Tag Archives: Financial

Communicate Consistently – It Really Does Matter

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

As we discuss in our workshops, it is crucial that companies communicate consistently across all the channels they use. Here are a couple of SEC comments that illustrate this point.

This first comment refers to articles in the news. Yes, the SEC staff does read the paper! This means that companies need to monitor news stories to assure that publically disseminated information is consistent with other disclosures.


  1. Recent articles indicate that Yahoo’s November 2014 agreement with Mozilla contains a change-in-control provision that provides Mozilla with the right to receive $375 million annually through 2019 if Yahoo is sold and Mozilla does not deem the new partner acceptable. As this provision appears to take the agreement out of the ordinary course of business, please provide us with your analysis of the materiality of this agreement for purposes of Item 601(b)(10) of Regulation S-K.


Here is another frequent theme, how the staff monitors earnings calls and other presentations.

Results of Operations, page II-7


  1. We note in your September 8, 2015 earnings call, your chief executive officer made reference to verbal commitments from customers to escalate contract prices when oil prices improve. Given the importance of the price of oil on your results, please tell us and consider disclosing in more detail whether such verbal commitments represent a known event. Refer to Item 303(a)(3)(ii) of Regulation S-K and SEC Release No. 33- 8350.


As a parting thought, have all the members of your disclosure committee, and in particular the persons involved in drafting and reviewing MD&A, reviewed your earnings calls as part of their process? (And yes, the second comment is one of our favorite MD&A topics!)


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Revenue Recognition –Some Example Implementation Judgements and an Update on the AICPA’s Industry Task Forces

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

Some of the New Revenue Recognition Judgments

If you have begun your implementation work for the new revenue recognition standard you know that this one-size-fits-all, principles based model will require many new judgments for most of us. Among the challenging questions are:

  1. When does an agreement with a customer become legally enforceable and include the five elements that bring it in scope for revenue recognition?
  2. How do we properly account on the balance sheet for transactions with customers before there is an in-scope, legally enforceable contract?
  3. When does a product or service we deliver to a customer meet the new criteria of “distinct” and become a performance obligation, the unit of account for revenue recognition?
  4. How do we make the now required estimate of variable consideration and apply the new constraint?
  5. What will be the best method to make the required estimate of stand-alone selling price when it is not directly observable?
  6. When does control transfer to a customer now that delivery, ownership and risk of loss are no longer the points in time when revenue is recognized?


This list is, of course, in no way complete. Individual companies may find their judgments more or less extensive and complex.

While the FASB has produced all of these new principles and the related judgments, it has also included a fair amount of implementation guidance in the new standard and clarified several issues in updates to the ASU. There are a few more soon to be final technical corrections in another ASU that you can read about here.


AICPA Help for Specialized Industries


Since this new standard is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to revenue recognition and it supersedes all industry specific guidance we have today, industries like oil and gas, airlines and others face unique challenges. In addition to the FASB’s efforts to assist us in this process you may have heard that the AICPA has also formed special task forces to deal with industry specific challenges in implementing the new standard.

You can learn about the AICPA’s efforts surrounding the new revenue recognition task force here.

The industry groups are:


There are over 100 specific position papers that have been put in process for the working groups and task forces which will ultimately be reviewed by FINREC. If you work in one of these industries, the links above will help you find the related working papers and their status.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

A Control Environment and History Follow-Up

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey


This famous quote has been in our thoughts over the last several months:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana, the poet and essayist, wrote these famous words in his book The Life of Reason. Many other people including Winston Churchill have thoughtfully incorporated this fundamental principle of life in speeches and remarks.

Another favorite variation of the idea comes from Mark Twain:
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

The lesson here is that if we learn history we can hopefully avoid making the same or similar mistakes in the future. As we discussed a couple of posts back, recent public company news shows that many organizations have not been learning from the past.


One person who can help us learn about history we do not want to repeat is Cynthia Cooper. She was the WorldCom head of internal audit who built and lead the team that worked almost “under cover” to find the largest fraud ever discovered. This was a tone at the top fraud, involving the CEO, CFO and CAO. Her book is a sometimes-chilling story of how bad tone at the top results in fraud.


Sharron Watkins is another person who can help us learn how to not repeat history. She was the Enron Vice President, a direct report to Andy Fastow, who blew the whistle about Enron’s accounting irregularities. And we all know perhaps too much about that fraud which was even the subject of a book and related movie “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”.


Corporate ethics will never be easy, but as history and current events show, it does matter. If leadership of an organization sends the message that making money is the most important thing an organization does, if it sends the message that if you don’t make money you will be fired, if it sends the message that other values can be sacrificed if you make money, the ultimate result is inevitable. In countless frauds over centuries, from Ivar Kreuger, the match king in the early 1900s, to Equity Funding in the 1970s, to Madoff, to Enron, to the companies we are talking about today, this lesson has been proven time and time again.


These stories can help us learn and avoid the mistakes others have made. They can be the focus of training and learning. They can be the foundation for building awareness and support for these issues in organizations large and small.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Disclosure Effectiveness – The Saga Continues

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

A not so long, long time ago (OK, sorry Arlo Guthrie), and over a very reasonable period, the SEC began its Disclosure Effectiveness initiative. As you have likely heard (and can read about here), the Staff has sought comment and feedback about a variety of issues, including a lengthy release dealing with Regulation S-K and another dealing with various “financial statements of others” requirements in Regulation S-X.

The latest disclosure simplification development is a 26-page Staff report required by the FAST Act titled “Report on Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K”. It addresses a variety of areas ranging from properties to risk factors. Included are several interesting ideas such as requiring year-to-year comparisons in MD&A for only the current year and prior year and including hyperlinks to prior filings for prior comparisons.

The report is a thoughtful and interesting step in this challenging process.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

More Transitions at the SEC


By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey

As you have most likely heard, Chair White recently announced that she will leave the Commission at the end of the Obama administration. As usual, whenever there is a change in administration the senior leadership at the commission leaves and their successors are appointed by the new President. Yesterday Chief Accountant Jim Schnurr announced that he will be retiring from the Commission. You can read the details here. Wes Bricker has been named the new Chief Accountant.


If you want to follow along and see SEC news as it happens, you can find all the SEC’s current press releases here.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

A non-GAAP Measure Subtle Trap

One of the more complex traps when presenting non-GAAP measures is this question:

Which source of SEC non-GAAP measure guidance applies to your earnings release:

Reg G, or

S-K Item 10(e)?

In case you are not familiar with Reg G and S-K Item 10(e) and when each of them applies:

Reg G applies when you use a non-GAAP measure in a non-filed source, and

S-K Item 10(e) applies when you use a non-GAAP measure in a filed document.

You can learn more about these two non-GAAP rules in some of the earlier posts on our blog. Here is a post with the basics:




You can also check out our one-hour briefing about non-GAAP measures from March 2016 at:



The trap here is this: You might believe that since an earnings release is not a filed document Reg G is the applicable guidance, and all you have to do is present the most directly comparable GAAP measure and provide a reconciliation.

That is NOT the case. The reason that S-K Item 10(e) applies to your earnings release is actually very subtle. It is in the instructions to Form 8-K. Tucked away in the earnings release 8-K, Item 2.02, is this instruction:


  1. The requirements of paragraph (e)(1)(i) of Item 10 of Regulation S-K (17 CFR 229.10(e)(1)(i)) shall apply to disclosures under this Item 2.02.


Thus, the first part of S-K Item 10(e) DOES apply to your earnings release, even though it is not “filed” and even though the Item 2.02 8-K is not a filed document!


So, to be very detailed, this part of S-K Item 10(e) applies to year earnings release (there are other requirements in S-K Item 10(e) that do not apply, we won’t list them here):


(e) Use of non-GAAP financial measures in Commission filings. (1) Whenever one or more non-GAAP financial measures are included in a filing with the Commission:


(i) The registrant must include the following in the filing:

(A) A presentation, with equal or greater prominence, of the most directly comparable financial measure or measures calculated and presented in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP);


(B) A reconciliation (by schedule or other clearly understandable method), which shall be quantitative for historical non-GAAP measures presented, and quantitative, to the extent available without unreasonable efforts, for forward-looking information, of the differences between the non-GAAP financial measure disclosed or released with the most directly comparable financial measure or measures calculated and presented in accordance with GAAP identified in paragraph (e)(1)(i)(A) of this section;


(C) A statement disclosing the reasons why the registrant’s management believes that presentation of the non-GAAP financial measure provides useful information to investors regarding the registrant’s financial condition and results of operations; and


(D) To the extent material, a statement disclosing the additional purposes, if any, for which the registrant’s management uses the non-GAAP financial measure that are not disclosed pursuant to paragraph (e)(1)(i)(C) of this section; and


One area the staff will comment on is the “equal or greater prominence” requirement in paragraph (A) above. Here is an example comment:


  1. We note that in the Financial Highlights section of your press release furnished on Form 8-K, you disclose Total Segment EBITDA, a non-GAAP financial measure, without the disclosure of the most comparable GAAP measure. Please note that under Item 10(e)(1)(i)(A) when a non-GAAP financial measure is presented, the most directly comparable financial measure calculated in accordance with GAAP must be disclosed with equal or greater prominence. Please revise accordingly. See also Instruction 2 to Item 2.02 of Form 8-K.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!



Non-GAAP Measures in the News

How companies use non-GAAP measures is one of the “hot topics” that we post about frequently. This is not just because we think it is interesting. (Although we do!). More to the point, it is a subject of frequent SEC comment, and in the last several weeks both SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Chief Accountant James Schnurr have expressed their concern about more aggressive use of non-GAAP measures. And a recent report from FACTSET (mentioned in more detail below) bears out this concern.

Carol and George, your blog authors, recently did a One-Hour Briefing about Non-GAAP measures.

You can find the archived One-Hour Briefing at:



In the Briefing we included this quote from Mr. Schnurr’s March 22, 2016 speech to the 12’th Annual Life Sciences Accounting and Reporting Congress in Philadelphia, PA:


Non-GAAP measures

Before I conclude today’s remarks, I’d like to provide my perspectives on non-GAAP measures, which is a topic that continues to receive attention from investors, those at the SEC, as well as the general news media.

The Commission adopted rules in 2003 addressing the disclosure of non-GAAP financial measures, both generally and with respect to inclusion in SEC filings. While the Commission’s rules allow companies to provide non-GAAP measures to investors as alternative measures that supplement information in the financial statements, the rules are clear that the non-GAAP measures must not be misleading. The SEC staff has observed a significant and, in some respects, troubling increase over the past few years in the use of, and nature of adjustments within, non-GAAP measures by companies as well prominence that the analysts and media have accorded such measures when reporting on the results of the companies they cover.


Non-GAAP measures are intended to supplement the information in the financial statements and not supplant the information in the financial statements. However, when the financial news networks report quarterly earnings, they very frequently report the non-GAAP measure of earnings with no reference to the actual GAAP earnings, often not even identifying it as having been adjusted. In addition, I am particularly troubled by the extent and nature of the adjustments to arrive at alternative financial measures of profitability, as compared to net income, and alternative measures of cash generation, as compared to the measures of liquidity or cash generation. In my view, preparers should carefully consider whether significant adjustments to profitability outside of customary measures such as EBITDA or non-recurring items or other charges to the business, such as the sale of portions of the business in order to provide the user with an understanding of how these events impact trends and future performance, are appropriate. As it relates to cash measures, I believe those measures should be reconciled to cash flow from operations.


Staff in the Division of Corporation Finance continues to monitor non-GAAP disclosures as part of its selective review process and regularly issues comments on this issue. The staff also provides guidance on the application of Commission rules through speeches and other mechanisms — and of course, staff comment letters are publicly available. You can expect that the staff will continue to be vigilant in their review of the use of these measures for compliance with the rules.


The proliferation of non-GAAP reporting measures among registrants, and reliance and reporting by analysts, should warrant increased focus by management and the audit committee. I believe the focus should go beyond determinations that the measures comply with the Commission’s rules and include probing questions on why, in contrast to the GAAP measure, the non-GAAP measure is an appropriate way to measure the company’s performance and is useful to investors. In addition, companies should ensure that the measure is prepared in a manner that includes appropriate controls and oversight procedures.


You can find the whole speech at:



Chair White’s Speech at an AICPA conference in December included these remarks:

  • Another financial reporting topic of shared interest and current conversation is the use of non-GAAP measures.  This area deserves close attention, both to make sure that our current rules are being followed and to ask whether they are sufficiently robust in light of current market practices.  Non-GAAP measures are allowed in order to convey information to investors that the issuer believes is relevant and useful in understanding its performance.  By some indications, such as analyst coverage and press commentary, non-GAAP measures are used extensively and, in some instances, may be a source of confusion.
  • Like every other issue of financial reporting, good practices in the use of non-GAAP measures begin with preparers.  While your chief financial officer and investor relations team may be quite enamored of non-GAAP measures as useful market communication devices, your finance and legal teams, along with your audit committees, should carefully attend to the use of these measures and consider questions such as:
    • Why are you using the non-GAAP measure, and how does it provide investors with useful information?
    • Are you giving non-GAAP measures no greater prominence than the GAAP measures, as required under the rules?
    • Are your explanations of how you are using the non-GAAP measures – and why they are useful for your investors – accurate and complete, drafted without boilerplate?
    • Are there appropriate controls over the calculation of non-GAAP measures?


So, the message has clearly been sent, be thoughtful about the use of non-GAAP measures and be careful to not be misleading.


How are companies responding to these messages?

For now, it does not look like they are listening. FACTSET has done a very detailed study that includes all the earnings releases for the Dow Jones Industrial Average companies for their most recent year-end. Their results are available at:




Their findings are very dramatic. For companies that released a non-GAAP earnings measure the difference between GAAP EPS and non-GAAP EPS from 2014 to 2015 widened from 11.8% to 30.7%. And that is just one of may statistics that highlight growing differences between GAAP and non-GAAP measures. Of course, the non-GAAP measures all seem to look better…


So, we suggest careful review by your audit committee and management of the use of non-GAAP measures. And, be sure to look back to the comments above and ask the questions Chair White asked:


  • Why are you using the non-GAAP measure, and how does it provide investors with useful information?
  • Are you giving non-GAAP measures no greater prominence than the GAAP measures, as required under the rules?
  • Are your explanations of how you are using the non-GAAP measures – and why they are useful for your investors – accurate and complete, drafted without boilerplate?
  • Are there appropriate controls over the calculation of non-GAAP measures?”

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome!

Carol and George


An Audit Committee Update

We (that is Carol and George, your blog authors), frequently post about audit committee issues.  For audit committees that want to perform at the highest level possible, PLI has a great program in June.


PLI’s Audit Committees and Financial Reporting 2016: Recent Developments and Current Issues program will be presented June 21, 2016 in NYC.  It will be groupcast in several cities and also available via webcast.  Topics discussed will include current SEC reporting issues, audit committee oversight of the implementation of new accounting standards such as revenue recognition and leases, and PCAOB developments for the audit committee.


You can learn more about the detailed agenda and how to register at:




As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Comment of the Week – Market Risk Reminder


We have been discussing the topic of Market Risk Disclosures a lot in this environment of volatile exchange rates, bumpy commodity prices and uncertain interest rates. This disclosure is one of the most confusing parts of Regulation S-K. Without going into a whole lot of details about S-K Item 305 (which we covered in an earlier blog at seciblog.pli.edu/?p=489), as we move towards the end of the first quarter it will continue to be important to focus on getting this disclosure right.


So, with this post as a reminder, here is a quick example in a recent comment:

Item7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk, page 63

  1. Please provide an analysis on whether your “cash flow hedges,” discussed in the second- to-last paragraph of page 63, are material, such that you would need to provide the disclosure in Item 305(a) of Regulation S-K. Please see General Instruction 5.B to Item 305(a) and (b).


As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Climate Change – An MD&A Heads-Up

In our One-Hour Briefing discussing MD&A Hot Topics on February 8, 2016 we included climate change disclosures as one of the SEC’s current focus areas. We reviewed the SEC’s climate change disclosure guidance in FR 82 along with current developments in this area, including example SEC comments. This is clearly a very challenging uncertainty to deal with for many companies.  You can find FR 82 at:



If you are in an industry that is faced with this disclosure issue, WilmarHale’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Practice is in the process of presenting an eight-week series into this and other challenges facing the energy sector. You can read their thoughts about climate change disclosures and find the other posts in their blog at:



First Annual Dealing with MD&A Hot Topics.  Link to our one hour briefing by using the link below:



Hope this helps, and as always your thoughts and comments are welcome!