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
In December 2017, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) submitted its fourth comment letter to the SEC related to the financial and business disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K. Like the SEC’s ongoing Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative, the ABA has a Disclosure Effectiveness Working Group as part of its Federal Regulation of Securities Committee (of which I am a member) and its Law and Accounting Committee.
The ABA comment letter begins with a general discussion of the materiality concept, which is the underlying basis of disclosure, and then provides input on various specific areas of disclosure under Regulation S-K. The ABA comment letter specifically responded to the SEC concept release and request for public comment on sweeping changes to certain business and financial disclosure requirements issued on April 15, 2016. See my two-part blog on the S-K Concept Release HERE and HERE.
On February 20, 2018, the SEC issued new interpretative guidance on public company disclosures related to cybersecurity risks and incidents. In addition to addressing public company disclosures, the new guidance reminds companies of the importance of maintaining disclosure controls and procedures to address cyber-risks and incidents and reminds insiders that trading while having non-public information related to cyber-matters could violate federal insider-trading laws.
The prior SEC guidance on the topic was dated, having been issued on October 13, 2011. For a review of this prior guidance, see HERE. The new guidance is not dramatically different from the 2011 guidance.
The topic of cybersecurity has been in the forefront in recent years, with the SEC issuing a series of statements and creating two new cyber-based enforcement initiatives targeting the protection of retail investors, including protection related to distributed ledger technology (DLT) and initial coin or cryptocurrency offerings (ICO’s). Moreover, the SEC has asked the House Committee on Financial
On September 26, 2016, Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Intelligence and Banking Committees and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, wrote a letter to the SEC requesting that they investigate whether Yahoo, Inc., fulfilled its disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws related to a security breach that affected more than 500 million accounts. Senator Warner also requested that the SEC re-examine its guidance and requirements related to the disclosure of cybersecurity matters in general.
The letter was precipitated by a September 22, 2016, 8-K and press release issued by Yahoo disclosing the theft of certain user account information that occurred in late 2014. The press release referred to a “recent investigation” confirming the theft of user account information associated with at least 500 million accounts that was stolen in late 2014. Just 13 days prior to the 8-K and press release, on September 9, 2016, Yahoo filed a preliminary 14A filing with
On March 6, 2015, the Federal Regulation of Securities Committee (“Committee”) of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) submitted its second comment letter to the SEC making recommendations for changes to Regulation S-K. The Committee’s recommendations are aimed at improving the quality of business and financial information that must be disclosed in periodic reports and registration statements in accordance with Regulation S-K. I note that I am a member of the Committee, but not a member of the sub-committee that drafted the comment letter, nor did I have any input in regard to the comment letter.
The recommendations fall into four major categories: materiality; duplication; consolidation of existing interpretive and other guidance from the SEC; and obsolescence. The recommendations in the letter are based on themes articulated by the Division of Corporation Finance in a 2013 report to Congress mandated by the JOBS Act and subsequent speeches by the Division’s Director, Keith F. Higgins.
The Committee’s letter recommends that
ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100
A risk factor disclosure involves a discussion of circumstances, trends, or issues that may affect a company’s business, prospects, operating results, or financial condition. Risk factors must be disclosed in registration statements under the Securities Act and registration statements and reports under the Exchange Act. In addition, risk factors must be included in private offering documents where the exemption relied upon requires the delivery of a disclosure document, and is highly recommended even when such disclosure is not statutorily required.
The Importance of Risk Factors
Risk factors are one of the most often commented on sections of a registration statement. The careful crafting of pertinent risk factors can provide leeway for more robust discussion on business plans and future operations, and can satisfy a wide arrange of SEC concerns regarding existing financial and non-financial matters (such as potential default provisions in debt, dilution matters, inadvertent rule violations, etc.).
Although smaller reporting companies are