October 2013

Where to list NYSE or Nasdaq?These are interesting times for technology companies that are contemplating initial public offerings. For companies of sufficient size, the exchange for the listing of their securities generally comes down to the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market. The NYSE has historical prestige and a long track record, while the Nasdaq has cultivated a progressive, tech-friendly reputation. If you are a high visibility technology company, you will probably find these exchanges actively competing for your listing. Such benefits as free advertising have been used, and business deals involving a company’s services may influence a company’s decision as to which exchange to list its securities. For example, Oracle’s switch to the NYSE from Nasdaq was reportedly in part due to an agreement by the NYSE to continue to use Oracle software in its operations.

Nasdaq has long been the favorite exchange for the listing of technology company offerings. This was probably due to the initial progressive use of automation and electronics in this exchange’s early operations which resonated with technology company executives. Rather than traders waving pieces of paper (the historical process at the NYSE), Nasdaq pioneered the use of electronic quotation boards and other advanced methods in its operations. Nasdaq was willing to list the offerings of smaller companies and was also cheaper than the NYSE. All of these factors allowed Nasdaq to build a reputation as the technology companies’ preferred exchange. This reputation was fostered and supported by the listing of a large number of technology companies, including big hitters like Apple and Microsoft.

Nasdaq’s role as the preeminent exchange for technology companies has been diminished. One of the major blows for this exchange was Continue Reading Stock exchanges compete for technology company IPO listings – Twitter chooses NYSE, but who’s really winning?

What is the right balance between investors and issuers?On the same day that the SEC proposed rules that may make capital raising easier for companies by repealing the ban on general solicitation for private offerings, the SEC also proposed rules that may make it much more difficult to raise capital.  Why would they do this?  The repeal on the ban on general solicitation was required by the JOBS Act, but there is a lot of concern about fraud without the ban in place.  And while the SEC’s mission is to maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets and facilitate capital formation, the SEC has a third mission: to protect investors.

Here is a highlight (or a lowlight depending on your perspective) of what is being proposed:

  • Require the filing of a Form D at least 15 calendar days in advance of using any general solicitation (rather than the current requirement of 15 calendar days after the first sale of securities);
  • Require the filing of a “closing amendment” to Form D within 30 calendar days after the termination of an offering (there is no current requirement to file a final amendment);
  • Increase the amount of information gathered by Form D such as the number of investors in the offering and the type of general solicitation used in the offering;
  • Automatically disqualify an issuer from using Regulation D for one year if the issuer failed to file a Form D (currently no such harsh consequences);
  • Mandate certain legends on all written general solicitation materials; and
  • Require the filing of general solicitation materials with the SEC (temporary rule for two years)

Now, while these are still only proposed rules and the comment period continues through November 4, 2013, there has been a huge outcry from the startup community.  Critics of these proposed Continue Reading Proposed changes to Regulation D: Are these really so bad?

Protecting your board from shareholder lawsuits when you announce a dealFor a board of directors of a company, perhaps no decision is as important (and litigious) as the sale of the company in a change-of-control transaction. Shareholder lawsuits aimed at merger and acquisition (“M&A”) transactions (usually in the form of a putative shareholder class action or derivative suit) often allege that the directors of the acquisition target company breached their fiduciary duties in approving the transaction in question, and name the acquiring company and other defendants as aiders and abettors of the fiduciary violation. In support of their claim, the plaintiffs typically assert one, all, or a few of the following:

  • Transaction price is inadequate,
  • Directors failed to exercise due care to maximize the price being offered,
  • Transaction is coercive to shareholders because of so-called deal protection measures included in the agreements,
  • Public disclosures associated with the transaction are inadequate or misleading, and/or
  • Some or all of the directors have some form of conflict of interest.

The rationale for shareholder litigation generally stems from the idea that managerial agency costs are high, and that class actions and derivative suits are key shareholder monitoring mechanisms necessary to keep managers in line. On the other hand, representative litigation claims are often lawyer-driven, reflecting the agency costs that arise out of contingency fee suits that make the lawyer the real party in interest in these cases. In any event, the fact is that shareholder litigation in the United States has exploded in recent years. According to one study, in 2012, shareholders challenged 93 percent of M&A deals valued over $100 million and 96 percent of transactions valued over $500 million.

And while the deferential business judgment rule (i.e., the presumption that the directors’ actions were informed and taken in the good-faith belief that the actions were in the company’s best interests) generally enables directors to Continue Reading Protect your Board from merger and acquisition lawsuits with these five critical considerations

Will SEC be closed by government shutdown?While the U.S. government over the past few years seems to be in a constant state of imminent closure, it finally has happened.  What does this mean to issuers?  At the moment, as Broc Romanek blogged about today, it will be business as usual (at least for the SEC).  For the next few weeks, the SEC believes it has access to sufficient funds to continue normal operations.  The SEC was able to stay open in the last government shutdown in the 1990s.

If the budget impasse continues beyond a few weeks, however, the SEC’s Operational Plan for a governmental shutdown would presumably go into effect.  According to the SEC’s contingency plan, of its 4,149 employees only 252 would report to work. The employees not furloughed would largely consist of those critical for the safety of human life or the protection of property or to carry out emergency enforcement activities. No one may volunteer to work without pay.  All law enforcement and litigation matters, except emergency matters, all processing and approvals of filings and registration statements, and all non-emergency rule-making would be suspended. EDGAR would remain operational; however, the SEC would be unable to process filings, provide interpretive advice, issue no-action letters or conduct any other normal activities.

Most likely, public outcry will cause the government factions to compromise and strike a budget deal before the SEC need to implement its shutdown plan, but an impending SEC shutdown is worth watching especially if you are currently contemplating a securities offering.