Way back in 2016, the SEC issued a Concept Release requesting comment on an enormous variety of potential changes to Reg S-K, including sustainability. (See this PubCo post.) As reported by BNA, then-Director of Corp Fin, Keith Higgins, advised that the highest proportion of comments received on the Reg S-K Concept Release related to better environmental and social responsibility disclosure. He observed that, of the 360 “unique” comment letters (i.e., non-form letters) received, about 80% “were looking for improved sustainability disclosure.” The problem, he recognized, was that those types of sustainability disclosures were not necessarily amenable to one-size-fits-all rulemaking. According to Higgins, “[c]limate change tops the list of issues….” However, he acknowledged, the issues involved in sustainability “cut across 79 different industries and aren’t suited to a constant set of rules….‘Everyone recognizes that one-size-fits-all disclosure is likely not to be so effective in the sustainability area—others recognize the enormity of that task.’” (See this PubCo post.) Now, independent standard-setting organization SASB, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, seems to have come to the rescue, announcing that it has published a series of sustainability accounting standards specifically tailored for 77 industries. According to the SASB Chair, the publication of these standards represents an “important milestone” because they provide “codified, market-based standards for measuring, managing, and reporting on sustainability factors that drive value and affect financial performance.” Will the SEC now take up the challenge of sustainability disclosure?
Is board stability always a good thing? A new study from consultant Spencer Stuart showed that, in 2018, 428 new directors were elected to boards of companies in the S&P 500, the most new directors since 2004, representing an increase of 8% from 2017. What’s more, 57% of boards added at least one new director, and 22% appointed more than one new director. However, overall turnover remained “modest.” While these new directors added “fresh skills, qualifications and perspectives”—and many were women, minorities and/or first-time directors—nevertheless, the study concludes, “progress is mixed.”
The NYSE has proposed a change to Section 303A.00 of the Listed Company Manual related to the exemption from the compensation committee requirements applicable to smaller reporting companies. (See this Cooley Alert.) The amendment is intended to conform the Section to the new SEC rules related to SRCs.
Corp Fin has posted some updates to its CDIs relating to the new rule amendments regarding smaller reporting companies. (See this Cooley Alert and the SEC’s Amendments to the Smaller Reporting Company Definition — Compliance Guide.) In connection with the new updates, Corp Fin has also withdrawn a number of CDIs (presumably, at least in part, because they were no longer appropriate in view of the changes to the rules). Below are summaries:
It’s election day. Don’t forget to vote!
And given that it’s election day, it’s a good time to step back and consider the big picture. To that end, you might want to take a look at this DealBook column, which discusses CEOs’ perspectives on the role of business in politics and the impact of technology on society—all in one column no less.
No, it’s not Groundhog Day. (In fact, it’s election day. Go vote!) But this proposal from the NYSE to amend Sections 312.03 and 312.04 of the Listed Company Manual sounds remarkably similar to the one that the SEC has just approved for Nasdaq—modifications to the price requirements for purposes of determining whether shareholder approval is required for certain issuances. (See this PubCo post.) Just like the new Nasdaq rule, the NYSE proposal would
change the definition of market value for purposes of the shareholder approval rule and
eliminate the requirement for shareholder approval of issuances at a price less than book value but greater than market value.
The Center for Audit Quality, working with Audit Analytics, has just released a new edition of its annual Audit Committee Transparency Barometer, which, over the past five years, has measured the robustness of audit committee disclosures in proxy statements among companies in the S&P Composite 1500. The bottom line, according to the CAQ, is that the level of voluntary transparency has continued to steadily increase in most areas. The report includes several useful examples of the types of disclosure discussed.