Category Archives: Accounting & Disclosure

2016 Proxy Season: Engagement, Transparency, Proxy Access

Howard B. Dicker is a partner in the Public Company Advisory Group of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a Weil publication; the complete publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Lucian Bebchuk’s The Case for Shareholder Access to the Ballot and The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise (discussed on the Forum here), and Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

While shareholders have a wide spectrum of views on corporate objectives, the time horizon for realizing these objectives and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, there is an emerging consensus that—regardless of size, industry or profitability—public companies must achieve greater accountability to their shareholders, through engagement and transparency, than ever before. Corporate engagement and transparency now take two forms: direct dialogue, increasingly involving directors, and enhanced proxy statement and other public disclosure that sheds light on the company’s strategy and the performance of its board, board committees and management, demonstrates responsiveness to shareholder ESG concerns, and justifies the composition of the board in light of the company’s present needs. Throughout this post, we offer practical suggestions about “what to do now” to meet shareholder expectations about engagement and transparency and to address a host of other new developments for the 2016 proxy season.

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In re Lions Gate: Corporate Disclosure of Securities Enforcement

David M.J. Rein is a partner in the Litigation Group at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP . This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell memorandum by Mr. Rein and Jacob E. Cohen. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On January 22, 2016, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Judge John Koeltl) dismissed In re Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Securities Litigation, a putative securities fraud class action lawsuit, brought under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The complaint alleged that the company should have disclosed publicly the pendency of a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) investigation, the company’s intention to settle with the SEC and the company’s receipt of a so-called “Wells Notice”—i.e., a letter from the SEC Enforcement Division staff informing the company that it “has decided to recommend that the Commission bring an enforcement proceeding.”

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2015 Year-End Securities Litigation Update

Jonathan C. Dickey is partner and Co-Chair of the National Securities Litigation Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn publication.

The year was yet another eventful one in securities litigation, from the Supreme Court’s game-changing opinion in Omnicare regarding liability for opinion statements, to several significant opinions out of the Delaware courts regarding, among other things, financial advisor liability and the apparent end to disclosure-only settlements. This post highlights what you most need to know in securities litigation developments and trends for the last half of 2015:

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Crowdfunding and the Digital Shareholder

Andrew A. Schwartz is an Associate Professor at University of Colorado Law School. This post is based on Professor Schwartz’s recent article published in The Minnesota Law Review, available here.

After several years of delay, Internet-based securities crowdfunding is finally poised to go live this year thanks to the SEC’s recent issuance of Regulation Crowdfunding. Through crowdfunding, people of modest means will for the first time be legally authorized to make investments that are currently offered exclusively to “accredited” (wealthy) investors. This democratization of entrepreneurial finance sounds great in theory, but will it work in practice? Will non-accredited investors really buy unregistered securities in speculative startups, over the Internet, with only the barest form of disclosure? The conventional wisdom among most legal scholars is, basically, no. In their view, securities crowdfunding is doomed to failure for myriad reasons, including fraud, [1] costs, [2] dilution, [3] adverse selection, [4] opportunism, [5] and more. [6]

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Delaware Court Guidance on Merger Litigation Settlements

Theodore N. Mirvis is a partner in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton publication by Mr. Mirvis, William Savitt, and Ryan A. McLeod. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In an opinion last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery rejected a disclosure-only settlement of a putative stockholder class-action lawsuit challenging a merger. In re Trulia, Inc. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 10020-CB (Del. Ch. Jan. 22, 2016). Continuing and perhaps completing its recent reevaluation of merger litigation settlement practice, the Court made clear that it “will be increasingly vigilant in scrutinizing” such settlements in the future and that disclosure claims should be litigated (if at all) outside the settlement context.

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Calculating SEC Civil Money Penalties

Jonathan N. Eisenberg is partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg.

In addition to going to court to seek sanctions, the Securities and Exchange Commission may impose civil money penalties in its own administrative proceedings on any person who violates or causes a violation of the securities laws. [1] Unlike district courts, administrative law judges do not have authority to base penalties on respondents’ pecuniary gains resulting from violations. [2] Instead, under the various penalty statutes, maximum penalties in administrative proceedings are based on “each act or omission” violating or causing a violation of the securities laws. Currently, the maximum penalties for each act or omission violating the securities laws are:
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PCAOB Adopts Disclosure Rule

Avrohom J. Kess is partner and head of the Public Company Advisory Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum by Mr. Kess and Yafit Cohn.

On December 15, 2015, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) issued a new rule and related amendments to its auditing standards that require accounting firms to disclose, in a new PCAOB form, specified information regarding the engagement partner and other accounting firms that participated in the audit. [1]

The PCAOB’s New Rule

The PCAOB’s final rule requires accounting firms to disclose, on Form AP, Auditor Reporting of Certain Audit Participants, the following information for each completed issuer audit:

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Scope of Insider-Trading “Tippee” Liability

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Savarese and George T. Conway III.

In an insider-trading case that will be closely watched until it is decided before the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari yesterday to decide critical open questions about what is required to establish insider trading by a remote “tippee”—specifically, what kind of personal benefit must a “tipper” receive, and what knowledge of that benefit must the “tippee” have, for a conviction or sanction to stand.

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FAST Act Amendments to the U.S. Securities Laws

Nicolas Grabar is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP focusing on international capital markets and securities regulation. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb publication by Mr. Grabar, Les Silverman, and Andrea M. Basham.

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”), which, among other legislation in its 1300+ pages, includes several bills designed to facilitate the offer and sale of securities. In this post we focus on two of those bills. The first provides additional accommodations related to the SEC registration process for emerging growth companies (“EGCs”), a category of issuer established by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”) in 2012. The second creates a non-exclusive safe harbor under Section 4 of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”) for resales of securities that meet the conditions of the safe harbor.

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Failure-of-Oversight Claims Against Directors

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savarese, Emil A. Kleinhaus, C. Lee Wilson, and Noah B. Yavitz. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of purported shareholder derivative claims alleging that directors of JPMorgan Chase, a Delaware corporation, failed to institute internal controls sufficient to detect Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Central Laborers v. Dimon, No. 14-4516 (2d Cir. Jan. 6, 2016) (summary order). The decision represents a forceful application of Delaware law holding that, when directors are protected by standard exculpation provisions in the corporate charter, they will not be liable for alleged oversight failures absent a particularized showing of bad-faith misconduct.

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