TheCorporateCounsel.net

July 6, 2015

Audit Committee Disclosures: SEC’s New Concept Release!

As expected (see my earlier blog), the SEC issued a concept release last week on audit committee disclosure, fairly concurrently with the PCAOB’s release of its Supplemental Request for Comment on disclosure of the audit engagement partner.

The SEC’s concept release, which focuses on independent auditor oversight, acknowledges that some companies already exceed the minimum audit committee-related disclosure requirements. In fact, presumably prompted in part by the Audit Committee Collaboration’s 2013 Call to Action, as discussed in my previous blog and the CAQ’s Transparency Barometer, many companies already disclose more than the minimum across a broad spectrum of potential disclosures.

The SEC’s concept release seeks comment on whether disclosure of the audit engagement partner and additional members of the engagement team should be made by the audit committee and included in the proxy statement. In contrast, the PCAOB’s proposal would require that audit firms publicly disclose the name of the audit engagement partner and information about certain other audit participants in a new form filed with the PCAOB. The PCAOB’s proposal purportedly seeks to be responsive to concerns raised by auditors and others specifically regarding the risks of liability and litigation associated with disclosure of such information in the auditor’s report, as had been previously proposed; however, concerns expressed about the implications of identifying the engagement partner were not limited to risks of liability/litigation.

Here is an excerpt from Ning Chiu’s blog on the areas of potential additional disclosure included in the SEC’s release:

Audit committee’s oversight of the auditor:

1. Additional information regarding communications between the audit committee and the auditor, which could include all communications required under the PCAOB rules, the nature of the committee’s communication with the auditor related to the auditor’s overall audit strategy, timing, significant risks, nature and extent of specialized skill used in the audit, planned use of other firms or persons, planned use of internal audit, the basis for determining that the auditor can serve as principal auditor, the results of the audit, and how the audit committee considered these items in its oversight of the auditor
2. How often the audit committee met with the auditor
3. The audit committee review of and discussion about the auditor’s internal quality review and most recent PCAOB inspection report
4. Whether and how the audit committee assesses, promotes and reinforces the auditor’s objectivity and professional skepticism. It is unclear what the SEC is expecting in this regard and in fact, the SEC itself questions what type of disclosures would satisfy this possible requirement.

The audit committee’s process for appointing or retaining the auditor:

1. Whether and how it assesses the auditor and its rationale for retaining the auditor
2. The process for selecting the auditor through any requests for proposals (RFPs)
3. The board’s policy, if any, for a shareholder vote on auditor ratification and the consideration of the vote in selecting the auditor

Qualifications of the audit firm and members of the engagement team:

1. Disclosure of the name of the engagement partner and key members of the engagement team and their experience
2. The audit committee’s input in selecting the engagement partner
3. The number of years that the auditor has audited the company
4. Other firms involved in the audit

Both the SEC & PCAOB releases are tagged with 60-day comment periods.

See also Dorsey’s memo, and Cydney Posner’s and Bob Lamm’s blogs. We’re posting memos about the SEC’s release in our “Audit Committees” Practice Area, which includes, among other things, helpful resources specifically pertaining to audit committee disclosure.

SEC Charges Deloitte with Auditor Independence Violations

Coincidentally (presumably), on the same date that the SEC issued the audit committee concept release, it charged Deloitte with violating auditor independence rules when its consulting affiliate maintained a business relationship with a trustee serving on the boards and audit committees of three funds it audited. Deloitte agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle the charges. The SEC also charged the trustee with causing related reporting violations by the funds, and charged the funds’ administrator with causing related compliance violations. SEC Division of Enforcement Associate Director Stephen Cohen noted:

“The investing public depends on independent auditors like Deloitte to test the reliability of publicly-reported financial statements, and they have front-line responsibility for ensuring their own independence. But they are not alone in safeguarding the audit process, and the other fiduciaries charged in this case failed to fulfill their roles and preserve investor confidence.”

Access heaps of helpful resources in our “Auditor Independence” Practice Area.

More on “The Mentor Blog”

We continue to post new items daily on our blog – “The Mentor Blog” – for TheCorporateCounsel.net members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

– Audit Committee Survey: Workload at Tipping Point?
– 2015 Cyber Risk Agenda
– Navigating Corporate Governance Hot Topics
– Study: Data Breach Preparedness
– Survey: Current (& Future) State of Compliance

 

– by Randi Val Morrison

 

 

July 2, 2015

The SEC’s Clawback Proposing Release: 198 Pages

Yesterday, the SEC voted to approve – by the now-norm 3-2 vote – this 198-page proposing release to direct the stock exchanges to adopt clawback listing standards, as required by Section 954 of Dodd-Frank. Comments are due 60 days from publication in the Federal Register – so the beginning of September. We’re posting memos in our “Clawbacks” Practice Area (see this Gibson Dunn blog). All five SEC Commissioners issued a written statement.

Given that the rumor that the SEC would propose these clawback rules on July 1st held true – the rumor of the SEC adopting pay ratio rules on August 5th might also prove worthy…

Pay Ratio: SEC Posts More Economic Analysis

With the comment letter deadline for the SEC’s recent release of additional economic analysis looming – this Monday, July 6th – the SEC’s Division of Economic and Risk Analysis posted another memo on Tuesday about the potential effects on the accuracy of the proposed pay ratio rule calculation of excluding different percentages of certain categories of employees.

It sure looks like the rumor of August 5th being an adoption date might come true as the SEC seems to be getting its ducks in a row to minimize the risk of losing a court battle if rules do indeed become final…

It’s Huge! Our Big Week of “Executive Pay Conferences”

The SEC’s new clawback, pay-for-performance & hedging proposals – not to mention the coming pay ratio rules – are causing a stir – and you should prepare now. These rules will be among many topics that Corp Fin Director Keith Higgins & other experts will be talking about at our popular Conferences — “Tackling Your 2016 Compensation Disclosures” — to be held October 27-28th in San Diego and via Live Nationwide Video Webcast on TheCorporateCounsel.net. Act by August 7th for the phased-in rate to get 10% off.

You should make a hotel reservation now as our conference hotel always sells out – and registrations for this conference are running at an all-time high!

The full agendas for the Conferences are posted — and include the following panels:

– Keith Higgins Speaks: The Latest from the SEC
– The SEC’s Pay-for-Performance Proposal: What to Do Now
– Creating Effective Clawbacks (& Disclosures)
– Pledging & Hedging Disclosures
– Pay Ratio: What Now
– Proxy Access: Tackling the Challenges
– Disclosure Effectiveness: What Investors Really Want to See
– Peer Group Disclosures: The In-House Perspective
– The Executive Summary
– The Art of Communication
– Dave & Marty: Smashmouth
– Dealing with the Complexities of Perks
– The Big Kahuna: Your Burning Questions Answered
– The SEC All-Stars: The Bleeding Edge
– The Investors Speak
– Navigating ISS & Glass Lewis
– Hot Topics: 50 Practical Nuggets in 75 Minutes

– Broc Romanek

July 1, 2015

PCAOB’s New Concept Release on Audit Quality Indicators

Yesterday, the PCAOB issued a concept release about the content and possible uses of audit quality indicators, measures that may provide new insights into audit quality. Here’s the press release – and fact sheet.

Today, the SEC will be proposing its clawback rules finally. For those in law firms, get ready to rumble with your memo writing skills…

PCAOB: Re-Re-Proposal to Seek Engagement Partner Name in a New Form (Not the Audit Report)

Yesterday, the PCAOB also issued a supplemental request for comment on whether to require auditors to file a new PCAOB Form AP to identify the name of an audit engagement partner – a different approach than the original 2011 proposal (that was re-proposed in ’13) that would require name disclosure in the audit report itself. Comments are due by August 31st. Technically, I believe this is not a “re-re” proposal – rather, it’s a supplemental request to the re-proposal. Here’s the comments submitted to date

Our July Eminders is Posted!

We have posted the July issue of our complimentary monthly email newsletter. Sign up today to receive it by simply inputting your email address!

Sights of the Society of Corporate Secretaries Conference

Saw many old friends & made some new ones at last week’s annual conference for the Society of Corporate Secretaries:

Norfolk Southern’s Ginny Fogg, Mondelēz’ Carol Ward & DuPont’s Erik Hoover

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CT Corp’s Tim Rooney, Sarah Brunet & Lisa Mann

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Awesome Georgeson/Computershare booth staffed by Donna Ackerly, Erik Schwendeman & Kerry Anderson

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Met Jim McRitchie in person for the 1st time

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CSC’s Neal Smith sporting his famous jacket

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– Broc Romanek

June 30, 2015

Conflicting Shareholder Proposals: Are Companies Asking for a Trump Card?

Here’s a blog from Adam Kanzer of Domini Social Investments based on his recent comment letter sent to the SEC:

According to a series of letters submitted on behalf of the issuer community, including a joint letter submitted by five prominent law firms, the original intent of Rule 14a-8(i)(9) and its successor formulations was to prohibit a very specific abuse of process by shareholders – the use of 14a-8 to solicit votes in opposition to management proposals (“counter proposals”). This would amount to a circumvention of the SEC’s solicitation rules. It is therefore clear that the exemption was based on the sequencing of proposals, and was intended to be used infrequently. The rule, however, is now applied where such abuses have not even been alleged. The issuer community is seeking an extremely broad and unreasonable reading of the subsection.

The law firms’ assertion that the sequencing of the proposals “is not a consideration encompassed by the text of the rule” ignores their own assertions about the history of the rule. The rule is grounded in a prohibition on counter proposals offered by shareholders, and a counter proposal must come second.

In addition to sequencing, public notice is also critical. Unless management has publicly announced its intention to submit a particular proposal to a vote before the proposal filing deadline—including the terms of that proposal—a shareholder proposal cannot be considered a solicitation “opposing a proposal supported by management.” This is largely a hypothetical abuse of process that is generally not available to shareholders, except, perhaps, on rare occasions (Northern States Power Company (July 25, 1995)(Shareholder proposal requesting that the board of directors require management to negotiate a more equitable merger agreement excludable as ‘counter to a proposal to be submitted by management.’) This subsection was presumably crafted to deal with those rare occasions. So rare, in fact, that they were deemed to be an “abuse” of process.

In reality, the shareholder proposal either accidentally coincides with a management proposal on the same topic, or management responds to the shareholder proposal with a proposal of its own. Neither situation can be considered an “abuse” by shareholders, as suggested by the 1982 Release.

Issuers are asking Staff to interpret (i)(9), a rule designed to address counter proposals by shareholders, to permit the exclusion of shareholder proposals any time a counter proposal has been offered by management. Not only does this reverse the intent of the subsection, as explained by the law firm letter, it eliminates the concept of a ‘direct conflict’ from the rule and converts what was intended to be a narrow exemption to deal with a rare abuse of process into a trump card to be used at management’s discretion.

Establishing a clear, bright line approach to 14a-8(i)(9), consistent with the wording of the rule, would dramatically reduce the opportunity for gamesmanship and avoid the need for SEC Staff to delve into those perilous waters. Our recommended approach, first suggested by the Council of Institutional Investors and endorsed by CalPERS and CalSTRS – non-binding proposals cannot “conflict” with management proposals – would satisfy issuers’ and proponents’ need for clarity and would eliminate any meaningful legal conflicts that “conflicting” proposals may create. Our proposal to permit conflicting binding proposals to be re-characterized as non-binding proposals would eliminate the need for any investigation into issuer or shareholder motives, while preserving both shareholder democracy and management’s right to submit alternative proposals to a vote.

Proxy Access Proposals: The Latest Stats

This Skadden memo is the first memo – of what likely will be many – with comprehensive coverage of the voting results for proxy access shareholder proposals this proxy season. We’ll be posting all of them in our “Proxy Access” Practice Area. Check it out!

Delaware Bans “Loser Pays” Bylaws & Authorizes Exclusive Forum Bylaws

The Delaware Governor has signed the latest Delaware amendments into law, taking effect on August 1st. On DealLawyers.com, we’re posting memos in our “Exclusive Forum Bylaws” Practice Area (also see this blog about whether the new law impacts federal class actions). And here’s the intro from this Cooley blog:

On June 24, 2015, the Governor of Delaware signed into law amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law proposed by the Delaware Bar’s Corporation Law Council and overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature regarding fee-shifting and forum selection provisions in Delaware governing documents. (See this post and this post.) More specifically, the amendments invalidate, in Delaware charters and bylaws, fee-shifting provisions in connection with internal corporate claims. “Internal corporate claims” are claims, including derivative claims, that are based on a violation of a duty by a current or former director or officer or stockholder or as to which the corporation law confers jurisdiction on the Court of Chancery. These claims include claims arising under the DGCL and claims of breach of fiduciary duty by current or former directors or officers or controlling stockholders of the corporation, or persons who aid and abet those breaches. However, as discussed in this post, federal securities class actions are not included. In addition, the new provision is not intended to prevent these types of provisions in a stockholders agreement or other writing signed by the stockholder against whom the provision is to be enforced.

The amendments also expressly authorize the adoption of exclusive forum provisions for internal corporate claims, as long as the exclusive forum is in Delaware. Although the amendment does not address the validity of a provision that selects, as an additional forum, a forum other than Delaware, the synopsis indicates that it “invalidates such a provision selecting the courts in a different State, or an arbitral forum, if it would preclude litigating such claims in the Delaware courts.” A different result is possible where there is a provision in a stockholders’ agreement or other writing signed by the stockholder against whom the provision is to be enforced. In addition, an exclusive forum may not be “enforceable if the Delaware courts lack jurisdiction over indispensable parties or core elements of the subject matter of the litigation,” and the amendment in not intended to preclude evaluation of whether the terms or manner of adoption of the exclusive forum provisions “comport with any relevant fiduciary obligation or operate reasonably in the circumstances presented.” Deputy Secretary of State Richard J. Geisenberger said 99.6% of companies that have a forum-selection bylaw choose Delaware as the preferred venue. And, no surprise, Delaware wants cases involving Delaware corporations to be tried in Delaware.

– Broc Romanek

June 29, 2015

Pay Ratio Rumor: Will the SEC Adopt Rules on August 5th?

We’ve had false start rumors before about when the SEC will adopt pay ratio rules – but this time it feels different given the heightened political attacks against the SEC. The latest is this Bloomberg article indicating the rules will be adopted by August 5th, which the article notes was not confirmed by the SEC. It’s according to “two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named.”

That’s right before our August 7th deadline for our last discounted rate for our big “Executive Pay Conference” in San Diego and by video webcast. Act now!

Clawbacks: SEC to Propose Rules on Wednesday!

Last Thursday, the SEC posted this Sunshine Act notice to announce that it will propose the clawback rules required by Dodd-Frank on Wednesday, July 1st!

Delaware Changes Law to Allow Restricted Stock Grants By Non-Directors!

Last week, Delaware enacted amendments to its corporation law – effective August 1st – that will permit grants of restricted stock to be made by a corporate officer who has been delegated that authority by the board (within parameters). Prior to this change, the granting of options could be delegated to officers pursuant to DGCL Section 157(c), but not so for stock. Under the old law, some companies worked around this limitation by creating a board committee of one person (typically, the CEO-director). The law change presents the opportunity for delegation without using a “committee of one,” allowing the CEO (in a non-director capacity) or other delegated officers to make grants of stock. Of course, accurate and timely records must be kept and plans also would need to permit such administration.

Here’s the news from this Richards Layton memo:

The 2015 legislation amends Section 152 of the DGCL to clarify that the board of directors may authorize stock to be issued in one or more transactions in such numbers and at such times as is determined by a person or body other than the board of directors or a committee of the board, so long as the resolution of the board or committee, as applicable, authorizing the issuance fixes the maximum number of shares that may be issued as well as the time frame during which such shares may be issued and establishes a minimum amount of consideration for which such shares may be issued.

The minimum amount of consideration cannot be less than the consideration required pursuant to Section 153 of the DGCL, which, as a general matter, means that shares with par value may not be issued for consideration having a value less than the par value of the shares. The legislation clarifies that a formula by which the consideration for stock is determined may include reference to or be made dependent upon the operation of extrinsic facts, thereby confirming that the consideration may be based on, among other things, market prices on one or more dates or averages of market prices on one or more dates.

Among other things, the legislation clarifies that the board (or duly empowered committee) may authorize stock to be issued pursuant to “at the market” programs without separately authorizing each individual stock issuance pursuant to the program. In addition, the legislation allows the board to delegate to officers the ability to issue restricted stock on the same basis that the board may delegate to officers the ability to issue rights or options under Section 157(c) of the DGCL.

Transcript: “Proxy Season Post-Mortem: The Latest Compensation Disclosures”

We have posted the transcript for our recent CompensationStandards.com webcast: “Proxy Season Post-Mortem: The Latest Compensation Disclosures.”

– Broc Romanek

June 26, 2015

SEC Chair Speaks: Universal Proxy Ballots Coming?

As reported by this WSJ article, SEC Chair White delivered this speech yesterday at the Society’s National Conference. In her speech – which focused on proxy-related matters – Chair White advised that she “asked the staff to bring appropriate rulemaking recommendations before the Commission on universal proxy ballots.” A universal proxy ballot provides security holders a means to vote for management & proponent nominees on a single ballot in an election contest. This allows a security holder to mix & match votes between nominees of the company & the proponent – without attending & voting in person at the meeting. Chair White also encouraged companies & proponents to voluntarily use “some form” of universal proxy ballot while the SEC Staff prepares its rulemaking recommendation. Here’s an excerpt from her speech:

All of the participants [of a roundtable held on ways to improve the proxy voting process] agreed that if the Commission were to revise the proxy rules to implement a universal proxy ballot, the “devil would be in the details.” Questions include when a universal ballot could be used, whether it would be optional or mandatory and under what circumstances, whether any eligibility requirements should be imposed on shareholders to use universal ballots, what the ballot would look like, and whether both sides must use identical universal ballots.

Chair White’s speech also covered the topics of preliminary voting results, “unelected” directors & shareholder proposals – which included comments on Rule 14a-8(i)(9) relating to proxy access proposals.

First to the Finish: CalSTRS Inaugural Sustainability Report Released

Check out the first Sustainability Report of CalSTRS, posted in our “Social Responsibility” Practice Area. As explained in this press release, the sustainability report meets the reporting guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative and is the first sustainability report from a US public pension fund to do so. As noted in the press release, the report highlights:

– Retirement security: legislative approval of a CalSTRS full funding plan.

– Investment impact: 288-percent increase in green bond holdings over fiscal year 2012-13.

– Business transparency: public access to all of our proxy votes through the CalSTRS.com website.

– Environmental efforts: 22-percent decrease in water usage from the year 2013 at the LEED Platinum-certified CalSTRS Headquarters building.

More on our “Proxy Season Blog”

We continue to post new items regularly on our “Proxy Season Blog” for TheCorporateCounsel.net members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

– Shareholder Engagement: TIAA-CREF
– Delaware Weighs In: Plain Vanilla Advance Notice Bylaws
– Some Ways to Shorten 10-Ks & 10-Qs
– Shareholder Proposals: Doing Research Through Free Databases
– Chamber: Report on How to Deal With Proxy Advisor Conflicts

– Jeff Werbitt

June 25, 2015

SEC Calling: Charges Brought Over Fake Filing

On a subject near & dear to Broc’s heart and following up on his blog from last month, the SEC filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York relating to the fake Schedule TO involving Avon. According to the SEC’s press release, a Bulgarian trader & four related entities were charged with violating multiple antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws – including Section 17(a) of the ’33 Act and Sections 10(b) & 14(e) of the ’34 Act in connection with the manipulation of Avon’s stock – among other charges. The SEC also announced that the court issued an emergency order to freeze $2 million in assets held in two related brokerage accounts. According to the SEC, this isn’t a new scheme. The complaint also charges the defendants in two other false takeover attempts involving Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in 2012 and Tower Group International in 2014. Here’s an excerpt from the press release about the SEC’s sleuthing:

“We used parallel trading analysis to connect the dots and track down these defendants,” said Daniel M. Hawke, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit. “Even when traders attempt to hide behind proxy servers, false filings, and phony foreign entities, we are able to quickly identify patterns and relationships to focus our investigation and identify who is behind the manipulative trading.”

However, in an odd turn to an already unusual set of facts – this wsj article reports that contrary to the SEC’s complaint – the 2014 offer for Tower Group International may have been real. A representative of Euroin’s Insurance Group – one of the entities identified in the complaint as issuing a “fraudulent press release” containing an offer to acquire Towers Group International – claims that the press release was part of a legitimate takeover attempt. Here’s an excerpt:

Kiril Boshov, the chairman of the board of Euroins’s parent, Eurohold Bulgaria, said it was a legitimate offer and denied any link with the trader accused of illegally profiting from the proposal. “The offer for the acquisition of Tower Group International by Euroins Insurance Group was submitted in compliance with all regulations,” Mr. Boshov said in an email exchange.

Prior to the SEC’s filing of the lawsuit, Senator Charles Grassley – the Judiciary Committee Chair – submitted a letter looking for answers relating to the ease in which a fake SEC filing can be made. While the letter recognizes that the SEC & FBI were investigating the incident, Sen. Grassley calls for a review of EDGAR filing standards. Here’s the questions he’s looking to get answered:

– What, if any, efforts are made to verify any of the filings on EDGAR? What are the time deadlines associated with these verifications?
– How many instances of false postings to the EDGAR system have there been in the last 3 years? Please provide a list with information such as date of filing, type of filing and an explanation of the information in the filing that was determined to be false.
– Has any attempt been made by the SEC to determine what the cost to investors and market participants was as a result of the false postings to EDGAR? If there has, please provide that information. If not, please explain why not?
– How many of the approximately 4,000 daily filings made on EDGAR are made by first time users of the system?
– Has any attempt been made by the SEC to determine what the costs would be to verify the information on its most common filings? If there has, please provide the results of that effort. If not, why not?
– What other steps has the SEC taken to address the systemic vulnerabilities exposed by this incident?

Also check out Broc’s blog from last year that asks a similar question about how fake filings sneak past the SEC . . .

Bonuses & Perks: The New “Normal”?

According to this NY Times article, there’s been a “drastic shift” in the type of compensation increases received by salaried employees. Since the 1980s, annual pay raises have markedly decreased – while one-off bonuses & non-monetary rewards have increased. According to the article, the big question is whether we will see another shift over time or is this the new “normal”? Here’s an excerpt:

According to Aon Hewitt’s annual survey on salaried employees’ compensation, the share of payroll budgets devoted to straight salary increases sank to a low of 1.8 percent in the depths of the recession. It dropped to 4.3 percent in 2001, from a high of 10 percent in 1981. It has rebounded modestly since the recession, but still only rose to 2.9 percent in 2014, the survey of 1,064 organizations found. (These figures are not adjusted for inflation.)

Aon Hewitt did not even start tracking short-term rewards and bonuses — known as variable compensation — until 1988, when they accounted for an average of 3.9 percent of payrolls. Ten years later, that share had more than doubled to 8 percent. Last year, it hit a record 12.7 percent.

More on our “Proxy Season Blog”

We continue to post new items regularly on our “Proxy Season Blog” for TheCorporateCounsel.net members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

– Sample: Proxy Statement Reg Summary Sheet
– Shareholder Proposals: Corp Fin Allows Exclusion of “Review of Company’s Voting Policies” Proposal
– More Debate: Harvard’s “Shareholder Rights Project”
– Trinity v. Wal-Mart: Serious Implications for the Ordinary Business Exclusion
– Shareholder Proposals: Playing Games With Submission Deadlines

– Jeff Werbitt

June 24, 2015

Regulation A/A+: Corp Fin Issues 11 New CDIs

Yesterday, Corp Fin issued 11 new CDIs related to last week’s effectiveness of new Regulation A/A+. Here’s a rundown of the topics:

– Question 182.01: Filing of non-public draft offering statements as exhibits
– Question 182.02: Confidential treatment requests
– Question 182.03: Definition of “principal place of business”
– Question 182.04: Eligibility of companies with suspended Exchange Act reporting obligations
– Question 182.05: Eligibility of voluntary filers
– Question 182.06: Eligibility of wholly-owned subsidiaries of Exchange Act reporting companies
– Question 182.07: Business combination transactions
– Question 182.08: Balance sheet requirements of recently created entities
– Question 182.09: Test the waters
– Question 182.10: Federal preemption
– Question 182.11: Engagement of registered transfer agents

Corp Fin also deleted two Securities Act Form CDIs – 128.01 relating to paper filings & 128.03 relating to delaying notations – that are no longer applicable under the new Regulation A/A+ rules.

As I blogged on Monday, the new/revised Regulation A/A+ Forms are available on our “SEC Rules & Regulations” page. In a few months, we’re holding a webcast – “Regulation A/A+: Developing Market Practices” – to show you how market practice has developed…

“Tenure Voting”: Cure for Activism?

Here’s an excerpt from a Cooley blog:

In “Seeking a Cure for Raging Corporate Activism,” published on March 17, 2015, in the WSJ, the author discusses a technique resurrected from the 1980’s that some believe could, on reexamination, be “a bulwark against short-termers who roam the markets, looking to force buybacks or an untimely company sale.” Known as “tenure voting,” the concept would give investors additional votes if they hold their shares for at least a specified period of time, thus rewarding long-term holders by giving them more say in the future of the company than say, short-term hedge fund activists that may favor short-term profits over long-term business strategies. Will companies begin to pursue this strategy?

The concept of different voting rights is certainly not unique. Preferred stock often carries different voting rights, and many companies that have gone public in the last decade or so allocate disparate voting rights between two classes of common stock, with 10 votes per share attributed to the class of common typically held by founders and management. Tenure voting is positioned in the article as a middle course. According to a law professor cited in the article, with tenure voting “[y]ou still have an opportunity for shareholders to deal with a management that needs to go, but it isn’t going to be decided by a simple majority vote….It gives you more protection…..”

Podcast: Corp Fin Cyber Risk Comments

In this podcast, Yafit Cohn of Simpson Thacher discusses Corp Fin cyber risk comments, including:

– What are the four main types of Corp Fin comments in the cybersecurity area?
– Can you drill down on each?
– What has Corp Fin said lately about updating its Corp Fin disclosure guidance?

Meanwhile, Congressmen Langevin & Himes have sent this letter to the SEC seeking more disclosure guidance on cybersecurity. Here’s the related press release

– Jeff Werbitt

June 23, 2015

Survey Results: Hedging Policies

Thanks to those that participated in this survey – a hot topic! Below are the results from our recent survey on hedging policies:

1. Does your hedging policy cover?
– Only officers? – 3%
– Only officers & directors? – 43%
– Officers, directors & employees? – 54%

2. Does the hedging policy cover?
– Only company securities granted by the company as compensation? – 3%
– All company securities without regard to how acquired? – 97%

3. If your company doesn’t currently cover all employees under a hedging policy, do you expect to expand it now to all employees?
– Yes – 27%
– No – 73%

4. Do you think there is a way to effectively enforce a broad hedging policy?
– Yes – 8%
– No – 61%
– Not sure – 31%

Take a moment to participate in our “Quick Survey on Board Portals” and our “Quick Survey on Annual Meeting Conduct.” And don’t forget to send your nominations for our “Annual Proxy Disclosure Awards.” Here’s how that works. Deadline for nominations is Wednesday, July 1st…

Escheatment: Delaware Proposes Changes Beneficial to Companies

As noted in this memo, Delaware Senate Bill 141 was introduced in the Delaware General Assembly last week proposing many significant changes to the existing Delaware unclaimed property audit and administration regime, many of which would be beneficial to companies if the law gets passed. Delaware likely is acting as it was just sued for the first time before an audit, according to this WSJ article. This is a hot topic – see this audio archive of our recent related webcast…

More on our “Proxy Season Blog”

We continue to post new items regularly on our “Proxy Season Blog” for TheCorporateCounsel.net members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

– Sample: Proxy Statement Reg Summary Sheet
– Shareholder Proposals: Corp Fin Allows Exclusion of “Review of Company’s Voting Policies” Proposal
– More Debate: Harvard’s “Shareholder Rights Project”
– Trinity v. Wal-Mart: Serious Implications for the Ordinary Business Exclusion
– Shareholder Proposals: Playing Games With Submission Deadlines

– Jeff Werbitt

June 22, 2015

Regulation A: New/Revised Forms Available

Since the new Regulation A/A+ took effect on Friday, June 19th – and the SEC denied Montana’s request to stay its implementation – the SEC has posted these 6 new/revised forms (& Form 2-A has been rescinded):

Form 1-A: Regulation A Offering Statement
Form 1-K: Annual Reports and Special Financial Reports
Form 1-SA: Semiannual Report or Special Financial Report Pursuant to Regulation A
Form 1-U: Current Report Pursuant to Regulation A
Form 1-Z: Exit Report Under Regulation A
Form 8-A: Registration of Certain Classes of Securities Pursuant to Section 12(b) or (g)

These new/revised forms will soon be available on our “SEC Rules & Regulations” page. In a few months, we’re holding a webcast – “Regulation A/A+: Developing Market Practices” – to show you how market practice has developed…

Conflict Minerals Rules: The Real World Impact?

As we recover from Year Two of the conflict minerals disclosure push, we’ll continue to see plenty of reports and studies that focus on disclosure trends and statistics in Form SDs (they will be posted in our “Conflict Minerals” Practice Area as they become available). But this Stinson Leonard Street blog covers an article about the question of whether the conflict minerals rules are having a real world impact in the DRC. Here’s an excerpt:

Politico has an interesting article about a trip to the DRC in an attempt to answer that question. The author was told “not a single mine was tagging its output so that buyers could identify the mine at which it had originated.” “Tagging is very expensive, . . . We don’t have the partners to pay for it.” Of course, it’s only one person’s perspective.

More on our “Proxy Season Blog”

We continue to post new items regularly on our “Proxy Season Blog” for TheCorporateCounsel.net members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

– Shareholder Proposals: Review of Proxy Voting on ESG Issues
– Proxy Access: Whole Foods Responds to Shareholder Proposal With Own Alternative
– An Interview with Fidelity Worldwide Investments
– Group Presses on Political Spending Disclosures
– 10-K Wrap Design: Five Tips to Do More with Less

– Jeff Werbitt