PCAOB staff guidance for new requirements on auditing accounting estimates (AS 2501), and auditor’s use of the work of specialists

On August 22, 2019, the PCAOB staff released four staff guidance documents to raise awareness and assist auditors in advance of the effective date of new estimates and specialists audit requirements. The requirements are effective for audits of financial statements for fiscal years ending on or after December 15, 2020.

Here is a link to the news release, Click Here

Focusing on the auditing of accounting estimates, the PCAOB has adopted AS 2501. The PCAOB adopted AS 2501 because, in the PCAOB’s own words:

“Why did the PCAOB adopt this standard?

The use of complex accounting estimates and fair value measurements continues to grow in financial reporting. As a result, the use of the work of specialists continues to increase in both frequency and significance. Estimates often have a significant impact on a company’s reported financial position and results of operations.

Accounting estimates are often some of the areas of greatest risk in an audit, requiring additional audit attention and appropriate application of professional skepticism.

The Board’s oversight activities have revealed a recurring pattern of deficiencies in this area. Over the years, PCAOB staff has provided guidance for auditors related to auditing accounting estimates, but this area remains challenging and practices among firms vary.”

Here is a link to AS 2501:  https://pcaobus.org/Standards/Auditing/Pages/AS2501.aspx

You might ask, why am I blogging about AS 2501 and the auditing of accounting estimates? Because these issues are important for management, and are or can become important for audit committees and/or boards, these can be challenging and complex issues, the PCAOB indicates that accounting estimates can be areas of greatest risk in an audit and has noted patterns of deficiencies, and these issue can present or can develop into Critical Audit Matters or CAMs. If you are involved in the accounting or auditing function, or in the oversight of an entity’s accounting or auditing (such the board or audit committee), I recommend that you click on the link above to AS 2501 and that you read the materials to get a feel for the new standard before then really diving into the detail. And the following are links to the four blog posts that I have written about CAMs (in order from the most recent post to oldest/earliest post: https://wp.me/p75iWX-im, https://wp.me/p75iWX-g4, https://wp.me/p75iWX-fr, and https://wp.me/p75iWX-df.

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are other summary materials that you might find useful:

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

From a prior blog post which you can find at https://wp.me/p75iWX-dk if the below scan is too difficult to read:

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Forwarding from The FCPA Blog – “Yes, ‘ethical culture’ can be measured” or audited – and so can governance, risk management, compliance, and almost everything, etc. . . .

I am forwarding a July 22, 2019, post by Vera Cherepanova on the FCPA Blog – the following is the link to Ms. Cherepanova’s post: http://www.fcpablog.com/blog/2019/7/22/yes-ethical-culture-can-be-measured.html

Ms. Cherepanova highlights the recent Department of Justice update to its “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs,” and also references the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines, noting that both in part refer to the importance “for a company to create and foster a culture of ethics and compliance.” She then queries: “But how does a company measure its culture of compliance, and what steps does it take in response to its measurement of the compliance culture?” Responding to her query, Ms. Cherepanova states, “Although they sometimes may be labeled differently, the key five you would want to incorporate [into] your measurement include the following: Achievability of targets, goals, and tasks . . . Communication . . . Leadership . . . Organizational justice . . . [and] Accountability.”

I view the blog post as discussing at least two issues: “yes, ethical culture can be measured,” and “criteria that might be used to measure ethical culture.” My response to the first issue also is “yes.” In fact, ethical culture not only can be measured, but can also be audited, such as by internal audit or outside audit. Related to culture, tone-at-the-top and internal controls and control processes have long been recognized as elements in an audit at least from the standpoint of evaluating the possibility of fraud and the extent to which records can be relied upon in designing the audit. Almost anything can be audited including, for example, not just financial transactions but also governance, risk management or risk management processes, compliance with laws, and the list is almost endless.

The more challenging issue is what criteria to use to measure or audit ethical culture and other areas? And, of course, there are follow up issues such as determining who will actually perform and evaluate the measurement or audit process, and will the task of establishing ethical culture not only involve management but also oversight by the board, or the audit committee, or a separate risk committee? Guidelines require board and/or board committee oversight. Relevant to these issues, also click on the following link for a May 2019 post that I wrote about the new DOJ guidelines https://wp.me/p75iWX-fc

Ms. Cherepanova lists some good key areas to measure or audit. It is possible to add additional key areas, and additional criteria can be added to the five areas that the blog post identifies. I’m not being critical of the five key areas that are listed, instead, I am merely pointing out that there is lack of agreement on the key areas to include in the measurement or audit process. Certainly at least DOJ and court case guidance should be consulted. It should also be added, for example, the establishment of a robust anonymous reporting process, and related investigation processes. In addition to others, you should also consult legal counsel for additional guidance. Consider using a team approach as these topics can require input from attorneys and other professionals who have backgrounds in a multitude of different areas.

Ms. Cherepanova’s post raises many additional issues, in fact too many to cover in this post. Under Leadership and Accountability, for example, does or will the alleged wrongdoer’s stature or status within the organization impact the investigation and/or the resulting discipline, if any? These can be difficult questions. Whereas one might argue that stature or status should not be relevant criteria, the severity of disciplinary measures can both positively and negatively impact an organization when a key member of the organization is involved.

My view has been and remains that organizational culture and ethical culture are here to stay as significant or at least relevant organizational issues.

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the new Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are other summary materials that you might find useful:

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

From a prior blog post which you can find at https://wp.me/p75iWX-dk if the below scan is too difficult to read:

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MITSloan online tool to measure and compare company cultures – you should be aware – comments and screenshot FYI

This came to my attention – MITSloan online tool to measure and compare company cultures. I have previously written about culture, which, for example, is also an element of the COSO ERM framework, and was considerably in the news in 2018, including at the board level. But as I noted: will culture continue to be in the news, and will executive management and boards really take active interest? Culture also is, or could be a component of ESG.

Now apparently, and coming soon I suspect, proposals for different ways to measure culture. One or possibly two standards that are widely accepted would be helpful. Too many possible standards are not helpful, except to argue that there is no recognized standard. Business leaders, executive management, HR, directors, audit and risk committees, internal and outside auditors, in-house counsel, etc., should take note and be aware.

Regarding internal and outside audit, I have thought for a long time that they could (if they wanted to) become involved in auditing, or in auditing certain aspects or components of or processes relating to culture, governance, risk management, fraud risk, etc. I could argue that the value of internal audit and of outside audit are being passed by others who are taking the lead.

And if you are on a board, or on an audit or risk committee, where you are significantly reliant on other people to report to you, might this type of information be helpful to you in your oversight capacity? I have no explicit knowledge about how MITSloan goes about measuring and comparing company cultures, and I don’t know whether I would consider the criteria and processes that they use to be reliable and helpful; however, might it be interesting to search to see if your company is listed and evaluated? Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco/California

Every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the new Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are other summary materials that you might find useful:

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

From a prior blog post which you can find at https://wp.me/p75iWX-dk if the below scan is too difficult to read:

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ESG – SEC Commissioner Comments – And Who At Your Board Has Oversight?

Is ESG, or some version of it here to stay? There isn’t agreement on this. My view is that, yes, ESG or some version of it is here and will remain, either by market forces and expectations, or by statute, regulation or rule. However, for example, click on the following link to a recent June 18, 2019, speech by SEC Commissioner Peirce and her discussion and some criticism of ESG – https://www.sec.gov/news/speech/speech-peirce-061819. If you follow ESG developments you already know that ESG or aspects of it and related disclosures are slowly being mandated internationally, while in the U.S. market forces and expectations are more at play.

My view also is that at least some of ESG is already covered by risk management or enterprise risk management. “Environmental,” yes that’s a risk management issue. “Social,” yes certain aspects of “social” are or can be risk management issues, including, for example, culture, reputation, and perhaps some aspects of safety. “Governance,” yes that’s a risk management issue. But I agree with the comments or criticisms or warnings of the risk that under the heading of ESG, or risk management, or enterprise risk management, or sustainability, or corporate social responsibility, and the list goes on, anyone could at least argue that their particular special or particular interest fits somewhere under those headings, and that business or a particular business must take action with respect to that particular special or particular interest. The ability to make such an argument also has increased exponentially, and we are seeing it played out, as everyone has or can have an opinion on anything and everything through social media and other opportunities.

So . . . my view is that one way or another these issues are here to stay, and management must address and deal with them as appropriate for each individual business (and the industry in which the business operates). You can also see in the news that by different means different businesses are dealing with or handling these issues, and the ways of doing so will continue to develop.

One might ask, within a particular business (because businesses are separate and individual and should not be lumped as a whole), are there people at the board level who are exercising some oversight of the business’s procedures and processes for handling ESG or aspects of ESG, or risk management or enterprise risk management over environmental, social and governance matters?

People should remember, or should learn, that for most but not all matters, issues and tasks the board’s role is oversight not day-to-day management or involvement, such as, for example, under the business judgment rule. See my prior post with business judgement rule slides at https://wp.me/p75iWX-fm. But director proxy voting recommendations are also becoming more widely disseminated and vocalized about individual directors.

With respect to risk management, the board often delegates to the audit committee the initial oversight of risk management. However, my view is that any committee to which risk management is delegated should still report to the board about its oversight and what it has found, done, and recommended in that regard, and that oversight of overall risk management remains as a board-level matter. See also various stock exchange rules and auditing pronouncements referring and relating to audit committee, or board involvement in the oversight of risk management.

Board and audit committee responsibilities and potential new responsibilities, or at least what some people are arguing those responsibilities should be, also have increased and are greatly increasing. Risk management isn’t new, although what should or might be done to oversee risk management or enterprise risk management is still developing. For the most part, ESG as possibly a separately recognized item is new – and I would argue that “ESG” as a recognized item is vague and ambiguous because there is no agreement about just what criteria or items comprise ESG. I would also suggest that even if it is not specifically legally required, the board and/or its delegated committee should begin, if they don’t already do so, exercising appropriate oversight of management’s procedures and processes relative to ESG and if not of ESG then certainly risk management or enterprise risk management relative to appropriate environmental, social, and governance matters.

These certainly are developing areas of law and possible responsibilities.

Every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the new Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are other summary materials that you might find useful:

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

From a prior blog post which you can find at https://wp.me/p75iWX-dk if the below scan is too difficult to read:

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PCAOB – Implementation of Critical Audit Matters Deeper Dive

As I discussed in a prior post re critical audit matters (Click Here), external auditors are required to include a discussion of critical audit matters in their audit opinion reports for large accelerated filers for audits of fiscal years ending on or after June 30, 2019, and for other public companies for audits of fiscal years ending on or after December 31, 2020. I expect that CAMs and the wording of CAMs will in some instances present or cause contentions between the external auditor on the one hand, and the audit committee, board, and executive officers on the other hand.

A Critical Audit Matter or CAM is defined as:

Any matter arising from the audit of the financial statements that was communicated or required to be communicated to the audit committee: and that:

  1. Relates to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements; and
  2. Involved especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment.

Thus, based on the above definition, simply determining whether a matter is a CAM could be a challenging issue.

For example, in any given audit situation consider:

-What matters were communicated, or were required to be communicated to the audit committee;

-Relating to accounts or disclosures that are material to the financial statements; and

-Involved especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment?

The PCAOB has issued a more detailed and worthwhile discussion about critical audit matters and the reporting requirements that is entitled Implementation of Critical Audit Matters Deeper Dive. To view the paper, Click Here

In some circumstances critical audit matters will now become important topics for discussion. The Implementation of Critical Audit Matters Deeper Dive paper also identifies many uncertainties that are yet to be resolved relating to CAMs. Indeed, CAMs are principles based, and likely will vary from auditor to auditor based in part on the auditor’s objective, or subjective, evaluation and judgment. I note that the PCAOB’s paper provides a worthwhile discussion and many examples that should be studied. And the PCAOB also notes twice in the paper that they expect that most audits will include at least one or more CAM. And it should also be noted that the existence of a CAM should not automatically be thought of as a negative or detrimental item – it all depends on the nature of the CAM and how it is worded, as not all CAMs are equal.

Every case and situation is different. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

 

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

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Tate – Business Judgment Rule Slides

The business judgment rule provides a director with a defense to personal liability, holding that as a general principle of law, a director, including a director who serves as a member of a board committee, who satisfies the business judgment rule has satisfied his or her duties, standard of care, or responsibilities. Thus, the business judgment rule provides one standard of care, although other standards may very well also apply to specific tasks and responsibilities, or in different circumstances. The business judgment rule provides a standard, and a good overall approach, for directors and audit committee members to follow, although the rule is somewhat lacking in specific detail. In some states the business judgment rule is codified by statute while in other states the rule is established by case law (see, i.e., Cal. Corp. Code §309 for California corporations, Del. Gen. Corp. Law §141 for Delaware corporations, in addition to relevant case law). The rule also applies to directors as board committee members. The business judgment rule also simply makes sense.

Also note that in California the business judgment rule is separately codified at Cal. Corp. Code §5231 for nonprofit public benefit corporations, and at Cal. Corp. Code §7231 for nonprofit mutual benefit corporations, and although those sections are in many respects similar to Cal. Corp. Code §309, the differences can be important.

Click on the following link for my Business Judgment Rule Slides (presented in pdf format): The Business Judgment Rule Slides. The slides are presented in two parts – the first part is focused on the business judgment rule from a mostly legal perspective (slides 1-14), whereas the second part is focused on a non-legal less formal perspective (slides 15-23).

Every case and situation is different. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

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New Musk / SEC Agreement – Will It Work? – Red Flags – If I Were The Judge

At this point most reasonable people would not dispute that Mr. Musk has difficulty wording his communications (tweets) in a manner that is acceptable or more likely to be acceptable under the securities laws. Greatly summarizing the law, ask yourself if the wording and information that Mr. Musk has communicated or is proposing to communicate is or would be (1) viewed as being material to the average investor, (2) vague puffery, (3) a statement or assertion of current fact, (4) a statement or assertion of forward-looking wording and information, or (5) a mixed combination of any of (1)-(4)?

Vague puffery should not be actionable. Information that is not “material” also should not be actionable; however, whether information is material (quantitatively or qualitatively) can be a slippery slope question of fact, and you might ask why Mr. Musk would be communicating the information if he did not consider the information to be important as to Tesla? Regarding (3), well . . . is the statement or assertion of current fact true and accurate as expressed? Regarding (4), well . . . even if the statement or assertion includes forward-looking warnings or disclaimers (which it should/must), is there a reasonable factual basis for making and believing the truth and accuracy of the forward-looking statement or assertion?

The players involved at least include Mr. Musk, the SEC, the Board, the Audit Committee, the Disclosure Controls Committee, and the new experienced securities attorney who is supposed to review, fix/modify, and authorize Mr. Musk’s communications before Mr. Musk makes them. Obviously, this has been, and will be a challenge for Ms. Musk. Presumably, he views Tesla and Tesla’s further future success, or not, as his creation, and rightly so. Mr. Musk has accomplished an amazing task thus far. But public companies have rules of communication that must be followed. And it is arguable that at this point his manner of communications might be hurting Tesla as much as they help. Assertions of current fact, and assertions of forward-looking statements certainly can be made, and it is arguable that they are supposed to be or at times must be made or disclosed, but they need to be made in an appropriate manner.

Where has the Board been in all of this? We don’t know, because the Board has not said. The Board is overall responsible for risk management.

These certainly are risk management, governance, and internal controls issues.

Where has the Audit Committee been in all of this? We don’t know, because the Audit Committee has not said. The Audit Committee Charter in part states that the Audit Committee assists the Board with oversight of the Company’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, and also assists the Board with oversight of the Company’s risk management. The Charter further states that the Audit Committee also is involved in the oversight of internal controls and at least some of Tesla’s corporate communications.

Tesla also has a Disclosure Controls Committee. Where has the Disclosure Controls Committee been in all of this? We don’t know because the Disclosure Controls Committee has not said.

And, assuming that the Court approves the new Musk / SEC agreement, going forward where will then be the experienced securities attorney who is supposed to review, fix/modify, and authorize Mr. Musk’s communications before Mr. Musk makes them?

Thus far, oversight has not worked. And, there are red flags all over the place. Although Boards, and Board Committees (e.g., the Audit Committee), and in-house legal and compliance professionals usually are not personally liable for unlawful activities of the company or its officers, that is a changing environment, and cases also do hold that liability can attach when red flags are ignored or not remedied.

This is really easy to resolve if Mr. Musk wants to modify how he does his communications, as frustrating as that might be for him.

What will/should the Judge do? I would approve the new agreement, perhaps with a few minor changes. I would put in place a process for meet and confer between the parties, and then also quick Court involvement if there is a perceived new violation of the new agreement, and I would schedule a new status hearing in the not-to-distant future, such as 30 days.

Every case and situation is different. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this website. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

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