Disclosure Modernization Continues – Part Three

Nov 12, 2020

By: George Wilson

 

This is the third in a series of blog posts delving into the practical aspects of implementing the Regulation S-K changes in the SEC’s August 26, 2020 Final Rule that modernizes and updates three disclosure areas in Regulation S-K:

 

Item 101 – Description of business

Item 103 – Legal proceedings

Item 105 – Risk factors

 

The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on October 8, 2020 and is effective for filings made on or after November 9, 2020, regardless of the accounting period-end of the financial statements included in a filing.

 

This post focuses on the legal proceedings disclosures required by S-K Item 103.  You can review the first and second posts in this series for information about the new disclosures for description of the business changes.  The changes discussed in this post are effective for 10-Q’s and 10-K’s filed on or after November 9, 2020.

 

The overall theme of all these changes is to modernize disclosure requirements and make them less prescriptive and more principles based with a focus on information that is material.  It has been over 30 years since there were any significant changes in these disclosure requirements, and it would be fair to say that the world and businesses have changed a lot over these 30 years.  It makes sense that these disclosures could stand some “modernization.”

 

The final rule made three relatively straightforward changes in legal proceedings disclosures:

 

First, the following language was added to the overall requirement to provide that information may be in other parts of a filing and hyperlinked or cross-referenced to the legal proceedings disclosure:

Information may be provided by hyperlink or cross-reference to legal proceedings disclosure elsewhere in the document, such as in Management’s Discussion & Analysis (MD&A), Risk Factors and notes to the financial statements.

Second, requirements that were formerly in the Instructions have been moved into the body of Item 103.  See bolded paragraphs (b) and (c) below.  Some wording was adjusted to fit this reorganization.

 

Third, in paragraph (c)(3) below, the threshold for disclosure of monetary sanctions where a governmental authority is a party to an environmental proceeding has been increased from $100,000 to $300,000.

 

Included below are the new text and old text of S-K Item 103 if you would like to review the details of these changes.  The changes described above are bolded in the new version.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

 

 

New Text of S-K Item 103

(Item 103) Legal proceedings.

(a) Describe briefly any material pending legal proceedings, other than ordinary routine litigation incidental to the business, to which the registrant or any of its subsidiaries is a party or of which any of their property is the subject. Include the name of the court or agency in which the proceedings are pending, the date instituted, the principal parties thereto, a description of the factual basis alleged to underlie the proceedings and the relief sought. Include similar information as to any such proceedings known to be contemplated by governmental authorities.

Information may be provided by hyperlink or cross-reference to legal proceedings disclosure elsewhere in the document, such as in Management’s Discussion & Analysis (MD&A), Risk Factors and notes to the financial statements.

(b) No information need be given under this section for proceedings:

(1) That involve negligence or other claims or actions if the business ordinarily results in such claims or actions, unless the claim or action departs from the normal kind of such claims or actions; or

(2) That involve primarily a claim for damages if the amount involved, exclusive of interest and costs, does not exceed 10 percent of the current assets of the registrant and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis. However, if any proceeding presents in large degree the same legal or factual issues as other proceedings pending or known to be contemplated, the amount involved in such other proceedings shall be included in computing such percentage.

(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (b) of this section, disclosure under this section shall include, but shall not be limited to:

(1) Any material bankruptcy, receivership, or similar proceeding with respect to the registrant or any of its significant subsidiaries;

(2) Any material proceedings to which any director, officer or affiliate of the registrant, any owner of record or beneficially of more than five percent of any class of voting securities of the registrant, or any associate of any such director, officer, affiliate of the registrant, or security holder is a party adverse to the registrant or any of its subsidiaries or has a material interest adverse to the registrant or any of its subsidiaries;

(3) Administrative or judicial proceedings (including proceedings which present in large degree the same issues) arising under any Federal, State, or local provisions that have been enacted or adopted regulating the discharge of materials into the environment or primarily for the purpose of protecting the environment. Such proceedings shall not be deemed “ordinary routine litigation incidental to the business” and shall be described if:

(i) Such proceeding is material to the business or financial condition of the registrant;

(ii) Such proceeding involves primarily a claim for damages, or involves potential monetary sanctions, capital expenditures, deferred charges or charges to income and the amount involved, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds 10 percent of the current assets of the registrant and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis; or

(iii) A governmental authority is a party to such proceeding and such proceeding involves potential monetary sanctions, unless the registrant reasonably believes that such proceeding will result in no monetary sanctions, or in monetary sanctions, exclusive of interest and costs, of less than $300,000 or, at the election of the registrant, such other threshold that (A) the registrant determines is reasonably designed to result in disclosure of any such proceeding that is material to the business or financial condition is disclosed, (B) the registrant discloses (including any change thereto) in each annual and quarterly report, and (C) does not exceed the lesser of $1 million or one percent of the current assets of the registrant and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis; provided, however, that such proceedings that are similar in nature may be grouped and described generically.

 

Old Text of S-K Item 103

Describe briefly any material pending legal proceedings, other than ordinary routine litigation incidental to the business, to which the registrant or any of its subsidiaries is a party or of which any of their property is the subject. Include the name of the court or agency in which the proceedings are pending, the date instituted, the principal parties thereto, a description of the factual basis alleged to underlie the proceeding and the relief sought. Include similar information as to any such proceedings known to be contemplated by governmental authorities.

 

Instructions to Item 103: 1. If the business ordinarily results in actions for negligence or other claims, no such action or claim need be described unless it departs from the normal kind of such actions.

 

2. No information need be given with respect to any proceeding that involves primarily a claim for damages if the amount involved, exclusive of interest and costs, does not exceed 10 percent of the current assets of the registrant and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis. However, if any proceeding presents in large degree the same legal and factual issues as other proceedings pending or known to be contemplated, the amount involved in such other proceedings shall be included in computing such percentage.

 

3. Notwithstanding Instructions 1 and 2, any material bankruptcy, receivership, or similar proceeding with respect to the registrant or any of its significant subsidiaries shall be described.

 

4. Any material proceedings to which any director, officer or affiliate of the registrant, any owner of record or beneficially of more than five percent of any class of voting securities of the registrant, or any associate of any such director, officer, affiliate of the registrant, or security holder is a party adverse to the registrant or any of its subsidiaries or has a material interest adverse to the registrant or any of its subsidiaries also shall be described.

 

5. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an administrative or judicial proceeding (including, for purposes of A and B of this Instruction, proceedings which present in large degree the same issues) arising under any Federal, State or local provisions that have been enacted or adopted regulating the discharge of materials into the environment or primary for the purpose of protecting the environment shall not be deemed “ordinary routine litigation incidental to the business” and shall be described if:

 

A. Such proceeding is material to the business or financial condition of the registrant;

 

B. Such proceeding involves primarily a claim for damages, or involves potential monetary sanctions, capital expenditures, deferred charges or charges to income and the amount involved, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds 10 percent of the current assets of the registrant and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis; or

 

C. A governmental authority is a party to such proceeding and such proceeding involves potential monetary sanctions, unless the registrant reasonably believes that such proceeding will result in no monetary sanctions, or in monetary sanctions, exclusive of interest and costs, of less than $100,000; provided, however, that such proceedings which are similar in nature may be grouped and described generically.


Other news