Corp Fin’s “SPAC” Statement: All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Yesterday afternoon, Corp Fin issued this “Staff Statement” to highlight accounting, financial reporting & governance issues that they want people to carefully consider before taking private companies public via a SPAC. Acting Chief Accountant Paul Munter also issued this statement to further emphasize the complex financial reporting & audit considerations that come into play with these transactions. These statements are being made at the Staff level and aren’t approved by the Commission, but they underscore that people at the SEC think the SPAC frenzy warrants caution.
Corp Fin’s statement points out that private companies need to thoroughly lay the groundwork for going public – even if they’re not doing it via a traditional IPO. Here are a few (paraphrased) reasons why:
– Financial statements for the acquired business must be filed within four business days of the completion of the business combination pursuant to Item 9.01(c) of Form 8-K. You aren’t entitled to the 71-day extension of that Item.
– The SPAC – and the combined company – need adequate expertise, books & records and internal controls to be able to meet reporting deadlines, satisfy the form & content requirements of financial statements, adopt accounting standards that may not have applied when private, understand “predecessor” implications, and generally ensure that they’re providing timely & reliable reporting
– The combined company will need to continue to satisfy quantitative & qualitative listing standards – e.g., the SPAC may lose round lot holders during the business combination; the private operating company may not have in place adequate independent director oversight, appropriate audit committee expertise, or a code of ethics
In addition, the Staff wants everyone to understand that going the SPAC route means that the combined company will be more restricted in future capital raising transactions. For example, for 3 years following the business combination, they’ll be an “ineligible issuer” (no WKSI status, no FWPs, etc.) – and also during that 3-year period, they won’t be able to incorporate by reference on Form S-1.
These limitations on capital raising aren’t new rules – they’re really just saying that the more recent “fast track” alternatives aren’t available to former shells. But they bear emphasis with the business crowd who are excited about a fast deal now and will be decidedly less excited about a slow deal later. Do yourself a favor and put it in writing!
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net April 1, 2021
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