April 30, 2018

Mandatory Arbitration: SEC Chair Clayton Still Won’t Be Pinned Down. . .

We’ve previously blogged about legislators’ efforts to pin-down SEC Chair Jay Clayton’s views on whether the agency would permit corporate bylaws compelling investors to arbitrate securities fraud claims.  Last month, Rep. Carolyn Maloney & 25 other Democratic lawmakers became the latest to take a crack at Clayton – asking him to reaffirm that “forced arbitration provisions in the corporate governance documents of public companies harms the public interest and violates the anti-waiver provisions of the federal securities laws.”

That didn’t happen. Instead, last week, she received this letter from the Chair in response. Here’s what he said would be the SEC’s approach if an IPO company sought to include such a provision in its charter:

It is my view that if we are presented with this issue in the context of a registered IPO of a U.S. company, I would expect that any decision would involve Commission action (and not be made through delegated authority) and that the Commission would give the issue full consideration in a measured and deliberative manner. Such a review would take into account various considerations, including developments in applicable law and any other relevant considerations. I have reiterated these views and sought to appropriately frame this issue and my preference for such a process in my public statements.

He added that he had “not formed a definitive view” on whether mandatory arbitration is appropriate in the context of an IPO for a U.S. company, but that the issue is “not a priority” for him. Well, Rep. Maloney, it was a good try. Also see this Kevin LaCroix blog

D&O Insurance: Do You Have What You Need?

Ahead of our upcoming webcast on D&O insurance, this Simpson Thacher memo reviews the key provisions of a D&O policy in order to help companies assess whether they have the coverages that they need. Here’s an excerpt on the complexities of coverage for SEC & other governmental investigations:

Courts continue to uphold D&O insurers’ declination of coverage for investigations by the SEC and other government investigations that do not target a specific director or officer but seek documents and interviews without specifying the alleged wrongdoing that is the focus of the investigation. Such investigations may not constitute a “Claim” under a D&O policy. Thus, there may be no coverage for the costs of complying with subpoenas and other investigative efforts.

Certain D&O policies offer provisions that afford at least some coverage. For example, policies will provide “Pre-Claim” coverage or “Noticed Investigations” coverage. Essentially, if an investigation does not constitute a Claim but later develops into a Claim, coverage will relate back to the point at which the investigation began, subject to certain limitations. Thus, the policyholder can keep track of its costs in connection with an investigation and if it turns into a Claim, those costs may be covered.

Some D&O policies provide coverage for complying with SEC subpoenas and other similar investigations, e.g., in the form of “Inquiry Coverage,” which may reimburse the insured for certain costs associated with preparing and accompanying directors, officers or other covered individuals who are called in for an interview by a government agency pursuing an investigation.

Legal Proceedings Disclosure:  What If You’re the Plaintiff?

Most securities lawyers are accustomed to thinking about disclosure of legal proceedings from the perspective of a defendant.  This “SEC Institute” blog “flips the script” by discussing how ASC 450 & Item 103 of S-K apply when you’re a plaintiff in a lawsuit. This excerpt reviews Item 103’s requirements:

The language “material pending legal proceedings” does not limit the disclosure to just defendant actions. And, to reinforce this conclusion, the SEC has issued the following Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation:

Section 205. Item 103 — Legal Proceedings

205.01 The bank subsidiary of a one bank holding company initiates a lawsuit to collect a debt that exceeds 10% of the current assets of the bank and its holding company parent. Due to the unusual size of the debt, Item 103 requires disclosure of the lawsuit, even though the collection of debts is a normal incident of the bank’s business. [July 3, 2008]

This CDI also illustrates the application of the 10% disclosure threshold and an interesting interpretation about normal course of business issues. And, it clearly shows that Legal Proceedings disclosure should include material lawsuits in which the company is a plaintiff as well as a defendant.

John Jenkins