April 21, 2009

Last Chance for Early Bird Rates: “4th Annual Proxy Disclosure Conference” & “6th Annual Executive Compensation Conference”

You need to register by this Friday, April 24th, to obtain the very reasonable Early Bird rates our popular conferences – “Tackling Your 2010 Compensation Disclosures: The 4th Annual Proxy Disclosure Conference” & “6th Annual Executive Compensation Conference” – that will be held in San Francisco on November 9-10th (and via Live Nationwide Video Webcast). Warning: These reasonable rates will NOT be extended beyond this Friday!

We know that many of you are hurting in ways that we all never dreamed of – and going to a Conference is the last thing on your mind. But with huge changes afoot for executive compensation and the related disclosures, we are doing our part to help you address all these critical changes—and avoid costly pitfalls—by offering a “half-off” early bird discount rate for those that attend in San Francisco and nearly half-off for those that attend via the Web (both of the Conferences are bundled together with a single price). Here is the Conference registration form – and here is the agenda.

The Latest TARP Oversight Report: Concerns Over Fraud

As we all know too well, where there is money – there is bound to be fraud. Yesterday, Neil Barofsky, TARP’s Special Inspector General sent a 247-page quarterly report to Congress detailing a long list of concerns about government efforts, including the lack of safeguards in handing out the money. Unlike the Congressional Oversight Panel led by Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, Barofsky’s office is focusing on criminal and civil wrongdoing in addition to more general recommendations and audits.

As this Washington Post article notes, the report states that Treasury Department lawyers have determined that companies participating in a $1 trillion program to relieve banks of toxic assets could be subject to limits on executive compensation (see page 110 of the report), contradicting the Obama Administration’s public position. It will be interesting to see what Treasury Geithner says about the report this morning when he testifies before TARP’s Congressional Oversight Panel (this letter was sent to the Panel ahead of the hearing).

Man, this report was hard to find. Treasury makes a big splash announcing its new “” site – but it doesn’t bother to timely post its own reports. Rather, I found it on the SIGTARP site.

Update: Attorney Liability Under Rule 10b-5

From Keith Bishop: Some may believe that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Central Bank of Denver v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, lawyers may not face liability under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5. While the Supreme Court did hold that a private plaintiff may not maintain an aiding and abetting suit under Section 10(b), it also said “Any person, or entity, including a lawyer, accountant, or bank, who employs a manipulative device or makes a material misstatement (or omission) on which a purchaser or seller of securities relies may be liable as a primary violator under 10b-5, assuming all of the requirements for primary liability under Rule 10b-5 are met.” 511 U.S. at 191. In a decision issued recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates how lawyers may face liability.

In Thompson v. Paul (9th Cir. No. 06-15515, Oct. 27, 2008), the plaintiff entered into a settlement pursuant to which she received stock of an issuer. The plaintiff alleged that she did so based on the false representation that there was no criminal investigation of the issuer’s CEO. These attorneys jointly represented the issuer and CEO but withdrew before the final settlement agreement was signed. After new attorneys were found, the settlement agreement was signed and three days later the CEO was indicted on 29 counts fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and orchestrating a ponzi scheme.

The Ninth Circuit applied federal law to hold that “An attorney who undertakes to make representations to prospective purchasers of securities is under an obligation, imposed by Section 10(b), to tell the truth about those securities. That he or she may have an attorney-client relationship with the seller of the securities is irrelevant under Section 10(b).” While this case seems to be a straightforward application of the Supreme Court’s statement regarding primary liability, it should serve as a warning that a bar card is not a license to misstate facts to the other side – particularly when securities are being purchased and sold.

It should also be noted that the attorneys have not yet been found liable – the Court of Appeals was considering an appeal from the attorneys’ successful motion to dismiss. It remains to be seen whether the plaintiff can prove her allegations. It is also interesting to consider whether attorneys in this situation could be liable if they had simply failed to disclose, rather than affirmatively misrepresented the facts.

– Broc Romanek