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News November 2017 FRC shares better practice examples from thematic reviews

FRC shares better practice examples from thematic reviews

09 November 2017

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has today published three thematic reports to help companies improve the quality of their corporate reporting in acknowledged areas of difficulty.
 
The reports cover:

They detail findings from the FRC’s 2016/17 thematic reviews to which companies can refer when preparing their next report and accounts. 
 
Sixty companies were informed, before their year-end, that the FRC would review one of the three themes in their next reports and accounts.  Many companies responded by improving the quality of their reporting in the selected area. The thematic reviews analyse the enhanced information provided to readers of the reports, and recognise the most significant improvements, including extracts from the better disclosures which most closely matched the FRC’s expectations.  The FRC expects other companies to use the better examples observed to assess the quality of their own reporting and raise the bar on their disclosures.
 
Paul George, FRC’s Executive Director for Corporate Governance and Reporting, said:
 

“The great majority of companies approached clearly reviewed and revised the relevant disclosures prior to releasing their next set of report and accounts, which provided better quality information to the market in a timely manner. Many sharpened, and some shortened, the relevant information with a view to providing more granular detail about the issues that really matter to those reading their reports and accounts and wanting a better understanding of the key issues and of how management is dealing with them.  We expect others to similarly review their own reports and accounts and look to the characteristics of the better disclosures we identified to inform the continuing development of their reporting.”

 
Judgements and estimates
Judgements, where properly separated from estimates, can help investors to understand the quality of management’s decisions. The disclosures required to support estimates indicate the extent to which assets and liabilities may change materially in the next 12 months and can provide valuable input to investor forecasts and inform their expectations.
 
Improvements that were observed:

  • Many companies made a better effort to distinguish judgements from estimates;

  • More focused on genuinely critical judgements where management decisions had had a significant impact on results; and

  • Most improved the granularity of disclosure while keeping it clear and concise.

The FRC will continue to challenge and expect change by those who do not:

  • Identify the assets and liabilities at significant risk of material change in the next 12 months;

  • Quantify the specific amounts; and

  • Provide sensitivity analysis of the possible range of outcomes.

Pension disclosures
Low interest rates and the economics of defined benefit pension arrangements have increased the need for transparency of pension reporting.
 
Improvements that were observed:

  • Many companies provided more information about the risks and uncertainties arising from their pension schemes; and

  • Better explanation of why there was a marked increase in companies’ pension deficits and the actions to address the issue.

The FRC will continue to challenge and expect change by those who do not:

  • Disclose the  information needed to support an understanding of how pension-related risk may affect the amount, timing or uncertainty of future cash flows; or

  • Clearly explain the basis on which different plan assets have been valued.

Alternative Performance Measures (APMs)
APMs that are clearly presented and chosen to provide a balanced view of a company can be helpful to investors when the supplementary material about the company’s future or past performance, position or cash flows cannot be presented through the financial reporting framework.
 
Improvements that were observed:

  • All companies provided definitions of their APMs, with fair and accurate descriptions;

  • All reconciled some, if not all, their APMs to IFRS numbers; and

  • Most explained why their particular APMs were useful without resorting to cursory or boilerplate text.

  • Most gave equal prominence to APMs and IFRS numbers.

The FRC will continue to challenge and expect change by those who:

  • Display APMs with greater prominence than IFRS measures; or

  • Default to identifying matters as ‘non-recurring’ or similar in connection with items such as restructuring or impairment charges.


Notes to editors:

  1. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is the UK’s independent regulator responsible for promoting transparency and integrity in business. The FRC sets the UK Corporate Governance and Stewardship Codes and UK standards for accounting and actuarial work; monitors and takes action to promote the quality of corporate reporting; and operates independent enforcement arrangements for accountants and actuaries. As the Competent Authority for audit in the UK the FRC sets auditing and ethical standards and monitors and enforces audit quality.

  2. Thematic reviews offer the FRC a means of prompting a step change in the quality of reporting in areas where evidence from our full reviews indicates that there is still room for improvement.  The FRC aims to select themes which resonate with investors and in which there is general public interest which helps to stimulate the appetite for change.  

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