Feb172015

Proposed Amendments To Disclosure Of Hedging Policies For Officers, Directors And Employees

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On February 9, 2015, the SEC issued proposed rules that would increase corporate disclosure of company hedging policies for directors and employees in annual meeting proxy statements.  The new rules are part of the ongoing rule-making requirements mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act).  In particular, the new rule would implement Section 14(j) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), which requires annual meeting proxy or consent solicitation statements to disclose whether employees or members of the board are permitted to purchase financial instruments, such as options, swaps, collars and the like, to hedge price decreases in the company securities. 

The proposed rules regulate disclosure of company policy as opposed to directing the substance of that policy or the underlying hedging activities.  In fact, the rule specifically does not require a company to prohibit a hedging transaction or otherwise adopt specific policies.  The rule would

Sep122017

SEC Announces Regulatory Agenda

In July 2017 the SEC posted its latest version of its semi-annual regulatory agenda and plans for rulemaking with the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The agenda is as interesting for what’s on it, as for what isn’t. The semi-annual list only contains 33 legislative action items that the SEC intends to propose or finalize in the next 12 months. The fall 2016 list contained 62 items. As further discussed in this blog, the list does not include proposals on executive compensation, or many other Dodd-Frank mandated rules.

In the preamble to the list it indicates that it was completed in March, when Michael Piwowar was acting Chair of the SEC. Chair Jay Clayton and now Commissioner Michael Piwowar have been publicly like-minded, with a goal of directing the SEC towards assisting in small and emerging business growth and capital raise activities, while remaining tough on fraud. A summary of Chair Clayton’s first public speech as head of

Aug082017

An Introduction To Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain Technology)

On July 13, 2017, FINRA held a Blockchain Symposium to assess the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the financial industry, including the maintenance of shareholder and corporate records. DLT is commonly referred to as blockchain. The symposium included participation by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Federal Reserve Board and the SEC.

FINRA also published a report earlier in the year discussing the implications of DLT for the securities industry. Delaware, Nevada and Arizona have already passed statutes allowing for the use of DLT for corporate and shareholder records. This is the first in many blogs that will discuss DLT as this exciting new era of technology continues to unfold and impact the securities markets. In this blog I will discuss FINRA’s report published in January 2017 and in the next in the series, I will summarize the recent SEC investigative report on initial coin offerings and conclusion

Jun132017

Financial Choice Act 2.0 Has Made Progress

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 8, 2017, the U.S. House of Representative passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs Act (the “Financial Choice Act 2.0” or the “Act”) by a vote of 283-186 along party lines. Only one Republican did not vote in favor of the Act. On May 4, 2017, the House Financial Services Committee voted to approve the Act. A prior version of the Act was adopted by the Financial Services Committee in September 2016 but never proceeded to the House for a vote.

The Financial Choice Act 2.0 is an extensive, extreme piece of legislation that would dismantle a large amount of the power of the SEC and strip the Dodd-Frank Act of many of its key provisions. The future of the Act is uncertain as it is unlikely to get through the Senate, although a rollback of Dodd-Frank remains a priority to the current administration. It is

Mar282017

The Financial Choice Act 2.0

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On February 9, 2017, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee issued a memo outlining changes to the Financial Choice Act, dubbing the newest version the Financial Choice Act 2.0. The memo was not intended for public distribution but found its way in any event, causing a great deal of anticipation as to the amended Act itself. The actual amended Act has not been released as of the date of this blog.

Introduction

As a reminder, the Financial Choice Act, which was passed by the House Financial Services Committee on September 13, 2016, is an extensive, extreme piece of legislation that would dismantle a large amount of the power of the SEC and strip the Dodd-Frank Act of many of its key provisions. As first written, it would not be feasible for the Act to pass into law, but it certainly illustrates the extreme views of members of the House

Jan122016

SEC Issues Report On Accredited Investor Definition

On December 18, 2015, the SEC issued a 118-page report on the definition of “Accredited Investor” (the “Report”). The report follows the March 2015 SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) recommendations related to the definition. The SEC is reviewing the definition of “accredited investor” as directed by the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires that the SEC review the definition as relates to “natural persons” every four years to determine if it should be modified or adjusted.

The definition of “accredited investor” has not been comprehensively re-examined by regulators since its adoption in 1982; however, in 2011 the Dodd-Frank Act amended the definition to exclude a person’s primary residence from the net worth test of accreditation.

Although the Report contains detailed discussions on the various aspects of the definition of an accredited investor, the history of the different aspects of the definition, a discussion of different approaches taken in other U.S. regulations and in foreign

Nov102015

Mergers And Acquisitions; Appraisal Rights

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Unless they are a party to the transaction itself, such as in the case of a share-for-share exchange agreement, shareholders of a company in a merger transaction generally have what is referred to as “dissenters” or “appraisal rights.”  An appraisal right is the statutory right by shareholders that dissent to a particular transaction, to receive the fair value of their stock ownership.  Generally such fair value may be determined in a judicial or court proceeding or by an independent valuation.  Appraisal rights and valuations are the subject of extensive litigation in merger and acquisition transactions.  As with all corporate law matters, the Delaware legislature and courts lead the way in setting standards and precedence.

Delaware Statutory Appraisal Rights

Although the details and appraisal rights process vary from state to state (often meaningfully), as with other state corporate law matters, Delaware is the leading statutory example and the Delaware Chancery Court is the leader

May122015

SEC Proposes Broadening Of Broker-Dealer Registration Rules To Include Proprietary And High-Frequency Traders

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 25, 2015, the SEC proposed rule amendments to require high-frequency and off-exchange traders to become members of FINRA.  The amendments would increase regulatory oversight over these traders.

Over the years many active cross-market proprietary trading firms have emerged, many of which engage in high-frequency trading.  These firms generally rely on the broad proprietary trading exemption in rule 15b9-1 to forgo membership with, and therefore regulatory oversight by, FINRA.  The rule change is specifically designed to require these high-frequency traders to become members of FINRA and submit to its review and oversight. 

The proposed rule change amends Rule 15b9-1 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) to narrow a current exemption from FINRA membership if the broker is a member of a national securities exchange, carries no customer accounts and has annual gross income of no more than $1,000 derived from sources other than the exchange to

Apr142015

SEC Congressional Testimony- Part I

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On three occasions recently representatives of the SEC have given testimony to Congress.  On March 24, 2015, SEC Chair Mary Jo White testified on “Examining the SEC’s Agenda, Operations and FY 2016 Budget Request”; on March 19, 2015, Andrew Ceresny, Director of the SEC Division of Enforcement, testified to Congress on the “Oversight of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement”; and on March 10, 2015, Stephen Luparello, Director of the Division of Trading and Markets, testified on “Venture Exchanges and Small-Cap Companies.”  In a series of blogs, I will summarize the three testimonies.  This first blog in the series summarizes the testimony of Mary Jo White.

Mary Jo White Testimony

On March 24, 2015, SEC Chair Mary Jo White gave testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services.  The testimony was titled “Examining the SEC’s Agenda, Operations and FY 2016 Budget Request.”  As can be gleaned from the title, Mary

Sep242013

An Overview of Regulation S – The Offshore Offering Exclusion

As I’ve repeated many times in blogs in the past, all offers, offers to sell, sales and offers to buy securities must be either registered or exempted from registration under Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933.  Regulation S provides an exclusion from the Section 5 requirements for transactions that occur outside the United States.  Both private and public securities offerings made outside the United States by U.S. Issuers are excluded from the registration requirements of Section 5 as long as all the requirements of Regulation S are met.  Regulation S may also be relied upon by foreign issuers; however, this blog will concentrate on offerings by U.S. Issuers and affiliates.

Offshore Transactions

An offshore transaction is one in which (i) the offer is not made to a person in the U.S.; and (ii) Either (a) at the time the buy order is originated the buyer is outside the U.S. or the seller reasonably believes the buyer is outside