s primary market risk exposures or how those exposures are managed, when compared to what was in effect during the most recently completed fiscal year and what is known or expected to be in effect in future reporting periods.

This qualitative information is really pretty simple; say what market driven prices such as interest rates, exchange rates, commodity prices or other types of prices affect the company; talk about how you manage them; and tell if they have changed. Note that the rules do not require that a company manage these risks, so if you don’t manage them, you should disclose that, along with the other information in (b) (10) above.  (Here is one place to review Item 305 in detail, as this disclosure needs to be broken down in pretty specific ways by type and source of risk.)

Quantitative Disclosures

The second part of this disclosure is quantitative, and is designed to help a reader understand how much a hypothetical change in market prices or rates could affect the business. Again, this is a very detailed requirement, but in essence starts with a choice among three alternatives:

Tabular Disclosure

S-K Item 305(a)(1)(i)(A)(1) describes a tabular presentation of information related to market risk sensitive instruments. This information includes fair values of the market risk sensitive instruments and contract terms sufficient to determine future cash flows from those instruments, categorized by expected maturity dates. In essence you are providing a reader with the input they could use to build a spreadsheet, make a price change assumption, and see how much the price change would affect the company’s income, cash flows or fair values.

Sensitivity Analysis

S-K Item 305(a)(1)(ii)(A) describes a sensitivity analysis disclosure that expresses the potential loss in future earnings, fair values, or cash flows of market risk sensitive instruments resulting from one or more selected hypothetical changes in interest rates, foreign currency exchange rates, commodity prices, and other relevant market rates or prices over a selected period of time. In essence, in this disclosure you build your own spreadsheet and assume a hypothetical change in rates or prices and compute the impact.

Value at Risk Analysis

S-K Item 305(a)(1) (iii)(A) describes value at risk disclosures that express the potential loss in future earnings, fair values, or cash flows of market risk sensitive instruments over a selected period of time, with a selected likelihood of occurrence, from changes in interest rates, foreign currency exchange rates, commodity prices, and other relevant market rates or prices. This is actually a complex econometric modeling process, and we won’t discuss it any further in this post. If your treasury or risk management group already uses this technique to assess risk it may well be a good disclosure option.

Again, this is very complex disclosure. You can choose one of the three alternatives for different risks, however you must disclose the most significant impact based on future earnings, fair values, and cash flows. Therefore, you must calculate the impact of a price change on income, cash flows and fair value to determine which has the greatest change, and thus is disclosed. Of course, If future earnings had the greatest impact last year, and this year the greatest impact is in fair value, then you would need to recast the prior year. These are only some of the judgments necessary to prepare this disclosure.
One last note, as you can see this disclosure is very forward looking, and is another reason the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act safe harbors are so important!
Example Comments

Last but not least, as this is a comment of the week post, here are some comments. Notice the focus on simple compliance with the S-K Item 305 disclosure requirements!

Foreign Currency Fluctuations, page 37

  1. We note from your disclosure on page 28 and in Note 26 that a substantial portion of your cash is held by foreign subsidiaries and 46% of your net sales to unaffiliated customers for fiscal 2014 were attributed to your foreign subsidiaries, respectively. We believe your market risk disclosures should be enhanced to provide a more robust discussion of the effects of foreign currency risk on your results of operations and financial condition. Additionally, your discussion of this market risk does not appear to comply with the guidance outlined in Item 305 of Regulation S-K. Please revise to expand your discussion of foreign currency risk to comply with one of the disclosure alternatives in Item 305(a) of Regulation S-K.

Quantitative and qualitative disclosure about market risk, page 70

  1. Please tell us how you considered the disclosures required by Item 305(a) of Regulation S-K with respect to your term loan.

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosure About Market Risk

Foreign Currency Risk, page 125

  1. Please tell us what consideration you gave to providing a sensitivity analysis for each currency (e.g., British Pounds and Euro) that may have an individually significant impact on future earnings.

Item 7A – Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk, page 30

  1. We note your quantitative disclosure of interest rate risk associated with your investments in cash and cash equivalents and investment securities. We also note that your disclosure does not address market risk for other financial instruments such as the senior unsecured notes. Please revise to include qualitative and quantitative information about market risk in accordance with one of the three disclosure alternatives within Item 305 of Regulation S-K and that addresses the interest rate risk for the senior unsecured notes.

Evolution of the Audit Committee – Part Five – Voluntary Disclosures in the News

Over the last two months we have done a series of blog posts about audit committee oversight and disclosure issues. One of the major topics under discussion within, among and about audit committees is what information should they disclose about their oversight of the audit, financial reporting and ICFR processes. Most observers agree that effective audit committee oversight is critical to success in these areas. And, many also believe that more information about how individual audit committees exercise this oversight will be valuable to investors and other stakeholders.

In our post on October 30 we reviewed the SEC’s Concept Release discussing possible incremental disclosures about this oversight. You can review it here:


Out in the real world it turns out that many companies are voluntarily making disclosures beyond those currently required by the SEC. On November 3, 2015 the Center for Audit Quality and Audit Analytics released their second “Audit Committee Transparency Barometer”. This “Barometer” is a survey of actual audit committee disclosures. Interestingly, this report shows that many companies are voluntarily going beyond required audit committee disclosures.

If you are not familiar with the CAQ you can read about it in our June 16, 2015 post at:


The press release about this second “Barometer” report and a link to the full report are at:


It makes for very interesting reading and provides valuable information in the search for “best practices” for audit committee disclosures. The report focuses on audit committee disclosures about external auditor oversight for companies in the S&P Composite 1500. As you read it you will see many companies voluntarily disclose information about topics ranging from issues considered in recommending the audit firm for appointment/reappointment to the audit committees role in selecting the engagement partner.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Debt Versus Equity – More on Ratchets

On November 3 we blogged about debt versus equity issues and how in late stage financings investors were demanding price adjustment and conversion rate adjustment features such as ratchet provisions. In essence this was to protect late round investors if the valuations they used for their investment was substantially higher than the IPO valuation.

As you may have been following, Square has just completed their IPO. Here is an excerpt from Square’s stockholder’s equity note in their financial statements:

The initial conversion price for the convertible preferred stock is $0.21627 for the Series A preferred stock, $0.71977 for the Series B-1 preferred stock, $0.95369 for the Series B-2 preferred stock, $5.79817 for the Series C preferred stock, $11.014 for the Series D preferred stock, and $15.46345 for the Series E preferred stock. In the event the Company issues shares of additional stock, subject to customary exceptions, after the preferred stock original issue date without consideration or for a consideration per share less than the initial conversion price in effect immediately prior to such issuance, then and in each such event the conversion price shall be reduced to a price equal to such conversion price multiplied by the following fraction:

the numerator of which is equal to the deemed number of shares of common stock outstanding plus the number of shares of common stock, that the aggregate consideration received by the Company for the total number of additional shares of common stock so issued would purchase at the conversion price immediately prior to such issuance; and

the denominator of which is equal to the deemed number of shares of common stock outstanding immediately prior to such issuance plus the deemed number of additional shares of common stock so issued.

Series E preferred stock contains a provision for the adjustment of conversion price upon a public offering. In the event of such offering, in which the price per share of the Company’s common stock is less than $18.55614 (adjusted for stock splits, stock dividends, etc.), then the then-existing conversion price for the Series E preferred stock shall be adjusted so that, as of immediately prior to the completion of such public offering, each share of Series E preferred stock shall convert into (A) the number of shares of common stock issuable on conversion of such share of Series E preferred stock; and (B) an additional number of shares of common stock equal to (x) the difference between $18.55614 and the public offering price, (y) divided by the public offering share price.

The language above is not very easy to understand, but there are various price adjustment features and the instruments that have them were entered into at various points in time, including some later stage investments. So, the debt versus equity issues is present.

Square’s IPO priced at $9, (actually below the expected price range, but the company did get a nice day one price rise on the exchange) so Square will have to make up shares to these later stage investors. This is a simple example where late stage financing valuations were higher than the IPO price.

Here are two links to information about the transaction. Buzzfeed has a nice summary of the deal at:

Here is a WSJ article where the WSJ somehow wanted to call this ratchet a “penalty”:


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!



P.S. And, just in case this is relevant to you, here is a link to our new workshop “Debt vs. Equity Accounting for Complex Financial Instruments”. This new case-driven workshop will be presented five times next year.


Revenue Recognition Help From FinREC

As you know the new FASB and IASB revenue recognition standards supersede all our existing revenue recognition guidance. Here in the US the new standard was such a major change that it was placed in a brand new codification section (ASC 606). One of the major changes with the new model is how it treats “specialized industries”. Many industries, such as software and construction, had specialized industry revenue recognition guidance. All those standards are also superseded. These industries now face many questions and uncertainties about how to apply the new revenue recognition model to unique and different transactions.

The new model, designed to make revenue recognition principles consistent across all industries, is much more general and does not include the detailed kind of guidance that old GAAP frequently provided. This potentially increases the risk that there could be diversity within industries in the application of the new standard.

FinREC, the Financial Reporting Executive Committee of the AICPA, and the AICPA’s Revenue Recognition Task Force have been working to help deal with these issues. They have established 16 industry groups and are developing a new “Accounting Guide for Revenue Recognition”. These resources will be developed with participation and review of standard setters, but will not be authoritative. The groups describe them as eventually providing “helpful hints and illustrative examples for how to apply the new Revenue Recognition Standard.”

They have published a list of potential implementation issues identified to date which you can find at:


As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated!

Leases – News on the International Front

As we all wait with baited breath for news from Norwalk as the FASB staff completes drafting the final version of the new standard on Lease Accounting, the IASB has announced that they have formally finished their project. In their project summary the IASB now states:

“The IASB has completed its decision making for the Leases project. The new Leases Standard will be effective from 1 January 2019. The IASB plans to issue the new Leases Standard before the end of 2015.”

You can find the project summary at:


  1. If the link above does not work for you, paste it into your browser.

A Bit of SEC Trivia – Form 10

During our Workshops we discuss a lot of detailed information, some of which does not come up often in practice. With this in mind, we thought we would start a series of blog posts about some of these “trivia” topics.

The first trivia question is “What is Form 10 all about?”

Turns out Form 10 is a behind the scenes issue in a current news story. On November 1, 2015, HP officially completed the process of splitting itself up into two separate companies:

HP, Inc. (ticker HPQ) which has the legacy HP PC and printer businesses. This company describes itself with these words:

“Our vision is to create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere — every person, every organization, and every community around the globe. This motivates us — inspires us — to do what we do. To make what we make. To invent, and to reinvent. To engineer experiences that amaze. We won’t stop pushing ahead, because you won’t stop pushing ahead. You’re reinventing how you work. How you play. How you live. With our technology, you’ll reinvent your world.” (From www.hp.com)

 Hewlett Packard Enterprise (ticker HPE) which has the HP services and corporate hardware businesses uses these words:

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is an industry leading technology company that enables customers to go further, faster. With the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio, spanning the cloud to the data center to workplace applications, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s technology and services help customers around the world make IT more efficient, more productive and more secure. (From www.hpe.com)

Behind this split is a myriad of fascinating business reasons, which will doubtless become business school cases in the future. What is fun about the transaction for SEC geeks is how it was accomplished in the public company reporting world. HPE was separated out from HP, essentially a “spin-off” transaction. There were a lot of legal steps in the process, but in essence there was no public offering of HPE stock, it was distributed to the existing HP shareholders.

After the spin-off both companies wanted to trade on the NYSE. For HP Inc. this was easy; this is the corporate entity that was already listed, so no big deal. But what about the newly created HPE?

There is no transaction here to register under the 1933 Act, as stock is not being offered or sold to the public; it is being directly distributed to the existing HP shareholders. So there is no S-1 or S-3 or S-4 to file.

This is where the Form 10 comes in. It is a company’s first, and probably only, 1934 Act registration statement, and is the way a company “registers” under the 1934 Act when it trips over the size tests in the 1934 Act, which HPE did when it distributed stock to more than 2,000 persons. As a result, HPE will start the corresponding periodic and current reporting requirements. So the only SEC filing that HPE had to make in connection with the distribution of its stock to the existing HP shareholders was a Form 10.

To simplify a bit, 1934 Act registration is required if a company has a class of equity security held by 2,000 or more persons or 500 persons who are not accredited investors and over $10 million in assets or if the company wants to list on a national security exchange. Of course HPE met the requirements, and so HPE filed a Form 10. (There is of course more complexity to the registration issue, so if you have to deal with it careful research is required!)

Form 10 is a lot like a Form 10-K and you can see HPE’s Form 10 at:


In this filing, the Form 10 itself is a shell, and you will find all the relevant information in Exhibit 99.1.

If you have any SEC trivia you would like us to explore, please let Carol or George know, and as always, your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated.

One last little trivia note – if you do a ticker search for HP, guess what company has this ticker? Helmerick and Payne, a contract oil and gas drilling company. Who would have guessed?

Comment of the Week – Debt Versus Equity Issues on the Rise?

The genesis of this post is actually a panel discussion from PLI’s 47th Annual Institute on Securities Regulation. This program is one of our major events in the CLE world. The roster of speakers is amazing, starting with a keynote address from Chair White and featuring so many SEC alums, current staffers and industry professionals that an SEC geek simply can’t resist the program.

Anyway, on the first day of the conference the first panel discussed capital market “health” in the current environment. One of the market developments they discussed was financing rounds companies complete shortly before an IPO. In the current environment more and more late round investors are demanding “price protection”. This “price protection” includes instruments like warrants with adjustable prices (ratchets or down-rounds) and preferred stock with adjustable conversions options.

(The staff does write comments about these kinds of instruments, and we have a few examples below.)

It turns out that sometimes the valuations used for these private placements shortly before an IPO don’t follow through to the valuations in the IPO. So the late round investors ask for price protection so they won’t seem to have overpaid shortly before an IPO. (This dovetails very nicely with the recent discussion in the financial press about how valuations for “unicorn” companies may be overstated in the current tech world.)

This is exactly the kind of price protection that has been common in emerging companies that have been far from the IPO process, and it is these kinds of instruments that have been the cause of so many restatements.

If you have ever attended any of our Midyear, Annual or Mid-Sized and Smaller Company SEC Reporting & FASB Forums you are familiar with the continuously updated list of restatement issues we discuss at those conferences. For the last seven years, the number one cause of restatements by public companies has been debt versus equity accounting. Instruments such as warrants with repricing provisions combined with the convoluted, complex accounting guidance in this area have caused more restatements than any other issue.

Being one of the few accountants in the Institute on Securities Regulation it was fascinating listening to the lawyers discuss these complex instruments. The discussion of disclosures that should surround these complex instruments and their unique features was deep and rich. No one however mentioned the accounting issues that they create, and the risk of restatement that goes along with this accounting complexity.

It was a great reminder that as accounting professionals we need to be on the watch for this issue and when we see it raise the accounting issues and assure they are dealt with effectively. This is one of the times when communication between finance, legal and accounting professionals is crucial.

If you would like to review an example of the accounting these instruments create, one of the participants on the panel was from BOX, a successful IPO which had this exact situation. In their first Form 10-K and their S-1 you can find a derivative liability on their balance sheet and a related fair value adjustment in their income statement related to redeemable preferred stock warrants they issued which were derivatives. You can find their Form 10-K at:


And, last, here are a couple of example comments. All of this really emphasizes the need to be aware of this issue and build the skills to recognize the issue and deal with it effectively.

It appears the exchangeable senior notes issued in August 2014 contain redemption features. Provide us your analysis that supports your conclusion that none of the redemption features are required to be bifurcated in accordance with ASC 815-15. Specifically address whether the debt involves a substantial discount in accordance with ASC 815-15-25-40 through [25-43].

We note your disclosure that the 1.25% Notes contain an embedded cash conversion option and that you have determined that this option is a derivative financial instrument that is required to be separated from the notes. Please provide us with the details of your analysis in determining that this conversion option should be accounted for separately as a derivative and refer to the specific accounting literature you relied on.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

P.S. And, just in case this is relevant to you, here is a link to our new workshop “Debt vs. Equity Accounting for Complex Financial Instruments”. This new case-driven workshop will be presented five times next year.



Evolution of the Audit Committee – Part Four

In three previous posts about audit committee evolution we explored:

A bit of history about how audit committee responsibilities have changed over time,

Situations where independence issues have resulted in enforcement involving      auditors and companies, and

How some issues, such as auditor independence, are not just matters for the auditor to monitor, but also may require audit committee involvement.


As history demonstrates, audit committees play a crucial role in oversight of the financial reporting process. An effective audit committee is a crucial part of assuring the reliability and reasonableness of financial information. Unfortunately, history also shows us that audit committees don’t always successfully fulfill their responsibilities.

Chair White expanded on these issues in a June 2014 speech to the Stanford University Rock Center for Corporate Governance Twentieth Annual Stanford Directors’ College. In that speech, after reviewing two enforcement cases which involved audit committee members she said:

I mention these cases because audit committees, in particular, have an extraordinarily important role in creating a culture of compliance through their oversight of financial reporting. As you know, under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, audit committees are required to establish procedures for handling complaints regarding accounting, internal controls, and auditing matters, as well as whistleblower tips concerning questionable accounting or auditing practices. Audit committees also play a critical role in the selection and oversight of the company’s auditors. These responsibilities are critical ones and we want to support you. Service as a director is not for the faint of heart, but nor should it be a role where you fear a game of “gotcha” is being played by the SEC.

Clearly Ms. White is emphasizing the responsibility audit committees have as gatekeepers in the financial reporting process.

(You can read the whole speech at: www.sec.gov/News/Speech/Detail/Speech/1370542148863 )

All of this leads us to the SEC’s July 1, 2015 Concept Release POSSIBLE REVISIONS TO AUDIT COMMITTEE DISCLOSURES”. Attempting to perhaps incentivize audit committees to perform effectively, and even more importantly shed light on audit committee performance to help investors and other stakeholders understand whether audit committees are effectively fulfilling their oversight responsibilities are not simple issues, and this concept release begins a significant discussion.

What sorts of disclosures does the concept release propose to deal with these issues? The principle areas of focus are:

Audit Committee’s Oversight of the Auditor

Audit Committee’s Process for Appointing or Retaining the Auditor

Qualifications of the Audit Firm and Certain Members of the Engagement Team Selected By the Audit

In the summary of the concept release the commission makes their objective clear, stating:

Some have expressed a view that the Commission’s disclosure rules for this area may not result in disclosures about audit committees and their activities that are sufficient to help investors understand and evaluate audit committee performance, which may in turn inform those investors’ investment or voting decisions.

The reporting of additional information by the audit committee with respect to its oversight of the auditor may provide useful information to investors as they evaluate the audit committee’s performance in connection with, among other things, their vote for or against directors who are members of the audit committee, the ratification of the auditor, or their investment decisions.

Here is a quick outline of the areas addressed in the Concept Release:

  1. Auditor Committee’s Oversight of the Auditor
  2. Additional Information Regarding the Communications Between the Audit Committee and the Auditor
  3. The Frequency with which the Audit Committee Met with the Auditor
  4. Review of and Discussion About the Auditor’s Internal Quality Review and Most Recent PCAOB Inspection Report
  5. Whether and How the Audit Committee Assesses, Promotes and Reinforces the Auditor’s Objectivity and Professional Skepticism
  6. Audit Committee’s Process for Appointing or Retaining the Auditor
  7. How the Audit Committee Assessed the Auditor, Including the Auditor’s Independence, Objectivity and Audit Quality, and the Audit Committee’s Rationale for Selecting or Retaining the Auditor
  8. If the Audit Committee Sought Requests for Proposal for the Independent Audit, the Process the Committee Undertook to Seek Such Proposals and the Factors They Considered in Selecting the Auditor
  9. The Board of Directors’ Policy, if any, for an Annual Shareholder Vote on the Selection of the Auditor, and the Audit Committee’s Consideration of the Voting Results in its Evaluation and Selection of the Audit Firm
  10. Qualifications of the Audit Firm and Certain Members of the Engagement Team Selected By the Audit Committee
  11. Disclosures of Certain Individuals on the Engagement Team
  12. Audit Committee Input in Selecting the Engagement Partner
  13. The Number of Years the Auditor has Audited the Company
  14. Other Firms Involved in the Audit

As you can see, the areas the SEC is considering for disclosure are significant and would represent a major change in how much of the audit committee’s work is in the sunshine of disclosure. Along this evolutionary path it is important to remember that a Concept Release is essentially a discussion document. If the SEC does pursue rulemaking, the content of a proposed rule will be based on input received in response to the concept release. The SEC is always responsive to substantive comments, so if a rule is eventually proposed, it will differ from the proposed rule based on comments from constituents. This means we are early on in this process, and we can provide input to the process.

As a concluding thought, if you do want to comment on the Concept Release, here is where to do that:


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!


SEC Comment of the Week – A Favorite Topic


It is hard to believe we are already in mid-October, and the fourth quarter of the calendar year is well underway. Many companies will soon start planning for year-end reporting and being aware of “hot button issues” is a key part of this process. To help in this planning process we are going to highlight key planning issues through our blog posts. Here is the first of these issues we think all companies should be thinking about as year-end approaches.

As we have watched comments in recent weeks, one of the areas that continues to be emphasized is the quantification of analysis in MD&A. The roots of this issue are deep. Way back in 1989 one of the examples in FR 36 laid out the framework:

Revenue from sales of single-family homes for 1987 increased 6% from 1986. The increase resulted from a 14% increase in the average sales price per home, partially offset by a 6% decrease in the number of homes delivered. Revenues from sales of single-family homes for 1986 increased 2% from 1985. The average sales price per home in 1986 increased 6%, which was offset by a 4% decrease in the number of homes delivered.

The increase in the average sales prices in 1987 and 1986 is primarily the result of the Company’s increased emphasis on higher priced single-family homes. The decrease in homes delivered in 1987 and 1986 was attributable to a decline in sales in Texas. The significant decline in oil prices and its resulting effect on energy-related business has further impacted the already depressed Texas area housing market and is expected to do so for the foreseeable future. The Company curtailed housing operations during 1987 in certain areas in Texas in response to this change in the housing market. Although the number of homes sold is expected to continue to decline during the current year as a result of this action, this decline is expected to be offset by increases in average sales prices.

You can find the release at:



In 2003 FR 72 emphasized the importance of understanding the causal factors underlying changes:

  1. Focus on Analysis

MD&A requires not only a “discussion” but also an “analysis” of known material trends, events, demands, commitments and uncertainties. MD&A should not be merely a restatement of financial statement information in a narrative form. When a description of known material trends, events, demands, commitments and uncertainties is set forth, companies should consider including, and may be required to include, an analysis explaining the underlying reasons or implications, interrelationships between constituent elements, or the relative significance of those matters.

You can find the release at:



And, here are a few very recent comments where the staff focuses on these requirements in MD&A. (We have added emphasis to highlight key issues.)

As previously requested, please disclose more detail about the underlying material factors contributing to the increases in comparable store sales in both your year-end and interim results discussions, such as any changes in selling prices, volumes or the introduction or discontinuance of popular products that had a significant impact on your revenue. Refer to Item 303(a)(3)(iii) of Regulation S-K. In this regard, your current disclosures such as stating that comparable store sales increase primarily due to “strong deals in electronics, pets and clothing” do not provide enough insight into the underlying factors that drove the increase in comparable store sales that investors can access the likelihood that past results are indicative of future results. To the extent that multiple offsetting factors influenced your comparable store sales, you should discuss the impact of each significant factor. For example, if “strong deals” indicates that you lowered average prices through increased promotional activity, this would appear to decrease revenue; however, these lower prices may have been more than offset by higher volumes of products being sold. In this case, both the decrease in pricing and the increase in volume should be described.

Throughout your discussion of the results of operations, you refer to various factors that have impacted your results without quantifying the impact of each factor. Where a material change is attributed to two or more factors, including any offsetting factors, the contribution of each identified factor should be described in quantified terms. For example, you attribute the decrease in net sales and unit sales for the (Product A) in 2014 as a result of growth in the Greater China and Japan segments offset by declines in all other segments with no quantification. As another example, you attribute the growth in the Americas segment in 2014 as a result of increased net sales of (Products B, C and D), Software and Services offset by a decline in net sales of (Product E and A) and weakness in foreign currencies but you do not quantify the effects of these individual factors. Please explain to us how you considered quantifying the sources of material changes and offsetting factors throughout your discussion. Refer to Item 303(a)(3)(iii) of Regulation S-K and Section III.D of SEC Release No. 33-6835.

(Bloggers note: The release mentioned here is FR 36 quoted above)

We note you attribute the changes in headcount to explain certain changes in your results of operations but the headcount does not appear to be quantified. Please tell us your consideration of quantifying the headcount at the end of each period as a factor to explain the changes for the line items that are impacted. We refer you to Item 303(a)(3)(iii) of Regulation S-K and Section III.D of SEC Release No. 33-6835.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!