The most recent edition of The Business Lawyer, published by the ABA’s Business Law Section, includes its Annual Review of Federal Securities Regulation prepared by its Subcommittee on Annual Review from the Committee on Federal Regulation of Securities. The Review outlines significant developments in federal securities law and regulation in 2017. The Review is divided into three sections:

  • Regulatory actions
  • Accounting statements
  • Case law developments

I currently chair the Subcommittee and wish to give special thanks to all of its distinguished authors that contributed content, including a special thanks to William Lay from Bass, Berry & Sims for helping draft and edit portions of the Review.

The Review is available here.

 

On June 28, the SEC adopted regulations that could reduce the reporting burden on middle market public companies. In summary, the SEC adopted amendments to the smaller reporting company (SRC) definition to increase the thresholds for eligibility. Under the amendments, companies with a public float of less than $250 million will qualify as SRCs (up from $75 million). The SEC estimates that about 1,000 additional companies will now be eligible for scaled disclosure as a result of the rule amendments. We expect these amendments may also help companies that have undertaken their IPO in the last five years as they roll off emerging growth company eligibility because of the passage of time.

Continue Reading SEC Adopts Rules that Could Ease Disclosure Burden on Middle Market Public Companies

On July 2, the SEC announced that The Dow Chemical Company agreed to settle charges related to the company’s inadequate perquisites disclosure in SEC filings by paying a civil penalty in the amount of $1.75 million, hiring an independent consultant to evaluate and recommend changes to the company’s policies and procedures relating to perquisites disclosure, and implementing such changes.

The SEC’s order finds that from 2011 through 2015, Dow did not ensure that approximately $3 million in executive perquisites were adequately evaluated and disclosed as “other compensation” in the Compensation Discussion & Analysis (CD&A) section of its annual proxy statements. These authorized but undisclosed perquisites included personal use of the Dow aircraft and other expenses.

Continue Reading Recent SEC Enforcement Action Reminds Companies that Perquisite Disclosure Does Not Hinge on Business Purpose

Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys Britt Latham and Brian Irving authored an article that was published in The D&O Diary that outlined and discussed the most important trends and developments related to SEC investigations and enforcement proceedings impacting the industry this past year and likely to impact the industry in the coming year. The article includes a discussion of lessons learned from the first year of the Trump administration.

The authors also point to disgorgement as another topic with a changing landscape, with the Supreme Court ruling in Kokesh v. SEC that disgorgement claims are subject to a five-year statute of limitations for enforcing fines, penalties or forfeitures.

Continue Reading Britt Latham and Brian Irving Outline SEC Enforcement Trends under Trump Administration

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a Valentine’s Day notice to public companies yesterday that the SEC will be holding an open meeting on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. EST to consider, among other things, “whether to approve the issuance of an interpretive release to provide guidance to assist public companies in preparing disclosures about cybersecurity risks and incidents.”

Continue Reading SEC Calendars Open Meeting to Consider Issuing an Interpretive Release on Cybersecurity Disclosures

We thought you may find of interest prepared remarks by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton at the annual Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation held on November 30, 2017, where he stated, “In the coming months I anticipate that the Commission will consider adopting rules to expand the definition of ‘smaller reporting company’ to permit additional companies to avail themselves of scaled disclosure requirements.” A full transcript of the speech is available at the SEC’s website.

Proposed Rules Would Change Qualifications for Smaller Reporting Companies

As you may recall, in July 2016 the SEC voted to propose amendments that would increase the financial thresholds in the “smaller reporting company” definition. The proposed rules would enable a company with less than $250 million of public float to provide scaled disclosures as a smaller reporting company, as compared to the $75 million threshold under the current definition. The SEC did not, however, propose to increase the $75 million threshold in the “accelerated filer” definition.

Continue Reading SEC Chairman Clayton Expects New Rules on Smaller Reporting Company Definition Soon

Jay Knight | Corporate Securities Attorney | PCAOB Audit Report StandardsIn a recently published Accounting Today article, I provided insight on the impact of the new audit report standard from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on October 23. The new standard — which is the first significant change to the audit report in over 70 years – expands the scope of the audit report by requiring a discussion of “critical audit matters” and a disclosure of auditor tenure.

Continue Reading Key Reasons the New PCAOB Audit Report Standard is Helpful to Investors

In monitoring SEC comment letters, we came across this SEC comment letter made public this month. It serves as a reminder to registrants that, when calculating a company’s public float, there is an informal presumption that a 10% or greater stockholder is an affiliate of the company; however, this presumption is rebuttable by the registrant.

The letter stated that “[t]he Staff has consistently taken the position that the determination of ‘control’ status is dependent in large part on the facts and circumstances involved and, therefore, has declined to state definitively what circumstances will result in a person being deemed to be in ‘control’ of an issuer. While the Company recognizes that, as a rule of thumb, more than 10% ownership has become an informal benchmark at which control should be evaluated, such ownership, standing alone, is not dispositive.”

Continue Reading SEC Comment about “Affiliate” Stockholder in Public Float Calculation

In a Bloomberg BNA article, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Jay Knight provided insight on what future additional updates the SEC Staff could be focusing on following the Commission's announcement of proposed amendments to Regulation S-K last week.In a Bloomberg BNA article, I provided insight on what future additional updates the SEC Staff could be focusing on following the Commission’s announcement of proposed amendments to Regulation S-K last week. The article quotes Elizabeth Murphy, an associate director in the SEC Division of Corporation Finance, from an October 18 Association of Corporate Counsel conference discussion saying the SEC has “more to come from our Reg S-K disclosure initiative,” but did not specify any particular recommendations to Regulation S-K the Commission plans to focus on. I noted that the Staff might continue to focus on MD&A disclosures and Regulation S-K’s Item 101, the narrative description of the business. In those areas, many comments on the concept release urged the SEC to “move from prescriptive rules to a more principles-based approach,” I explained in the article. “Given how fundamental these S-K sections are to SEC filings generally, it seems reasonable to believe the SEC Staff would develop recommendations to these rules for Commission consideration.”

The full article, “More SEC Proposals on Disclosure Rule Coming, Official Says,” was published on October 18, 2017, by Bloomberg BNA and is available online.

On October 11, the SEC proposed amendments to modernize and simplify disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K, which were mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. In large part, the proposed amendments follow the recommendations of a November 2016 report from the SEC staff.  As one SEC commissioner put it, the incremental adjustments to Regulation S-K are meant to “prune” the SEC’s existing disclosure regime rather than as “an exercise in slash-and-burn clearcutting.”

Below are six highlights from the SEC’s proposed amendments to Regulation S-K:

  1. Rules for Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) would be amended to clarify that a registrant need only provide a period-to-period comparison for the two most recent fiscal years presented in the financial statements and may hyperlink to the prior year’s annual report for additional period-to-period comparison. The proposed amendments would require hyperlinks to information that is incorporated by reference if that information is available on EDGAR. Instruction 1 to Item 303(a).

    Continue Reading Six Highlights from the SEC’s Proposed Amendments to Regulation S-K