November 14, 2016

SEC Enforcement: MD&A Tagged for Faulty Segment Reporting

This blog from Steve Quinlivan notes a recent settled SEC enforcement proceeding against PowerSecure International involving allegedly inadequate segment reporting. Here’s an excerpt:

According to the SEC, PowerSecure’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2015, outlined errors in prior period disclosures and revised its segment reporting disclosure to reflect information for the years ended 2012 to 2014 on a basis consistent with its 2015 reportable segments. In its 2015 filing, PowerSecure also concluded that its disclosure controls and procedures for that three year period were not effective due to a material weakness in its internal control over financial reporting that it identified in 2015 related to its misapplication of GAAP related to segment reporting.

Segment reporting has long been an area of intensive focus by Corp Fin. Determining the appropriate reportable segments is often a complex process involving a lot of judgment – & this means that staff comments often create some anxiety for a company’s accounting personnel.

In my own experience, I’ve seen a number of clients receive multiple, highly detailed comments probing how they determined their reportable segments. Responding to these comments often results in several rounds of follow-up comments – & has occasionally culminated in a Staff request for a conference call involving several Staff accountants & senior company officials. Those calls are fun. . .

This is another area where a regular review of peer company comments & responses can be a very valuable exercise. Comment letters often provide an early warning of the Staff’s interest in segment reporting practices within a particular industry & allow companies to see how their peers have responded to challenges to their own decisions about reportable segments.

A Climate Change-Related Securities Suit

Here’s the intro from this blog by Kevin LaCroix:

For many years, I have been raising the possibility of climate change-related corporate and securities litigation. However, despite my best prognostication, the climate change-related corporate and securities lawsuits have basically failed to materialize – that is, until now. On November 7, 2016, investors filed a purported securities class action lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas against Exxon Mobil Corporation and certain of its directors and officers.

The lawsuit specifically references the company’s climate change-related disclosures, as well as the company’s valuation of its existing oil and gas reserves. One lawsuit doesn’t make a trend, and many of the lawsuit’s allegations relates specifically to Exxon Mobil and its particular disclosures. Nevertheless, the filing of the lawsuit raises the question whether there may be other climate change-related disclosure cases ahead.

Securities Class Actions: Are We Headed into a Perfect Storm?

Here’s an excerpt from this blog by Lane Powell’s Doug Greene:

Although I don’t know if we’re about to enter a period of quirky cases, like stock options backdating, I’m confident that we’re going to experience a storm of securities class actions caused by a convergence of factors: an increasing number of SEC whistleblower tips, a drumbeat for more aggressive securities regulation, a stock market poised for a drop, and an expanded group of plaintiffs’ firms that initiate securities class actions.

John Jenkins