One thing I appreciate about the SEC comment letter process is that it gives real life examples to what is often discussed hypothetically.  Take, for example, cybersecurity and steps management should take when a data incident occurs.  How quickly should a public company make its public disclosure of a data incident?  What should it say?  What should the process look like?

In 2018, the SEC issued helpful interpretive guidance to assist public companies in preparing disclosures about cybersecurity risks and incidents.  This was in addition to the Division of Corporation Finance’s 2011 guidance regarding disclosure obligations relating to cybersecurity risks and incidents.  In addition, our friends at corporatecounsel.net ran a helpful blog post on February 18 related to cyber response plan testing.

It is clear there is no single playbook for a data incident response, and the appropriate response is driven by the facts and circumstances of the situation.  One size does not fit all.  However, it is helpful when preparing a response plan to analyze a real life example.  That is why the SEC comment exchange recently made public between the Staff and Chegg, Inc. last fall is particularly insightful.

Continue Reading SEC Staff Comments on Chegg’s Data Breach Disclosure and Response; A Real Life Example 

With many year-end companies working on initial drafts of their 2020 proxy statements, we thought it might be worth sending a quick reminder of two recent rule changes – briefly summarized below – that will (modestly) impact this year’s proxy statement.

  • Compliance with Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act: Item 405 of Regulation S-K previously required companies to disclose information about late Section 16 filings under the caption “Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance.” As part of the recent FAST Act amendments, the disclosure header is now “Delinquent Section 16(a) Reports” and companies are encouraged to exclude this heading altogether when they have no Section 16(a) delinquencies to report.  Since this is one item that is typically specifically incorporated by reference into Part III of Form 10-K, to the extent the heading is retained, companies should also update the header cross-reference in the Form 10-K.

    Continue Reading Proxy Statement Rule Change Reminders for 2020

In a previous blog post, we discussed the Delaware Chancery Court’s decision in Saba Capital Master Fund, Ltd. v. Blackrock Credit Allocation Income Trust and its relevance to the interpretation of advance notice bylaw provisions. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Chancery Court and strictly applied the deadlines set forth in the defendants’ unambiguous advance notice bylaw provisions.

Background of the Chancery Court Decision

In Saba, the defendants were two affiliated closed-end funds who sought to disqualify the director nominees of an activist shareholder because the activist shareholder did not strictly comply with the requirements of the advance notice provisions of the defendants’ bylaws. As allowed pursuant to the bylaws of the funds, the defendants had requested a response to a supplemental information request from the activist shareholder before a five-business day deadline.

Continue Reading Advance Notice Bylaw Provisions Upheld by Delaware Supreme Court

Earlier this month, in a bipartisan vote of 384 to 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 8-K Trading Act of 2019.  A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate and given the bipartisan support in the House, is likely to pass in the Senate when considered.  The proposed law stems from academic research that suggests corporate insiders that trade around the filing of Forms 8-K regularly beat the market in the four days preceding the filing of a Form 8-K.

Basics of the 8-K Trading Act of 2019

The new law, when it becomes effective, requires the SEC to issue rules requiring issuers to establish and maintain policies, controls and procedures that are reasonably designed to prohibit executive officers and directors of issuers from purchasing, selling or otherwise transferring equity securities of the issuer, directly or indirectly, with respect to an event described in Items 1 through 6 of Form 8-K between the occurrence of the event and the filing or furnishing of the related 8-K.

Continue Reading House Passes Bill to Limit Trading by Insiders around Form 8-K Filings

This is a friendly reminder to our clients and friends that 2020 is a leap year, which means there is an extra day in the calendar: February 29, 2020.

Therefore, when updating your internal SEC reporting and proxy calendars, please keep this added day in mind.  For example, instruction G(3) of Form 10-K provides that the information required by Part III (Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14) may be incorporated by reference from the registrant’s definitive proxy statement, if such definitive proxy statement is filed with the Commission no later than 120 days after the end of the fiscal year covered by the Form 10-K.

In typical years, that 120-day date is April 30 for December 31 fiscal year end companies.  However, this year the cut-off date is Wednesday, April 29, 2020, as a result of leap day.

Continue Reading Don’t Forget: Update SEC Filing and Proxy Calendars for Leap Year 2020

Given the high profile nature of Boeing’s ongoing saga with the grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) Staff was particularly focused on the company’s disclosure of this issue in its recent review of Boeing’s SEC filings.

In monitoring SEC comment letters, we came across this SEC comment letter exchange with Boeing made public this week where the Staff questions the company about its commitments and contingencies footnote disclosures as required by Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 450 – Contingencies.

Staff Requests More Disclosures in Contingency Footnote

In its Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended June 30, 2019, Boeing discloses that it recorded in the second quarter an earnings charge of $5.6 billion, net of insurance recoveries of $500 million, in connection with “estimated potential concessions and other considerations to customers for disruptions related to the 737 MAX grounding and associated delivery delays.”

Continue Reading SEC Staff Comments on Boeing’s 737 MAX Contingency Disclosure

The Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group recently hosted another in a series of complimentary webinars exploring various public company-related securities law issues.

The most recent Securities Law Exchange webinar, Recent SEC Reporting Developments and Enforcement Insights, was held on November 19 and discussed recent developments from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), including best practices and lessons learned from recent changes under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and the SEC’s new rule that extends “testing-the-waters” to all issuers. It also covered recent SEC guidance and enforcement actions impacting public companies.

Continue Reading Key Takeaways from Our Public Company SEC Reporting Webinar

Glass Lewis recently posted its comprehensive 2020 voting guidelines, which are summarized on the first page of the 2020 voting guidelines as well as on the Glass Lewis blog. Among other things, the 2020 voting guidelines update Glass Lewis’ voting guidance regarding excluded shareholder proposals. The updates are in response to the September 2019 guidance by the Staff of the Division of Corporation Finance (the Staff) regarding potential oral rather than written responses to 14a-8 no-action letter requests, as further outlined in recent our blog post.

As a general matter, Glass Lewis believes companies should only exclude a shareholder proposal when the Staff has explicitly concurred with a company’s argument for the exclusion of such shareholder proposal.

Staff Declines to Articulate a View on the Exclusion of a Shareholder Proposal

In instances where the Staff has declined to provide a view on whether the shareholder proposal is ripe for exclusion, Glass Lewis believes such a shareholder proposal should be included in the company’s proxy statement. In the event a company excludes such a shareholder proposal from its proxy statement, Glass Lewis will likely recommend that shareholders vote against the members of the company’s governance committee.

Continue Reading Glass Lewis Issues Policy Changes Regarding Excluded Shareholder Proposals

On November 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a 3-2 decision voted to propose amendments to rules governing shareholder proposals in companies’ proxy statements.  These proposed amendments – which seek to revise Rule 14a-8’s eligibility requirements, one-proposal limit, and resubmission thresholds – follow on the heels of recent guidance issued by the Staff of the Division of Corporation Finance related to the no-action letter process for shareholder proposals.

The press release announcing the proposed changes noted that the changes are part of the SEC’s ongoing focus on improving proxy access and the ability of shareholders to exercise their rights to vote. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton commented in the release that the proposed changes are designed to “facilitate constructive engagement by long-term shareholders in a manner that would benefit all shareholders and our public capital markets.”  Not without controversy though, the rule revisions are receiving criticism from shareholder advocacy groups, while business-minded groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have come out in support of the proposed changes.

Eligibility Requirements for Shareholders

The current eligibility requirements require that a shareholder proponent hold at least $2,000 or 1% of a company’s securities for at least a year to be eligible to submit a proposal.  The proposed revisions, eliminate the 1% threshold and replace the $2,000 threshold with the following three alternatives:

Continue Reading SEC Proposes to Modernize Shareholder Proposal Thresholds and Certain Procedural Elements of Rule 14a-8

Register for the November 19th WebinarPlease join the Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group for a series of complimentary webinars exploring various public company – related securities law issues. These quarterly CLE programs will be an extension of this blog and will feature timely and practical guidance to SEC disclosure counsel on key topics of interest.

The second Securities Law Exchange webinar, hosted by Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Jay Knight and Michael Rivera, will feature guest presenter Scott Hodgdon, Senior Managing Counsel, Securities & Governance at Boston Scientific Corporation.

Jay and Scott will discuss recent SEC developments, including best practices and lessons learned from recent changes under the FAST Act and the SEC’s new rule that extends “testing-the-waters” to all issuers. Michael will review recent SEC guidance and enforcement actions impacting public companies.

WEBINAR DETAILS

Title: Recent SEC Reporting Developments and Enforcement Insights

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019  Time: 12:00 PM Central Standard Time

Approved for one hour General Tennessee CLE credit. Certificate of completion available upon request, which can be used to obtain CLE in other jurisdictions.

Who Should Attend

  • Outside and in-house counsel
  • Public company finance and SEC reporting personnel
  • Compliance officers
  • Other interested professionals

For more information, please contact Lauren Parkhurst.