Category Archives: 10-K Tips

10-K Tip Number Six for 2016 – The SEC’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative

As a starting point in this post, we want to be clear, the SEC continuously focuses on making disclosure effective. This is an important part of their mission, to provide information to investors. Over the years projects like Plain English and the MD&A guidance in FR 72 have clearly helped improve disclosure.
And, in large part thanks to the JOBS Act, disclosure effectiveness is a formal initiative at the SEC right now. This, of course, is why we included it as a hot topic on our 2016 Form 10-K Tune-Up, which is now available on-demand with CLE and CPE credit at:


The JOBS Act formalized this process with its requirement to study various S-K disclosures. Going beyond the JOBS Act, the SEC has sought comment on other matters including certain parts of Regulation S-X. Late last year the FAST Act created required next steps in this process. All of these projects, and the others that will come, will hopefully result in a modernization and refocusing of the whole disclosure process. You can read about all the different parts of this initiative at the Disclosure Effectiveness section of the SEC’s web page:



(If you would like to read more about the FAST Act check out this post: )



These elements of the SEC’s process are clearly longer-term, and the regulatory steps involved need time for constituent input and careful consideration of the impact of possible change. This does not mean that there are not steps you can take right now to help make information better for investors. In fact, in numerous public forums the SEC Staff has consistently focused on three themes you can use right now to improve disclosure. They are:

Reduce repetition


Focus disclosure


Eliminate outdated and immaterial information


You can get the SEC’s perspective on these issues in this speech by Corp Fin Director Keith Higgins:


And this speech from December 2015 by Chief Accountant James Schnurr touches on things to do now, particularly using judgment:



One last issue – if you have questions about something such as a whether to continue a disclosure related to an SEC comment from prior years that is immaterial today, the staff actually encourages that you call them to discuss the issue!


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Form 10-K Tune-Up Tip Number Five for 2016

The next topic from our 2016 Form 10-K Tune-up One-Hour Briefing is SAB 74 disclosures. You can listen to the briefing on-demand with CPE and CLE credit available at:

To begin, what does SAB 74, which is Topic 11-M in the SAB Codification, actually require? You can read the whole SAB at:

Here are a few highlights.

First, it is clear that this disclosure is not required for all new Accounting Standards Updates:
“The Commission addressed a similar issue and concluded that registrants should discuss the potential effects of adoption of recently issued accounting standards in registration statements and reports filed with the Commission. The staff believes that this disclosure guidance applies to all accounting standards which have been issued but not yet adopted by the registrant unless the impact on its financial position and results of operations is not expected to be material.”
This part of the SAB dovetails very nicely with an important part of the SEC’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative, which is to eliminate immaterial disclosures that potentially “clutter up” a report and potentially obscure material information.
Here are two examples to explore this issue.

CocaCola did not mention recently issued accounting standards in their 2014 Form 10-K MD&A. They apparently made the judgment that there was no material impact in the current year from new accounting standards. They did include SAB 74 disclosures in their financial statements in note 1. You can check it out at:

Intel treated this disclosure in exactly the same way, and you can find their 2014 10-K at:

So, the first theme for SAB 74 is focus on material information.



The second point to think about with this disclosure is what do we need to say about new standards that we believe will be material.

The SAB contains four disclosure requirements:

1. “A brief description of the new standard, the date that adoption is required and the date that the registrant plans to adopt, if earlier.

2. A discussion of the methods of adoption allowed by the standard and the method expected to be utilized by the registrant, if determined.

3. A discussion of the impact that adoption of the standard is expected to have on the financial statements of the registrant, unless not known or reasonably estimable. In that case, a statement to that effect may be made.

4. Disclosure of the potential impact of other significant matters that the registrant believes might result from the adoption of the standard (such as technical violations of debt covenant agreements, planned or intended changes in business practices, etc.) is encouraged.”



As you consider these disclosures, the first thing that arises is that over time there will be a progression in the detail of the disclosure.

For example, most companies at this point in time will not know which method they will use to implement the new revenue recognition standard. But, as we go through next year, we will get closer to that decision. When the decision is made, the disclosure should be updated to inform investors about which method will be used. The same issue applies to quantifying the impact of a change.

The fourth disclosure, the potential impact on other significant matters, points out that when such a situation exists, this information may not be appropriate to disclose in the financial statements, but would be disclosed in MD&A.

This means that this disclosure should not always be exactly the same in the financial statements and MD&A.
As a brief PS, we have blogged about this topic before and suggested some wording for SAB 74 disclosures about the new revenue recognition standard. You can read that post at:


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

10-K Tip Number Four for 2016 – COSO and ICFR

This is the fourth of our deeper dives in the topics we discussed in our Second Annual Form 10-K Tune-up One-hour Briefing on January 7. (This One-Hour Briefing will be available on-demand soon.)

The topics for this post are:

The COSO framework, and

Internal Control Over Financial Reporting.

The easier of these two topics to discuss, although it presents some very gray issues, is the 2013 revision of the COSO framework. If you have not yet adopted the updated framework, what are the implications in your SEC reporting?

The SEC has not made any bright-line statements or mandates about this transition. And, in fact, many companies have not yet adopted the framework.

In December of 2013, Paul Beswick, The SEC’s Chief Accountant at that time, said in a speech:

“SEC staff plans to monitor the transition for issuers using the 1992 framework to evaluate whether and if any staff or Commission actions become necessary or appropriate at some point in the future. However, at this time, I’ll simply refer users of the COSO framework to the statements COSO has made about their new framework and their thoughts about transition.”

In addition to this cautionary language, the SEC Staff also discussed this issue at a meeting of the Center For Audit Quality’s SEC Regulations Committee. Here is that section of the minutes:

Ms. Shah stated that the staff is currently referring users of the COSO 1992 framework to the following statements made on the COSO web site:

“COSO believes that users should transition their applications and related documentation to the updated Framework as soon as is feasible under their particular circumstances. As previously announced, COSO will continue to make available its original Framework during the transition period extending to December 15, 2014, after which time COSO will consider it as superseded by the 2013 edition. During the transition period (May 14, 2013 to December 15, 2014) the COSO Board believes that organizations reporting externally should clearly disclose whether the original Framework or the updated Framework was utilized.”

Exchange Act Rule 13a-15(c) requires management’s evaluation of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting to be based on a framework that is “a suitable, recognized control framework that is established by a body or group that has followed due-process procedures…” In Release 33-8328, the SEC stated that ” [t]he COSO Framework satisfies our criteria and may be used as an evaluation framework for purposes of management’s annual internal control evaluation and disclosure requirements.”

The staff indicated that the longer issuers continue to use the 1992 framework, the more likely they are to receive questions from the staff about whether the issuer’s use of the 1992 framework satisfies the SEC’s requirement to use a suitable, recognized framework (particularly after December 15, 2014 when COSO will consider the 1992 framework to have been superseded by the 2013 framework).

Clearly there is no hard and fast rule about when to transition, but if a company were to use the old framework much longer, questions about the suitability of the old framework increase in importance. Issues such as what kinds of problems that the new framework might identify that the old framework could miss, (where are there gaps in other words) would need to be addressed.

As a last note, this blog post from the WSJ reports that 73% of 10-K filers for 2014 adopted the new framework:

Since its inception the SOX 404 processes used to assess the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting by management and external auditors have been evolving. In the last few years there have been a number of developments and companies, auditors and regulators have all been raising questions about the process. Some observers have even called this period a “perfect storm” of ICFR evaluation issues.

So, what is behind the perfect storm? Here are a few of the underlying sources of this ongoing issue.
The SEC has asked some challenging questions, including “Where are all the material weaknesses?” In this speech, Deputy Chief Accountant Brian Croteau addresses for the second year in a row how most restatements are not preceded by a material weakness disclosure, raising the question about whether managements’ assessments and external audits are appropriately identifying material weaknesses:

The PCAOB in their inspection reports have found what they believe to be a significant number of issues in ICFR audits. In the Overall Findings section of their first report on ICFR inspections the Board reported:

In 46 of the 309 integrated audit engagements (15 percent) that were inspected in 2010, Inspections staff found that the firm, at the time it issued its audit report, had failed to obtain sufficient audit evidence to support its audit opinion on the effectiveness of internal control due to one or more deficiencies identified by the Inspections staff. In 39 of those 46 engagements (85 percent) where the firm did not have sufficient evidence to support the internal control opinion, representing 13 percent of the 309 integrated audit engagements that were inspected, the firm also failed to obtain sufficient audit evidence to support the financial statement audit opinion.

Since this report the PCAOB has summarized issues they have found in ICFR audits in other documents, including Staff Audit Practice Alert No. 11: Considerations for Audits of Internal Control Over Financial Reporting. You can find the alert at:
The issues addressed in the Alert are very similar to those addressed in the summary inspection report and include:

Risk assessment and the audit of internal control

Selecting controls to test

Testing management review controls

Information technology (“IT”) considerations, including system- generated data and reports

Roll-forward of controls tested at an interim date

Using the work of others

Evaluating identified control deficiencies
In particular, testing management review controls and relying on system-generated data have been common and particularly difficult challenges to deal with in the ICFR process. This combination of challenging areas to deal with and questions about identifying and reporting all material weaknesses in ICFR will likely continue to make this a difficult area in future years.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.


The whole briefing is now available on-demand with CPE and CLE credit at:


10-K Tip Number Three for 2016

This post continues the series of deeper dives into the 10-K reporting issues we highlighted in our January 7, 2016 One-Hour Briefing, “PLI’s Second Annual Form 10-K Tune-Up”. (This One-Hour Briefing will be available on-demand soon.) This is the third topic in the briefing, audit committee disclosures.

In the Fall of 2015 we did a series of posts about audit committee issues, a topic that has been under discussion by the SEC and the reporting community. The SEC’s concept release about audit committee disclosures and a study by The Center for Audit Quality and Audit Analytics that shows that many companies are making audit committee disclosures well beyond those required by the SEC, the Exchanges and the NASDAQ brought this discussion to a new level of importance.

This is, of course, why we included this topic in our One-Hour Briefing. And, rather than repeat all the issues, here are the blog posts which you can peruse and dive into more deeply at your leisure:



Part One – Overview and Some History

Part Two – Independence Oversight

Part Three – Audit Fee Disclosures –A Few Common Problem Areas in This Independence Disclosure

Part Four – The SEC’s Concept Release

Part Five – Voluntary Disclosures in the News

Part Six – Some Next Steps




As always, your thoughts and questions are welcome!


10-K Tip Number Two for 2016


The second tip from our January 7th One-Hour Briefing “PLI’s Second Annual Form 10-K Tune-up” (which will also be available in an On-Demand version soon) is under the category of New and Emerging Issues – PCAOB Auditing Standard 18 Related Parties (Release No. Release 2014-002, and PCAOB Auditing Standard 17 Auditing Supplemental Information Accompanying Audited Financial Statements (Release No. 2013-008

A warning for those who see “PCAOB” and assume they can skip this one. AS 18 will require auditors to do more work, which could be significant depending on the facts and circumstances. This will likely trickle down to companies and their audit committees causing more work in the areas outlined below in the form of more inquiry, documentation, and testing, including ICFR. So read on…

AS 18


The PCAOB adopted AS 18 in Release 2014-002 mainly to strengthen auditor performance in the areas of:

Related party transactions,

Significant transactions that are outside the normal course of business, and

Financial relationships and transactions with executives


Collectively these areas are referred to as “critical areas”, essentially high-risk areas, and the new Audit Standards require specific audit procedures for each area. The adopting release cited increased risks of material misstatement and fraudulent financial reporting involving these areas as motivating factors in issuing AS 18.


AS 18 addresses:


  • Relationships and transactions with related parties: Related party transactions may involve difficult measurement and recognition issues as they are not considered to be arms-length transactions. Therefore these transactions could lead to fraud or misappropriation of assets, and in turn result in errors in the financial statements, and could increase the risk of a material misstatement.


  • Significant unusual transactions: Significant unusual transactions can create complex accounting and financial statement disclosure issues that could cause increased risks of material misstatement and fraud. Another risk cited is the potential for inadequate disclosure if the form of the transaction is disclosed over its substance.


  • Financial Relationships and Transactions with Executive Officers: Financial relationships and transactions with executive officers can create incentives and pressures for executive officers to meet financial targets, resulting in risks of material misstatement to the financial statements.


So, what hasn’t changed:

  • The definition of related party, which the PCAOB pegged to the definition in the applicable GAAP the company uses
  • The accounting for related party transactions
  • The financial statement or regulatory (SEC) disclosure requirements


So, what has changed?:

  • The procedures are more specific and risk-based
  • Additional required communications with the audit committee have been added, see paragraph 19 of Release 2014-002
  • Three matters were added to the auditor’s evaluation of significant unusual transactions (see paragraph AU 316.67 as amended by this AS, which is paragraph AS 2401.67 in the reorganized PCAOB Audit Standards)
  1. The transaction lacks commercial or economic substance, or is part of a larger series of connected, linked, or otherwise interdependent arrangements that lack commercial or economic substance individually or in the aggregate (e.g., the transaction is entered into shortly prior to period end and is unwound shortly after period end;
  2. The transaction occurs with a party that falls outside the definition of a related party(as defined by the accounting principles applicable to that company), with either party able to negotiate terms that may not be available for other, more clearly independent, parties on an arm’s-length basis
  3. The transaction enables the company to achieve certain financial targets.


What companies should do now:

  • Become familiar with AS 18
  • Document the company’s process and related controls over (see paragraph 4 of Release 2014-002) :
  • Identifying related parties and relationships and transactions with related parties,
  • Authorizing and approving transactions with related parties, and
  • Accounting for and disclosing relationships and transactions with related parties
  • Gather and document the information auditors are required to inquire about, (see PCAOB Release No. 2014 -002, page A1-3, starting at par. 5)


Audit committees should:

  • Become familiar with AS 18 and AS 17
  • Understand the company’s process and related controls over identifying related party transactions and
  • Be prepared for the auditor’s inquiry that is outlined in paragraph 7 on page A1-4 of Release 2014-002.


AS 17


The PCAOB adopted AS 17 to improve the quality of audit procedures performed and related reports on supplemental information that is required by a regulator when that information is reported on in relation to financial statements that are audited under PCAOB standards. The standard requires an audit for certain supplemental information, such as:

  • the schedules in Form 11-K (employee benefit plans) where the plan financial statements and schedules are prepared in accordance with the financial reporting requirements of ERISA, and
  • the supplemental schedules required by broker-dealers under SEC rule 17a-5


Paragraphs 3 & 4 of Appendix 1 specifies audit procedures that the auditor should perform, and paragraph 5 contains the management representations the auditor will be asking for. The auditor may provide either a standalone auditors report on supplemental information accompanying audited financial statements will or may include the auditor’s report on the supplemental information in the auditor’s report on the financial statements.


As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!