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The COVID-19 Pandemic and Your Company's Corporate Disclosures: Key Takeaways from the SEC's Recently Issued Guidance

The SEC Division of Corporation Finance (the “Division”) recently issued guidance to highlight some of the COVID-19 pandemic-related considerations companies need to bear in mind as they prepare their corporate disclosures. The guidance included three main topics: (1) disclosing the ways COVID-19 may affect the company, both now and in the future; (2) refraining from trading on material, non-public information about the company until that information is publicly disclosed; and (3) reporting company financial information when GAAP financial measures are unavailable. The guidance emphasizes that health and safety are the first priority and should not be compromised to meet reporting requirements.

Takeaways from each topic are outlined below. The full guidance is available here on the SEC website.

Assessing and Disclosing the Evolving Impact of COVID-19

Companies should disclose the effects and risks of COVID-19 as part of their upcoming disclosures. Disclosure of COVID-19-related effects and risks could be included in management’s discussion and analysis, the business section, risk factors, legal proceedings, disclosure controls and procedures, internal control over financial reporting, and the financial statements.

The guidance includes questions designed to encourage companies to consider all the possible ways COVID-19 affects their current and future operations. Generally, companies are asked to assess and disclose the effects COVID-19 has had on a company, what management expects its future impact will be, how it is responding to evolving events, and how it is planning for COVID-19-related uncertainties. A company should disclose if COVID-19 is expected to impact future operations differently than how it affected the current period.

Before assembling COVID-19-related disclosures, management should read through and analyze the full set of questions included in the guidance. Companies are encouraged to provide disclosures that allow investors to evaluate the current and expected impact of COVID-19 through the eyes of management.  Additionally, companies should proactively revise and update disclosures as facts and circumstances change. 

Need to Refrain from Trading Prior to Dissemination of Material Non-Public Information

Where COVID-19 has affected a company in a way that would be material to investors or where a company has become aware of a risk related to COVID-19 that would be material to investors, the company, its directors and officers, and other corporate insiders who are aware of these matters should refrain from trading in the company’s securities until such information is disclosed to the public. Further, companies need to consider whether they may need to revisit, refresh, or update previous disclosures to the extent that the information has become materially inaccurate.

Reporting Earnings and Financial Results

The Division recognizes that the impact of COVID-19 may present a number of novel or complex accounting issues that may take time to resolve. These complexities may make it necessary to present a non-GAAP financial measure in company reporting. Companies should not use non-GAAP financial measures or metrics to present a more favorable view of the company. Disclosures should only include those non-GAAP financial measures a company is using to report financial results to the Board of Directors.

Companies should reconcile any non-GAAP financial measures to preliminary GAAP results that either include provisional figures based on a reasonable estimate, or a reasonable range of GAAP results. A non-GAAP financial measure should not be disclosed more prominently than the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure or range of GAAP measures. Companies should additionally disclose why the line item or accounting is incomplete, and what additional information or analysis may be needed to complete the accounting. In filings where GAAP financial statements are required, such as filings on Form 10-K or 10-Q, companies should reconcile to GAAP results and not include provisional amounts or a range of estimated results.

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About this Author

Jessica Ann Benford, IP, Corporate Lawyer, Ryley Carlock Law Firm
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Jessica helps local entrepreneurs, start-ups, business owners, established companies and financial institutions navigate significant issues related to formation, governance, financing, compliance and intellectual property.  Jessica is committed to understanding her clients' business goals and challenges in order to deliver responsive solutions.

Entity Selection and Formation.  Jessica has extensive experience analyzing the benefits of business entity types to empower clients to select the legal entity best suited for their particular goals or transactions.  She...

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Daniel S. Herder Associate
Associate

Daniel is an associate in the firm’s Water, Energy, Resources and Environmental practice group. He also assists with matters related to litigation, corporate transactions, and employment. 

Daniel was awarded the Donald and Marie Isaacson Scholarship and the Consular Corps of Arizona Governor’s Scholarship to attend Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. In law school, he earned CALI awards for the top grade in both Government Relations and International Relations Law, while serving as Managing Editor of the Arizona State Law Journal and as Research Assistant for a constitutional law professor.

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