Clawbacks: Turning Restatements Into a Rare Species?
John wrote a few months ago that 70% of restatements are now “Little r” revisions, according to data from Audit Analytics. A WSJ article reports on a couple of studies that analyze the potential connection between the presence of clawback provisions & performance awards, on the one hand, and management’s discretion to “restate” versus “revise” financials, on the other. Here’s an excerpt:
A study by Ms. Thompson found that almost half—45%—of Little r revisions from August 2004 through 2015 that she analyzed met at least one of the guidelines for them to be considered Big R restatements.
Her research points to one potential motivation: “clawbacks” that allow companies to recoup compensation from executives in the event of a Big R restatement. Companies with such clawbacks were more than twice as likely as others to use revisions for potentially material errors, her analysis found.
Although the article tries to also draw a link between “Little r” revisions and performance awards, the data doesn’t directly connect declines in performance award metrics like EPS to a company’s decision to carry out a “Big R” restatement versus a “Little r” revision. The article points out that in at least one situation, Corp Fin was deferential to a company’s decision to correct an accounting error via a revision even though the error had flipped one quarter’s earnings per share from negative to positive and the company used an annual EPS metric in its long-term incentive plan.
Also see the CFO article suggesting that executives who are subject to clawback policies are more likely to push for tax savings – e.g. through use of tax havens. It wouldn’t seem there’s much downside to that for shareholders, but for companies that follow GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, it’s relevant to know that GRI is recently announced a new “tax disclosure standard” to promote transparency of tax practices that could impact funding of government services & sustainability initiatives.
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net January 2, 2020
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