Not since the Great Depression has the number of business bankruptcies been so prevalent. Bankruptcy is a dramatic experience. It is one thing reading about the recent large bankruptcies of AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines, Kodak, and MF Global Holdings. But for the business leader, understanding and planning a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to save their own company is a whole different “ball of wax.” Securing the professional advice from an accounting firm, not an individual practitioner is advisable. This is because several areas of specialization will be needed. A key question that will be asked is what the company will look like after all is said and done. After all the activities of debt restructuring and redistributing the ownership of the new company, accountants will use fresh start accounting, if it qualifies, to report the new balance sheet of the company. Because many business leaders are new to the process and never heard of fresh start accounting, and although the bankruptcy process and fresh-starting accounting are complex, a simplistic explanation of fresh-start accounting is attempted. Key expertise will be needed from the following areas that will effect the challenging bankruptcy process:
What is Fresh Start Accounting?
Fresh-start accounting means, “the financial statements of the emerged from bankruptcy entity obtains a fresh presentation of its financial position with newly valued assets after the liabilities have been cancelled and/or adjusted.” Under certain conditions, it is recognized that the new users of the financial statements will be better served by re-valuating the balance sheet on a “fair value” basis after the confirmation of the bankruptcy. Accountants are required to follow promulgations of ASC 852 (formerly SOP 90-7) in establishing an opening balance sheet of the successor company.
Fresh start accounting benefits the new shareholders by creating a “clean” balance sheet and favoring a step up in the value of the assets. Business leaders can eliminate losses of the bankrupt company, which enables the new company to come out of bankruptcy stronger. Use of fresh-start accounting is not a standalone process. It is an integral part of the Chapter 11 reorganization procedure designed to create a solvent, operationally viable entity. Certain debts of the bankrupt company are restructured and/or discharged. Then, if the new company qualifies for fresh start accounting treatment, the balance sheet of the new company is reset.
Complexity of Fresh-Start Accounting
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants developed strict rules for restating and a timeline for implementing fresh start accounting reporting. Determining the fair value of both tangible and intangible assets, the start date for fresh-start reporting, and the best practices in “push down” fresh start adjustments to subsidiaries and underlying ledgers must be understood. Valuation is most critical to the overall process. This can be an enormous burden on the financial, operational and systems teams as well as management. Completing this process will enable management to move forward and focus on the operations of the newly reorganized business.
Many attorneys and accountants boast having bankruptcy experience, however regarding fresh-start reporting, the requirements are beyond most of them. Practitioners and firms with experience in fresh-start accounting, along with other advisers will be needed to support the individual asset valuations to the company’s external auditors. Know that stakes are high; the situation tends to be demanding; and delays will come with penalties, which requires expertise in this area.
Criteria to Qualify for Fresh-Start Accounting
To qualified for fresh-start accounting two requirements must be met:
These requirements were put into place to prevent solvent companies from filings and to prevent companies to exploiting the bankruptcy code to writing up the carrying value of the assets.
Pro Forma Fresh Start Reporting
The creation of a pro forma balance sheet using fresh start accounting includes two primary considerations:
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Sample of Fresh Start Reporting
The following provides an example of Fresh-Start in practice: