On January 30, 2023, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance updated its Financial Reporting Manual (“Manual”). The latest update is dated as of December 31, 2022. Although we attorneys like to leave the accounting to the accountants, the Financial Reporting Manual is a go to resource for all practitioners and is generally one of the many resources always open on my desktop.
As the preamble to the Manual states, it was originally created as internal guidance to the SEC staff. In 2008, in an effort to increase transparency of informal staff interpretations, the SEC posted a version of the Manual to its website. The SEC continues with its usual disclaimers that the manual is not formal guidance and that they can change their interpretations or views at any time, etc. Regardless, we all use it as a resource and in my years of experience, have never had the SEC take a counter-position to the Manual’s guidance unless there has been
Earlier this year, the SEC published proposed rules on cybersecurity risk management, strategy, governance and incident disclosure by public companies. Although the comment period has passed, a final rule has not yet been issued. As of now, cybersecurity disclosures are encompassed within the general anti-fraud provisions including the requirement to disclose “such further material information, if any, as may be necessary to make the required statements, in light of the circumstances under which they are made, not misleading” as well SEC guidance last updated in 2018 (see HERE).
The proposed amendments would require, among other things, current reporting about material cybersecurity incidents and updates about previously reported cybersecurity incidents. The proposal also would require periodic reporting about a company’s policies and procedures to identify and manage cybersecurity risks; the company’s board of directors’ oversight of cybersecurity risk; and management’s role and expertise in assessing and managing cybersecurity risk and implementing cybersecurity policies and procedures. The proposal would further
On March 30, 2022, the SEC proposed rules related to SPAC and de-SPAC transactions including significantly enhanced disclosure obligations, expanding the scope of deemed public offerings in these transactions, making a target company a co-registrant when a SPAC files an S-4 or F-4 registration statement associated with a business combination, and aligning de-SPAC transactions with initial public offering rules. In addition, the SEC has also proposed rules that would deem any business combination transaction involving a reporting shell company, including but not limited to a SPAC, to involve a sale of securities to the reporting shell company’s shareholders. The new rules would amend a number of financial statement requirements applicable to transactions involving shell companies.
In addition to proposing new rules for SPAC and de-SPAC transactions, the SEC is proposing new Securities Act Rule 145a that would deem all business combinations with an Exchange Act reporting shell to involve the sale of securities to the reporting shell company’s
The SEC’s latest version of its semiannual regulatory agenda and plans for rulemaking has been published in the federal register. The Fall 2020 Agenda (“Agenda”) is current through October 2020. The Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions contains the Regulatory Plans of 28 federal agencies and 68 federal agency regulatory agendas. The Agenda is published twice a year, and for several years I have blogged about each publication.
Like the prior Agendas, the Fall 2020 Agenda is broken down by (i) “Pre-rule Stage”; (ii) Proposed Rule Stage; (iii) Final Rule Stage; and (iv) Long-term Actions. The Proposed and Final Rule Stages are intended to be completed within the next 12 months and Long-term Actions are anything beyond that. The number of items to be completed in a 12-month time frame is down to 32 items. The Spring Agenda had 42 and the Fall 2019 had 47 on the list.
Items on the Agenda can move from one category to
Just eight months following the rule proposal (see HERE), on August 26, 2020, the SEC adopted final amendments to Item 101 – description of business, Item 103 – legal proceedings, and Item 105 – Risk Factors of Regulation S-K. The amendments make a more principles-based approach to business descriptions and risk factors, recognizing the significant changes in business models since the rule was adopted 30 years ago. The amendments to disclosures related to legal proceedings continue the current prescriptive approach. In addition, the rule changes are intended to improve the readability of disclosure documents, as well as discourage repetition and disclosure of information that is not material.
The Item 101 and Item 103 amendments only apply to domestic companies and foreign private issuer that elect to file using domestic company forms. The forms generally used by foreign private issuers (F-1, F-3, 20-F, etc.) do not have references to Items 101 and 103 of Regulation S-K but rather refer
In the 4th quarter of 2018, the SEC finalized amendments to the disclosure requirements for mining companies under the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). 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 rescind Industry Guide 7 and consolidate the disclosure requirements for registrants with material mining operations in a new subpart of Regulation S-K.
The final amendments require companies with mining operations to disclose information concerning their mineral resources and mineral reserves. Disclosures on mineral resource estimates were previously only allowed in limited circumstances. The rule amendments provide for a two-year transition period with compliance beginning in
Rule 3-13 of Regulation S-X allows a company to request relief from the SEC from the financial statement disclosure requirements if they believe that the financial information is burdensome and would result in disclosure of information that goes beyond what is material to investors. Consistent with the ongoing message of open communication and cooperation, the current SEC regime has been actively encouraging companies to avail themselves of this relief and has updated the CorpFin Financial Reporting Manual to include contact information for staff members that can assist.
As part of its ongoing disclosure effectiveness initiative, the SEC is also considering amendments to the financial statement disclosure process and the publication of further staff guidance. In addition to advancing disclosure changes, allowing for relief from financial statement requirements could help encourage smaller companies to access public markets, an ongoing goal of the SEC and other financial regulators. For a review of the October 2017 Treasury Department report to President Trump, including
In August the SEC voted to adopt amendments to certain disclosure requirements in Regulations S-K and S-X (the “S-K and S-X Amendments”) as well as conforming changes throughout the federal securities laws and related forms. The amendments are intended to simplify and update disclosure requirements that are redundant, duplicative, overlapping, outdated or superseded with the overriding goal of reducing compliance burdens on companies without reducing material information for investors. The new amendments finalize and adopt the proposed rules that had previously been issued on July 13, 2016. See my blog on the proposed rule change HERE. The final rule changes were substantially, but not entirely, as proposed.
The Regulation S-X and S-K 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. The proposing release also requested public comment on a number of disclosure requirements that overlap with, but require information incremental to, U.S. GAAP
On June 28, 2018, the SEC adopted the much-anticipated 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. The amendments come almost two years to the day since the initial publication of proposed rule changes (see HERE).
Among other benefits, it is hoped that the change will help encourage smaller companies to access US public markets. The amendment expands the number of companies that qualify as a smaller reporting company (SRC) and thus qualify for the scaled disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X. The SEC estimates that an additional 966 companies will be eligible for SRC status in the first year under the new definition.
As proposed, and as recommended by various market participants, the new definition of a SRC will now include companies with less than a $250 million public float as compared to the $75 million
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. Like the SEC’s ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative, the ABA has a Disclosure Effectiveness Working Group as part of its Federal Regulation of Securities Committee (of which I am a member) and its Law and Accounting Committee.
The ABA comment letter begins with a general discussion of the materiality concept, which is the underlying basis of disclosure, and then provides input on various specific areas of disclosure under Regulation S-K. The ABA comment letter specifically responded to the SEC 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.