2017 Audit Committee Transparency Barometer from the Center for Audit Quality shows continued increase in enhanced disclosures
Earlier this month, the Center for Audit Quality together with Audit Analytics posted their annual Audit Committee Transparency Barometer, which measured the quality of proxy disclosures regarding audit committees among companies in the S&P Composite 1500. The report shows continued voluntary enhancements to transparency and broadly increased disclosure around audit committee oversight of the external auditor. The report includes several useful examples of the types of disclosure discussed.
Biotech files rulemaking petition for pilot program mandating public disclosure of short-sale positions
A rulemaking petition has been submitted to the SEC by a biopharmaceutical company that is “developing and marketing regenerative and therapeutic biologics.” The petition requests that the SEC promulgate rules to establish a pilot program that would mandate “periodic public disclosure of short-sale positions in securities of biopharmaceutical companies by investment advisers.” Will the SEC take action on the request in the petition?
On a webcast today, “Shareholder Proposals: Corp Fin Speaks,” presented by TheCorporateCounsel.net, Matt McNair, Senior Special Counsel in Corp Fin’s Office of Chief Counsel, provided some “soft” guidance regarding the implications of the recent SLB 14I on shareholder proposals, particularly the exclusions for “ordinary business” and “economic relevance.” (See this PubCo post.)
Summarized below are some of the highlights of the 2017 PLI Securities Regulation Institute panel discussions with the SEC staff (Michele Anderson, Wesley Bricker, Karen Garnett, William Hinman, Mark Kronforst, Shelley Parratt, Ted Yu), as well as a number of former staffers and other commentators. Topics included the Congressional and SEC agendas, fresh insights into the shareholder proposal guidance, as well as expectations regarding cybersecurity, conflict minerals, pay ratio disclosure, waivers and many other topics.
Yesterday, Corp Fin posted a new CDI 271.25 regarding permissible safeguards for protection of Rule 701(e) disclosures that are furnished electronically. You may recall that Rule 701—which provides an exemption from registration under the Securities Act for offers and sales to employees, directors and consultants under compensatory benefit plans and contracts—requires companies to deliver to the employee/investor a copy of the applicable benefit plan or contract, and, if the company sells, in any consecutive 12-month period, securities with a value in excess of $5 million, the company must deliver, a reasonable period of time before the date of sale, specified other information, including financial statements and information about the risks associated with the investment, much of which is likely to contain confidential or sensitive material.
In case you missed it, according to this article in Bloomberg BNA, the new tax proposal would eliminate tax benefits under IRC Section 162(m), which allows companies to deduct executive compensation over $1 million (in addition to regularly deductible compensation up to $1 million) so long as it is performance-based and meets certain other conditions, such as shareholder approval and approval by a committee of “outside directors.” According to the article, the proposal would retain the $1 million cap on deductible compensation but eliminate the exemption for performance-based pay that exceeded the cap.
Just in time for the beginning of proxy and shareholder proposal season, Corp Fin has posted Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14I, Shareholder Proposals. The SLB addresses four issues:
the scope and application of Rule 14a-8(i)(7) (the “ordinary business” exclusion);
the scope and application of Rule 14a-8(i)(5) (the “economic relevance” exclusion);
proposals submitted on behalf of shareholders (shareholder proposals by proxy); and
the use of graphics and images consistent with Rule 14a-8(d) (the 500-word limitation).