Yes, it’s that time of year again.  Turkey, Black Friday, decking the halls, office parties, and the annual issuance of ISS’s voting policies for the coming year.

To make sure I’m on Santa’s good list, I need to be honest – and, to be honest, the 2018 changes seem rather benign.  In fact, as noted below, ISS hasn’t gone as far as some of its mainstream members in terms of encouraging board diversity and sustainability initiatives.

Here’s a quick rundown on the key changes for 2018:

  • Director Compensation: Director compensation – or at least excessive director compensation – has been looming ever larger as a hot topic in governance.  ISS continues the trend by determining that a two-consecutive-year pattern of excessive director pay will result in an against or withhold vote for directors absent a “compelling” rationale.  Since the policy contemplates a two-year pattern, there will be no negative voting recommendations on this matter until 2019.

Continue Reading Tis the season

William Hinman, the new Corp Fin director
William Hinman, the new Corp Fin director

As has been rumored, the SEC announced today that William H. Hinman will be the new director for the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance.

Mr. Hinman, who recently retired as a securities and corporate finance partner from the Silicon Valley office of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, has advised in some of the larger IPOs in the technology section in recent history such as Alibaba, Google and Facebook. Mr. Hinman replaces Keith Higgins, the former director of Corp Fin who left in January.

Given newly appointed SEC Chair Clayton’s stated desire to substantially reduce regulation and burdens to increase the IPO market, hiring Mr. Hinman seems to align with Chair Clayton’s vision. The number of public companies has decreased 37% since the high water mark set in 1997. While there may be many reasons for the decrease in IPOs and in the number of public companies, overly burdensome disclosure obligations certainly ranks among the top reasons (see conflict minerals, pay ratio, CD&A, XBRL . . . ).

While I doubt we will be going back to 20 page Form 10-Ks, let’s hope that the new Chair and Corp Fin director can jettison some of the most burdensome and least effective disclosure, that they can help make the public capital markets for potential small- and mid-cap issuers more robust, and that the SEC can move forward with other important initiatives.

Bob Lamm wins Lifetime Achievement AwardCongratulations to our esteemed colleague, Bob Lamm, for winning this prestigious award! While we all know that Bob is the guru in the governance space, it’s great that he was recognized for all of his achievements (to date!). Well deserved!

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 29, 2016) – Gunster, one of Florida’s oldest and largest full-service business law firms, is pleased to announce that Bob Lamm received the Lifetime Achievement award at the ninth annual Corporate Secretary Corporate Governance Awards.

Lamm serves as co-chair of Gunster’s securities & corporate governance practice. He has devoted his career to governance in his prior positions with companies such as Pfizer; CA, Inc.; and W.R. Grace & Co. In addition to his role at Gunster, Lamm acts as an independent senior advisor to the Deloitte Center for Board Effectiveness and as an advisory director of Argyle, and he has actively been involved as a long-term member of the Society for Corporate Governance. In addition, Lamm serves as a senior fellow of the Conference Board Center for Corporate Governance, as well as a director for the Junior Achievement of South Florida.

“As an independent senior advisor, Bob has made an indelible mark. His dedication shows his deep passion for investing in the next generation of independent directors,” said Deb DeHaas, vice chair and managing partner at the Deloitte Center for Board Effectiveness. “Throughout my career, it has been my experience that truly brilliant people are also kind and generous of spirit. In this respect, Bob is a special treasure; an expert lawyer with a big heart and the soul of a teacher, who shares his knowledge without pretension, and always praises the qualities he sees in others,” added Iain Poole, managing director at Argyle. Bill Perry, Gunster’s CEO and managing shareholder stated that “Bob’s commitment to excellence in corporate governance and securities law is exceptional. We are fortunate to call Bob a colleague and as Florida’s law firm for business, we are honored to have him among our ranks.”

On Thursday, Nov. 3, more than 400 industry professionals in the governance, risk and compliance world gathered together in New York to celebrate the best of the best in the industry and celebrate the lifelong accomplishments of all the evening’s honorees. There were over 300 nominations received in 14 different categories.

 

The United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister.  Her name is Theresa May, and she’s a member of the

Photo by Scott P
Photo by Scott P

Conservative Party.  Remember that, because what you are about to read will probably lead you to think otherwise.

In a speech made a couple of days before Ms. May became Prime Minister, she said that she would pursue the following actions if she were to become Prime Minister: Continue Reading What happens in England

4532941987_9004c36616_mIn a June 27 speech to the International Corporate Governance Network, SEC Chair Mary Jo White engaged in a bit of full disclosure herself:

“I can report today that the staff is preparing a recommendation to the Commission to propose amending the rule to require companies to include in their proxy statements more meaningful board diversity disclosures on their board members and nominees where that information is voluntarily self-reported by directors.”

As noted in her remarks, the SEC adopted the current disclosure requirements on board diversity in 2009.  However, the requirements were added to other board-related disclosure requirements at the last minute, when it was reported that Commissioner Aguilar refused to support the other requirements unless diversity disclosure was also mandated.  As a result, the diversity requirements were never subjected to public comment, did not define “diversity,” and seemed to require disclosure only if the company had a diversity “policy”.   When companies failed to provide the disclosure because they had no policy, the SEC clarified that if diversity was a factor in director selection then, in fact, the company would be deemed to have a policy, thus requiring disclosure.

Continue Reading Coming soon to an SEC filing near you: board diversity (but not sustainability…for now)

Bob's Upticks added to The Securities Edge
Photo by Austin Kleon

To our readers:

As you may have noticed, this week we launched a new feature for The Securities Edge.  We call our new feature “Bob’s Upticks,” which will be authored by our very own Bob Lamm.  We are excited to add this new “blog within a blog” and to share Bob’s extensive and deep securities and corporate governance knowledge with you!

While The Securities Edge has always strived to provide deeper analysis on some of the most important issues of the day, Bob’s Upticks will use shorter posts and will focus on keeping you up to speed on the weekly changes in the securities and corporate governance world.  When Bob was the Chairman of the Securities Law Committee for the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals, we all looked forward to receiving Bob’s weekly updates.  With Bob’s Upticks, our readers get the same opportunity! You can even subscribe separately to the RSS feed for Bob’s Upticks 

Please drop us a note to let us know what you think.

Nasdaq fees are ready for takeoffIn late August, Nasdaq announced changes to their annual listing fees.  Generally, the fees will increase effective January 1, 2015, but Nasdaq is also adopting an all-inclusive annual fee and eliminating its quarterly fees.  The new annual fee will now include fees related to listing additional shares, record-keeping changes, and substitution listing events.  The all-inclusive fee is optional for issuers until January 1, 2018 at which point it becomes mandatory.

Issuers have a choice to make.  Option #1 – An issuer can do nothing and continue to pay an annual fee as well as pay the quarterly fees to list additional shares.  Under this method, an issuer will experience increased 2015 fees ranging from 0% to 40% depending on how many shares an issuer has outstanding.  Generally, the largest increases are for issuers with less than 10 million shares outstanding (14% increase) and for issuers with more than 100 million shares outstanding (40% if there are between 100 and 125 million shares outstanding and 25% if there are more than 150 million shares outstanding).  Think of this option as the same as flying on an airplane.  You get a seat (usually), but if you want anything else you need to pay.

Option #2 – Elect to Continue Reading Nasdaq annual listing fees are going up, up (but not away)

Bob Lamm joins The Securities Edge.

The Securities Edge is excited to announce a new blogger to the fold: Bob Lamm!  After a 12-year “hiatus”, Bob has rejoined Gunster.  

Bob is widely considered a national expert in the securities and corporate governance space and frequently speaks and writes on securities law, corporate governance, and related topics. Bob’s unparalleled depth of experience will prove to be a great addition to The Securities Edge and Gunster. 

Bob has over four decades of in-house experience.  His most recent experience was as Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Secretary with Pfizer.  In addition to Pfizer, Bob’s previous experience includes service as Vice President and Secretary of W. R. Grace & Co., Senior Vice President – Corporate Governance and Secretary of CA, Inc., and Managing Director, Secretary and Associate General Counsel of FGIC Corporation/Financial Guaranty Insurance Company.  Bob also has extensive experience with small- and mid-cap public companies as well as non-profit entities.   

At Gunster, Bob will co-chair the Securities and Corporate Governance Practice Group, where his deep expertise will be welcomed in the Florida market.    

Bob is a long-term member of the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals. He is the immediate past Chair of the Society’s Securities Law Committee and has served on the Society’s Corporate Practices, Finance and National Conference Committees, and as a member of its Board of Directors. He is also a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board Governance Center.  

Bob is a member of the New York State Bar, The Florida Bar, and the American Bar Association (including its Business Law Section and Committees on Corporate Governance and Federal Regulation of Securities). He received a Bachelor of Arts from Brandeis University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

We are all looking forward to reading some great posts from Bob!

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.

Nominate The Securities Edge for Blawg 100Dear Readers,

The ABA Journal is soliciting nominations for law blogs to include in their 7th Annual Blawg 100.   Essentially, the American Bar Association puts together a list each year to honor the legal blogs that have the most impact.  If you like what you read on our blog, we are asking you to consider nominating The Securities Edge for inclusion in this year’s list.

We think we have had a great two year run so far.  If you agree, use the form here to nominate us.  It only takes about a minute.  Nominations are due no later than 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013.

Thanks for your support!