On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the “ARPA”), the much-debated $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus legislation. The ARPA includes a provision, added by Senate amendment on March 6, 2021, which will further limit the deductibility of amounts deemed to be “excessive employee remuneration” under

On Wednesday, March 10, after engaging in conversations with stakeholders, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration issued an enforcement policy statement in which it declined to enforce two DOL rules put in place by the Trump administration in 2020.

The first of these rules placed limitations on the ability of plans subject to ERISA to invest in environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) funds. In particular, it provided that a fiduciary’s duty of loyalty and prudence under ERISA would only be satisfied if investments were selected solely on the basis of pecuniary factors (defined as factors that have a material effect on the risk and return of an investment), and that ESG factors could only be considered to the extent they created economic risks or opportunities that qualified investment professionals would treat as material economic considerations under generally accepted investment theories. The ESG rule, which many regarded as making ERISA plan investments in ESG-oriented funds prohibitively difficult, received overwhelmingly negative comments from both financial institutions and the public at large. This latest development is not surprising, as the Biden administration had previously signaled that it would be reexamining this rule.
Continue Reading DOL Declines to Enforce Trump Administration Rules on ERISA Plan Investments, Proxy Voting

On March 3, 2021, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Division of Examinations (the “Division”)—formerly the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations—released its 2021 Examination Priorities (“2021 Priorities”).  The 2021 Priorities generally retain perennial risk areas as the Division’s core focus, but do include several new and emerging risk areas reflecting broader policy shifts under new SEC leadership.

The 2021 Priorities include:  retail investors; information security and operational resilience; financial technology (“Fintech”), including digital assets; anti-money laundering; transition from the London Inter‑Bank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”); several areas covering registered investment advisers and investment companies; market infrastructure; and oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board programs and policies.  Although not formal priorities, the Division will also focus on climate-related risks and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters in light of recent market developments and broader attention in these areas.
Continue Reading Turning the Page: Highlights of the SEC’s Division of Examination’s 2021 Priorities

On February 26, 2021, the Delaware Court of Chancery (McCormick, V.C.) issued a memorandum opinion in The Williams Companies Stockholder Litigation enjoining a “poison pill” stockholder rights plan adopted by The Williams Companies, Inc. (“Williams”) in the wake of extreme stock price volatility driven by the double whammy of COVID-19 and the Russia-Saudi Arabia oil

Corporate investigations under the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice (“DOJ”) are expected to increase in the coming months.  Navigating such investigations can be complex, distracting, and costly, and comes with the risk of prosecution and significant collateral consequences for the company.  Recently, Cleary Gottlieb partners and former DOJ prosecutors, Lev Dassin, Jonathan Kolodner, and Rahul

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2021”.

As we look back on the mergers and acquisitions landscape of 2020, clear trends emerge and paint a picture of what can be expected in 2021. Certain of these trends seemingly came

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2021”.

As the 25th anniversary of the seminal Delaware Court of Chancery decision In re Caremark Int’l Inc. Deriv. Litig. (Caremark) approaches, there has been a notable rise in the number

Over the past few years, many boards have expanded their oversight and consideration of human capital management (HCM) to encompass issues beyond executive hiring and compensation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, technology and the culture change brought by a new generation of workers had already commenced an irreversible shift in paradigm that established HCM as a board-level issue with vital strategic and risk oversight implications.
Continue Reading Fulfilling the Board’s Expanded Oversight Role in Human Capital Management

Stakeholder attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues continued to grow throughout 2020 driven by the COVID-19 pandemic (health and safety), the Black Lives Matter movement (diversity and inclusion) and worldwide wildfires (climate change), to name a few. Prodded by investors and other stakeholders, companies have increasingly realized the importance to their businesses of managing human capital and monitoring human rights, whether in respect of their own workforces or their supply and customer chains. Further, disclosure and engagement around companies’ human capital management (HCM) practices have become more important and even the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had in the past largely avoided specific ESG disclosure mandates, has weighed in and now requires disclosure regarding human capital resources in annual reports on Form 10-K.
Continue Reading ESG Considerations for Incentive Compensation Programs