Commitments and Contingencies
|12 Months Ended|
Dec. 31, 2019
|Commitments and Contingencies||
(17) Commitments and Contingencies
In connection with agreements for the sale of assets by the Company or its subsidiaries, the Company may retain liabilities that relate to events occurring prior to its sale, such as tax, environmental, litigation and employment matters. The Company generally indemnifies the purchaser in the event that a third party asserts a claim against the purchaser that relates to a liability retained by the Company. These types of indemnification obligations may extend for a number of years. The Company is unable to estimate the maximum potential liability for these types of indemnification obligations as the sale agreements may not specify a maximum amount and the amounts are dependent upon the outcome of future contingent events, the nature and likelihood of which cannot be determined at this time. Historically, the Company has not made any significant indemnification payments under such agreements and no amount has been accrued in the accompanying consolidated financial statements with respect to these indemnification guarantees.
The Atlanta Braves and certain of their players (current and former), coaches and executives have entered into long-term employment contracts whereby such individuals’ compensation is guaranteed. Amounts due under guaranteed contracts as of December 31, 2019 aggregated $352 million, which is payable as follows: $112 million in 2020, $93 million in 2021, $39 million in 2022, $29 million in 2023, $24 million in 2024 and $55 million thereafter. In addition to the foregoing amounts, certain players, coaches and executives may earn incentive compensation under the terms of their employment contracts.
Programming, music royalties and other contractual arrangements
Sirius XM Holdings has entered into various programming agreements under which Sirius XM Holdings’ obligations include fixed payments, advertising commitments and revenue sharing arrangements. In addition, Sirius XM Holdings has entered into certain music royalty arrangements that include fixed payments. Amounts due under programming and music royalty agreements are payable as follows: $845 million in 2020, $461 million in 2021, $306 million in 2022, $101 million in 2023 and $49 million in 2024. Future revenue sharing costs are dependent upon many factors and are difficult to estimate; therefore, they are not included in the amounts above. In addition, Sirius XM Holdings has entered into agreements related to certain satellite and transmission costs, sales and marketing costs and in-orbit performance payments to the manufacturer of its satellites. Amounts due under these agreements are payable as follows: $151 million in 2020, $41 million in 2021, $32 million in 2022, $19 million in 2023 and $13 million in 2024.
The Company has contingent liabilities related to legal and tax proceedings and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. We record a liability when we believe that it is both probable that a liability will be incurred and the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated. We evaluate developments in legal matters that could affect the amount of the liability accrual and make adjustments as appropriate. Significant judgment is required to determine both probability and the estimated amount of a loss or potential loss. We may be unable to reasonably estimate the reasonably possible loss or range of loss for a particular legal contingency for various reasons, including, among others, because: (i) the damages sought are indeterminate; (ii) the proceedings are in the relative early stages; (iii) there is uncertainty as to the outcome of pending proceedings (including motions and appeals); (iv) there is uncertainty as to the likelihood of settlement and the outcome of any negotiations with respect thereto; (v) there remain significant factual issues to be determined or resolved; (vi) the relevant law is unsettled; or (vii) the proceedings involve novel or untested legal theories. In such instances, there may be considerable uncertainty regarding the ultimate resolution of such matters, including a possible eventual loss, if
any. In the opinion of management, it is expected that amounts, if any, which may be required to satisfy such contingencies will not be material in relation to the accompanying consolidated financial statements.
During the fourth quarter of 2017, Sirius XM Holdings recorded $45 million related to music royalty litigation settlements. The expense is included in the Revenue share and royalties line item in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2017, but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA (as defined in note 18) for the corresponding period as this expense was not incurred as a part of Sirius XM Holdings’ normal operations for the period and does not relate to the on-going performance of the business.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act Suits. On March 13, 2017, Thomas Buchanan, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a class action complaint against Sirius XM Holdings in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The plaintiff alleges that Sirius XM Holdings violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (the “TCPA”) by, among other things, making telephone solicitations to persons on the National Do-Not-Call registry, a database established to allow consumers to exclude themselves from telemarketing calls unless they consent to receive the calls in a signed, written agreement, and making calls to consumers in violation of Sirius XM Holdings’ internal Do-Not-Call registry. The plaintiff is seeking various forms of relief, including statutory damages of $500 for each violation of the TCPA or, in the alternative, treble damages of up to $1,500 for each knowing and willful violation of the TCPA and a permanent injunction prohibiting Sirius XM Holdings from making, or having made, any calls to land lines that are listed on the National Do-Not-Call registry or Sirius XM Holdings’ internal Do-Not-Call registry.
Following a mediation, in April 2019, Sirius XM Holdings entered into an agreement to settle this purported class action suit. The settlement resolves the claims of consumers for the period October 2013 through January 2019. As part of the settlement, Sirius XM Holdings paid $25 million into a non-reversionary settlement fund from which cash to class members, notice, administrative costs, and attorney's fees and costs will be paid. The settlement also contemplates that Sirius XM Holdings will provide three months of service to its All Access subscription package for those members of the class that elect to receive it, in lieu of cash, at no cost to those class members and who are not active subscribers at the time of the distribution. The availability of this three-month service option will not diminish the $25 million common fund. As part of the settlement, Sirius XM Holdings will also implement certain changes relating to its “Do-Not-Call” practices and telemarketing programs. On January 28, 2020, the Court issued an order and final judgment approving the settlement. This charge is included in the selling, general and administrative expense line item in the consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2019, but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA (as defined in note 18) for the corresponding period as this charge does not relate to the on-going performance of the business.
SoundExchange Royalty Claims. On June 7, 2018, Sirius XM Holdings entered into an agreement with SoundExchange, Inc. (“Sound Exchange”), the organization that collects and distributes sound recording royalties pursuant to Sirius XM Holdings’ statutory license, to settle the cases titled SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No.13-cv-1290-RJL (D.D.C.), and SoundExchange, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No.17-cv-02666-RJL (D.D.C.). A description of these actions is contained in our prior public filings. In connection with the settlement, Sirius XM Holdings made a one-time lump sum payment of $150 million to SoundExchange on July 6, 2018. Sirius XM Holdings accrued for a portion of this liability in prior years and recorded a $69 million charge for the remaining liability during the second quarter of 2018. This expense is included in the Revenue share and royalties line item in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018, but has been excluded from Adjusted OIBDA (as defined in note 18) for the corresponding period as this expense was not incurred as a part of Sirius XM Holdings’ normal operations and does not relate to the on-going performance of the business. The settlement resolved all outstanding claims, including ongoing audits, under Sirius XM Holdings’ statutory license for sound recordings for the period January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2017.
Pre-1972 Sound Recording Litigation. On October 2, 2014, Flo & Eddie Inc. filed a class action suit against Pandora in the federal district court for the Central District of California. The complaint alleges a violation of California
Civil Code Section 980, unfair competition, misappropriation and conversion in connection with the public performance of sound recordings recorded prior to February 15, 1972 (“pre-1972 recordings”). On December 19, 2014, Pandora filed a motion to strike the complaint pursuant to California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("Anti-SLAPP") statute, which following denial of Pandora’s motion was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In March 2017, the Ninth Circuit requested certification to the California Supreme Court on the substantive legal questions. The California Supreme Court accepted certification. In May 2019, the California Supreme Court issued an order dismissing consideration of the certified questions on the basis that, following the enactment of the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act, Pub. L. No. 115-264, 132 Stat. 3676 (2018) (the “MMA”), resolution of the questions posed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was no longer “necessary to . . . settle an important question of law.”
The MMA grants a potential federal preemption defense to the claims asserted in the aforementioned lawsuits. In July 2019, Pandora took steps to avail itself of this preemption defense, including making the required payments under the MMA for certain of its uses of pre-1972 recordings. Based on the federal preemption contained in the MMA (along with other considerations), Pandora asked the Ninth Circuit to order the dismissal of the Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Pandora Media, Inc. case. On October 17, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a memorandum disposition concluding that the question of whether the MMA preempts Flo and Eddie's claims challenging Pandora's performance of pre-1972 recordings "depends on various unanswered factual questions" and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.
After Flo & Eddie filed its action in 2014 against Pandora, several other plaintiffs commenced separate actions, both on an individual and class action basis, alleging a variety of violations of common law and state copyright and other statutes arising from allegations that Pandora owed royalties for the public performance of pre-1972 recordings. Many of these separate actions have been dismissed or are in the process of being dismissed. Sirius XM Holdings believes that none of the remaining pending actions is likely to have a material adverse effect on Pandora’s business, financial condition or results of operations.
Sirius XM Holdings believes it has substantial defenses to the claims asserted in these actions, and it intends to defend these actions vigorously.
Copyright Royalty Board Proceeding to Determine the Rate for Statutory Webcasting. Pursuant to Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act, the Copyright Royalty Board (the “CRB”) initiated a proceeding in January 2019 to set the rates and terms by which webcasters may perform sound recordings via digital transmission over the internet and make ephemeral reproductions of those recordings during the 2021-2025 rate period under the authority of statutory licenses provided under Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act. Sirius XM Holdings filed a petition to participate in the proceeding on behalf of its Sirius XM and Pandora businesses, as did other webcasters including Google Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters. SoundExchange, a collective organization that collects and distributes digital performance royalties to artists and copyright holders, represents the various copyright owner participants in the proceeding, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group. Because the proceeding focuses on setting statutory rates for non-interactive online music streaming (commonly identified as “webcasting”), the proceeding will set the rates that Pandora pays for music streaming on its free, ad-supported tier, and that Sirius XM pays for streaming on its subscription internet radio service. This proceeding will not set the rates that Sirius XM Holdings pays for its other music offerings (satellite radio, business establishment services) or that it pays for interactive streaming on the Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium services.
In September 2019, the participants filed written direct statements, including proposed rates and terms for the 2021-2025 period. Sirius XM Holdings and other webcaster participants proposed rates below the existing statutory rates, which for commercial webcasters are currently set at $0.0018 per performance for non-subscription transmissions (such as offered by our Pandora ad-supported business) and $0.0024 per performance for subscription transmissions (such as offered by our Sirius XM internet radio service). SoundExchange has proposed increasing the commercial webcasting
rates to $0.0028 per performance for non-subscription transmissions and $0.0031 per performance for subscription transmissions.
In January 2020, the participants filed written rebuttal statements, responding to each other’s proposals. Discovery in the matter is ongoing, and a multi-week hearing has been set to begin before the CRB in March 2020. The CRB’s initial determination of the rates and terms for the 2021-2025 period is required to be delivered in December 2020.
The entire disclosure for commitments and contingencies.
Reference 1: http://fasb.org/us-gaap/role/ref/legacyRef