December 12, 2016

Insider Trading: High Court Says Tipper’s Gift = “Personal Benefit”

Last week, the US Supreme Court officially removed stock tips from this year’s holiday gift list.  In Salman v. United States, the Court unanimously affirmed that a tipper’s gift of inside information can satisfy the “personal benefit” requirement of Dirks v. SEC.  The Court rejected the view of the 2nd Circuit’s 2014 decision in U.S. v. Newman, which required a “tangible benefit” in order to support an insider trading conviction. In his opinion, Justice Alito wrote that:

To the extent the Second Circuit held that the tipper must also receive something of a ‘pecuniary or similarly valuable nature’ in exchange for a gift to family or friends . . . we agree with the Ninth Circuit that this requirement is inconsistent with Dirks.

This Sullivan & Cromwell memo notes that although Salman resolves uncertainties that Newman created about the personal benefit requirement, it leaves many unanswered questions:

Salman removes the uncertainty about insider-trading liability introduced by Newman, reaffirming the long-standing principle that a mere gift of information to “a trading relative or friend” is sufficient to constitute the requisite “personal benefit” to support liability for both the tipper and tippee. Yet Salman left unanswered important questions about the reach of liability, including:

(1) what sort of relationship is sufficient to meet the “relative or friend test”?

(2) where a tippee is not a “friend or relative,” what constitutes an exchange sufficient to constitute a non-pecuniary “personal benefit”? and

(3) what will constitute legally sufficient proof of knowledge of a “personal benefit” by remote, downstream tippees?

We’re posting oodles of memos in our “Insider Trading” Practice Area.

UK: Governance “Green Paper” Kicks Off Reform

In late November, the UK government issued a “Green Paper” soliciting input on a variety of potential governance reforms. Proposals include pay ratio reporting, enhanced say on pay approval requirements, minimum holding periods for stock awards, & various alternatives for board level stakeholder input.

From an American perspective, the most provocative aspect of the proposals may be the decision to solicit input on whether corporate governance standards should be imposed on the UK’s largest privately held companies. The US hasn’t crossed that particular Rubicon yet – and it will be interesting to see the British reaction to it.

Transcript: “This Is It! M&A Nuggets”

We have posted the transcript for our recent webcast: “This Is It! M&A Nuggets.”

John Jenkins