FEI Panel: New Standard Muddles Disclosure Considerations

By Aarthi Rayapura July 7, 2015

As part of the recent revenue recognition event hosted by Financial Executives International (FEI), a panel discussion illuminated the tricky nature of disclosure requirements amid the still-evolving new guidelines.

The possibility of more expansive disclosure requirements and uncertainty over what the final standard will look like were among the topics of a lively panel session during the one-day “Revenue Recognition: Focus on Implementation Conference”  in New York by the organization for senior-level financial executives. 

While the governing boards continue to sort out proposed extensions and other implementation concerns raised by financial preparers, members of the seven-person panel said companies can expect the pressure to provide more explicit guidance will only increase because the new standard calls for greater disclosure of performance obligations than current U.S. GAAP.

“I thought the panel discussion was great, with the opportunity to hear perspectives from legal, investor relations, auditors and advisors,” said panelist Shauna Watson, Global Managing Director of Finance & Accounting for RGP.

“Disclosures are often not considered initially when evaluating the implications but this is definitely an area that will apply to all companies within the scope and should not be left to the last minute,” she said afterwards. “Determining which data is necessary and whether it currently exists in a usable form within the organization is important to scoping the effort required to comply with these requirements.”

In an FEI article on the discussion, Dusty Stallings, a partner in PwC Capital Markets Accounting & Advisory Services practice, said, “the disclosure requirements are going to be more forward-looking with regards to the types of obligations and the amounts, and those figures can make a difference in what companies report.”

He added: “A customer loyalty program is a performance obligation that will now be going into the disclosure bucket. That’s not the type of thing companies are used to capturing and disclosing.”

Companies will also need to gird themselves for disclosure questions relating to their regulatory relations and the reliability of the information required under the new standard, according to feedback from the discussion.

“The data you’ll need probably exists somewhere in the organization, but it may be on multiple systems or platforms, and it may not be on platforms you can trust,” said Bryan Anderson, a partner with Deloitte, specializing in revenue recognition.

Anderson gave most firms a window of about five or six months to evaluate their current systems and figure out whether or not they have the required data and the ability to access it.