On April 6, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Division of Corporation Finance issued a new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation (C&DI) concerning the application of the SEC’s conditional relief order (the Order) that was issued in the wake of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for companies filing their annual reports on Form 10-K.
Continue Reading SEC Division of Corporation Finance Issues C&DI about Conditional Relief Order and Incorporation by Reference Into Form 10-K

On April 7, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provided guidance to issuers that may be experiencing unexpected delays with the printing and physical mailing of a “full set” of their proxy materials for their upcoming shareholder meetings.
Continue Reading SEC Provides Guidance on Delays in Printing and Mailing of Full Sets of Proxy Materials

On March 25, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an order extending conditional relief (the Modified Order) for reporting and proxy delivery requirements for public company registrants and other filers in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Modified Order provides filers with an additional 45 days to make filings pursuant to Sections 13(a), 13(f), 13(g), 14(a), 14(c), 14(f), 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act), Exchange Act Regulations 13A, 13D-G (except for those provisions mandating the filing of Schedule 13D or amendments to Schedule 13D), 14A, 14C and 15D, and Exchange Act Rules 13f-1, and 14f-1, that would have been due during the period of March 1-July 1, 2020 (the Relief Period), subject to the conditions discussed below. This relief covers, among others, reports on Form 10-K, 20-F, 10-Q, 8-K and 6-K, as well as Schedules 13G and 13F but, as noted, expressly excludes Schedule 13D filings and also is not available for filings under Section 16 of the Exchange Act (i.e., Forms 3, 4 and 5).
Continue Reading SEC Further Extends Filing Deadlines for Companies Impacted by COVID-19

On November 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to propose amendments to Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange of 1934 (Exchange Act) to address required share ownership thresholds for a proponent to submit a shareholder proposal, update the “one proposal” rule to clarify the rule that a person can only submit one proposal per meeting and amend the vote support thresholds required for a proponent to resubmit a shareholder proposal at subsequent shareholder meetings.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes New Amendments to Modernize Shareholder Proposal Rules

On October 24, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed amendments to update filing fee disclosure and payment methods. The proposed amendments would apply to most fee-bearing forms, schedules and statements, including Forms S-1, S-3, S-4, S-8 and S-11, related foreign private issuer forms, proxy statements, information statements, Schedule TO and certain Investment Company Act of 2940 forms.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes Modernization of Filing Fee Disclosure and Payment Methods

Investment Advisers

On August 21, by a vote of 3 to 2, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued interpretive guidance on an investment adviser’s fiduciary duties with respect to voting of proxies for client accounts. The guidance makes clear that advisers may agree with their clients that the client, and not the adviser, will vote proxies, but such guidance is generally impractical for advisers to private funds and registered investment companies (because there is no practical way to assign voting power to the funds).
Continue Reading SEC Issues New Guidance Regarding Proxy Voting Responsibility of Investment Advisers and the Applicability of Proxy Rules to Proxy Voting Advice

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.
Continue Reading SEC Division of Corporation Finance Issues C&DIs on Proxy Rules and Proxy Statements, Overhauling Telephone Interpretations Manual

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).
Continue Reading SEC Issues No-Action Letters With Respect to Rule 14a-8(i)(10)

On July 6, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion overturning the November 2014 ruling of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had improperly excluded a shareholder proposal from its proxy statement. The Third Circuit’s written opinion follows its prior order issued in April 2015 vacating the District Court’s earlier decision.
Continue Reading Court of Appeals for Third Circuit Overturns District Court Ruling Regarding Exclusion of Shareholder Proposal From Proxy Statement