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.


Continue Reading SEC Staff Policy Change on 14a-8 Process; May Choose to Respond Orally Rather than in Writing

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.


Continue Reading Insider Trading Policies and Training: Time for a Refresher?

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.


Continue Reading Managing LIBOR Transition – SEC Considerations

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? 


Continue Reading Updated: FAQ on Expanded Hyperlinking

On March 20, 2019, nearly a year and a half after proposing them, the SEC adopted amendments to disclosure requirements for reporting companies, as mandated by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”).  The amendments are a part of an ongoing effort by the SEC to simplify and modernize disclosure obligations.  According to the SEC’s press release, the amendments are expected “to benefit investors by eliminating outdated and unnecessary disclosure and making it easier for them to access and analyze material information.”

Among many other items, the amendments address the following topics:

  • Greater Flexibility When Filing Under Item 601 of Regulation S-K
    • Omission of Immaterial Schedules and Exhibits—The amendments revise Item 601 of Regulation S-K to expand the ability of registrants to omit immaterial schedules and similar attachments to required exhibits, which previously was only available to schedules and exhibits to acquisitions agreements being filed under Item 601(b)(2).


Continue Reading SEC Amendments Help Streamline Reporting for Public Companies

This week the SEC proposed to expand the “test-the-waters” accommodation—currently available to emerging growth companies (EGCs)—to all issuers, including investment company issuers. The proposed rule and related amendments under the Securities Act of 1933 would enable all issuers (and its authorized representatives, including underwriters) to engage in test-the-waters communications with certain institutional investors regarding a contemplated registered securities offering prior to, or following, the filing of a registration statement related to such offering. These communications would be exempt from restrictions imposed by Section 5 of the Securities Act on written and oral offers prior to or after filing a registration statement and would be limited to qualified institutional buyers (QIBs) and institutional accredited investors (IAIs).

In the SEC’s press release announcing the action, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said, “Extending the test-the-waters reform to a broader range of issuers is designed to enhance their ability to conduct successful public securities offerings and lower their cost of capital, and ultimately to provide investors with more opportunities to invest in public companies.”  Chairman Clayton added, “I have seen first-hand how the modernization reforms of the JOBS Act have helped companies and investors. The proposed rules would allow companies to more effectively consult with investors and better identify information that is important to them in advance of a public offering.”

Under proposed Securities Act Rule 163B:


Continue Reading SEC Proposes to Expand “Test-the-Waters” to All Issuers

In response to the mandate of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission recently issued final rule amendments permitting companies reporting under Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act to offer securities pursuant to the registration exemption Regulation A. Previously, offerings pursuant to Regulation A were expressly limited to non-reporting companies. The rule amendments also provide that, so long as the reporting company is current in its Exchange Act periodic reports, the reporting company has no additional periodic reporting obligations under Regulation A. These amendments became effective on January 31, 2019, upon publication in the Federal Register.

Continue Reading SEC Amends Rules to Permit Existing Reporting Companies to Offer Securities Pursuant to Regulation A+; Updated and Revised Regulation A+ FAQs

On December 18, 2018, the SEC issued a request for public comment soliciting input on the nature, content and timing of earnings releases and quarterly reports of companies that are obligated to file reports with the SEC as well as the relationship between the periodic reports that reporting companies must provide and the earnings releases that they choose to distribute. With this request for comment, the SEC is seeking to continue the ongoing dialogue about whether the current reporting regime and practices of reporting companies is overly burdensome or contributing to “short-termism”.

Commenting on the matter, SEC Chairman, Jay Clayton, said “[t]here is ongoing public debate regarding the effects of mandated quarterly reports and the prevalence of optional quarterly guidance.”  “Our markets thirst for high-quality, timely information regarding company performance and material corporate events.  We recognize the importance of this information to well-functioning and fair capital markets.  We also recognize the need for companies and investors to plan for the long term.  Our rules should reflect these realities.  I look forward to receiving thoughtful comments as we think about ways to encourage long-term investment in our country.”


Continue Reading SEC Request for Comment on Earnings Releases and Periodic Reports