On January 4, 2023, the SEC published its semiannual Fall 2022 regulatory agenda (“Agenda”) and plans for rulemaking. The Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions contains the Regulatory Plans of 28 federal agencies and 68 federal agency regulatory agendas. My favorite Commissioner, Hester M. Peirce, was quiet about the agenda, not issuing a public statement this time. Upon publication of the Spring 2022 Agenda, Commissioner Peirce ripped the Agenda as being disconnected with the SEC’s core mission and as being focused on special interest groups instead of a broad range of market participants. The Agenda is published twice a year, and for several years I have blogged about each publication.
The Agenda is broken down by (i) “Pre-rule Stage”; (ii) Proposed Rule Stage; (iii) Final Rule Stage; and (iv) Long-term Actions. The Proposed and Final Rule Stages are intended to be completed within the next 12 months and Long-term Actions are anything beyond that. The number of items to
As expected, on October 14, 2021, the SEC re-opened the comment period on proposed rules on listing standards for the recovery of erroneously awarded executive compensation (“Clawback Rules”). The Clawback Rules would implement Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Act and require that national securities exchanges require disclosure of policies regarding and mandating clawback of compensation under certain circumstances as a listing qualification. The proposed rules were first published in July 2015 (see HERE) and have moved around on the SEC semiannual regulatory agenda from proposed to long-term and back again for years, but finally seem to be moving forward. Although the proposed rule remains unchanged from the July 2015 version, the SEC has added a few questions for comment in its re-opening release.
There are currently existing rules which require the recovery of executive compensation and disclosure of such policies. In particular, Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”) requires the CEO and CFO to reimburse
As required by the Dodd-Frank Act, in December 2020, the SEC adopted final rules requiring require resource extraction companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments or the U.S. federal government for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals. The last version of the proposed rules were published in December 2019 (see HERE )The rules have an interesting history. In 2012 the SEC adopted similar disclosure rules that were ultimately vacated by the U.S. District Court. In 2016 the SEC adopted new rules which were disapproved by a joint resolution of Congress. In December 2019, the SEC took its third pass at the rules that were ultimately adopted.
The final rules require resource extraction companies that are required to file reports under Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) to disclose payments made by it or any of its subsidiaries or controlled entities, to the U.S. federal government or foreign governments
In July 2020, the SEC published its latest version of its semiannual regulatory agenda and plans for rulemaking with the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is an executive office of the President, publishes a Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (“Agenda”) with actions that 60 departments, administrative agencies and commissions plan to issue in the near and long term. The Agenda is published twice a year, and for several years I have blogged about each publication.
Like the prior Agendas, the spring 2020 Agenda is broken down by (i) “Pre-rule Stage”; (ii) Proposed Rule Stage; (iii) Final Rule Stage; and (iv) Long-term Actions. The Proposed and Final Rule Stages are intended to be completed within the next 12 months and Long-term Actions are anything beyond that. The number of items to be completed in a 12-month time frame has decreased to 42 items as compared to 47 on the
On November 7, 2019, the SEC Investor Advisory Committee held a meeting on the topics of (i) whether investors use environmental, social and governance (ESG) data in making investment and capital allocation decisions; and (ii) the SEC’s recent concept release on harmonization of securities offering exemptions. For more on ESG matters, see HERE and for my blog on the SEC’s concept release on exempt offerings, see HERE. Both SEC Chair Jay Clayton and Commissioner Allison Herren Lee made remarks before the committee. As always, it is helpful in navigating our complex securities laws and regulatory priorities to stay informed on matters involving SEC decision makers and policy setters.
The Investor Advisory Committee was created by the Dodd-Frank Act to advise the SEC on regulatory priorities, the regulation of securities products, trading strategies, fee structures, the effectiveness of disclosure, and on initiatives to protect investor interests and to promote investor confidence and the integrity of the securities marketplace. The Dodd-Frank
On August 8, 2017 the SEC Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (DERA) published a 315-page report describing trends in primary securities issuance and secondary market liquidity and assessing how those trends relate to impacts of the Dodd-Frank Act, including the Volcker Rule. The report examines the issuances of debt, equity and asset-backed securities and reviews liquidity in U.S. treasuries, corporate bonds, credit default swaps and bond funds. Included in the reports is a study of trends in unregistered offerings, including Regulation C and Regulation Crowdfunding.
This blog summarizes portions of the report that I think will be of interest to the small-cap marketplace.
Disclaimers and Considerations
The report begins with a level of disclaimers and the obvious issue of isolating the impact of particular rules, especially when multiple rules are being implemented in the same time period. Even without the DERA notes that noted trends and behaviors could have occurred absent rule changes or reforms. The financial crisis
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 also possible that parts of the lengthy
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 efficient markets and facilitate capital formation. Although
On September 28, 2016, the SEC proposed a rule amendment to shorten the standard broker-initiated trade settlement cycle from three business days from the trade date (T+3) to two business days (T+2). The change is designed to help reduce risks, including credit, market and liquidity risks, associated with unsettled transactions in the marketplace. Outgoing SEC Chair, Mary Jo White was quoted as saying that the change “is an important step to the SEC’s ongoing efforts to enhance the resiliency and efficiency of the U.S. clearance and settlement system.” I have previously written about the clearance and settlement process for U.S. capital markets, which can be reviewed HERE.
DTC provides the depository and book entry settlement services for substantially all equity trading in the US. Over $600 billion in transactions are completed at DTC each day. Although all similar, the exact clearance and settlement process depends on the type of security being traded (stock, bond, etc.), the form the
SEC Whistleblower Awards Pass $100 Million As It Continues To Crack Down On Confidentiality Provisions In Employment Agreements
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 the Whistleblower and created the SEC Whistleblower