Tag: Dodd-Frank Act


2015 Securities Law Developments

Jason M. Halper is a partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. This post is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper, Paul F. RuganiKatherine L. Maco, Katie Lieberg Stowe, and Suzette Pringle.

On balance, the securities litigation landscape in 2015 offered a glass half-full/glass half-empty perspective for issuers and their officers, directors and advisors. Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), the major securities law decision of the 2015 Supreme Court term, afforded defendants relatively greater protection from liability based on public statements of opinion, as long as those opinions are honestly held and have a reasonable factual basis. The SEC suffered several notable setbacks, with some federal courts striking as unconstitutional the highly debated conflict minerals rule and the SEC’s method of appointing administrative law judges. The Second Circuit significantly restricted federal prosecutors’ ability to pursue downstream recipients of non-public information, resulting in a spate of overturned convictions and withdrawn guilty pleas. And although decisions from lower courts within the Second Circuit dismissing derivative lawsuits will be subject to less deferential review, both the Second Circuit and the Delaware Supreme Court reaffirmed that decisions of independent and disinterested boards to reject stockholder demands are entitled to business judgment rule protection, thereby precluding minority shareholder second guessing in private lawsuits. Yet the results were not uniformly favorable to the defense. The SEC took an expansive view of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower anti-retaliation provision, formalizing its view that such protections apply to whistleblowers who allege retaliation for reporting internally (as opposed to reporting to the SEC). The Second Circuit endorsed the SEC’s view shortly thereafter. And, the early returns from last year’s second Supreme Court decision in Halliburton suggest that rebutting the Basic presumption of reliance through price impact evidence will be a lofty hurdle for defendants at the class certification stage. Below is a roundup of key securities law developments in 2015 and trends for 2016.

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Compensation Season 2016

Michael J. Segal is senior partner in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Segal, Jeannemarie O’BrienAdam J. ShapiroAndrea K. Wahlquist, and David E. Kahan. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here).

Boards of directors and their compensation committees will soon shift attention to the 2016 compensation season. Key considerations in the year ahead include the following:

  1. Say-on-Pay. If a company anticipates a challenging say-on-pay vote with respect to 2015 compensation, it should proactively reach out to large investors, communicate the rationale for the company’s compensation programs and give investors an opportunity to voice any concerns. Shareholder outreach efforts, and any changes made to the compensation program in response to such efforts, should be highlighted in the proxy’s Compensation Disclosure and Analysis. ISS FAQs indicate that one possible way to reverse a negative say-on-pay recommendation is to impose more onerous performance goals on existing compensation awards and to disclose publicly such changes on Form 8-K, though the FAQs further note that such action will not ensure a change in recommendation. Disclosure of prospective changes to the compensation program will demonstrate responsiveness to compensation-related concerns raised by shareholders.

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Resource Extraction Payments

Nicolas Grabar and Sandra L. Flow are partners in the New York office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum by Mr. Grabar, Ms. Flow, Nina E. Bell, and Daniel Chor.

On December 11, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a proposed rule on disclosure of resource extraction payments, over two years after a federal court vacated a prior version of the rule. The new proposal is similar in many ways to the SEC’s original rule, adopted in August 2012—in large part because the SEC is implementing a detailed congressional directive contained in Section 1504 of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. However, in addition to addressing the deficiencies the court found in the original rulemaking, the SEC has made other notable changes to reflect global developments in transparency for resource extraction payments, particularly in the European Union and Canada.

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Recovery Planning for Large National Banks

This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell LLP publication by C. Andrew GerlachRebecca J. Simmons, Mark J. Welshimer and Connie Y. Lam. Mr. Gerlach, Ms. Simmons, and Mr. Welshimer are partners in the Financial Services Group; and Ms. Lam is a firm associate.

On December 16, 2015, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) solicited public comment, through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (the “NPR”), [1] on proposed guidelines to establish standards for recovery planning by certain large insured national banks, insured Federal savings associations and insured Federal branches of foreign banks (the “Guidelines”).
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Looking Back at the SEC’s Transformation

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

I started my tenure as an SEC Commissioner in the late summer of 2008, only a few weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial turmoil that followed, and only a few months before one of the largest financial frauds in U.S. history—the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme—was exposed. Beyond their obviously substantial impact on the capital markets and the greater economy, these historical events demonstrated that the Commission needed to change and adapt if it was to continue to be an effective regulator. Indeed, in late 2008 and in 2009, the continuing existence of the Commission was a matter of serious speculation. Thus, whether by coincidence or circumstance—some would say a fate of timing—it is not surprising that my tenure has corresponded with one of the most transformational periods in the SEC’s august history.

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Second Circuit on Scope of Whistleblower Protection

Nicole A. Baker is a Partner in the Washington, D.C. office of K&L Gates LLP, focusing on government enforcement and litigation practice. This post is based on a K&L gates publication authored by Ms. Baker and Meghan E. Flinn.

On November 10, 2015, the employer in a high-profile whistleblower-retaliation case [1] advised the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that it “will not be pursuing a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States” with respect to the appellate court’s recent pro-whistleblower decision concerning the scope of the anti-retaliation provisions contained in Section 21F of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank” or the “Act”). [2] In so doing, the employer re-invigorated the debate over whether Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation protections cover individuals who report to their employers, as opposed to contacting the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

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Oversight of the Financial Stability Oversight Council

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s recent testimony before the United States House Committee on Financial Services, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Thank you for inviting me to testify regarding the Financial Stability Oversight Council (Council). Below I highlight my perspective on the Council and my role on it.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) established the Council to provide comprehensive monitoring of the stability of our nation’s financial system. Specifically, the Council is responsible for:

  • Identifying risks to the financial stability of the United States that could arise from the material financial distress or failure—or ongoing activities—of large, interconnected bank holding companies or nonbank financial companies, or that could arise outside the financial services marketplace;
  • Promoting market discipline by eliminating expectations on the part of shareholders, creditors, and counterparties of such companies that the government will shield them from losses in the event of failure; and
  • Responding to emerging threats to the stability of the United States financial system. [1]

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Chair White Statement on Use of Derivatives

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

The Commission will consider two separate recommendations from the staff today [December 11, 2015]. First, we will consider and vote on a recommendation from the staff of the Division of Investment Management to propose an updated and more comprehensive approach to the use of derivatives by mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, closed-end funds, and business development companies.

Second, we will consider and vote on a recommendation from the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance to propose rules to require disclosure of certain payments made to governments by resource extraction issuers, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act.

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Protecting Investors through Proactive Regulation of Derivatives

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement at an open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [December 11, 2015], the Commission considers new rules that are designed to protect investors by addressing the use of derivatives by registered investment companies. As demonstrated by the 2008 financial crisis, and the economic turmoil that followed, years of regulatory complacency and deregulation enabled an unregulated derivatives marketplace to cause significant losses to investors. In response to that crisis, in 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to address the causes of the financial crisis, and specifically included provisions in Title VII of the Act mandating the establishment of a regulatory framework for addressing broad categories of derivatives. This process is still ongoing.

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Dissenting Statement on Use of Derivatives

Michael S. Piwowar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Piwowar’s recent remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Piwowar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [December 11, 2015], we are considering a proposed new exemptive rule that addresses the use of derivatives and financial commitment transactions by registered investment companies and business development companies (collectively, “funds”). This proposal is the third in a series of initiatives aimed at ensuring that the Commission’s regulatory program fully addresses the increasingly complex portfolio composition and operations of the asset management industry.

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