The Securities and Exchange Commission is providing regulatory relief and assistance to accountants, public companies, investment firms, municipal advisors and other affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
The SEC acknowledged that the loss of property, power, transportation, and mail delivery due to the hurricanes poses challenges for some of the individuals and entities who are required to provide information to the SEC and shareholders.
To address compliance issues caused by the three recent monster storms, the SEC issued an order Thursday conditionally exempting people and firms affected by the hurricanes from some of the requirements of the federal securities laws for periods following the weather events. One of the areas covered is the auditor independence requirements in terms of bookkeeping or other services related to the accounting records or financial statements of audit clients. Auditors are usually prohibited from providing bookkeeping or other services relating to the accounting records of audit clients under SEC rules, including “maintaining or preparing the audit client’s accounting records” or “preparing or originating source data underlying the audit client’s financial statements.” However, in light of the conditions in areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the SEC is granting limited relief from the independence requirements, allowing accountants to help reconstruct their audit clients’ accounting records that were lost or destroyed by the hurricanes.
The SEC has also adopted a set of interim final temporary rules extending the filing deadlines for specified reports and forms that companies must file under Regulation A and the crowdfunding regulations.
The relief and rules are aimed at a broad class of companies and others affected by the hurricanes and their aftermath, but the SEC acknowledged that some companies and individuals may need extra help or different assistance in their efforts to comply with federal securities laws. The SEC’s staff will try to address these and any disclosure-related issues on a case-by-case basis. Those who have been affected by the hurricanes and need additional assistance are being encouraged to contact SEC staff for individual relief or interpretive guidance.