The SEC Division of Corporation Finance's filing review process is a key function utilized by the SEC staff to monitor the critical accounting and disclosure decisions applied by registrants. Our analysis of SEC comment letters identifies the frequency of topical areas addressed by the SEC staff and how their focus areas changed over time. In addition to providing our insights on the nature of the SEC staff comments, we provide sample text from the SEC staff’s comments and links to where you can learn more about the accounting and disclosure requirements addressed in each topical area.
Click on the trends to learn more.
(4/1/2018 – 3/31/2019)*
|Relative change in number of letters compared to the Prior Period*|
|2||Form compliance and exhibits
|4||Fair value measurement||Flat|
|5||Terrorist nation sponsor reporting||Up|
|6||Research and development||Flat|
|8||Goodwill and other intangibles||Flat|
|9||Disclosure controls and ICFR||Flat|
|10||Management's discussion and analysis||Down|
*This analysis was performed based on topical areas assigned by research firm Audit Analytics for comment letters publicly issued in the 12 months ended March 31, 2019 ("Current Period") and the 12 months ended March 31, 2018 ("Prior Period") in relation to Form 10-K and Form 10-Q filings. Total comment letters evaluated during the Current Period and Prior Period were approximately 100 and 200, respectively.
The relative number of comment letters has increased.
The relative number of comment letters has decreased.
The relative number of comment letters has not changed significantly.
The new revenue standard (ASC 606) requires more quantitative and qualitative disclosure than prior guidance. The following areas have been addressed in the SEC staff's comments:
Compliance-related comments do not typically require significant effort to address, however, the resolution of such comments may require a registrant to amend previous filings. The SEC staff has focused on:
Non-GAAP financial measures result in frequent comments regarding compliance with Item 10(e) of Regulation S-K and the related compliance and disclosure interpretations, sometimes resulting in requests to remove or substantially modify non-GAAP metrics. Focus areas have included:
Fair value measurements often require the application of significant judgment. The SEC staff has focused on the quality of disclosure around those significant judgments and estimates, frequently commenting on:
Certain of the fair value disclosure requirements, and consequently the nature of the SEC staff’s comments may be impacted by ASU 2018-13, Changes to the Disclosure Requirements for Fair Value Measurements, which can be early adopted.
SEC staff comments asked registrants to disclose quantitative and qualitative information about business knowingly conducted with state sponsors of terrorism. For all such business activity, the SEC staff has requested disclosure of:
The list of countries that are subject to US sanctions and/or are identified as state sponsors of terrorism is dynamic and subject to change. Registrants can reference the US Department of State and the Office of Foreign Assets Control websites for the most recent listing of such countries.
Companies incur significant research and development expenses in order to remain competitive through innovation. The SEC staff has focused on the quality of disclosures related to total research and development costs charged to expense in each reporting period, commenting frequently on:
Business combinations are a consistent area of focus for the SEC staff, with frequent comments related to:
The SEC staff has focused on the quality of the disclosure around significant judgments and estimates associated with goodwill and intangible assets, including impairment assessments, frequently commenting on:
The focus of the SEC staff’s comments on Internal Control over Financial Reporting (ICFR) has not changed significantly from prior years. They continue to focus on:
The SEC staff's comments on management’s discussion and analysis have emphasized the requirements in Item 303 of Regulation S-K and the related disclosure objectives, including a focus on:
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Partner, National Professional Services Group, PwC US