On April 14, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gary Gensler, President Joe Biden’s nominee, to chair the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) until June 5, 2021. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a statement, in which the organization characterized Mr. Gensler as an advocate “for the interests of investors.” Investors and the SEC have expressed an interest in the reporting of environmental and social issues. Many spectators believe that under Gensler’s leadership, the SEC may implement a required disclosure of ESG issues.
Federal Corporate Transparency Act requires companies to disclose beneficial owner
Most companies established or registered to do business in the U.S. do not have to disclose or report their ownership information—but that is about to change. The recently-enacted Corporate Transparency Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2021, requires certain companies to report their beneficial owner(s) to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
Paycheck Protection Program loan necessity questionnaire
Borrowers of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans – together with their affiliates – who have loans in excess of $2 million and seek loan forgiveness will potentially need to complete necessity questionnaires according to the Small Business Administration. There are separate forms for for-profit and non-profit businesses and will likely affect 52,000 borrowers.
My colleagues Jack Beeler, Cat Rice and Jack Meadows explain the purpose and questions asked in these questionnaires in this law alert.
SEC proposes exemptions from registration for finders
On Oct. 7, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a limited and conditional exemption from broker registration for natural persons, referred to as “finders,” who seek to help non-reporting, private companies raise capital from accredited investors in exempt offerings, subject to certain conditions. Generally, persons who effect transactions in securities for the account of others cannot do so through interstate commerce unless the person is registered with the SEC. There has long been ambiguity about when or if finders, who seek to bridge the gap between businesses and investors by identifying potential investment opportunities, must register as broker-dealers with the SEC. The proposed exemption seeks to clarify the role and obligations of finders so that small businesses can more easily connect with the investments they need to succeed. In the current market, small businesses often struggle to identify potential investors, and few broker-dealers are willing to raise capital in the smaller transactions.
SEC amends definition of accredited investor
On Aug. 26, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted amendments to Rule 501(a), Rule 215 and Rule 144A of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act). These amendments are part of the SEC’s efforts to more effectively identify qualified investors and allow for expanded investment opportunities, while still maintaining appropriate levels of investor protections.
Delaware Supreme Court upheld federal forum provisions regarding Securities Act claims
Forum-selection provisions are common tools for corporations seeking to counteract potentially abusive shareholder litigation. Last month, the Supreme Court of Delaware held that Federal forum provisions, which require actions arising under the Federal Securities Act of 1933, as amended, to be filed in a Federal court, could survive a facial challenge. Continue Reading
The CARES Act: Changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code
On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. Among other things, the CARES Act made some important changes to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. My colleague Jack Meadows explains on our Banking & Finance blog.
SEC’s updated guidance on changing the date, time or location of annual shareholders’ meeting
On March 13, 2020, in response to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Securities and Exchange Commission released guidance providing regulatory flexibility to reporting companies seeking to change the date, time, or location of annual shareholder meetings and use new technologies, such as “virtual” shareholder meetings, that avoid the need for in-person meetings. Given the public health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, the Commission provided guidance for reporting companies on how to meet their obligations under the federal proxy rules. Continue Reading
Coronavirus and securities compliance related considerations
On March 4, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an Order granting conditional relief from certain filing obligations under the federal securities laws for reporting companies whose compliance may be delayed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In the press release accompanying this unprecedented Order, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton noted, “The health and safety of all participants in our markets is of paramount importance. While timely public filing of Exchange Act reports is a cornerstone of well-functioning markets, we recognize that this situation may prevent certain issuers from compiling these reports within the required timeframe.”
Recent IRS guidance affects corporate tax deductibility of public company executive compensation arrangements and related proxy statement disclosures
Publicly traded companies have long been concerned with Internal Revenue Code Section 162(m) in order to maximize the deductibility of compensation paid to certain covered officers. Last year’s tax reform act made significant changes to Code Section 162(m). The IRS also recently published a Notice that explained some of these changes in more detail. To address these issues, public companies may need to review their administrative practices, particularly how they keep track of their covered officers (which now include CFOs) and executive agreements. Also, because there no longer is a performance-based exception, they may want to consider revising their incentive plans to address business goals rather than former 162(m) requirements. Before doing so, however, they will want to make sure they don’t cause exempt agreements to lose their grandfathered status under the prior Code Section 162(m) requirements.
Our companion blog, Employee Benefits Law Report, summarizes these changes and identifies the steps public companies should take to respond to them. Read the full article here.