In late March 2019, the Hertz Corporation and Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (collectively, “Hertz”), filed two complaints (the “Damages Proceedings”) against its former CEO, CFO, General Counsel and a group president seeking recovery of $70 million in incentive payments and $200 million in consequential damages resulting from Hertz’s 2015 decision to restate its financial statements and an ensuing SEC settlement against Hertz and federal class action lawsuit (which was dismissed).  At the same time, the defendants in those actions each filed separate complaints (which have been consolidated in the Delaware Chancery Court) demanding advancement of their legal fees in the Damages Proceedings (the “Advancement Proceedings”).  The litigation between Hertz and its former executives raises novel questions about whether executives have a legally cognizable duty to set the right “tone at the top” and the consequences if they fail to do so.  The litigation also raises important and interesting questions regarding clawbacks and indemnification.[1]    
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In the wake of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed clawback rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Protection and Consumer Reform Act of 2010, many US public companies began implementing clawback policies.[1]  Although the proposal was originally issued in 2015 and the SEC has yet to adopt final clawback rules, instances of alleged executive misconduct in recent years has begun leading to claims under the clawback policies.  Increased scrutiny from legislators, institutional investors, shareholders and the general public has put significant pressure on boards of directors and compensation committees to exercise their rights to claw back compensation in the event of a corporate scandal.[2]

This post discusses two recent developments related to the exercise of compensation clawbacks.  The first confirms that boards should have broad discretion in deciding when to exercise a clawback, and the second discusses important indemnification and advancement issues that can arise in connection with a claim for the enforcement of a clawback policy.
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As discussed in our most recent blog post, on April 30, 2019, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ” or “the Department”) announced updated guidance for the Criminal Division’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“the Guidance”).  The Guidance is relevant to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in conducting an investigation of a corporation, determining whether to bring charges, negotiating plea or other agreements, applying sentencing guidelines and appointing monitors.[1]  The Guidance focuses on familiar factors: the adoption of a well-designed compliance program that addresses the greatest compliance risks to the company, the effective implementation of the company’s compliance policies and procedures, and the adequacy of the compliance program at the time of any misconduct and the response to that misconduct.  The Guidance makes clear that there is no one-size-fits-all compliance program and that primary responsibility for the compliance program will lie with senior and middle management and those in control functions.
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On April 30, 2019, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced updated guidance for the Criminal Division’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (“the Guidance”) in charging and resolving criminal cases.  This memorandum highlights key updates and discusses the themes present across versions of the Guidance.  Overall, this newest version places greater emphasis

On March 25, 2019, partners Lev Dassin and Arthur Kohn participated in a webcast hosted by The Conference Board, entitled “Corporate Prosecutions: What Companies, Boards and Executives Need to Know.”  Daniel Gitner, a partner at Lankler Siffert & Wohl, also participated on the panel.

The panelists and moderator Doug Chia, executive director of The Conference Board, began by discussing corporate prosecutions generally, including the history of corporate prosecutions and how DOJ attitudes regarding corporate prosecutions have changed over time.  Dassin explained that the DOJ has more recently refocused its attention on prosecuting individuals engaged in corporate misconduct.
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At the end of January, partners Daniel Ilan and Alexis Collins participated in a panel co-hosted by The Conference Board and Cleary Gottlieb to discuss cybersecurity and board oversight.

Moderator Doug Chia, executive director of The Conference Board, Nick Mankovich, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer (“CISO”) at medical technology firm Becton Dickinson, Daniel, and Alexis discussed current cybersecurity risks, how cyber-attacks are changing, and the role that management and the board should play in ensuring that companies are prepared.
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On January 29, 2019, the SEC announced four settlements with publicly-traded companies for failure to maintain adequate internal control over financial reporting.

None of the companies was charged with making false or inaccurate statements, either about its ICFR or otherwise; indeed, each had repeatedly disclosed material weaknesses in ICFR over many years.

These cases are

Last week, in SEC v. Scoville, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that Dodd-Frank allows the Securities and Exchange Commission to bring fraud claims based on sales of securities to foreign buyers where defendants engage in fraudulent conduct within the United States.

In so holding, the Court concluded that Dodd-Frank

On December 26, 2018, the SEC announced settled charges against ADT Inc. after finding that ADT, in two earnings releases, gave undue emphasis to non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA figures because they identified the relevant GAAP measures only later and much less prominently.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s factual or legal claims, ADT agreed to an

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. 
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