April 26, 2021

New Russia Sanctions May Prompt “Iran Notice” Disclosure

On March 2, 2021, the Secretary of State designated various entities affiliated with Russia’s government, including the FSB, as parties subject to Executive Order 13382 for “having engaged, or attempted to engage, in activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a risk of materially contributing to, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”  This designation was prompted by the poisoning of dissident Alexander Navalny, and may result in some public companies that do business in Russia being required to provide the disclosure and accompanying “Iran Notice” filing contemplated by Section 13(r) of the Exchange Act.

This Bryan Cave blog reviews the scope & implications of the new sanctions designations, including the potential disclosure obligations for public companies with business in Russia:

Importantly, the additional sanctions designations pursuant to EO 13382 may trigger reporting to the SEC pursuant to Section 13(r)(1)(D) of the ’34 Act. Although Section 13(r)(1) of the ’34 Act is typically associated with the sanctions against Iran, some of the reporting triggers are broader than just transactions involving Iran. Among the broader triggers are any transactions or dealings knowingly conducted with “any person the property and interests in property of which are blocked pursuant to Executive Order No. 13382.”

Based on this, parties that engage in transactions with any of the parties now blocked pursuant to EO 13382 in connection with the Navalny poisoning must be cognizant of these reporting requirements if the party is an issuer or the affiliate of an issuer required to report on a periodic basis to the SEC.

There are a number of Russian entities subject to the sanctions, but the big kahuna is the FSB.  As this Hogan Lovells memo notes, the FSB plays a prominent role in licensing the importation of IT and other encryption products into Russia. Notification to or approval by the FSB may be necessary for a variety of technology products, including “laptops and smartphones, connected cars, medical devices, software, or any other items that make use of ordinary commercial encryption.” 

OFAC updated General License No. 1B to confirm United States persons may continue to interact with the FSB for purposes of qualifying their products for importation and distribution in Russia, but that license doesn’t include an exemption from providing the disclosure required by Section 13(r) of the Exchange Act or from filing the accompanying Iran Notice with any annual or quarterly report.

10b5-1 Plans: CII Calls for Mandatory Disclosure in Form 4s & 5s

One of the items included in the batch of Rule 144 amendments that the SEC proposed last December was a provision that would add a check box to Forms 4 and 5 to provide filers the option of disclosing that their sales or purchases were made pursuant to a Rule 10b5-1 plan. Last month, the CII submitted a comment letter on the proposal calling for that disclosure to be made mandatory. Here’s an excerpt:

We, however, would respectfully request that this provision be revised to require: (1) “Form 4 and Form 5 to indicate via a check box whether their reported transactions were made pursuant to Rule 10b5-1(c) rather than provide it as an option for the filer[;]” and (2) disclosure of the adoption date of the respective Rule 10b5-1 plan on the forms.

Our requested revision is consistent with our long-standing belief that providing greater transparency of Rule 10b5-1 transactions would provide useful information to investors and other market participants.

Don’t be surprised if this recommendation gets some traction. The CII’s comments come on the heels of other recent calls for more transparency about 10b5-1 plans – as well as proposed legislation passed by the House of Representatives last week that would direct the SEC to “study and report on possible revisions to limit the ability of issuers of securities and issuer insiders to adopt Rule 10b5-1 trading plans.”

Hertz: Who’s the Sucker Now?

Last summer I made fun of the “suckers” who were buying Hertz common stock while the company was in bankruptcy and after it disclosed that it would take a miracle for equity holders to realize any recovery.  Well guess what? The bankruptcy process launched a bidding war, and now the equity’s in the money. Here’s an excerpt from this WSJ story on the deal:

Hertz proposed in a chapter 11 exit plan on Wednesday that current stockholders receive warrants to purchase up to 4% of the restructured business, the first time the company has said it is worth enough to distribute some value to its owners. The shareholder distribution would amount to a recovery of 60 to 70 cents per share, a “material return to equity,” Hertz lawyer Thomas Lauria said during a court hearing Wednesday.

If approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., that outcome would make Hertz a relative rarity in corporate bankruptcies, in which equity ranks behind debt and most often is wiped out.

In my defense, Hertz stock was trading at over $5 per share last June, so it was a sucker bet at that price – although this deal could still be topped, and there might even be more money on the table for the stockholders.

John Jenkins