On January 24, 2024, the SEC adopted final rules enhancing disclosure obligations for SPAC IPOs and subsequent de-SPAC business combination transactions. The rules are designed to more closely align the required disclosures and legal liabilities that may be incurred in de-SPAC transactions with those in traditional IPOs. The new rules spread beyond SPACs to shell companies and blank check companies in general.
The SEC is specifically requiring enhanced disclosures with respect to compensation paid to sponsors, conflicts of interest, dilution, and the determination, if any, of the board of directors (or similar governing body) of a SPAC regarding whether a de-SPAC transaction is advisable and in the best interests of the SPAC and its shareholders. The SEC has also adopted rules that deem any business combination transaction involving a reporting shell company, including a SPAC, to involve a sale of securities to the reporting shell company’s shareholders, and has amended several financial statement requirements applicable to transactions involving
Barely two weeks after the SEC charged six officers, directors and five percent (5%) or greater shareholders with failing to timely file reports, the SEC adopted final amendments to Sections 13(d) and 13(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). The amendments were first proposed in February, 2022 – see HERE.
The amendments update Sections 13(d), 13(g) and Regulation 13D-G to accelerate filing deadlines for both initial and amended reports; expand the timeframe within a business day in which filings may be timely made; clarify the Schedule 13D disclosure requirements with respect to derivative securities; and require that Schedule 13D and 13G filings be filed using XBRL. I’ve included a chart of the amendments to Schedules 13D and 13G at the end of this blog.
The final rules do not adopt changes that had been proposed to clarify the circumstances under which two or more persons have formed a “group” that would be subject to beneficial ownership reporting
NYSE Amends Shareholder Approval Requirements In Private Securities Transactions Involving Substantial Shareholders
On December 26, 2023, the SEC approved an NYSE rule change to make it easier for listed companies to raise money from existing substantial shareholders. In particular, the NYSE has amended Section 312.03(b) and 312.04 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual to modify the circumstances under which a listed company must obtain shareholder approval prior to the sale of securities below the Minimum Price to a substantial security holder.
Section 312.03 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual lists the circumstances upon which shareholder approval must be obtained prior to the issuance of securities. Pre-amendment Section 312.03(b)(i) requires shareholder approval prior to the issuance of common stock, or of securities convertible into or exercisable for common stock, in any transaction or series of related transactions, to a director, officer or substantial security holder of the company (each a “Related Party”) if the number of shares of common stock to be issued, or if the number of shares of common stock
On December 15, 2023, the SEC issued a staff report on the accredited investor definition. The report comes three years after the most recent amendments to the accredited investor definition (see HERE).
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) requires the SEC to review the accredited investor definition, as relates to natural persons, at least once every four years to determine whether the definition should be modified or adjusted. The last two reports can be read HERE and HERE.
The current report focuses on the composition of the accredited investor demographic, including since the last definition amendments; the extent to which accredited investors have the financial sophistication, ability to sustain the risk of loss of investment, and access to information that have traditionally been associated with an ability to fend for themselves; and accredited investor participation in exempt offerings.
I’ve included the complete current accredited investor definition at the end of this blog.
On December 6, 2023, the SEC published its semi-annual Fall 2023 regulatory agenda (“Agenda”) and plans for rulemaking. The Agenda is published twice a year, and for several years I have blogged about each publication. Although items on the Agenda can move from one category to the next, be dropped off altogether, or new items pop up in any of the categories (including the final rule stage), the Agenda provides valuable insight into the SEC’s plans and the influence that comments can make on the rulemaking process.
The Agenda is broken down by (i) Proposed Rule Stage; (ii) Final Rule Stage; and (iii) 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 is 43, down from 55 on the Spring 2023 Agenda.
Fourteen items are included in the proposed rule stage, down
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.
In a win for conservatives, the recent amendments to the share repurchase rules are officially on hold. Adopted on May 3, 2023 (see HERE) the new disclosure requirements would have taken effect for inclusion in the upcoming 10-K season. Following a successful court challenge, on November 22, 2023, the SEC issued an order postponing the effective date of the new rules pending further SEC action.
On May 3, 2023, the SEC adopted 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 SEC allows for limited methods that an issuer can utilize to show confidence in its own stock and assist in maintaining or increasing its stock price. One of those methods is Exchange Act Rule
On November 1, 2023, the SEC approved Nasdaq’s rule changes to the notification and disclosure requirements for reverse splits. The new rules went effective immediately upon approval. For the proposed rule changes see HERE.
After the market highs of the second half of 2020 and all of 2021, we have all witnessed the general decline, including noticeably depressed valuations and market price, especially in the small cap space. In 2022, Nasdaq processed 196 reverse stock splits, compared to 31 in 2021 and 94 in 2020. As of June 23, 2023, Nasdaq has processed 164 reverse stock splits, and projects significantly more throughout 2023. The majority of reverse splits are completed by companies that trade on the Nasdaq Capital Market tier of the exchange and are completing the split to maintain the minimum $1.00 bid price to avoid delisting.
In response to concerns by Nasdaq that market participants do not have enough visibility on these companies or their
On September 20, 2023, the SEC approved final revisions to the Privacy Act, governing the handling of personal information in the federal government (See HERE for a review of the proposed rules). The revisions codify current practices for processing requests for information made by the public under the Privacy Act and result in an entire re-write of the current rules. The SEC last updated the Privacy Act in 2011.
The Privacy Act is the principal law governing the handling of personal information in the federal government, regulating the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies. The Privacy Act also allows individuals to access information about them and provides a method to correct inaccurate records.
Final New Rules
The amended rules result in a complete rewrite of the Privacy Act to: (i) add a provision setting forth the process by which individuals may be provided with
On September 13, 2023, the SEC proposed rule and form amendments to the EDGAR system dubbing the updates as EDGAR Next. The rule changes are meant to enhance security and improve access to the EDGAR system. My view is that will accomplish the former and not the latter. The changes would require EDGAR filers to authorize identified individuals who would be responsible for managing the filers’ EDGAR accounts. Individuals acting on behalf of filers on EDGAR would need individual account credentials to access those EDGAR accounts and make filings. As part of the proposed rule changes, the SEC is making a beta software public for testing and feedback which software would eventually be used by filers if the proposed new rules are implemented.
The proposed rules would amend Rules 10 and 11 of Regulation S-T and amend Form ID. Only the identified authorized individuals would be able to access a filer’s EDGAR account. The authorized individual(s) need not be