Category Archives: 10-k Tips

New Item 9C in Form 10-K – Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act Disclosures

On March 18, 2021, the SEC Adopted Interim Final Rules implementing disclosure requirements in the “The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act” (HFCA Act).  The Act became law on December 18, 2020.  The SEC’s Interim Final Rules became effective on May 5, 2021.  These rules added new Item 9C to Form 10-K and made similar changes to Forms 20-F and 40-F.

The HFCA Act requires disclosures by companies that have retained a PCAOB registered public accounting firm to issue an audit report where “that registered public accounting firm has a branch or office that:

  • Is located in a foreign jurisdiction; and
  • The PCAOB has determined that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely because of a position taken by an authority in the foreign jurisdiction.”

These companies are referred to as “Commission-Identified Issuers.”  New Item 9C(a) in Form 10-K requires that these companies “must electronically submit to the Commission on a supplemental basis documentation that establishes that the registrant is not owned or controlled by a governmental entity in the foreign jurisdiction.”  They must submit this documentation before the due date of the form.  This requirement does not apply if the company is owned or controlled by a foreign governmental entity.

If the SEC determines that a company is a Commission-Identified Issuer for three consecutive years, Section 2 of the HFCA Act requires that the Commission prohibit trading of the company’s securities.

A Commission-Identified Issuer that is a foreign issuer must make additional disclosures.  The term foreign issuer is defined in Exchange Act Rule 3b-4:

 “The term foreign issuer means any issuer which is a foreign government, a national of any foreign country or a corporation or other organization incorporated or organized under the laws of any foreign country.”

The required disclosures are specified in Section 3 of the HFCA Act and are included in Item 9C(b) below.

The updated instructions to Form 10-K now include new Item 9C:

Item 9C. Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections.

(a) A registrant identified by the Commission pursuant to Section 104(i)(2)(A) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (15 U.S.C. 7214(i)(2)(A)) as having retained, for the preparation of the audit report on its financial statements included in the Form 10-K, a registered public accounting firm that has a branch or office that is located in a foreign jurisdiction and that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has determined it is unable to inspect or investigate completely because of a position taken by an authority in the foreign jurisdiction must electronically submit to the Commission on a supplemental basis documentation that establishes that the registrant is not owned or controlled by a governmental entity in the foreign jurisdiction. The registrant must submit this documentation on or before the due date for this form. A registrant that is owned or controlled by a foreign governmental entity is not required to submit such documentation.

(b) A registrant that is a foreign issuer, as defined in 17 CFR 240.3b-4, identified by the Commission pursuant to Section 104(i) (2)(A) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (15 U.S.C. 7214(i)(2)(A)) as having retained, for the preparation of the audit report on its financial statements included in the Form 10-K, a registered public accounting firm that has a branch or office that is located in a foreign jurisdiction and that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has determined it is unable to inspect or investigate completely because of a position taken by an authority in the foreign jurisdiction, for each year in which the registrant is so identified, must disclose:

(1) That, for the immediately preceding annual financial statement period, a registered public accounting firm that the PCAOB was unable to inspect or investigate completely, because of a position taken by an authority in the foreign jurisdiction, issued an audit report for the registrant;

(2) The percentage of shares of the registrant owned by governmental entities in the foreign jurisdiction in which the registrant is incorporated or otherwise organized;

(3) Whether governmental entities in the applicable foreign jurisdiction with respect to that registered public accounting firm have a controlling financial interest with respect to the registrant;

(4) The name of each official of the Chinese Communist Party who is a member of the board of directors of the registrant or the operating entity with respect to the registrant; and

(5) Whether the articles of incorporation of the registrant (or equivalent organizing document) contains any charter of the Chinese Communist Party, including the text of any such charter.

Rule 12b-13 requires that all item numbers be included in Form 10-K.  That said, for most companies the response to this new item will likely be “Not applicable.”

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

A Risk Factor Rewrite Example

The SEC’s May 2020 risk factor disclosure modernization created a great opportunity to rethink risk factor disclosures and focus on communicating material risks.

The prior S-K disclosure requirements for risk factors included this language:

229.105 (Item 105) Risk factors.

Where appropriate, provide under the caption “Risk Factors” a discussion of the most significant factors that make an investment in the registrant or offering speculative or risky. This discussion must be concise and organized logically. Do not present risks that could apply generically to any registrant or any offering. Explain how the risk affects the registrant or the securities being offered. Set forth each risk factor under a subcaption that adequately describes the risk.

The May 2020 Final Rule revised the requirements with this language:

229.105   (Item 105) Risk factors.

(a) Where appropriate, provide under the caption “Risk Factors” a discussion of the material factors that make an investment in the registrant or offering speculative or risky. This discussion must be organized logically with relevant headings and each risk factor should be set forth under a subcaption that adequately describes the risk. The presentation of risks that could apply generically to any registrant or any offering is discouraged, but to the extent generic risk factors are presented, disclose them at the end of the risk factor section under the caption “General Risk Factors.”

(b) Concisely explain how each risk affects the registrant or the securities being offered. If the discussion is longer than 15 pages, include in the forepart of the prospectus or annual report, as applicable, a series of concise, bulleted or numbered statements that is no more than two pagessummarizing the principal factors that make an investment in the registrant or offering speculative or risky.

(Note: the entire new text of S-K Item 105 can be found here.)

Three aspects of this rule change create opportunities to rethink this disclosure:

The change in language from “significant factors” to “material factors,”

The requirement to put “generic” risk factors at the end of the discussion and use the heading “General Risk Factors,” and

The requirement to include a summary if risk factors are longer than 15 pages.

Lumen Technologies took advantage of this opportunity in a meaningful way.   In Lumen Technologies’ Form 10-K for the year-ended December 31, 2019, risk factors are on pages 20 to 48, 28 pages long.  Risks described range from “Risks Affecting Our Business” to “Other Risks.”  It would be fair to say that some of the risk factors, such as “We may not be able to compete successfully against current and future competitors” might be “risks that could apply generically to any registrant or any offering.”

After implementing the new disclosure requirements, and a major amount of work, in Lumen Technologies’ Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020, risk factors are on pages 21 to 32.  This is a reduction from 28 to 11 pages!  The revised disclosures start with “Business Risks,” a simpler and more direct heading, and finish with “General Risks” as required by the new rule.  Interestingly, the General Risks are less than one page.  Competitive issues are addressed in a more tailored risk factor titled “We operate in an intensely competitive industry and existing and future competitive pressures could harm our performance.”

“We took the SEC’s changes to S-K Item 105 as an opportunity to take a fresh look at our risk factors,” said David Hamm, Associate General Counsel at Lumen Technologies. “After a robust cross-functional effort, we believe we enhanced and streamlined our risk factors while maintaining existing protections.”

Lumen Technologies’ revised presentation is more direct and clearly more investor friendly.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Where to Place the Performance Graph? A Filed Versus Furnished Example

A frequent question in our SEC Reporting Skills Workshop is “What the heck is going on with the performance graph required by S-K Item 201(e)?”  This question stems from a bit of history about the performance graph, an obscure instruction, and the distinction between furnished and filed documents.

(Spoiler alert:  The graph is not required in Form 10-K and can be furnished in the annual report to shareholders.)

S-K 201(e) requires a five-year line graph comparing the annual percentage change in the registrant’s cumulative total shareholder return on a class of common stock with the cumulative total return of a broad equity market index and a published industry, line-of-business or peer index.  You can read all the details of the requirement here.

Here is an example of the graph from Coca Cola’s 2019 Form 10-K.

Picture1

 

Where to place the graph turns out to be a murky question.  Originally, this graph was a required proxy disclosure.  Several years ago, when the SEC expanded the proxy executive compensation disclosures, they proposed to remove the graph.  Several commenters on the proposal asked the SEC to retain the requirement, stating that it provided valuable information.  The SEC did not want to include the graph in the proxy for a variety of reasons.  As a compromise, the Final Rule added the graph to S-K Item 201.  What the Final Rule did not do was require the graph in Form 10-K.

This is where the filed versus furnished question arises.  Historically, the graph was not filed information.  It was simply furnished in the proxy.  If the SEC had required the graph in Form 10-K it would have become filed information and subject to the 1934 Act’s liability provisions for filed information.  To keep this from happening, the SEC added the following instruction to S-K Item 201(e):

  1. The information required by paragraph (e) of this Item need not be provided in any filings other than an annual report to security holders required by Exchange Act Rule 14a-3 (17 CFR 240.14a-3) or Exchange Act Rule 14c-3 (17 CFR 240.14c-3) that precedes or accompanies a registrant’s proxy or information statement relating to an annual meeting of security holders at which directors are to be elected (or special meeting or written consents in lieu of such meeting). Such information will not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any filing under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, except to the extent that the registrant specifically incorporates it by reference.

Unfortunately, this instruction was kind of hidden after an instruction for smaller reporting companies.

The bottom line is that the graph does not have to be in Form 10-K and does not have to be filed information.  It can be included in the annual report to shareholders, which is furnished, not filed. Companies that put the graph in the part of the annual report to shareholders that is not included in Form 10-K do not subject the disclosure to the 1934 Act’s liability provisions.

This annual report from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store provides an example of how the graph can be placed in the “wrap” pages of a “10-K wrap” annual report to shareholders.  This means the graph is not included in the filed Form 10-K.  You will find the graph on the back cover of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store annual report to shareholders.

Lastly, to further illustrate the confusion about this graph, here is an SEC comment letter and company response about the placement of the graph.

The SEC Comment Letter

Re: Monro Muffler Brake, Inc.

Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended March 28, 2015

Dear Ms. D’Amico:

We have limited our review of your filing to the financial statements and related disclosures and have the following comments. In some of our comments, we may ask you to provide us with information so we may better understand your disclosure.

Please respond to these comments within ten business days by providing the requested information or advise us as soon as possible when you will respond. If you do not believe our comments apply to your facts and circumstances, please tell us why in your response.

After reviewing your response to these comments, we may have additional comments.

Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended March 28, 2015

Item 5. Market for the Company’s Common Equity and Related Stockholder Matters, page 16

  1. Please tell us your consideration for including the performance graph as required by Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K.

 

The Company’s Response

Item 5. Market for the Company’s Common Equity and Related Stockholder Matters

  1. Please tell us your consideration for including the performance graph as required by Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K.

Response: It is our understanding that the performance graph is required to be included in the Company’s annual report to stockholders, but not in its Form 10-K. This understanding is based on Instruction 7 to Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K, which states that “the information required by paragraph (e) of Item 201 need not be provided in any filings other than an annual report to security holders required by Exchange Act Rule 14a-3 or Exchange Act Rule 14c-3 that precedes or accompanies a registrant’s proxy or information statement relating to an annual meeting of security holders at which directors are to be elected (or special meeting or written consents in lieu of such meeting).” Further the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance has indicated in Regulation S-K Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations Question 106.10 that the performance graph is not required to be included under Item 5 of Form 10-K and need only be provided in the issuer’s annual report to stockholders.

The performance graph as required by Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K is included in the Company’s 2015 Annual Report under the Financial Highlights section on page 5.

 

SEC Response

Dear Ms. D’Amico

We have completed our review of your filing. We remind you that our comments or changes to disclosure in response to our comments do not foreclose the Commission from taking any action with respect to the company or the filing and the company may not assert staff comments as a defense in any proceeding initiated by the Commission or any person under the federal securities laws of the United States. We urge all persons who are responsible for the accuracy and adequacy of the disclosure in the filing to be certain that the filing includes the information the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and all applicable rules require.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Form 10-K – Master the Requirements and Improve Disclosures

Form 10-K requirements and disclosures are undoubtedly challenging. Attend live program, Form 10-K In-Depth Workshop being held November 9-10 in Las Vegas, November 30-December 1 in San Francisco and December 11-12 in New York. Interactive discussions and exercises will enhance your understanding of each item, with particular focus given to the Management’s Discussion & Analysis (MD&A) section. The workshop leader will Review in detail each Form 10-K item; examine current FASB and SEC disclosure initiatives.

https://www.pli.edu/Content/Form_10_K_In_Depth_Workshop_2017/_/N-1z10od7Z4k?ID=290550

Third Annual Form 10-K Tune-Up

As you draft your annual Form 10-K it is always a challenge to be sure that you deal effectively with new and emerging issues and the ever-evolving focus areas of the SEC. Register for our January 23rd One Hour Briefing, Form 10-K Tune-Up. Review the key issues to address in this year’s Form 10-K, including the latest in SEC Staff comments about non-GAAP measures; new accounting standards, revenue recognition, leases and financial instruments.

http://www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Third_Annual_Form_10_K_Tune_Up_/_/N-4kZ1z10jog?Ns=sort_date%7c0&ID=301955

A Year End Planning Detail – No More Mailing the ARS to the SEC!

One frequently asked question in our Workshops concerns the “10-K Wrap” or the annual report that companies prepare: Is this a required report or is it an optional investor relations “marketing” document?

Turns out it actually is required for the proxy process. When a company solicits proxies for its annual meeting, and the annual meeting includes, the election of directors, the proxy statement must be accompanied or preceded by an Annual Report to Shareholders or “ARS”.   You can find all the details about this requirement in Rule 14a-3. The Form 10-K and the ARS, however, are significantly different. The Form 10-K is a filed document while the ARS is furnished to shareholders pursuant to the proxy rules.

In this earlier post we reviewed the details of the proxy requirement for the ARS.

If you would like a refresher on the filed vs. furnished issues, check out this post.

One of the seeming anachronisms in this process is that the SEC has, even in these days of EDGAR, still required that paper copies of the ARS be sent to the SEC. This requirement is in the proxy rules. (Check out rules 14a-3(c) and Rule 14c-3(b)). Every time we talk about this requirement in our Workshops there are visions of the last scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with a huge warehouse full of boxes no one will ever open again!

 

On November 2 the SEC modernized this requirement with the following Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation:

Proxy Rules and Schedule 14A (Regarding Submission of Annual Reports to SEC under Rules 14a-3(c) and 14c-3(b))

 

Question: Exchange Act Rule 14a-3(c) and Rule 14c-3(b) require registrants to mail seven copies of the annual report sent to security holders to the Commission “solely for its information.” A similar provision in Form 10-K requires certain Section 15(d) registrants to furnish to the Commission “for its information” four copies of any annual report to security holders. Can a registrant satisfy these requirements by means other than physical delivery or electronic delivery pursuant to Rule 101(b)(1) of Regulation S-T?

Answer: Yes. The Division will not object if a company posts an electronic version of its annual report to its corporate web site by the dates specified in Rule 14a-3(c), Rule 14c-3(b) and Form 10-K respectively, in lieu of mailing paper copies or submitting it on EDGAR. If the report remains accessible for at least one year after posting, the staff will consider it available for its information. [November 2, 2016]

So, as we approach this year end we can change this process and even save some postage!

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

George M.  Wilson, Director, The SEC Institute & Carol A. Stacey, Director, The SEC Institute

Conflict Minerals – More Help!

 

In our Form 10-K Tune-Up this year we addressed conflict mineral reporting developments. We did a deeper discussion with links to several supporting documents in this post:

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=565

 

If you are searching for more help and information as you prepare Form SD, PLI is presenting a One-Hour Briefing focused on this evolving reporting requirement. Topics to be addressed include:

The latest on the legal challenge to SEC rule

Updates on pending legislation in the EU and the U.S.

Tips for drafting your conflict minerals report for 2015

Best practices for 2016 due diligence planning and compliance trends

Guidance for preparing audit documentation

Overview of risks associated with supply chain disclosure

 

All of this is even more important as NGO’s focus more and more on these reports.

You can read more about the One-Hour Briefing and sign-up at:

www.pli.edu/Content/Seminar/Conflict_Minerals_Preparing_for_Your_Filing/_/N-4kZ1z10u15?fromsearch=false&ID=281215

 

 

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

PS You can review the Form 10-K Tune-up Briefing and obtain CLE and CPE credit at:

www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Second_Annual_Form_10_K_Tune_Up/_/N-4nZ1z116ku?fromsearch=false&ID=278540

 

Form 10-K Tip Eight – Conflict Minerals and Form SD Disclosure

 

In our One-Hour Briefing presenting our thoughts on key issues for 2016 Form 10-K’s we discussed Conflict Mineral Reporting. Companies need to continue to refine their reporting processes as they gain experience with the rule and also watch for developments in the continuing legal challenges to the rule.

 

The short and sweet news here is that not a lot has changed since last year. That said, since this is a calendar year reporting requirement for all companies with a May 31 due date, there is time for change to occur before the due date.

 

One are that is not different is that because of the April 2014 court decision, issuers are still not required to report whether any of their products have “not been found to be DRC conflict free”.  You can review the SEC Order for the Partial Stay of the rule at:

www.sec.gov/rules/other/2014/34-72079.pdf

 

 

Corp Fin issued a Statement about the Court of Appeals decision which is at:

www.sec.gov/News/PublicStmt/Detail/PublicStmt/1370541681994

 

 

And there are SEC FAQ’s available at:

www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/conflictminerals-faq.htm

 

The FAQ’s do provide some process guidance, but the bottom line is that this area is still evolving.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

 

 

PS You can review the Form 10-K Tune-up Briefing and obtain CLE and CPE credit at:

www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Second_Annual_Form_10_K_Tune_Up/_/N-4nZ1z116ku?fromsearch=false&ID=278540

 

10-K Tip Number Seven for 2016 – Cybersecurity

 

Is there a hotter disclosure topic than cybersecurity in the SEC reporting world right now? That of course is why we included it as a hot topic on our 2016 Form 10-K Tune-Up (Which is now available on-demand with CLE and CPE credit at:

www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Second_Annual_Form_10_K_Tune_Up/_/N-4nZ1z116ku?fromsearch=false&ID=278540   )

 

As perhaps the most important cybersecurity 10-K drafting reminder, don’t forget to review Corp Fin Disclosure Guidance Topic 2 as you draft and review. The Disclosure Guidance Topic is at:

www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/cfguidance-topic2.htm

 

And, for some examples and other thoughts, we have done a number of posts in our blog about cybersecurity. You can review them at:

Cybersecurity – What the what??

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=318

 

Comment of the Week Cybersecurity Risks Galore

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=253

 

Cybersecurity – The Continuing Saga

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=225

 

 

Cybersecurity – Help Managing the Risk

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=436

 

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

 

10-K Tip Number Six for 2016 – The SEC’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative

As a starting point in this post, we want to be clear, the SEC continuously focuses on making disclosure effective. This is an important part of their mission, to provide information to investors. Over the years projects like Plain English and the MD&A guidance in FR 72 have clearly helped improve disclosure.
And, in large part thanks to the JOBS Act, disclosure effectiveness is a formal initiative at the SEC right now. This, of course, is why we included it as a hot topic on our 2016 Form 10-K Tune-Up, which is now available on-demand with CLE and CPE credit at:

www.pli.edu/Content/OnDemand/Second_Annual_Form_10_K_Tune_Up/_/N-4nZ1z116ku?fromsearch=false&ID=278540

 

The JOBS Act formalized this process with its requirement to study various S-K disclosures. Going beyond the JOBS Act, the SEC has sought comment on other matters including certain parts of Regulation S-X. Late last year the FAST Act created required next steps in this process. All of these projects, and the others that will come, will hopefully result in a modernization and refocusing of the whole disclosure process. You can read about all the different parts of this initiative at the Disclosure Effectiveness section of the SEC’s web page:

www.sec.gov/spotlight/disclosure-effectiveness.shtml

 

 

(If you would like to read more about the FAST Act check out this post:

seciblog.pli.edu/?p=515 )

 

 

These elements of the SEC’s process are clearly longer-term, and the regulatory steps involved need time for constituent input and careful consideration of the impact of possible change. This does not mean that there are not steps you can take right now to help make information better for investors. In fact, in numerous public forums the SEC Staff has consistently focused on three themes you can use right now to improve disclosure. They are:

Reduce repetition

 

Focus disclosure

 

Eliminate outdated and immaterial information

 

You can get the SEC’s perspective on these issues in this speech by Corp Fin Director Keith Higgins:

www.sec.gov/News/Speech/Detail/Speech/1370541479332

 

And this speech from December 2015 by Chief Accountant James Schnurr touches on things to do now, particularly using judgment:

www.sec.gov/news/speech/schnurr-remarks-aicpa-2015-conference-sec-pcaob-developments.html

 

 

One last issue – if you have questions about something such as a whether to continue a disclosure related to an SEC comment from prior years that is immaterial today, the staff actually encourages that you call them to discuss the issue!

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!