To perhaps oversimplify things greatly, the new GAAP for lease accounting will require operating leases to be recorded on the balance sheet much like the current treatment for capital leases. This shift in GAAP could wreak havoc with the statutory net capital requirements for broker dealers. Fortunately, in a no-action letter, the SEC has provided broker-dealers with relief as follows:

“Based on the facts and representations set forth in your letter and discussions with the Staff as collectively set forth in this letter, the Division will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission under Exchange Act Rule 1 Sc3-1 if a broker-dealer computing net capital adds back an operating lease asset to the extent of the associated operating lease liability. If the value of the operating lease liability exceeds the value of the associated operating lease asset, the amount by which the liability’s value exceeds the associated lease asset must be deducted for net capital purposes. A broker-dealer cannot add back an operating lease asset to offset an operating lease liability unless the asset and the liability arise from the same operating lease; nor can a broker-dealer add back combined or aggregated operating lease assets to offset combined or aggregated operating lease liabilities.

Further, based on the facts and representations set forth in your letter and discussions with the Staff as collectively set forth in this letter, the Division will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission under Exchange Act Rule 15c3-1 if a broker-dealer determining its minimum net capital requirement using the AI standard does not include in its aggregate indebtedness an operating lease liability to the extent of the associated operating lease asset. If the value of the operating lease liability exceeds the associated operating lease asset, the amount by which the lease liability exceeds the lease asset must be included in the broker-dealer’s aggregate indebtedness. A broker-dealer cannot add back an operating lease asset to offset an operating lease liability unless the asset and the liability arise from the same operating lease; nor can a broker-dealer add back combined or aggregated operating lease assets to offset combined or aggregated operating lease liabilities.”