Corporate filings flagging doubt over a company’s ability to continue as a going concern reached a low in 2016, according to the newest report from Audit Analytics.
In data tracking going concern opinions back to 2000, the latest report shows a total of 1,970 companies will carry the warning disclosure for the 2016 filing year, based on filings completed through early October 2017. That’s the lowest number for a full year since 2000, the report says.
The analysis suggests the number of new going concern opinions, meaning entities getting the red flag for the first time after clean audit reports in prior years, will finish at 467 in 2016, also a low in the 17 years worth of data going back to 2000.
The report estimates 15.3 percent of audit opinions filed for fiscal year 2016 will contain a qualification regarding the company’s ability to continue as a going concern. That’s down from a peak of 21.1 percent in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis that rocked capital markets and the economy in general.
Auditors are required to say in their audit reports if their audit of financial statements uncovers some doubt about a company’s ability to remain in business. Under accounting rules, management is required to perform an analysis as well, giving auditors double duty to both scrutinize management’s analysis and to perform an analysis of their own. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has carried a project on its agenda to review the historic requirements for auditors given the newer accounting requirement for management, but has not taken action.
Audit Analytics says while the raw number of companies issuing the warning to investors fell by 123 companies from 2016 to 2015, that doesn’t mean fewer companies were at risk. Instead, the analysis shows suggests the reduction can be attributed to companies falling out of capital markets, says Don Whalen, director of research for the firm. The data suggest 177 companies filed termination of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission or had it revoked, and 344 left the population of public companies without termination of registration, such as by going private or by going out of business.
Whalen points out the number of companies that improved their financial standing sufficient to shed the going concern warning in the most recent year was low relative to other years in the analysis. Only 145 companies pulled themselves out of the troubled status, the same number as in 2011 and the lowest number in the nearly 20 years summarized in the analysis.