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SEC Proposes Amendments To Acquisitions And Dispositions Of Businesses

In May of this year, the SEC proposed amendments to the financial statements and other disclosure requirements related to the acquisitions and dispositions of businesses.  In September 2015, the SEC issued a request for public comment related to disclosure requirements for entities other than the reporting company itself, including subsidiaries, acquired businesses, issuers of guaranteed securities and affiliates.  See my blog HERE.  Taking into account responses to portions of that request for comment, in the summer of 2018, the SEC adopted final rules to simplify the disclosure requirements applicable to registered debt offerings for guarantors and issuers of guaranteed securities, and for affiliates whose securities collateralize a company’s securities.  See my blog HERE.

The SEC is now proposing amendments to Rules 3-05, 3-14, and Article 11 of Regulation S-X and adding new Rule 6-11.  The amendments would also make several related conforming rule and form changes.  Rule 3-05 was included in the September 2015 request for comment.  Like all recent disclosure changes, the proposed rules are designed to improve the information for investors while reducing complexity and compliance costs for reporting companies.

When a company acquires a significant business, other than a real estate operation, Rule 3-05 of Regulation S-X generally requires the company to provide separate audited annual and unaudited interim pre-acquisition financial statements of that business. Similarly, Rule 3-14 requires a company to file financial statements with respect to a significant real estate acquisition.  Article 11 requires a company to file unaudited pro forma financial information, including a balance sheet and income statements, relating to the acquisition or disposition of businesses.  Pro forma financial information is intended to show how the acquisition or disposition might have affected those financial statements.

The proposed rule changes will:

  • update the significance tests under these rules by revising the investment test and the income test, expanding the use of pro forma financial information in measuring significance, and conforming the significance threshold and tests for a disposed business;
  • reduce the period of the financial statements of the acquired business from three years to the two most recent fiscal years;
  • permit disclosure of financial statements that omit certain expenses for certain acquisitions of a component of an entity;
  • clarify when financial statements and pro forma financial information are required;
  • permit the use in certain circumstances of, or reconciliation to, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB);
  • no longer require separate acquired business financial statements once the business has been included in the company’s post-acquisition financial statements for a complete fiscal year;
  • align Rule 3-14 with Rule 3-05 where no unique industry considerations exist;
  • clarify the application of Rule 3-14 regarding the determination of significance, the need for interim income statements, special provisions for blind pool offerings, and the scope of the rule’s requirements;
  • amend the pro forma financial information requirements to include disclosure of “Transaction Accounting Adjustments,” reflecting the accounting for the transaction; and “Management’s Adjustments,” reflecting reasonably estimable synergies and transaction effects;
  • make corresponding changes to the smaller reporting company requirements in Article 8 of Regulation S-X;
  • add a definition of significant subsidiary that is tailored for investment companies; and
  • add a new Rule 6-11 and amend Form N-14 to cover financial reporting for fund acquisitions by investment companies and business development companies.

The rules related to disclosures for the acquisitions and dispositions of businesses are complex and involve a significant accounting analysis.  I like to leave the accounting to the accountants, but legal advisors need to be able to understand the requirements and assist client companies in making fully informed business decisions regarding the acquisition or disposition of a business.  This blog will focus on explaining the rules without diving into the overly labyrinthine accounting technicalities.

Rule 3-05 of Regulation S-X – Financial Statements of Businesses Acquired or to be Acquired

               Summary of Current Rule

Rule 3-05 of Regulation S-X requires a reporting company to provide separate audited annual and reviewed stub period financial statements for any business that is being acquired if that business is significant to the company. A “business” can be acquired whether the transaction is fashioned as an asset or stock purchase. The question of whether it is an acquired “business” revolves around whether the revenue-producing activity of the target will remain generally the same after the acquisition. Accordingly, the purchase of revenue-producing assets will likely be treated as the purchase of a business.

In determining whether an acquired business is significant, a company must consider the investment, asset and income tests set out in Rule 1-02 of Regulation S-X.  The “investment test” considers the value of investments in and advances to the acquired business relative to the value of the total assets of the company prior to the purchase. The “asset test” considers the total value of the assets of the company pre- and post-acquisition. The “income test” considers the change in income of the company as a result of the acquisition.

Rule 3-05 requires increased disclosure as the size of the acquisition, relative to the size of the reporting acquiring company, increases based on the investment, asset and income test results. If none of the test results exceed 20%, there is no separate financial statement reporting requirement as to the target company. If one of the tests exceeds 20% but none exceed 40%, Rule 3-05 requires separate target financial statements for the most recent fiscal year and any interim stub periods. If any Rule 3-05 text exceeds 40% but none exceed 50%, Rule 3-05 requires separate target financial statements for the most recent two fiscal years and any interim stub periods. When at least one Rule 3-05 test exceeds 50%, a third fiscal year of financial statements are required, except that smaller reporting and emerging growth companies are never required to add that third year.

Rule 8-04 is the sister rule to 3-05 for smaller reporting companies. Rule 8-04 is substantially similar to Rule 3-05 with the same investment, asset and income tests and same 20%, 40% and 50% thresholds. However, Rule 8-04 has some pared-down requirements, including, for example, that a third year of audited financial statements is never required where the registrant is a smaller reporting company.

Both Rule 3-05 and 8-04 require pro forma financial statements. Pro forma financial statements are the most recent balance sheet and most recent annual and interim income statements, adjusted to show what such financial statements would look like if the acquisition had occurred at that earlier time.

An 8-K must be filed within 4 days of a business acquisition, disclosing the transaction. The Rule 3-05 or 8-04 financial statements must be filed within 75 days of the closing of the transaction via an amendment to the initial closing 8-K. Where the acquiring public reporting company is a shell company, the required Rule 8-04 financial statements must be included in that first initial 8-K filed within 4 days of the transaction closing (commonly referred to as a Super 8-K). By definition, a shell company would always be either an emerging growth or smaller reporting company and accordingly, the more extensive Rule 3-05 financial reporting requirements would not apply in that case.

The Rule 3-05 or Rule 8-04 financial statements will also be required in a pre-closing registration statement filed to register the transaction shares or certain other pre-closing registration statements where the investment, asset or income tests exceed 50%. Likewise, the Rule 3-05 or Rule 8-04 financial statements are required to be included in pre-closing proxy or information statements filed under Section 14 of the Exchange Act seeking either shareholder approval of the transaction itself or corporate actions in advance of a transaction (such as a reverse split or name change). See my short blog HERE discussing pre-merger Schedule 14C financial statement requirements.

In what could be a difficult and expensive process for companies engaged in an acquisition growth model, if the aggregate impact of individually insignificant business acquisitions exceeds 50% of the investment, asset or income tests, Rule 3-05 or Rule 8-04 financial statements and pro forma financial statements must be included for at least the substantial majority of the individual acquired businesses.

Summary of Proposed Rule Change

This summary of the proposed rule change highlights the most significant portions of the proposal.  The SEC proposes to amend the investment and income tests for non-investment companies and all three significance tests for investment companies.

The SEC proposes to amend the investment test such that the company’s investments in and advances to the acquired business will be compared to the aggregate worldwide market value of the company’s voting and non-voting common equity when available.  If the company does not have market value, the existing test would still be used.  The SEC believes that market value is a better parameter for determining the economic significance of an acquisition.  I agree.  Assets remain on the books at purchase price valuation, or are reduced for depreciation or amortization.  For non-investment companies, assets are never marked up to fair value and, as such, can quickly become a stale indication of a company’s current value.  The proposed amendments will address when aggregate market value should be determined, provide instructions for determining investments and advances, and clarify the use of the test for related party transactions.

Currently the net income test only looks to the net income number and not any factors that could distort income in a given year such as non-recurring expense items.  The SEC proposes to revise the income test by adding a revenue component and by using income or loss from continuing operations after income taxes.  Under the proposal, where a company and the target have recurring revenue, both revenue and income should be tested and the lower of the number can be relied on in determining financial statement requirements.  If the company or the target does not have recurring revenue, only the net income test would be used.

The SEC proposes to eliminate the current requirement that three years of financial statements be provided for certain significant acquisitions and rather would cap the period at two years.  The SEC also proposes to revise Rule 3-05 for acquisitions where a significance test exceeds 20%, but none exceeds 40%, to require financial statements for the “most recent” interim period specified in Rule 3-01 and 3-02 rather than “any” interim period.

Asset Purchase

Where assets are purchased that constitute a business, but are not all of the assets or products of the seller, it can be difficult to create historical financial statements that only cover the sold assets.  Accordingly, the SEC proposes to permit companies to provide audited financial statements of assets acquired and liabilities assumed, and statements of revenues and expenses (exclusive of corporate overhead, interest and income tax expenses) if: (i) the business constitutes less than substantially all of the assets and liabilities of the seller and was not a separate entity, subsidiary, segment, or division during the periods for which the acquired business financial statements would be required; (ii) separate financial statements for the business have not previously been prepared; (iii) the seller has not maintained the distinct and separate accounts necessary to present financial statements that include the omitted expenses and it is impracticable to prepare such financial statements; (iv) interest expense may only be excluded if the corresponding debt will not be assumed; (v) the financial statements do not omit selling, distribution, marketing, general and administrative, and research and development expenses incurred by or on behalf of the acquired business during the periods to be presented; and (vi) the notes to financial statements include certain additional disclosures.

Foreign Business Acquisition

The SEC is proposing modifications to Rule 3-05 to permit financial statements to be prepared in accordance with IFRS-IASB without reconciliation to U.S. GAAP if the acquired business would qualify to use IFRS-IASB if it were a registrant, and to permit foreign private issuers that prepare their financial statements using IFRS-IASB to provide Rule 3-05 financial statements prepared using home country GAAP to be reconciled to IFRS-IASB rather than U.S. GAAP.

Smaller Reporting Companies and Regulation A Issuers

As mentioned above, Rule 8-04 is the sister rule to 3-05 for smaller reporting companies. Rule 8-04 is substantially similar to Rule 3-05 with the same investment, asset and income tests and same 20%, 40% and 50% thresholds. However, Rule 8-04 has some pared-down requirements, including, for example, that a third year of audited financial statements is never required where the registrant is a smaller reporting company.  Regulation A issuers are permitted to follow Rule 8-04.

The SEC proposes to revise Rule 8-04 such that smaller reporting companies would be directed to Rule 3-05 for the requirement relating to the financial statements of businesses acquired or to be acquired, other than for form and content requirements for such financial statements, which would continue to be prepared in accordance with Article 8.

Additionally, under the proposed amendments, a smaller reporting company would be eligible to exclude acquired business financial statements from a registration statement if the business acquisition was consummated no more than 74 days prior to the date of the relevant final prospectus or prospectus supplement, rather than 74 days prior to the effective date of the registration statement as under the current rules.

Financial Statements in Registration Statements and Proxy Statements

The current rules could result in separate historical financial statements of the acquired business required to be included in registration statements and/or proxy statements after the closing of the acquisition and after SEC reports have been filed including the consolidated financial statements of the then combined entities.  The SEC is proposing to no longer require Rule 3-05 financial statements in registration statements and proxy statements once the acquired business is reflected in filed post-acquisition company financial statements for a complete fiscal year.

Individually Insignificant Acquisitions

As mentioned above, if the aggregate impact of individually insignificant business acquisitions exceeds 50% of the investment, asset or income tests, Rule 3-05 or Rule 8-04 financial statements and pro forma financial statements must be included for at least the substantial majority of the individual acquired businesses.  The proposed changes would require disclosure if the aggregate impact of businesses acquired or to be acquired since the date of the most recent audited balance sheet filed for the company, exceeds 50%.  Pro forma financial information would only be required for those businesses whose individual significance exceeds 20% but are not yet required to file financial statements.

Rule 3-14 of Regulation S-X – Financial Statements of Real Estate Acquired or to be Acquired

The SEC has historically believed that the real estate industry has distinct considerations.  For example, audited financial statements for a real estate operation are rarely available from the seller without additional effort and expense because most real estate managers do not maintain their books on a U.S. GAAP basis or obtain audits.  However, in reality the SEC had found that there are no real differences between the financial statement materiality throughout the industries.  As such, the SEC is proposing various rule changes to align the financial statement requirement of Rule 3-14 with Rule 3-05.

Article 11 – Pro Forma Financial Information

Article 11 of Regulation S-X details the pro forma financial statement requirements that must accompany both Rule 3-05 and 3-14 financial statements.  Typically, pro forma financial information includes the most recent balance sheet and most recent annual and interim period income statements. Pro forma financial information for an acquired business is required at the 20% and 10% significance thresholds under Rule 3-05 and Rule 3-14, respectively. The rules also require pro forma financial information for a significant disposed business at a 10% significance threshold for all companies.

The SEC proposes revising the accounting adjustments made in preparation of the pro forma financial statements with the intent of simplifying the requirements and better reflecting the synergies of the transaction.  The SEC also proposes raising the pro forma financial statement requirement for a disposition from 10% to 20% based on significance testing.  Rule 8-05 for smaller reporting companies and Regulation A issuers would be amended to align with the pro forma financial statement requirements in Article 11.

Further Background on SEC Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative

I have been keeping an ongoing summary of the SEC ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.  The following is a recap of such initiative and proposed and actual changes.

On August 8, 2019, the SEC proposed changes to disclosures related to business descriptions, legal proceedings and risk factors under Regulation S-K.  See my blog HERE.

On March 20, 2019, the SEC adopted amendments to modernize and simplify disclosure requirements for public companies, investment advisers, and investment companies. The amendments: (i) revise forms to update, streamline and improve disclosures including eliminating risk-factor examples in form instructions and revising the description of property requirement to emphasize a materiality threshold; (ii) eliminate certain requirements for undertakings in registration statements; (iii) amend exhibit filing requirements and related confidential treatment requests; (iv) amend Management Discussion and Analysis requirements to allow for more flexibility in discussing historical periods; and (v) incorporate more technology in filings through data tagging of items and hyperlinks. See HERE.

In December 2018, the SEC approved final rules to require companies to disclose practices or policies regarding the ability of employees or directors to engage in certain hedging transactions, in proxy and information statements for the election of directors. To review my blog on the final rules, see HERE and on the proposed rules, see HERE.

In November 2018, I published a blog on how to seek relief from the financial statement disclosure requirements pursuant to Rule 3-13 of Regulation S-X.  See HERE.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, the SEC finalized amendments to the disclosure requirements for mining companies under the Securities Act and the Securities Exchange. The proposed rule amendments were originally published in June 2016.  In addition to providing better information to investors about a company’s mining properties, the amendments are intended to more closely align the SEC rules with current industry and global regulatory practices and standards as set out in by the Committee for Reserves International Reporting Standards (CRIRSCO). In addition, the amendments rescinded Industry Guide 7 and consolidated the disclosure requirements for registrants with material mining operations in a new subpart of Regulation S-K. See HERE.

On June 28, 2018, the SEC adopted amendments to the definition of a “smaller reporting company” as contained in Securities Act Rule 405, Exchange Act Rule 12b-2 and Item 10(f) of Regulation S-K.  See HERE and later issued updated C&DI on the new rules – see HERE. The initial proposed amendments were published on June 27, 2016 (see HERE).

In December 2017, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) submitted its fourth comment letter to the SEC related to the financial and business disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K.  For a review of that letter and recommendations, see HERE.

In October 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a report to President Trump entitled “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities; Capital Markets” (the “Treasury Report”).  The Treasury Report made specific recommendations for change to the disclosure rules and regulations, including those related to special-interest and social issues and duplicative disclosures.  See more on the Treasury Report HERE.

On October 11, 2017, the SEC published proposed rule amendments to modernize and simplify disclosure requirements for public companies, investment advisers, and investment companies. The proposed rule amendments implement a mandate under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”).  The proposed amendments would: (i) revise forms to update, streamline and improve disclosures including eliminating risk-factor examples in form instructions and revising the description of property requirement to emphasize a materiality threshold; (ii) eliminate certain requirements for undertakings in registration statements; (iii) amend exhibit filing requirements and related confidential treatment requests; (iv) amend Management Discussion and Analysis requirements to allow for more flexibility in discussing historical periods; and (v) incorporate more technology in filings through data tagging of items and hyperlinks.  See my blog HERE.  On March 20, 2019, the SEC adopted final rules on this proposal.

On March 1, 2017, the SEC passed final rule amendments to Item 601 of Regulation S-K to require hyperlinks to exhibits in filings made with the SEC.  The amendments require any company filing registration statements or reports with the SEC to include a hyperlink to all exhibits listed on the exhibit list.  In addition, because ASCII cannot support hyperlinks, the amendment also requires that all exhibits be filed in HTML format.  The new Rule went into effect on September 1, 2017 for most companies and on September 1, 2018 for smaller reporting companies and non-accelerated filers.  See my blog HERE on the Item 601 rule changes and HERE related to SEC guidance on same.

On November 23, 2016, the SEC issued a Report on Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K as required by Section 72003 of the FAST Act.  A summary of the report can be read HERE.

On August 25, 2016, the SEC requested public comment on possible changes to the disclosure requirements in Subpart 400 of Regulation S-K.  Subpart 400 encompasses disclosures related to management, certain security holders and corporate governance.  See my blog on the request for comment HERE.

On July 13, 2016, the SEC issued a 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).  See my blog on the proposed rule change HERE.  Final amendments were approved on August 17, 2018 – see HERE.

The July 2016 proposed rule change and request for comments followed the 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.

In September 2015, the SEC also issued a request for public comment related to disclosure requirements for entities other than the reporting company itself, including subsidiaries, acquired businesses, issuers of guaranteed securities and affiliates.  See my blog HERE.  Taking into account responses to portions of that request for comment, in the summer of 2018, the SEC adopted final rules to simplify the disclosure requirements applicable to registered debt offerings for guarantors and issuers of guaranteed securities, and for affiliates whose securities collateralize a company’s securities.  See my blog HERE.

As part of the ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative, 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 March 2015, the American Bar Association submitted its second comment letter to the SEC making recommendations for changes to Regulation S-K.  For more information on that topic, 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.  See my blog HERE.

The Author

Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Anthony L.G., PLLC
A Corporate Law Firm
LAnthony@AnthonyPLLC.com

Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provide ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded public companies as well as private companies going public on the Nasdaq, NYSE American or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For more than two decades Anthony L.G., PLLC has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service. The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker-dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions, securities token offerings and initial coin offerings, Regulation A/A+ offerings, as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-3, S-8 and merger registrations on Form S-4; compliance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including Nasdaq and NYSE American; general corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Ms. Anthony and her firm represent both target and acquiring companies in merger and acquisition transactions, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. The ALG legal team assists Pubcos in complying with the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the small-cap and middle market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, Corporate Finance in Focus. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

Ms. Anthony is a member of various professional organizations including the Crowdfunding Professional Association (CfPA), Palm Beach County Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the ABA committees on Federal Securities Regulations and Private Equity and Venture Capital. She is a supporter of several community charities including sitting on the board of directors of the American Red Cross for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, and providing financial support to the Susan Komen Foundation, Opportunity, Inc., New Hope Charities, the Society of the Four Arts, the Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach County Zoo Society, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and several others. She is also a financial and hands-on supporter of Palm Beach Day Academy, one of Palm Beach’s oldest and most respected educational institutions. She currently resides in Palm Beach with her husband and daughter.

Ms. Anthony is an honors graduate from Florida State University College of Law and has been practicing law since 1993.

Contact Anthony L.G., PLLC. Inquiries of a technical nature are always encouraged.

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