Category: SEC Guidance

SEC Guidance: By way of reminder, the Committee was organized by the SEC to provide advice on SEC rules, regulations and policies regarding “its mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets and facilitating capital formation…

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

Aug012017

SEC Chair Jay Clayton Discusses Direction Of SEC

In a much talked about speech to the Economic Club of New York on July 12, 2017, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton set forth his thoughts on SEC policy, including a list of guiding principles for his tenure. Chair Clayton’s underlying theme is the furtherance of opportunities and protection of Main Street investors, a welcome viewpoint from the securities markets’ top regulator. This was Chair Clayton’s first public speech in his new role and follows Commissioner Michael Piwowar’s recent remarks to the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation largely related to the U.S. IPO market. For a summary of Commissioner Piwowar’s speech, read HERE.

Guiding Principles

Chair Clayton outlined a list of eight guiding principles for the SEC.

#1: The SEC’s Mission is its touchstone

As described by Chair Clayton, the SEC has a three part mission: (i) to protect investors; (ii) to maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets, and (iii) to facilitate capital formation. Chair Clayton stresses that it

Apr112017

SEC Issues Final Rules Requiring Links To Exhibits

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 1, 2017, the SEC passed a final rule requiring companies to include hyperlinks to exhibits in filings made with the SEC. The amendments 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 amendment also requires that all exhibits be filed in HTML format. The rule change was made to make it easier for investors and other market participants to find and access exhibits listed in current reports, but that were originally provided in previous filings.

The SEC first proposed the rule change on August 31, 2016, as discussed in my blog HERE. The new rule continues the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance’s ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative. I anticipate that this initiative will not only continue but gain traction in the coming years under the new administration as, hopefully,

Apr042017

The Acting SEC Chair Has Trimmed Enforcement’s Subpoena Power

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In early February 2017, acting SEC Chair Michael Piwowar revoked the subpoena authority from approximately 20 senior SEC enforcement staff. The change leaves the Director of the Division of Enforcement as the sole person with the authority to approve a formal order of investigation and issue subpoenas. Historically, the staff did not have subpoena power; however, in 2009 then Chair Mary Shapiro granted the staff the power, in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal. Chair Shapiro deemed the policy to relate solely to internal SEC procedures and, as such, passed the delegation of power without formal notice or opportunity for public comment.

This is the beginning of what I expect will be many, many changes within the SEC as the new administration changes the focus of the agency from Mary Jo White’s broken windows policies to supporting capital formation. The mission of the SEC is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly and

Feb142017

What Does The SEC Do And What Is Its Purpose?

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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As I write about the myriad of constantly changing and progressing securities law-related policies, rules, regulations, guidance and issues, I am reminded that sometimes it is important to go back and explain certain key facts to lay a proper foundation for an understanding of the topics which layer on this foundation. In this blog, I am doing just that by explaining what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is and its purpose. Most of information in this blog comes from the SEC website, which is an extremely useful resource for practitioners, issuers, investors and all market participants.

Introduction

The mission of the SEC is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets and facilitate capital formation.  Although each mission should be a priority, the reality is that the focus of the SEC changes based on its Chair and Commissioners and political pressure. Outgoing Chair Mary Jo White viewed the SEC enforcement division

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

Aug022016

SEC Advisory Committee On Small And Emerging Companies Issues Further Recommendations On Accredited Investor Definition

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On July 19, 2016, the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) met and drafted its recommendations and response to the SEC report on the definition of accredited investor.  The subject of changes to the definition of accredited investor has been debated in a series of reports, recommendations, proposals and comment letters since early 2015.

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 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.  See my blog HERE on the report and additional background on the subject.

At the July 19 meeting, the Advisory

Jul122016

SEC Proposes Amendments To Definition Of “Small Reporting Company”

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On June 27, 2016, the SEC published proposed amendments to the definition of “smaller reporting company” as contained in Securities Act Rule 405, Exchange Act Rule 12b-2 and Item 10(f) of Regulation S-K.  The amendments would expand the number of companies that qualify as a smaller reporting company and thus qualify for the scaled disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X.  The rule change follows the SEC concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to the business and financial disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K.  Throughout the SEC Concept Release, it referenced the scaled and different disclosure requirements for the different categories of company and affirmed that it was evaluating and considering changes to the eligibility criteria for each.

If the rule change is passed, the number of companies qualifying as a smaller reporting company will increase from 32% to 42% of all reporting companies.

The proposed rule

Mar222016

SEC Advisory Committee On Small And Emerging Companies Reviews Capital Formation

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On February 25, 2016, the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) met and listened to three presentations on access to capital and private offerings. The three presentations were by Jeffrey E. Sohl, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Decision Science Director, Center For Venture Research at University of New Hampshire; Brian Knight, Associate Director of Financial Policy, Center for Financial Markets at the Milken Institute; and Scott Bauguess, Deputy Director, Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the SEC. The presentations expound upon the recent SEC study on unregistered offerings (see blog HERE).

The presentations were designed to provide information to the Advisory Committee as they continue to explore recommendations to the SEC on various capital formation topics. This blog summarizes the 3 presentations.

By way of reminder, the Committee was organized by the SEC to provide advice on SEC rules, regulations and policies regarding “its mission of

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