AU Section 9711
Filings Under Federal Securities Statutes: Auditing Interpretations of Section 711
1. Subsequent Events Procedures for Shelf Registration Statements Updated after the Original Effective Date
Question—Rule 415 of Regulation C under the Securities Act of 1933 (1933 Act) permits companies to register a designated amount of securities for continuous or delayed offerings by filing one "shelf" registration statement with the SEC. Under this rule, a registrant can register an amount of securities it reasonably expects to offer and sell within the next two years, generally without the later need to prepare and file a new prospectus and registration statement for each sale.
A Rule 415 shelf registration statement can be updated after its original effective date by—
- The filing of a post-effective amendment,
- The incorporation by reference of subsequently filed material, or
- The addition of a supplemental prospectus (sometimes referred to as a "sticker").
Section 711, Filings Under Federal Securities Statutes, paragraph .05, states, "Because a registration statement under the Securities Act of 1933 speaks as of its effective date, the independent accountant whose report is included in such a registration statement has a statutory responsibility that is determined in the light of the circumstances on that date." The independent accountant's statutory responsibility regarding information covered by his report and included in a registration statement is specified in Section 11 of the 1933 Act. Section 11(b)(3)(B) states that the accountant will not be held liable if he can sustain a burden of proof that "he had, after reasonable investigation, reasonable ground to believe and did believe, at the time such part of the registration statement became effective, that the statements therein were true and that there was no omission to state a material fact required to be stated therein or necessary to make the statements therein not misleading." To sustain the burden of proof that he has made a "reasonable investigation" as of the effective date, the accountant performs subsequent events procedures (as described in section 711.10 and .11) to a date as close to the effective date of the registration statement as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.
In connection with Rule 415 shelf registrations, under what circumstances does the independent accountant have a responsibility to perform subsequent events procedures after the original effective date of the registration statement?
Interpretation—As discussed in more detail below, in general, the accountant should perform the subsequent events procedures described in section 711.10 and .11, when either:
- A post-effective amendment to the shelf registration statement, as defined by SEC rules, is filed pursuant to Item 512(a) of Regulation S-K, fn 1 or
- A 1934 Act filing that includes or amends audited financial statements is incorporated by reference into the shelf registration statement.
When a post-effective amendment is filed pursuant to the registrant's undertaking required by Item 512 of Regulation S-K, a shelf registration statement is considered to have a new effective date because Item 512(a)(2) of Regulation S-K states, ". . . for the purpose of determining any liability under the Securities Act of 1933, each such post-effective amendment shall be deemed to be a new registration statement. . . ." Accordingly, in such cases, the accountant should perform subsequent events procedures to a date as close to the new effective date of the registration statement as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.
Item 512(b) of Regulation S-K states that for purposes of determining any liability under the Securities Act of 1933 each filing of a registrant's annual report (Form 10-K) and each filing of an employee benefit plan annual report (Form 11-K) that is incorporated by reference into a shelf registration statement is deemed to be a new registration statement relating to the securities offering. Accordingly, when a Form 10-K or Form 11-K is incorporated by reference into a shelf registration statement, the accountant should perform subsequent events procedures to a date as close to the date of the filing of the Form 10-K or Form 11-K as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances and date his consent as of that date.
In many circumstances, a Form 10-Q, Form 8-K, or other 1934 Act filing can be incorporated by reference into a shelf registration statement (sometimes this occurs automatically—for example, in a Form S-3 or Form S-8) without the need for a post-effective amendment. In those circumstances, the accountant has no responsibility to perform subsequent events procedures unless the filing includes or amends audited financial statements—for example, a Form 8-K that includes audited financial statements of an acquired company. In these latter circumstances, when the filing is incorporated into a registration statement, SEC rules require a currently dated consent of the accountant who audited those statements, and that accountant should perform subsequent events procedures to a date as close to the date of the incorporation by reference of the related material as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances. fn 2
In addition, an accountant's report on a review of interim financial information contained in a Form 10-Q may also include his report on the information presented in the condensed year-end balance sheet that has also been included in the form and has been derived from the latest audited annual balance sheet. (See section 552, Reporting on Condensed Financial Statements and Selected Financial Data, paragraph .08.) When the Form 10-Q is incorporated by reference into the shelf registration (which may occur automatically), the report on the year-end condensed balance sheet may be considered a report of an "expert." Because it is not clear what the accountant's responsibility is in those circumstances, the accountant should perform subsequent events procedures (as described in section 711.10 and .11) to a date as close to the date of the incorporation by reference of the Form 10-Q as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.
One of the subsequent events procedures described in section 711 is to "read the entire prospectus and other pertinent portions of the registration statement." The reading of the entire prospectus (including any supplemental prospectuses and documents incorporated by reference—such as Form 10-Ks, 10-Qs, and 8-Ks) and the other procedures described in section 711.10 and .11, help assure that the accountant has fulfilled his statutory responsibilities under the 1933 Act to perform a "reasonable investigation."
When a shelf registration statement is updated by a supplemental prospectus (or "sticker"), the effective date of the registration statement is considered to be unchanged since the supplemental prospectus does not constitute an amendment to the registration statement, and, consequently, no posteffective amendment has been filed. Accordingly, an accountant has no responsibility to update his performance of subsequent events procedures through the date of the supplemental prospectus or sticker. The accountant, however, may nevertheless become aware that facts may have existed at the date of his report that might have affected his report had he then been aware of those facts. Section 711.12 and .13, provide guidance on the accountant's response to subsequent events and subsequently discovered facts.
[Issue Date: May, 1983.]
2. Consenting to be Named as an Expert in an Offering Document in Connection With Securities Offerings Other Than Those Registered Under the Securities Act of 1933
Question—Should the auditor consent to be named, or referred to, as an expert in an offering document in connection with securities offerings other than those registered under the Securities Act of 1933 (the Act)?
Interpretation—No. The term "expert" has a specific statutory meaning under the Act. fn 3 The act states that anyone who purchases a security registered under the Act may sue specified persons if the registration statement contains an untrue statement or omits to state a material fact. Those persons who may be sued include "every accountant, engineer, or appraiser, or any person whose profession gives authority to a statement made by him, who has with his consent been named as having prepared or certified any part of the registration statement." These persons are typically referred to as "experts." Auditors sign a statement, known as a consent, in which they agree to be identified as experts in a section of the registration statement.
Outside the 1933 Act arena, however, the term "expert" is typically undefined and the auditor's responsibility, as a result of the use of that term, is also undefined.
When a client wishes to make reference to the auditor's role in an offering document in connection with a securities offering that is not registered under the Act, the caption "Independent Auditors" should be used to title that section of the document; the caption "Experts" should not be used, nor should the auditors be referred to as experts anywhere in the document. The following paragraph should be used to describe the auditors role.
The financial statements as of December 31, 19XX and for the year then ended, included in this offering circular, have been audited by ABC, independent auditors, as stated in their report(s) appearing herein.
If the client refuses to delete from the offering document the reference to the auditors as experts, the auditor should not permit inclusion of the auditor's report in the offering document.
[Issue Date: June, 1992; Amended: March, 1995.]
3. Consenting to the Use of an Audit Report in an Offering Document in Securities Offerings Other Than One Registered Under the Securities Act of 1933
Question—May the auditor consent to the use of his or her audit report in an offering document other than one registered under the Securities Act of 1933?
Interpretation—When an auditor's report is included in an offering document other than one registered under the Securities Act of 1933, it is not usually necessary for the accountant to provide a consent. If the accountant is requested to provide a consent, he or she may do so. The following is example language the accountant might use:
We agree to the inclusion in this offering circular of our report, dated February 5, 19XX, on our audit of the financial statements of [name of entity].
[Issue Date: June, 1992.]