OCIE Director Instructs Advisers to Empower Chief Compliance Officers

On November 19, 2020, Peter Driscoll, director of the Office of Compliance Inspection and Examination (“OCIE”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), gave a speech urging advisory firms to empower their Chief Compliance Officers (“CCOs”).  The speech, made at the SEC’s annual compliance outreach conference, accompanied OCIE’s Risk Alert, issued the same day, identifying notable deficiencies and weaknesses regarding Registered Investment Advisors (“RIAs”) CCOs and compliance departments.  Driscoll’s speech complemented the Risk Alert by outlining the fundamental requirements for CCOs:  “empowered, senior and with authority.” Continue Reading

SEC Proposal to Exempt Finders from Registration Generates Split Reaction

A Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) plan to create a registration exemption for certain finders has generated a mixed response.  The nearly 90 comments received by the SEC by the November 12, 2020 close of the comment period reflect a clear divide along predictable lines.  Broker-dealers, issuers, and some practitioners lauded the proposal for bringing regulatory clarity to what has long been a cloudy issue while regulatory groups and investor advocates criticized the plan for allowing unregistered finders to conduct brokerage activities without sufficient investor protection mechanisms. Continue Reading

SEC Adopts Rule Amendments Aimed at Expanding Access to Capital

On November 2, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted amendments intended to ease the rules for certain exempt offerings. These changes include increasing the annual cap on equity crowdfunding from $1.07 million to $5 million, raising the annual cap on Reg A+ offerings from $50% million to $75 million, raising the maximum offering amount for Rule 504 of Regulation D from $5 million to $10 million, and expanding the “test-the-waters” accommodation to Regulation Crowdfunding issuers. Continue Reading

California Conforms To Federal Income Tax Treatment Of PPP Loan Forgiveness

As reported in our earlier blog post The CARES ACT – Tax Relief, the federal CARES Act provides for forgiveness of indebtedness for eligible recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans in an amount equal to the sum of the recipient’s payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent obligations and utility payments (subject to certain conditions and limitations).  Under federal law, any amount of covered loans forgiven under the CARES Act is excluded from gross income for federal income tax purposes. Continue Reading

Tell Me More – Antitrust Agencies to Demand More Information from Investment Funds

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the premerger notification rules (the “Rules”) that implement the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (the “HSR Act”) to change the definition of “person” and create a new exemption.  The new definition of person is specifically designed to obtain more information from certain investment entities, such as investment funds and master limited partnerships, by including “associates” in the definition. Continue Reading

The October 2, 2020 SBA Procedural Notice: Change of Ownership Transactions Involving PPP Borrowers

On October 2, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released a Procedural Notice providing guidance addressed to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders and SBA employees as to the circumstances under which prior SBA approval is required before a borrower of a PPP loan undergoes a change of ownership.[1]  In particular, the October 2, 2020 Procedural Notice includes instructions to PPP lenders on how they may address equity or asset M&A transactions, ownership restructurings, or transfers of ownership interests involving their PPP borrowers.  Importantly, the October 2, 2020 Procedural Notice does not clearly address the circumstance of a change of ownership of a PPP borrower resulting from the issuance of additional ownership interests in the PPP borrower.[2] Continue Reading

Despite Challenges, It’s Full Steam Ahead For SEC’s Enforcement Division

On September 17, 2020, Stephanie Avakian, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, spoke at the Institute for Law and Economics, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Virtual Program.  Ms. Avakian used her time to highlight the Division’s enforcement priorities, operations, and challenges in the years since Jay Clayton became the director of the SEC in May 2017. Continue Reading

CFTC Throws its Hat into the Corporate Compliance Arena

On September 10, 2020, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued the latest in a series of circulars regarding corporate compliance released this summer by government agencies. In June, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued updated guidance regarding its evaluation of corporate compliance programs (see our prior blog here). In July, DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jointly issued an updated Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which includes a 12-part section covering the “hallmarks” of effective corporate compliance programs. The instant CFTC guidance is the first issued by CFTC on this topic. The guidance signals to commodities market participants that compliance programs that do not meet guideline standards are fair game for CFTC examination and enforcement staff. Continue Reading

Delaware Court of Chancery Clarifies that Management Cannot Unilaterally Curtail a Director’s Access to Corporation’s Privileged Information

In In re WeWork Litigation, 2020 Del. Ch. LEXIS 270 (Del. Ch. Aug. 21, 2020) (Bouchard, C.), the Delaware Court of Chancery considered an issue of first impression:  Does the management of a Delaware corporation have the unilateral authority to preclude a director from obtaining the corporation’s privileged information?  The Court held it cannot.  The directors of Delaware corporations are entitled to share in legal advice the corporation receives and, subject to limited exceptions not at issue in WeWork, cannot be prevented from accessing the corporation’s privileged information. Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Section 14(a) Complaint For Failure to Plead Facts Demonstrating Alleged Omissions from Proxy Statement Were Misleading

In Heinze v. Tesco Corp., No. 19-20298, 2020 WL 4814094 (5th Cir. Aug. 19, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action suit under Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78(b) alleging that defendant Tesco Corporation (“Tesco”), former members of Tesco’s board of directors and Nabors Industries, Ltd. (“Nabors”) omitted material information from a proxy statement issued in connection with Nabors’ acquisition of Tesco in 2017.  Applying the heightened pleading standard of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 78u-4, et seq., the Court held that plaintiffs failed to show how the omitted facts were necessary to make the statements therein not false or misleading.  Heinze marks a significant victory for companies facing Section 14(a) shareholder litigation over merger-related proxy statements, reaffirming the PSLRA’s specificity requirements as well as its safe harbor provision shielding companies from liability over certain forward-looking statements and projections. Continue Reading

LexBlog

By scrolling this page, clicking a link or continuing to browse our website, you consent to our use of cookies as described in our Cookie and Advertising Policy. If you do not wish to accept cookies from our website, or would like to stop cookies being stored on your device in the future, you can find out more and adjust your preferences here.

Agree