On September 5, 2023, Nasdaq adopted amendments to Listing Rule 5610 and IM-5610 requiring listed companies to maintain a code of conduct and to disclose certain waivers. This is also a good time to discuss the code of conduct/code of ethics requirements applicable to all companies subject to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) reporting requirements.
Code of Conduct/Code of Ethics
Section 406(c) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”) requires all companies that are subject to the Exchange Act reporting requirements to disclose whether they have adopted a code of ethics that applies to its principal executive officer, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer or controller, or persons performing similar functions. If the company has not adopted such a code, it must explain why it has not done so.
On May 25, 2023, the SEC published three new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DI) on the recently effective Rule 10b5-1 amendments. The new rules were adopted on December 14, 2022 (see HERE) to enhance disclosure requirements and investor protections against insider trading. The amendments include updates to Rule 10b5-1(c)(1), which provides an affirmative defense to insider trading liability under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5.
The changes updated the conditions that must be met for the 10b5-1 affirmative defense, including adding cooling-off periods before trading can commence under a Rule 10b5-1 plan and a condition that all persons entering into a Rule 10b5-1 plan must act in good faith with respect to the plan. The amendments also require directors and officers to include representations in their plans certifying at the time of the adoption of a new or modified Rule 10b5-1 plan that: (i) they are not aware of any material nonpublic information about the issuer
On December 15, 2021, the SEC proposed amendments to Securities Exchange Act Rule 10b-18, which provides issuers and affiliates with a non-exclusive safe harbor from liability for market manipulation under Sections 9(a)(2) and 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) when issuers bid for or repurchase their common stock. The proposed amendments are intended to improve the quality, relevance, and timeliness of information related to issuer share repurchases.
The proposed new rules were part of a broader SEC initiative aimed at market manipulation and insider trading, including the recently adopted amendments related to Rule 10b5-1 Insider Trading Plans (see HERE).
On December 7, 2022, the SEC re-opened the comment period on the proposed new rules for an additional 30 days after publication in the federal register. The reason for re-opening the comment period is that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 added a corporate non-deductible excise tax equal to one
A public company with a class of securities registered under Section 12 or which is subject to Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) must file Section 13 reports with the SEC (10-K, 10-Q and 8-K). A company registers securities under Section 12 by filing an Exchange Act registration statement such as on Form 10, Form 20-F or Form 8-A. A company becomes subject to Section 15(d) by filing a registration statement under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”) such as a Form S-1 or F-1. The Section 15(d) reporting requirements are scaled down from the full Exchange Act reporting requirements for a company with a class of securities registered under Section 12.
I have previously written about suspending the duty to file reports under Section 15(d) and the related question of determining voluntary reporting status (see HERE). This blog addresses the termination of registration under Section 12.
Ahead of the imminent publication of updated climate disclosure rules, the SEC has published a sample comment letter providing companies with guidance as to the regulator’s current focus and expectations under the rules. The last official SEC guidance on climate-related guidance was published in 2010; however, the SEC, and individual top brass, have been vocal about the need for updated regulations. In that regard, in March 2021, the SEC published a statement requesting public input on climate change disclosures. It is expected that either a rule proposal or temporary final rules are forthcoming. For more information on differing views following the March 2021 request for public comment, including from regulators, industry groups and individual SEC Commissioners, see HERE.
In 2010 as today, companies were and are required to report material information that can impact financial conditions and operations (see most recent amendments to MD&A disclosures: HERE). In addition to MD&A, climate-change-related disclosures, including risks and opportunities, may
On December 8, 2016, the SEC issued 35 new compliance and disclosure interpretations (C&DI) including five related to the use of Form 20-F by foreign private issuers and seven related to the definition of a foreign private issuer.
C&DI Related to use of Form 20-F
In the first of the five new C&DI, the SEC confirms that under certain circumstances the subsidiary of a foreign private issuer may use an F-series registration statement to register securities that are guaranteed by the parent company, even if the subsidiary itself does not qualify as a foreign private issuer. In addition, the subsidiary may use Form 20-F for its annual report. To qualify, the parent and subsidiary must file consolidated financial statements or be eligible to present narrative disclosure under Rule 3-10 of Regulation S-X.