April 22, 2024

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COVID-19 Highlights Need to Reset SEC Proposal on MD&A Disclosures

The comment interval for the Securities and Trade Commission’s proposed rule, Management’s Discussion and Evaluation, Selected Financial Data, and Supplementary Financial Information shut this week, and buyers weighed in.

In broad strokes, the proposal seeks to minimize the “burden” on preparers of offering information and facts, these kinds of as by eradicating the contractual obligations table and chosen economic info and offering flexibility for registrants in the quarters they choose to evaluate final results. The matter is, the stress is not remaining removed, just shifted from preparers to buyers, and it is additional than a shift — there is a internet information and facts reduction to buyers. Investors, not management, fork out for these disclosures, and they want them to keep on being.

CFA Institute, alongside with the Council of Institutional Investors, weighed in with a comment letter and mentioned that removal of these kinds of information and facts is a internet subtraction for buyers. Key things these kinds of as contractual obligations are remaining removed at a time when the COVID-19 epidemic proves they are additional important than ever. We consider they need to be increased, not removed. In advance of finalizing this proposal, we consider, it is critical that the SEC look at how these kinds of variations would downside buyers in occasions of sector stress these kinds of as we are encountering with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contractual Obligations. The proposal would eradicate the necessity to current contractual obligations in a one, comprehensive table, undertaking so on the principle that the information and facts is now contained in the economic statement footnotes or someplace else in the doc. Even though that might help save a registrant some time, it genuinely just transfers the stress to buyers and analysts.

The COVID-19 circumstance highlights the need for this table as buyers need to have at the ready a one disclosure that displays the totality and timing of a company’s contractual obligations. Picture not acquiring this table amidst the economic and liquidity crisis brought on by the pandemic — buyers would be scrambling to compile the information and facts by finding via registrant filings.

We emphasize in our comment letter academic study that demonstrates the usefulness of this information and facts in durations of economic stress. Additional, the table is a important resource for management in assessing its obligations in a one area. As they say, what gets calculated and disclosed gets monitored. Fairly than getting rid of the table, we consider it need to be increased to include things like order obligations, off-equilibrium-sheet obligations, and other hard cash necessities.

Selected Financial Data. The proposal also would eradicate the five-yr chosen economic info, once more on the premise that this a stress on preparers and that buyers can get the information and facts from other resources. This is not true. If current interval financials are modified for accounting variations or reclassifications, these kinds of as individuals related to discontinued functions, no comparable information and facts is obtainable to buyers in the information and facts ecosystem. Significant information and facts would be lost.

Similar Quarters. The proposal also lets organizations to choose a comparison of current interval final results to possibly the prior quarter (sequential) or the prior-yr quarter. We never consider this flexibility need to be allowed mainly because the interval selected is possible to be the one with the most favorable variations.

Skimpy Evaluation. Our check out is that management dialogue and analysis (MD&A) is frequently woefully shorter on analysis. Such analysis is critical in the current economic ecosystem. We consider the SEC demands to go further more in necessitating organizations to present a dialogue of the root triggers of variations in final results. We also consider the SEC need to demand a tabular presentation of the dollar and proportion variations in line things, as this will possible clearly show that after tabularized, the MD&A involves extremely little analysis and is simply a rote recitation of boosts and decreases in economic statement line things.

Structuring the Data. Hand in hand with tabular presentation is the need for tagging of tabular and textual info in all sections within an MD&A as nicely as the chosen economic info and contractual obligations. The proposal doesn’t include things like a necessity to tag and framework the info and so doesn’t move ahead the digital use of info or replicate how buyers consume registrant filings.

In shorter, CFA thinks that now is not the time to eradicate crucial investor information and facts rather, it is a time to enhance and make improvements to some of the important sections of registrant filings.

CFA Institute, contributor, COVID-19, buyers, regulatory filings, Securities and Trade Fee