In monitoring SEC comment letters, we came across this SEC comment letter made public last week. It serves a reminder to registrants about their loss contingency disclosures, particularly those involving a “reasonably possible” loss per ASC 450. In the letter the SEC staff comments, “In regards to this [disclosed litigation] matter as well as any additional matters for which you believe it is at least reasonably possible that a material loss has been incurred but are unable to estimate the amount of loss, please supplementally tell us (a) the procedures you undertake on a quarterly basis to attempt to develop a range of reasonably possible loss for disclosure and (b) the specific factors that are causing your inability to estimate and when you expect those factors to be alleviated for each matter.”
Recently, I provided guidance and insight on how the SEC is using technology to make structured financial data more widely available and efficient to users. In two articles featured in the Technology and SEC Disclosure newsletter, I discussed EDGAR upgrades and the use of hyperlinks in company filings. As mentioned in the newsletter, “I do think the use of additional hyperlinking should be explored further. There is a great deal of information that could be hyperlinked in a particular filing, whether or not it’s a Securities Act registration statement that’s incorporating Exchange Act filings such as the 10-K and Qs. And I do think there are more hyperlink opportunities for issuers that would not be a significant burden and could provide a lot of benefit to investors.”
If you’re interested, the articles – “Reinventing Edgar” and “The Hyperlinks Rule” – were featured in the June 2017 Technology and SEC Disclosure newsletter, published in conjunction with Mergermarket and Toppan Vintage.
I wrote an article published by Securities Regulation Daily discussing the upcoming “say-when-on-pay” votes that many companies will hold during their annual meetings this year. Because Dodd-Frank mandates that the vote be held every six years, a great portion of companies last held the say-when-on-pay vote immediately following the enactment of Dodd-Frank in 2011 and must vote again in 2017. The say-when-on-pay vote is a non-binding advisory referendum on the frequency of a non-binding advisory vote regarding executive compensation.
While the vote was relatively anticlimactic in 2011 due to the wide regard many institutional shareholders held for annual say-on-pay votes, it is worth noting the importance of the Form 8-K disclosure requirements in relation to the vote.
To review details on these technical requirements as outlined in the full article – download PDF. The full article, “Annual Meeting 8-K: Don’t Forget Say-When-on-Pay Determination,” was published by Securities Regulation Daily on June 15, 2017.
In monitoring SEC comment letters, we came across this SEC comment letter made public today, which we thought of particular interest to our readership given its direct application to almost all public companies. In the letter, the SEC Staff expressly concludes that simply including a URL address in an earnings press release that directs readers to a website where the non-GAAP reconciliation is located does not comply with the requirements in Item 10(e)(1)(i) of Regulation S-K (i.e., “must include….in the filing…a reconciliation”) and the general rules regarding disclosure of non-GAAP financial measures outlined in Regulation G (i.e., “must accompany that non-GAAP financial measure with…a reconciliation”). Although this is the Staff’s current position, we believe this may be an interesting area to watch in light of the SEC’s recent rulemaking in the hyperlinking space (see this post) as well as continued innovation in electronic communication and IR practices.
Last week, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO and others, the House voted for a sweeping rewrite of the Dodd-Frank Act. According to Politico, “The legislation, approved without a single Democratic vote, represents the GOP’s opening salvo in the debate over easing the rules on the financial system, a move sparked by the election of President Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress.”
Below are three takeaways on the CHOICE Act passage:
- There is a strong GOP push to significantly revise the rules governing Wall Street. In addition to the CHOICE Act, on Monday, June 12, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its much anticipated financial regulatory reform report. This report stems from the President’s February 2017 Executive Order on “Core Principles for Regulating the U.S. Financial System” where the Secretary of the Treasury was to “identify any laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record keeping requirements, and other Government policies that inhibit Federal regulation of the U.S. financial system in a manner consistent with the core principles.”
The Wall Street Journal yesterday published an interesting article regarding the SEC Staff’s attention to non-GAAP financial measure disclosure issues in the SEC comment letter process. The article highlights the ongoing focus of the SEC staff on non-GAAP financial disclosure issues following the revised (and more stringent) non-GAAP financial guidance promulgated by the SEC in the spring of 2016, as well as inquiries that were received from a sizeable number of public companies in 2016 from the SEC Division of Enforcement focused on non-GAAP compliance. Continue Reading SEC Staff Continues Focus on non-GAAP Financial Disclosures
As we arrive at the height of the annual meeting season this May, many public companies will be holding say-when-on-pay votes this month in light of the requirement under the Dodd-Frank Act to hold such vote every six years and the fact that many public companies first held this vote in 2011 following the enactment of Dodd-Frank. In this regard, registrants should be reminded of the requirement under Item 5.07(d) to report the determination of the registrant, in light of the shareholder vote on say-when-on-pay, regarding how frequently the registrant intends to hold say-on-pay votes until the next required say-when-on-pay shareholder vote. Under the Form 8-K rules, this disclosure may be made in the Form 8-K disclosing the annual meeting voting results or in a separate Form 8-K amendment filed within 150 days following the date of the annual meeting (but, in any event no later than 60 days prior to the Rule 14a-8 shareholder proposal submission deadline).
While not necessarily as eventful as 2015, 2016 saw courts interpret and build upon major decisions from prior years, and have set up at least one important issue for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. 2016 also featured several important legal developments that should continue to impact both private litigation and public enforcement throughout 2017, including:
- SEC Whistleblower Program. By the time the SEC closed its 2016 fiscal year in September, it had filed a record number of enforcement actions. In addition, the SEC’s whistleblower program awarded more than $57 million to 13 whistleblowers during the year, almost as much as in all previous years combined. The big question will be whether the Trump administration will allow this trend to continue.
Related to the new EGC box, there has been some uncertainty by companies and the securities bar about whether a registrant that is both an accelerated filer and an emerging growth company would check both boxes or only the EGC box. In a phone call with the SEC Staff today, I have confirmed the boxes are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, if the registrant is both an accelerated filer (or non-accelerated filer) and an emerging growth company, both boxes should be checked.
Recently, the SEC adopted technical amendments for self-executing provisions of the JOBS Act—mostly relating to EGCs.
One important update that impacts virtually all companies is the update related to amending the cover pages for numerous filings. Broadly speaking, the cover page has been revised to include a “check the box” item to indicate that the person filing the report is an “emerging growth company” and an additional box to check as follows: “If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act.”