United States: SEC Guidance On Reg G: Q&A With Howard Berkenblit

Last Updated: June 8 2016
Article by Howard E. Berkenblit

On May 17, 2016, the SEC issued new Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations related to Regulation G.  The Podium discussed the new guidance on the reporting of non-GAAP financial measures with Sullivan & Worcester Partner Howard Berkenblit

The Podium: What do you see as the most significant changes that came out of the new SEC guidance on Reg G?

HB: There are two main themes to the changes.  First there are some additional interpretations regarding what can and can't be presented – these have the practical effect of creating new rules without technically changing the rules.  For example, one of the changes makes explicit that EBITDA "must not be presented on a per share basis," while others give new examples of adjustments that may not be made to non-GAAP measures. While some of these were implicit from the rules or prior SEC Staff speeches and comments, having them in Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations, even if theoretically not binding, gives them greater weight.

The second theme revolves around changes to presentation.  These interpretations don't directly prohibit a measure or adjustment, but do dictate the way the information appears. For example, while many companies' quarterly earnings releases lead with a non-GAAP measure and only describe the comparable GAAP measure later in the release, that will no longer be acceptable under the new interpretations, which put tighter parameters around the presentation. 

The Podium: Can you give examples of the most common mistakes companies make in presenting non-GAAP financial measures?

HB: While the concept of giving equal or greater prominence to GAAP measures over non-GAAP measures is not new, the interpretations now give several specific examples of ways in which the presentation of non-GAAP measures have been presented more prominently than the GAAP measures in violation of Reg G. These include (1) a non-GAAP measure that precedes the most directly comparable GAAP measure (including in an earnings release headline or caption); (2) omitting comparable GAAP measures from an earnings release headline or caption that includes non-GAAP measures, and (3) describing a non-GAAP measure as, for example, "record performance" or "exceptional" without at least an equally prominent descriptive characterization of the comparable GAAP measure. Many companies will need to modify the way they draft their disclosures.

The Podium:  How are you advising clients on developing headlines in earnings releases as it pertains to Reg G?

HB: While non-GAAP measures can still appear in headlines, companies can no longer present them alone or before GAAP measures.  As a result of the interpretations, it's clear now that the SEC expects any headline that contains a non-GAAP measure to only have that measure appear if the most directly comparable GAAP measure also appears and precedes it.   So essentially clients must lead with the GAAP measure.  For example, a headline that used to say "EBITDA increases 20% For Quarter" will now need to read along the lines of "Net Income increases 10% for Quarter; EBITDA increases 20%".

The Podium: Were there areas that the SEC advised that they will be watching more closely as it relates to Reg G?  Where have companies been skirting the Regulation to date?

HB: The SEC seems to be most bothered by adjustments to non-GAAP measures that could appear to be misleading. The examples most often given in speeches and the press seem to be more clear cut abuses – for example, backing out certain cash items from a cash-based performance measure, accelerating revenue or presenting only the "good stuff' while leaving out conspicuous negative adjustments. In my experience most companies present non-GAAP adjustments that are appropriate and because they show how management views the measure and give investors and analysts valuable additional information. But because of the abuses, the SEC felt the need to clamp down a bit not just on the more extreme examples, but in some cases more common practices as well.

The Podium: Do you expect the SEC to become more strict with enforcement of Reg G?  Should we expect to see issuers receive an increase in comment letters on filings related to Reg G?

HB: The SEC Staff has already begun to increase its comments on filings and I expect that will continue in the near future, now more directly pointing to the new interpretations as the basis for the comments. Companies are clearly expected to familiarize themselves with the interpretations and apply them and change any existing practices that don't comply.  In terms of more severe consequences, I am hopeful that the SEC enforcement staff will only get involved in cases where companies take deliberate actions to mislead or defraud.  

The Podium:  Do you expect the SEC to get more strict with Reg G in communications other than filings, such as conference calls and presentations?

HB: For a while now, as part of its regular reviews, the SEC has been looking outside the four corners of the registration statement or periodic filing to earnings releases, websites, presentations, etc.  I expect this will continue – the SEC Staff in particular looks for inconsistencies in disclosures and non-GAAP measures play directly into this. For example, if a quarterly report on Form 10-Q presents financial information that indicates a mediocre quarter, but the parallel earnings release includes non-GAAP measures that appear to give a much rosier picture, companies should not be surprised to get questions from the Staff about the different trends.

The Podium: What are the key take-aways for issuers on the new guidance?

HB: The key is that anyone involved in preparing earnings releases, presentations or SEC filings that contain non-GAAP financial measures should read the guidance and make sure they understand it before the next disclosure event. Beyond that, any time a company is considering changes to how it calculates or presents non-GAAP financial measures, the measures and presentation should be analyzed against these interpretations, as well as recent SEC comments on other similarly situated companies and more generally in public appearances. Consistency is also very important – in the interpretations, the SEC Staff has made clear that it expects period-to-period comparisons to present the same types of information – the same adjustments, fairly presenting the negative with the positive, and not excluding recurring items.

This interview was originally published on Sharon Merrill's blog, The Podium.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Howard E. Berkenblit
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions