On December 1, 2017, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance updated its Financial Reporting Manual for the following changes:

  • Revising guidance related to the pro forma impact of adopting new accounting standards (Sections 3250.1(m)-(n)), including clarifying that if a registrant:
    • acquires a significant business, and such business adopts a new accounting standard as of a different date and/or under a different transition method than the registrant, than the registrant must conform the date and method of adoption of the acquired business to its own date and method in its pro forma financial information; however, the guidance suggests that the SEC Staff will consider requests for relief from this requirement; and
    • retrospectively adopts a new accounting standard on January 1, 2018, makes a significant acquisition in September 2018, and later files a Form 8-K that includes pro forma financial information for the year ended December 31, 2017 and the six months ending June 30, 2018, than the registrant does not need to apply the new accounting policy to the pro forma information for periods prior to adoption until it has reflected the new standard in the historical financial statements for those periods; however, if the registrant believes the effect of the new standard on 2017 historical information will be material, it should make appropriate disclosure to that effect in the notes to the pro forma financial information.
  • Revising guidance to address the adoption of new or revised financial accounting standards after an EGC loses its EGC status (Section 10230.1), clarifying that:
    • EGCs that take advantage of an extended transition period provision are encouraged to review their plans to adopt accounting standards upon losing EGC status and to discuss with the SEC Staff any issues they foresee in being able to timely comply; and
    • generally, if an EGC loses its status after it would have had to adopt a standard absent the extended transition, the issuer should adopt the standard in its next filing after losing status, but depending on the facts and circumstances the SEC Staff may not object to other alternatives.
  • Clarifying the effective dates for ASU No. 2014-09 “Revenue from Contracts with Customers” and ASU No. 2016-02 “New Leasing Standard” for certain public business entities (Sections 11100 and 11200).

The updates to the Financial Reporting Manual are available here.

Below, a continuation of our bibliography of thought-provoking articles on issues related to right-sizing regulation, staying private versus going public, and related topics:

JOBS Act and Information Uncertainty

A recent paper titled “The JOBS Act and Information Uncertainty in IPO Firms,” published by Mary E. Barth, Wayne R. Landsman, and Daniel J. Taylor, has garnered quite a bit of attention.  The paper examines the extent to which omission of certain information by emerging growth companies (EGCs) can be tied to IPO underpricing.  According to the paper, EGCs that present compensation information for fewer than five top executives and present fewer than three years of audited financial statements are associated with higher levels of underpricing.  It is difficult to conclude whether there really is a correlation since, in our experience, many of the EGCs that choose to rely on the accommodations and omit this information are concentrated in particular sectors and those are usually associated with underpricing.  Similarly, in our experience, many companies in those sectors have concentrated ownership and existing investors participating in the IPOs.  The paper also concludes that EGCs have higher levels of institutional ownership than non-EGCs. This may not be all that surprising given trends in private capital raising over the last eight to ten years.  The authors suggest that this information should be considered in connection with additional regulatory reforms that might reduce disclosure burdens.  Without more detail comparing the sectors of the companies that are or are not EGCs, and of the EGCs that choose to omit disclosures, and the pricing issues specific to IPOs of companies in such sectors, as well as of companies by age or maturity, it would seem difficult to draw any conclusions.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued its second report (of four reports), titled “A Financial System that Creates Economic Opportunities, Capital Markets.”  The Report was issued in response to Presidential Order 137772 setting forth the Core Principles that should guide regulation of the U.S. financial system. The Report addresses various elements of the capital markets, from the equity and debt markets, to the U.S. Treasury securities market, and to derivatives and securitization.  The recommendations relating to the U.S. IPO market and reducing the regulatory burdens for companies seeking to undertake an IPO as well as for smaller public companies may be very familiar to readers of this blog, since many of the measures are included in the Financial CHOICE Act or otherwise addressed in proposed legislation or in rule proposals from the SEC.

See our alert, which may be accessed here.

On October 2, 2017, Congressmen Ted Budd (R-NC) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 3903, in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill proposes amendments to the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, to increase initial public offering (“IPO”) and follow-on activity. The proposed legislation extends three JOBS Act provisions currently available to emerging growth companies to all issuers: (1) submission of a draft registration statement for confidential nonpublic review by the SEC prior to the public filing of the IPO registration statement; (2) within the one-year period following an IPO, confidential submission of a draft registration statement for an offering; and (3) the ability to test-the-waters with institutional investors.  The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance’s policy changes earlier in the year already have addressed confidential submissions for IPOs as well as follow-on offerings undertaken within twelve months of an IPO; however, the bill would ostensibly extend the confidentiality provisions contained in Securities Act Section 6(e)(2) for these draft registration statements.  Currently, those confidentiality provisions are available only for EGCs and confidential submissions made under the new SEC policy must be the subject of a Rule 83 confidential treatment request.  Also, the bill would address the ability to test the waters, which was not addressed by the Division of Corporation Finance.

The text of the bill is available here.

Recently, the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) published a white paper titled, “Growing Past Emerging Growth: Five Years After the JOBS Act,” which highlights areas of focus for emerging growth companies (EGCs) that took advantage of the 2012 JOBS Act and now are losing their EGC status. In particular, the white paper notes the importance of developing a transition plan. Companies ceasing to be EGCs will be required to prepare full compensation disclosures. The more significant hurdle for most companies is addressing Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 auditor attestation requirements. The white paper provides helpful suggestions on marshalling the requisite resources to prepare for compliance.

The Staff of the Division of Corporation Finance recently posted additional guidance regarding the financial information that an EGC may omit from its draft registration statements, as well as guidance for non-EGC issuers.  See below the Staff’s guidance:

Question 1

Question: What financial information may an Emerging Growth Company omit from its draft and publicly filed registration statements?

Answer: Under Section 71003 of the FAST Act, an Emerging Growth Company may omit from its filed registration statements annual and interim financial information that “relates to a historical period that the issuer reasonably believes will not be required to be included…at the time of the contemplated offering.”  Interim financial information that will be included in a longer historical period relates to that period.  Accordingly, interim financial information that will be included in a historical period that the issuer reasonably believes will be required to be included at the time of the contemplated offering may not be omitted from its filed registration statements.   However, under staff policy, an Emerging Growth Company may omit from its draft registration statements interim financial information that it reasonably believes it will not be required to present separately at the time of the contemplated offering.

For example, consider a calendar year-end Emerging Growth Company that submits a draft registration statement in November 2017 and reasonably believes it will commence its offering in April 2018 when annual financial information for 2017 will be required.  This issuer may omit from its draft registration statements its 2015 annual financial information and interim financial information related to 2016 and 2017.  Assuming that this issuer were to first publicly file in April 2018 when its annual information for 2017 is required, it would not need to separately prepare or present interim information for 2016 and 2017.  If this issuer were to file publicly in January 2018, it may omit its 2015 annual financial information, but it must include its 2016 and 2017 interim financial information in that January filing because that interim information relates to historical periods that will be included at the time of the public offering.  See also Question 101.05 for guidance related to registration statements submitted or filed by non-EGCs. [Aug. 17, 2017]

Question 101.04

Question: What financial information may an Emerging Growth Company omit from its draft and publicly filed registration statements?

Answer: Under Section 71003 of the FAST Act, an Emerging Growth Company may omit from its filed registration statements annual and interim financial information that “relates to a historical period that the issuer reasonably believes will not be required to be included…at the time of the contemplated offering.”  Interim financial information that will be included in a longer historical period relates to that period.  Accordingly, interim financial information that will be included in a historical period that the issuer reasonably believes will be required to be included at the time of the contemplated offering may not be omitted from its filed registration statements.   However, under staff policy, an Emerging Growth Company may omit from its draft registration statements interim financial information that it reasonably believes it will not be required to present separately at the time of the contemplated offering.

For example, consider a calendar year-end Emerging Growth Company that submits a draft registration statement in November 2017 and reasonably believes it will commence its offering in April 2018 when annual financial information for 2017 will be required.  This issuer may omit from its draft registration statements its 2015 annual financial information and interim financial information related to 2016 and 2017.  Assuming that this issuer were to first publicly file in April 2018 when its annual information for 2017 is required, it would not need to separately prepare or present interim information for 2016 and 2017.  If this issuer were to file publicly in January 2018, it may omit its 2015 annual financial information, but it must include its 2016 and 2017 interim financial information in that January filing because that interim information relates to historical periods that will be included at the time of the public offering.  [Aug. 17, 2017]

Question 101.05

Question: What financial information may an issuer that is not an Emerging Growth Company omit from its draft and publicly filed registration statements?

Answer: The relief provided by Section 71003 of the FAST Act is not available to issuers other than Emerging Growth Companies. However, under staff policy, an issuer that is not an Emerging Growth Company may omit from its draft registration statements interim and annual financial information that it reasonably believes it will not be required to present separately at the time it files its registration statement publicly. The issuer may not omit any required financial information from its filed registration statements.

For example, consider a calendar year-end issuer that is not an Emerging Growth Company that submits a draft registration statement in November 2017 and reasonably believes it will first publicly file in April 2018 when annual financial information for 2017 will be required. This issuer may omit from its draft registration statements its 2014 annual financial information and interim financial information related to 2016 and 2017 because this information would not be required at the time of its first public filing in April 2018. [Aug. 17, 2017]

The Staff of the Division of Corporation Finance has published these Frequently Asked Questions to assist issuers that are not emerging growth companies that would like to avail themselves of the confidential submission process. The FAQs also clarify that the ability to “test the waters” is limited to EGCs.

See here: https://www.sec.gov/corpfin/voluntary-submission-draft-registration-statements-faqs Continue Reading SEC Staff issues FAQs on Confidential Submissions

The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday announced a new policy that essentially extends the confidential submission accommodation made available to emerging growth companies (EGCs) to all issuers.  The EGC process will continue unchanged.

Starting on July 10, the Commission will review a draft initial Securities Act registration statement and related revisions on a nonpublic basis subject to the same requirements applicable to EGCs that avail themselves of the confidential submission process.  Similarly, the Commission also will review a draft registration statement of a class of securities under the Exchange Act Section 12(b).  The Commission statement noted in its statement that it will also accept draft registration statements submitted prior to the end of the twelfth month following the effective date of an issuer’s initial Securities Act registration statement or an issuer’s Exchange Act Section 12(b) registration statement for nonpublic review.  A foreign private issuer may choose to rely on the policies applicable to EGCs, to the extent that they qualify, or rely on this new approach.

The full statement is available here.

Read our client alert.

On June 1, 2017, the Public Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) adopted Auditing Standard No. 3101, The Auditor’s Report on an Audit of Financial Statements When the Auditor Expresses an Unqualified Opinion, which the PCAOB believes will increase the relevance and utility of auditors’ reports by including additional information regarding the audit process, and other disclosures. Most significantly, the new standard requires inclusion in the audit report of a discussion of critical audit matters (CAMs) identified in the course of the audit. The new standard also contains an auditor tenure disclosure requirement and standardizes the format of the report, among other changes. The new standard retains the pass/fail opinion of the existing auditor’s report.

The new standard and other changes are subject to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval. Assuming that approval is obtained, the PCAOB expects the provisions, other than those related to CAMs, to take effect for audits for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2017. Provisions related to CAMs will take effect for (1) large accelerated filers, in connection with audits for fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019, and (2) all other filers, in connection with audits for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2020.

Read our client alert.