Under Armour has agreed to pay $9 million to settle charges that it met quarterly revenue estimates through the accounting trick of pulling forward about $408 million in orders.
The settlement resolved an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during which SEC staff had indicated they intended to recommend an enforcement action against Under Armour Executive Chairman Kevin Plank and CFO David Bergman for illegally manipulating the sneaker company’s sales.
The SEC named only Under Armour as a respondent in the administrative order it released on Monday and the company said commission staff had confirmed that no enforcement action would be taken against Plank and Bergman.
But according to the order, as projected revenue growth continued to miss analysts’ estimates, senior management directed the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) group and sales personnel to pull forward sales to meet the estimates.
“By using pull forwards for several consecutive quarters to meet analysts’ revenue targets while attributing its revenue growth to other factors, Under Armour created a misleading picture of the drivers of its financial results and concealed known uncertainties concerning its business,” Kurt Gottschall, director of the SEC’s Denver regional office, said in a news release.
Under Armour was at one time a sportswear industry high-flyer, posting 26 consecutive quarters of sales growth of more than 20%. But by mid-2015, the SEC said, the FP&A group had identified that growth in North America, the company’s largest market, was not as strong as in previous years and in the third quarter, its internally projected company-wide revenue began to fall short of analysts’ estimates.
The use of pull forwards allegedly lasted from the third quarter of 2015 through the fourth quarter of 2016, with Under Armour making multiple requests each quarter to its largest wholesale customers and periodically offering sales incentives such as price discounts and extended payment terms.
In January 2017, the company announced it had missed estimates for the fourth quarter and full-year 2016, sending its stock price down by about 23%. “Under Armour’s year-over-year growth rate for each quarter has remained in the single digits or negative since that time,” the SEC noted.