In March 2019, the SEC adopted amendments to Regulation S-K as required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”) (see HERE). Among other changes, the amendments allow companies to redact confidential information from most exhibits without filing a confidential treatment request (“CTR”), including omitting schedules and exhibits to exhibits. Likewise, the amendments allow a company to redact information that is both (i) not material, and (ii) competitively harmful if disclosed without the need for a confidential treatment request. The enacted amendment only applies to material agreement exhibits under Item 601(b)(10) and not to other categories of exhibits, which would rarely contain competitively harmful information.
After the rule change, the SEC streamlined its procedures for granting CTR’s and for applying for extended confidential treatment on previously granted orders. The amendments to the CTR process became effective April 2, 2019. See HERE for a summary of confidential treatment requests. In December 2019, the SEC issued new guidance on confidential
Rule 3-13 of Regulation S-X allows a company to request relief from the SEC from the financial statement disclosure requirements if they believe that the financial information is burdensome and would result in disclosure of information that goes beyond what is material to investors. Consistent with the ongoing message of open communication and cooperation, the current SEC regime has been actively encouraging companies to avail themselves of this relief and has updated the CorpFin Financial Reporting Manual to include contact information for staff members that can assist.
As part of its ongoing disclosure effectiveness initiative, the SEC is also considering amendments to the financial statement disclosure process and the publication of further staff guidance. In addition to advancing disclosure changes, allowing for relief from financial statement requirements could help encourage smaller companies to access public markets, an ongoing goal of the SEC and other financial regulators. For a review of the October 2017 Treasury Department report to President Trump, including
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On May 16, 2017, SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar gave the opening remarks to the SEC-NYU Dialogue on Securities Market Regulation. The focus of the SEC-NYU Dialogue was the current state of and outlook for the U.S. IPO market. Mr. Piwowar specifically spoke about reviving the U.S. IPO market.
The declining IPO market has been a topic of review lately, and was one of the main points discussed at the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee meeting held on June 22. SEC Chair Jay Clayton weighed in at the Investor Advisory Committee, stating that he is “actively exploring ways in which we can improve the attractiveness of listing on our public markets, while maintaining important investor protections.” Mr. Clayton’s words echoed his statements made to the Senate confirmation hearing prior to his swearing in as chair.
This blog summarizes Commissioner Piwowar’s speech and of course offers my views and commentary.
Commissioner Piwowar’s Opening
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.
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 as part of a uniform disclosure initiative
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 on June 27, 2016, the SEC issued
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.
On May 3, 2016, the SEC issued final amendments to revise the rules related to the thresholds for registrations, termination of registration, and suspension of reporting under Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The amendments mark the final rule making and implementation of all provisions under the JOBS Act, and implement further provisions under the FAST Act.
The amendments revise the Section 12(g) and 15(d) rules to reflect the new, higher shareholder thresholds for triggering registration requirements and for allowing the voluntary termination of registration or suspension of reporting obligations. The new rules also make similar changes related to banks, bank holding companies, and savings and loan companies.
Specifically, the SEC has amended Exchange Act Rules 12g-1 through 12g-4 and 12h-3 related to the procedures for termination of registration under Section 12(g) through the filing of a Form 15 and for suspension of reporting obligations under Section 15(d), to reflect the higher thresholds set by the
Within the world of securities there are many sectors and facets to explore and understand. To be successful, a public company must have an active, liquid trading market. Accordingly, the trading markets themselves, including the settlement and clearing process in the US markets, is an important fundamental area of knowledge that every public company, potential public company, and advisor needs to comprehend. A basic understanding of the trading markets will help drive relationships with transfer agents, market makers, broker-dealers and financial public relations firms as well as provide the knowledge to improve relationships with shareholders. In addition, small pooled funds such as venture and hedge funds and family offices that invest in public markets will benefit from an understanding of the process.
This blog provides a historical foundation and summary of the clearance and settlement processes for US equities markets. In a future blog, I will drill down into specific trading, including short selling.
History and Background
The Paperwork Crisis
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 was passed into law on April 5,
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 on financial reporting, market structure, and the