Posts Tagged ‘SEC’

Appeal of No-Action on Proxy Access at Whole Foods Markets

Editor’s Note: James McRitchie is the publisher of CorpGov.net.

Shareholders have been engaged in a long struggle to obtain proxy access—the idea that shareowners should be allowed to place their own board nominations on the proxies distributed by management, much as we are allowed to place our own proposals on those proxies. Shareholders should not accept the most recent roadblock, a reactive substitute proposal, by the management of Whole Foods Market (Whole Foods) and acquiescence in the form of a no-action letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The idea of proxy access certainly is not new. In 1980 Unicare Services included a proposal to allow any three shareowners to nominate and place candidates on the proxy. Shareowners at Mobil proposed a “reasonable number,” while those at Union Oil proposed a threshold of “500 or more shareholders” to place nominees on corporate proxies. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) submitted a proposal in 1988 but withdrew it when Texaco agreed to include their nominee.

…continue reading: Appeal of No-Action on Proxy Access at Whole Foods Markets

2014 SEC and FINRA Enforcement Actions Against Broker-Dealers and Investment Advisers

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday December 24, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jon N. Eisenberg, partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

It’s been a busy year for securities regulators. The SEC recently reported that in FY 2014 new investigative approaches and innovative use of data and analytical tools contributed to a record 755 enforcement actions with orders totaling $4.16 billion in disgorgement and penalties. By comparison, in FY 2013 it brought 686 enforcement actions with orders totaling $3.4 billion in disgorgement and penalties. We do not yet have FINRA’s fiscal year 2014 enforcement action totals, but we know that FINRA too has taken a more aggressive approach to enforcement—in 2013 FINRA barred 135 more individuals and suspended 221 more individuals than it did in 2012. Moreover, like the SEC, FINRA increasingly is relying on data and analytical tools to make its enforcement program more effective. FINRA’s proposed Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System (CARDS) is a further step in that direction. CARDS will help FINRA more quickly identify patterns of transactions and monitor for excessive concentration, lack of suitability, churning, mutual fund switching, and other potentially problematic misconduct. Both broker-dealers and investment advisers now find themselves in a position in which, from an enforcement perspective, regulators often have far better data and analytical tools than the firms have.

…continue reading: 2014 SEC and FINRA Enforcement Actions Against Broker-Dealers and Investment Advisers

The Importance to the Capital Markets of Updating the Rules Regarding Transfer Agents

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Monday December 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

1) Why should the public care about the regulation of transfer agents? Why are they important to the financial system?

Transfer agents play an important role in our capital markets. They act as registrars and keep track of changes in the record ownership of a company’s securities. They ensure that companies’ interest, dividends, and other distributions get paid to the right holders of stocks and bonds. Transfer agents also monitor the restrictive legends and “stop transfer” orders that distinguish restricted securities from freely-tradable securities. This responsibility puts transfer agents in a unique position to identify and potentially prevent unregistered securities from being unlawfully distributed. Indeed, the distribution of unregistered securities is often associated with microcap pump-and-dump schemes and other penny stock fraud. The investing public needs capable, honest, and reliable transfer agents to help the capital markets function properly and effectively.

…continue reading: The Importance to the Capital Markets of Updating the Rules Regarding Transfer Agents

SEC Allows Exclusion of Conflicting Proxy Access Shareholder Proposal

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday December 21, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yafit Cohn, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum.

On December 1, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a no-action letter, much awaited by the corporate community, to Whole Foods Market, Inc., concurring with the company that it may omit a proxy access shareholder proposal from its 2015 proxy materials. [1] The shareholder proposal, submitted by James McRitchie pursuant to Rule 14a-8, asked the Whole Foods board to amend the company’s governing documents to allow any shareholder or group of shareholders collectively holding at least three percent of the company’s shares for at least three years to nominate directors, which the company would then be required to list on its proxy statement. The proposal added that parties nominating directors “may collectively make nominations numbering up to 20% of the Company’s board of directors, or no less than two if the board reduces the number of board members from its current size.”

…continue reading: SEC Allows Exclusion of Conflicting Proxy Access Shareholder Proposal

The First Annual Conflict Minerals Filings: Observations and Next Steps

Posted by Amy L. Goodman, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, on Saturday December 20, 2014 at 11:57 am
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Editor’s Note: Amy Goodman is a partner and co-chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn alert.

As companies prepare for the second year of filings under the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) new conflict minerals rule, many companies are looking for guidance from the first annual filings, which were due June 2, 2014. As expected, the inaugural Form SD and conflict minerals report filings reflect diverse approaches to the new compliance and disclosure requirements. We offer below some observations based on the first round of conflict minerals filings for companies to consider as they address their compliance programs and disclosures for the 2014 calendar year. It is important to note, however, that the shape of future compliance and reporting obligations will be impacted by the outcome of the pending litigation challenging the conflict minerals rule, which also is discussed below, and any subsequent action by the SEC.

…continue reading: The First Annual Conflict Minerals Filings: Observations and Next Steps

Revisiting the “Accredited Investor” Definition to Better Protect Investors

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday December 19, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at a recent meeting of the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Thank you and good morning. I want to start by welcoming the members of the Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies to today’s meeting. I appreciate your efforts and look forward to today’s discussions. I would also like to thank the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance’s Office of Small Business Policy for organizing this meeting.

Since its formation in 2011, this Committee has provided the Commission with advice related to privately-held small businesses and the smaller publicly traded companies. It is well-known that these businesses have an outsized impact on the growth of our country’s economy and on job creation for all Americans.

As you know, today’s meeting will focus on the definition of “accredited investor.” This definition is critical to the Commission’s Regulation D exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933. Regulation D may be the Commission’s most widely used exempted offering. It is regularly used by small businesses to raise funds in the capital markets.

…continue reading: Revisiting the “Accredited Investor” Definition to Better Protect Investors

Takeaways from the Past Year of SEC Private Equity Enforcement

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday December 17, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from John J. Sikora, partner in the Litigation Department at Latham & Watkins LLP, and is based on a Latham & Watkins publication authored by Mr. Sikora and Nabil Sabki.

After a year of “first ever” actions targeting private equity, fund managers should be vigilant, even about seemingly small issues.

In reviewing the results of SEC Enforcement’s fiscal year that ended on September 30, the agency congratulated itself on its comprehensive approach to enforcement and its “first-ever” cases. Private equity fund managers should consider a number of important takeaways.

The SEC Continues to Pursue a Broken Windows/Zero Tolerance Approach

Although the Enforcement Division announced a record number of enforcement actions, and the largest aggregate financial recovery, 2014, unlike in years past, did not include a headline-grabbing case such as Enron, Worldcom or Madoff. More recently, the agency has chosen to emphasize its pursuit of smaller cases as a way of improving compliance in the industry. SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney have each touted the agency’s “broken windows” approach to enforcement. A “broken windows” strategy means that the SEC will pursue even the smallest violations on the theory that publicly pursuing smaller matters will reduce the prevalence of larger violations. Ceresney has described “broken windows” as a zero tolerance policy. This past year illustrated the agency’s commitment to applying enforcement sanctions to what some might consider “foot fault” incidents. For example, in September 2014, the SEC announced a package of three dozen cases involving a failure to promptly file Section 13D and Section 13G reports, as well as Forms 3 and 4. Many of the filers charged were just days or weeks late in disclosing their positions. In announcing the cases, Ceresney emphasized that inadvertence was not a defense to late filings.

…continue reading: Takeaways from the Past Year of SEC Private Equity Enforcement

SEC Commissioner, Law Professor Wrongfully Accuse SRP of Securities Fraud

Posted by Jonathan R. Macey, Yale Law School, on Monday December 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm
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Editor’s Note: Jonathan R. Macey is the Sam Harris Professor of Corporate Law, Corporate Finance & Securities Law at Yale University. This post analyzes the arguments in a paper by SEC Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher and Stanford law School Professor Joseph A. Grundfest, described in a post by Professor Joseph Grundfest (available on the Forum here) and a post by Wachtell Lipton (available on the Forum here).

Here is something that one does not see every day. In their recent paper “Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law? The Campaign Against Classified Boards of Directors” posted on December 10, 2014, a sitting Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission and a former SEC Commissioner accuse the Shareholder Rights Project at Harvard Law School (SRP) of violating the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws. The alleged fraud occurred when institutional investors represented by the SRP proposed shareholder resolutions encouraging shareholders in U.S. public companies to vote to de-stagger their companies’ boards.

In this submission I present my analysis of this paper, concluding that the SRP proposals were not fraudulent or misleading and that the aggressive application of the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws advanced by the authors of the “Did Harvard Violate Federal Securities Law?” would be inconsistent with the law and, by the authors’ own admission, inconsistent with the current policy and practice of the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

…continue reading: SEC Commissioner, Law Professor Wrongfully Accuse SRP of Securities Fraud

Protecting the Technological Infrastructure of Our Capital Markets

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Tuesday November 25, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [November 19, 2014], the Commission considers adopting Regulation Systems, Compliance, and Integrity (or Regulation SCI). These rules and amendments are intended to establish a foundational regulatory framework for the technological market infrastructure that has become increasingly intertwined with the functioning of our securities markets. The rules being considered for adoption today represent a clear improvement over the proposed version, which offered only a hollow promise that our markets would be safer, more resilient, and more stable.

…continue reading: Protecting the Technological Infrastructure of Our Capital Markets

A Closer Look at US Credit Risk Retention Rules

Editor’s Note: David M. Lynn is a partner and co-chair of the Corporate Finance practice at Morrison & Foerster LLP. The following post is based on a Morrison & Foerster publication by Jerry Marlatt, Melissa Beck, and Kenneth Kohler.

In a flurry of regulatory actions on October 21 and 22, 2014, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the “FHFA”), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (collectively, the “Joint Regulators”) each adopted a final rule (the “Final Rule”) implementing the credit risk retention requirements of section 941 of the Dodd-Frank Act for asset-backed securities (“ABS”). The section 941 requirements were intended to ensure that securitizers generally have “skin in the game” with respect to securitized loans and other assets.

…continue reading: A Closer Look at US Credit Risk Retention Rules

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