Category: Executive Compensation

Highlights of the 2017 PLI Securities Regulation Institute

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.

Corp Fin posts new CDI regarding safeguards for electronic delivery of information under Rule 701

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. 

Does an unfavorable say-on-pay vote mean what it says?

Not really, according to this study by academics from the University of Pennsylvania Law, Rutgers Business and Berkeley Law Schools to be published in the Harvard Business Law Review. Say on pay was initiated under a Dodd-Frank mandate adopted against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, largely in reaction to the public’s railing against the levels of compensation paid to some corporate executives despite poor performance by their companies, especially where those firms were viewed as contributors to the crisis itself. Say on pay was expected to help rein in excessive levels of compensation and, even though the vote was advisory only, ascribe some level of accountability to boards and compensation committees that set executive compensation levels.  So far, however, say-on-pay votes have served largely as confirmations of board decisions regarding executive compensation and not, in most cases, as the kind of rock-throwing exercises that many companies had feared and some governance activists had hoped. The study reported that, since 2011, the average annual percentage of say-on-pay votes in favor has exceeded 90%, while “the percentage of issuers with a failed say on pay vote has never exceeded 3% and, in 2016, that number dropped to just 1.7%.” The study examined what the few failed (or low) votes really meant.

NACD report on “Culture as a Corporate Asset” couldn’t be more timely

Recently, corporate cultures—or, more particularly, serious lapses in same—have emerged as flashpoints at many businesses and even entire industries, often with significant negative press coverage and severe economic consequences. As a result, this new report from the National Association of Corporate Directors, The Report of the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on Culture as a Corporate Asset, couldn’t be more timely.  The report suggests that boards would be well-served by paying more attention to oversight of company culture—not just for scandal avoidance, but also “as a way to drive sustained success and long-term value creation.”  A “healthy culture,” the report asserts, can serve as “a competitive differentiator.” The report includes a Toolkit with sample documents, questions and other useful materials.

SEC proposes FAST Act Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K

The SEC has now posted its release regarding FAST Act Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K, which proposes amendments to rules and forms based primarily on the staff’s recommendations in its Report to Congress on Modernization and Simplification of Regulation S-K (required by the FAST Act).  (See this PubCo post.) That Report, in turn, was premised on the review that the SEC conducted as part of its Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative and the related Concept Release, which addressed a broader range of potential changes.  (See this PubCo post and this PubCo post.)  A new approach to confidential treatment, not addressed in the Report, is also proposed.  As indicated by the title, the proposed amendments are intended to modernize and simplify a number of disclosure requirements in Reg S-K, and related rules and forms, in a way that reduces the compliance and cost burdens on companies while continuing to provide effective disclosure for investors, including improvements designed to make the disclosures more readable, less repetitive and more easily navigable.

Results of ISS global survey reveal strong opinions on board gender diversity and mixed views on multi-class capital structures, share buybacks and virtual annual meetings

ISS recently released the results of its 2017-2018 global policy survey. The respondents, mostly from the U.S., included 131 investors, 382 corporate issuers, 46 consultants/advisors, 28 corporate directors and 13 organizations that represent or provide services to issuers. Highlights of the survey are summarized below:

In Senate testimony, SEC Chair offers insights into his thinking on a variety of issues before the SEC

In testimony last week before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, SEC Chair Jay Clayton gave us some insight into his thinking about a number of  issues, including cybersecurity at the SEC, cybersecurity disclosure, the regulatory agenda, disclosure effectiveness, the shareholder proposal process, climate change disclosure, conflict minerals, compulsory arbitration provisions, stock buybacks, the decline in IPOs and overregulation (including some interesting sparring with Senator Warren). Whether any of the topics identified as problematic result in actual rulemaking—particularly in an administration with a deregulatory focus—is an open question.