SEC Issues Proposed Regulation S-K And S-X Amendments
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On July 13, 2016, the SEC issued a 318-page proposed rule change on Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X to amend disclosures that are redundant, duplicative, overlapping, outdated or superseded (S-K and S-X Amendments). The proposed rule changes follow the 341-page concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to certain business and financial disclosure requirements issued on April 15, 2016. See my two-part blog on the S-K Concept Release HERE and HERE.
The proposed S-K and S-X Amendments are intended to facilitate the disclosure of information to investors while simplifying compliance efforts by companies. The proposed S-K and S-X Amendments come as a result of the Division of Corporation Finance’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative and as required by Section 72002 of the FAST Act. Prior to the issuance of these S-K and S-X Amendments, on June 27, 2016, as part of the same initiative, the SEC issued proposed amendments to the definition of “Small Reporting Company” (see my blog HERE). The S-K and S-X Amendments also seek comment on certain disclosure requirements that overlap with U.S. GAAP and possible recommendations to FASB, the regulatory body that drafts and implements GAAP, for conforming changes.
The topic of disclosure requirements under Regulations S-K and S-X as pertains to financial statements and disclosures made in reports and registration statements filed under the Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) has come to the forefront over the past couple of years. Regulation S-K, as amended over the years, was adopted as part of a uniform disclosure initiative to provide a single regulatory source related to non-financial statement disclosures and information required to be included in registration statements and reports filed under the Exchange Act and the Securities Act. Regulation S-X contains specific financial statement preparation and disclosure requirements.
In addition to affecting companies filing registration statements (including on Form 1-A in a Regulation A/A+ offering) and those filing reports with the SEC, the proposed S-K Amendments will affect acquired entities, acquirees, investment advisers, investment companies, broker-dealers and nationally recognized statistical rating organizations.
The underlying basis of the disclosures required by Regulations S-K and S-X is to keep shareholders and the markets informed on a regular basis in a transparent manner. Reports and registration statements filed with the SEC can be viewed by the public on the SEC EDGAR website. A reporting company also has record-keeping requirements, must implement internal accounting controls and is subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, including the CEO/CFO certification requirements. Under the CEO/CFO certification requirement, the CEO and CFO must personally certify the content of the reports filed with the SEC and the procedures established by the issuer to report disclosures and prepare financial statements. For more information on that topic, see my blog HERE.
The proposed S-K and S-X Amendments cover:
- Duplicative requirements, including duplications between financial footnote requirements and disclosures in the body of a registration statement or report;
- Overlapping requirements which may not be completely duplicative. The S-K Amendments consider whether to delete certain disclosure requirements that are covered in GAAP or other financial reporting or integrate such disclosures into a single rule source;
- Outdated requirements which have become obsolete due to the passage of time or changes regulations, business or technology; and
- Superseded requirements which are inconsistent with recent legislation or updated rules and regulations.
Redundant or Duplicative Reporting Requirements
The proposed S-K and S-X Amendments seek to eliminate a laundry list of 26 redundant and duplicative disclosures. Most of these proposed changes are technical and nuanced related to particular Regulation S-X GAAP and other financial statement disclosures—for example, foreign currency; financial statement consolidation, income tax disclosures, contingencies and interim accounting adjustments. As the proposed rule eliminations are duplicative, they will not change the financial reporting or disclosure requirements.
Similar to redundant and duplicative disclosures, the SEC has identified numerous disclosure requirements that are related to, but not exactly the same as, GAAP, IFRS and other SEC disclosure obligations. The Regulation S-K and S-X Amendments propose to delete, scale back or integrate the overlapping disclosures to eliminate the overlap.
The SEC category of overlapping disclosures, and related Regulation S-K and S-X Amendments, have added broad considerations for which the SEC is seeking public comment. In particular, some of the proposed changes would result in the relocation of disclosures in the filings. This raises considerations related to the prominence of information in a particular report and moving information from outside to inside financial statements.
When information is in a different location in a report, it may receive more or less attention and be thought of as more or less prominent. Moreover, information inside of financial statements is subjected to audit and interim review, internal control over financial reporting and XBRL tagging. In addition, information inside of financial statements is not subject to the safe harbor protections of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 related to forward-looking statements.
A complete detail of all the proposed Regulation S-K and S-X Amendment changes related to overlapping disclosures is beyond the scope of this blog; however, a few items deserve discussion.
In general, many of the changes proposed by the SEC relate to interim financial reporting. In some cases where items are fully required to be reported in a Form 8-K, annual report or management discussion and analysis (MD&A), the SEC proposes eliminating the same or similar requirement from interim financial statements.
For example, the SEC proposes eliminating significant business combination pro forma financial statement requirements from interim financial statements for smaller reporting companies and Regulation A filers. The pro forma financial statements are already sufficiently required by Item 9.01 of Form 8-K. Likewise, the SEC makes the same proposed elimination of financial reporting in interim reports for a significant business disposition or discontinued operation.
As another example, currently Regulation S-X requires disclosure of certain subsequent events in the footnotes to interim financial statements and Item 303 of Regulation S-K related to management discussion and analysis (MD&A) requires substantially the same disclosure. The SEC proposes to delete the Regulation S-X requirement and only require disclosure of these subsequent events in the MD&A. Likewise, the SEC proposes eliminating segment financial information from the footnotes and leaving it only in MD&A.
In other cases, the SEC supports elimination of a disclosure in the body of a document in favor of a financial statement disclosure. For example, the SEC proposes eliminating a discussion of warrants, rights and convertible instruments from the body of a Form 10 or S-1, noting that a complete disclosure including dilution is required in financial statements.
The SEC has identified disclosure requirement that have become obsolete as a result of time, regulatory, business or technological changes. The Regulation S-K and S-X Amendments propose to amend and sometimes add, but not delete, disclosure as a result of outdated requirements.
Again, most of the outdated requirements are technical (for example, income tax disclosures) in nature and beyond the scope of this blog. Some are common sense; for example, a reference to information being available in the SEC public reference room would be amended to include only a reference to the SEC Internet address for EDGAR filings.
Another common-sense change is the proposal to eliminate the requirement to post the high and low bid or trading prices for each quarter for the prior two fiscal years in an annual 10-K. The SEC reasons that the daily market and trading prices of a security are readily available on a number of websites. Moreover, these websites allow for the download and collation of trading prices over periods of time and provide much more robust information than currently contained in a 10-K.
The constant change in accounting and disclosure requirements and regulations have created inconsistencies in Regulation S-K and S-X. The SEC has gone through and proposed amendments to eliminate such inconsistencies. For example, certain provisions in Regulation S-X still refer to development-stage companies, a concept that was eliminated by FASB in June 2014.
The SEC also took this opportunity to clean up some nonexistent or incorrect references that resulted from regulatory changes over time.
Prior to the S-K Concept Release and current Regulation S-K and S-X proposed amendments, in September 2015 the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies met and finalized its recommendation to the SEC regarding changes to the disclosure requirements for smaller publicly traded companies. For more information on that topic and for a discussion of the Reporting Requirements in general, see my blog HERE.
In early December 2015 the FAST Act was passed into law. The FAST Act requires the SEC to adopt or amend rules to: (i) allow issuers to include a summary page to Form 10-K; and (ii) scale or eliminate duplicative, antiquated or unnecessary requirements for emerging-growth companies, accelerated filers, smaller reporting companies and other smaller issuers in Regulation S-K. The current Regulation S-K and S-X Amendments are part of this initiative. In addition, the SEC is required to conduct a study within one year on all Regulation S-K disclosure requirements to determine how best to amend and modernize the rules to reduce costs and burdens while still providing all material information. See my blog HERE.
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