Standardization can be a virtue and one that M&A lawyers, likely due to self-interest and ego, sometimes resist.  If venture financing and derivatives practices can have widely accepted forms of legal documentation as a starting point, why should M&A be an exception?  Ironically, agreements for takeovers of publicly traded companies – once revered as a rarified realm that only an elite group huddled in skyscrapers in Manhattan could navigate – has evolved considerably toward standard forms thanks to enhanced attention to these publicly filed agreements and an effort by Delaware courts to draw clearer guidelines about precisely what will and will not fly in the world of “public M&A.” 
Continue Reading Guidance on Navigating the Atlassian Term Sheet: Understanding the Substantive Implications Behind the Virtues of Standardization in M&A

ISS recently released updates to its Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) on U.S. Compensation Policies and Equity Compensation Plans.[1]  The FAQs are intended to provide general guidance regarding the way in which ISS will analyze certain issues as it prepares proxy analyses and determines vote recommendations for U.S. public companies.

A summary of updates to the FAQs is provided below.  In addition to the ISS and Glass Lewis proxy voting guidelines that were released in the fall of 2018, U.S. public companies should consider the applicability of the ISS FAQs in light of their individual facts and circumstances.[2]
Continue Reading ISS Finalizes Updates to its FAQs on Compensation Policies and Equity Compensation Plans

In late December 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted a final hedging disclosure rule, as required by Section 955 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The Final Rule generally requires U.S. public companies to disclose any company practices or policies regarding the ability of employees, officers, directors or their respective

Following its 2019 benchmark voting policy consultation period, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) recently released its updated voting guidelines for the 2019 proxy season.[1]

A summary of notable governance and compensation policy updates is provided below.  Most significantly, the updated guidelines suggest that ISS continues to be focused on enhancing shareholder rights through increased board responsiveness and accountability.  In general, the updated proxy voting guidelines will be in effect for annual meetings occurring on or after February 1, 2019.  In connection with their preparations for the 2019 proxy season, U.S. public companies should consider the applicability of the new guidelines in light of their individual facts and circumstances.
Continue Reading ISS Updates its 2019 Proxy Voting Guidelines

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

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)

On August 21, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued Notice 2018-68 (the “Notice”), which provides initial guidance on the application of Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”).

The guidance is limited to the definition of the term “covered employees” and the application

During the course of the last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought two enforcement actions related to inadequate disclosure of perquisites.  In early July, the SEC issued an order finding that, from 2011 through 2015, an issuer failed to follow the SEC’s perquisite disclosure standard,[1] which resulted in a failure to disclose approximately $3 million in named executive officer perquisites.[2]   In addition to the imposition of a $1.75 million civil penalty, the SEC order mandated that the issuer retain an independent consultant (at its own expense) for a period of one year to conduct a review of its policies, procedures, controls and training related to the evaluation of whether payments and expense reimbursements should be disclosed as perquisites, and to adopt and implement all recommendations made by such consultant.
Continue Reading Recent SEC Enforcement Actions on Inadequate Perquisite Disclosure

On September 21, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued helpful guidance to assist companies in complying with the CEO/median employee pay ratio disclosure requirement (the “Rule”) under Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Item 402(u) of Regulation S-K. The guidance also addresses the issue of SEC

In the wake of President Obama’s signing into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) on May 11, 2016, companies will want to revisit their practices for protecting their trade secrets, especially in the employee/HR context.  The DTSA expands the body of trade secrets law, an area that has traditionally been the subject only of state law, by creating a federal civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation.  The Act provides for injunctive relief and compensatory damages, and, if a trade secret is “willfully and maliciously misappropriated,” exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.  The legislation enables trade secret owners to protect their innovations by seeking redress in federal court, in the same way that owners of other forms of intellectual property, including copyrights, patents, and trademarks, can seek remedies in federal court for violations of their rights.
Continue Reading Implications of the Defend Trade Secrets Act for Employers