July 6, 2020

Q2 Reporting: Investors Focus on Liquidity & Human Capital Disclosure

On June 30th, the SEC held a roundtable on 2nd quarter reporting & Covid-19 disclosure. The panelists included a bunch of big shots from private equity firms and asset managers. This Mayer Brown blog summarizes the panel’s recommendations on Q2 & Covid-19 disclosure. Many of these recommendations focused on liquidity & human capital-related issues. Here are some of them:

– Provide specific and forward-looking guidance on the company’s liquidity position, including its expected cash burn and upcoming capital expenditures. Companies should consider including a best, middle and worst case liquidity scenario.

– Separately disclose the company’s short-term and long-term liquidity plans. Identify the company’s primary use of cash during the second quarter as compared to prior quarters.

– Specify, in a standardized format, the amount of liquidity that is currently available under the company’s existing financing facilities and if financial covenants prevent the company from accessing or drawing down from a disclosed financing source. Identify the time period that the company can expect to continue to operate with limited or no cash revenue.

– Explain management’s rationale for implementing announced executive compensation or staff reductions. Disclose changes to the company’s work force and expected impact on the company’s operations.

– Disclose the impact of the pandemic on the company’s human capital. Explain if the company’s employees will be able to work remotely and disclose the company-specific challenges. Estimate costs if the company expects to spend significantly on personal protective equipment in order to safely reopen.

The panelists said that investors also want to see qualitative disclosures addressing a company’s operational challenges & resiliency, as well as forward-looking disclosures & trend guidance, particularly around capital raising activities. In addition, investors are looking for companies to address the effect of recent social unrest on their business & employees, along with standardized disclosure about their racial and gender diversity, including a description of applicable hiring practices.

Beyond EBITDAC: Quantifying Covid-19’s Impact in Public Company Disclosures

Earlier this year, I blogged about the practice of presenting “EBITDAC”- type disclosures that adjust for Covid-19’s impact. A more recent blog from Liz suggests that this practice is growing in popularity. Clearly, disclosures about the effects of Covid-19 are very important, but non-GAAP disclosures that include estimates of lost revenue from the pandemic aren’t likely to make you many friends at the SEC.

Unfortunately, the quantitative disclosures about Covid-19 that can raise compliance issues aren’t limited to EBITDAC, and guidance about where to draw the line has been hard to come by. That’s why this Cleary Gottlieb memo about disclosures quantifying Covid-19’s impact is a very helpful resource. This excerpt addresses potential concerns about the accuracy & verifiability of Covid-19 adjustments:

Not all adjustments are created equal. Adjustments stemming from fairly objective charges, such as COVID-related contract terminations or purchases of personal protective equipment, are easier to isolate, quantify and support than charges related to supply chain interruptions and operational inefficiencies, which may reflect drivers beyond COVID-19. The more judgment calls that are needed in a company’s assessment of an adjustment, the more the company should consider its assumptions.

The SEC may be more likely to question the accuracy of the disclosure during its normal-course review of the company’s periodic filings, and there is also litigation risk surrounding COVID-impact disclosure that contains a misstatement or is otherwise inaccurate or unsupportable. In addition, it may be difficult for auditors to comfort such an adjustment in an underwritten offering. such as COVID-related contract terminations or purchases of personal protective equipment, are easier to isolate.

Through a user-friendly format that incorporates Q&As and concrete examples, the memo also provides insight on determining whether or not a particular disclosure involves a non-GAAP financial measure, whether the disclosure is permissible or potentially misleading, and other matters.

Companies looking into using non-GAAP financial measures to address the impact of Covid-19 should also check out this Deloitte memo on the topic.

Covid-19 Disclosure: Choose Your Words with Care!

A recent post over on the Jim Hamilton Blog discussed a webcast hosted by Securities Docket in which representatives of Latham & FTI participated. The webcast addressed a variety of pandemic-related disclosure & litigation issues, but one that I wanted to highlight involved the importance of careful attention to the wording of disclosure – particularly the use of the term “material adverse effect” when discussing Covid-19. Here’s an excerpt from remarks by Latham’s Keith Halverstam:

Halverstam also advised against using the term “material adverse effect” when it comes to making COVID-related disclosures related to company operations. While it might look good to the SEC, other parties such as the company’s lenders might see it as a violation of a covenant, making it harder for the company to draw on their revolving credit. Instead of using “material adverse effect,” companies can say, for example, that the pandemic has had “significant effects on revenue,” he recommended.

For some situations, there may be no choice but to use the “material adverse effect” terminology, but the point is that the words you chose to use may have implications that go well beyond the confines of the disclosure document.

John Jenkins