Ernst & Young Call Off Split of Their Audit and Advisory Services: What Changed?
Last year, we wrote a blog in response to Ernst & Young’s announcement that they would be splitting off their audit and advisory operations, which would have been the first time a Big Four accounting firm has ever done this. EY’s split would have created two new companies: Assureco and Newco. Now, it appears this decision will not be going through after all. What happened?
At the beginning of this month, Ernst & Young officially called off their plan to overhaul their company and break up their audit and advisory services. The split was originally proposed after EY and the rest of the Big Four were put under regulatory scrutiny for an increase in audit failures from the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, which was in the midst of investigating all four accounting firms. The SEC had to fine EY $100m after it came to light that their auditors had cheated on an exam that gave them their Certified Public Accountant licenses.
The Securities & Exchange Commission wasn’t the only organization to shine a spotlight on the Big Four; the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has also been putting pressure on EY and the other accounting firms to separate their audit and consulting units for years now because they believe these companies cannot justly be auditors of clients who are also clients of their advisory services as well.
EY’s plan, which was given the code name “Project Everest,” seems to have dissipated as a result of conflicts of interest. Reuters’ reported that Ernst & Young’s plan to split their operations actually received some resistance from some of the company’s partners. After deliberating on this decision for the last year, EY decided to cancel the split because their U.S. Executive Committee decided they did not want to move forward with the decision after all.
If “Project Everest” had gone through, it would have been the most groundbreaking shakeup to happen to the accounting industry in over two decades. Ernst & Young would have been able to successfully distance themselves from the rest of the Big Four, which may have reduced the risk of further reputational damage and given them an opportunity to reinvent their brand.
The BCC reviewed an internal note within the firm and reported this quote from an executive at the company: “We acknowledge the challenges with separating some of our businesses that have the deepest technical expertise in a way that gives both organisations the capabilities they need to compete in the market effectively” … “We also recognise that we need more time to make the necessary investments to prepare the businesses for a separation.”
Understanding the Impacts of The Water Shortage Out West
The western region of the United States is currently facing a water shortage so severe it is being referred to as a megadrought. The Los Angeles Times reports that this is the worst drought in over 1,200 years, and factors like climate change and overuse of water resources are to blame for these austere conditions. While California has faced drought conditions before, the current drought is significantly more serious and poses a number of problems for the West Coast.
The West relies heavily on snowmelt for its water supply. However, due to rising temperatures, snow is melting earlier and faster, resulting in less water availability during the summer months when demand is highest. In addition, many areas in the West have been overusing groundwater resources, leading to the depletion of aquifers and further exacerbating the water shortage. This has led to water levels in reservoirs dropping to historic lows, with some even reaching critically low levels.
The Most Significant Impacts of the Water Shortage
Agriculture is being severely impacted as farmers are having to make difficult decisions about which crops to grow and which to forego. Many are opting to leave fields fallow or reduce the number of acres they plant. This will inevitably lead to a reduction in the amount of food produced, which will have a ripple effect on the entire country’s food supply chain. The dairy industry is also being impacted by the water shortage. California is the nation’s leading dairy state, producing over 40 percent of the country’s milk. However, dairy farmers are having to pay more for feed and irrigation water, which is cutting into their already slim profit margins. This could lead to a reduction in the number of dairy cows in the state, further impacting the industry.
The water shortage is also having a significant impact on the real estate market. As water becomes scarcer, the cost of water will inevitably rise, which will impact homeowners, businesses, and farmers. This could lead to a reduction in property values in areas where water is scarce or expensive. Homebuyers may also be hesitant to purchase properties in areas where water is a concern, which could impact the overall demand for housing in those areas.
How Are Water Utility Companies Being Affected?
Water utility companies are responsible for managing and distributing the limited water resources to homes, businesses, and farms in the affected areas. In many cases, water utility companies have been proactive in addressing the water shortage crisis. They have implemented conservation measures, such as reducing water pressure and fixing leaks, to reduce overall water usage. They have also invested in new technologies, such as smart meters and water monitoring systems, to better manage water resources and detect leaks early on.
However, as the water shortage crisis persists, water utility companies are facing significant challenges. They must balance the need to provide water to their customers while ensuring that there is enough water to go around. This means that they may have to implement water rationing programs or even shut off the water in certain areas to ensure that water is available for essential needs. The water shortage crisis is also putting a strain on their finances. As the cost of water increases, these companies may have to invest in new infrastructure, such as desalination plants and wastewater treatment plants, to supplement existing water sources. This can be a significant financial burden for these companies, which may lead to increased water rates for their customers.
Our team at Appraisal Economics offers water utility valuation services to help these companies meet their objectives. Our team of experts can analyze a wide range of factors, including financial performance, regulatory environment, and future growth potential, to provide an accurate and reliable valuation even under unprecedented circumstances.
The Recovery of Gym Franchises Since COVID-19
Health and wellness industries were hit hardest during the pandemic. Since the start of COVID-19, 22 percent of gyms were forced to close their doors and the industry saw a revenue drop of close to $29.2 billion. Circumstances seemed grim for gym franchises over the last few years, but the industry is finally starting to recover.
Individuals are frequenting gyms and other health and wellness establishments with renewed vigor, and gym owners are identifying ways to adapt to the fundamental changes brought on by the pandemic.
Gyms Make a Comeback
Individuals had to find workout alternatives during the lockdown since very few gyms offered digital fitness opportunities. There was an uptick in mobile fitness app downloads and virtual workout video subscriptions. Additionally, retail and e-commerce stores saw an increase in sales as consumers purchased in-home fitness equipment like yoga mats, dumbbells, exercise bikes, and treadmills.
Over 50 percent of people said they’d likely never return to a gym now that they had access to workout equipment and digital fitness options, which caused concern for gym owners who were waiting for the lockdown restrictions to be lifted. However, once COVID-19 restrictions were finally loosened and gyms could once again offer their complete services, what gym owners feared the most ended up not being a problem at all.
By mid-2021, gym traffic was already up 83 percent of pre-COVID levels as people started to lose interest in at-home exercising. Planet Fitness, one of the largest and most popular gym franchises, saw a notable resurgence. By the start of last year, they were almost back at 100 percent membership capacity.
While COVID-19 challenged consumers’ loyalty to their gyms, the fast rebound of gym franchises proves that this loyalty can withstand even the most unprecedented times.
One of the most significant reasons for the resurgence of gym memberships is social interaction and accountability. The COVID-19 pandemic was deeply isolating and people realized that part of the draw of working out in a gym was being surrounded by other people. Working out at home is far less motivating and gym goers want to rebuild the social connections that help motivate and inspire them to reach their fitness goals.
Gym Franchise Valuation Process
Gym chains like Planet Fitness and Equinox have found a way to overcome hurdles presented by the pandemic. A steady stream of customers, along with a positive culture and sound financial footing, contribute to the ongoing success of these franchises. Our team has provided valuation services to these two gym chains, and many more like them.
Federal, state, and local funding options for business owners are beginning to wane across all industries. Franchise owners, small business operations, and investors want to fully understand the potential gains and liabilities of investing in or maintaining a stake in gym franchises and similar business entities. As the recovery process continues, it is important to consider all the various contributing factors that impact the overall value and worth potential of a particular business within the health and wellness field.
A comprehensive valuation report from us provides a complete look at any private business or franchise opportunity. Our experienced valuation associates fully understand the current environment, including the recovery process for gym franchises since COVID-19.
ASC 842: New Accounting Standard Applicable to Private Companies
For many private companies, the opening months of 2023 may present a series of accounting challenges, stemming from a change in lease accounting guidelines. In 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) replaced ASC 840 with ASC 842, a set of new rules for how organizations should report leases on balance sheets, which is generally believed to be the most significant change to lease accounting since 1976.
ASC 842 divides leases into two categories: finance leases and operating leases (the old rule made a similar division, though finance leases were termed “capital leases”). The new rule’s most significant change is that companies must now record all leases that exceed 12 months as assets and liabilities. Previously, under ASC 840, companies were allowed to leave operating leases off their balance sheets. Now, however, for each of their operating leases, companies must list a lease liability, which is calculated as the value of future payments, and a right-of-use asset, which indicates the right to control an asset for the duration of the lease. As we will see, it will be no small task for many firms to comply with the new rules.
ASC 842 was originally scheduled to go into effect for private companies beginning in 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its implementation. Ultimately, calendar year-end privately held companies were mandated to adopt ASC 842 for reporting periods beginning on January 1, 2022, while privately held companies with fiscal year-ends had to do so for reporting periods beginning December 15, 2021. That means that this year, all private companies will be subject to the new ASC 842 accounting standard.
The goals behind adopting ASC 842 are admirable — the FASB believes the new rules will allow investors a fuller, more complete picture of companies’ financial situations by reducing the number of off-balance sheet items. But this transition period will also undoubtedly pose difficulties for accounting professionals and finance departments. Let us dive into why this is so.
Since they were not previously required to do so, many companies do not have a centralized record of their leases. Putting this together will not be easy for most organizations. While we typically think of leases in terms of real estate, the reality is that companies lease all kinds of assets — equipment, phones, computers, vehicles, and more.
Furthermore, these lease agreements are often buried away in other kinds of contracts, making them difficult to track and classify. This means that even companies with relatively simple real estate portfolios — for example, those that lease just one office space — might, in fact, have lots of leases to report, while those with more complex real estate portfolios may find themselves overwhelmed by the task of identifying, classifying, and recording all their leases on their balance sheets. Companies will have to decide whether they want to retroactively adjust their financials for previous years to comply with ASC 842, or leave them as is.
If your organization is encountering difficulties as it works towards compliance with ASC 842, then you may want to consider seeking external help. Many firms are hiring outside experts to assist them in identifying and reporting their leases. Whether the task ahead appears simple or complex, it is always a good idea to call on trusted industry professionals. To that end, our team can bring decades of valuation experience working with all kinds of real estate companies to help you successfully comply with ASC 842.
Walgreens Buys Summit Health to Boost Footprint and Earnings
Urgent care facilities continue to rise in popularity as an efficient and affordable alternative to hospital emergency room treatment. Since 1919, Summit Health has been a pioneer in the concept of multispecialty coordinated care, including urgent care. As healthcare facilities transformed into full service centers of care, Summit Health paved the way and remained patient centric. A pending $9B deal with Village MD, backed by Walgreens Boots Alliance and Cigna health services subsidiary Evernorth, is scheduled to finalize in early 2023. This acquisition will likely transform the future landscape of coordinated healthcare.
Quality of Care
The patient care experience is at the forefront of virtually every healthcare forum today. Consumers want convenient, efficient experiences that are also cost effective. Online patient portals allow referring physicians and specialists to communicate and share information electronically regarding patient health and treatment options. Patients no longer have to worry about obtaining referrals or insurance preauthorization before a medically necessary procedure.
Another benefit of healthcare giants and multispecialty facilities is the ease of setting appointments. With well over 300 facilities, Summit Health offers many convenient locations with days and hours that fit even the most hectic schedule. Patients gravitate to Summit Health for the exceptional service and treatment options available. They remain loyal to the brand because of the efficient and effortless patient experience.
Partnerships Expand Service Capacity
Summit Health is no stranger to the merger and acquisition process, having merged with CityMD in 2019 to revitalize healthcare in the New York Metro region. Although Summit Health is primarily an independently operated, physician owned organization, they certainly understand the benefits of strategic partners.
The model of care and business operations strategy provide support to both patients and physicians. Specialists from multiple medical subsidiaries have joined Summit Health to offer their unique skill sets as needed. A well organized administrative process supports physicians on a variety of important levels such as HIPAA compliance, insurance verification, and patient billing services.
Potential for Growth
The upcoming merger between Walgreens Boots Alliance and Summit Health offers an inherent opportunity for even greater profit earnings for the newly conjoined organization. After some expected growing pains are settled, the multibillion dollar company has the potential to share their ever growing footprint with other national and global healthcare providers. Once perfected, this multiservice medical organization can develop other organizations in the field of coordinated care.
Although no potential plans to expand the organization have been published, there is certainly a demand for the service so the likelihood of continued growth is highly anticipated. Evaluating the potential growth requires the help of experienced industry professionals. Our team offers more than three decades of experience in appraising medical equipment and real estate.
How the War in Ukraine Spurred an Energy Crisis
When Russia officially launched their full scale attack on Ukraine in February, the world watched and waited. After more than ten months of consistent conflict, Ukraine prepares for another, harsher, winter. Russian occupation of important territory and tactical missile strikes have caused devastating damage to key areas of infrastructure throughout the small nation. Fallout from this war has prompted international response and compounded an already fast growing energy crisis.
Military buildings, equipment, and siege camps are common targets in an attempt to reduce the fighting capacity of a wartime enemy. In addition to these historically important targets, Russia is also strategically targeting major infrastructural landmarks throughout key Ukraine territories. As frontline combat wins determined which nation held or overtook border towns, Russia worked fervently behind the scenes on a larger, more impactful approach.
Guided missiles have given Russia a distinct advantage in the war against Ukraine. Long-range Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea almost continuously rain down on civilian ground. Whether these missiles are from a Russian stockpile or were a recent purchase from their allies in Iran makes no difference. Their ultimate destination and the resulting devastation are inevitable.
Virtually, all missile targets are major infrastructure centers. Water treatment plants, electrical grids, and manufacturing centers are just a few of the most popular targets. Widespread blackouts and unstable internet connections are becoming more common throughout major cities and rural areas. Lack of potable water, electricity, and heat sources are causing untold distress among the population in Ukraine. Less than half the nation has reliable internet connection, and this number continues to dwindle day by day.
As Russian attacks on the energy sectors throughout Ukraine continue, world political allies consider ways to support the people of Ukraine. European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, spoke on behalf of the Ukrainian people as she reproved the targeted attacks on energy sectors. Member states and other European Union (EU) partners quickly assembled in response to the human suffering throughout Ukraine.
One of the most immediate solutions offered was the transfer of energy equipment by foreign companies to the hardest hit regions in Ukraine. The G-7 joined in the EU response and called for a $60 per barrel cap on Russian crude oil imports to member nations.
Recovery efforts are not without potential fallout. While sanctions such as the cap on crude oil prices will curb the financial ability for Russian attacks to continue indefinitely, they will also have unintended consequences in the world marketplace.
Political ties will undoubtedly be strained as Russia prepares a response, which may come with unexpected sanctions or other retaliatory actions. The Russian Federation is one of the largest global providers of fossil fuels, including natural gas and crude oil. Interrupting this important process and distribution chain will undoubtedly intensify the current energy crisis into unknown proportions.
Although the future is uncertain, and there is no sure end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, there are still reliable facts when it comes to energy valuation. Our team is closely watching the energy sectors and anticipating world reactions. We have decades of experience working with government agencies, independent organizations, and other interested parties to determine the overall value and risk associated with energy sectors.
Donating Cryptocurrency Assets to Charity
Philanthropic efforts provide necessary resources for a number of community and global improvement causes. Generous donors who make contributions to such causes create opportunities for those less fortunate. In addition to leaving a lasting legacy, charitable contributions also provide substantial tax benefits for the donor. In most cases, the fair market value of a charitable gift counts toward tax deductions.
Types of Charitable Donations
Cash donations are still very common, but there are several other assets that count toward tax deductible gifts. Real property, including homes and acreage, offer physical meeting places that can be used for shelter, treatment, or administrative purposes.
Cryptocurrency as a charitable donation is also quickly becoming a viable trend among benefactors. Donating cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum to public charities provides several benefits for the donor as well as the receiving organization.
Ways to Make Charitable Gift Donations
Historically, gift donations in the form of company stock, private or municipal bonds, and other securities were a two-step process. First, donors sold off specific shares or units of a particular security and then donated the proceeds from the sale to their preferred qualifying charitable organization.
This process required two separate transactions, several days for the settlement process, and left the actual donation amount to chance based on market conditions. New options for direct transfers of securities from an individual or trust to a charity have made it much more efficient to donate assets to a worthy cause.
Donor Advised Funds
Tax benefits of long term appreciated assets donated to public charities with the 501(c)(3) designation are strategic for both the benefactor and the charitable organization. Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are accounts established by a charity that allows donors to contribute non-cash assets directly to the organization. Funds may be used immediately or may remain invested in the market and paid out in the form of grants over a specific time period. Directly transferred assets are not subject to capital gains taxes at the time of the donation.
Appreciated non-cash assets such as Bitcoin and other cryptos can be transferred to charitable organizations without the donor paying taxes on the appreciated value. Tax deductions to the benefactor are based on the fair market value of the cryptocurrency. Fair market value is based on the appraisal of a qualified reviewer.
As with charitable donations of other securities, cryptocurrency donations are received by the organization at their full and current value. While most charitable organizations now accept the transfer of non-cash assets, not all have the capability to accept cryptocurrency. This is likely to change in the near future.
Our experienced team can accurately appraise charitable contributions, regardless of the preferred investment vehicle. Contact us today!
SEC’s Recent Adoption of the Pay Versus Performance Disclosure Rules
Transparency is a key factor for stakeholders in the financial realm. Too many past incidents have left investors and the general public weary of new capital ventures.
The expectation of full disclosure has become a norm for doing business today. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently revised current policy amendments to reflect the culture of transparency. Registrants must now disclose additional information, including compensation structures for financial managers, according to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The new disclosures include the reporting of changes in the fair value of certain unvested equity awards during the covered years. This will require revaluations of the unvested equity awards. The newly amended rules were implemented on August 25, 2022 and are expected to encourage investor confidence.
Renewed Interest in Item 402
The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 introduced some of the first regulatory guidelines for trading securities. Financial markets covered under the statutes of the act only pertained to traders registered in the United States. Updated amendments to Item 402 of Regulation S-K require additional disclosure of financial compensation to key officers of companies that register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for trading privileges.
Despite technological advancements and the emergence of new global stock markets over the past several decades, much of the reporting required under the new amendments pertain to large domestic companies. Smaller Reporting Companies (SRCs) are required to provide similar disclosures, on a scale relative to their reporting structure and assets under management. Foreign private issuers and Emerging Growth Companies are among reporting companies not subject to the newly amended disclosure rules.
Executive Compensation Disclosures
Specific requirements of the Item 402 reporting guidelines include financial performance measures and a compensation table outlining total compensation for key officers of the reporting company. The table design is such that registrants include a layout of the total shareholder return after required deductions such as administrative costs, expense ratios, and total compensation paid to asset managers. The table will provide transparency through disclosure of pay versus performance.
Executive compensation paid to the Principal Executive Officer as well as other named officers are compared to the overall financial performance of the traded security during a specific time period and weighted against key financial performance measures chosen by the registered reporting company. Companies are able to select their key performance indicators and are permitted to include between three and seven measures of financial and nonfinancial impact.
In addition to current data, reporting companies must also provide a full accounting of the executive compensation paid to all named officers over the past five years.
Compliance and Valuation Impact
Beginning with fiscal years ending December 16, 2022, registrants are required to provide a Summary Compensation Table detailing each of the five prior fiscal years. SRC registrants must provide the same information, but are only required to report the data covering the past three fiscal years. Column A represents total compensation paid to the Chief Executive Officer, and Column B will utilize a formula derived by the SEC to provide the compensation actually paid to the Chief Executive Officer after all relevant factors are considered. Column C represents the average total compensation of all other named officers and Column D calculates the average compensation actually paid to all other named officers.
While such reporting and disclosure requirements provide a benefit to consumers and public image of major reporting companies, it may not deliver the full picture of compensation details under a pay for performance structure. The Appraisal Economics’ team understands the complexities of total compensation packages, including restricted stock and outperformance plans for executive officers. We provide valuation services for executive officers that account for all levels of compensation plans.
Ernst & Young Announces Potential Split of Audit and Advisory Services
Earlier this year, Big Four accounting firm EY announced the possibility of a global split off of their audit and advisory operations. They are the first of the Big Four accounting firms to ever consider this approach, and it would be one of the most significant structural changes to happen at a Big Four firm in decades.
This leaves many people speculating the purpose of EY’s decision. Yet, this news is not all that surprising. The Big Four have been under regulatory scrutiny recently for an increasing number of audit failures as the Securities & Exchange Commission has been hard at work investigating potential conflicts of interest. Additionally, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has been putting pressure on these companies to separate their audit and consulting services for years.
By splitting off their operations, EY can distance themselves from the rest of the Big Four. This reduces the risk of further reputational damage, gives them an opportunity to reinvent their brand, and also separates them from potential FRC fines that may be coming down the pipeline.
Ernst & Young’s split would produce two new companies: Assureco and Newco. Assureco would serve as an auditing firm and would maintain a similar structure to what EY has in place now. Newco, on the other hand, would be a stand-alone consulting company with a partnership structure similar to Goldman Sachs. Assureco has been valued at $20 billion and Newco at $25 billion.
Nothing can be finalized without a vote of approval from EY’s global partners. EY has been unable to set an official timeline for these changes and cannot do so until it has gone to a vote. Currently, they are in the process of implementing informational sessions to educate their partners. Once that is complete, voting can take place, likely sometime between November 2022 and January 2023. It is still possible the partners could veto the separation of operations and no changes would occur. If all partners approve the breakup, it is expected the transaction would be finalized towards the end of 2023.
This move would put pressure on the rest of the Big Four accounting firms — KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Deloitte — to follow suit, which has the potential to disrupt the profession. EY plans to use its first-mover advantage to secure more audit contracts through Assureco and hopes to see double digit growth in both Assureco and Newco once the transaction is complete. This would increase their profitability, as well as their stakeholders’ investments, and their employees could benefit from better promotions.
Some Big Four firms provided their comments concerning EY’s plan to AccountancyAge. KPMG defended their position and maintained that they still believe in the benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach, but said they do not like to speculate on the news of what other companies have planned. A spokesperson for Deloitte stated that they are still committed to continuing on with their current business model. PwC denied the publication’s request for comment.
Residential Solar Systems: Should You Lease or Buy?
Are you a homeowner considering making the switch to renewable energy? Going solar has so many environmental benefits, but your wallet will thank you as well — although perhaps not at first. Solar panel systems come with a pretty high price tag, and the sticker shock often makes homeowners have second thoughts. The good news is that homeowners have options: they can either purchase and own the system outright or they can choose to lease their panels. It is important for everyone to understand both options so they can make the most informed decision for their unique circumstances.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, so let us dive a little deeper into each option below.
The Key Differences Between Buying and Leasing Solar Panels
Homeowners that buy their solar panels might not have access to a payment plan, although there are usually credits and incentives in place to help ease the financial burden. Still, the upfront costs will be much higher when you buy, which is why solar panels are considered to be a huge investment.
Leasing solar panels makes the switch to renewable energy more attainable for homeowners who do not have the cash on-hand for an upfront payment. However, a third-party owns the equipment and handles the installation and maintenance for you. You pay a monthly fee to utilize the energy that is generated by the system you are leasing.
The Pros and Cons
Your decision will ultimately depend on your circumstances, but below are some of the pros and cons of buying and leasing your solar panels.
Pros of Buying
- Owning your system can give you access to federal tax benefits and local incentives.
- You will enjoy monthly savings on energy bills and get a full return on investment in less time than someone who leases their system.
Cons of Buying
- Regardless of if you use cash or a loan to pay for the system upfront, it will still be a pretty substantial payment.
- You are responsible for the cost of removing the system at the end of its useful life, or if the next homebuyer does not see the value in solar energy.
Pros of Leasing
- Most solar leases require little to no upfront costs, so you will be able to enjoy the benefits and savings of solar energy with almost no money down.
- Even though you will likely be responsible for paying a monthly fee, most problems you experience with your solar panels will be on the third-party owner to pay for and fix.
Cons of Leasing
- You will not qualify for any government or local rebates or incentives since you do not own the system.
- You will likely end up paying more to lease your solar panels in the long run than if you would have bought the system yourself.
- If you try to sell your house before the end of your lease, you may need to buy out your solar panels if the next homeowner does not want this type of financial commitment.
There really is no wrong answer to buying or leasing your solar panels. You get to help the environment while also saving money on your energy bills. If you ever need to get a solar system appraisal, we are here to help!