Category: Dodd-Frank Act

Dodd-Frank Act: The SEC Penalties Act continues a trend to deter securities law violations through regulations and stronger enforcement including the SEC Broken Windows policy, increased Dodd-Frank whistleblower activity and reward payments, and increased bad actor prohibitions…

Mar212017

SEC Completes Inflation Adjustment To Civil Penalties

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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The SEC has completed the first annual adjustment for inflation of the maximum civil monetary penalties administered under the SEC. The inflation adjustment was mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act of 2015, which requires all federal agencies to make an annual adjustment to civil penalties.

The SEC adjusted civil penalties that can be imposed under the Securities Act of 1933, Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Investment Company Act of 1040, Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 civil penalties are those imposed by the PCAOB in disciplinary proceedings against its accountant members.

The penalty increase applies to civil monetary penalties (“CMP”). A CMP is defined as “any penalty, fine, or other sanction that: (1) is for a specific amount, or has the maximum amount, as provided by federal law; and (2) is assessed or enforced by an agency in an

Feb072017

House Passes Creating Financial Prosperity For Business And Investors Act

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On December 5, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Creating Financial Prosperity for Businesses and Investors Act (H.R. 6427) (the “Act”), continuing the House’s pro-business legislation spree. The Act is actually comprised of six smaller acts, all of which have previously been considered and passed by the House in 2016. The Act is comprised of: (i) Title I: The Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act (H.R. 4168); (ii) Title II: The SEC Small Business Advocate Act (H.R. 3784); (iii) Title III: The Supporting American’s Innovators Act (H.R. 4854); (iv) Title IV: The Fix Crowdfunding Act (H.R. 4855); (v) Title V: The Fair Investment Opportunities for Professionals Experts Act (H.R. 2187); and (vi) Title VI: The U.S. Territories Investor Protection Act (H.R. 5322).

Title I: The Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act (H.R. 4168)

This Act requires the SEC to respond to the findings and recommendations of the SEC’s annual Government-Business Forum

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

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

Mar152016

House Passes More Securities Legislation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In what must be the most active period of securities legislation in recent history, the US House of Representatives has passed three more bills that would make changes to the federal securities laws. The three bills, which have not been passed into law as of yet, come in the wake of the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”), which was signed into law on December 4, 2015.

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 the SEC; and (iii) H.R. 2187, proposing an amendment to the definition of accredited investor. None of the bills have been passed by the Senate as of yet.

Meanwhile, the SEC continues to finalize rulemaking under both the JOBS Act, which

Mar082016

SEC Gives Insight On 2016 Initiatives

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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SEC Chair Mary Jo White gave a speech at the annual mid-February SEC Speaks program and, as usual, gave some insight into the SEC’s focus in the coming year.  This blog summarized Chair White’s speech and provides further insight and information on the topics she addresses.

Consistent with her prior messages, Chair White focuses on enforcement, stating that the SEC “needs to go beyond disclosure” in carrying out its mission.  That mission, as articulated by Chair White, is the protection of investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation.  In 2015 the SEC brought a record number of enforcement proceedings and secured an all-time high for penalty and disgorgement orders.  The primary areas of focus included cybersecurity, market structure requirements, dark pools, microcap fraud, financial reporting failures, insider trading, disclosure deficiencies in municipal offerings and protection of retail investors and retiree savings.  In 2016 the SEC intends to focus enforcement

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

May062014

Say-On-Pay for Smaller Reporting Companies

Effective April 4, 2011, the SEC adopted final rules implementing shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”).  Upon enactment smaller reporting companies were given a two-year exemption from the compliance requirements.  Smaller reporting companies are defined as entities which, as of the last business day of their second fiscal quarter, have a public float of less than $75 million.  Beginning in 2013, that exemption expired and now these smaller reporting companies are required to include say-on-pay voting.  Although smaller reporting companies have been subject to the rules for a year now, I still encounter questions from the entities as to their obligations and requirements under the rules.

The say-on-pay rules were implemented by adding Section 14A, which requires companies to conduct a separate shareholder advisory vote to approve the compensation of executives, which pay is disclosed pursuant to Item 402 (the “say-on-pay” vote).

Dec172013

SEC Guidance on Rules Disqualifying Bad Actors from Participating in Rule 506 Offerings

On December 4, 2013, the SEC updated its Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI’s”) including new guidance on the rules disqualifying bad actors from participating in Rule 506 offerings.

Background

The Dodd-Frank Act required the SEC to implement rules which disqualify certain Rule 506 offerings based on the individuals involved in the Issuer and related parties.  On July 10, 2013, the SEC adopted such rules by amending portions of Rules 501 and 506 of Regulation D, promulgated under the Securities Act of 1933.  The new rules went into effect on September 23, 2013.  The new rule disqualifies the use of Rule 506 as a result of certain convictions, cease and desist orders, suspensions and bars (“disqualifying events”) that occur on or after September 23, 2013, and adds disclosure obligation in Rule 506(e) for disqualifying events that occurred prior to September 23, 2013.

Rule 506 provides that disqualifying events committed by a list of specified “covered persons” affiliated with the Issuer or