On March 2, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted amendments that, among other things, significantly reduce the subsidiary guarantor financial statement requirements in periodic reports for companies that have registered debt that is guaranteed by subsidiaries. These changes are part of the SEC’s ongoing efforts to modernize and ease disclosure burdens for public companies.  The SEC hopes that these amendments will facilitate an increase in the number of registered (versus unregistered) debt offerings.

Although the amendments do not become effective until January 2021, in light of the relief offered, many companies are preparing to voluntarily comply with the amendments in advance of the effective date (which is expressly permitted by the SEC).

This alert briefly describes the changes to existing reporting requirements for subsidiary guarantors.  The SEC’s press release announcing the changes and full text of the final rule can be found here.


Continue Reading SEC Provides Welcome Relief from Reporting Requirements for Subsidiary Guarantors

The Staff of the various Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) divisions, including the Division of Corporation Finance, issued an announcement on March 24, 2020, which provides some flexibility to registrants seeking to satisfy the record retention requirement in Rule 302(b) of Regulation S-T that the registrant retain the manually signed documents.

Rule 302(b) of Regulation S-T requires that each signatory to documents electronically filed with the SEC “manually sign a signature page or other document authenticating, acknowledging or otherwise adopting his or her signature that appears in typed form within the electronic filing.”  Such documents must be executed before or at the time the electronic filing is made.  Further, electronic filers must retain such documents for a period of five years and furnish copies to the SEC or its staff upon request.


Continue Reading SEC Staff Provides Relief to “Manual Signature” Retention Requirement in Light of COVID-19 Concerns

In a previous blog post, we discussed the availability of virtual shareholder meetings (i.e., “virtual-only” and “hybrid” meetings) as a potential alternative to the traditional in-person meeting during the 2020 proxy season in light of the emerging public health and safety crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). The Staff of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance and Division of Investment Management subsequently issued guidance for conducting virtual annual meetings under these unprecedented circumstances.

Post-Proxy Filing

The Staff confirmed that if a company has already mailed and filed its proxy materials, the company can notify shareholders of a change in the date, time or location of the annual meeting without amending its definitive proxy materials or mailing additional soliciting materials if the company issues a press release announcing the change, files the announcement as definitive additional soliciting material on EDGAR, and takes all reasonable steps necessary to inform other interested parties in the proxy solicitation process (e.g., any proxy service providers and applicable national securities exchanges) of the change. These actions should be taken promptly after the decision to hold a virtual meeting is made and, in any case, sufficiently in advance of the annual meeting. Therefore, companies that have already filed and mailed their definitive proxy materials would not need to mail additional soliciting materials (including new proxy cards) solely to switch to a “virtual” or “hybrid” meeting if they follow the steps described above for announcing a change in the meeting date, time, or location.


Continue Reading SEC Staff Provides Guidance for Conducting Virtual Meetings in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is causing governments, companies, associations and colleges and universities to take unprecedented steps to address the spread and transmission of COVID-19. These steps include imposing restrictions on travel and public life; closing physical offices or campuses; canceling conferences, meetings and other scheduled group activities; restricting the size of gatherings; and encouraging or requiring employees and students to telecommute.

With increasing COVID-19 concerns in the United States and proxy season underway, public companies, including those that have already mailed proxy materials, may need to consider alternatives to conducting in-person shareholder meetings in light of the emerging public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, companies should assess whether or not a virtual meeting format is a viable alternative to the customary in-person meeting. Virtual meetings are generally divided into the following two categories:

  1. Virtual-only meetings conducted solely using remote communication.
  2. Hybrid meetings conducted in-person with concurrent participation by remote communication.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Pandemic Causes Public Companies to Reevaluate Virtual Meetings

We recently examined key developments at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during 2019 and consider what to expect in the months ahead for an article in The D&O Diary.

“For public companies and securities practitioners alike, the decade ended with a bang, with changes to certain long-standing practices and several novel,” we explained

Jay Knight (far right) discusses disclosure challenges for public companies at the 2020 Securities Regulation Institute.

The Bass, Berry & Sims Corporate & Securities Practice Group kicked off the new year by participating as a sponsor of the 47th Annual Securities Regulation Institute, which is held annually in San Diego by Northwestern University. Jay Knight, head of the firm’s Capital Market Subgroup, was featured as a speaker in a well-attended panel discussing recurring disclosure challenges faced by public companies and their advisors. Each year, the conference draws SEC staffers and many of the leading practitioners of the public company industry, and the keynote speaker for this year’s conference was SEC Commissioner Jay Clayton.

Our key takeaways from the conference follow:
Continue Reading Five Key Takeaways from the 2020 Securities Regulation Institute

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 

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

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