U.S. SEC provides 'conditional' disclosure relief for firms hit by coronavirus

By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on Wednesday that it would give companies affected by coronavirus more time to file certain disclosures.

The watchdog said companies affected by the outbreak of the flu-like respiratory disease now have an additional 45 days to file certain disclosures, including quarterly reports.

U.S.-listed companies seeking such a delay must explain why the relief is needed, the agency said. It would also consider providing additional extensions for any legally required disclosures normally due between March 1 and April 30.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton urged all U.S.-listed companies to disclose risks stemming from coronavirus under regular filing conditions if material to investors, even if the companies plan to take advantage of disclosure extensions.

And while companies may have more time to make disclosures, directors and officers should refrain from buying and selling stock until investors have been appropriately informed about any relevant risk, the agency added.

"I urge companies to work with their audit committees and auditors to ensure that their financial reporting, auditing and review processes are as robust as practicable in light of the circumstances in meeting the applicable requirements," Clayton added.

Wednesday's order cane as staff of other U.S. financial regulators discuss global risks stemming from fears that the coronavirus has driven market turmoil not seen since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.