The New Going Concern Disclosures – An Example

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Sears, a storied retailer with a rich history, provides a perhaps not unexpected example of the new going concern disclosures in their recently filed 10-K. In their financial statements on page 66 of the 10-K you will find these disclosures:

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.

This, as the bolded sentence above illustrates, is an example of the situation where there is substantial doubt about the ability of Sears to continue as a going concern, but the substantial doubt is mitigated by the company’s plans. The new reporting requirement for going concern disclosures has a two path approach. The first is:

If, after considering management’s plans, substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern is alleviated as a result of consideration of management’s plans, an entity shall disclose in the notes to financial statements information that enables users of the financial statements to understand all of the following (or refer to similar information disclosed elsewhere in the notes):

  • Principal conditions or events that raised substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern (before consideration of management’s plans)
  • Management’s evaluation of the significance of those conditions or events in relation to the entity’s ability to meet its obligations
  • Management’s plans that alleviated substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

The second disclosure path is:

If, after considering management’s plans, substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern is not alleviated, the entity shall include a statement in the notes to financial statements indicating that there is substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued. Additionally, the entity shall disclose information that enables users of the financial statements to understand all of the following:

  • Principal conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern
  • Management’s evaluation of the significance of those conditions or events in relation to the entity’s ability to meet its obligations
  • Management’s plans that are intended to mitigate the conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

Sears provides us an interesting example and the delicate dance of the wording in their disclosure sheds light on how challenging this new requirement can be for companies.

And, to close the loop, here is the opinion paragraph from the auditor of Sear’s financial statements:

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.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.