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Dec062016

Yahoo Hacking Scandal And Obligations Related To Cybersecurity

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 26, 2016, Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Intelligence and Banking Committees and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, wrote a letter to the SEC requesting that they investigate whether Yahoo, Inc., fulfilled its disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws related to a security breach that affected more than 500 million accounts.  Senator Warner also requested that the SEC re-examine its guidance and requirements related to the disclosure of cybersecurity matters in general.

The letter was precipitated by a September 22, 2016, 8-K and press release issued by Yahoo disclosing the theft of certain user account information that occurred in late 2014. The press release referred to a “recent investigation” confirming the theft of user account information associated with at least 500 million accounts that was stolen in late 2014. Just 13 days prior to the 8-K and press release, on September 9, 2016,

Nov292016

SEC Modernizes Intrastate Crowdfunding; Amending Rules 147 And 504; Creating New Rule 147A

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On October 26, 2016, the SEC passed new rules to modernize intrastate and regional securities offerings. The final new rules amend Rule 147 to reform the rules and allow companies to continue to offer securities under Section 3(a)(11) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”). In addition, the SEC has created a new Rule 147A to accommodate adopted state intrastate crowdfunding provisions. New Rule 147A allows intrastate offerings to access out-of-state residents and companies that are incorporated out of state, but that conduct business in the state in which the offering is being conducted. In addition, the SEC has amended Rule 504 of Regulation D to increase the aggregate offering amount from $1 million to $5 million and to add bad-actor disqualifications from reliance on the rule. Finally, the SEC has repealed the rarely used and now redundant Rule 505 of Regulation D.

Amended Rule 147 and new Rule 147A will take

Nov222016

SEC Has Approved FINRA’s New Category Of Broker-Dealer For “Capital Acquisition Brokers”

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On August 18, 2016, the SEC approved FINRA’s rules implementing a new category of broker-dealer called “Capital Acquisition Brokers” (“CABs”), which limit their business to corporate financing transactions.  FINRA first published proposed rules on CABs in December 2015. My blog on the proposed rules can be read HERE. In March and again in June 2016, FINRA published amendments to the proposed rules.  The final rules enact the December proposed rules as modified by the subsequent amendments.

A CAB will generally be a broker-dealer that engages in M&A transactions, raising funds through private placements and evaluating strategic alternatives and that collects transaction-based compensation for such activities. A CAB will not handle customer funds or securities, manage customer accounts or engage in market making or proprietary trading.

Description of Capital Acquisition Broker (“CAB”)

There are currently FINRA-registered firms which limit their activities to advising on mergers and acquisitions, advising on raising debt and equity

Nov152016

House Passes Accelerated Access To Capital Act

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 8, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Accelerating Access to Capital Act. The passage of this Act continues a slew of legislative activity by the House to reduce regulation and facilitate capital formation for small businesses. Unlike many of the House bills that have been passed this year, this one gained national attention, including an article in the Wall Street Journal. Although the bill does not have a Senate sponsor and is not likely to gain one, the Executive Office has indicated it would veto the bill if it made it that far.

Earlier this year I wrote about 3 such bills, including: (i) H.R. 1675 – the Capital Markets Improvement Act of 2016, which has 5 smaller acts imbedded therein; (ii) H.R. 3784, establishing the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee within the SEC; and (iii) H.R. 2187, proposing an amendment

Nov082016

Changes In India’s Laws Related To Foreign Direct Investments- A U.S. Opportunity; Brief Overview For Foreign Private Issuers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In June 2016, the Indian government announced new rules allowing for foreign direct investments into Indian owned and domiciled companies. The new rules continue a trend in laws supporting India as an open world economy.  A large portion of the U.S. public marketplace is actually the trading of securities of foreign owned or held businesses. Foreign businesses may register and trade directly on U.S. public markets as foreign private issuers, or they may operate as partial or wholly owned subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies that in turn quote and trade on either the OTC Markets or a U.S. exchange.

Brief Overview for Foreign Private Issuers

                Definition of Foreign Private Issuer

Both the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) contain definitions of a “foreign private issuer.” Generally, if a company does not meet the definition of a foreign private issuer, it

Nov012016

SEC Issues New C&DI On Rule 701

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 23, 2016, the SEC issued seven new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI”) related to Rule 701 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”). On October 19, 2016, the SEC issued an additional three C&DI. The majority of the new C&DI focus on the effect on Rule 701 issuances following a merger or acquisition and clarify financial statement requirements under Rule 701. Two of the new C&DI address restricted stock awards including the disclosure requirements are triggered and when the holding period begins under Rule 144.

Rule 701 – Exemption for Offers and Sales to Employees of Non-Reporting Entities

Rule 701 of the Securities Act provides an exemption from the registration requirements for the issuance of securities under written compensatory benefit plans. Rule 701 is a specialized exemption for private or non-reporting entities and may not be relied upon by companies that are subject to the reporting requirements of

Oct252016

Florida Broker-Dealer Registration Exemption For M&A Brokers

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Following the SEC’s lead, effective July 1, 2016, Florida has passed a statutory exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities effecting securities transactions in connection with the sale of equity control in private operating businesses (“M&A Broker”). As discussed further below, the new Florida statute, together with the SEC M&A Broker exemption, may have paved the way for Florida residents to act as an M&A broker in reverse or forward merger transactions involving OTCQX-traded public companies without broker-dealer registration.

Florida has historically had stringent broker-dealer registration requirements in connection with the offer and sale of securities. Moreover, Florida does not always mirror the federal registration requirements or exemptions. For example, see my blog HERE detailing some state blue sky concerns when dealing with Florida, including the lack of an issuer exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for public offerings.

However, in a move helpful to merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions in the

Oct182016

SEC Announces Enforcement Results For Fiscal Year-End 2016

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On October 11, 2016, the SEC announced its enforcement results for fiscal year-end September 30, 2016 (FYE 2016).  In FYE 2016 the SEC filed a record 868 enforcement actions, including against companies and executives for reporting violations, misconduct by companies and gatekeepers, fraud actions and more resulting in judgments and orders totaling more than $4 billion in disgorgement and penalties.

The actions also included a record number of enforcement proceedings against investment advisors and investment companies, a trend I expect to continue in the coming year as the SEC continues to crack down on the failure to adequately disclose all fees associated with investments into and operations of funds, as well as related party transactions.

Consistent with prior speeches and messaging, SEC Chair Mary Jo White made the following quote in the release announcing the enforcement results: “By every measure the enforcement program continues to be a resounding success holding executives, companies and

SEC
Oct112016

NASDAQ Requires Disclosure Of Third-Party Director Compensation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On July 1, 2016, the SEC approved NASDAQ’s new rule requiring listed companies to publicly disclose compensation or other payments by third parties to members of or nominees to the board of directors. The new rule, which went into effect in early August, is being dubbed the “Golden Leash Disclosure Rule.”

The Golden Leash Disclosure Rule

New NASDAQ Rule 5250(b)(3) requires each listed company to publicly disclose the material terms of all agreements or other arrangements between any director or director nominee and any other person or entity relating to compensation or any other payment in connection with the person’s position as director or candidacy as director. The disclosure does not include regular compensation from the company itself for director services. The disclosure must be included in any proxy or information statement issued under Regulation 14C or 14A for a shareholder’s meeting at which directors will be elected. A company can also include

Oct042016

House Continues To Push For Reduced Securities Regulation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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House Appropriations Bill

The House continues its busy activity of passing legislation designed to reduce securities and market regulations. In early July, the House passed H.R. 2995, an appropriations bill for the federal budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1st. No further action has been taken.  The 259-page bill, which is described as “making appropriations for financing services and general government for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes” (“House Appropriation Bill”), contains numerous provisions reducing or eliminating funding for key aspects of SEC enforcement and regulatory provisions.

Earlier this year, I wrote this BLOG about three House bills that will likely never be passed into law. The 3 bills include: (i) H.R. 1675 – the Capital Markets Improvement Act of 2016, which has 5 smaller acts imbedded therein; (ii) H.R. 3784, establishing the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee within

Sep272016

SEC Whistleblower Awards Pass $100 Million As It Continues To Crack Down On Confidentiality Provisions In Employment Agreements

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The SEC has proudly announced that including a $22 million award on August 30, 2016, its whistleblower awards have surpassed $100 million. The news comes in the wake of two recent SEC enforcement proceedings against companies based on confidentiality and waiver language in employee severance agreements. Like two prior similar actions, the SEC has taken the position that restrictive language in confidentiality, waiver or settlement agreements with employees violates the anti-whistleblower rules adopted under Dodd-Frank.

Background – The Dodd-Frank Act Whistleblower Statute

The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in July 2010, added Section 21F, “Whistleblower Incentives and Protection,” to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). As stated in the original rule release, the purpose of the rule was “to encourage whistleblowers to report possible violations of the securities laws by providing financial incentives, prohibiting employment related retaliation, and providing various confidentiality guarantees.” Upon enactment of Section 21F, the SEC established the Office of

Sep202016

SEC Issues Proposed Amendments To Item 601 Of Regulation S-K Related To Exhibits

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On August 31, 2016, the SEC issued proposed amendments to Item 601 of Regulation S-K to require hyperlinks to exhibits in filings made with the SEC. The proposed amendments would require any company filing registration statements or reports with the SEC to include a hyperlink to all exhibits listed on the exhibit list. In addition, because ASCII cannot support hyperlinks, the proposed amendment would also require that all exhibits be filed in HTML format.

This newest proposed rule change to Regulation S-K is part of the SEC Division of Corporation Finance’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.  At the end of this blog, I include an up-to-date summary of the proposals and request for comment related to the ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.

Background

On April 15, 2016, the SEC issued a 341-page concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to certain business and financial disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K (“S-K Concept Release”). The

Sep132016

SEC Requests Comment On Changes To Subpart 400 To Regulation S-K

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On August 25, 2016, the SEC requested public comment on possible changes to the disclosure requirements in Subpart 400 of Regulation S-K. Subpart 400 encompasses disclosures related to management, certain security holders and corporate governance. The request for comment is part of the ongoing SEC Division of Corporation Finance’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative and as required by Section 72003 of the FAST Act.

Background

The topic of disclosure requirements under Regulations S-K and S-X as pertains to financial statements and disclosures made in reports and registration statements filed under the Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) has come to the forefront over the past couple of years. The purpose of the Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative is to assess whether the business and financial disclosure requirements continue to provide the information investors need to make informed investment and voting decisions.

Regulation S-K, as amended over the years, was adopted

Sep062016

FinCEN Updates Due Diligence Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On May 11, 2016, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued new final rules under the Bank Secrecy Act requiring financing institutions, including brokerage firms, to adopt additional anti-money laundering (AML) procedures that include specific due diligence and ongoing monitoring requirements related to customer risk profiles and customer information.  In addition, the new rules require financial institutions to collect and verify information about beneficial owners and control person of legal entity customers.

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) specifically requires brokerage firms to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act.  FinCEN provides minimum rules.  Brokerage firms are also required to comply with AML rules established by FINRA, including FINRA Rule 3310.  The purpose of the AML rules is to help detect and report suspicious activity including the predicate offenses to money laundering and terrorist financing, such as securities fraud and market manipulation. FINRA also provides a template to assist small firms in

Aug302016

DTC Again Proposes Procedures For Issuers Subject To Chills And Locks

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 3, 2016, the DTC filed a new set of proposed rules to specify procedures available to issuers when the DTC imposes or intends to impose chills or locks. The issue of persistent and increasing chills and global locks which once dominated many discussions related to the small- and micro-cap space has dwindled in the last year or two. The new proposed rule release explains the change in DTC procedures and mindset related to its function in combating the deposit and trading of ineligible securities.

Background

On October 8, 2013, I published a blog and white paper providing background and information on the Depository Trust Company (“DTC”) eligibility, chills and locks and the DTC’s then plans to propose new rules to specify procedures available to issuers when the DTC imposes or intends to impose chills or locks (see my blog HERE). On December 5, 2013, the DTC filed these proposed rules

Aug232016

Smaller Reporting Companies vs. Emerging Growth Companies

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The topic of reporting requirements and distinctions between various categories of reporting companies has been prevalent over the past couple of years as regulators and industry insiders examine changes to the reporting requirements for all companies, and qualifications for the various categories of scaled disclosure requirements. As I’ve written about these developments, I have noticed inconsistencies in the treatment of smaller reporting companies and emerging growth companies in ways that are likely the result of poor drafting or unintended consequences. This blog summarizes two of these inconsistencies.

As a reminder, a smaller reporting company is currently defined as a company that has a public float of less than $75 million in common equity as of the last business day of its most recently completed second fiscal quarter, or if a public float of zero, has less than $50 million in annual revenues as of its most recently completed fiscal year-end. I note that

Aug162016

SEC Continues Efforts To Prevent Microcap Fraud

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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As I’ve written about numerous times in the past, a primary agenda of the SEC and FINRA is to prevent small- and micro-cap fraud. On March 23, 2016, the SEC charged Guy Gentile with penny stock fraud. The SEC complaint, as well as numerous industry articles and a blog by Mr. Gentile himself, reveal in-depth efforts by the SEC together with FINRA and the FBI and DOJ to remove recidivist and bad actors from the micro-cap system. While the methods used by the regulators have been the subject of heated debates and articles, the message and result remain that the SEC is committed to its efforts to deter securities law violations.

Although small- and micro-cap fraud has always been an important area of concern and enforcement by the SEC since the financial crisis of 2008, it has increasingly been a focus. Regulators have amplified their efforts through regulations and stronger enforcement, including the

Aug092016

SEC Issues Proposed Regulation S-K And S-X Amendments

On July 13, 2016, the SEC issued a 318-page proposed rule change on Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X to amend disclosures that are redundant, duplicative, overlapping, outdated or superseded (S-K and S-X Amendments). The proposed rule changes follow the 341-page concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to certain business and financial disclosure requirements issued on April 15, 2016. See my two-part blog on the S-K Concept Release HERE and HERE.

The proposed S-K and S-X Amendments are intended to facilitate the disclosure of information to investors while simplifying compliance efforts by companies. The proposed S-K and S-X Amendments come as a result of the Division of Corporation Finance’s Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative and as required by Section 72002 of the FAST Act. Prior to the issuance of these S-K and S-X Amendments, on June 27, 2016, as part of the same initiative, the SEC issued proposed amendments to the definition of “Small Reporting Company” (see