Jay Knight (far right) discusses disclosure challenges for public companies at the 2020 Securities Regulation Institute.

The Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group kicked off the new year by participating as a sponsor of the 47th Annual Securities Regulation Institute, which is held annually in San Diego by Northwestern University. Jay Knight, head of the firm’s Capital Market Subgroup, was featured as a speaker in a well-attended panel discussing recurring disclosure challenges faced by public companies and their advisors. Each year, the conference draws SEC staffers and many of the leading practitioners of the public company industry, and the keynote speaker for this year’s conference was SEC Commissioner Jay Clayton.

Our key takeaways from the conference follow:
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One thing I appreciate about the SEC comment letter process is that it gives real life examples to what is often discussed hypothetically.  Take, for example, cybersecurity and steps management should take when a data incident occurs.  How quickly should a public company make its public disclosure of a data incident?  What should it say?  What should the process look like?

In 2018, the SEC issued helpful interpretive guidance to assist public companies in preparing disclosures about cybersecurity risks and incidents.  This was in addition to the Division of Corporation Finance’s 2011 guidance regarding disclosure obligations relating to cybersecurity risks and incidents.  In addition, our friends at corporatecounsel.net ran a helpful blog post on February 18 related to cyber response plan testing.

It is clear there is no single playbook for a data incident response, and the appropriate response is driven by the facts and circumstances of the situation.  One size does not fit all.  However, it is helpful when preparing a response plan to analyze a real life example.  That is why the SEC comment exchange recently made public between the Staff and Chegg, Inc. last fall is particularly insightful.


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Given the high profile nature of Boeing’s ongoing saga with the grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Staff was particularly focused on the company’s disclosure of this issue in its recent review of Boeing’s SEC filings.

In monitoring SEC comment letters, we came across this SEC comment letter exchange with Boeing made public this week where the Staff questions the company about its commitments and contingencies footnote disclosures as required by Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 450 – Contingencies.

Staff Requests More Disclosures in Contingency Footnote

In its Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended June 30, 2019, Boeing discloses that it recorded in the second quarter an earnings charge of $5.6 billion, net of insurance recoveries of $500 million, in connection with “estimated potential concessions and other considerations to customers for disruptions related to the 737 MAX grounding and associated delivery delays.”


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Register for the Corporate & Securities Counsel Public Company Forum on December 12Bass, Berry & Sims invites you to join us for our inaugural Corporate & Securities Counsel Public Company Forum on Thursday, December 12.

This half-day program will feature timely and practical guidance on the latest developments in corporate and securities matters impacting public company in-house counsel.

Panel discussion topics will include:

  • Upcoming proxy season
  • Financial

The recent SEC enforcement action against ADT Inc. for its failure to comply with the SEC’s equal prominence requirements applicable to non-GAAP financial measures, as outlined in our recent blog post, is a clear reminder that public companies need to continue to be vigilant about the SEC’s non-GAAP financial measure rules.  Also, the Staff has continued to focus on non-GAAP compliance in its comment letters, with non-GAAP financial measures being one of the leading areas of Staff comment over the last couple of years.

There are different layers of the SEC’s non-GAAP financial measures rules which apply to public companies in varying circumstances, depending on the nature of the public disclosure.  Comprehensive knowledge regarding which level of the SEC’s non-GAAP financial measure rules applies to any particular disclosure is a key component when assessing legal considerations and risk in connection with the disclosure of non-GAAP financial measures.


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At the end of last year, in an enforcement action brought by the Division of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against ADT Inc. (ADT), reporting companies were reminded that the SEC continues to focus on noncompliant use of non-GAAP financial measures.

The SEC found that ADT disclosed non-GAAP financial measures in two earnings releases without presenting the most directly comparable GAAP figure with “equal or greater prominence,” as required by Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K.


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The Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group recently hosted its first in a series of complimentary webinars exploring various public company-related securities law issues.

The first webinar, Key Insights into Financial Reporting Considerations: MD&A, Earnings Releases & Regulation FD, was held on July 18 and shared guidance on the preparation of the Management Discussion & Analysis (MD&A), key disclosure issues regarding earnings releases and calls, and important considerations for public companies under Regulation FD.


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On May 3, 2019, the SEC proposed amendments to its rules and forms which would revise the disclosure requirements for financial statements relating to acquisitions and dispositions of businesses. We believe that most aspects of the proposed amendments, if adopted in current form, are thoughtful revisions to existing rules and will be beneficial to public companies, although we believe that a couple of aspects of the proposed amendments noted below may bear reconsideration by the SEC.

Key aspects of the proposed amendments include the following:

  • Updating the significance tests by:
    • increasing the significance threshold for a disposed business (triggering the requirement to file pro forma financials) from 10% to 20% (mirroring the existing percentage threshold for acquired businesses).
    • revising the “income test” in the definition of “significant subsidiary” under Regulation S-X, particularly to include a revenue as well as (after-tax) income component to such test, which will eliminate anomalies existing under the current rules (which do not include a revenue component) when a registrant has net income close to zero and a filing may be triggered even where a registrant is much larger than an acquired or disposed company.
    • revising the “investment test” in the definition of “significant subsidiary” under Regulation S-X, including to provide that the purchase price in an acquisition or disposition (which is the numerator in such test) will be compared to the equity value of the registrant rather than (as under the current rules) to the book value of the total assets of the registrant.
    • expanding the use of pro forma financial information in measuring significance, which may provide added flexibility to registrants in determining significance under certain circumstances.


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Please join the Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group as they launch a series of complimentary webinars exploring various public company-related securities law issues. Please join the Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group as they launch a series of complimentary webinars exploring various public company-related securities law issues. These quarterly CLE programs will be an extension of our Securities Law Exchange Blog and will feature timely and practical guidance to SEC disclosure counsel on key topics of interest.

The first Securities Law Exchange webinar, hosted by Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Kevin Douglas and Scott Bell on July 18, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CST, will highlight key financial reporting considerations for public companies. The discussion will include practical advice regarding the preparation of the Management Discussion & Analysis (MD&A), key disclosure issues regarding earnings release presentations, and important considerations for public companies under Regulation FD.


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When a public company is contemplating an acquisition, lawyers should consider early in the acquisition process whether the execution of the acquisition agreement and/or the completion of the acquisition may trigger a filing under Item 1.01 or Item 2.01 of Form 8-K.

Item 1.01

Item 1.01 of Form 8-K requires disclosure when a registrant enters into a “material definitive agreement” outside of the ordinary course of business.  In the context of an acquisition, this in most cases would potentially be triggered by the execution of the definitive acquisition agreement (rather than a letter of intent or term sheet).


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