In Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, No. 18-1501, 2020 WL 3405845 (U.S. June 22, 2020), the United States Supreme Court upheld the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to seek disgorgement as an equitable remedy under 15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(5), so long as it “does not exceed a wrongdoer’s net profits and is awarded for victims.”  Although Liu preserved the SEC’s disgorgement powers as a general matter, it narrowed the criteria for appropriate equitable relief, effectively curtailing the SEC’s ability to pursue unduly broad disgorgement remedies.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Preserves But Limits SEC Disgorgement Power

In New York Stock Exchange LLC v. Securities & Exch. Comm., 2020 WL 3248902 (D.C. Cir. June 16, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invalidated the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) experimental transaction fee pilot program to study the market effects of broker-dealer incentive programs used by domestic stock exchanges.  The Court of Appeals held that the SEC lacked the authority under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) to compel the exchanges to conduct what amounted to a “costly experiment” to see how the fees these exchanges charge and the incentives they offer “might” affect the trading habits of market participants.  The ruling demonstrates a judicial willingness to curb the SEC’s rulemaking authority under the Exchange Act for merely experimental policies.
Continue Reading DC Circuit Repudiates SEC Program for Testing Exchange Fee Structures

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has impacted publicly traded companies that provide information to trading markets, shareholders and to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Companies need to be mindful with respect to disclosures in annual and quarterly reports, earnings releases, current reports, and public and private securities offering documents.
Continue Reading Coronavirus and Guidance on SEC Disclosures

On March 12, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted amendments to the definition of “accelerated filer” and “large accelerated filer” definitions in Exchange Act Rule 12b-2, which amendments will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and will apply to annual report filings due on or after such effective date.
Continue Reading SEC Amends Definitions of “Accelerated Filer” and “Large Accelerated Filer” and Provides Relief to Small Issuers from Auditor Attestation Requirements

On August 14, 2018, the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a cease and desist order (the “Tomahawk Order”) against Tomahawk Exploration LLC (“Tomahawk”) and David Thompson Laurance (“Laurance”) for their actions in connection with an initial coin offering of digital assets called “Tomahawkcoins” or “TOM” (the “Tomahawk ICO”). Tomahawk and Laurance’s actions were problematic for the same reasons cited by the SEC in other recent orders related to digital assets (e.g. the Munchee Order). Consistent with such orders, the SEC determined that Tomahawkcoins are securities because they constitute investment contracts under the “Howey” test. However, what makes the Tomahawk Order particularly noteworthy are the lessons to be gleaned regarding cryptocurrency “airdropping.”
Continue Reading Airdrop of Crypto Tokens Hits Regulatory Flak

The SEC has opined that, depending on the facts and circumstances of each individual ICO, the virtual coins or tokens that are offered or sold may be securities. If they are securities, the offer and sale of these virtual coins or tokens in an ICO are subject to the federal securities laws.
Continue Reading SEC Declares That Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) May Be Securities; Finds DAO a Security

In Securities & Exchange Commission v. Jensen, No. 14-55221, 2016 WL 4537377 (9th Cir. Aug. 31, 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit broke new ground by providing the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) with a new independent cause of action under SEC Rule 13a-14, 17 C.F.R. § 240.13a-14, against a CEO or CFO who certifies false or misleading statements.  The Court also held that the disgorgement remedy authorized under Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 15 U.S.C. § 7243 (“SOX 304”), applied regardless of whether a restatement was caused by the personal misconduct of an issuer’s CEO and CFO or by other issuer misconduct.  The majority opinion left some important questions unanswered, but Judge Bea, who concurred with the majority’s analysis and holding, wrote separately to clarify the intended scope of the new legal rules announced by the Court’s opinion.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Permits SEC to Assert Standalone Claim for False Sarbanes-Oxley Certification and Confirms Disgorgement Remedy Against CEO and CFO Despite Lack of Personal Involvement In Underlying Misconduct

On July 13, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced proposed amendments in order to update and simplify its disclosure requirements.  The SEC’s proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes Amendments to Update and Simplify Disclosure Requirements as Part of Overall Disclosure Effectiveness Review