Travel on corporate jets is alluring.  I’ve had the pleasure, and it really is a pleasure.  No TSA, nobody squishing you on both sides.  No worry about checked bags not getting there, and so on.  It’s no wonder that people love it so much.

However, there can be too much of a good thing.  My experience

Background

On October 26, 2022, the SEC adopted final clawback rules consistent with the requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. The new rules direct the national securities exchanges to establish listing standards requiring companies to adopt, disclose, and enforce policies to recoup, or “clawback,” incentive-based compensation erroneously awarded to executive officers.  Based upon recent SEC action, listed companies will have until December 1, 2023 to adopt compliant clawback policies. The following summarizes some key provisions of the final rules and the decisions that companies will have to make as they finalize their policies by the deadline.

Adopting Compliant Policies 

Companies that do not have existing clawback provisions in place must adopt policies that comply with the standards established by the exchanges. Companies that have clawback provisions in place must determine if and how those policies differ from what is required and either modify their existing policies or adopt a new compliant policy on a stand-alone basis. Questions to help integrate or create compliant policies include: Continue Reading The SEC’s New Clawback Rules: The Devil’s in the Details (and There Are Lots of Details)

The SEC recently enacted a new exemption from registration for brokers who provide certain services in M&A transactions. The new exemption, which became effective on March 29, 2023, largely confirms and codifies prior SEC guidance that was provided in a January 31, 2014 No Action Letter and will provide some comfort and certainty to qualifying M&A brokers and their advisors who work in this arena. However, it may require some M&A brokers to register with the SEC despite the fact that they were not previously required to do so.

The new exemption from SEC registration, which is contained in new Section 15(b)(13) of the 1934 Act, incorporates much of the language of the 2014 No Action Letter, but it imposes size limitations that were not contained in the 2014 No Action Letter. The SEC withdrew the 2014 No Action Letter on March 29, 2023.

Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 generally requires any person engaged in the business of carrying out securities transactions for other parties to register with the SEC. Such registration can be costly, intrusive, and time consuming, and it probably does not create a high level of additional consumer protection or benefits in the M&A context. This has consistently been an area of concern, however, since unregistered brokers can be subject to severe penalties such as monetary fines and disgorgement of fees that they have received. As a result, most M&A brokers and their advisors have relied on the 2014 No Action Letter to justify not registering with the SEC. This has largely been a successful strategy absent other disqualifying factors, but because no action letters can be reversed or changed, participants were unable to get totally comfortable.Continue Reading New SEC Exemption from Registration for M&A Brokers: A Positive Step, but Not for All

I have long thought that the SEC is among the best, if not the best, government agency.  Over the years, I’ve worked with and gotten to know many folks on the SEC’s staff, who have consistently impressed me as bright, hard-working, serious about the SEC’s mission, and very nice people.  I am sure that most people on the staff continue to possess these and other great attributes.

However.

As with most organizations, the tone at the top is critical.  And, at least from outward appearances, the tone at the top of the SEC is at best dismissive, if not hostile, towards business, and disingenuous.  I’m not saying that the SEC should bow to corporate America’s wishes and do its bidding.  But it’s in the interest of our capital markets and the participants in those markets that the SEC consider a wide range of views and engage in thorough and thoughtful deliberation (part of what is known in the corporate world as the fiduciary duty of due care) before making decisions.

That does not seem to be the case.  In the last year or so, the SEC has repeatedly demonstrated fealty to the institutional investor community by such things as announcing, early in Chair Gensler’s tenure, that the SEC would not enforce rules providing for a more level playing field between companies and proxy advisory firms, adopted by the SEC barely two years earlier, and then formally rescinding those rules (see here).  I’m not saying those rules were perfect – far from it; in fact, they met the classic definition of compromise, in that all sides were dissatisfied with the outcome.  However, they were a start, and instead of getting rid of them the SEC could and, IMHO, should have worked to improve them.
Continue Reading Rooting for the other guys?

Remember those three monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?  Well, that’s kind of how the SEC views the internet and social media.  Time after time after time, the SEC has cautioned that social media are fraught, to the point that I sometimes wonder if there is a watermark, visible only to securities lawyers, in every SEC pronouncement about the web and social media that says “PROCEED AT YOUR PERIL!”  And, unfortunately, many (too many, IMHO) SEC attorneys follow the SEC’s lead and either don’t encourage or actively discourage clients from taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by technology.

An example may be helpful.  Several years ago, when I was in-house, we decided to include in our proxy statement a live link to something on our website.  When we sent our draft proxy statement to outside counsel for the customary rules check, one of the comments we received was a strong admonition to remove the link or at least not make it “live.”  The rationale was that there might be something on our website that we wouldn’t put in an Exchange Act filing and that the link would somehow suck all that bad stuff into the proxy statement and lead to liability.
Continue Reading Note to SEC: The internet and social media are here – deal with it!

I’ve been known to make some weird connections in this blog, so if you’re wondering what’s with the title of this posting, read on.

Some years ago, my wife and I took a fabulous trip to Egypt.  One of the many fascinating things and people we learned about was Hatshepsut, a Pharaoh who ruled Egypt from 1479 to 1458 BC, or thereabouts.  She’s been called Queen Hatshepsut, but technically that’s not correct, because she was literally a Pharaoh – a title that our guides told us was an exclusively male title for which there was no female equivalent.

Hatshepsut is believed to have been a very successful leader, opening trade routes and creating a boom in the construction of many grand temples and so on – something one of our guides referred to as an “edifice complex.”  However, after her death, her son, Pharaoh Tutmosis III, and possibly his son (to say nothing of the patriarchy) sought to eradicate her existence.  Her name was removed from records and many of her statues and images were defaced or destroyed.

But enough ancient history.
Continue Reading Why Is the SEC Like Pharaoh Tutmosis III?

Image by haengematteORG from Pixabay

Lest you think that the summer is a quiet time for those of us in the wacky world of securities and corporate governance, think again.  Here’s some of what’s going on:

Legislation

On July 30, the House Financial Services Committee passed 11 bills and sent them to the full House. One of the bills would authorize the SEC to revise the reporting period for 13F disclosures from quarterly to monthly, change the time period to submit such reports, and expand the list of items to be disclosed to include certain derivatives.  The issuer and investment communities support these moves, and House passage seems likely, but the Senate is another matter altogether.

Another bill would impact family offices in a number of ways, including limiting the use of the family office exemption from registration as an investment adviser with the SEC to offices with $750 million or less in assets under management; requiring family offices with more than $750 million of assets under management to register with the SEC as “exempt reporting advisers”; and preventing persons who are barred or subject to final orders for conduct constituting fraud, manipulation, or deceit from being associated with a family office.
Continue Reading Summer Doldrums? Not So Much!

Image by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. from Pixabay

Popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase went public on Nasdaq on April 14 using a direct listing. The company achieved a huge valuation (more than $100 billion) in this offering. While it’s too early to tell whether Coinbase’s stock price will hold up over time, the initial success of this offering is impressive. This continues a string of successful direct listing offerings by large technology companies such as Slack, Spotify, Palantir and Asana, all of which utilized this process to become public companies. What is a direct listing and how is it better (or worse) than a traditional IPO? More importantly, should you use a direct listing to take your company public? (Spoiler alert:  maybe not).

Direct listing is a somewhat rare process in which a company achieves public company status without using traditional underwritten IPO sales efforts. Historically, only the company’s existing shareholders were allowed to sell shares in a direct listing. The company would not receive any of the proceeds of the offering as it would not be allowed to issue new shares, and accordingly all funds would go directly to the selling shareholders. On December 22, 2020, however, the SEC approved a rule change proposed by the NYSE that allows a company to conduct a primary offering through a direct listing under certain circumstances. Nasdaq later submitted a similar proposal which is currently under SEC review but which should be approved, as it is substantially similar to the NYSE proposal. This should fuel even more interest in direct listings going forward.
Continue Reading Direct Listings – A viable IPO alternative?