December 19, 2014

JOBS Act: SEC Proposes ’34 Act Registration Requirements

On Wednesday, the SEC proposed a number of JOBS Act changes to the thresholds for registration, termination of registration & suspension of ’34 Act reporting including (here’s an overview in this blog):

1. Amending Rules 12g-1 through 4 and 12h-3 which govern the procedures relating to registration, termination of registration under Section 12(g), and suspension of reporting obligations under Section 15(d) to reflect the new thresholds established by the JOBS Act
2. Revising the rules so that savings & loan holding companies are treated in a similar manner to banks and bank holding companies for the purposes of registration, termination of registration, or suspension of their Exchange Act reporting obligations
3. Applying the definition of “accredited investor” in Securities Act Rule 501(a) to determinations as to which record holders are accredited investors for purposes of Exchange Act Section 12(g)(1). The accredited investor determination would be made as of the last day of the fiscal year.
4. Amending the definition of “held of record” to provide that when determining whether an issuer is required to register a class of equity securities with the Commission under the Exchange Act Section 12(g)(1), an issuer may exclude securities:
– Held by persons who received them under an employee compensation plan in transactions exempt from the registration requirements of Section 5 of the Securities Act or that did not involve a sale within the meaning of Section 2(a)(3) of the Securities Act
– In certain circumstances, held by persons who received them in exchange for securities received under an employee compensation plan
5. Creating a non-exclusive safe harbor under which a person will be deemed to have received the securities under an employee compensation plan if the person received them under a compensatory benefit plan in transactions that met the conditions of Securities Act Rule 701(c).

The SEC’s press release from yesterday says that the Commission “voted yesterday” to approve this proposal. Since there wasn’t an open Commission meeting on Wednesday, these proposals were approved in seriatim. As noted in this blog, there’s nothing wrong with that as rules get approved or proposed in this manner on occasion, particularly in December. And the press releases issued by the SEC typically don’t state that action has been taken in seriatim – since it doesn’t really matter for our purposes…

Pay Ratio Proposal: 7,196 Hours in the Making

Here’s an article from the WSJ:

How long does it take the Securities and Exchange Commission to develop a controversial rule forcing most companies to disclose the pay gap between CEOs and rank-and-file employees?

About 7,196 hours.

That’s how long staff of the agency have spent since 2011 on a proposal requiring companies disclose median worker pay and compare it with CEO compensation, according to SEC Chairman Mary Jo White. The figure translates to about $1.1 million in labor costs, Ms. White told House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) in a December 11 letter released Wednesday morning. The letter stresses the figures are rough estimates and doesn’t say the number of staff involved.

A requirement of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, the rule wasn’t formally floated until September of last year and the five-member agency must vote on it a second time before it can go into effect. The commission is currently reviewing the more than 128,000 comments it has received on the proposal – many of them form letters – and Ms. White has said her goal is to complete the rule by the end of 2014. With the agency almost certain to miss that target, Mr. Hensarling and two other lawmakers urged Ms. White to delay finishing the measure, arguing in a letter last month that they are concerned the agency is “misallocating limited resources to non-essential projects.” Ms. White denied that concern in her letter last week. “The time spent by the staff on the pay ratio rulemaking does not mean that we have diminished our focus on fulfilling our rulemaking or other obligations,” she wrote. “Completion of all the commission’s mandated rulemakings continues to be a priority for me.”

Congressional Democrats continue to press the agency to finish the rule soon. Fifteen U.S. Senate Democrats, led by New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, wrote to Ms. White Tuesday asking for her to call a final vote on the rule before the end of the first quarter of 2015. “While some opponents may prefer not to disclose this information, Congress already enacted and the President already signed the requirement into law more than four years ago,” the senators wrote. “All that remains is for the implementing rules to be finalized, as the statute requires.”

NASAA Unveils Online Filing System for State Form D Filings

Here’s an excerpt from this blog by David Jenson:

On December 15, 2014, the North American Securities Administrators Association, Inc. (NASAA) unveiled its Electronic Filing Depository (EFD) for use in connection with state Form D filings in Rule 506 offerings. The NASAA has been pursuing initiatives to streamline the state blue sky filing process for some time. In July of 2014, we reported on the NASAA’s proposed model rules that could be enacted by states to require electronic filings in connection with Rule 506 offerings. The EFD system dovetails with that initiative. While the availability of the EFD is an interesting and welcome development, there are a few important limitations to note.

– Broc Romanek