SEC Fall 2023 Regulatory Agenda

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

2023 Changes To Delaware Corporate Law

Each year the Delaware legislature passes several amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) which impact not only public and private companies incorporated in Delaware, but elsewhere, as many states follow the DGCL.  This year the most significant changes relate to reduced stockholder approval provisions.  Effective August 1, 2023, the DGCL has been amended to: (i) eliminating the need for stockholder approval for forward stock splits in certain cases; (ii) reducing the voting threshold for certain reverse stock splits or changes to authorized shares; (iii) allowing for the disposition of treasury stock for less than par value; (iv) simplifying the process for ratifying defective corporate actions; (v) simplify notices to stockholders following action taken by consent; (vi) expanding certain appraisal rights; and (vii) establishing “safe harbor” provisions from the stockholder approval requirement for certain dispositions of pledged assets.

Shareholder Voting Requirements for Certain Amendments to the Certificate of Incorporation – DGCL Section 242

One of the reasons Delaware

SPAC Director And Sponsor Fiduciary Obligations

A year following the Delaware Chancery Court’s decision in Multiplan Corp. Stockholders Litigation (f/k/a Churchill Capital Corp III), the court again issued an opinion supporting a breach of fiduciary duty cause of action against SPAC directors and sponsors and confirming that a de-SPAC transaction should be reviewed using the “entire fairness” standard.  In the January 2023 case of Delman v. Gigacquisitions3, LLC, et al. the Delaware Court denied a motion to dismiss by SPAC sponsors and directors, upholding their potential liability.  Interestingly, the Delman motion was in front of the same vice-chancellor as was Multiplan.  My blog on the Multiplan Corp. Stockholders Litigation (f/k/a Churchill Capital Corp III) case and its ramifications can be read HERE.

In addition to confirming the inherent conflict of interest of SPAC sponsors and directors, the cases will undoubtedly cause practitioners and market participants to implement new policies and procedures related to proxy statement disclosures, diligence, board discussions, financial valuations, capital raising

Class Voting in Delaware – The Saga Continues

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the Garfield v. Boxed, Inc. case in Delaware questioning whether Class A and Class B common stock in a SPAC structure were different series of a same class or different classes of stock requiring separate class voting in certain circumstances (see HERE).  The Delaware Chancery court in Garfield v. Boxed, found that in that particular case, the Class A and Class B were separate classes requiring a separate class vote to increase the total outstanding common stock as required by the Delaware General Corporate Law (DGCL) Section 242(b)(2).

Following the Garfield decision, there has been a run on the Chancery Court by post-business-combination SPACs seeking to ratify shareholder approvals obtained during the de-SPAC process, in reliance on DGCL Section 205.  Although the wording has varied, in essence each of the companies have asked the Chancery court to (i) validate and declare effective the company’s current certificate of incorporation

Compliance Deadlines For Nasdaq Board Diversity Rules

On August 6, 2021, the SEC approved Nasdaq’s board diversity listing standards proposal.  Nasdaq Rule 5605(f) requires Nasdaq listed companies, subject to certain exceptions, to: (i) to have at least one director who self-identifies as a female, and (ii) have at least one director who self-identifies as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, two or more races or ethnicities, or as LGBTQ+, or (iii) explain why the company does not have at least two directors on its board who self-identify in the categories listed above.  The rule changes also made headlines in most major publications.  One of the most common themes in the press was the lack of inclusion of people with disabilities in the definition of an “underrepresented minority” for purposes of complying with the new rules.

The original rules had tiered compliance deadlines which Nasdaq (and practitioners) found confusing and unnecessarily complicated.  On December 14,

SEC Proposed Mandatory Climate Disclosure Rules – Part 3

On March 21, 2022, the SEC proposed rules that would require publicly reporting companies to include certain climate-related disclosures in their registration statements and periodic reports.  Among other information, the new disclosures would require information about climate-related risks that are reasonably likely to have a material impact on a company’s business, results of operations, or financial condition, and certain climate-related financial statement metrics in a note to its audited financial statements.

The proposed rules would include a phase-in period for all registrants, with the compliance date dependent on the registrant’s filer status, and an additional phase-in period for Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions disclosure.

The proposed rules, which are heady and complex, initially only allotted for a 39-day comment period.  Considering the size (490-page rules release), scope, complexity and ramifications, the marketplace pushed back on such a short window. On May 9, 2022, the SEC extended the comment period through June 17, 2022, and all aspects of the industry are

SEC Proposes New Rules For SPACs – Part 6

On March 30, 2022, the SEC proposed rules related to SPAC and de-SPAC transactions including significantly enhanced disclosure obligations including related to financial projections, making a target company a co-registrant when a SPAC files an S-4 or F-4 registration statement associated with a business combination, and aligning de-SPAC transactions with initial public offering rules.  In addition, the SEC has also proposed rules that would deem any business combination transaction involving a reporting shell company, including but not limited to a SPAC, to involve a sale of securities to the reporting shell company’s shareholders.  The new rules would amend a number of financial statement requirements applicable to transactions involving shell companies.

In addition, the SEC has proposed a new safe harbor under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (‘40 Act’) that would provide that a SPAC that satisfies the conditions of the proposed rule would not be an investment company and therefore would not be subject to regulation under the

SEC Proposes New Rules For SPACs – Part 5

On March 30, 2022, the SEC proposed rules related to SPAC and de-SPAC transactions including significantly enhanced disclosure obligations, expanding the scope of deemed public offerings in these transactions, making a target company a co-registrant when a SPAC files an S-4 or F-4 registration statement associated with a business combination, and aligning de-SPAC transactions with initial public offering rules.  In addition, the SEC has also proposed rules that would deem any business combination transaction involving a reporting shell company, including but not limited to a SPAC, to involve a sale of securities to the reporting shell company’s shareholders.  The new rules would amend a number of financial statement requirements applicable to transactions involving shell companies.

In addition to proposing new rules for SPAC and de-SPAC transactions, the SEC is proposing new Securities Act Rule 145a that would deem all business combinations with an Exchange Act reporting shell to involve the sale of securities to the reporting shell company’s

SEC Proposes New Rules for SPACs- Part 4

On March 30, 2022, the SEC proposed rules enhancing disclosure requirements associated with SPAC initial public offerings (IPOs) and de-SPAC merger transactions; requiring that a private operating company be a co-registrant when a SPAC files an S-4 or F-4 registration statement associated with a business combination; requiring a re-determination of smaller reporting company status within four days following the consummation of a de-SPAC transaction; amending the definition of a “blank check company” to make the liability safe harbor in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for forward-looking statement such as projections, unavailable in filings by SPACs and other blank check companies; and deeming underwriters in a SPAC IPO to be underwriters in a de-SPAC transaction when certain conditions are met.

The proposed rules would require specialized disclosure with respect to compensation paid to sponsors, conflicts of interest, dilution and the fairness of business combination transactions.  Further disclosures will also be required in connection with the use of projections. 

SEC Proposes New Rules for SPACs- Part 3

Anthony L.G., PLLC Securities Law Firm

On March 30, 2022, the SEC proposed rules enhancing disclosure requirements associated with SPAC initial public offerings (IPOs) and de-SPAC merger transactions; requiring that a private operating company be a co-registrant when a SPAC files an S-4 or F-4 registration statement associated with a business combination; requiring a re-determination of smaller reporting company status within four days following the consummation of a de-SPAC transaction; amending the definition of a “blank check company” to make the liability safe harbor in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for forward-looking statement such as projections, unavailable in filings by SPACs and other blank check companies; and deeming underwriters in a SPAC IPO to be underwriters in a de-SPAC transaction when certain conditions are met.

The proposed rules would require specialized disclosure with respect to compensation paid to sponsors, conflicts of interest, dilution and the fairness of business combination transactions.  Further disclosures will also be required in connection with the use of