August 18, 2020

Schedule 13F Proposal: Retail Comments Comin’ in HOT!

Last month, the SEC issued a rule proposal that would increase the reporting threshold for Schedule 13F filings from $100 million to $3.5 billion – and oh boy, do the commenters hate it! Here’s a comment that, while fiery, is also pretty representative:

This is complete bull. You are supposed to be protecting investors, not making it easier for billion dollar hedge funds to manipulate markets. This proposal is a terrible idea and runs directly counter to the principles upon which the SEC was founded. What is the SEC thinking? This reeks of corruption.

So far, it’s mostly been retail investors who have weighed-in – and I mean a lot of retail investors. (According to a piece in the NYT DealBook yesterday, more than 1,500 people have commented to date). Apparently, some outreach to Reddit users may help explain the volume of comments. The big guns may soon fire as well. NIRI is circulating a joint comment letter for public company issuers to sign (it’s available here), and other investor and business groups and public companies are expected to comment as the deadline approaches.

Supply Chains: SEC Reporting on China Forced Labor on the Horizon?

Companies with supply chains in China should be prepared to comply with enhanced due diligence & reporting requirements. That’s the conclusion of this Foley Hoag blog, which surveys recent legislative initiatives aimed at Chinese companies’ use of forced labor from Xinjiang and other regions of the country. One pending piece of legislation could even result in an SEC reporting requirement:

A measure with more serious potential repercussions for companies is H.R. 6210, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. H.R. 6210 lists all companies found by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China to be suspected of using the forced labor of ethnic minorities in China. Most of the companies on the list are in the processed food and apparel industries. More importantly, the measure establishes a rebuttable presumption that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor; accordingly, such goods are banned under the Tariff Act of 1930 unless the Customs Border and Protection Commissioner certifies otherwise.

The bill would also impose sanctions and visa restrictions on individuals and senior Chinese officials determined to be complicit in forced labor in Xinjiang. Additionally, H.R. 6210 requires companies to certify annually to the Securities and Exchange Commission that their products do not contain forced labor inputs from Xinjiang.

The prospects for the legislation’s passage are uncertain, but the Chinese government is taking it seriously enough to have imposed sanctions on one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, for which he and another co-sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), serve as co-chairs.

EDGAR Problems: Now It’s Personal. . .

The technical problems plaguing the EDGAR system this summer became a full-blown crisis last night – and by that I mean they directly affected me for the first time. (We priced a debt deal last night & it took a couple of hours to get the term sheet filed.) I guess the problems have been so persistent that last week, the SEC decided that it needed to post a bit of an explanation:

The SEC staff has been deploying significant technical upgrades to the EDGAR system. While these upgrades follow extensive planning and testing, unexpected performance issues that have arisen have inconvenienced filers. We apologize for these difficulties and wish to assure filers that we are working diligently to resolve the issues.

The statement goes on to say that should you experience problems or have any questions or concerns, you may contact Filer Support at (202) 551-8900, option 3, or I sometimes think it might be interesting to work for the SEC, but I’ll tell you what – I definitely wouldn’t want to be the poor soul you get connected to if you hit “option 3.”

John Jenkins