In remarks this week before PLI’s 55th Annual Institute on Securities Regulation, SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda shared his views about the disclosure rulemaking process. He observed that, since becoming a commissioner 16 months ago, the SEC has adopted five major disclosure rules—pay versus performance, clawbacks, amendments to rule 10b5-1, share repurchases and cybersecurity—and has identified four more that are in the works. He focused on four key issues: determining purpose, the need for re-proposals, scaling disclosure and considering rulemaking costs and burdens on a cumulative basis. As you might guess, Uyeda had some thoughtful criticisms of the rulemaking process and offered some potential remedies.
On Wednesday, SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda spoke to the Society for Corporate Governance 2023 National Conference on the topic of shareholder proposals under rule 14a-8, a topic on which, historically, the commissioners’ energetic back-and-forth has been reflected in Corp Fin interpretations that have literally shifted back and forth. You might think these reversals are a new thing, but Uyeda reminds us about the goings-on in 2015, when Whole Foods was first permitted to exclude, as a conflicting proposal under Rule 14a-8(i)(9), a proxy access proposal, only to have the staff reverse course shortly thereafter. (See this PubCo post, this PubCo post and this PubCo post.) “Relying on the Commission’s rules, or its staff’s positions,” he later observes, “in this area is akin to building a sand castle on the beach. Any rule or interpretation, no matter how recently adopted, is at risk of being erased by the next wave.” However, Uyeda finds the reversals over the course of the last few years particularly problematic. In his view, the recent interpretative changes in SLB 14L have led to a surfeit of proposals the aggregate effect of which he finds to be “value-eroding.” He suggests some approaches to address the problem. Are we looking at a fundamental—some might say radical— reimagining of the shareholder proposal process?
The public/private company dichotomy has been a perennial discussion topic. (See, e.g., this PubCo post, this PubCo post, this PubCo post, this PubCo post and this PubCo post.) A statistic frequently tossed around is that there are about half as many public companies today as there were in 1996, and those that are around today are older and larger. And while the IPO market was in a bit of funk last year, the private markets have been viewed as consistently vibrant, with more capital raised in the private markets than in the public. But the question of why and how to address the decline in the number of public companies has been a point of contention: is excessive regulation of public companies a deterrent to going public or has deregulation of the private markets juiced their appeal, but sacrificed investor protection in the bargain? At the end of January, we heard from SEC Commissioner Caroline Crenshaw addressing the question of whether the securities laws governing private capital raises might be too lax. Now, SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda is speaking his mind on the topic, presenting remarks at the at the “Going Public in the 2020s” conference at Columbia Law School.
A couple of days ago, the SEC amended Reg S-T to extend the filing deadline for Form 144 from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You may remember that, in June last year, the SEC adopted amendments to require electronic submission of several forms that could then be submitted on paper, including, for reporting companies, Form 144 (beginning April 13, 2023). (See this PubCo post.) Form 144 was then transformed into an online fillable document, similar to Form 4, designed to facilitate electronic filing and to be machine-readable and available for automated and efficient analysis. Prior to this week’s amendment to Reg S-T, a Form 144 submitted by direct transmission after 5:30 p.m. was deemed filed the next business day. Under the new amendments, effective March 20, a “Form 144 that otherwise complies with applicable filing requirements that is submitted by direct transmission after 5:30 p.m., but no later than 10:00 p.m., will be deemed filed the same business day.”