April 3, 2012

The New ISS Feedback Review Board

ISS recently announced a new “feedback review board,” which is designed to be used by investors, issuers, and other interested parties who wish to communicate with ISS about its research, policies and recommendations. The feedback review board is a web-based form where “market constituents” can submit comments “regarding accuracy of research, accuracy of data, policy application and general fairness of ISS policies, research and recommendations.” This can also be a place to notify ISS about factual inaccuracies in its data or research. ISS says that it may not respond to every submission through this review board. The review board is not supposed to supplant regular channels for communicating with ISS, and it isn’t a forum for seeking answers to policy questions or interpretations or lobbying for favorable vote recommendations. It is unclear whether this will be something that issuers would really be inclined to utilize, particularly given that larger issuers usually get a chance to correct factual inaccuracies in ISS reports prior to issuance. In any event, it certainly seems like it may at least open up another avenue to vent.

More JOBS Act Fun Facts

With the signing of the JOBS Act scheduled for this Thursday, it seems like a good time to highlight some of the more promising aspects of the Act. Title IV of the Act could ultimately turn out to be one of the unsung heroes of the legislation in terms of the impact on capital formation, depending on how it gets implemented by the SEC. This portion of the JOBS Act creates a whole new exemption under Section 3(b) of the Securities Act, under which an issuer will be able to offer and sell up to $50 million in securities within a 12-month period in reliance on the exemption. The issuer can offer equity securities, debt securities, and debt securities convertible or exchangeable for equity interests (including any guarantees of such securities), and the securities sold under this exemption will be offered and sold publicly (without restrictions on the use of general solicitation or general advertising) and will not be deemed “restricted securities.” The issuer may also “test the waters” with respect to the offering prior to filing any offering statement with the SEC, subject to any additional conditions or requirements that may be imposed by the SEC. The securities will be considered “covered securities” for NSMIA purposes and not subject to state securities review if offered and sold on a national securities exchange, or the securities are offered or sold to a “qualified purchaser.”

We affectionately dubbed the legislative initiatives which served as precursors to Title IV “Regulation A+” in the May-June 2011 issue of The Corporate Counsel, noting how the new Section 3(b) exemption being contemplated was an improved version of the much-maligned and rarely used Regulation A. The reason that this new provision is relatively exciting is that it could potentially open the door again to what are effectively smaller initial public offerings up to $50 million, which we rarely see today (rather, IPOs are more often in the $100 million to $200 million range in terms of amounts raised). Much will depend on how the SEC decides to implement the exemption, as it does have strings attached like submitting an offering statement to the SEC and distributing the offering statement to investors, as well as providing periodic disclosures after the offering is completed. This provision, unlike many of the other parts of the JOBS Act, doesn’t specify any deadline for rulemaking, which unfortunately may mean that it gets back-burnered while the SEC attends to more pressing rulemakings with short deadlines.

Board Portal Developments

In this podcast, Andrew Moore of Computershare Governance Services discusses the latest developments in board portals, including:

– What are you seeing companies doing in the area of board communications? What are the major trends?
– How is Computershare’s BoardWorks different than other board portals?
– What is driving directors and companies to look to this type of solution? Are there legal and compliance issues that online services like this can address?

-Dave Lynn