Foreign investors who, for many years, eagerly awaited the ability to establish majority or wholly owned businesses in the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) outside the free zones can prepare their bait—but cannot go fishing yet.

Following an announcement made by the UAE Council of Ministers earlier this year, the long-awaited Foreign Direct Investment Law was issued in September 2018 through federal Legislative Decree No. 19 of 2018 (the “Foreign Direct Investment Law”). While not repealing the restrictions on foreign ownership under the federal Commercial Companies Law No. 2 of 2015 (the “Commercial Companies Law”), the Foreign Direct Investment Law sets forth a framework entitling foreign investors to apply for a special status for their UAE-based investment vehicles that would accord them certain derogations from the provisions of the Commercial Companies Law, including in relation to the limit on foreign ownership. The new law does not relax foreign ownership limitations across the board.

In the memorandum, we summarize the key provisions introduced by the new Foreign Direct Investment Law and analyze the potential impact on the investment landscape in the UAE.

For the first time, the SEC’s staff issued guidance last week under its rule governing audit committees for listed issuers.  The guidance addresses the composition of audit committees for issuers that are listed in both Brazil and the United States, and it takes the form of an interpretive letter from the Division of Corporation Finance to law firms Cleary Gottlieb and Simpson Thacher.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

As both shareholder activists, and the companies they target, become more geographically diverse, it is increasingly important for legal and corporate practitioners to understand the legal framework and emerging trends of shareholder activism in the various international jurisdictions facing activism. The Shareholder Rights and Activism Review is designed as a primer on these aspects of shareholder activism in such jurisdictions.

Please click here to read Cleary partner Michael J. Ulmer’s chapter on Germany.

As 2018 draws to a close, both Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) and Glass Lewis are in the process of updating their 2019 proxy voting guidelines.

In mid-October, ISS launched its 2019 benchmark voting policy consultation period, pursuant to which ISS solicits feedback on certain of its proposed voting policies for the upcoming proxy season.  This year, ISS requested comment on proposed policies for U.S. public companies related to board gender diversity and its pay-for-performance model, as described in greater detail below.  ISS plans to announce its final policy changes in mid-November.

In addition, Glass Lewis recently released its 2019 shareholder initiatives and proxy voting guidelines, which include the implementation of previously announced policies that were in grace periods, new policies and codifications and clarifications of previously existing approaches to issuing vote recommendations.[1]

A summary of notable executive compensation and governance updates is provided below.  The recent policy updates, and in particular the new Glass Lewis guidelines, are fairly extensive.  In preparing for the 2019 proxy season, U.S. public companies should consider the applicability of the new and proposed policies in light of their individual facts and circumstances. Continue Reading Recent Updates to Proxy Advisory Firm Guidelines

Under proposed regulations issued yesterday (October 31), U.S. multinationals would generally be relieved from the “Section 956 deemed dividend rules” that have significantly limited their ability to provide lenders with credit support (for example, in the form of guarantees and collateral) from their non-U.S. subsidiaries. In general, under the proposed regulations, the credit packages provided to lenders will no longer need to exclude upstream guarantees from non-U.S. subsidiaries or limit the amount of foreign subsidiary stock that may be pledged to support the borrowing to 65% of the stock of first-tier foreign subsidiaries.

While the rules are in proposed form, taxpayers can rely on them for the tax years of their foreign corporations that start after December 31, 2017. However, many U.S. multinationals may prefer to continue to include existing limitations in their financing agreements until the regulations are finalized, and eventually to replace them in future agreements with narrower limitations targeted at those situations to which the Section 956 deemed dividend rules may continue to apply. Other reasons for continuing to exclude some or all non-U.S. collateral may continue to exist, including higher cost of granting and perfecting security interest, local legal limitations and lesser protections for secured lenders.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

There have been plenty of press reports about the SEC’s settlement with Elon Musk arising from his tweeting about taking Tesla private.  But the concurrent settlement with Tesla itself provides interesting lessons for disclosure and governance at public companies.

Tesla agreed to pay a $20 million penalty and agreed to several “undertakings” to strengthen its governance and controls including a requirement that it add two independent directors to its Board.  And, under his own settlement, Musk agreed to step down for three years as chairman of the Board of Directors, although he is allowed to continue as CEO.  Continue Reading The Tesla Settlement – What It Means for Other Companies

Last month, former Uber executive Eric Alexander filed a complaint (the “Complaint”) against another former Uber executive, Rachel Whetstone.  The Complaint alleges breach of a mutual non-disparagement clause in Whetstone’s separation agreement with Uber; a clause that Whetstone, during her negotiation with Uber, apparently insisted specifically name Alexander and preclude them from disparaging each other.  In the Complaint, Alexander alleges that he is a third party beneficiary of the contract and can therefore enforce the non-disparagement obligation against Whetstone.

Continue Reading Shut Up! (Someone Is Actually Suing on the Basis of a Non-Disparagement Clause)

This is the sixth in a series of posts discussing certain issues and lessons for practitioners arising out of the recently settled dispute between CBS and its controlling stockholder.[1] Relevant background can be found here and additional posts in this series can be found here.

As described in a prior post, on May 14, 2018, certain members of the CBS board filed suit in Delaware seeking authorization to issue a special dividend intended to dilute the voting control of NAI, CBS’s controlling stockholder. The majority of the CBS board (other than three directors with ties to NAI) subsequently considered and purported to approve a dividend of a fraction of a Class A (voting) share to be paid to holders of both CBS’s Class A (voting) common stock and Class B (nonvoting) common stock for the express purpose of diluting NAI’s voting interest in CBS, with the payment of such dividend conditioned on Delaware court approval. Continue Reading Lessons Learned from the CBS-NAI Dispute: Rights of Board Members to Access Privileged Communications with Company Counsel

This is the fifth in a series of posts discussing certain issues and lessons for practitioners arising out of the recently settled dispute between CBS and its controlling stockholder.[1]  Relevant background can be found here and additional posts in this series can be found here.

Stock exchange rules and state corporate law often rely on the “independence” of a company’s board of directors as a mechanism for policing potential conflicts of interest that might arise between and among the company’s various constituencies.  While stock exchange rules tend to focus on the ongoing independence of directors from management to prevent management from behaving opportunistically at the expense of stockholders, state corporate law also focuses on the independence of directors from a particular stockholder in the context of a transaction with that stockholder and from other directors in the context of derivative actions against such other directors. Continue Reading Lessons From the CBS-NAI Dispute: Who is an “Independent” Director in the Context of a Controlled Company

This memo provides further analysis and expands upon the discussion of the Synutra decision included in our prior post (which can be found here).

In its recent Synutra opinion, the Delaware Supreme Court clarified that take-private transactions will be reviewed under the business judgment rule, so long as the controlling stockholder commits to special committee approval and a majority-of-the-minority vote before “substantive economic negotiations” take place, even if the controlling stockholder fails to self-disable in its initial written offer.

The opinion, written by Chief Justice Strine, explained that the touchstone of the analysis is whether there was any “economic horse trading” before the conditions were put in place.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.