March 26, 2020

Covid-19 Disclosures: Guidance From Corp Fin

Yesterday, Corp Fin issued CF Disclosure Guidance Topic No. 9, which addresses disclosure & other securities law obligations relating to the Covid-19 crisis. The guidance provides a helpful list of illustrative questions that companies should ask themselves when preparing disclosure documents. Here are some questions Corp Fin thinks companies should consider when thinking about the pandemic’s impact on their liquidity & capital resources:

How has COVID-19 impacted your capital and financial resources, including your overall liquidity position and outlook? Has your cost of or access to capital and funding sources, such as revolving credit facilities or other sources changed, or is it reasonably likely to change? Have your sources or uses of cash otherwise been materially impacted? Is there a material uncertainty about your ongoing ability to meet the covenants of your credit agreements? If a material liquidity deficiency has been identified, what course of action has the company taken or proposed to take to remedy the deficiency?

Consider the requirement to disclose known trends and uncertainties as it relates to your ability to service your debt or other financial obligations, access the debt markets, including commercial paper or other short-term financing arrangements, maturity mismatches between borrowing sources and the assets funded by those sources, changes in terms requested by counterparties, changes in the valuation of collateral, and counterparty or customer risk. Do you expect to disclose or incur any material COVID-19-related contingencies?

The guidance also addresses insider trading concerns, as well as considerations for earnings releases. When it comes to earnings disclosure, Corp Fin touches on several issues, one of which is non-GAAP financial data.  While reminding companies of their obligations under Reg G & Item 10 of Reg S-K, the guidance also indicates some flexibility to the Staff’s approach under current conditions:

We understand that there may be instances where a GAAP financial measure is not available at the time of the earnings release because the measure may be impacted by COVID-19-related adjustments that may require additional information and analysis to complete. In these situations, the Division would not object to companies reconciling a non-GAAP financial measure to preliminary GAAP results that either include provisional amount(s) based on a reasonable estimate, or a range of reasonably estimable GAAP results.

As an example, the guidance references the case of a company that intends to disclose EBITDA information on an earnings call. The Staff’s position would permit the company to reconcile that measure to either its GAAP earnings, a reasonable estimate of its GAAP earnings that includes a provisional amount, or its reasonable estimate of a range of GAAP earnings. The guidance says that if a provisional amount or range is used, it should reflect a reasonable estimate of Covid-19 related charges not yet finalized, such as impairment charges.

SEC Modifies Covid-19 Exemptive Order

Yesterday, the SEC also issued a modified exemptive order extending the time period during which, subject to certain conditions, companies with operations affected by the Covid-19 crisis may delay their SEC filings by up to 45 days from the original due date. The SEC’s original order applied to certain disclosure filings that would’ve otherwise been due between March 1 and April 30, 2020. The modified order extends that period through July 1, 2020.

The SEC’s press release accompanying the modified order also indicates that, for purposes of determining Form S-3 eligibility & WKSI status, a company relying on the exemptive order will be considered current and timely in its Exchange Act filing requirements if it was current and timely as of the first day of the relief period and it files any report due during the relief period within 45 days of the filing deadline for the report. The same approach will apply to a company’s eligibility to file an S-8 & for purposes of determining whether it is current in its reports for purposes of Rule 144(c).

RIP Judge Stanley Sporkin

Judge Stanley Sporkin, who passed away on Monday, was one of the truly towering figures in securities regulation during the latter half of the 20th Century. Here is a statement on his passing from SEC Chair Jay Clayton, and another one from the current co-directors of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, which Sporkin built almost from scratch into an enforcement powerhouse during his tenure there in the 1970s. We offer our condolences to Judge Sporkin’s friends and family.

John Jenkins