Opposition to Proposed SEC Reporting Rules

By Stephen Barlas
January 1, 2020

The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed loosening some of the financial reporting rules mandated by Regulation S-K, prompting heated opposition from corporate and labor groups. The SEC wants to move toward a more principles-based reporting system that would give companies more leeway to disclose only what they deem “material.”


A major area of contention is the SEC’s proposal to include more principles-based human capital disclosure requirements. Unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) like the notion of adding that information but want the SEC to list certain metrics that company reporting would have to meet. Renaye Manley, director of capital stewardship for the SEIU, said that metrics should include the number of full-time, part-time, and contingent workers; workforce costs; workforce diversity; and employee turnover (or comparable workforce stability metric).


Christopher Hatto, vice president, controller, and chief accounting officer of General Motors Company (GM), says he’s “generally supportive” of the move to more principles-based reporting. Yet he wrote to the SEC: “We are concerned that a new, separate disclosure requirement related to material changes in business strategy could result in GM and others being forced to disclose proprietary or sensitive information about its strategy well before a registrant knows how, or even if, such strategy will materially impact its financial results or condition. Such premature disclosures would not only be harmful to our competitive position, but could result in providing investors with disclosure that is not particularly meaningful and that could even be misleading.”


Stephen Barlas has covered Washington, D.C., for trade and professional magazines since 1981 and since 1984 for Strategic Finance and its predecessor Management Accounting. You can reach him at sbarlas@verizon.net.
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