On November 8, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to permanently amend provisions of the NY Business Corporation Law to allow companies to use electronic means to document action by written consent by boards and to hold virtual shareholder meetings, unless such action is prohibited by the entity’s articles of organization or by-laws. As discussed in our prior post, Governor Cuomo issued two Executive Orders: the first, March 7 Executive Order No. 202, declared a disaster emergency and ceased operations of all non-essential businesses in New York state; and the second, March 20th Executive Order No. 202.8, temporarily suspended several regulations governing meetings at New York corporations. Absent this relief, New York state still required an in-person shareholder meeting be held, although following an October 2019 rule change, it also permitted a virtual component (subject to certain conditions).
Continue Reading Virtual Shareholder Meetings now Permanently Permitted in NY

On November 3, 2021, the Division of Corporation Finance of the SEC (the “Staff”) issued Staff Legal Bulletin (“SLB”) No. 14L, which rescinds SLBs Nos. 14I, 14J and 14K, all of which provided guidance with respect to no-action letter requests that sought relief from the Staff to exclude shareholder proposals on the basis of Rule 14a-8(i)(7) and Rule 14a-8(i)(5).  SLB No. 14L also provides guidance on (i) certain technical exclusions, (ii) the use of graphics and images in proposals and (iii) the use of email between proponents and companies.
Continue Reading SEC Provides New Guidance on Shareholder Proposals – Likely To Limit Companies’ Ability To Exclude Environmental and Social Proposals

On July 13, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a major enforcement action related to a proposed merger between a special purpose acquisition company (“SPAC”) and a privately held target company (“Target”).  This followed numerous warnings by the SEC staff over several months of enhanced scrutiny of such transactions under the federal securities laws.[1]  The respondents, except for the Target’s CEO, settled the action by collectively agreeing to civil penalties of approximately $8 million and to certain equitable relief described below. [2]
Continue Reading SEC Brings SPAC Enforcement Action and Signals More to Come

On April 29, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced settled charges against eight public companies that filed notifications of late filings on Form 12b-25 (more commonly known as “Form NT”) without disclosing in those filings a pending restatement or correction of financial statements.

These settlements are a reminder that filing a Form

Last week, the SEC Division of Examinations issued a risk alert describing observations from recent examinations of investment advisers that manage and offer ESG investment options.  The Risk Alert highlights observed deficiencies in several key areas that we expected the Staff to scrutinize using its traditional regulatory arsenal:  advisers’ practices inconsistent with ESG disclosures, unsubstantiated

Last week, John Coates, the Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp Fin”), released a statement discussing liability risks in de-SPAC transactions.

The statement focused in particular on the concern that companies may be providing overly optimistic projections in their de-SPAC disclosures, in part based on the assumption that such disclosures are protected by a statutory safe harbor for forward-looking statements (which is not available for traditional IPOs).  Director Coates’s statement questions whether that assumption is correct, arguing that de-SPAC transactions may be considered IPOs for the purposes of the statute (and thus fall outside the protection offered by the statutory safe harbor).  He therefore encourages SPACs to exercise caution in disclosing projections, including by not withholding unfavorable projections while disclosing more favorable projections.
Continue Reading Acting Director of SEC’s Corp Fin Issues Statement on Disclosure Risks Arising from De-SPAC Transactions

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

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