In a June 2, 2011 SEC filing, Groupon admitted the metric was creative to say the least. “Our use of Adjusted CSOI has limitations as an analytical tool, and you should not consider this measure in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of our results as reported under GAAP,” they said. Some of the die-hard tin foil hat anti-IFRS brigade (I count myself as one of them) might feel the same way about other “alternative,” non-GAAP accounting methods but I digress.
ACSOI did wonders for Groupon’s numbers. It turned a 2010 operating loss of $420,344,000 into a positive $60,553,000, turning Groupon’s luck in its favor to the tune of $481 million. All well and good if investors can actually rely on those statements but didn’t the very idea of ACSOI self-proclaim that it was not to be relied upon? So how the hell did it end up in Groupon’s S-1?
Hence, a furious debate — along with much internal tension — within Groupon about what to do. At first, in another S-1 amendment, the company backed away from using ACSOI as a “valuation metric.”
But that was apparently not enough for the SEC or anyone else, so Groupon’s top managers finally thought it best to rid itself of the term entirely. That will happen next week, sources said.
And, in coming weeks, sources added, the company will be filing additional financial information about both its growth and costs, which will undoubtedly also be put under a microscope by the media, investors and regulators.
Probably good for everyone involved. Things are complicated enough using metrics we all pretty much agree upon, no reason to start pulling accounting tricks out of our hats.