Category Archives: Governance

Wearing two hats: Elon Musk as a case study

Much has already been written about Elon Musk’s famous tweet offering to take Tesla private. Most of the coverage has focused on whether he violated Regulation FD’s prohibition on selective disclosure by communicating material nonpublic information through Twitter, rather than a more recognized channel of communication, or whether he violated Rule 10b-5 by lacking a sufficient basis for his claim to have “funding secured.”

What is perhaps more surprising is that,… More

Many new smaller reporting companies eligible for disclosure relief in their next Form 10-Q

Companies that will qualify as “smaller reporting companies” for the first time under the SEC’s recently revised definition should consider whether to take advantage of the simplified reporting requirements that will become available to them on September 10, the effective date of the new rule. For example, a calendar-year issuer that qualified as a smaller reporting company as of June 29, 2018 (the last business day of its second fiscal quarter) can comply with the smaller reporting company disclosure requirements in its Form 10-Q for the third quarter of 2018. … More

SEC Enforcement Action Highlights Need for Careful Analysis of Perquisites and Personal Benefits

On July 2, 2018, the SEC brought a settled cease-and-desist proceeding against The Dow Chemical Company for failing to disclose approximately $3 million in executive perquisites, including personal use of company aircraft, in its proxy statements over five years.  The SEC concluded that Dow failed to adequately train key employees to ensure that the proper standard for perquisite disclosures was being applied and that Dow had inadequate processes and procedures to ensure proper reporting of perquisites.… More

Most executives are probably underpaid

Every day it seems there is another outcry over excessive executive compensation at public companies.  This year, for the first time, public companies are disclosing ratios of CEO compensation to median employee compensation, and both the media and politicians are quick to highlight pay ratios in excess of 1,000-to-one as evidence of everything that is wrong with executive compensation.

Yet these complaints have a certain air of unreality to them,… More

HoweyCoins: The SEC’s Newest Attempt at Educating the Public on ICOs

Perhaps in the spirit of the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them,” the Securities and Exchange Commission recently launched an initial coin offering website of its own – HoweyCoins.com.  No, the SEC has not suddenly decided to join the coin offering craze.  But the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has launched this new mock site to illustrate the dangers of such offerings to retail investors.  The site touts a coin investment opportunity in the travel industry and comes complete with many of the enticements common to the very offerings that the SEC is attempting to police,… More

Watch – Corporate Social Responsibility: Emerging Expectations for Public Companies

Why You and Your Board Need to Adapt to Increased Expectations from Constituencies Old and New

Public companies are facing heightened expectations with respect to the social and environmental impacts of their business operations. Recent developments such as the emergence of the #MeToo movement and increasing public concern regarding issues ranging from climate change to gun control have highlighted the risks that exist in today’s social media-driven environment. When allegations of corporate missteps can instantly capture public attention,… More

Supreme Court Preserves State Courts as a Forum for IPO Securities Class Actions

In a unanimous decision issued Tuesday, March 20, 2018, the United States Supreme Court clarified that certain securities law class action cases may proceed in state courts.  The Court declined to find that Congress intended to make federal courts the exclusive or preferred forum for resolving such claims.

The case – Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund – involved the interpretation of the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (also referred to as SLUSA) and the changes that law made to the Securities Act of 1933. … More

New SEC Guidance Addresses Disclosure Requirements for Breach Events

As the SEC has made clear on numerous occasions over the past year, cybersecurity will continue to be a major enforcement priority under the Commission’s new leadership.  As we have previously covered, one new area of potential enforcement activity that the SEC has warned about concerns the failure of public companies to make disclosures regarding material cyber events.  While the SEC had previously provided some guidanceto publicly traded companies about when to disclose such events,… More

Supreme Court Invalidates SEC Expansion of Who Can Be a Whistleblower Under Dodd-Frank Act

On Wednesday February 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court rejected a Securities Exchange Commission regulation that sought to expand the definition of a whistleblower under the Dodd-Frank Act, and thereby resolved a split in the Circuit Courts.  In Digital Realty Trust v. Somers, the Court held that anti-retaliation protection afforded to a whistleblower under the Dodd-Frank Act is available only to an individual who provides information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the Securities and Exchange Commission before suffering adverse employment action. … More

Massachusetts Securities Division Files First Complaint Related to Initial Coin Offering

On January 17, 2018, the Massachusetts Securities Division Enforcement Section filed a complaint against the company Caviar and its founder Kirill Bensonoff for violations of the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act in connection with an ongoing initial coin offering (ICO).

This is Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin’s first enforcement action related to an ICO. Last month, Secretary Galvin announced that the Massachusetts Securities Division would conduct a sweep of Massachusetts entities engaged in ICOs.… More

Cybersecurity 2018 – The Year in Preview: Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

Bitcoin is white-hot. The cryptocurrency’s price has increased an astounding 2000% in 2017 alone.  The app for Coinbase, the most popular cryptocurrency exchange, held the #1 spot on Apple’s app store, unseating the likes of Facebook and Instragram.  Earlier this month the Chicago Exchange began offering trades in bitcoin futures, the first major exchange to do so (and futures contracts were up some 560% after one day of trading).… More

Massachusetts Announces ICO Sweep

The Massachusetts Securities Division has announced that it will conduct an exam sweep of Massachusetts entities engaged in initial coin offerings (ICOs).

In the announcement, released on Friday, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said that he views ICOs as securities that must be registered with the state.

“Blockchain may or may not change the way banks transfer money or the way credit payments are made,… More

SEC’s Cyber Unit Takes Aim at ICOs

For the second time in less than a month (click here for a prior enforcement action), the SEC’s newly created Cyber Unit has shut down an initial coin offering (ICO).  This time the ICO was for Munchee, Inc., a California-based developer of an iPhone application for people to review restaurant meals.  The recent enforcement activity follows several policy statements and warnings regarding ICOs.  … More

SEC Provides Hurricane Relief

On September 28, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced regulatory relief for a broad class of companies and others affected by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria.  The SEC staff also indicated that it would be responsive to other issues that these parties may face if brought to the staff’s attention on a case-by-case basis.

The SEC issued an exemptive order that conditionally exempts affected persons from certain requirements of the federal securities laws for a period following the hurricanes. … More

SEC Report on ICOs and Token Sales – “If It Sounds Too Good to be True…”

On July 25, 2017, the SEC issued an investigative report to advise those who have used or may consider using a virtual organization or capital raising entity that uses distributed ledger or blockchain technology to facilitate capital raising that these activities are subject to U.S. federal securities laws. The SEC also released an investor bulletin to educate and caution potential investors about this new and growing type of capital raising.… More