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by Laura Anthony, Esq.

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 as part of a uniform disclosure initiative to provide a single regulatory source related to non-financial statement disclosures and information required to be included in registration statements and reports filed under the Exchange Act and the Securities Act. Regulation S-X contains specific financial statement preparation and disclosure requirements.

In addition to affecting companies filing registration statements (including on Form 1-A in a Regulation A/A+ offering) and those filing reports with the SEC, any changes to Regulations S-K or S-X will affect acquired entities, acquirees, investment advisers, investment companies, broker-dealers and nationally recognized statistical rating organizations.

In accordance with its mandate under Section 72003 of the FAST Act, the SEC is studying and seeking comment to:

  • Determine how to modernize and simplify disclosure requirements to reduce the costs and burdens to the company while still providing all material and necessary information to investors;
  • Further a principles-based approach whereby companies and their management can determine the relevancy and materiality of information provided instead of just including boilerplate language or filling space to meet a static requirement. Of course, this needs to be balanced with the need to ensure completeness and comparability of information among different companies; and
  • Evaluate information delivery methods and explore ways to eliminate repetition and the disclosure of immaterial information.

Request for Comment

Subpart 400 of Regulation S-K, including Items 401 through 407, require disclosures on directors, executive officers, control persons and promoters; executive compensation; security ownership of certain beneficial owners and management; transactions with related persons, promoters and control persons; ethics and corporate governance.

The SEC’s request for comment does not provide any commentary about particular concerns, thoughts, or questions by the SEC, but is a short general request on “existing requirements in these rules as well as on potential disclosure issues that commenters believe the rules should address.”

Overview of Subpart 400

Item 401 – Directors, Executive Officers, Promoters and Control Persons

Item 401 of Regulation S-K requires the disclosure of the identity and ages of all directors and persons nominated to become a director. In addition, Item 401 requires disclosure of all positions held at the company by that director or nominee, their term of office, and any arrangement or understanding between that person and another person “pursuant to which he was or is to be selected as a director or nominee.” The instructions provide some clarity.  Compensation for service as a director is not included in arrangements with other persons. A person must consent to being included as a nominee.  No information need be provided on an outgoing director.

Item 401 requires the disclosure of the identity and ages of all executive officers.  In addition, Item 401 requires disclosure of all positions held at the company by that executive officer, their term of office, and any arrangement or understanding between that person and another person pursuant to which he was or is to be selected as an officer. A person must consent to being included as an executive officer.

For a first-time registration statement or a registration statement by a company not subject to the reporting requirements under the Securities Exchange Act, Item 401 requires the identification of certain significant employees – in particular, where a person is not an executive officer but otherwise makes a significant contribution to the company’s business. The same information required for executive officers is required for significant employees. Similarly, for a first-time registration statement or registration statement by a company that has not been subject to the reporting requirements for at least 12 months, the same information must be provided for promoters and control persons.

In addition, family relationships, business experience for the past five years, and disclosures of certain legal proceedings must be made for each director and executive officer. The legal proceeding disclosure is a scaled-down version of the bad-actor requirements found elsewhere in the rules, such as Rule 506 and Regulation A. Also, Item 401 requires disclosure of bankruptcy proceedings involving the person or a company for which they were an executive officer during the past five years.

Item 402 – Executive Compensation

An entire treatise could be written on Item 402. From a high level, Item 402 requires disclosure of all compensation awarded to, earned by, or paid to a company’s executive officers and directors. Item 402 also requires disclosures related to pay ratio and require “say on pay” advisory votes. See my blog HERE.

Compensation must be disclosed in tabular form and is meant to encompass any and all benefits received by an executive officer or director, including salary, bonuses, stock awards (including under a plan or not, qualified or non-qualified), option awards, non-equity incentive plans, pension value, benefits, perquisites and all other forms of compensation. Moreover, Item 402 requires a compensation discussion and analysis explaining the presented information.

Item 402 requires details of outstanding stock awards and options, including exercise dates and prices, the market value of underlying securities and vesting schedules. Detailed information is also required regarding pension benefits.

Emerging-growth and smaller reporting companies provide a scaled-down disclosure under Item 402. For details on the Item 402 scaled-down requirements related to emerging growth and smaller reporting companies, see my blog HERE.

Item 403 – Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management

Item 403 requires disclosure of the security ownership of officers, directors and 5% or greater shareholders, including the beneficial owner or natural person behind any entity ownership. Ownership is disclosed in tabular form and includes name, address, number of securities owned and percentage owned of that class. Item 403 requires disclosure of all classes of outstanding equity regardless of whether such class is registered or publicly trades.

Item 404 – Transactions with Related Persons, Promoters, and Certain Control Persons

Item 404 requires the disclosure of material related party transactions. For purposes of Item 404, related parties include officers or officer nominees, directors or director nominees, a family member of a director or executive office, 5% or greater shareholders, or any person that has a direct or indirect material interest in the company. Companies other than emerging-growth or smaller reporting companies must also disclose the company’s policy for the review, approval or ratification of related party transactions. Item 404 also requires the disclosure of compensations, assets or benefits to be received by promoters where the company is filing an S-1 or Form 10 registration statement.

A “promoter” has a specific definition in the securities laws and is not tied to stock promotion in the sense that many may think.  A “promoter” is defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act as including:

(1) Any person who, acting alone or in conjunction with one or more other persons, directly or indirectly takes initiative in founding and organizing the business or enterprise of an issuer; or

(2) Any person who, in connection with the founding and organizing of the business or enterprise of an issuer, directly or indirectly receives in consideration of services or property, or both services and property, 10 percent or more of any class of securities of the issuer or 10 percent or more of the proceeds from the sale of any class of such securities. However, a person who receives such securities or proceeds either solely as underwriting commissions or solely in consideration of property shall not be deemed a promoter within the meaning of this paragraph if such person does not otherwise take part in founding and organizing the enterprise.

(3) All persons coming within the definition of promoter in paragraph (1) of this definition may be referred to as founders or organizers or by another term provided that such term is reasonably descriptive of those persons’ activities with respect to the issuer.

Item 404 expands the definition of promoter to include “any person who acquired control of a registrant that is a shell company, or any person that is part of a group, consisting of two or more persons that agree to act together for the purpose of acquiring, holding, voting or disposing of equity securities of a registrant, that acquired control of a registrant that is a shell company.”

 Item 405 – Compliance with Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act

Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act requires the filing of Forms 3 and 4 by officers, directors or 10%-or-greater shareholders. For a review of the Section 16 filing requirements, see my blog HERE. Item 405 requires a company to disclose failures to meet these filing requirements.

                Item 406 – Code of Ethics

Item 406 requires a company to disclose whether it has adopted a code of ethics for the executive officers and accounting controller. A copy of the code of ethics must also be filed with the SEC and included on the company’s website.

 Item 407 – Corporate Governance

Item 407 requires disclosure of corporate governance standards, including those related to director independence; board committees, including audit compensation, and nominating committees; and annual meeting attendance. Item 407 requires detailed information for each category of corporate governance as well as the policies and procedures of each board committee.

Further Background

The request for comment follows the July 13, 2016 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). See my blog on the proposed rule change HERE. That proposed rule change followed the 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.

As part of the same initiative on June 27, 2016, the SEC issued proposed amendments to the definition of “Small Reporting Company” (see my blog HERE). The SEC also issued a release related to disclosure requirements for entities other than the reporting company itself, including subsidiaries, acquired businesses, issuers of guaranteed securities and affiliates. See my blog HERE.

Prior to the S-K Concept Release and current Regulation S-K and S-X proposed amendments, in September 2015 the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies met and finalized its recommendation to the SEC regarding changes to the disclosure requirements for smaller publicly traded companies. For more information on that topic and for a discussion of the Reporting Requirements in general, see my blog HERE.

In March 2015 the American Bar Association submitted its second comment letter to the SEC making recommendations for changes to Regulation S-K. For more information on that topic, see my blog HERE.

In early December 2015 the FAST Act was passed into law. The FAST Act requires the SEC to adopt or amend rules to: (i) allow issuers to include a summary page to Form 10-K; and (ii) scale or eliminate duplicative, antiquated or unnecessary requirements for emerging-growth companies, accelerated filers, smaller reporting companies and other smaller issuers in Regulation S-K. The current Regulation S-K and S-X Amendments are part of this initiative. In addition, the SEC is required to conduct a study within one year on all Regulation S-K disclosure requirements to determine how best to amend and modernize the rules to reduce costs and burdens while still providing all material information. See my blog HERE.

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The Author

Laura Anthony, Esq.
Founding Partner
Legal & Compliance, LLC
Corporate, Securities and Going Public Attorneys
LAnthony@LegalAndCompliance.com

Securities attorney Laura Anthony and her experienced legal team provides ongoing corporate counsel to small and mid-size private companies, OTC and exchange traded issuers as well as private companies going public on the NASDAQ, NYSE MKT or over-the-counter market, such as the OTCQB and OTCQX. For nearly two decades Legal & Compliance, LLC has served clients providing fast, personalized, cutting-edge legal service. The firm’s reputation and relationships provide invaluable resources to clients including introductions to investment bankers, broker dealers, institutional investors and other strategic alliances. The firm’s focus includes, but is not limited to, compliance with the Securities Act of 1933 offer sale and registration requirements, including private placement transactions under Regulation D and Regulation S and PIPE Transactions as well as registration statements on Forms S-1, S-8 and S-4; compliance with the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including registration on Form 10, reporting on Forms 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K, and 14C Information and 14A Proxy Statements; Regulation A/A+ offerings; all forms of going public transactions; mergers and acquisitions including both reverse mergers and forward mergers, ; applications to and compliance with the corporate governance requirements of securities exchanges including NASDAQ and NYSE MKT; crowdfunding; corporate; and general contract and business transactions. Moreover, Ms. Anthony and her firm represents both target and acquiring companies in reverse mergers and forward mergers, including the preparation of transaction documents such as merger agreements, share exchange agreements, stock purchase agreements, asset purchase agreements and reorganization agreements. Ms. Anthony’s legal team prepares the necessary documentation and assists in completing the requirements of federal and state securities laws and SROs such as FINRA and DTC for 15c2-11 applications, corporate name changes, reverse and forward splits and changes of domicile. Ms. Anthony is also the author of SecuritiesLawBlog.com, the OTC Market’s top source for industry news, and the producer and host of LawCast.com, the securities law network. In addition to many other major metropolitan areas, the firm currently represents clients in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Denver, Tampa, Detroit and Dallas.

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