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Jay Knight is head of the firm’s Capital Markets Subgroup. His practice focuses on securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions, real estate capital markets, structured finance, and the general representation of public companies and underwriters. Since his return to private practice in 2012 after having served five years in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Division of Corporation Finance, Jay has represented both issuers and underwriters in connection with initial public offerings (IPOs), follow-on and secondary offerings, at-the-market (ATM) programs, tender offers, SPACs, de-SPACs, and mergers and acquisitions, involving companies in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, real estate (REITs), retail, life sciences, defense and restaurant, among others.

On June 22, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released the latest edition of its Reg Flex Agenda, which is essentially the rulemaking calendar for the next year or so.  Perhaps the most surprising takeaway is the climate rule is scheduled to be adopted as early as October 2022.  While the schedules may likely shift during the internal rule drafting process, the agenda is helpful as it provides a sense of the SEC’s priorities and pipeline.

Continue Reading SEC Announces Spring 2022 Rulemaking Agenda

Along with equal prominence, probably one of the most often non-GAAP comments we see issued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Staff involves its objection to adjustments that it believes substitute individually tailored measurement methods for those of GAAP.  Often, the SEC Staff comments will cite to Question 100.04 of the Non-GAAP Financial Measures Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations, as follows:

Question 100.04

Question: A registrant presents a non-GAAP performance measure that is adjusted to accelerate revenue recognized ratably over time in accordance with GAAP as though it earned revenue when customers are billed. Can this measure be presented in documents filed or furnished with the Commission or provided elsewhere, such as on company websites?

Answer: No. Non-GAAP measures that substitute individually tailored revenue recognition and measurement methods for those of GAAP could violate Rule 100(b) of Regulation G. Other measures that use individually tailored recognition and measurement methods for financial statement line items other than revenue may also violate Rule 100(b) of Regulation G.   [May 17, 2016] (emphasis added)

Continue Reading SEC Staff Pushes Back on Adjusting for Normal Recurring “Public Company Expenses”

Late last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved amendments to the federal proxy rules to, among other things, mandate the use of a universal proxy card in public solicitations involving director election contests. On February 24, we hosted a webinar to discuss issues relating to universal proxy rules. Access the recording of the webinar here.

We provided an overview of the universal proxy requirement and proxy contests under the new regime during the webinar. We also discussed universal proxy’s influence on activist strategies and tactics and provided practical guidance on what companies should prepare now. Key insights from the discussion are highlighted below.

Continue Reading Key Takeaways from New Universal Proxy Rules Webinar

I recently provided comments for an article in The Wall Street Journal about public company disclosures related to climate change risks. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to announce a rule proposal on climate-related disclosures this year. In anticipation of that new proposal, the SEC has been sending comment letters to some companies asking for clarification about their climate change risks to help inform investors in their decision-making.

Continue Reading Insight on Disclosures Related to Climate Change Risks

Please join the Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group for a series of complimentary webinars exploring various public company-related securities law issues. These CLE programs will be an extension of our Securities Law Exchange Blog and will feature timely and practical guidance for SEC disclosure counsel on key topics of interest.

In November 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved amendments to the federal proxy rules to, among other things, mandate the use of a universal proxy card in public solicitations involving director election contests.

Will the adoption of these rules embolden activists and change the game when it comes to proxy contests and other activist tactics? Are certain types of activists more likely to benefit from the changed rules than others? What should companies be doing now to prepare for the new regime?

The next installment of our public company webinar series features Scott Bell and Jay Knight, corporate & securities attorneys at Bass, Berry & Sims, discussing these and other issues relating to the universal proxy rules.

The webinar will cover the following topics:

  • Overview of the universal proxy requirement.
  • Proxy contests under the new regime.
  • Universal proxy’s influence on activist strategies and tactics.
  • What companies should be doing now to prepare.

Please join us Thursday, February 24 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CT for this informative discussion. To register, please click here.

Continue Reading [WEBINAR] SEC’s New Universal Proxy Rules: Key Considerations & Next Steps to Prepare

The rules of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq Stock Market (Nasdaq) require that a majority of a listed company’s board of directors (board) must be comprised of “independent directors” and that vital board committees such as the audit, compensation and nominating/governance committees must be comprised solely of independent directors (subject to certain exceptions).

For a director to be considered independent under the NYSE and Nasdaq rules, the company’s board must affirmatively determine that the director has no material relationship with the company. Further, the NYSE and Nasdaq rules provide for specific bright-line independence tests which preclude the board from determining that a director is independent, including certain employment, family and business relationships, as well as certain interlocking compensation committee relationships. The “independence” definitions are narrow and essentially require that directors be truly free of any relationship or transaction that could interfere with the director’s exercise of independent judgment in carrying out his or her responsibilities to the company.

Because the determination of director independence is crucial for maintaining SEC and stock exchange compliance (as well as Delaware law process protections in some situations), in-house and outside securities counsel often closely scrutinize the facts and circumstances of various relationships to confirm that director independence would not be jeopardized. Companies will often produce written memoranda that carefully analyze the specifics facts and circumstances of a director to help support the board’s determination that a director or director nominee is “independent” under the applicable standards.

It is with this background that we found interesting a recent comment letter exchange in which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Staff questioned the registrant about its disclosure that a director was deemed independent notwithstanding the fact that the director was then-serving as the company’s corporate secretary.

Continue Reading SEC Staff Comments on Director Serving as Corporate Secretary

On December 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed enhanced disclosure requirements and amendments to the rules regarding issuer share repurchases and Rule 10b5-1 plans. The proposals related to Rule 10b5-1 plans address perceived gaps in the current reporting obligations and concerns over insider trading, which SEC Chairman Gary Gensler first raised in early summer 2021. Likewise, the share repurchase proposals aim to “lessen the information asymmetries between issuers and investors.”

These topics have received political, media and academic commentary over the years but little SEC enforcement attention.  The key takeaway is that these proposals would be very impactful and make substantive changes to how such activities are conducted today.  The relatively short comment period (45 days from the date of Federal Register publication) means these proposals could become final rules in the first half of 2022.

Share Repurchases

The proposed rules regarding share repurchases, also known as buybacks, include, among other items, repurchase disclosure on a new “Form SR” and increased periodic disclosures by amending Item 703 of Regulation S-K.

  • New Form SR
    • Issuers would be required to furnish (but not file) Form SR before the end of the first business day after the day on which the issuer repurchases shares. (Note Section 16 reporting is within two business days and Form 8-K reporting is within four business days.) Form SR would require disclosure of the following:
      • Date of the repurchase.
      • Identification of the class of securities purchased.
      • The total number of shares purchased, including all issuer repurchases whether or not made pursuant to publicly announced plans or programs.
      • The average price paid per share.
      • The aggregate total number of shares purchased on the open market.
      • The aggregate total number of shares purchased in reliance on the safe harbor in Exchange Act Rule 10b-18.
      • The aggregate total number of shares purchased pursuant to a plan intended to satisfy the affirmative defense conditions of Exchange Act Rule 10b5-1(c).


Continue Reading SEC Proposes New Rules for Share Repurchases and Rule 10b5-1 Plans

As you have inevitably read about, in September 2021, the Biden administration instructed the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to write a rule that would generally require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccination or weekly testing and mask-wearing for unvaccinated employees.

OSHA published its final rule on Friday, November 5, which generally requires, among other things, employees to be vaccinated or start testing by January 4, 2022, with an earlier (December 5, 2021) enforcement date regarding the rule’s mask mandate, among other requirements for employers. Within 24 hours of the publication of the final rule, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency motion to stay enforcement of the vaccine requirement and required the administration to respond by Monday, November 8. In its response, the administration asked the court to lift the stay. Final resolution of the matter is pending.

Continue Reading Potential SEC Disclosure Considerations Related to Vaccine Mandates

As we’ve previously blogged, in November 2020, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted amendments to the Regulation S-K items related to Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) as well as certain selected financial disclosures.  The amendments became effective on February 10, 2021 (effective date) but registrants were not required to apply the amended rules until their first filing related to their fiscal year ending on or after August 9, 2021 (mandatory compliance date).

As a result, compliance with these amendments will be required for most calendar-year companies beginning with the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2021.  However, companies with fiscal years that ended September 30, 2021, will be required to comply with the new rules in their upcoming 10-K.  Registrants will also be required to apply the amended rules in a registration statement and prospectus that on its initial filing date is required to contain financial statements for a period on or after the mandatory compliance date.

While many issuers voluntarily early adopted the amendments covering Items 301 and 302 during this last 10-K reporting cycle, based on our experience a large number of registrants chose not to early adopt the amendments to Item 303 of Regulation S-K, relating to the MD&A section, because of the short time period after their adoption before the first 10-K.  As a result, this fall will be an ideal time for many companies to analyze what impacts the new rules will have on their upcoming MD&A.

Continue Reading New MD&A Rules Are Here – A Slide Deck to Help with Internal Discussions