Ever Seen a Disclosure in Item 1B in Form 10-K?

Item 1B in Form 10-K is a very uncomfortable and very unusual disclosure:

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

If the registrant is an accelerated filer or a large accelerated filer, as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act (§240.12b-2 of this chapter), or is a well-known seasoned issuer as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act (§230.405 of this chapter) and has received written comments from the Commission staff regarding its periodic or current reports under the Act not less than 180 days before the end of its fiscal year to which the annual report relates, and such comments remain unresolved, disclose the substance of any such unresolved comments that the registrant believes are material. Such disclosure may provide other information including the position of the registrant with respect to any such comment.

If a company receives material comments 180 days before year-end and they are still unresolved when the company files its annual report, the situation is bound to be complex and uncomfortable.

Our workshop leader group watches for examples of this disclosure to discuss in our workshops, but rarely do we see one.  Courtesy of one of our participants earlier this summer, here is a real-life example.

From BorgWarner’s Form 10-K for December 31, 2017:

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

The Company has received comment letters from the Staff of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance on May 11, June 23, August 23 and November 29, 2017 as part of its review of the Company’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016. The Company responded to all of the letters – most recently on January 25, 2018. As of the date of this Form 10-K, the Staff has not confirmed to the Company that its review process is complete. The Company intends to continue working with the Staff in the event the Staff has any further comments.

The Staff’s comments related to the Company’s accounting for the $703.6 million asbestos related charge recorded in the December 31, 2016 Consolidated Financial Statements, as well as asbestos related insurance assets. These two matters are disclosed in Note 14, Contingencies in the 2017 and 2016 Notes to Financial Statements. The Staff’s comments are focused on whether all or a portion of the amounts recognized in the 2016 consolidated statement of operations should have been recognized in earlier periods.

The Company believes that its accounting for asbestos related matters is appropriate and in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and it has addressed the Staff’s comments in full; however, it is possible that the Staff will have additional comments. If all or a portion of the asbestos related charge were to be reflected in periods prior to 2016, the impact would be a reduction in net earnings in periods prior to the year ended December 31, 2016 and a corresponding increase in earnings for the year ending December 31, 2016. There would be no impact to the December 31, 2016 Consolidated Balance Sheet or net cash provided by operating activities in the Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the three years ending December 31, 2016.

Few areas are more challenging then contingency disclosures, and as we discuss frequently, this is an area that the staff frequently comments on.

You can follow-up on the outcome of the situation in this 8-K.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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