Monthly Archives: April 2020

April 2, 2020

Securities Offerings Amid Closed Trading Window: Disclosure Considerations

With ongoing economic uncertainty, many companies are thinking about and taking steps to address liquidity and capital resources.   John blogged last week about Corp Fin’s Covid-19 disclosure guidance and this Davis Polk memo takes a look at factors public companies and their underwriters should consider when thinking about a possible securities offering during a blackout period.  Self-imposed blackout periods are in place at many companies due to the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic and insider knowledge of potential impacts to a company.  Care must always be taken when thinking about disclosures with a securities offering but in light of current circumstances, disclosure considerations are heightened now.

As noted in the memo, there is no legal prohibition on the sale of securities during a blackout period, but it can be tricky.  Even with a blackout period in place, for companies thinking about a securities offering, the memo says it’s possible to do so when:

– management has enough information about the current (or recently ended) quarter to predict with a fair degree of confidence what the company’s reported results are likely to be

– management has a good track record judging its anticipated results at similar points in the information-gathering and reporting cycle

– management’s expectations for the quarter, and future periods, are either (i) at least in line with “the market’s” expectations as well as with management’s own previously announced guidance (if any) – or (ii) if management’s expectations are not so in line, the company and its underwriters conclude that the deviation is not material or the company is willing to “pre-release” its current expectations prior to the earnings release. In certain circumstances, such as those relating to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, management may not be able to predict the company’s results beyond the current quarter, with a high degree of confidence. In those scenarios, a company may decide to withdraw previously issued guidance and not issue new guidance. Nevertheless, withdrawing guidance is not a substitute for disclosure of underlying trends and uncertainties that could affect financial and operational performance

– management’s analysis of the going-forward impact on the company’s business of COVID-19 is sufficiently developed that disclosure can be made at the time of the offering that will be in line with what is disclosed when the 10-K, 20-F, 10-Q, 6-K or other filing is made

The memo provides tips on what to say if management’s expectations aren’t in line with market expectations and considerations for updating risks, trends and uncertainties, selective disclosure issues, reputational and legal risks.

Section 16: Temporary Relief from Form ID Notarization Requirement

Here’s something that Alan Dye blogged last week on his “ Blog“:

The SEC adopted a temporary rule yesterday that should make it easier for compliance personnel to obtain EDGAR codes for new directors and Section 16 officers during the covid-19 pandemic. The rule allows filers to obtain codes by submitting a manually signed authenticating document, without the notarization required by Rule 10(b) of Regulation S-T, so long as the submitted document includes a notation that the filer was unable to obtain the required notarization due to circumstances relating to COVID-19. A filer who receives EDGAR codes under the temporary rule must obtain a notarized, manually signed copy of the Form ID and submit a PDF copy as correspondence, vie EDGAR, within 90 days of receiving the codes. The relief is available through July 1, 2020.

See yesterday’s blog regarding the “manual signature” requirement.

Our April Eminders is Posted!

We have posted the April issue of our complimentary monthly email newsletter. Sign up today to receive it by simply entering your email address!

– Lynn Jokela

April 1, 2020

Corp Fin Issues 2 New Delayed Filing CDIs

Yesterday, Corp Fin issued 2 new CDIs addressing the interplay of Form 12b-25 and Corp Fin’s modified Covid-19 exemptive order that it issued last week providing SEC filing relief for companies affected by the Covid-19 crisis.  Here they are:

Question 135.12

Question: A registrant expects that due to COVID-19 it will be unable to file a report of the type covered by Rule 12b-5 on timely basis without incurring an unreasonable effort or expense. It is uncertain as to its ability to file the required report within the applicable 12b-25(b)(2)(ii) period. Should the registrant instead furnish a report on Form 8-K or 6-K, as applicable, relying on the COVID-19 Order (Release No. 34-88465 (March 25, 2020))?

Answer: As a condition to its use, the COVID-19 Order requires, among other things, that the registrant furnish certain specified statements by the later of March 16, 2020 or the original due date of the required report. If the registrant only files a Form 12b-25 by the original due date of the required report, it will have not met the condition of the COVID-19 Order to provide the statements called for by the original filing deadline on a furnished Form 8-K or Form 6-K. Unless this condition is met, the 45 day relief period provided in COVID-19 Order will not be available. Registrants unable to rely on the COVID-19 Order are encouraged to contact the staff to discuss collateral consequences of late filings. [March 31, 2020]

Question 135.13

Question: Can a registrant that filed a Form 12b-25 subsequently rely on the COVID-19 Order (Release No. 34-88465 (March 25, 2020)), to extend the filing deadline for the subject report?

Answer: The COVID-19 Order is conditioned on a registrant having furnished a Form 8-K or Form 6-K by the later of March 16, 2020 or the original due date of the report. A Form 12b-25 filing does not extend the original due date of a report. Therefore, unless a registrant that filed a Form 12b-25 also furnished a Form 8-K or Form 6-K by March 16, 2020 or the original due date of the report, it would not be able to rely on the COVID-19 Order.

On the other hand, a registrant that relies on the COVID Order for a report will be considered to have a due date 45 days after the original filing deadline for the report. As such, the registrant would be permitted to subsequently rely on Rule 12b-25 if it is unable to file the report on or before the extended due date. Registrants unable to rely on the COVID-19 Order are encouraged to contact the staff to discuss collateral consequences of late filings. [March 31, 2020]

Heightened Insider Trading Risk

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there is heightened risk for insider trading as more people might have access to material non-public information (MNPI).  We’ve blogged before about the need to maintain confidentiality of MNPI and with nearly everyone working remotely, this seems especially important now.  The SEC has made clear that it’s focused on securities fraud during the current crisis.  Last week, the Co-Directors of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement issued a statement about the impact of Covid-19 on market integrity.  Here’s an excerpt:

In these dynamic circumstances, corporate insiders are regularly learning new material nonpublic information that may hold an even greater value than under normal circumstances. This may particularly be the case if earnings reports or required SEC disclosure filings are delayed due to COVID-19. Given these unique circumstances, a greater number of people may have access to material nonpublic information than in less challenging times. Those with such access – including, for example, directors, officers, employees, and consultants and other outside professionals – should be mindful of their obligations to keep this information confidential and to comply with the prohibitions on illegal securities trading.

In this interview transcript on CNBC, SEC Chairman Clayton reiterated this message saying “anyone who is privy to private information about a company or about markets needs to be cautious about how they use that private information. That’s sort of fundamental to our securities laws and that applies to government employees, public officials, etc.  And the STOCK Act codifies that.”

These recent statements come on the heels of reports about Congressional trades right before the market downturn, which are now reportedly being investigated by the DOJ and SEC.  But if companies haven’t already done so, now would be a good time to review who has access to inside information and compliance procedures to see whether extra steps are necessary to minimize insider trading risk.

Transcript: “The Coronavirus: What Should Your Company Do Now?”

We have posted the transcript from our recent webcast: “The Coronavirus: What Should Your Company Do Now?”

Lynn Jokela