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.


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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.


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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:


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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

It’s been a busy late summer and early fall for the Staff of the Division of Corporation Finance (the Staff) as it relates to shareholder proposals and the Staff’s historical involvement in the no-action process related to those proposals.

On September 6, 2019, the Staff, focusing on how it could most efficiently and effectively provide guidance where appropriate regarding shareholder proposals, announced that it was changing its practices in this important area.  Historically, issuers that were seeking to exclude a shareholder proposal from their proxy statement on the grounds that the SEC’s proxy rules permitted such exclusions sought formal, written no-action relief from the Staff of the Division of Corporation Finance.

These no-action letters issued by the Staff would inform the issuer whether or not the Staff would recommend that the SEC’s Enforcement Division take action against the issuer for excluding a particular shareholder proposal.


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We recently wrote a three-part article series for Corporate Counsel highlighting recent trends warranting review by public companies and consideration as to whether to update their insider trading policies and training.

  • Part One offered practical guidance on mitigating risks associated with employees who may inadvertently share confidential information with others. As the benefits of remote work options increasingly pull the workforce out of the office, companies face risks from employees removing sensitive company documents from the secure confines of their offices and company databases. Because information removed from the safety of a corporate office or database is susceptible in many ways to being taken and misused by bad actors, it is important for in-house counsel to take steps to ensure their insider trading policies and training cover this area.


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The Staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the Staff) issued a Public Statement regarding the probable transition away from the London Inter-bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) after December 31, 2021, as a result of the expectation that a number of private-sector banks currently reporting information used to establish LIBOR will cease to do so after 2021 when their reporting commitment ends.

As a result, the publication of LIBOR may cease immediately following the end of 2021 or may result in LIBOR’s regulator determining that the quality of the LIBOR metric has diminished such that it is no longer representative of its underlying market.


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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently awarded $3 million to joint whistleblowers despite concluding that the whistleblowers did not satisfy the technical eligibility requirements for receiving an award. See SEC Exchange Act Release No. 86010. The SEC Whistleblower Program has ramped up significantly the past few years, with record numbers of complaints being filed

Note: We updated this post (originally posted last week) to add a new frequently asked question about expanded hyperlinking. 

The questions and answers below address certain interpretive issues on the SEC’s new hyperlink requirements effective May 2, 2019. For more on the SEC’s amendments, see our previous post that details the rule changes.

FAQ #1

Question:  The new rules will require registrants to include an active hyperlink to information incorporated by reference into a registration statement or report if such information is publicly available on EDGAR “at the time the registration statement or form is filed.”

How does this new requirement apply to information incorporated by reference from one item to another within the same filing? 


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