September 30, 2019

Wow! Corp Fin “Realigns” (But It’s More Than That)!

Wow! All that is new is “old” again! When I first joined Corp Fin in 1988, there were a half dozen or so “pods” – each with two branches – that were devoted to specific industries. Each pod was headed by an Assistant Director, which was a difficult job to obtain because a slot only opened when someone retired (back then, it was quite rare for an AD to leave the SEC before retirement). Over time, the Division’s “groups” (as they were eventually renamed from “pods”) grew and the number of them nearly doubled. Now, with this Corp Fin announcement on Friday, we’re going back to the way we were.

Here’s some things to note:

1. Cutting the Number of Groups Nearly in Half – Corp Fin is realigning some of industry groups and reducing them in number from 11 to 7. The groups are now called “Offices” – led by a “Chief” and a “Senior Advisor.”

2. Improving (& Streamlining) the Review Process – Led by an “Office of Assessment & Continuous Improvement,” the teams within Corp Fin that will review filings look to be leaner under this new realigned group structure. There have been fewer comments issued in recent years by the Staff as companies have gotten better observing comment trends and adjusting their disclosures according (not to mention the sheer number of public companies has shrunk a whole lot). Corp Fin will continue to focus on improving the comment process in an effort to be more relevant, timely & consistent.

3. Focus on “Hot” Comment Areas – Led by an “Office of Risk & Strategy,” Corp Fin will focus on emerging issues in their comments – think Libor, cybersecurity and Brexit as recent examples. This Office will review filings for good (or bad) examples of disclosure and then share those internally. It’s something the Staff has already been doing – but it’s now formalizing that function.

4. What Group Is Your Company In? – These seven new groups took effect yesterday – so you can find your new industry group by looking on Edgar for your filing history and noting what “Office” is listed. For example, you’ll see in the 4th line down that Microsoft belongs in the “Office of Technology” group. In many cases, your company’s group will be the same. And if you have a filing that is being actively reviewed right now, the Staffers reviewing your filing aren’t going to change – even if the Office that your company belongs in has changed.

Corp Fin has pulled down its org chart – at least for now. We just deleted our own more comprehensive Corp Fin org chart. I’ve maintained it for 17 years but it’s become too hard to keep up. That was a harder task than you would think – very few people even within Corp Fin know the identities of all the middle managers, etc. A constant game of “Where’s Waldo”…

SEC Proposes to Modernize the OTC Market

Last Thursday, the SEC proposed to modernize the over-the-counter market (OTC) by proposing changes to Rule 15c2-11, which sets out certain requirements with which a broker-dealer must comply before it can publish quotations for securities in the OTC market. Here’s the 228-page proposing release.

Moody’s “Governance” Framework for Credit Ratings

Recently, I blogged how Moody’s was getting into the governance ratings business – but as I noted in that blog, Moody’s has scored governance for quite some time for their credit ratings business. Recently, Moody’s issued a framework to help understand key aspects of governance that are incorporated into all Moody’s credit ratings and analysis, including two taxonomies: a private taxonomy, which applies to non-financial corporates, financial institutions, infrastructure, structured finance and certain competitive government-owned enterprises; and a public taxonomy, which applies to sovereign, sub-sovereign and municipal issuers…

Broc Romanek