SEC Issues Concept Release On Regulation S-K; Part 2
Posted by Securities Attorney Laura Anthony | May 17, 2016 Tags: , , , , ,

On April 15, 2016, the SEC issued a 341-page concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to certain business and financial disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K (“S-K Concept Release”).  This blog is the second part discussing that concept release.  In Part I, which can be read HERE, I discussed the background and general concepts for which the SEC provides discussion and seeks comment.  In this Part II, I will discuss the rules and recommendations made by the SEC and, in particular, those related to the 100, 200, 300, 500 and 700 series of Regulation S-K.


The fundamental tenet of the federal securities laws is defined by one word: disclosure.  In fact, the SEC neither reviews nor opines on the merits of any company or transaction, but only upon the appropriate disclosure, including risks, made by that company.  However, excessive rote immaterial disclosure can dilute the material important information regarding that particular company and have the unintended consequence of weakening necessary disclosure to potential investors and the public trading markets.

The SEC non-financial disclosure requirements for both registration statements and reports under the Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) are found in Regulation S-K.

At the highest level, the purpose of disclosure is to provide investors and the marketplace with information needed to make informed investment and voting decisions.  As discussed in the S-K Concept Release, proper disclosure “may lead to more accurate share prices, discourage fraud, heighten monitoring of the managers of companies, and increase liquidity.”  Further, effective disclosure should “increase the integrity of securities markets, build investor confidence, and support the provision of capital to the market.”

The SEC seeks comment on hundreds of questions from broad conceptual points to specific rule changes.  In many cases the SEC indicates that additional disclosure might be necessary on a particular topic.  Although disclosure improvement is the goal, that does not necessarily mean less information and, in many cases, may actually mean more information.

Description of Business and Properties

The SEC believes that the information elicited under Item 101 regarding a description of the company’s business and Item 102 related to the company’s materially important physical properties, provides the necessary foundation needed by investors to make investing and voting decisions.  This basic information assists in putting other disclosure items into context.  The SEC seeks comment on whether Items 101 and 102 should be eliminated or modified and whether new or different disclosure requirements should be added to these Items.

The Concept Release contains detailed discussion of each of the requirements under Items 101 and 102, including prior comments received from the public and SEC views.  Currently Item 101 requires a description of the general development of the company’s business over the past 3 years for smaller reporting companies and 5 years for other classes of company, or such shorter period as the company has been in business.  Item 102 requires disclosure of the location and general character of plants, mines and other materially important physical properties.

Examples of information required include disclosure of the basic background of the business such as: (i) the year of formation; (ii) type of entity; (iii) nature and results of any bankruptcy, receivership or similar; (iv) nature and result of any material reclassification, merger or consolidation; (v) the acquisition or disposition of any material assets outside the ordinary course of business; and (vi) material changes to the business operations.  In addition, Item 101 requires a narrative description of a company’s business, including 13 specific areas as follows: (i) principal products produced and services rendered; (ii) new products or segments; (iii) sources and availability of raw materials; (iv) intellectual property; (v) seasonality of business; (vi) working capital practices; (vii) dependence on certain customers; (viii) dollar amount of backlog orders believed to be firm; (ix) business subject to renegotiation or termination of government contracts; (x) competitive conditions; (xi) company sponsored research and development activities; (xii) compliance with environmental laws; and (xiii) number of employees.

Smaller reporting companies benefit from several other scaled disclosures from the standard requirements, including: (i) elimination of the requirement to discuss seasonality, working capital practices, backlog or government contracts; (ii) names of principal suppliers; (iii) royalty agreements or labor contracts; (iv) need for government approval for products or services; and (v) effects of existing or probable government regulations.

Emerging growth companies must meet all of the standard requirements.  Moreover, keeping in line with the concept of materiality, where a smaller reporting company is in a business that makes any of the standard disclosures material to its business, it must include those discussions, even if not technically required.  Accordingly, for example, a smaller reporting company in a cannabis-related industry would need to include a discussion on the need for government approval for products and services, and the effects of existing or probable government regulations on its business, even though the scaled disclosure requirements would not otherwise require such discussion.

As with other areas of discussion, the SEC requests comments on the scaled disclosure requirements and whether the current disparities between requirements related to smaller reporting companies and emerging growth companies should be eliminated.

The SEC discusses eliminating redundancies in the 101 and 102 disclosure requirements.  In particular there are several categories in Form 8-K that request the same information elicited in Items 101 and 102 and included in all 10-Q’s and 10-K’s.  Information on business background is included in the MD&A discussion and in footnotes to financial statements.  Redundancies could be eliminated by allowing cross-referencing, including internal hyperlinks.  Moreover, the SEC could, and should, distinguish between new registrants disclosing their business background for the first time, and those that are established reporting companies repeating information again and again.

Many of the detailed requirements may not be relevant in today’s business environment, which differs greatly from even twenty years ago.  For instance, many businesses no longer have physical locations or corporate headquarters but rather run through virtual offices.  For those businesses, providing a detailed discussion of each location (home office…) would not be relevant and rather could diminish the value of the business discussion.  Likewise, businesses in today’s world often outsource or hire independent contractors.  Consideration should be given to expanding the requirements to include such independent contractors, or eliminate this requirement altogether where it does not add value to the particular business.  For example, it may be important to know that certain companies are scaling back on their workforce, while for others, the information is not relevant.

Likewise, Regulation S-K does not currently address the current reliance on web-based and intellectual property-based assets and as such, additional disclosure items may need to be included. Another area that may need increased disclosure relates to international business operations and reliance on non-U.S.-based assets.

Management Discussion and Analysis

Although many aspects of disclosure are important, I believe none are quite as important as the financial information and future prospects.  Regulation S-X contains the actual financial statement disclosure requirements, and Item 303 of Regulation S-K contains the narrative discussion requirements related to that financial information.  This management, discussion and analysis (“MD&A”) not only delivers an explanation of the financial statements, but provides a unique opportunity in SEC reporting for a company to illustrate its distinctiveness among a sea of other fish.

MD&A is intended to provide a narrative of a company’s financial statements and future prospects through the eyes of management.  The Regulation S-K Concept Release clearly shows the SEC propensity for MD&A to use a principles/materiality approach and to steer away from a recitation of the financial statements themselves.  The SEC also recognizes the concerns that a company has in presenting forward-looking information, and in particular, 10b-5 liability if the plans do not turn out as disclosed.

In recent years management has used MD&A to not only explain the financial statements prepared in accordance with Regulation S-X, which in turn is based on US GAAP, but rather to explain away those financial statements.  Approximately 90% of companies use MD&A to provide non-GAAP financial metrics to illustrate their financial performance and prospects.  As an example, EBITDA is a non-GAAP number often included by management in MD&A.  There has been a rise in recent controversy over the use of these non-GAAP numbers, an in-depth discussion of which will be the topic of a future blog.

However, the short version is that 90% of companies use non-GAAP numbers to explain their financial operations and the SEC is pushing back, making a review of the rules related to non-GAAP use a priority.  There are very valid reasons for using non-GAAP numbers, such as EBITDA, which is an established indicator of a company’s performance and ability to meet financial obligations.  Likewise, certain non-cash balance sheet items, such as derivative liability related to options, warrants, and other convertible instruments, are confusing and often are never realized in a way that has an actual impact on a company’s performance.  However, there can be a slippery slope with a company cherry-picking GAAP and non-GAAP numbers to create a picture of financial stability that may not be accurate.  I hope that in reviewing this area, the SEC is not myopically stuck on the purity of its view of GAAP, but considers that if 90% of companies find a need to go outside the rules, perhaps the rules themselves needs some adjustment.

Risk Factors

Risk-related disclosures need a thorough review and potential overhaul.  Although the SEC has long stated that risk factors should not be boilerplate repetition of items applicable to the market as a whole and not necessarily applicable to a particular company, most companies use boilerplate language.  I note that Item 503 contains examples of risks that a company can make related to its offerings, and so, of course, those risks, in boilerplate format, are always included in registration statements and reports.

Currently, risk-related disclosures are currently included in multiple items under Regulation S-K, including Item 503 related to investment risk and Item 305 related to market risk.  The focus of the SEC discussion is on aggregating risk information in a more central readable format and improving the content to enhance investors’ ability to evaluate the particular risk factors.

Securities of the Company

Several Items in Regulation S-K address the securities of a company.  For example, Item 202 requires a description of the terms and conditions of securities being registered; Item 201 requires disclosure of the number of holders of common securities; Item 701 requires disclosure of sales of unregistered securities and use of proceeds from offerings, and Item 703 requires disclosure of securities re-purchased by a company and its affiliates.

As with other areas, the SEC focuses on whether these disclosures should be modified, increased or eliminated and on the presentation of the information.

The Author

Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Legal & Compliance, LLC
Corporate, Securities and Going Public Attorneys

Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded issuers as well as private companies going public on the NASDAQ, NYSE MKT or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For nearly two decades Legal & Compliance, LLC 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 as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-8 and S-4; compliance with the reporting requirements of 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; Regulation A/A+ offerings; 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 MKT; crowdfunding; corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Moreover, Ms. Anthony and her firm represents both target and acquiring companies in reverse mergers and forward mergers, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. Ms. Anthony’s legal team prepares the necessary documentation and assists in completing the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA and DTC for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of, the OTC Market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host, the securities law network. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

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Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation (MD&A)
Posted by Securities Attorney Laura Anthony | July 28, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operation, commonly referred to as MD&A is an integral parts of annual (Form 10-K) and quarterly (Form 10-Q) reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). MD&A is also included in registration statements filed under both the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Form 10) and Securities Act of 1933 (Form S-1). MD&A requires the most input and effort from officers and directors of a company and due to the many components of required information, often generates SEC review and comments. Item 303 of Regulation S-K sets forth the required content for MD&A.

A MD&A discussion for quarterly reports on Form 10-Q is abbreviated from the requirements for annual reports on Form 10-K and registration statements. Although quarterly reports must discuss each item enumerated below the discussion is expected to be more focused concentrating on the most relevant and material items. In addition, as with my other blogs, this discussion will be limited to the requirements for small public companies (i.e. those with revenues of less than $75 million).

The SEC has issued guidance and interpretation on MD&A, which is helpful in understanding its required content. Pursuant to the SEC, MD&A has three primary purposes. These are:

• to provide a narrative explanation of a company’s financial statements that enables investors to see the company through the eyes of management;

• to enhance the overall financial disclosure and provide the context within which financial information should be analyzed; and

• to provide information about the quality of, and potential variability of, a company’s earnings and cash flow, so that investors can ascertain the likelihood that past performance is indicative of future performance.

Management, and company counsel, should keep these purposes in mind in drafting and finalizing MD&A. The content should not be overly technical, but neither should it be a forum for marketing content. Now, onto the specific MD&A requirements as set forth in Item 303 of Regulation S-K.

In each annual report on Form 10-K, and registration statements on either Forms 10 or S-1, a company must discuss its financial condition, changes in financial condition and results of operations. In addition to the four areas of discussion listed below, a company must include any other relevant information within its knowledge, which information provides a better or more complete understanding of their finances and financial condition. The four areas of financial discussion include:

1. Liquidity

A company must identify any known trends or known demands, commitments, events or uncertainties that will result in or reasonably could result in an increase or decrease in liquidity. In addition, a company must identify sources and uses of liquidity and any known changes thereto. Explanations of the information provided is required. In layman terms, liquidity is a discussion of sources of cash and uses of cash, and factors that could change or impact either, both as reflected in the financial period covered by the subject report, and for the future. Although not all inclusive, the discussion, at a minimum, should address all items included in the statement of cash flows provided as part of the financial statements. This item, together with the second area of discussion, capital resources, are considered so important the SEC has issued an interpretive release addressing these two areas separately from the rest of MD&A.

2. Capital Resources

A discussion of capital resources includes all material commitments for capital expenditures, the purpose and the source of funds for these commitments. This would include outstanding debts and obligations and simply put, where the money will come from to pay them. In addition, capital resources include a discussion of trends, favorable and unfavorable, that could impact capital resources. An obvious example would be a change in government regulation directly related to the company’s business.

3. Results of Operations

Results of operations include four areas of discussion: (i) unusual or infrequent events that have impacted on a company’s financial condition. An example would be a discontinuance of a specific product line, or sale of company subsidiary. (ii) trends that could have an impact on sales or revenues or income in general, including trends impacting costs and expenses; (iii) a narrative discussion of increases or decreases in sale or revenues; and (iv)impact of inflation and other external financial conditions.

4. Off Balance Sheet Arrangements

Off balance sheet arrangements have gained notoriety as a result of the recent economic turmoil caused by the mortgage scandal. An off balance sheet arrangement is any arrangement that could have an impact on a balance sheet, the most obvious example being a guarantee of a third party’s obligation. Accordingly, if a company has such an arrangement to report, they are required to provide a detailed analysis including the potential impact and relative importance of the arrangement.

The Author

Attorney Laura Anthony,
Founding Partner, Legal & Compliance, LLC
Securities, Reverse Mergers, Corporate Transactions

Securities attorney Laura Anthony provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size public Companies as well as private Companies intending to go public on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB), now known as the OTCQB. For more than a decade Ms. Anthony has dedicated her securities law practice towards being “the big firm alternative.” Clients receive fast and efficient cutting-edge legal service without the inherent delays and unnecessary expense of “partner-heavy” securities law firms.

Ms. Anthony’s focus includes but is not limited to compliance with the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, (“Exchange Act”) including Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K and the proxy requirements of Section 14. In addition, Ms. Anthony prepares private placement memorandums, registration statements under both the Exchange Act and Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). Moreover, Ms. Anthony represents both target and acquiring companies in reverse mergers and forward mergers, including preparation of deal documents such as Merger Agreements, Stock Purchase Agreements, Asset Purchase Agreements and Reorganization Agreements. Ms. Anthony prepares the necessary documentation and assists in completing the requirements of the Exchange Act, state law and FINRA for corporate changes such as name changes, reverse and forward splits and change of domicile.

Contact Legal & Compliance LLC for a free initial consultation or second opinion on an existing matter.

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