in ascertaining or evaluating all such risks. Though we typically structure our acquisitions to provide for future contingent purchase payments that are based on the future performance of the acquired entity, our forecasts of the investment’s future performance also factor into the initial consideration. When actual financial results differ, our returns on the investment could be adversely affected.
We may also experience difficulty integrating new employees, businesses, assets or systems into our organization, including with respect to our internal policies and required controls. We may face reputational and legal risks in situations where we have a significant minority investment but limited control over the investment's operations. Furthermore, it may take longer than anticipated to realize the expected benefits from these transactions, or those benefits may ultimately be smaller than anticipated or may not be realized at all. Talent is among our most valuable assets, and we also may not realize the intended benefits of a transaction if we fail to retain targeted personnel. Acquisition and integration activity may also divert management’s attention and other corporate resources from other business needs. If we fail to realize the intended advantages of any given investment or acquisition, or if we do not identify or correctly measure the associated risks and liabilities, our results of operations and financial position could be adversely affected.
We rely extensively on information technology systems and could face cybersecurity risks.
We rely extensively and increasingly on information technologies and infrastructure to manage our business, including digital storage of marketing strategies and client information, developing new business opportunities and digital products, and processing business transactions. The incidence of malicious technology-related events, such as cyberattacks, computer hacking, computer viruses, worms or other destructive or disruptive software, denial of service attacks or other malicious activities is on the rise worldwide. Power outages, equipment failure, natural disasters (including extreme weather), terrorist activities or human error may also affect our systems and result in disruption of our services or loss or improper disclosure of personal data, business information, including intellectual property, or other confidential information. We operate in many respects on a decentralized basis, with a large number of agencies and legal entities, and the resulting size, diversity and disparity of our technology systems and complications in implementing standardized technologies and procedures could increase our potential vulnerability to such breakdowns, malicious intrusions or attacks.
Likewise, data privacy breaches, as well as improper use of social media, by employees and others may pose a risk that sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information, strategic plans and trade secrets, could be exposed to third parties or to the general public. We operate worldwide, and the legal rules governing data transfers are often complex, conflicting, unclear or ever-changing. We also utilize third parties, including third-party “cloud” computing services, to store, transfer or process data, and system failures or network disruptions or breaches in the systems of such third parties could adversely affect our reputation or business.
Any such breaches or breakdowns could expose us to legal liability, be expensive to remedy, result in a loss of our or our clients’ or vendors’ proprietary information and damage our reputation. Efforts to develop, implement and maintain security measures are costly, may not be successful in preventing these events from occurring and require ongoing monitoring and updating as technologies change and efforts to overcome security measures become more sophisticated.
Our earnings would be adversely affected if we were required to recognize asset impairment charges or increase our deferred tax valuation allowances.
We evaluate all of our long-lived assets (including goodwill, other intangible assets and fixed assets), investments and deferred tax assets for possible impairment or realizability annually or whenever there is an indication that they are impaired or not realizable. If certain criteria are met, we are required to record an impairment charge or valuation allowance.
As of December 31, 2016, we have substantial amounts of long-lived assets, deferred tax assets and investments on our Consolidated Balance Sheet, including approximately $3.7 billion of goodwill. Future events, including our financial performance, market valuation of us or market multiples of comparable companies, loss of a significant client’s business or strategic decisions, could cause us to conclude that impairment indicators exist and that the asset values associated with long-lived assets, deferred tax assets and investments may have become impaired. Any significant impairment loss would have an adverse impact on our reported earnings in the period in which the charge is recognized. For further discussion of goodwill and other intangible assets, as well as our sensitivity analysis of our valuation of these assets, see “Critical Accounting Estimates” in Part II, Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
We may not be able to meet our performance targets and milestones.
From time to time, we communicate to the public certain targets and milestones for our financial and operating performance that are intended to provide metrics against which to evaluate our performance. They should not be understood as predictions or guidance about our expected performance. Our ability to meet any target or milestone is subject to inherent risks and uncertainties, and we caution investors against placing undue reliance on them. See Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Disclosure.