GM says could be out of cash; raises a going concern issue?

I noticed the following headline this week:

GM reports $2.5B 3Q loss, says running out of cash (AP)
AP - General Motors Corp. said Friday it lost $2.5 billion in the third quarter and warned that it could run out of cash in 2009 if the U.S. economic slump continues and it doesn't get government aid.

For accounting and finance professionals -- does this raise a going concern issue for GM and its auditor? And, will prospective buyers be more likely to now avoid purchasing a GM vehicle, thus further increasing going concern issues? Perhaps consideration should have been given to using different wording.

For further relevant going concern accounting literature, consider the following new (October 9, 2008) Proposed Statement of Financial Accounting Standards relating to Going Concern issues.
Clickable Link to FASB

For your reading enjoyment, the following is additional background information from the introduction to the proposed new standard:

This proposed Statement would provide guidance on the preparation of financial statements as a going concern and on management’s responsibility to evaluate a reporting entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. It also would require certain disclosures when either financial statements are not prepared on a going concern basis or when there is substantial doubt as to an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. Currently, AU Section 341, The Auditor’s Consideration of an Entity’s Ability to Continue as a Going Concern, of the AICPA Codification of Statements on Auditing Standards contains the guidance about the going concern assessment. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) adopted AU Section 341 on an initial, transitional basis and has subsequently amended that interim standard.

The FASB is responsible for establishing standards that guide the overall presentation of an entity’s financial statements and related disclosures. The Board believes that accounting guidance about the going concern assumption should be directed specifically to management of a reporting entity because management is responsible for preparing an entity’s financial statements and evaluating its ability to continue as a going concern. Accordingly, the Board concluded that guidance about the going concern assumption also should reside in the accounting literature established by the FASB and decided to issue this proposed Statement.

The Board decided to carry forward the going concern guidance from AU Section 341, subject to several modifications to align the guidance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs). One of those modifications is to change the time horizon for the going concern assessment. AU Section 341 states that there is “a responsibility to evaluate whether there is substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time, not to exceed one year beyond the date of the financial statements being audited” (paragraph .02). International Accounting Standard (IAS) 1, Presentation of Financial Statements, requires that an entity consider “all available information about the future, which is at least, but is not limited to, twelve months from the end of the reporting period” (paragraph 26) when assessing whether the going concern assumption is appropriate. The Board decided to use the time horizon in IAS 1 because it avoids the inherent problems that a bright-line time horizon would create for events or conditions occurring just beyond the one-year time horizon that are significant and most likely would have to be disclosed.

The other modifications to align the going concern guidance with IFRSs include (1) using the wording in IAS 1 with respect to the type of information that should be considered in making the going concern assessment (all available information about the future) and (2) requiring an entity to disclose when it does not present financial statements on a going concern basis. The Board thinks there is no substantial difference between the wording in IAS 1 and the wording previously included in AU Section 341 with respect to the type of information that should be considered in making the going concern assessment. Therefore, the Board does not expect this modification to result in a change to practice.

Regards,
Dave Tate
Clickable text link to http://auditcommittee.blogspot.com
Clickable text link to http://davidtate.us
mailto:tateatty@yahoo.com

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Dave Tate is a CPA and attorney in San Francisco. Dave is a prolific author, and has written the audit committee chapter for the California Continuing Education of the Bar publication Advising and Defending Corp. Directors and Officers.

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