Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You don’t see this often: last week the Securities and Exchange Commission fined a North Carolina energy services company $470,000 for violating the SEC’s segment reporting rules.

The company, PowerSecure International, agreed to pay the penalty without admitting or denying misconduct, and accepted a cease-and-desist order to stop its faulty reporting practices.

What were those faulty practices, exactly? According to the SEC, PowerSecure presented its continuing operations as one reporting segment from 2012 into 2014, when the company should have split those numbers into multiple segments. That violates Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which state that the “chief operating decision manager” should report multiple operating segments when those segments can be identified.

And what is an identifiable operating segment, then? GAAP identifies three factors: (1) the unit can earn revenues and incur expenses; (2) the CODM (yes, that’s the acronym) regularly reviews those results; and (3) the financial information for that segment is discrete from other segments and available to be reported.

Essentially, the SEC said PowerSecure’s CEO bundled all the company’s segments into one big unit and reported those numbers, when the company should have been able to do so. It’s worth noting that in PowerSecure’s annual report for 2015, the company did confess a material weakness in its internal controls related to—you guessed it—segment reporting.

We mention all this today to remind Calcbench users that you can search for and study a company’s segment reporting in our databases. Our Segments, Breakouts, and Rollfowards page lets you search by operating segment (the type that got PowerSecure into trouble), geographic segment (we wrote about how to use the geography tool in August), and more.

Calcbench always strives to provide database capabilities that matter to financial analysts, corporate finance professionals, auditors, academics, and everyone else in the corporate reporting community.

That concludes today’s discussion about segment reporting—and as you can see, getting that right matters.

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