A Really Good Question – Form S-3 and the New Revenue Recognition Standard

In a recent post we discussed a potential complication in the registration process and Form S-3 in particular if you retrospectively implement the new revenue recognition standard. You can review the post here. The issue arises if you file an S-3 in 2018 after you adopt the new revenue recognition standard but before your 10-K for 2018 is filed. The 2018 Form 10-K will have annual financial statements for 2018, 2017 and 2016 retrospectively applying the new standard. However, if you file an S-3, or have an S-3 shelf registration in place, before you file the 2018 Form 10-K, your S-3 would be required to have three fiscal years, now 2017, 2016 and 2015 that apply the new standard.

Thus, you could be required to report an extra year, 2015, on the new revenue recognition standard if you want to access the capital markets with an S-3, or an S-3 shelf registration, during 2018.

Whether or not the SEC can or will have any relief from this issue is not finalized. So stay tuned!

In our post we set up the example with an S-3 filed after the first-quarter 2018 form 10-Q is filed.

This all lead to a really great question from a reader:

 

In the hypothetical, if an issuer were to file an S-3 in the first quarter of 2018 (before its 3Q financials go stale and before the 2018 10-Q is filed), does Item 11 of Form S-3 require the company to file an 8-K with its recast 2015 financials reflecting the full retrospective adoption of the new standard before the issuer may take-down securities?

The answer to this question? Well, there is not a detailed rule anywhere that deals with the issue.

We researched the question and the closest guidance we could find was in the CorpFin Financial Reporting Manual Topic 11:

“Companies may transition to ASU No. 2014-09 and IFRS 15 (collectively, the “new revenue standard”) using one of two methods:

Retrospectively to each prior period presented, subject to the election of certain practical expedients (“full retrospective method”). A calendar year-end company that adopts the new revenue standard using this method must begin recording revenue using the new standard on January 1, 2018. In its 2018 annual report, the company would revise its 2016 and 2017 financial statements and record the cumulative effect of the change recognized in opening retained earnings as of January 1, 2016.

Retrospectively with the cumulative effect of initially applying the new revenue standard recognized at the date of adoption (“modified retrospective method”). A calendar year-end company that adopts the new revenue standard using this method must begin recording revenue using the new standard on January 1, 2018. At that time, the company must record the cumulative effect of the change recognized in opening retained earnings and financial statements for 2016 and 2017 would remain unchanged. The standard also sets forth additional disclosures required by companies that adopt the new standard using this method.

That language sure sounds like if you file after January 1, 2018, you need three years, 2015, 2016 and 2017 based on the new standard.

That said, stay tuned, we will all continue our research! And what is more fun than a really deep SEC research question?

As always, and especially with this one, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

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