The genesis of this post is actually a panel discussion from PLI’s 47th Annual Institute on Securities Regulation. This program is one of our major events in the CLE world. The roster of speakers is amazing, starting with a keynote address from Chair White and featuring so many SEC alums, current staffers and industry professionals that an SEC geek simply can’t resist the program.
Anyway, on the first day of the conference the first panel discussed capital market “health” in the current environment. One of the market developments they discussed was financing rounds companies complete shortly before an IPO. In the current environment more and more late round investors are demanding “price protection”. This “price protection” includes instruments like warrants with adjustable prices (ratchets or down-rounds) and preferred stock with adjustable conversions options.
(The staff does write comments about these kinds of instruments, and we have a few examples below.)
It turns out that sometimes the valuations used for these private placements shortly before an IPO don’t follow through to the valuations in the IPO. So the late round investors ask for price protection so they won’t seem to have overpaid shortly before an IPO. (This dovetails very nicely with the recent discussion in the financial press about how valuations for “unicorn” companies may be overstated in the current tech world.)
This is exactly the kind of price protection that has been common in emerging companies that have been far from the IPO process, and it is these kinds of instruments that have been the cause of so many restatements.
If you have ever attended any of our Midyear, Annual or Mid-Sized and Smaller Company SEC Reporting & FASB Forums you are familiar with the continuously updated list of restatement issues we discuss at those conferences. For the last seven years, the number one cause of restatements by public companies has been debt versus equity accounting. Instruments such as warrants with repricing provisions combined with the convoluted, complex accounting guidance in this area have caused more restatements than any other issue.
Being one of the few accountants in the Institute on Securities Regulation it was fascinating listening to the lawyers discuss these complex instruments. The discussion of disclosures that should surround these complex instruments and their unique features was deep and rich. No one however mentioned the accounting issues that they create, and the risk of restatement that goes along with this accounting complexity.
It was a great reminder that as accounting professionals we need to be on the watch for this issue and when we see it raise the accounting issues and assure they are dealt with effectively. This is one of the times when communication between finance, legal and accounting professionals is crucial.
If you would like to review an example of the accounting these instruments create, one of the participants on the panel was from BOX, a successful IPO which had this exact situation. In their first Form 10-K and their S-1 you can find a derivative liability on their balance sheet and a related fair value adjustment in their income statement related to redeemable preferred stock warrants they issued which were derivatives. You can find their Form 10-K at:
And, last, here are a couple of example comments. All of this really emphasizes the need to be aware of this issue and build the skills to recognize the issue and deal with it effectively.
It appears the exchangeable senior notes issued in August 2014 contain redemption features. Provide us your analysis that supports your conclusion that none of the redemption features are required to be bifurcated in accordance with ASC 815-15. Specifically address whether the debt involves a substantial discount in accordance with ASC 815-15-25-40 through [25-43].
We note your disclosure that the 1.25% Notes contain an embedded cash conversion option and that you have determined that this option is a derivative financial instrument that is required to be separated from the notes. Please provide us with the details of your analysis in determining that this conversion option should be accounted for separately as a derivative and refer to the specific accounting literature you relied on.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!
P.S. And, just in case this is relevant to you, here is a link to our new workshop “Debt vs. Equity Accounting for Complex Financial Instruments”. This new case-driven workshop will be presented five times next year.