Tag Archives: The Center For Audit Quality

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

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The second post will explore company disclosure requirements.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. We believe that the actions discussed above are probable of occurring and mitigating the substantial doubt raised by our historical operating results and satisfying our estimated liquidity needs 12 months from the issuance of the financial statements. However, we cannot predict, with certainty, the outcome of our actions to generate liquidity, including the availability of additional debt financing, or whether such actions would generate the expected liquidity as currently planned. In addition, the PPPFA contains certain limitations on our ability to sell assets, which could impact our ability to complete asset sale transactions or our ability to use proceeds from those transactions to fund our operations. Therefore, the planned actions take into account the applicable restrictions under the PPPFA.

 

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

 

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

 

This was the report of Sear’s Auditors:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Whither the Auditor’s Report?

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

 

Would you expect to find this language in an auditor’s report?

“We performed a full scope audit on seven components representing 99% of the Group’s revenue, 90% of the Group’s profit before tax and 90% of the Group’s net assets.

 

During our first year as auditor of the Group, we visited all significant locations. For our second year, we have implemented a rotational approach to these visits.”

Or how about a discussion of materiality such as this?

“We determined materiality for the Group to be £30 million.

We reported all audit differences in excess of £1 million.

 

We define materiality as the magnitude of misstatement in the financial statements that makes it probable that the economic decisions of a reasonably knowledgeable person would be changed or influenced.”

This language may sound like it is from the auditor’s internal conclusion memoranda, but in fact it is from the Deloitte report on the 2016 financial statements of an English company, Marks and Spencer.

Their annual report contains the expanded auditor’s report now required by UK Auditing Standards. The report is on pages 78 to 85 (Yes, it is that long!). It also enumerates several “Key Audit Matters”, describing how each such issue was dealt with in the audit.

While this might seem like an extreme example, there has been movement in international audit standard setting towards more tailored, descriptive audit reports. Here in the US the PCAOB began consideration of changes to the auditor’s report over 7 years ago.

In a May 24, 2017 news release the PCAOB announced that on June 1, 2017 they will consider adopting a new Standard on the auditor’s report. The proposal would eliminate the existing standardized form auditor’s report and replace it with a more tailored report which would include discussion of audit specific issues such as “Critical Audit Matters”. Also to be considered at the meeting are new standards about auditing estimates and using the work of specialists.

You can read about the auditor’s report project and review the most recent proposed version of the standard here.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

The CAQ – Why You Need to Know Who They Are!

Do you know where the SEC initially stated their position about transitioning to the 2013 Revised COSO framework? It was in September of 2013. Here is the path to that announcement.

One of the topics we discuss in our workshops is the importance of the “CAQ” in the financial reporting process. The CAQ is an important source of information about current positions and developments at the SEC. Surprisingly, we frequently discover that many people are not very familiar with this organization.

So, what is the CAQ? It is, in long form, The Center For Audit Quality.

Their web page is thecaq.org

At their home page you can learn about who they are:

“The Center is an autonomous, nonpartisan, nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. It is governed by a Board that comprises leaders from the public company auditing firms, the American Institute of CPAs and three members from outside the public company auditing profession. The organization is affiliated with the American Institute of CPAs.”

And what they do:

“The Center for Audit Quality is dedicated to enhancing investor confidence and public trust in the global capital markets by:

  • Fostering high quality performance by public company auditors;
  • Convening and collaborating with other stakeholders to advance the discussion of critical issues requiring action and intervention;
  • Advocating policies and standards that promote public company auditors’ objectivity, effectiveness and responsiveness to dynamic market conditions.”

One really important part of this organization is The CAQ SEC Regulations Committee. This group meets periodically with the SEC staff, generally once each quarter for the first three quarters of the year, and discusses current accounting and disclosure issues. The home page for the committee is:

thecaq.org/resources/caq-committees/sec-regulations

The minutes of these meetings are published on the Committee’s webpage and frequently contain information that, while sometimes fairly narrow, is helpful in the financial reporting process.

For example, it was at a CAQ meeting that the SEC Staff early on stated their position about the transition to the 2013 COSO Framework. Here is a link to those minutes: (Check out page 6)

thecaq.org/docs/reports-and publications/2013septembe25jointmeetinghls.pdf?sfvrsn=0

The most recent highlights of the SEC Regulations Committee meeting with the Staff are at:

www.thecaq.org/docs/default-source/sec-regulation-committee-hightlights/sec-regulations-committee-highlights-march-31-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=0

This meeting addressed issues ranging from the reporting implications of the FASB’s new consolidation standard, ASU 2015-02, to the application of S-X Rule 3-14 to real estate acquisitions in prior years for a registration statement.

Yes, many of the issues are narrow and technical, but we suggest you check the CAQ minutes each quarter as you get ready to close!

As usual, your comments and thoughts are appreciated!