Division of Corporation Finance

On October 16, the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance (Staff) of the Securities and Exchange Commission issued Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14K (SLB). The SLB provides new guidance regarding the Staff’s views as to when registrants may properly exclude, pursuant to Rule 14a-8(i)(7) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, shareholder proposals under the “ordinary business” exception.
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On August 20, the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance (the staff) of the Securities and Exchange Commission released several new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DIs) relating to interactive data/eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), with a focus on items relating to Inline XBRL format requirements.
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On May 11, the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the Staff) issued 45 Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DIs) that relate to the proxy rules and proxy statements, replacing the Staff’s prior interpretations that were published in the Proxy Rules and Schedule 14A Manual of Publicly Available Telephone Interpretations (the Manual) and the March 1999 Supplement to the Manual (the Supplement). Thirty-five of the C&DIs reiterate prior guidance from the Manual and the Supplement. This article highlights the six C&DIs that reflect substantive changes and the four C&DIs that reflect technical changes to the prior guidance in the Manual and the Supplement. The Staff also noted that it is in the process of updating other previously published interpretations relating to the proxy rules.
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On November 1, the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (Division) published Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14I (SLB 14I), which provides new, issuer-friendly guidance on shareholder proposals in advance of the 2018 proxy season. Specifically, SLB 14I provides guidance on (1) exclusion of shareholder proposals under the “ordinary business” and “economic relevance” exceptions under Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; (2) proposals submitted on behalf of shareholders through a representative; and (3) the use of images in proposals.
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In March 2017, the Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation of the Securities and Exchange Commission published its final report from the 2016 forum held on November 17, 2016. The forum is held annually “to provide a platform to highlight perceived unnecessary impediments to small business capital formation.” Each year the SEC’s Office of Small Business Policy (a part of the Division of Corporation Finance) invites federal government agencies, the North American Securities Administrators Association (consisting of state securities, or Blue Sky, regulators), and small business and professional organizations to participate in the forum, and each forum puts forth a list of recommendations to improve the capital formation process for small businesses.
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As previously reported in the Corporate and Financial Weekly Digest edition of October 30, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance (“Division”) issued Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14H (SLB 14H) on October 22, 2015. SLB 14H established a new standard for determining when a shareholder proposal conflicts with a company proposal (providing that a direct conflict would exist if a reasonable shareholder could not logically vote for both proposals) and therefore may be excluded from the company’s proxy statement under Rule 14a-8(i)(9).
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On February 12, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Corporation Finance (the Division) posted on its website 18 no-action letters relating to the exclusion of proxy access shareholder proposals under Rule 14a-8(i)(10). Rule 14a-8(i)(10) permits a company to exclude a shareholder proposal from its proxy statement if “the company has already substantially implemented the proposal.” In 15 of the 18 letters, the SEC granted issuers requested no-action relief, allowing them to exclude the shareholder proposals. In each case, the shareholder proposal sought adoption of a bylaw amendment that would permit shareholders holding a requisite threshold of shares to nominate board candidates for inclusion in the issuer’s proxy statement (i.e., a proxy access bylaw proposal).
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