Category: SEC

SEC: 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…

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