Continuing its concerns over the quality of disclosures from companies based in or with a majority of their operations in the People’s Republic of China, in July 2023, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance published yet another sample comment letter to China-based companies.
Back in April 2020, former SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and a group of senior SEC and PCAOB officials issued a joint statement warning about the risks of investing in emerging markets, especially China, including companies from those markets that are accessing the U.S. capital markets (see HERE). Before that, in December 2018, Chair Clayton, SEC Chief Accountant Wes Bricker and PCAOB Chairman William D. Duhnke III issued a similar cautionary statement, also focusing on China (see HERE).
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act (“HFCA”) was adopted on December 18, 2020, requiring both the SEC and the PCAOB to adopt rules and procedures implementing its provisions. The HFCA requires foreign-owned issuers to certify that the PCAOB
In July Nasdaq filed a proposed rule change with the SEC to establish listing standards related to notification and disclosure requirements of reverse splits. As of the writing of this blog, the proposed rule change has received only a single comment, which supported the change.
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. In its rule proposal, Nasdaq notes that the majority of reverse splits are effectuated by smaller companies that do not have broad media or research coverage. These companies generally trade on the Nasdaq Capital Market tier of the exchange and are completing reverse splits
On August 25, 2023, the SEC published five 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. This is the second time the SEC has published guidance on the rules having issued three C&DI in May – see HERE.
The rule amendments updated the conditions to satisfy 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
On July 26, 2023, the SEC adopted final new rules requiring disclosures for both domestic and foreign companies related to cybersecurity incidents, risk management, strategy and governance. The proposed rules were published in March 2022 (see HERE). In response to numerous comments, the final rules made several changes to the proposal, including narrowing the disclosures in both the Form 8-K/6-K and annual reports on Form 10-K and 20-F.
The final rules add new Item 1.05 to Form 8-K requiring disclosure of a material cybersecurity incident including the incident’s nature, scope, timing, and material impact or reasonably likely impact on the company. An Item 1.05 Form 8-K will be due within four business days following determination that a cybersecurity incident is material. Given the sensitive nature of cybersecurity crimes, the SEC has added a provision allowing an 8-K to be delayed if it is informed by the United States Attorney General, in writing, that immediate disclosure would pose a substantial
The concept of affiliation resonates throughout the federal securities laws, including pertaining to both the Securities Act and Exchange Act rules, regulations and forms and Nasdaq and NYSE compliance. In this multipart series of blogs, I will unpack what the term “affiliate” means and its implications. This first blog in the series began with an analysis of the Securities Act definition of “affiliate” and the implications under Rule 144, Section 4(a)(7) and Form S-3 eligibility (see HERE). In this Part 2 of the series, I am delving into the meaty topic of a primary vs. secondary offering, which itself hinges on whether the offeror is an affiliate.
Secondary/Resale Offerings vs. Primary Offerings
A secondary offering is an offering made by or on behalf of bona fide selling shareholders and not by or on behalf of the registrant company. A secondary offering can only occur after a company is public. That is, even if a company goes public
In addition to the rules and regulations governing the numerous mandatory disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws, the SEC also has several rules governing a company’s obligations vis-a-vis voluntary disclosures. I have written several times about the use of non-GAAP financial measures (see HERE and the imbedded links therein), but it has been several years (10!) since I wrote about the rules and regulations that form a part of Regulation Fair Disclosure (“Regulation FD”).
Regulation FD, comprised of Exchange Act Rules 100-103, was first adopted in the year 2000 in response to concerns about selective disclosure to certain market participants, including a practice of having private calls with analysts, institutional shareholders and traders. Regulation FD requires a company to make public disclosure in advance of an intentional disclosure of material non-public information or immediately following an inadvertent disclosure of such material information.
Regulation FD Rules
Over the years I’ve noted that information required pursuant to various disclosure obligations, or new or amended rules, may be “furnished” versus “filed” with the SEC, but I realize in a “let’s get back to basics” moment, I have not yet (until now) provided a detailed explanation of what that means. In summary, information that is “filed” with the SEC carries Section 18 liability, only “filed” information can be incorporated by reference into other filings, such as an S-3 registration statement, and only “filed” SEC reports affect S-3 eligibility.
Section 18 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”) imposes liability on any person that makes or causes to be made any statement in any application, report or document “filed” pursuant to the Exchange Act or any rule thereunder which statement was at the time and in the light of the circumstances under which it was made false or misleading with
On June 13, 2023, the SEC published its semiannual Spring 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) “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 is 55, which is in-line with the average items under Gary Gensler’s regime (and much higher than
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 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 proposed 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).
Following publishing the proposed rules, on December 7, 2022, the SEC re-opened the comment period for an additional 30 days after publication in the federal register. The reason for re-opening the comment period was that the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 added a corporate non-deductible excise tax equal to one percent of the fair market value of any stock of the corporation repurchased by such corporation during the taxable year (see