Here’s an excerpt from this blog by Akin Gump’s Francine Friedman:
Yesterday, a coalition of 44 service and retail industry trade associations sent a letter to congressional leadership, urging the House and Senate to adopt a single data breach notification standard at the federal level. The letter, addressed to the Majority and Minority Leaders of each chamber, states that “a single, federal law applying to all breached entities would ensure clear, concise and consistent notices to all affected consumers regardless of where they live or where the breach occurs.”
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce has sent this letter to the SEC seeking to work with the agency’s cybersecurity working group…
Latest CPA-Zicklin Index: More Political Disclosures Being Made
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s new chief accountant said Thursday he hopes to make a recommendation in the next few months on whether the SEC should move toward switching U.S. companies to using global accounting rules. In his first public comments since taking over as chief accountant a month ago, James Schnurr didn’t tip his hand over whether he favors a U.S. move toward the global rules, known as International Financial Reporting Standards, or IFRS. But “I would hope that within the next few months there would be movement on this,” Mr. Schnurr said on a panel at a Practising Law Institute securities-regulation conference in New York.
Meanwhile, check out this speech by PCAOB Board Member Jay Hanson entitled “The PCAOB and Audit Committees – Common Goals”…
Haven’t done this before. Deciding to scrap a blog of substance for this more personal one. At age 64, Stevie Wonder put on a mesmerizing show last night in DC, touring on his “Songs in the Key of Life” album forty years after its creation. This review of his stop in Madison Square Garden calls the show “emotional” and that nails it on the head. Stevie laughed. He cried. And he must have told the audience “I love you” at least a dozen times. His voice – and amazing skills on at least a dozen instruments – remain as strong as ever. So he didn’t need the 40-piece band and 6 back-up singers. But he used them.
But the best part was when he spoke truth about the world and urged us to simply love each other. So I will pass that on and say “I love you” to my faithful readers. Thank you for reading and spread the joy of love, which is the gift of life. Here’s Stevie with India.Arie:
On the heels of posting my blog yesterday that I had found the ’15 policy updates for Glass Lewis, ISS released their ’15 policy updates for 2015. Here’s a blog by Steve Quinlivan – I will be posting memos regarding both these developments in our “Proxy Advisors” Practice Area. And a “Proxy Advisors Handbook” is coming soon…
Dodd-Frank: Republican Senate Takeover Could Bring Changes
Many are asking what the GOP’s takeover of the Senate might mean for the SEC’s pay ratio proposal, among others. It’s too soon to tell – but it’s a good bet that Chair White’s “hope & expectation” to adopt the pay ratio rules by the end of this year might not happen. But you never know. Anyways, this memo from Greenberg Traurig lays out a bunch of possibilities about how Dodd-Frank could change, including an observation that 60 votes in the Senate is needed to pass changes to Dodd-Frank (meaning that some Democratic Senators must cross party lines) and musings about who is now likely to chair the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the SEC (Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) – again!)…
Without much fanfare – or maybe I accidentally found them? – Glass Lewis has posted its “Guidelines for the 2015 Proxy Season,” which includes a summary of the changes to its policies for the upcoming proxy season on pages 1-3. I haven’t seen anyone else mention this development – including silence on the Glass Lewis Blog – but when I get some commentary, I’ll let you know…
SEC Brings 10 Enforcement Actions for Failing to File “Stock Dilution” 8-Ks
Yesterday, the SEC announced enforcement actions against 10 companies for failing to file Form 8-Ks about financing deals and unregistered sales that diluted their stock. Companies are required to file a 8-K when stock is sold in transactions that are not registered and constitute at least 5% of their outstanding stock. Companies also must file a 8-K when they’ve entered into a financing agreement not made in the ordinary course of business. Each of the 10 companies failed to make the required 8-K disclosure – and 3 additionally failed to use accurate numbers when later reporting the dilution in 10-Qs/10-Ks. All of the companies settled the SEC’s charges, each paying $25-50k for a total of $350k in penalties among the group.
– Item 1.01 of Form 8-K, a registrant must disclose within four business days its entry into a material definitive agreement.
– Item 3.02 of Form 8-K, a smaller reporting company must disclose within four business days the unregistered sales of equity securities unless they constitute less than 5% of the number of last reported shares outstanding of the class of equity securities sold.
– Form 10-Q or 10-K, issuers must disclose the number of outstanding shares of their common stock as of the latest practicable date, and the information must be true, correct, and complete.
Here’s an excerpt from this blog by Steve Quinlivan: “The majority of the charged issuers appeared to be sitting ducks, with the increases reportedly being between 95% and 35,000%, with others at 7%, 15%, 25% and 50%. Seven percent may be a “broken window” but it seems hard to take that position with some of the others. It is also interesting no one was charged for disclosure controls and procedure violations and no individuals were charged.”
Proxy Access: Many Shareholder Proposals Coming!
Did you see this NY Times article that notes that 75 companies will be receiving shareholder proposals seeking proxy access from a group of institutions led by the New York City pension funds? Wow! Here’s the NY Comptroller’s press release, a list of the companies receiving the proposals – and a sample proposal. The initiative is called the “Boardroom Accountability Project.”
Also, as noted in this blog by Davis Polk’s Ning Chiu, the CFA Institute recently came out with a study that is being cited in shareholder proposals that proxy access has the potential to raise U.S. market capitalization by between $3-$140 billion. As Ning notes, by examining 16 companies that have adopted proxy access globally, including 4 US companies, the study concludes that slightly more than half of the companies experienced positive one-day returns following proxy access, 63% had positive returns in the year following the adoption, and around 71% outperformed their industries. Some of the other studies analyzed demonstrated negative outcomes – and a few were not included due to what the study deemed to be faulty methodology.
By the way, there’s a free lunch event on Monday, November 17th co-sponsored by the CFA Institute at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC to go over the study. Here’s the agenda – and here’s the registration page.
On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Omnicare v. The Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, No. 13-435, to decide the standard of liability for statements of opinion. Is it enough for a plaintiff to show that a statement of opinion was incorrect or lacked a reasonable basis? Or should a plaintiff also be required to show that the opinion was subjectively false? Liability under that standard would turn on whether the speaker sincerely believed the opinion or not. This MoFo memo covers what was argued in the briefs filed – as well as summarizes what transpired during oral argument. And here’s the analysis from the SCOTUS Blog that the court is likely to affirm – and analysis from Lane Powell’s Claire Loebs Davis…
Securities Class Actions: Gutting the Loss Causation Requirement
As noted in this Akin Gump blog by Michelle Reed, “securities class action plaintiffs generally consider the conservative 5th Circuit to be shark infested waters for pursuing federal securities claims, with very rigorous pleading and proof standards imposed with exactness. After a ruling in Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. Amedisys, Inc. (5th Cir. Oct. 2, 2014), plaintiffs may consider the waters slightly less dangerous. In Amedisys, the Court held that a series of five partial disclosures spanning two years may be considered together to plead loss causation.” Read the blog for more…
Also see this Reuters article which notes that US District Judge Jed Rakoff has warned of the SEC’s growing use of administrative proceedings to handle securities fraud cases poses “dangers” to the impartial development of the law.
SEC Sanctions Auditor & Requires Lead Partner Rotation
As noted in this blog by Brooks Pierce’s David Smyth, the SEC’s recent administrative action against an independent auditor should give pause to smaller companies. The SEC required the auditor to rotate its lead partners on its engagements with clients…
This CFO.com blog entitled “The Split Over Convergence” covers how the FASB and IASB backed away from the goal of a single global accounting language…
With cyberattacks now prevalent, companies are seeking to institute whatever additional preventative measures and protections are reasonably available to mitigate their risks. In this podcast, Brian Finch of Pillsbury discusses how companies can use the Dept. of Homeland Security’s SAFETY Act to limit or eliminate claims after a cyberattack, including:
– What is the SAFETY Act generally?
– What kinds of entities are eligible for coverage?
– What are the protections afforded by the Act, and how does a company access them following a cyber breach?
– What kinds of cyber incidents are covered?
– What does it take to apply or get certified under the Act?
– How does the SAFETY Act differ from insurance?
– Is there anything else like the SAFETY Act available today?
Directors & Officers: Mitigating Impacts of Cyber Attacks
In this article, Pillsbury identifies five cyber security “truths” and related recommendations that will assist directors and officers in mitigating the risks and damage associated with a cyberattack, including:
Preparing now for inevitable litigation following a breach
Actively and regularly focusing on cybersecurity risk management
Cyberattack preparedness necessarily includes education and training at multiple levels. So it’s interesting to note that, in contrast to the predominantly high-level US approach, the UK has developed a comprehensive package of cyber security action steps and resources – including online training, education and guidance – aimed at businesses of all sizes to help bolster its reputation as one of the safest places world-wide to do business online. Among other things, it just launched a new free online training course for lawyers and accountants (for the benefit of themselves and their clients) on cyber security – and cyberattack preparedness and mitigation – as part of its national cyber security program.
See also this new Advisen white paper, which includes an easy-to-follow roadmap on how to optimally prepare for a data breach.
Webcast: “Reg D Offerings: What Is Happening Now”
Tune in tomorrow for the webcast – “Reg D Offerings: What Is Happening Now” – during which McCarter & English’s Joe Bartlett, Cohen Gresser’s Bonnie Roe and Davis Wright’s Joe Wallin will provide a “bring-down” of what’s happening now in the Reg D area, including what are the open issues and how are practitioners handling them – as well as provide practical guidance about what you should be doing in this area.
Did you know that filings on the SEC’s EDGAR database used to be available to the general public only after a 24-48 hour delay (unless they paid a premium service to get them sooner)? Old-timers will remember that piece of trivia (the poll below asks you to guess when filings became available to the general public in real-time).
As crazy as that is, it appears that some remnants of favoring those that pay for EDGAR access might still be alive and well. According to this study by three professors, paying subscribers gain access to filings on EDGAR by an average of 10 seconds. Hints of the flap over high frequency trading! Here’s a Bloomberg article – and here’s the study summary from the authors:
We use a large recent sample of Form 4 insider trading filings to provide evidence on the process through which SEC filings are disseminated via EDGAR. We find that while the delay from a filing’s acceptance by EDGAR to its initial public availability on the SEC website is relatively short, with a mean (median) posting time of 40 (36) seconds, in the majority of cases the filing is available to Tier 1 subscribers before its availability on the public SEC site. We further show that prices, volumes, and spreads respond to the filing news beginning around 30 seconds before public posting, consistent with some market participants taking advantage of the posting delay. These results raise questions about whether the SEC dissemination process is really a level playing field for all investors.
Poll: When Did EDGAR Filings Become Available in Real-Time?
This poll asks you to guess when EDGAR filings became available to the general public in real-time:
Disclosure Effectiveness: SEC Awards Contract to Modernize EDGAR
Recently, the SEC acted on this RFP to modernize Edgar, a massive undertaking which is an important component of the disclosure effectiveness project. Fulcrum IT was awarded this contract, although I’m not certain if that is for the entire reform (as I can’t find any press release/article written about it – and this contract is worth $5 million; entire modernization estimated to cost $16 mil). The SEC is looking to effectively replace EDGAR by reducing its complexity and reduce costs both to the agency and filers – including a reduction in the number of form types and acceptable data formats.
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