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March 5, 2019 |
2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update

Click for PDF 2018 witnessed even more securities litigation filings than 2017, in which we saw a dramatic uptick in securities litigation as compared to previous years.  This year-end update highlights what you most need to know in securities litigation developments and trends for the latter half of 2018, including: The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission, and is set to answer the question of whether a securities fraud claim premised on a false statement that was not “made” by the defendant can be pursued as a “fraudulent scheme” claim even though it would not be actionable as a Rule 10b-5(b) claim under Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, 564 U.S. 135 (2011). The Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari in Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian to consider whether Section 14(e) of the Exchange Act supports an inferred private right of action based on negligent (as opposed to knowing or reckless) misstatements or omissions made in connection with a tender offer. We discuss recent developments in Delaware law, including case law exploring, among other things, (1) appraisal rights, (2) the standard of review in controller transactions, (3) application of the Corwin doctrine, and (4) when a “Material Adverse Effect” permits termination of a merger agreement. We review case law implementing the Supreme Court’s decisions in Omnicare and Halliburton II. We review a decision from the Third Circuit regarding the obligation to disclose risk factors, and a decision from the Ninth Circuit regarding the utilization of judicial notice and the incorporation by reference doctrine at the motion to dismiss stage. 1. Filing and Settlement Trends Figure 1 below reflects filing rates for 2018 (all charts courtesy of NERA). Four hundred and forty-one cases were filed this past year. This figure does not include the many class suits filed in state courts or the increasing number of state court derivative suits, including many such suits filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery. Those state court cases represent a “force multiplier” of sorts in the dynamics of securities litigation today. Figure 1: As shown in Figure 2 below, over 200 “merger objection” cases were filed in federal courts in 2018. Building off a trend from 2017, this is nearly triple the number of such cases filed in 2016, and more than quadruple the number filed in 2014 and 2015. Note that this statistic only tracks cases filed in federal courts. Historically, most M&A litigation had occurred in state court, particularly the Delaware Court of Chancery. But as we have discussed in prior updates, the Delaware Court of Chancery announced in early 2016 in In re Trulia Inc. Stockholder Litigation, 29 A.3d 884 (Del. Ch. 2016) that the much-abused practice of filing an M&A case followed shortly by an agreement on “disclosure only” settlement is effectively at an end. This is likely driving an increasing number of cases to federal court. Figure 2: 2018 saw the continuation of a decline in the percentage of cases filed against healthcare companies, following the peak of such cases in 2016. The percentage of new cases involving electronics and technology companies, meanwhile, saw a significant bump, comprising 21% of all fillings in 2018. The proportion of cases in the finance sector remained roughly consistent as compared to 2017. Figure 3: As Figure 4 shows, the average settlement value was $69 million in 2018, returning to a number comparable to the average in 2016 ($77 million) after a sharp decline to $25 million in 2017. Figure 5 reflects that the median settlement value also rose from $6 million in 2017 to $13 million in 2018. In any given year, of course, median settlement statistics also can be influenced by the timing of large settlements, any one of which can skew the numbers.  The statistics are not highly predictive of the settlement value of any individual case, which is driven by a number of important factors, such as (i) the amount of D&O insurance; (ii) the presence of parallel proceedings, including government investigations and enforcement actions; (iii) the nature of the events that triggered the suit, such as the announcement of a major restatement; (iv) the range of provable damages in the case; and (v) whether the suit is brought under Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act or Section 11 of the Securities Act. Figure 4: Figure 5: Following a decline in 2017, 2018 witnessed the return of Median NERA-Defined Investor Losses and Median Ratio of Settlement to Investor Losses by Settlement Year to $479 million, a level similar to that seen in 2015 and 2016. Figure 6: 2018 also saw a greater number of settlement sizes in the $10 to $50 million range, with settlements in the $20 to $49.9 million range reaching an unprecedented 24% of all settlements. Figure 7: 2. What to Watch for in the Supreme Court A. Lorenzo Will Test the Reach of Janus on Who May Be Held Liable for False Statements In our 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update, we discussed the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission, No. 17-1077. As readers will recall, Lorenzo involves the question of whether a securities fraud claim premised on a false statement that was not “made” by the defendant can be pursued as a “fraudulent scheme” claim under Section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and 10b-5(c) even though it would not be actionable under Rule 10b-5(b) pursuant to the Court’s ruling in Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, 564 U.S. 135 (2011). In the decision below, the D.C. Circuit held that Lorenzo’s distribution of an email that included false statements drafted by his supervisor could not form the basis for 10b-5(b) liability under Janus, but could form the basis for “scheme” liability under 10b-5(a) and (c). Lorenzo v. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, 872 F.3d 578, 580, 592 (D.C. Cir. 2017). Then-Judge Kavanaugh dissented from the panel opinion. In the merits brief, Petitioner (a securities broker) argued that allowing scheme liability would permit an end-run around the Court’s decision in Janus, which held that only the “maker” of a statement can face primary liability for securities fraud. Brief for Petitioner at 24. Petitioner specifically contended that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling would effectively nullify Janus, and would allow the SEC to impose liability for conduct under 10b-5(a) and (c) that is not actionable under 10b-5(b). Id. at 27-28. Petitioner also argued that the scheme liability theory adopted by the D.C. Circuit is functionally no different than aiding-and-abetting liability—a theory of liability under Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act that the Supreme Court rejected in Central Bank of Denver v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, 511 U.S. 164, 177 (1994). Id. at 36. In its responsive brief on the merits, Respondent (the SEC) argued that neither Janus nor Central Bank purport to extend their holdings to claims made pursuant to Rules 10b-5(a) and (c). Brief for Respondent at 23-26, 31-33. On behalf of the SEC, the U.S. Solicitor General also argued that because the messages that contained the false statements were sent by Lorenzo, and because the transmission of the messages was necessary to the scheme, Lorenzo’s actions fall squarely within the provisions imposing scheme liability. Id. at 15-18. At oral argument on December 3, 2018, several Justices seemed troubled by Lorenzo’s argument because Janus relied on statutory text that prohibited the “making” of a false statement, but the statutory provisions under which the SEC charged Lorenzo do not include any references to the “making” of statements. Justice Alito repeatedly pressed Lorenzo’s counsel to explain why the alleged conduct did not “fall squarely within the language” of the statute. Tr. at 11. Justice Kagan expressed skepticism of Lorenzo’s theory that the various provisions of the anti-fraud statutes are “mutually exclusive,” such that misstatements can be sanctioned only under the provisions directed specifically at misstatements. Tr. at 25. Justice Gorsuch, however, appeared more accepting of Petitioner’s arguments, and pressed the government’s lawyer on how scheme liability could apply when the only fraud is the making of a false statement (a fraud claim barred by Janus on these facts). Tr. at 32-36. Justice Kavanaugh was recused because he participated in the decision below. We expect a decision in Lorenzo by the end of the 2018 Supreme Court Term in June 2019. We will continue to monitor developments in this area and report on any updates in our 2019 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update. B. In Emulex, the Court Will Address whether Liability May Be Imposed under Section 14(e) for Negligent Conduct On January 4, 2019, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian, No. 18-459, to consider whether Section 14(e) of the Exchange Act supports an inferred private right of action based on negligent misstatements or omissions made in connection with a tender offer. The case arises out of the Ninth Circuit, which split with five of its sister circuits in holding that plaintiffs seeking to recover under Section 14(e) of the Exchange Act need only plead and prove negligence, not scienter. 888 F.3d 399, 405 (9th Cir. 2018). This case involves a joint press release announcing a merger between Avago Technologies Wireless Manufacturing, Inc. and Emulex Corp. The press release announced that Avago would pay a premium for Emulex stock. Documents filed with the SEC in support of the offer omitted a one-page “Premium Analysis” showing that while the premium fell within the normal range of merger premiums in comparable transactions, it was below average. A class of former Emulex shareholders filed a putative class action and alleged defendants had violated Section 14(e) by failing to summarize the Premium Analysis and to disclose that the premium was below the average for premiums in similar mergers. The district court dismissed the Section 14(e) claim for failure to plead that the misstatement or omission was made intentionally or with deliberate recklessness. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court, noting that Section 14(e) contains two separate clauses, which each proscribe different conduct: (1) making or omitting an untrue statement of material fact and (2) engaging in fraudulent, deceptive or manipulative acts or practices. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the first clause, on its face, does not include a scienter requirement. Although the Ninth Circuit acknowledged that five other circuits (the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh) have held that Section 14(e) requires that plaintiffs plead scienter, the Ninth Circuit believes those circuits ignored or misread Supreme Court precedent to import Rule 10b-5’s scienter requirement to Section 14(e) claims. Id. at 405. According to the Ninth Circuit, Ernst & Ernst v. Hochfelder, 425 U.S. 185, 193 (1976), found that Rule 10b-5 requires a showing of scienter because it was promulgated by the SEC, which only has the authority to regulate manipulative or deceptive devices that necessarily entail scienter. Varjabedian, 888 F. Supp. at 406. The Ninth Circuit also reasoned that the text of Section 14(e) is similar to that of Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act, which the Supreme Court held in Aaron v. SEC, 446 U.S. 680, 696-97 (1980), does not require a showing of scienter. Varjabedian, 888 F. Supp. at 406. The Ninth Circuit distinguished the contrary rulings in the other circuits by noting that they were either decided before Ernst & Ernst and Aaron or that they failed to follow the reasoning of those decisions and acknowledge the distinction between Rule 10b-5 and Section 14(e). Id. at 405. Emulex filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on October 11, 2018. Emulex argued that the Ninth Circuit’s decision “upset[] the statutory scheme enacted by Congress.” Petition for Writ of Certiorari at 15. Emulex further contended that the Supreme Court has not previously recognized a private right of action under Section 14(e) and declined to do so in Piper v. Chris-Craft Industries Inc., 430 U.S. 1, 24 (1977). While lower courts have inferred a private right of action, they have declined to create private rights of action for negligent conduct. Petition for Writ of Certiorari at 18-19. Emulex also argued that the circuit split “blew up” the consensus among circuit courts which had held that Section 14(e) does not support a private right of action or remedy based on mere negligence. Id. at 14. The Ninth Circuit’s decision, according to Petitioner, “creat[es] an expansive new regime at odds with the uniform view in the rest of the country.” Id. at 15. As noted, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in January 2019. We expect that the parties will submit their briefing to the Supreme Court in the spring of 2018, with oral argument to follow in the coming months. We will continue to monitor this appeal and provide an update in our 2019 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update. C. Pending Certiorari Petitions There are two notable securities cases in which petitions for certiorari are pending. The first is Toshiba Corp. v. Automotive Industries Pension Trust Fund, No. 18-486, which also involves a circuit split created by the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit split from the Second Circuit in holding that the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., 561 U.S. 247 (2010), which held that U.S. securities laws do not apply extraterritorially, does not bar suits arising out of domestic transactions in the securities of a foreign issuer even when the foreign issuer has no role in facilitating the transaction. Also pending is First Solar Inc. v. Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, No. 18-164, which we discussed in the 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update. Readers will recall that, in that case, the Ninth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion holding that loss causation can be established even when the corrective disclosure did not reveal the fraud on which the securities fraud claim is based. In both Toshiba and First Solar, the Supreme Court has entered orders requesting the Solicitor General to file briefs expressing the views of the United States. The government has not yet filed its brief in either case. We will continue to monitor these petitions and provide an update in our 2019 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update if the Supreme Court grants certiorari. 3. Delaware Law Developments A. Contractual Waiver of Appraisal Rights Enforceable under Delaware Law In our 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update, we reported on two Court of Chancery decisions interpreting and applying new Delaware appraisal law set forth in Dell, Inc. v. Magnetar Global Event Driven Master Fund Ltd., 177 A.3d 1 (Del. 2017). In the second half of 2018, the Court of Chancery continued implementing the Delaware Supreme Court’s directive by looking first—and primarily—to market factors to determine the fair value of a company’s stock when supported by appropriate facts. See Blueblade Capital Opportunities LLC v. Norcraft Cos., 2018 WL 3602940 (Del. Ch. July 27, 2018) (giving deal price no weight where stock thinly traded and sales process significantly flawed); In re Appraisal of Solera Holdings, Inc., 2018 WL 3625644 (Del. Ch. July 30, 2018) (giving deal price “dispositive” weight where sales process was “characterized by many objective indicia of reliability” and company’s actively traded stock had “a deep base of public stockholders”). Delaware courts also looked at appraisal mechanics in other contexts. In Manti Holdings, LLC v. Authentix Acquisition Co., the Court of Chancery enforced a provision in a stockholder agreement waiving stockholders’ right to pursue statutory appraisal for certain transactions. 2018 WL 4698255 (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 2018). Stockholder-petitioners who had entered into the stockholder agreement lost their shares via merger. Id. at *1. Under the stockholder agreement, they had agreed “to refrain from the exercise of appraisal rights” if “a Company Sale [was] approved by the Board.” Id. at *2. That a “Company Sale” occurred was not disputed. In reaching its conclusion that the waiver was enforceable, the Court rejected as nonsensical the Petitioners’ argument that the waiver terminated upon consummation of the deal. Id. at *3. Importantly, the Court rejected the Petitioners’ argument that enforcing the Agreement “would impermissibly . . . impose a limitation on classes of stock by contract” in violation of DGCL Section 151(a), which, according to the Petitioners, requires such limits to derive from the corporate charter. Id. at *4. Reasoning that the Company entered into the agreement to “entice investment” and that the stockholders simply “took on contractual responsibilities in exchange for consideration,” the Court held that enforcing the stockholder agreement was “not the equivalent of imposing limitations on a class of stock under Section 151(a).” Id. B. Courts Clarify MFW’s “Ab Initio” Requirement In the second half of 2018, both the Delaware Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery clarified when the “ab initio” requirement is satisfied under Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp. (“MFW”), 88 A.3d 635, 644 (Del. 2014). Under MFW, a conflicted-controller transaction earns business judgment review when six elements are satisfied: (i) the procession of the transaction is conditioned ab initio on the approval of both a special committee and a majority of the minority stockholders (the “dual protections”); (ii) the special committee is independent; (iii) the special committee is empowered to freely select its own advisors and to say no definitively; (iv) the special committee meets its duty of care in negotiating a fair price; (v) the vote of the minority stockholders is informed; and (vi) there is no coercion of the minority stockholders. Id. at 645. In Olenik v. Lodzinski, the Court of Chancery held that the ab initio requirement was satisfied because the controller’s first offer, although extended after nine months of discussions, announced MFW’s dual protections “‘before any negotiations took place.’” 2018 WL 3493092, at *15 (Del. Ch. July 20, 2018) (quoting Swomley v. Schlecht, 2014 WL 4470947, at *21 (Del. Ch. 2014), aff’d, 128 A.3d 992 (Del. 2015) (TABLE)). The Court relied on settled Delaware law distinguishing between “discussions,” which were extensive in Olenik, and “negotiations,” which began only with the controller’s first offer. Id. at *16; see also Colonial Sch. Bd. v. Colonial Affiliate, NCCEA/DSEA/NEA, 449 A.2d 243, 247 (Del. 1982) (distinguishing between “negotiate,” which “means to bargain toward a desired contractual end,” and “discuss,” which “means merely to exchange thoughts and points of views on matters of mutual interest”). The Delaware Supreme Court weighed in three months later, holding in Flood v. Synutra International, Inc. that the ab initio element “require[s] the controller to self-disable before the start of substantive economic negotiations, and to have both the controller and Special Committee bargain under the pressures exerted on both of them by these protections.” 195 A.3d 754, 763 (Del. 2018). In particular, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that the controller satisfied the ab initio element by conditioning the transaction on MFW’s dual protections in “the Follow-up Letter [sent] just over two weeks after [it] first proposed the Merger, before the Special Committee ever convened and before any negotiations ever took place.” Id. at 764. Although these decisions are based on notably different facts—for example, nine months elapsed between the initial communication and the first offer in Olenik, and only two weeks passed between the initial communication and “the Follow-up Letter” in Synutra—they appear to create one rule: MFW’s “ab initio” requirement will be satisfied as long as the controller commits to MFW’s dual protections before substantive economic negotiations occur. Olenik is on appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, which may further clarify matters. C. Inadequate Disclosures Preclude Cleansing under Corwin In two recent cases, the Court of Chancery concluded the Corwin doctrine did not apply. In re Xura, Inc. S’holder Litig., 2018 WL 6498677 (Del. Ch. Dec. 10, 2018) (denying Corwin motion based on seven alleged material omissions); In re Tangoe, Inc. S’holder Litig., 2018 WL 6074435 (Del. Ch. Nov. 20, 2018) (holding stockholders were not adequately informed for Corwin purposes where audited financials and the facts underlying a restatement were not disclosed). Under Corwin, the business judgment rule applies to judicial review of transactions that are not otherwise subject to the entire fairness standard so long as the transaction was “approved by a fully informed, uncoerced vote of the disinterested stockholders.” See id. at *9 (quoting Corwin v. KKR Fin. Hldgs. LLC, 125 A.3d 304, 309 (Del. 2015)). Initially an appraisal proceeding, Xura morphed into a plenary action after appraisal discovery revealed questionable conduct primarily by a seller’s CEO. Xura, 2018 WL 6498677, at *1. The CEO, it was alleged, steered his company into a transaction with an interest that differed from other stockholders: self-preservation. Id. at *11. He stood to lose his job and a $25 million payout if the company was not sold. Id. at *13. The proxy statement for the deal failed to disclose the CEO’s actions relating to the sales process, leaving stockholders “entirely ignorant” of his influence over the transaction and “his possible self-interested motivation for pushing an allegedly undervalued [t]ransaction on the [c]ompany and its stockholders.” Id. Vice Chancellor Slights held that Corwin-cleansing was unavailable because the “stockholders could not have cleansed conduct about which they did not know.” Id. at *12. The stockholders in Tangoe similarly were found to be uninformed. Thirteen months before the transaction at issue, the SEC notified Tangoe that it would need to restate almost three years of its financials. Tangoe, 2018 WL 6074435, at *1. Tangoe took so long to do so that NASDAQ delisted its stock and the SEC threatened to deregister it. Id. at *2. After an activist stockholder increased its stake in the company and signaled to the board that “a proxy contest was coming,” the board began shifting its focus from restating the financials to selling the company. Id. at *1, 4-6. While it did so, it also altered its own compensation so that its members collectively would receive nearly $5 million in the event of a change of control. Id. at *5, 12-13. Throughout the sales process, the board failed to provide stockholders with audited financial statements. Although the Court pointed out that audited financial statements are not per se material, when combined with the misstatements in the company’s financial statements, among other things, the stockholders were left in an “information vacuum.” Id. at *10. The Court also found it significant that the board failed to disclose information related to the process of restating the company’s financials. Id. at *11. Accordingly, the Court held that Corwin-cleansing was unavailable because a reasonable inference could be drawn that the stockholders were not fully informed when they approved the transactions. Id. at *10-12. D. Delaware Supreme Court Affirms MAE Ruling On December 7, 2018, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s recent post-trial ruling that a “Material Adverse Effect” (or “MAE”) permitted a buyer to terminate a merger agreement. Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi AG, 2018 WL 4719347 (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 2018), aff’d, — A.3d —-, 2018 WL 6427137 (Del. Dec. 7, 2018). Several factors contributed to the Court of Chancery’s finding that Akorn suffered an MAE. First, after Fresenius agreed to acquire Akorn, Akorn’s business “fell off a cliff”: in three consecutive quarters, it announced year-over-year declines in quarterly revenues of 29%, 29%, and 34%; in operating income of 84%, 89%, and 292%; and in earnings per share of 96%, 105%, and 300%. Id. at *21, 24, 35. Second, whistleblower letters prompted an investigation into Akorn’s product development and quality control process. Id. at *26. This investigation revealed many flaws, including falsification of laboratory data submitted to the FDA. Id. at *30-31. Third, Akorn failed to operate its business in the ordinary course post-signing, fundamentally changing its quality control and information technology functions without Fresenius’s consent. Id. at *88. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court held that the record “adequately support[ed]” the Court of Chancery’s determination. Akorn, Inc., — A.3d —-, 2018 WL 6427137 (Del. Dec. 7, 2018). E. N.Y. First Department Reverses Xerox, Dissolves Injunction As we reported in our 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update, in April 2018, the New York Supreme Court enjoined a multi-billion dollar merger of Xerox Corp. and Fujifilm Holdings Corp. (“Fujifilm”) because Xerox’s CEO, who negotiated the deal, and a majority of Xerox’s board were conflicted or lacked independence because they expected to continue serving the combined entity. In re Xerox Corp. Consolidated Shareholder Litigation, 2018 WL 2054280, at *7 (N.Y. Sup. Apr. 27, 2018). Xerox and Fujifilm appealed. In October 2018, the First Department reversed the decision unanimously “on the law and the facts,” holding that the business judgment rule applied and that the plaintiffs had failed to show a likelihood of success on their breach of fiduciary duty and fraud claims. Deason v. Fujifilm Holdings Corp., 165 A.D.3d 501 (1st Dep’t 2018). In particular, the plaintiffs “failed to show bad faith or a disabling interest on the part of the majority of the directors of Xerox” because “the possibility that any one of the directors would be named to [the combined] board alone was not a material benefit such that it was a disabling interest;” any potential conflict created by Xerox’s CEO continuing as the future CEO of the new company was acknowledged by the board; and the board “engaged outside advisers,” “discussed the proposed transaction on numerous occasions,” and the deal was not “unreasonable on its face.” Id. at 501-02. As a result, the First Department dismissed the complaints against Fujifilm and dissolved the injunctions enjoining the deal. Id. On February 21, 2019, the First Department denied the class plaintiffs’ motion for reargument or, in the alternative, leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals. 4. Falsity of Opinions – Omnicare Update As discussed in our prior securities litigation updates, courts continue to define the boundaries of Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015). The Supreme Court’s Omnicare decision addressed the scope of liability for false opinion statements under Section 11 of the Securities Act. The Court held that “a sincere statement of pure opinion is not an ‘untrue statement of material fact,’ regardless whether an investor can ultimately prove the belief wrong.” Id. at 1327. An opinion statement can give rise to liability only when the speaker does not “actually hold[] the stated belief,” or when the opinion statement contains “embedded statements of fact” that are untrue. Id. at 1326–27. But in the heavily debated “omission” part of the opinion, the Court held that a factual omission from a statement of opinion gives rise to liability when the omitted facts “conflict with what a reasonable investor would take from the statement itself.” Id. at 1329. The plaintiffs’ bar predicted that this omission theory of falsity would give rise to a wave of securities litigation complaints poised to survive the pleadings phase. While the theory has indeed become commonplace in complaints, it has fared little to no better in the last half of 2018 against the exacting pleading standards generally applicable to all theories of liability under the securities laws. See, e.g., Hering v. Rite Aid Corp., 331 F. Supp. 3d 412, 427 (M.D. Pa. 2018) (finding that “Plaintiff has failed to meet the exacting pleading standard of the PSLRA” where reasonable investors would understand the statements to be estimates). One district court recently emphasized that “a general allegation that ‘Defendants had knowledge of, or recklessly disregarded, omitted facts’” is insufficient. In re Under Armour Sec. Litig., 342 F. Supp. 3d 658, 676 (D. Md. 2018) (citation omitted). Another court rejected plaintiff’s claim that defendants should have conducted an inquiry into the facts underlying their opinion, finding that “[a] blanket conclusory assertion that no investigation occurred, without more, is insufficient.” Pension Tr. v. J. Jill, Inc., 2018 WL 6704751, at *8 (D. Mass. Dec. 20, 2018). Courts have specifically grappled with whether plaintiffs met the pleading standard in cases involving a company’s general opinions on its financial condition. In Frankfurt-Tr. Inv. Luxemburg AG v. United Technologies Corp., the Southern District of New York held that “omitting even significant, directly contradictory information from opinion statements is not misleading, ‘especially’ when there are countervailing disclosures.” 336 F. Supp. 3d 196, 230–31 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). Relying on Tongue v. Sanofi, 816 F.3d 199 (2d Cir. 2016) and Martin v. Quartermain, 732 F. App’x 37 (2d Cir. 2018), the court found that statements about the company’s business and projected earnings per share were not misleading even where they failed to disclose specifics regarding a “slowdown of commercial aftermarket sales” and other potentially negative factors. Id. at 230. Plaintiff’s allegations—unlike the highly detailed allegations about test data in Sanofi and Martin—were “too scant in detail and scope” and “at a high level,” meaning that they failed to show that the alleged omissions would have a meaningful impact on a reasonable investor’s understanding of the company. Id. On the other hand, the District of Delaware found that plaintiffs met their pleading burden where they alleged that particular information omitted from a proxy statement, which recommended that shareholders vote in favor of a merger, made other specific statements about the fairness of the merger misleading. Laborers’ Local #231 Pension Fund v. Cowan, 2018 WL 3243975, at *10–12 (D. Del. July 2, 2018), reargument denied, 2018 WL 3468216 (D. Del. July 18, 2018). Because the board cited a fairness opinion in its decision to approve the merger, the court held that a reasonable investor may have thought that the company “placed confidence” in the fairness opinion and believed that it “accurately analyzed [the company’s] potential financial growth,” which “conflict[ed] with undisclosed facts or knowledge held by the board,” namely that the fairness opinion “did not incorporate acquisition based growth into its projections.” Id. at *10–11. Several courts also provided guidance for companies making opinion statements about legal and compliance risks, again highlighting the importance of context. For example, the Northern District of Illinois concluded that statements about legal compliance that were accompanied by disclosures concerning an ongoing IRS investigation would not be misleading to reasonable investors “unless they ignore[d] those disclosures.” Societe Generale Sec. Servs., GbmH v. Caterpillar, Inc., 2018 WL 4616356, at *4–5 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 26, 2018). Likewise, in Jaroslawicz v. M&T Bank Corp., the Third Circuit found that a company’s statements about its due diligence, which allegedly omitted deficiencies in its anti-money laundering compliance program, were not misleading. 912 F.3d 96, 113–14 (3d Cir. 2018). Paying close attention to the context, the court held that the statements were accompanied by sufficient facts that the company conducted a shorter period of diligence than investors may have otherwise expected. See id. at 114. In addition, the plaintiffs alleged both general negligence—insufficient to plead a violation under Omnicare—as well as that “a reasonable investor would have expected the banks to conduct a sampling of customer accounts” as part of their due diligence process. Id. The court found that a single allegation that the bank could have conducted a sampling was too weak to defeat the motion to dismiss. See id. In contrast, a Southern District of New York court found that a company’s statements regarding careful management and compliance with laws regarding its credit portfolio could be misleading because plaintiffs alleged that company was aware of particular facts suggesting the falsity of those statements. See In re Signet Jewelers Ltd. Sec. Litig., 2018 WL 6167889, at *12–13 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 26, 2018). Noting that the pleading burden is “no small task,” the court held that plaintiffs nevertheless met their burden because they alleged “particularized and material[] facts” based on the testimony of former employees who provided information to the plaintiffs. Id. at *13. In particular, specific allegations that the company was “aware that a substantial and growing portion of its credit portfolio contained subprime loans and chose to disregard internal warnings about that fact” rendered the complaint sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. In the latter half of the year, courts also dealt with the circumstances in which a pharmaceutical company’s opinions on the safety of a drug undergoing clinical trials may give rise to liability under Omnicare. In Hirtenstein v. Cempra, Inc., the court held that the company’s statements that it believed a drug was safe was an inactionable opinion. 2018 WL 5312783, at *17–18 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 26, 2018). Plaintiffs claimed that because the company’s chief executive officer “elected to speak about [the drug’s] purportedly ‘compelling’ clinical data . . . [she] had a duty to disclose that . . . safety data showed a significant and genuine signal for liver toxicity and liver injury.” Id. at *17. The court held that the company did not have a “duty to disclose adverse events, particularly where the statements [were] couched as opinion and [did] not constitute affirmative statements that there are no safety concerns associated with the drug.” Id. at *18. These types of opinions could not be actionable, where they were “little more than vague optimistic statements regarding the safety profile of the drug.” Id. at *19. On the other hand, in SEB Inv. Mgmt. AB v. Endo International, PLC, the court found that plaintiff stated a Section 11 claim where it alleged that the company had specific knowledge of “an increasing number of serious adverse events linked to injection” of the drug at issue. 2018 WL 6444237, at *21–22 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 10, 2018). Despite the fact that the company allegedly knew about the “increased rate in injection use, [it] failed to disclose to investors that it faced a serious risk of regulatory action, including removal of the drug from the market,” forming the basis for an actionable Section 11 claim. Id. 5. Courts Continue to Shape “Price Impact” Analysis at the Class Certification Stage Courts across the country continue to grapple with implementing the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2398 (2014) (“Halliburton II”), although the second half of 2018 did not bring any new decisions from the federal circuit courts of appeal. In Halliburton II, the Supreme Court preserved the “fraud-on-the-market” presumption—a presumption enabling plaintiffs to maintain the common proof of reliance that is essential to class certification in a Rule 10b-5 case—but made room for defendants to rebut that presumption at the class certification stage with evidence that the alleged misrepresentation had no impact on the price of the issuer’s stock. Two key questions continue to recur. First, how should courts reconcile the Supreme Court’s explicit ruling in Halliburton II that direct and indirect evidence of price impact must be considered at the class certification stage, Halliburton II, 123 S. Ct. at 2417, with its previous decisions holding that plaintiffs need not prove loss causation or materiality until the merits stage? See Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co., 563 U.S. 804 (2011) (“Halliburton I”); Amgen Inc. v. Conn. Ret. Plans & Trust Funds, 568 U.S. 455 (2013). Second, what standard of proof must defendants meet to rebut the presumption with evidence of no price impact? As we have previously reported, the Second Circuit has addressed both of these key questions in Waggoner v. Barclays PLC, 875 F.3d 79 (2d Cir. 2017) (“Barclays”) and Arkansas Teachers Retirement System v. Goldman Sachs, 879 F.3d 474 (2d Cir. 2018) (“Goldman Sachs”). Those decisions remain the most substantive interpretations of Halliburton II. Barclays addressed the standard of proof necessary to rebut the presumption of reliance and held that after a plaintiff establishes the presumption of reliance applies, defendant bears the burden of persuasion to rebut the presumption by a preponderance of the evidence. As we have previously noted, this puts the Second Circuit at odds with the Eighth Circuit, which cited Rule 301 of the Federal Rules of Evidence when reversing a trial court’s certification order on price impact grounds, see IBEW Local 98 Pension Fund v. Best Buy Co., 818 F.3d 775, 782 (8th Cir. 2016), because Rule 301 assigns only the burden of production—i.e., producing some evidence—to the party seeking to rebut a presumption, but “does not shift the burden of persuasion, which remains on the party who had it originally.” Fed. R. Evid. 301. That inconsistency, however, was not enough to persuade the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s decision. Barclays PLC v. Waggoner, 138 S.Ct. 1702 (Mem) (2018) (denying writ of certiorari). In Goldman Sachs, the Second Circuit vacated the trial court’s ruling certifying a class and remanded the action, directing that price impact evidence must be analyzed prior to certification, even if price impact “touches” on the issue of materiality. Goldman Sachs, 879 F.3d at 486. Following the Second Circuit’s decision, the district court held an evidentiary hearing and heard oral argument. In re Goldman Sachs Grp. Sec. Litig., 2018 WL 3854757, at *1-2 (Aug. 14, 2018). The court, again, certified the class. Id. On remand, plaintiffs argued that because the company’s stock price declined following the announcement of three regulatory actions related to the company’s conflicts of interest, previous misstatements about its conflicts had inflated the company’s stock price. See id. at * 2. Defendants argued the alleged misstatements could not have caused the stock price drops for two reasons, and offered expert testimony to support each. Id. at *3. First, they argued that the company’s stock price had not reacted to thirty-six prior reports commenting on company conflicts, and, therefore, the identified stock price drops could not be linked to the alleged misstatements. Id. at *3. Second, they argued that news of enforcement activities (and not a correction of earlier statements regarding conflicts and business practices) caused the identified stock price drops. Id. The court found plaintiff’s expert’s “link between the news of Goldman’s conflicts and the subsequent stock price declines . . . sufficient.” Id. at *4. The court was persuaded that the first allegedly corrective disclosure revealed new information about the conflicts, see id., and held that defendants’ expert testimony regarding alternative explanations for the stock price decline (i.e., the nature of the enforcement actions rather than the subject matter) was not sufficient to “sever” that link. Id. at *5-6. The Second Circuit has agreed to review Goldman Sachs for a second time and has ordered an expedited briefing schedule. See Order, Ark. Teachers Ret. System v. Goldman Sachs, Case No. 18-3667 (2d Cir. Jan. 31, 2019). The Third Circuit is also poised to substantively address price impact analysis at the class certification stage in the coming months in its review of Li v. Aeterna Zentaris, Inc., 324 F.R.D. 331 (D.N.J. 2018) (“Aeterna”). See Order, Vizirgianakis v. Aeterna Zentaris, Inc., No. 18-8021 (3d Cir. Mar. 30, 2018). Substantive briefing is completed in Aeterna, which invites the Third Circuit to clarify the type of evidence defendants must present, including the burden of proof they must meet to rebut the presumption of reliance and whether statistical evidence rebutting the presumption must meet a 95% confidence threshold. In certifying the class, the district court described defendants’ burden as “producing [enough] evidence . . . ‘to withstand a motion for summary judgment or judgment as a matter of law,’” Aeterna, 324 F.R.D. at 344 (quoting Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges, Inc., 761 F.3d 314, 320 (3d Cir. 2014) and citing Best Buy, 818 F.3d at 782 and Fed. R. Evid. 301), but then observed defendants failed to prove lack of price impact with “‘scientific certainty,’” see id. at 345 (quoting Carpenters Pension Trust Fund of St. Louis v. Barclays PLC, 310 F.R.D. 69, 95 (S.D.N.Y. 2015)). The district court rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiff’s event study, which did not attribute a statistically significant price movement to the alleged misstatement, rebutted the presumption and criticized defendants for not offering their own event study. See id. at 345. We will continue to monitor developments in these and other cases. 6. The Third Circuit Explores the Requirement to Disclose Risk Factors In late December 2018, the Third Circuit issued a decision in the latest case to address the scope of disclosure requirements for proxy solicitations under Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. In Jaroslawicz v. M&T Bank Corp., 912 F.3d 96 (3d Cir. 2018), former shareholders of Hudson City Bancorp filed suit against Hudson and M&T Bank, alleging the joint proxy soliciting votes for the merger between the two entities was materially misleading because (1) it failed to disclose certain practices that did not comply with relevant regulatory requirements, which posed significant risk factors facing the merger, as required under Item 503(c) of Regulation S-K (the “Regulatory Risk Disclosures”); and (2) these omissions rendered opinion statements regarding M&T Bank’s compliance with laws materially false and misleading (the “Legal Compliance Disclosures”). Specifically, as to the Regulatory Risk Disclosures, the proxy statement was alleged to be misleading because it did not discuss M&T Bank’s past consumer violations involving switching no-fee checking accounts to fee-based accounts. As to Legal Compliance Disclosures, the proxy statement was alleged to be misleading because M&T Bank had failed to discuss deficiencies in its Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (“BSA/AML”) compliance program until it filed a supplemental disclosure six days before the shareholder vote, when it disclosed for the first time that it was the subject of a Federal Reserve Board investigation on these programs. In interpreting the scope of disclosure under Item 503(c), which requires proxy issuers to discuss “the most significant factors that make the offering speculative or risky,” the Court explained that risk disclosures, such as the Regulatory Risk Disclosures at issue, must be “company-specific” in order to insulate an issuer from liability. Jaroslawicz, 912 F.3d at 106–08. Thus, “generic disclosures which could apply across an industry are insufficient” to protect a company in the event that a risk falling under a “boilerplate” disclosure later transpires. Id. at 108, 111. For this reason, the Court concluded that M&T Bank’s generic references to being subject to regulatory oversight were not “company-specific” risk factors that would “communicate anything meaningful” to stockholders. Id. at 111. Thus, even though the bank had ceased its alleged consumer violations, the Court found it plausible that the undisclosed “high volume of past violations made the upcoming merger vulnerable to regulatory delay.” Id. at 107. With respect to the plaintiffs’ allegations regarding BSA/AML deficiencies, the Court held that the supplemental proxy statement’s disclosure that the bank was the subject of an investigation regarding these practices, which “would likely result in delay of regulatory approval,” was “likely adequate” under Section 14(a). However, because the supplemental disclosures were issued a mere six days before the stockholder vote on the transaction, the Court concluded that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged that a reasonable investor did not have enough time to digest this relevant information. Id. at 112. Further, although the Court declined to expressly decide whether a heightened standard for pleading falsity applied to the Legal Compliance Disclosures and other claims brought under Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act, it found that the stockholders failed to allege a claim under their “misleading opinion” theory. Id. at 113. In dismissing plaintiffs’ Omnicare claims alleging that the Legal Compliance Disclosures were actionably misleading, the Court reiterated the longstanding principle that an opinion statement is not rendered misleading simply because it later “proved to be false.” Id. Crucially, the Court explained that the Legal Compliance Disclosures in the proxy statement were not plausibly alleged to be misleading because the bank adequately divulged the basis for its opinion. In particular, the proxy statement made clear that the bank had concluded it was in compliance with applicable laws based on a brief period of due diligence conducted in connection with the transaction. Id. at 114. 7. The Ninth Circuit Clarifies when Courts May Consider Documents Outside of the Pleadings on Motions to Dismiss Securities Claims On August 13, 2018, the Ninth Circuit revisited the extent to which a court can properly consider materials outside of the four corners of the complaint in ruling on a motion to dismiss a securities claim. Khoja v. Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc., 899 F.3d 988, 994 (9th Cir. 2018). It is well settled that courts must not only accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true for purposes of deciding a motion to dismiss, but also consider “other sources courts ordinarily examine when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in particular, [1] documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and [2] matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). In the Ninth Circuit, a defendant can seek to treat a document as incorporated into the complaint “if the plaintiff refers extensively to the document or the document forms the basis of the plaintiff’s claim.” United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir. 2003). The incorporation by reference doctrine allows courts to treat documents as if they are part of the complaint in their entirety, which “prevents plaintiffs from selecting only portions of documents that support their claims, while omitting portions of those very documents that weaken—or doom—their claims.” Khoja, 899 F.3d at 1002. Judicial notice, on the other hand, is explicitly permitted by Federal Rule of Evidence 201, and allows a court to take notice of an adjudicative fact if it is “not subject to reasonable dispute.” Fed. R. Evid. 201(b). In Khoja, the Ninth Circuit noted the “concerning pattern” of courts improperly using these procedures in securities cases “to defeat what would otherwise constitute adequately stated claims at the pleading stage,” and “aim[ed] to clarify when it is proper to take judicial notice of facts in documents, or to incorporate by reference documents into a complaint.” 899 F.3d at 998, 999. The district court in Khoja considered twenty-one documents quoted or referenced by the complaint, and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the claims plaintiff filed under Sections 10 and 20 of the Exchange Act. Id. at 997. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed in part, holding that the district court had abused its discretion in taking judicial notice of at least one document and in treating at least seven documents as incorporated by reference. Id. at 1018. Regarding judicial notice under FRE 201, the Court explained that just because a document is subject to judicial notice “does not mean that every assertion of fact within that document is judicially noticeable for its truth.” Id. “‘[A] court may take judicial notice of matters of public record without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment,’” but “‘cannot take judicial notice of disputed facts contained in such public records.’” Id. (quoting Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689 (9th Cir. 2001)). For example, in Khoja, the district court had judicially noticed a September 11, 2014 investors’ conference call transcript that was submitted with the defendant’s SEC filings. Khoja, 899 F.3d at 999. The Ninth Circuit explained that the district court could take judicial notice of the existence of the call, but could not take judicial notice of the statements in the transcript, as “the substance of the transcript ‘is subject to varying interpretations, and there is a reasonable dispute as to what the [transcript] establishes.’” Id. at 999-1000 (quoting Reina-Rodriguez v. United States, 655 F.3d 1182, 1193 (9th Cir. 2011)). Regarding incorporation by reference, the Ninth Circuit explained that a document that “merely creates a defense to the well-pled allegations in the complaint” should not automatically be incorporated by reference. Khoja, 899 F.3d at 1002. A contrary result would enable defendants to “insert their own version of events into the complaint to defeat otherwise cognizable claims.” Id. Applying these principles, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by incorporating a Wall Street Journal blog post, as the complaint had quoted the post only once in a two-sentence footnote, and the quote conveyed only basic historical facts. Id. at 1003-04. The Khoja court explained that, under its prior precedent in Ritchie, a reference is not “extensive” enough to warrant incorporation by reference when the document is only referenced once, unless that “single reference is relatively lengthy.” Id. The Ninth Circuit held that the mere mention of the Wall Street Journal blog post was insufficient, especially as the document did not form the basis of any claim in the complaint. Id. at 1003. Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by incorporating by reference at least seven documents. Id. at 1018. It remains to be seen what impact Khoja will have in the Ninth Circuit, as Khoja did not eliminate a defendant’s ability to rely on documents outside the complaint at the motion to dismiss stage. 899 F.3d at 1018 (affirming district court with respect to half of the documents challenged on appeal). Nonetheless, the case may prompt other federal courts to revisit their practices of incorporation by reference and judicial notice, particularly in securities cases where such practices are common. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update:  Jefferson Bell, Monica Loseman, Brian Lutz, Mark Perry, Shireen Barday, Lissa Percopo, Michael Kahn, Emily Riff, Mark Mixon, Jason Hilborn, Alisha Siqueira, Andrew Bernstein, and Kaylie Springer. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following members of the Securities Litigation Practice Group Steering Committee: Brian M. Lutz – Co-Chair, San Francisco/New York (+1 415-393-8379/+1 212-351-3881, blutz@gibsondunn.com) Robert F. Serio – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-3917, rserio@gibsondunn.com) Meryl L. Young – Co-Chair, Orange County (+1 949-451-4229, myoung@gibsondunn.com) Jefferson Bell – New York (+1 212-351-2395, jbell@gibsondunn.com) Jennifer L. Conn – New York (+1 212-351-4086, jconn@gibsondunn.com) Thad A. Davis – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8251, tadavis@gibsondunn.com) Ethan Dettmer – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8292, edettmer@gibsondunn.com) Barry R. Goldsmith – New York (+1 212-351-2440, bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com) Mark A. Kirsch – New York (+1 212-351-2662, mkirsch@gibsondunn.com) Gabrielle Levin – New York (+1 212-351-3901, glevin@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman – Denver (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) Jason J. Mendro – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3726, jmendro@gibsondunn.com) Alex Mircheff – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7307, amircheff@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters – Dallas (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Aric H. Wu – New York (+1 212-351-3820, awu@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

February 14, 2019 |
2018 Year-End Government Contracts Litigation Update

Click for PDF In this year-end analysis of government contracts litigation, Gibson Dunn examines trends and summarizes key decisions of interest to government contractors from the second half of 2018.  This publication covers the waterfront of the opinions most important to this audience issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”), and Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”). The last six months of 2018 yielded five government contracts-related opinions of note from the Federal Circuit.  From July 1 through December 31, 2018, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued 23 notable non-bid protest government contracts-related decisions, and the ASBCA and CBCA published 62 and 37 substantive government contracts decisions, respectively.  As discussed herein, these cases address a wide range of issues with which government contractors should be familiar, including matters of cost allowability, jurisdictional requirements, contract interpretation, terminations, and the various topics of federal common law that have developed in the government contracts arena.  Before addressing each of these areas, we briefly provide background concerning the tribunals that adjudicate government contracts disputes. I.    THE TRIBUNALS THAT ADJUDICATE GOVERNMENT CONTRACT DISPUTES Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the United States generally is immune from liability unless it waives its immunity and consents to suit.  Pursuant to statute, the government has waived immunity over certain claims arising under or related to federal contracts through the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”), 41 U.S.C. §§ 7101 – 7109, and through the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491.  Under the CDA, any claim arising out of or relating to a government contract must be decided first by a contracting officer.  A contractor may contest the contracting officer’s final decision by either filing a complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims or appealing to a board of contract appeals.  The Tucker Act, in turn, waives the government’s sovereign immunity with respect to certain claims arising under statute, regulation, or express or implied contract, and grants jurisdiction to the Court of Federal Claims to hear such claims. The Court of Federal Claims thus has jurisdiction over a wide range of monetary claims brought against the U.S. government including, but not limited to, contract disputes and bid protests pursuant to both the CDA and the Tucker Act.  If a contractor’s claim is founded on the Constitution or a statute instead of a contract, there is no CDA jurisdiction in any tribunal, but the Court of Federal Claims would have jurisdiction under the Tucker Act as long as the substantive source of law grants the right to recover damages.  Thus, the Court of Federal Claims’ jurisdiction is broader than that of the boards of contract appeals. In addition to establishing jurisdiction for certain causes of action in the Court of Federal Claims, the CDA establishes four administrative boards of contract appeals:  the Armed Services Board, the Civilian Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority Board, and the Postal Service Board.  See 41 U.S.C. § 7105.  The ASBCA hears and decides post-award contract disputes between contractors and the Department of Defense and its military departments, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”).  In addition, the ASBCA adjudicates contract disputes for other departments and agencies by agreement.  For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development has designated the ASBCA to decide disputes arising under USAID contracts.  The ASBCA has jurisdiction pursuant to the CDA, its Charter, and certain remedy-granting contract provisions.  The CBCA hears and decides contract disputes between contractors and civilian executive agencies under the provisions of the CDA.  The CBCA’s authority extends to all agencies of the federal government except the Department of Defense and its constituent agencies, NASA, the U.S. Postal Service, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.  In addition, the CBCA has jurisdiction, along with federal district courts, over Indian Self-Determination Act contracts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit hears and decides appeals from decisions of the Court of Federal Claims, the ASBCA, and the CBCA, among numerous other tribunals outside the area of government contract disputes.  Significantly, the Federal Circuit has a substantial patent and trademark docket, hearing appeals from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and federal district courts that by volume of cases greatly exceeds its government contracts litigation docket.  Of 1,444 cases pending before the Federal Circuit as of December 31, 2018, 13 were appeals from the boards of contract appeals and 117 were appeals from the Court of Federal Claims—cumulatively comprising just over 9% of the appellate court’s docket.  Only 4% of the appeals filed at the Federal Circuit in FY 2018 were Contracts cases.  Nevertheless, the Federal Circuit is the court of review for most government contracts disputes. In our 2018 Mid-Year Government Contracts Update, we reported the appointment of Judge Lis B. Young to the ASBCA.  Joining her on the bench in the latter half of 2018 was Judge Stephanie Cates-Harman, who was appointed to the ASBCA in June.  Judge Cates-Hartman served as a Trial Attorney and the Assistant Director Government Contracts in the Department of the Navy, Office of the General Counsel, Naval Litigation Office before her appointment to the ASBCA in 2018. Judge Margaret M. Sweeney, who has served as a Judge of the Court of Federal Claims since 2005, was designated Chief Judge of the Court on July 12, 2018. The CBCA issued new rules of procedure, which are published at 83 Fed. Reg. 41009 (Aug. 17, 2018), and became effective on September 17, 2018.  The final rules establish a preference for electronic filing, increase conformity between the Board’s rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and clarify current rules and practices.  Under the new rules, the time for filing is amended from 4:30 p.m. to midnight Eastern Time. II.    COST ALLOWABILITY The ASBCA issued several important decisions during the second half of 2018 addressing cost allowability issues under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”).  Pursuant to FAR 31.202, a cost is allowable if it (1) is reasonable; (2) is allocable; (3) complies with applicable accounting principles; (4) complies with the terms of the contract; and (5) complies with any express limitations set out in FAR Subpart 31. A.    Cost Allowability in Termination Settlements Phoenix Data Solutions LLC f/k/a Aetna Government Health Plans, ASBCA No. 60207 (Oct. 2, 2018) The Defense Health Agency (“DHA”) awarded a TRICARE managed care support contract to Aetna Government Health Plans (“AGHP”) in 2009.  Six months after the GAO sustained the incumbent contractor’s protest of the award to AGHP, DHA terminated AGHP’s contract for the convenience of the government.  Pursuant to FAR 49.201, when the government terminates a contract for convenience, the contracting officer should negotiate a settlement with the contractor that fairly compensates the contractor for the work performed, including profit.  DHA refused to negotiate, and instead, as observed by the ASBCA, “slow-rolled” AGHP for over five years, and then refused to compensate AGHP for any amount.  AGHP appealed from a deemed denial of its termination settlement claim. The ASBCA (D’Alessandris, A.J.) held that AGHP was entitled to almost all of its claimed costs.  Most notably, the ASBCA found that AGHP was entitled to its pre-contract costs under FAR 31.205-32, rejecting the government’s argument that pre-contract costs are unallowable unless agreed to by the government.  Moreover, the ASBCA rejected the government’s argument that AGHP’s claim should be reduced because AGHP was responsible for the circumstances leading to the protest and termination.  However, the ASBCA did find that a loss ratio applied, discussing in a case of first impression the language in FAR 52.249-2(g)(iii), which provides that “if it appears that the Contractor would have sustained a loss on the entire contract had it been completed” (emphasis added), profit is unallowable and the termination settlement should be reduced accordingly.  The ASBCA held that the reference to “entire contract” includes all of the awarded line items, including those that have not been performed, but does not include unexercised option years.  Therefore, because the record showed that AGHP would not have earned a profit until the unexercised option years, the ASBCA applied a loss ratio. B.    Cost Reasonableness Parsons Evergreene, LLC, ASBCA No. 58634 (Sept. 5, 2018) In a lengthy decision, the ASBCA (Clarke, A.J.) clarified the parties’ respective burdens when the government challenges the reasonableness of costs under FAR 31.201-3(a).  The dispute arose under a “design-build plus” contract between Parsons Evergreene, LLC (“PE”) and the Air Force.  PE submitted a $28.8 million claim for Air Force-caused delay, disruption, and constructive changes.  In a decision written by Judge Clarke, the ASBCA sustained in part and denied in part PE’s appeal, and awarded PE $10.5 million. Most notably, Administrative Judge Craig Clarke found that FAR 31.201-3(a) “unambiguous” in that it “requires two actions by the government: (1) it must perform an ‘initial review of the facts,’ and (2) that review results in a ‘challenge’ to ‘specific costs.’  It is the contractor’s burden to prove the reasonableness of the challenged specific costs.”  Judge Clarke discussed the holding in Kellogg Brown & Root, ASBCA No. 58081, 17-1 BCA ¶ 36,595, that the government’s general or blanket assertion that all costs are unreasonable is insufficient to require the contractor to do more to prove reasonableness.  Judge Clarke then held that in this case, the Air Force had not satisfied FAR 31.201-3(a) because although the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s (“DCAA”) audit satisfied the requirement for an “initial review of the facts,” neither DCAA nor the Air Force challenged the reasonableness of any “specific costs” in the claims.  Concluding that “[s]uch a blanket challenge to all costs is insufficient to satisfy FAR 31.201-3(a),” Judge Clarke held that PE satisfied its burden to prove that its claimed costs were reasonable. In a brief concurring opinion joined by Administrative Judge J. Reid Prouty, ASBCA Vice Chairman Richard Shackleford concurred in the result, but not in the analysis of Judge Clarke’s opinion.  The concurring judges agreed with the amounts awarded but took “great issue with that portion of the damages analysis which leads up to the conclusion that PE has satisfied its burden to prove its claimed costs were reasonable when the government challenged all costs but failed to challenge the reasonableness of any specific cost in the claim.”  The concurring opinion reasoned, “[o]nce a CO’s final decision is appealed to this Board, the parties start with a clean slate and the contractor bears the burden of proving liability and damages de novo,” and “‘[t]he claimant bears the burden of proving the fact of loss with certainty, as well as the burden of proving the amount of loss with sufficient certainty so that the determination of the amount of damages will be more than mere speculation.’”  However, the concurring opinion found that “[n]otwithstanding FAR 31.201-2 and -3, which direct[] how COs and the DCAA should evaluate costs, our review of the record leads us to conclude that for the damages awarded by Judge Clarke, appellant proved liability on the part of the government, proved the costs were incurred and were reasonable with ‘sufficient certainty’ such that the amount of damages awarded is ‘more than mere speculation.’” Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc., ASBCA Nos. 57530, 58161 (Nov. 19, 2018) In another decision discussing cost reasonableness, the ASBCA (Melnick, A.J.) held that Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. (“KBR”) failed to show that its subcontractor costs were reasonable.  The disputed costs involved the settlement of requests for equitable adjustment (“REA”) submitted by a subcontractor for providing housing for military personnel in Iraq under the LOGCAP III contract.  The subcontract was fixed price, but entitled the subcontractor to an equitable adjustment in the event of delays caused by the government’s failure to perform the prime contract.  The subcontractor alleged that U.S. military-imposed convoy schedules caused delays in transporting materials from Kuwait into Iraq, creating delay costs for the subcontractor (such as storage, double-handling, repairs, and idle-truck time).  After some negotiation on the REAs, KBR settled with the subcontractor for approximately $50 million, then sought reimbursement from the government, which the government eventually denied in a final decision. The ASBCA denied recovery because KBR had not established the reasonableness of the costs, explaining that: (1) the subcontract allowed delay costs only if the government failed to perform the prime contract, and KBR did not make that determination before settling the REAs; (2) the delay model employed by the subcontractor was based on an unrealistic assumption that trailers arriving at the Iraqi border would be placed in convoys the next day; and (3) KBR awarded the REAs based on market prices without requesting evidence of actual costs, despite requirements in the FAR and DFARS (and incorporated into the subcontract) requiring such cost data to support equitable adjustments.  With regard to the lack of cost data, the ASBCA rejected KBR’s argument that the subcontract was for commercial items, and therefore in accordance with FAR subpart 15.4 (pertaining to contract pricing), KBR was prohibited from seeking information about its subcontractor’s costs. C.    Applicability of Cost Principles to Fixed-Price Level-of-Effort Contracts Tolliver Grp., Inc. v. United States, 140 Fed. Cl. 520 (Oct. 26, 2018) Tolliver Group, Inc. (“Tolliver”) had an Army contract to produce technical manuals, and it filed suit at the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”) seeking reimbursement of legal fees totaling $195,889.78.  Tolliver incurred the legal fees in successfully defending its contract performance against a qui tam relator who alleged that Tolliver violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  The government declined to intervene in the FCA case, and Tolliver succeeded in having the case dismissed, which was affirmed on appeal.  Tolliver then submitted a claim for reimbursement of 80% of its attorneys’ fees, the maximum allowed by FAR 31.205-47 for a successful defense of an FCA suit.  The contracting officer denied the claim because the contract was firm fixed price.  However, the contract was initially awarded as a fixed-price level-of-effort, and was not converted to firm-fixed price until modification 8.  The government moved to dismiss Tolliver’s complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The COFC (Lettow, J.) found as an initial matter that the FAR cost principles applied to the contract before Modification 8.  The COFC observed that “unlike other fixed-price contracts, a firm-fixed-price, level-of-effort contract requires (a) the contractor to provide a specified level of effort, over a stated period of time, on work that can be stated only in general terms and (b) the [g]overnment to pay the contractor a fixed dollar amount.  FAR § 16.207-1.  The government pays the contractor for effort expended, akin to actual costs incurred.”  Curiously, the COFC further found that the FAR cost principles applied to the contract by operation of law under the Christian doctrine.  The COFC concluded that Tolliver had “pled sufficient facts to satisfy the requirements of FAR § 31.205-47, and the remainder of FAR Subpart 31.2 does not otherwise prohibit reimbursement of the costs sought by Tolliver.”  Having concluded that Tolliver thus “sufficiently pleads the requirements for allowability,” the COFC denied the government’s motion to dismiss. D.    Penalties for Expressly Unallowable Costs Energy Matter Conversion Corp., ASBCA No. 61583 (Dec. 18, 2018) Energy Matter Conversion Corp. (“EMC2”) entered into settlements with the government regarding alleged mischarges under its government contracts.  Following the settlement, EMC2 included the legal costs it incurred in connection with the government’s investigations in its final indirect cost rate proposals.  The contracting officer assessed a penalty for claiming expressly unallowable legal costs, and denied EMC2’s request to waive the penalty.  Following EMC2’s appeal, the ASBCA (Sweet, A.J.) held that the government was entitled to summary judgment, because there was no genuine issue of material fact that the legal costs were incurred in connection with “proceedings [that] could have led to debarment” making them unallowable under FAR 31.205-47.  The ASBCA rejected EMC2’s argument that it would have prevailed on the merits had it not settled, explaining that “the government merely must show that the investigations ‘could have led to debarment’ not that it would have done so.”  Thus, the government met its burden to show that it was unreasonable under all circumstances for a person in the contractor’s position to conclude that the cost was allowable.  Likewise, the ASBCA upheld the denial of waiver because EMC2 did not have established accounting policies at the time it claimed the expressly unallowable costs; the contracting officer’s decision to waive similar costs in prior years is not binding on future waiver decisions; and the waiver cannot be apportioned to the legal costs attributable to the “successful” portion of the proceeding (i.e., the amount by which the settlements reduced EMC2’s liability). III.    JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES As is frequently the case, jurisdictional issues accounted for a substantial portion of the key government contracts decisions issued during the second half of 2018. A.    Requirement for a Valid Contract In order for there to be Contract Disputes Act jurisdiction over a claim, there must be a contract from which that claim arises.  See FAR 33.201 (defining a “claim” as “a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking . . . relief arising under or relating to this contract”).  The CDA applies to contracts made by an executive agency for: (1) the procurement of property, other than real property in being; (2) the procurement of services; (3) the procurement of construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance of real property; and (4) the disposal of personal property.  41 U.S.C. § 7102(a)(1)-(4). The Federal Circuit, COFC, and ASBCA considered issues relating to whether valid implied-in-fact contracts existed to confer CDA or Tucker Act jurisdiction. Lee v. United States, 895 F.3d 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2018) Individuals who entered into individual purchase order vendor (“POV”) contracts with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (“BBG”), a U.S. government-funded broadcast service that oversees Voice of America, filed a putative class action suit against the United States seeking additional compensation they would have received if their contracts had been classified as personal services contracts or if they had been appointed to civil service positions.  The Federal Circuit (Bryson, J.) affirmed the Court of Federal Clams’ dismissal of plaintiffs’ first amended complaint.  The court concluded that the POV contracts did not violate the prohibition against personal services contracts at FAR 37.104.  Thus, failing to void the express contracts, plaintiffs could not recover under implied-in-fact contracts that dealt with the same subject matter.  The court held that even if a contract was inconsistent with a statutory or regulatory requirement—such as a high degree of government supervision making the contract closer to a prohibited personal services contract—such inconsistency does not ipso facto render the contract void.  Instead, the court stressed, invalidation of a contract must be considered in light of the statutory or regulatory purpose, “with recognition of the strong policy of supporting the integrity of contracts made by and with the United States.” Am. Tel & Tel. Co. v. United States, 177 F.3d 1368, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (en banc).  Moreover, the court noted, because of the disruptive effect of retroactively invalidating a government contract, the “invalidation of a contract after it has been fully performed is not favored.”  Id. at 1375. Interaction Research Institute, Inc., ASBCA No. 61505 (Nov. 5, 2018) Interaction Research Institute, Inc. (“IRI”) claimed to have performed training services for the I Marine Expeditionary Force without receiving payment.  The government investigated and concluded that there was no such express or implied contract for the alleged training, although the government did ratify some services as “unauthorized commitments,” leaving the remaining services in dispute.  The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) held that IRI had sufficiently made a non-frivolous allegation that an implied-in-fact contract existed and that, while the government could not locate any contract with IRI or documentation supporting an implied-in-fact contract, the existence of a contract goes to the merits of the appeal, and did not affect  jurisdiction. C & L Grp., LLC, et al. v. United States, No. 18-536 C (Fed. Cl. Nov. 28, 2018) Plaintiffs entered into contracts with Hospital Santa Rosa, Inc. (“HSR”), a private party, for the construction of various portions of a hospital in Puerto Rico.  The contracts required approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) in the form of “Concurrences,” as HSR expected that construction would be funded in part by USDA.  USDA signed the Concurrences, and ultimately issued five payments to HSR to pay for work completed by the plaintiffs.  HSR sometime thereafter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking payment from USDA for the work it performed under its contracts with HSR. The government filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the court had no jurisdiction under the Tucker Act, and the court (Braden, J.) granted the motion.  The court found that plaintiffs had failed to allege any facts indicating that they were in privity of contract with USDA.  USDA was not a party to the plaintiffs’ contracts with HSR, and the contracts expressly stated that neither the United States nor any agency was a party to the contract.  The court also found that the USDA Concurrences could not establish privity, “because they d[id] not displace the . . . Contracts’ express language to the contrary that plainly state[d] [the government] assumed no liability nor guaranteed any payment.”  The court also found that plaintiffs had failed to allege the existence of an implied-in-fact contract, because they had failed to allege any facts “to support a ‘meeting of minds.’”  To the contrary, the court found that the “express language” of the parties’ contracts with HSR and the Concurrences “affirmatively state[d] that [USDA] did not intend to contract with Plaintiffs.” B.    Adequacy of the Claim Another common issue arising before the tribunals that hear government contracts disputes is whether the contractor appealed a valid CDA claim.  FAR 33.201 defines a “claim” as “a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking, as a matter of right, the payment of money in a sum certain, the adjustment or interpretation of contract terms, or other relief arising under or relating to this contract.”  Under the CDA, a claim for more than $100,000 must be certified.  In the second half of 2018, the boards considered whether a valid claim had been presented to and decided upon the contracting officer to confer CDA jurisdiction. Hartchrom, Inc., ASBCA No. 59726 (July 26, 2018) Hartchrom, Inc. had a lease with a private party allowing Hartchrom to use space at an Army manufacturing facility (the “Arsenal”).  The government was not a party to the lease.  Hartchrom later entered into a contract with the Army for chrome electroplating services, which Hartchrom performed at the Arsenal.  The lessor directed Hartchrom to remove hazardous waste that Hartchrom had discharged into the industrial wastewater treatment plant while performing its Army contract.  Hartchrom submitted a claim to the Army contracting officer for the hazardous waste removal costs, which the contracting officer denied in a final decision.  The ASBCA (Osterhout, A.J.) held that it had jurisdiction over the appeal because the claim was made pursuant to the Army contract and appealing a valid final decision.  However, the ASBCA dismissed the appeal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, because any relief to which Hartchrom could be entitled would have been under the terms of its lease with the private party.  Indeed, the clause Hartchrom relied upon was a provision in the lease, not in the Army contract.  Thus, the ASBCA had no way to grant Hartchrom any relief, even if it was so entitled under the lease. Parsons Evergreene, LLC, ASBCA No. 58634 (Sept. 5, 2018), In a decision issued separately from the Parsons Evergreene decision discussed in Section II.B, supra, the ASBCA (Clarke, A.J.) denied the Air Force’s motion to dismiss Claim V of PE’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction because the modified total cost claim lacked sufficient information and detail for the contracting officer to consider.  The contracting officer’s final decision denied Claim V of PE’s complaint in its entirety on the ground that “PE has not established that it has met the prerequisites for use of the modified total cost method.”  The ASBCA began its analysis by noting that the central issue was whether PE gave “adequate notice of the basis and amount of the claim” when it was submitted.  Although agreeing that a contracting officer cannot waive a jurisdictional requirement, the ASBCA found that the contracting officer apparently believed he had adequate notice because he requested and received a detailed technical analysis, and then issued a detailed 142-page final decision.  Stating that it was “exercising [its] discretion and applying common sense to the facts of this case,” the ASBCA found that the contracting officer was given sufficient information to engage in a “meaningful review” of the claim, which, in fact, the contracting officer did. Centerra Grp., LLC f/k/a The Wackenhut Services, Inc., ASBCA No. 61267 (Nov. 16, 2018) Centerra Group, LLC (“Centerra”) had a cost-reimbursement contract to provide fire protection services for NASA.  The contract required compliance with the Service Contract Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 6701-6707, and incorporated a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) with the unionized firefighters.  After the finalization of an arbitration over the union’s grievance involving back pay of overtime and related costs, Centerra sought reimbursement from NASA for the arbitration award, which NASA denied.  NASA then moved to dismiss Centerra’s appeal on the ground that the Department of Labor has exclusive jurisdiction over labor standards requirements disputes under the Service Contract Act, in accordance with FAR 52.222-41(t). The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) denied the motion to dismiss, agreeing with Centerra that the Service Contract Act did not apply to the underlying union’s grievance, which was based instead on an alleged violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  In any event, even if the SCA applied, the ASBCA still had jurisdiction because the appeal concerned NASA’s contractual obligation to reimburse Centerra for costs incurred pursuant to the arbitration award.  Although the underlying labor dispute formed part of the “factual predicate” for Centerra’s claim, the instant dispute did not concern labor standards requirements under the SCA and as such, the Department of Labor did not have jurisdiction. 1.    Defective Certification For claims seeking more than $100,000, the contractor must certify that: (a) the claim is made in good faith; (b) the supporting data are accurate and complete to the best of the contractor’s knowledge and belief; (c) the amount requested accurately reflects the contract adjustment for which the contractor believes the Federal government is liable; and (d) the certifier is authorized to certify the claim on behalf of the contractor.  41 U.S.C. § 7103(b)(1); FAR 52.233-1.  A defective certification that is not correctable deprives the Boards of jurisdiction. Development Alternatives, Inc. v. United States Agency for International Development, CBCA 5942 et al. (Sept. 27, 2018) Development Alternatives, Inc. (“DAI”) appealed the deemed denial by the Agency for International Development (“USAID”) of claims submitted on behalf of its subcontractor for reimbursement of fines paid to the Afghanistan Government.  The CBCA (Somers, A.J.) dismissed DAI’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction for failure to properly certify the claims.  The CBCA analyzed whether the purported certification was correctable by first discussing whether the defect was only technical in nature.  The CBCA held that the defect was more than technical because it bore “no resemblance to a CDA certification.”  Specifically, instead of certifying that “the claim is made in good faith” as required by the CDA, DAI stated only that it “believes there is sound basis for these claims,” and none of the other prerequisites for proper certification were present.  The CBCA then discussed whether the purported certification was made with intentional, reckless, or negligent disregard for the CDA’s certification requirements, therefore making it not correctable.  The CBCA concluded that DAI’s submission was “reckless” because the contracting officer informed DAI on two separate occasions that its certifications did not comply with CDA requirements, thus putting DAI on notice that its certification had substantial defects prior to filing the appeal.  Finally, although DAI submitted a properly certified claim after initiating the instant appeals, the CBCA concluded that the later certification had no legal bearing on the CBCA’s jurisdiction over the case, nor could it cure a lack of jurisdiction. WIT Assocs., Inc., ASBCA No. 61547 (Dec. 19, 2018) The contractor certified its claim by identifying its parent company instead of the contractor.  On the government’s motion to dismiss for defective certification, the ASBCA (McIlmail, A.J.) held that such an error was correctable and did not deprive the ASBCA of jurisdiction. 2.    Requirement for a Sum Certain For jurisdiction under the CDA, the claim must either assert a “sum certain” or be a nonmonetary claim seeking the interpretation of a contractual provision. Hensel Phelps Constr. Co. ASBCA No. 61517 (July 18, 2018) In a construction contract, the government revoked its prior acceptance of a portion of the contractor’s work, and issued a final decision directing the contractor to replace the allegedly defective work.  The final decision stated that the government intended to assert a demand for the costs to replace the work, “currently estimated at” $2.9 million, if the contractor did not comply.  The contractor appealed, seeking a declaratory judgment that it had already fulfilled its contractual obligations.  The ASBCA (McIlmail, A.J.) held that the final decision lacked a sum certain because it was contingent on future events, and merely “an effort to motivate [the contractor] to get back to work.”  However, the ASBCA held that it had jurisdiction over the contractor’s request for a non-monetary declaratory judgment. Elkton UCCC, LLC v. Gen. Servs. Admin., CBCA 6158 (July 25, 2018) Elkton UCCC, LCC (“Elkton”) leased space to the General Services Administration (“GSA”) for a Social Security Administration office.  In 2017, the parties began to dispute whether Elkton was fulfilling its duties as the landlord, and GSA began partially withholding rent.  In response to a letter from Elkton about the disagreement, the GSA contracting officer sent Elkton a letter itemizing Elkton’s lease violations and threatened to—but did not state that he actually did or would—deduct $21,000 from GSA’s rent payment.  The letter concluded that it was “the final decision of the Contracting Officer” and advised Elkton of its appeal rights.  The CBCA (Chadwick, A.J.) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, noting that even when, as here, the contracting officer has issued a document styled as a final decision, it lacks CDA jurisdiction without a qualifying CDA claim.  Neither Elkton’s initial letter nor GSA’s response quantified a dollar amount then in dispute, thus lacking a sum certain necessary to satisfy the CDA’s requirements for a claim.  The CBCA further held that neither letter constituted a nonmonetary claim seeking interpretation of a contractual provision, because neither letter identified any specific provisions for interpretation.  Notably, the CBCA dismissed the appeal despite neither party asking it to do so. ECC CENTCOM Constructors, LLC, ASBCA No. 60647 (Sept. 4, 2018) ECC CENTCOM Constructors (“ECC”) appealed the default termination of its construction contract.  The ASBCA (O’Connell, A.J.) found that the government met its burden of proof that the default was justified because ECC did not perform in a timely manner.  The burden then shifted to ECC to show excusable delay.  However, the ASBCA held that it lacked jurisdiction to sustain any alleged excusable delays, because ECC never submitted a certified claim as required for CDA jurisdiction.  The ASBCA explained that “consideration of these delays would be contrary to the statutory purpose of encouraging resolution of disputes at the contracting officer level and beyond the limited waiver of sovereign immunity in the CDA, citing to M. Maropakis Carpentry, Inc. v. United States, 609 F.3d 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2010), as recently upheld by Securiforce International America, LLC v. United States, 879 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2018).  The ASBCA also rejected ECC’s argument that the ASBCA had jurisdiction because the contracting officer had actual knowledge of the alleged delays based on ECC’s extension requests.  Actual knowledge is insufficient to confer jurisdiction, and in any event, the extension requests were “estimated” delays lacking a sum certain and were not certified as required by the CDA. Northrop Grumman Sys. Corp. v. United States, 12-286C (Fed. Cl. Oct. 31, 2018) In a case involving numerous claims and counterclaims in connection with a contract for the provision of mail-processing machines, the court (Bruggink, J.) dismissed one of the contractor’s claims and one of the government’s claims.  The court dismissed the contractor’s claim for reformation of the contract based on a cardinal change, because the claim lacked the requisite sum certain.  In so doing, the court rejected the contractor’s argument that its claim was nonmonetary and therefore required no sum certain.  The court held that the claim was principally a monetary claim, because the ultimate remedy to the contractor for the alleged cardinal change would be to grant contractual damages, explaining that parties “may not circumvent the requirement to state a sum certain in its claim by camouflaging a monetary claim as one seeking only declaratory relief.” The court also partially dismissed one of the government’s counterclaims that exceeded the scope of the contracting officer’s final decision.  The final decision had identified a number of spare parts that the contractor allegedly failed to provide.  The counterclaim, however, identified entirely different parts, quantities, and prices than what the final decision identified.  The court held that although the legal theories and type of relief requested were “identical,” the counterclaim went beyond a mere correction of specifics or adjustment to quantum; it would require the government to prove up an entirely different set of facts.  Thus, the court dismissed the counterclaim to the extent the same parts did not appear in the final decision. 3.    Premature Claims The ASBCA and the CBCA each issued decisions declining to dismiss appeals in the face of government allegations that the appeals were premature. Delta Indus., Inc., ASBCA No. 61670 (Dec. 17, 2018) Delta Industries Inc. (“Delta”) filed a notice of appeal of a deemed denial of its claim only 20 days after submission of the claim to the contracting officer—well before any final decision was due under the CDA.  The government moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, contending that Delta’s notice was premature.  The ASBCA (D’Alessandris, A.J.) disagreed, explaining that it can retain jurisdiction if, at the time it considers a motion to dismiss, no useful purpose would be served by dismissing an appeal and requiring an appellant to refile.  In this case, the ASBCA determined that dismissing the appeal for prematurity would be inefficient and “an elevation of form over substance.”  The ASBCA also rejected the government’s contention that the ASBCA lacked jurisdiction for the additional reason that the claim involved the withdrawal of a unilateral purchase order, because the contractor had sufficiently alleged the existence of a bilateral contract.  Accordingly, the ASBCA refused to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc. v. Dep’t of Transp., CBCA No. 6198 (Oct. 23, 2018) At the time Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc. (“Eagle Peak”) filed the instant appeal of the deemed denial of its claim for termination for convenience costs, Eagle Peak’s appeal of the termination for default of its contract was still pending.  The government therefore moved to dismiss the termination for convenience appeal, arguing that it was premature because the CBCA had not decided whether to convert the default termination into one for the convenience of the government.  The CBCA (Russel, A.J.) departed from ASBCA precedent and held that the termination for convenience claim (on the issue of quantum) may proceed concurrently with the termination for default claim (on the issue of entitlement).  The CBCA explained that neither its own rules nor the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure required dismissal in these circumstances, and that it would not dismiss an appeal solely for the purpose of judicial efficiency.  Rather, efficiency is better addressed through proper case management. C.     Requirement for a Contracting Officer’s Final Decision The tribunals that hear government contracts disputes dealt with two cases addressing the CDA’s requirement that a claim have been “the subject of a contracting officer’s final decision.” Planate Mgmt. Grp., LLC v. United States, 139 Fed. Cl. 61 (2018) Planate Management Group, LLC (“Planate”) brought action against United States, alleging that the Department of the Army Expeditionary Contracting Command breached a contract for Planate to provide professional support services throughout Afghanistan.  Planate alleged that the Army failed to reimburse it for the cost of arming its in-theater personnel in the face of increasing security threats to its personnel performing the contract.  The government moved to dismiss two counts for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that the two counts were not first presented to the contracting officer for decision. For one count, Planate alleged that the government breached the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing.  The government argued that the count involved an “entirely distinct” legal theory than the constructive change and mutual mistake claims the contractor had presented to the contracting officer.  The court (Sweeney, J.) disagreed, finding that although Planate “did not specifically articulate a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in its certified claim, the factual recitations therein described the Army’s alleged failure to engage in reasonable contract administration.”  In a separate count, Planate alleged that the dramatically deteriorated security situation in Afghanistan amounted to a cardinal change to the contract. Although the claim before the contracting officer did not include the term “cardinal change,” the court determined that the issue was properly before the officer, as the contractor “discussed the change in risk posture; noted that, at the beginning of contract performance, the [government] advised plaintiff to arm its personnel; and described the increased costs it incurred to arm its personnel.” Charles F. Day & Associates LLC, ASBCA Nos. 60211, 60212, 60213 (Nov. 29, 2018)   Charles F. Day & Associates LLC (“CFD”) contracted to perform services for the Army in Iraq.  The personnel supplied by CFD performed work outside the scope of the written requirements of CFD’s contract in support of their customer, and later sought additional compensation for those efforts.  CFD submitted a Request for Equitable Adjustment delineating three separate requests for payment, which the Board characterized as “claims,”observing in a footnote that a request for equitable adjustment can be considered a claim under the CDA, regardless of its title, if it otherwise meets the requirements of a claim.  The contracting officer denied CFD’s claims, arguing that there had been no constructive change to the contract and that CFD thus had no entitlement to additional compensation. The government argued that the Board lacked jurisdiction to consider a portion of the case presented by CFD at the hearing, alleging that the basis of that claim (essentially a superior knowledge claim) was so different from that presented to the contracting officer that it should be dismissed.  The Board granted the government’s request to dismiss the additional issue raised at the hearing, noting that while the board is “relatively liberal in permitting appellants to present additional evidence and arguments not presented to the CO and to alter the legal bases for claims on the amount of damages,” “a claim on one matter does not support jurisdiction over an appeal on another” and “a claim must be specific enough and provide enough detail to permit the CO to enter into dialogue with the contractor.”  Although the Board agreed with CFD that the legal theory for the claim presented at trial was the same as in its claim—seeking recovery for out of scope work—the Board nevertheless found that the claim did not arise from the same underlying facts, and thus the factual basis for the claim presented at trial was not brought before the CO in CFD’s written claims. D.    Jurisdictional Filing Deadlines The CDA mandates that an appeal of a contracting officer’s final decision must be filed at the Boards of Contract Appeals within 90 days of the contractor’s receipt of the decision, or must be filed at the Court of Federal Claims within 12 months.  41 U.S.C. § 7104.  These deadlines are jurisdictional, and a number of Board decisions during the last half of 2018 serve as cautionary tales to would-be appellants. Aerospace Facilities Grp., ASBCA No. 61026 (July 19, 2018) The government terminated Aerospace Facilities Group (“AFG”)’s contract for cause, and AFG filed its notice of appeal at the ASBCA 91 days after receipt of the termination decision by email.  However, following its termination decision, the government engaged in numerous communications with AFG inviting the contractor to discuss proposals to resolve the termination, including the potential delivery of items under the contract that the government had purported to terminate.  The ASBCA (Shackleford, A.J.) denied the government’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based on the alleged untimeliness of the notice of appeal (which the ASBCA also questioned sua sponte).  The ASBCA held that the government’s post-termination actions “created a cloud of uncertainty as to the status of the … termination.”  As such, the government led AFG to reasonably believe that it was reconsidering the termination decision, thereby vitiating the finality of the “final” decision. Piedmont-Independence Square, LLC v. Gen. Servs. Admin., CBCA 5605 (Aug. 6, 2018) Piedmont-Independence Square, LLC (“Piedmont”) filed an appeal arising from Piedmont’s claim for costs incurred in its work to refurbish space leased to the General Services Administration (“GSA”).  Piedmont had submitted an uncertified Request for Equitable Adjustment (“REA”) to the contracting officer in February 2015.  In response, the contracting officer issued a final decision in August 2016 determining that GSA owed Piedmont a portion of the amount requested in the REA, but offset that amount for costs for IT equipment that GSA alleged Piedmont was responsible to provide under the terms of the lease.  Instead of appealing the final decision, Piedmont asserted it was invalid because the underlying REA was not certified.  In October 2016, Piedmont submitted a certified claim that included the IT equipment costs offset by GSA in its August 2016 final decision.  Piedmont then appealed the deemed denial of its certified claim on January 18, 2017.  GSA sought summary relief arguing, inter alia, that the portion Piedmont’s appeal relating to the offset costs was filed more than 90 days after GSA’s August 2016 final decision.  The CBCA (Sullivan, A.J.) held that GSA’s August 2016 final decision triggered the 90 day statutory filing deadline, notwithstanding the fact that the decision was in response to Piedmont’s uncertified REA.  The CBCA explained that the contractor could not appeal the portion of the decision addressing the uncertified REA, but the offset amount was a Government claim asserted in a final decision with a sum certain that sufficiently notified Piedmont of its appeal rights. Eur-Pac Corp., ASBCA Nos. 61647, 61648 (Nov. 13, 2018) The contractor filed its notice of appeal of the government’s termination decision more than 90 days after receipt of the final decision.  The ASBCA (Wilson, A.J.) raised sua sponte the question of jurisdiction, and ultimately dismissed the appeal as untimely filed.  Although in certain limited circumstances, written correspondence to the contracting officer may satisfy the ASBCA’s notice requirement, those circumstances were not present here, because the contractor did not clearly express its intent to appeal the final decision in its emails to the contracting officer.  Moreover, the ASBCA noted that the contractor had numerous other appeals pending before the ASBCA, and therefore was familiar with ASBCA procedure. Hof Constr., Inc. v. Gen. Servs. Admin., CBCA No. 6306 (Dec. 12, 2018) The General Services Administration (“GSA”) terminated the contract for default in a contracting officer’s final decision, and HOF Construction, Inc. (“HOF”) filed its notice of appeal at the CBCA 11 months later.  HOF argued that its appeal was timely because the final decision failed to include the notice of appeal rights required by FAR 33.211(a)(4)(v).  Noting that government’s claim of termination for default was “imperfect” because it did not include the statement of appeal rights that FAR 33.211(a)(4)(v) says “shall” accompany a contracting officer’s decision on a claim, the CBCA (Chadwick, A.J.) held that where the notice of appeal rights in a contracting officer’s final decision is defective – but not completely lacking – the contractor must show detrimental reliance on the defective notice of appeal rights to preclude the start of the jurisdictional timeline to appeal the decision.  The CBCA identified conflicting precedent between two of its predecessor boards regarding whether a contractor is required to show detrimental reliance upon receipt of a defective notice of appeal rights.  Notably, the CBCA held, for the first time, how it would reconcile such conflicting precedent: “the panel will apply what it deems our better precedent and the panel decision will be the Board’s precedent on the issue.” The CBCA found that GSA’s communications were not unclear or misleading and that Hof could not show it reasonably relied on the defective notice to its detriment.  Thus, the CBCA ruled that Hof’s appeal was untimely. E.    Contract Disputes Act Statute Of Limitations Under the Contract Disputes Act, “[e]ach claim by a contractor against the Federal Government relating to a contract and each claim by the Federal Government against a contractor relating to a contract shall be submitted within 6 years after the accrual of the claim.”  41 U.S.C. § 7103(a)(4)(A).  Failure to meet the CDA’s six year statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, and, unlike the 90 day window to appeal a final decision at the appropriate board of contract appeals, it does not impact the Boards’ of jurisdiction over an appeal.  The CBCA and ASBCA each issued a notable decision discussing when a claim accrues. United Liquid Gas Co. d/b/a United Pacific Energy, CBCA No. 5846 (July 12, 2018) United Pacific Energy (“UPE”) had a multiple award schedule (“MAS”) contract with the General Services Administration (“GSA”) to provide propane gas at prices set forth in the schedule. The Fort Irwin Contracting Command (“Ft. Irwin”) issued four task orders against the MAS contract for propane gas during fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, which UPE fulfilled.  In 2016, GSA determined that UPE overbilled and Ft. Irwin overpaid on the task orders.  UPE moved for partial summary relief with respect to $279,029.64 in overpayments that allegedly occurred prior to 2011, arguing that this portion of the claim was untimely under the CDA six year statute of limitations.  The CBCA granted partial summary relief, concluding that the claim began to accrue on January 5, 2011, when Ft. Irwin overpaid the first task order 1 invoice submitted for payment under the MAS contract.  The CBCA noted that, at that point in time, the terms of the MAS contract clearly put both Ft. Irwin and GSA on notice that UPE was overbilling the government, and all events that fixed the alleged liability, specifically, in this case, overpayments in a “sum certain,” were known or should have been known.  Furthermore, government claims continued accruing each time Ft. Irwin overpaid a task order 1 invoice under the MAS contract, because every time a payment was made on an invoice, the government knew or should have known of the overpayment and the “sum certain” it was overpaying. DRS Global Enter. Sols., Inc., ASBCA No. 61368 (August 30, 2018) The government sought repayment from DRS Global Enterprise Solutions, Inc. (“DRS”) for over $8.6 million, mostly for other direct costs that the administrative contracting officer determined to be unallowable based on the alleged lack of supporting documentation, including the lack of an invoice for the costs, proof of payment, and a signed purchase order.  DRS moved for summary judgment, arguing that the government’s claim was untimely because it accrued more than six years before the September 11, 2017 final decision.  DRS identified three alternative claim accrual dates. First, DRS argued that for direct costs, the government’s claim accrued no later than December 15, 2006, when it paid the last of the invoices at issue.  Second, for indirect costs, DRS argued that the government’s claim accrued when DRS submitted its annual incurred cost proposals (“ICPs”).  Third, DRS argued that the government’s claim accrued no later than July 17, 2009, when the Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”) conducted the entrance conference for its audit of DRS’ ICPs.  The government argued that interim vouchers by their very nature do not contain supporting documentation, and that there was no way the government could have known that DRS could not substantiate the amounts billed until it failed to provide DCAA with requested supporting documentation in October 2013. The Board denied DRS’s motion, finding that DRS’s contention that the government should have known of its claim in 2006 was undermined by letters DRS wrote to DCAA and DCMA in 2013 and 2014, and that generally, DRS’s sweeping statements with respect to the level of knowledge possessed by the government in 2006 were not supported by the current record.  For those reasons, the Board decided the best course of action was to allow further development of the record to determine when the government should reasonably have known of its claim. F.    Consolidation of Appeals Collecto, Inc. dba EOS CCA and Transworld Systems Inc., CBCA Nos. 6049, 6001 (July 26, 2018) In Collectco Inc., the Department of Education filed motions seeking to consolidate the appeal docketed as Transworld Sys. Inc. v. Dep’t of Ed., CBCA 6049, with the appeal docketed as Collecto, Inc. d/b/a EOS CCA v. Dep’t of Ed., CBCA 6001, asserting that the task orders underlying both appeals were essentially the same and that the issues to be decided in the two appeals were the same.  The government had filed claims with both appellants seeking reimbursement of allegedly overpaid amounts on certain invoices under contracts to perform student loan debt collection services as a result of a new debt management collection system that disrupted the invoicing process. The CBCA denied without prejudice the Agency’s request to consolidate the two appeals of the Agency’s claim for reimbursement of overpaid invoices, concluding that the matters did not constitute “complex litigation” warranting such consolidation.  Complex litigation, as it is traditionally defined, generally involves multiple related cases, extensive pretrial activity, extended trial times, difficult or novel issues, or post-judgment judicial supervision.  The Board noted that consolidation might be warranted were there a multitude of vendors with identical task orders challenging the same type of refund demand.  Here, however, the Board was presented with only two rather than multiple appellants, and the agency had not indicated that there were likely to be any other related appeals.  Further, only minimal discovery was anticipated and the Board found it possible that the issues could be resolved through dispositive motions rather than a hearing on the merits.  The Board noted, however, that the Agency could renew its motion if the cases could not be resolved through dispositive motions. IV.    DEFAULT TERMINATIONS The ASBCA issued three noteworthy decisions during the second half of 2018 arising from default terminations, in each case upholding the termination for default. Coastal Environmental Grp., Inc., ASBCA No. 60410 (July 17, 2018) The parties contracted for Coastal Environmental Group, Inc. (“Coastal”) to make repairs to the Security Boat Marina at Naval Weapons Station Earle, Leonardo, New Jersey.  With 50 days remaining before the contract completion deadline, the contracting officer terminated the contract for default, citing “continued lack of progress thereby endangering completion. . . ”  The Board declined to convert the default termination into a terminate for convenience because, despite evidence Coastal presented that it had a plan to complete the work on time, because there was no evidence that the government was actually aware of any such plan at the time of the termination.  As such, it was reasonable for the government to conclude that there was no reasonable likelihood that Coastal would complete the work on time.  The Board also rejected Coastal’s claim for excusable delay because it had released that claim in a bilateral modification which stated that the modification constituted an “accord an satisfaction…for delays and disruptions arising out of, or incidental to, the work as herein revised.” LKJ Crabbe Inc., ASBCA No. 60331 (Oct. 29, 2018) This appeal arose out of a commercial item contract between LKJ Crabbe Inc. (“LKJ”) and the Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command (“Army”) for custodial services at buildings located in two different locations at Ft. Polk, Louisiana.  LKJ appealed the Army’s termination for cause, contending that the Army’s termination was unjustified and that the Army breached the contract by failing to reform the contract after learning of an alleged mistake in LKJ’s bid.  LKJ also alleged that the Army breached the contract by violating its duty of good faith and fair dealing. The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) denied the appeal, finding that LKJ’s failure to provide reasonable assurances of its ability to perform in response to the cure notice supported the Army’s decision to terminate for cause.  Instead, LKJ indicated that it “had failed to appreciate the level of service it would be required to perform” under the contract, and that it was suffering losses that it could absorb only through November.  The ASBCA found that this was an unequivocal statement that LKJ could not perform past November.  Further, the ASBCA concluded that LKJ’s statements were tantamount to an anticipatory repudiation of the contract, which justified the termination for cause on that basis as well.  Finally, the testimony and evidence at the hearing demonstrated that LKJ’s losses on the contract fundamentally were the result of faulty pricing throughout the contract. Ballistic Recovery Systems, Inc., ASBCA No. 61333 (Dec. 13, 2018) In 2016, Ballistic Recovery Systems, Inc. (“BRSI”) entered into a fixed-price contract for the supply of parachute deployment sleeves.  Pursuant to the contract, BRSI was supposed to deliver two test units for inspection, as part of the first article test (“FAT”).  Prior to the award of the contract, BRSI sought a FAT waiver based on a prior contract for the same item, however, the waiver was denied because no inspections had been performed on BRSI’s deployment sleeves for almost two years.  After delivery of the two test units, the government found numerous major deficiencies and recommended disapproval.  After BRSI submitted two subsequent test units, the government found further major deficiencies, and issued a show cause notice for BRSI to state any excusable causes of defects.  Rather than address any of the major deficiencies in the test units, BRSI referred to its earlier contract and argued that its units were “production standard.”  In 2017, the government terminated the contract for default as a result of the multiple FAT disapprovals. Upon the government’s motion for summary judgment, the ASBCA (Paul, A.J.) determined that the government met its initial burden of proving that the termination was reasonable and justified, and evidence that the contractor did not attempt to correct major and critical defects constituted a reasonable basis for default termination.  The ASBCA reasoned that the government had provided ample evidence of the major and critical failures of BRSI’s test units, and had submitted declarations in support thereof, thus, the lack of any substantive attempt by BRSI to address the faulty units constituted a reasonable basis for default termination.  Accordingly, the ASBCA denied BRSI’s appeal. V.    CONTRACT INTERPRETATION A number of noteworthy decisions from the second half of 2018 articulate broadly applicable contract interpretation principles that should be considered by government contractors. First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting W.L.L. v. Dep’t of State, CBCA Nos. 3506, 6167 (Dec. 3, 2018) First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting W.L.L. (“FKTC”) contracted with the Department of State (“DOS”) to build an embassy compound in Baghdad.  First Kuwaiti claimed that it was underpaid for costs associated with building in a war zone, and asserted 200 claims totaling $270 million against DOS.  DOS moved for summary judgment on thirteen of FKTC’s cost claims, challenging FKTC’s reliance upon the War Risks clause, the superior knowledge doctrine, the Changes clause, and the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing as the basis for these claims The CBCA (Sullivan, A.J.) rejected FKTC’s invocation of the War Risks clause as to each of the thirteen claims, applying various canons of contractual interpretation to find that the contract did not contemplate that DOS would compensate FKTC for all losses attributable to wartime conditions.  The CBCA granted DOS’s motion as to seven counts based on the superior knowledge doctrine, finding that DOS did not have “specific and vital” information that First Kuwaiti lacked in negotiating the contract to support its superior knowledge claim.  The CBCA denied DOS’s motion on six other counts where FKTC sought to recover costs in reliance upon the Changes clause, finding there were disputed issues of fact regarding responsibility over security and that DOS did not provide sufficient evidence to support a sovereign acts defense.  To successfully assert a sovereign acts defense, the government must prove that its action is “public and general,” meaning that its action has an impact on public contracts that is “merely incidental to the accomplishment of a broader governmental objective.”  The CBCA found that the government failed to provide specific evidence of the “public and general” nature of the government’s actions over objections by DOS that such evidence was unavailable because the Army kept poor records during the Iraq War. OMNIPLEX World Services Corp. v. Dep’t of Homeland Security, CBCA No. 5971 (Nov. 27, 2018) OMNIPLEX World Services Corporation (“OMNIPLEX”) contracted with the Department of Homeland Security to provide guard services.  OMNIPLEX’s contract contained clauses permitting the government to take deductions from payment for instances where the contractor fails to satisfy contract requirements, and a dispute arose concerning the applicability of the deduction provisions.  OMNIPLEX argued that the deduction clauses were ambiguous.  The CBCA (Vergilio, A.J.) rejected OMNIPLEX’s arguments, finding that (1) the provisions were not ambiguous and (2) even if the provisions were ambiguous, the ambiguity was patent.  Patent ambiguity occurs when “facially inconsistent provisions place a reasonable bidder or offeror on notice and prompt it to rectify the inconsistency by inquiry,” whereas latent ambiguity occurs when “the ambiguity is neither glaring nor substantial nor obvious.”  Though not explicitly stated in the CBCA decision, latent ambiguities are construed against the drafter of the agreement, whereas patent ambiguities are construed against the party later attempting to assert the ambiguity.  See, e.g.,  K-Con, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army, No. 2017- 2254 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 5, 2018).  Accordingly, the CBCA denied the appeal. Parsons Evergreene, LLC, ASBCA No. 61784 (Sept. 5, 2018) In an unusual five-judge decision, the ASBCA held that Parsons Evergreene, LLC (“PE”) was not entitled to compensation resulting from the government’s failure to engage in a “prompt” review of Davis-Bacon Act payrolls, which PE argued was in violation of FAR 22.406‑1 (which describes the government’s policy of “prompt” enforcement of labor standards).  The decision explained in a footnote that because the two judges who reviewed Judge Clarke’s original opinion in ASBCA No. 58634 (discussed in Sections II.B. and III.B., supra) came to a different conclusion, the remaining two judges in Judge Clarke’s division were asked to consider it, consistent with ASBCA practice and procedure.  The result was a four-to-one split, with Judge Clarke issuing a dissenting opinion.  For reasons of clarity and judicial efficiency, the ASBCA issued a separate opinion under a new appeal number.  The ASBCA accepted PE’s position that the Air Force’s delay in commencing payroll reviews until 2008, when the contract was almost over, caused additional expense to PE.  However, citing Freightliner Corp. v. Caldera, 225 F.3d 1361, 1365 (Fed.  Cir. 2000), the ASBCA stated that to have a cause of action against the government for violation of a regulation, a contractor must prove that the regulation exists for the benefit of the contractor.  The ASBCA thus concluded that FAR 22.406-1 does not provide a remedy to a contractor for the government’s untimely investigation of complaints relating to labor standards, and therefore denied the appeal. Judge Clarke’s dissenting opinion reasoned that because FAR 22.406-1 requires that if a problem is found during payroll reviews, on-site inspections or employee interviews, there will be “prompt initiation of corrective action,” “Prompt investigation and disposition of complaints,” and “Prompt submission of all reports required by this subpart,” the payroll reviews themselves must also be prompt, or the entire regulatory scheme becomes meaningless. A.    Course of Dealing Two ASBCA cases addressed the circumstances under which a prior course of dealing between the government and a contractor can give rise to an implied contractual right. ECC Int’l, LLC, ASBCA No. 60484 (Nov. 16, 2018) ECC International, LLC (“ECC”) entered into a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”) for the construction of a compound expansion in Afghanistan.  During performance, an access route to the construction site referred to as “Friendship Gate” was closed by the U.S. military due to a security incident, which resulted in delay and additional costs to ECC.  ECC sought to recover these costs, arguing that continued access through Friendship Gate was an implied warranty in the contract, the closure of which was a constructive change. The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) denied the appeal and rejected ECC’s argument that a prior course of dealing between ECC and various Department of Defense agencies created an implied contractual right to access through Friendship Gate in its contract with the USACE.  The ASBCA explained that prior course of dealing can be established where there is justifiable reliance and proof of the same contracting agency, the same contractor, and essentially the same contract provisions over an extended period of time.  ECC could not establish these elements because its previous contracts with the USACE were performed concurrently with the subject contract, beginning only months before.  Moreover, the ASBCA found it notable that a prior course of dealing could not “change the fact that, in a war, security considerations could change over time.” TranLogistics LLC, ASBCA No. 61574 (Aug. 29, 2018) TranLogistics LLC had a contract with the Marine Corps to move ammunition lockers to locations in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador.  TransLogistics claimed extra costs caused by delayed customs documentation.  The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.), in a succinct decision, agreed with TransLogistics’ interpretation of the contract that the government was obligated to provide the customs documentation.  Although the Marines argued in briefing that the contract required TransLogistics to provide a customs broker, the parties’ course of dealing, both in the subject contract and in prior contracts, was consistent with TransLogistics’ interpretation.  The ASBCA found that the delay was therefore excusable, but only partially granted the appeal because the contractor did not offer direct proof of the amounts it incurred from the delay. B.    Release of Claims Penna Grp., LLC, CBCA No. 6155 (Sept. 27, 2018)             Penna Group, LLC sought $146,048.85 for costs incurred after performing under an expanded scope of work for a roofing contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  The contracting officer denied the claim, relying upon a release of claims signed by the contractor’s president, which released the United States from any and all claims arising under the contract without exception.  The agency moved for summary judgment, contending that the contractor could not pursue the claim or prevail given the release.  The contractor asserted that the release was of no force or effect because it was completed by one without the actual or apparent authority to do so, and that material facts are in dispute so as to preclude summary judgment.  The contractor further argued that the release can be invalidated because of economic duress and because of mutual mistake. The CBCA rejected the contractor’s arguments and denied the claim, concluding that the release was enforceable.  Here, the release bore the signature of the contractor’s president.  While the individual who completed the release on behalf of the contractor was not the president, the president was aware that said individual had his signature stamp.  Thus, he had endowed her with actual or apparent authority, or both, to execute the release with his signature. Expresser Transport Corp., ASBCA No. 61464 (Dec. 7, 2018) In 1983, Expresser Transport Corporation (“Expresser”) and the United State entered into a time charter contract for a vessel to support the prepositioning of military equipment and supplies.  The contract allowed the government to place civilian contractors aboard the vessel, and also indemnified Expresser for liability arising from the carriage of such civilian contractors.  However, the contract also included a “waiver of claims” clause that stated that “all claims whatsoever for moneys due the Contractor” must be submitted within two years of the date of “redelivery of the Vessel[.]”  Upon termination for convenience of the charter contract on July 15, 2009, the parties considered the vessel “redelivered” on that date.  In 2007, a civilian contractor aboard suffered paraplegic injuries, which led to a settlement with Expresser of $2.5 million in 2011.  In 2017, Expresser submitted a claim seeking indemnity of the settlement amount.  The government denied the claim on the basis that the waiver of claims clause was unambiguous and that the claim was not submitted within two years of the redelivery of the vessel.  Expresser countered that the clause produced an unacceptable result, in that there could be claims that arose more than two years after redelivery and a cognizable claim cannot accrue until a sum certain is known or should have been known. The ASBCA (Melnick, A.J.) considered the charter contract as a whole and determined that the government’s indemnity obligations were expressly and unambiguously limited by the waiver of claims clause.  Simply because Expresser found the clause unacceptable with the benefit of hindsight did not release Expresser from the agreement it entered into.  The ASBCA likened the clause to a statute of repose, which cuts off a cause of action after a certain amount of time, irrespective of the time of accrual. United Facility Services Corporation dba Eastco Building Services, CBCA No. 5272 (July 7, 2018)            United Facility Services Corporation dba Eastco Building Services (“Eastco”) was awarded a task order under a GSA Schedule contract for operations and maintenance services at three federal buildings.  Eastco alleged that it found thousands of additional inventory pieces to be maintained that were not captured on the task order solicitation’s inventory list, and submitted to GSA a certified claim seeking a contract adjustment for servicing the additional equipment.  GSA denied the claim, and Eastco appealed.  On cross-motions for summary judgment, GSA claimed it was not responsible for any unanticipated performance costs incurred by Eastco because two provisions in the contract – a clause requiring the contractor to make a pre-bid site visit and inspection, and a disclaimer indicating that the list may contain some errors – placed upon the contractor the risk of any defects in the equipment list.  Eastco argued that GSA’s inclusion of the equipment list in the solicitation constituted a warranty regarding the facility’s equipment quantities that overrode the contract’s disclaimer and pre-bid site visit obligations. The CBCA (Lester, A.J.) described the factors used to determine whether and to what extent a tribunal will enforce an exculpatory disclaimer, noting (1) that exculpatory clauses are narrowly construed because they are drafted by the government and shift to the contractor risks that would otherwise be borne by the government; (2) the clearer the disclaimer language and the more narrowly tailored it is, the more likely it is to be held effective and enforceable as written; (3) exculpatory language disclaiming representations about latent conditions that a contractor would be unable to detect through a reasonable site inspection are less likely to be enforced; and (4) disclaimers are more likely to be found ineffective if the government possesses the only information by which the contractor might have learned the truth, and the government denies the contractor access to the data prior to entering into the contract.  Applying these criteria to the facts at hand, the CBCA denied the cross-motions for summary judgment based on the undeveloped record on factual issues. C.    Rights in Commercial and Noncommercial Computer Software & Rights in Technical Data CiyaSoft Corp., ASBCA Nos. 59519, 59913 (June 27, 2018) The ASBCA (McNulty, A.J.) held that the government breached the contract by violating the commercial “shrinkwrap” and “clickwrap” license agreements that were shipped with the contractor’s software, specifically by permitting installation of a copy of the software onto more than one computer, and failing to provide the contractor with a list of registered users.  Importantly, the ASBCA expressly held that the “government can be bound by the terms of a commercial software license it has neither negotiated nor seen prior to the receipt of the software, so long as the terms are consistent with those customarily provided by the vendor to other purchasers and do not otherwise violate federal law.”  In addition, much like the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, with respect to commercial software licenses, “an implied duty exists that the licensee will take reasonable measures to protect the software, to keep it from being copied indiscriminately, which obviously could have a deleterious effect on the ultimate value of the software to the licensor.” The Boeing Co., ASBCA No. 60373 (July 17, 2018) The ASBCA (D’Alessandris, A.J.) held that software developed with costs charged to technology investment agreements (“TIAs”) pursuant to 10 U.S.C.A. § 2358 constitutes software developed “exclusively at private expense” as it is defined in Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) clause 252.227-7014, Rights in Noncommercial Computer Software and Noncommercial Computer Software Documentation.  The ASBCA also held that the TIAs at issue did not make a blanket grant of government purpose rights in nondeliverable software developed with costs charged to the TIAs.  The dispute arose under a low-rate initial production (“LRIP”) contract, after Boeing delivered software marked with restrictive rights and asserted that the software had been developed exclusively at private expense pursuant to the TIAs.  The government challenged Boeing’s assertion of restricted rights in the software, and asserted that it possessed government purpose rights because the software was developed with mixed funding.  The ASBCA found that a TIA is a cooperative agreement, and not a “contract” as defined in FAR 2.101.  Accordingly, to the extent that the software was funded by the TIAs, the costs were not allocated to a government contract and satisfy the definition of “developed exclusively at private expense” under DFARS 252.227-7014.  For the same reason, the ASBCA found that the expenditures do not satisfy the definition of “developed with mixed funding” because the costs charged to the TIAs were not charged directly to a government contract. The Boeing Co., ASBCA Nos. 61387, 61388 (Nov. 28, 2018) The ASBCA (O’Connell, A.J.) denied Boeing’s motion for summary judgment seeking the ASBCA’s interpretation as to whether the contracts at issue allowed Boeing to place certain marking legends on technical data, or whether the only authorized legends for marking technical data under the contracts were those found in DFARS 252.227-7013(f).  The Air Force contracting officer had concluded that because the legends used by Boeing to mark its data did not conform with DFARS 252.227-7013(f) that Boeing must remove them at its own expense and re-submit the data.  Boeing argued that the DFARS clauses, as interpreted by the Air Force, failed to protect its intellectual property rights, whereas the Air Force claimed it would be harmed by use of Boeing’s non-DFARS proposed legends. In denying Boeing’s motion, the ASBCA agreed with the government’s interpretation of DFARS 252.227-7013(f), finding that the legends authorized by that clause were the only permissible legends for limiting data rights under the contract.  However, the ASBCA also noted that the issue of whether those clauses adequately protect Boeing’s property rights could not be resolved based on the record developed to date.  Accordingly, the Board directed the parties to submit a joint status report proposing further proceedings. CANVS Corp., ASBCA Nos. 57784, 57987 (Sept. 6, 2018) CANVS Corporation (“CANVS”) appealed the denial of its claim for $100 million asserting breach of contract for the unauthorized disclosure of allegedly proprietary information regarding night vision color goggles.  CANVS had contracts under the Small Business Innovation Research (“SBIR”) program to develop and deliver color night vision technology, and alleged that the government displayed its technical data containing its proprietary information at industry conferences.  CANVS had delivered the technical data to the government under the SBIR contracts, but the parties disputed the rights conferred upon the government under DFARS 252.227-7018, including whether CANVS’s restrictive markings conformed and whether the data was first generated under the contract.  The ASBCA (Peacock, A.J.) declined to decide those issues, however, because even if the government did not comply with 252.227-7018 in disclosing its data, ultimately CANVS did not establish that it suffered any harm—much less $100 million in harm—caused by the government’s disclosure.  The fact that CANVS did not receive a follow-on production contract is insufficient, particularly when CANVS did not show that any competitors had produced a night-vision goggle using its technology, and when CANVS took no steps to mitigate any potential damages.  The ASBCA also held that CANVS did not demonstrate that the disclosed information was proprietary in any event; the disclosure did not enable a “a person of ordinary skill in the art to assemble an exact replica” of the goggle, and CANVS had previously voluntarily disclosed the information and thus lost any protectable interest. VI.    COMMON LAW PRINCIPLES The boards of contract appeals and Court of Federal Claims addressed a number of issues during the second half of 2018 arising out of the body of federal common law that has developed in the context of government contracts. Pros Cleaners, CBCA No. 6077 (Aug. 30, 2018) The CBCA (Sheridan, A.J.) considered whether an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (“IDIQ”) contract that does not set forth a minimum quantity is invalid for lack of consideration.  Pros Cleaners, sought damages totaling $750,000 on the basis that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) breached its IDIQ contract.  FEMA moved for summary relief, asserting that its agreement with Pros Cleaners did not constitute a valid ID/IQ contract.  Pros Cleaners’ contract differed from the solicitation, which stated it was an RFP for a five-year IDIQ contract, in three aspects: it omitted the indefinite quantity clause; it did not state that it was an IDIQ contract; and it defined the period of performance as one “base year + four (4) option years.”  Further, although, the contract stated the value was not to exceed $150,000 and the contract contained a schedule establishing the unit price for labor at $25 per hour, it did not list a minimum quantity of labor.  The CBCA granted the Agency’s motion and denied the appeal finding that where, as here, a contract does not set forth a minimum quantity, it is defective and invalid for lack of consideration. A.    Christian Doctrine Under the Christian doctrine, a mandatory contract clause that expresses a significant or deeply ingrained strand of procurement policy is considered to be included in a contract by operation of law.  G.L. Christian & Assocs. v. United States, 312 F.2d 418 (Ct. Cl. 1963). K-Con, Inc. v. Secretary of the Army, 908 F.3d 719 (Fed. Cir. 2018) The dispute in this case arose from two contracts for pre-engineered metal buildings.  K-Con, Inc. (“K-Con”) claimed additional costs it said were caused by the Army’s two-year delay in imposing performance and payment bond requirements in FAR 52.228-15 that were not part of the original contracts.  The ASBCA held that bonding requirements were included in the contracts by operation of law at the time they were awarded, pursuant to the Christian doctrine.  The Federal Circuit (Stoll, J.) affirmed. The Federal Circuit first found that there was a patent ambiguity in the contracts because they were awarded as commercial-item acquisitions, but plainly required construction.  Because there was a patent ambiguity, K-Con was required to seek clarification from the contracting officer before award, which it failed to do.  Accordingly, the Federal Circuit concluded that K-Con could not now argue that the contracts should be for commercial items.  The Federal Circuit further held that FAR 52.228-15 satisfied both criteria necessary for the Christian doctrine to apply: (1) the clause is mandatory, and (2) it represents a deeply ingrained strand of public policy.  Bonding requirements, the court observed, which are meant to ensure a project is completed and that subcontractors and suppliers are paid, are a standard part of federal construction contracts under the 1935 Miller Act.  Because they are both mandatory and a “deeply ingrained strand of public procurement policy,” the court found they satisfy the Christian doctrine.  Therefore, because the clause was incorporated in the contracts at the time of award, there was no basis for K-Con to recover cost increases resulting from the two-year delay in obtaining the bonds. B.    Good Faith & Fair Dealing North American Landscaping, Construction and Dredge, Co., Inc., ASBCA Nos. 60235 et al. (Aug. 9, 2018) North American Landscaping, Construction and Dredge, Co., Inc. (“NALCO”) contracted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) for maintenance dredging of the Scarborough River. NALCO filed a claim for the unpaid contract balance, unabsorbed overhead, differing site conditions, and a time extension, most of which the ASBCA (Clarke, A.J.) sustained.  Most notably, the ASBCA found that the COE breached the implied duty of good faith, fair dealing and noninterference by: abusing its discretion to invoke DFARS 252.236-7004(b), which authorizes the contracting officer to require the contractor to furnish mobilization cost data; improperly denying NALCO funds that the COE knew it needed to perform; insisting on a more expensive dredge at the same price; maintaining a “disturbing attitude” toward NALCO, including mocking its legitimate concerns; and coercing NALCO into signing a “take it or leave it” modification by threatening to terminate for default if it was not signed.  The ASBCA observed that, “[a]t every point where an important decision had to be made, the COE chose to protect itself rather than act to successfully complete the contract or redress NALCO’s legitimate claims.”  In addition, the ASBCA held that the release of claims was unenforceable because NALCO signed it under coercion, because the COE threatened to terminate the contractor for default, without a good faith belief that the contractor was in default. Administrative Judge Prouty, joined by Administrative Judge Shackleford, disagreed that the COE abused its discretion and that the COE breached its duty of good faith, but concurred in the result because such findings were not necessary to award damages to NALCO (which were based on finding a constructive change).  However, the concurrence noted that it found “the government’s general behavior throughout the award and performance of the contract to be abhorrent.” C.    Sovereign Acts Doctrine Another important common law limitation on a contractor’s ability to obtain damages from the government is the sovereign acts doctrine, which insulates the government from liability for acts taken in its sovereign (not contractual) capacity. ANHAM FZCO, LLC, ASBCA No. 58999 (Nov. 13, 2018) ANHAM FZCO, LLC (“Anham”) had a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency – Troop Support for the supply and delivery of food and other items to military customers in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan.  During performance of the contract, the government directed ANHAM to alter its delivery operations from Kuwait to Iraq by utilizing a certain commercial entry point instead of the contractually-required U.S. military controlled crossing, known as the K-Crossing.  ANHAM subsequently submitted a claim for the resulting increased costs, which the government denied. The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) rejected the government’s argument that the closure of the K-Crossing was a sovereign act that insulated it from contractual liability.  The ASBCA held that while the closing of the crossing was a sovereign act, two exceptions to the defense applied here, because:  (1) the contracting officer issued instructions or orders to implement the sovereign act which exceeded contract requirements; and (2) the government expressly or impliedly agreed to pay the contractor’s losses resulting from the sovereign act.  In making that determination, the board found that the government had ordered appellant to develop a transition plan to accommodate the new delivery method, and had also expressly agreed to compensate appellant for the additional costs.  To support this, the board further found that the government was aware of the costs associated with changing the border crossing location and was open and willing to modify the contract to address the costs.  Further, the government continued to be involved directly in approving the operational changes.  D.    Accord & Satisfaction Ruby Emerald Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 61096 (Nov. 6, 2018) The Army and Ruby Emerald Construction Company (“Ruby”) entered into an arrangement for the purchase of crushed gravel.  The Army contended that there was never a contract because it cancelled the purchase order prior to acceptance by Ruby, notwithstanding the fact that the Army issued a notice to proceed, and the parties had executed a bilateral modification.  The Army also contended that if there were a contract, the bilateral modification cancelled the contract at no cost to the Army, therefore, summary judgment should be granted in favor of the Army. The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) could not determine whether a contract existed due to contradictory and incomplete aspects of the record and denied summary judgment on this ground.  However, the ASBCA granted summary judgment based on accord and satisfaction, which operates to discharge a claim when some performance other than that which was claimed is accepted as full satisfaction of the claim.  To establish this, the government must show (1) proper subject matter; (2) competent parties; (3) consideration; and (4) a meeting of the minds of the parties.  The ASBCA held that the Army established all four elements.  In particular, there was sufficient consideration because the modification of the contract cancelled it at no cost to the Army, and Ruby in turn would not be required to perform.  The ASBCA also held that there was a meeting of the minds because Ruby sought termination of the contract, then signed the modification which explicitly provided for cancellation of the contract at no cost to the Army, confirmed that Ruby had not incurred any costs, and did not reserve any rights for Ruby to assert a claim. VII.    DAMAGES Avant Assessment, LLC v. Secretary of the Army, No. 2018-1235, (Fed. Cir. Nov. 9, 2018) Avant appealed from a decision of the ASBCA, challenging the Board’s decision to exclude evidence Avant offered regarding test items for which it argues it should have been paid under a contract with the Department of Army to deliver language testing materials to the Defense Language Institute.  The contract required that the test items be of “high quality,” and authorized the Army to reject unacceptable items.  The solicitation explained that the contract would carry a “potentially high rejection rate,” and noted that the historical rejection rate was about 33 percent.  Avant therefore built a 30 percent rejection rate into its bid. Avant claimed that the Army improperly rejected many of the test items based on “subjective and indefinite specifications.”  Avant sought compensation for all “test items rejected in excess of 30 percent . . . [,]”  demanding an equitable adjustment of approximately $1.9 million for the alleged breach.  Following the ASBCA’s denial, Avant appealed to the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit (Bryson, J.) rejected Avant’s contention that it was entitled to damages for all rejections over the 30 percent figure in the solicitation.  The court explained that that figure was an estimate and it not a promise by the Army to not exceed a certain rejection rate or to reimburse the contractor for items rejected over that rate.  Instead of seeking a blanket 30 percent recovery, Avant had to actually establish which items were improperly rejected, then the burden would shift to the government to show that the rejected items were nonconforming.  In so holding, the court also upheld the ASBCA’s exclusion of Avant’s untimely submission of approximately 40,000 pages of evidence relating to the rejected items.  The court suggested that had Avant timely submitted the evidence, it could have provided expert testimony; attempted to demonstrate breach by presenting a sample of the rejected items; or Avant could have submitted a summary of the documents under Federal Rule of Evidence 1006.  Having failed to show actual breach, Avant could not rely on an estimate in the solicitation. VIII.    OTHER CASES OF NOTE Palantir USG Inc. v. United States, 904 F.3d 980 (Fed. Cir. 2018) In our Mid-Year Update, we highlighted Palantir as a pending bid protest case to watch for the wide reaching impacts the decision would have on the procurement community and the deference afforded the government’s market research in developing its solicitation requirements.  Palantir argued that the Army violated the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (“FASA”) when it decided to develop a new data-management platform (“DCGS-A2”) from scratch without undertaking market research to determine whether its needs could be met by a commercially available product.  In September, Gibson Dunn secured a victory for Palantir in the case when the Federal Circuit (Stoll, J.) rejected the Army’s argument that the claims court should have deferred to its original choice to go with a custom solution for the disputed data platform. FASA requires that federal agencies, to the maximum extent practicable, procure commercially available technology to meet their needs.  Noting that that FASA achieves its preference for commercial items in part through preliminary market research, the court concluded that the Army’s procurement actions in this case were arbitrary and capricious and in violation of FASA.  Key to that holding was the fact that the Army was on notice of both the desirability of hybrid options that used commercial solutions and that Palantir claimed to have a commercial item that could meet or be modified to meet the Army’s needs.  The decision should cause federal agencies to take their market research obligations under FASA more seriously. The court also rejected the government’s argument that the trial court wrongly discarded the presumption of regularity in determining that the Army’s actions were arbitrary and capricious.  The court stressed that under the presumption of regularity, the agency is not required to provide an explanation unless that presumption has been rebutted by record evidence suggesting that the agency decision was arbitrary and capricious, which in this case had been amply satisfied.  In affirming the judgment of the lower court, the court stated that only after the Army complied with the requirements of FASA should it proceed with awarding a contract to meet its DCGS-A2 requirement. PDS Consultants v. United States, Nos. 2017-2379, 2017-2512 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 17, 2018) In our 2016 Mid-Year Update, we reported on the Supreme Court’s ruling in  Kingdomware Techs. v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1969 (2016), which held that the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 unambiguously requires the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (“VA”) to apply the so-called Rule of Two – a provision specifying that, “for purposes of meeting [veteran-owned business participation] goals,” the VA must restrict bidding to such businesses when there is a “reasonable expectation that two or more” veteran-owned businesses will make reasonable bids, with limited exceptions.  In PDS, the Federal Circuit affirmed an earlier Court of Federal Claims’ decision, applying Kingdomware and holding that the more specific nature of the Rule of Two overrides the more general preference to provide employment opportunities for the blind as set forth in the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act of 1938, and as effectuated by the AbilityOne Program, despite the mandatory nature of both.  The Court of Federal Claims held that the VA must apply the Rule of Two analysis before procuring the work through a non-Veteran Owned Small Business set-aside, including set-asides through the AbilityOne Program.  In affirming the decision, the Federal Circuit “consider[ed] the plain language of the more specific, later enacted” Veteran’s Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006, “as well as the legislative history and Congress’s intention in enacting it….” IX.    CONCLUSION We will continue to keep you informed on these and other related issues as they develop. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Karen L. Manos, John W.F. Chesley, Erin N. Rankin, Lindsay M. Paulin, Melinda R. Lewis, Ryan Comer, Shannon Han, Pooja Patel, Sydney Sherman, and Casper J. Yen. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed above.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following: Washington, D.C. Karen L. Manos (+1 202-955-8536, kmanos@gibsondunn.com) Joseph D. West (+1 202-955-8658, jwest@gibsondunn.com) John W.F. Chesley (+1 202-887-3788, jchesley@gibsondunn.com) Michael Diamant (+1 202-887-3604, mdiamant@gibsondunn.com) Michael K. Murphy(+1 202-995-8238, mmurphy@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan M. Phillips (+1 202-887-3546, jphillips@gibsondunn.com) Justin Paul Accomando (+1 202-887-3796, jaccomando@gibsondunn.com) Ella Alves Capone (+1 202-887-3511, ecapone@gibsondunn.com) Michael R. Dziuban (+1 202-887-8252, mdziuban@gibsondunn.com) Melissa L. Farrar (+1 202-887-3579, mfarrar@gibsondunn.com) Melinda R. Lewis (+1 202-887-3724, mrlewis@gibsondunn.com) Lindsay M. Paulin (+1 202-887-3701, lpaulin@gibsondunn.com) Laura J. Plack (+1 202-887-3678, lplack@gibsondunn.com) Erin N. Rankin (+1 202-955-8246, erankin@gibsondunn.com) Jeffrey S. Rosenberg (+1 202-955-8297, jrosenberg@gibsondunn.com) Denver Robert C. Blume (+1 303-298-5758, rblume@gibsondunn.com) Jeremy S. Ochsenbein (+1 303-298-5773, jochsenbein@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Marcellus McRae (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Maurice M. Suh (+1 213-229-7260, msuh@gibsondunn.com) James L. Zelenay, Jr. (+1 213-229-7449, jzelenay@gibsondunn.com) Dhananjay S. Manthripragada (+1 213-229-7366, dmanthripragada@gibsondunn.com) Sean S. Twomey (+1 213-229-7284, stwomey@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

February 8, 2019 |
Developments on Public Company Disclosures on Board and Executive Diversity

Click for PDF On February 6, 2019, the staff (Staff) of the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued two new identical Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DIs).  The C&DIs address disclosure that the Staff expects public companies to include in their proxy statements and other SEC filings regarding “self-identified diversity characteristics” with respect to their directors and director nominees.  In addition, legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that would require public companies to annually disclose the gender, race, ethnicity and veteran status of their directors, director nominees, and senior executive officers. Background The SEC already has rules requiring board diversity-related disclosure.  Item 407(c)(2)(vi) of Regulation S-K requires companies to disclose “whether, and if so how, the nominating committee (or the board) considers diversity in identifying nominees for director.”  It further requires that, “[i]f the nominating committee (or the board) has a policy with regard to the consideration of diversity in identifying director nominees, [the company must] describe how this policy is implemented, as well as how the nominating committee (or the board) assesses the effectiveness of its policy.”  Historically, it has been our understanding that the Staff takes a broad view of what qualifies as a “policy,” and that if a company considers diversity in identifying director candidates, the company has a “policy” for purposes of this requirement and is expected to provide disclosure about the implementation and effectiveness of its policy.  This disclosure requirement therefore can influence what companies report under Item 401(e) of Regulation S-K, which requires directors’ and nominees’ biographical information to “briefly discuss the specific experience, qualifications, attributes or skills that led to the conclusion that the person should serve as a director for the registrant at the time that the disclosure is made, in light of the registrant’s business and structure.” These rules have “been subject to some criticism” that they don’t provide “enough useful disclosure,”[1] as noted by Bill Hinman, the head of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, in testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investment in April 2018.  Hinman added that the Staff had been reviewing company disclosures regarding directors’ diversity and considering concerns raised about directors’ privacy issues.  As a result, the SEC’s regulatory agenda states on the long-term agenda that the Division of Corporation Finance “is considering recommending that the [SEC] propose amendments to the proxy rules to require additional disclosure about the diversity of board members and nominees.”[2] New C&DIs The two new Regulation S-K interpretations are identical and are set forth in Question 116.11 (relating to Item 401, Directors, Executive Officers, Promoters and Control Persons) and Question 133.13 (relating to Item 407, Corporate Governance).[3]  They convey the Staff’s expectation that in some situations (1) a discussion of a director or nominee’s experience would include disclosure of “self-identified diversity characteristics” and how they were considered, and (2) the description of the company’s diversity policies would include how the company considers “the self-identified diversity attributes of nominees as well as any other qualifications its diversity policy takes into account.”  The C&DIs are framed as addressing a situation where “board members or nominees have provided for inclusion in the company’s disclosure” those characteristics and where the “individual . . . has consented to the company’s disclosure of those characteristics,” demonstrating that the Staff recognizes important considerations that companies wrestle with when addressing these disclosure requirements. In light of the new interpretations, companies should review and consider whether their disclosures appropriately reflect information provided by directors and nominees (and whether those individuals have consented to disclosure of that information), and how that information is taken into account under their board diversity policies.  In practice, there are a wide variety of approaches that companies follow in evaluating directors and nominees and, as recognized in the new CD&Is, there are often also a wide variety of factors considered.  Among the ways that companies have addressed these matters to date are:  aggregated disclosure of the specific diversity characteristics of their boards; discussions of the stage in the nomination process at which diversity characteristics are considered; skills and characteristic matrices; and individualized discussions of qualifications and characteristics.  In light of the variety of factors typically considered by boards when identifying and nominating directors, we expect that many companies will enhance their existing diversity disclosures in a variety of ways depending on their specific circumstances. Text of New C&DIs The full text of the new C&Dis is set forth below: Question 116.11 and Question 133.13 Question: In connection with preparing Item 401 disclosure relating to director qualifications, certain board members or nominees have provided for inclusion in the company’s disclosure certain self-identified specific diversity characteristics, such as their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or cultural background. What disclosure of self-identified diversity characteristics is required under Item 401 or, with respect to nominees, under Item 407? Answer: Item 401(e) requires a brief discussion of the specific experience, qualifications, attributes, or skills that led to the conclusion that a person should serve as a director. Item 407(c)(2)(vi) requires a description of how a board implements any policies it follows with regard to the consideration of diversity in identifying director nominees. To the extent a board or nominating committee in determining the specific experience, qualifications, attributes, or skills of an individual for board membership has considered the self-identified diversity characteristics referred to above (e.g., race, gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or cultural background) of an individual who has consented to the company’s disclosure of those characteristics, we would expect that the company’s discussion required by Item 401 would include, but not necessarily be limited to, identifying those characteristics and how they were considered. Similarly, in these circumstances, we would expect any description of diversity policies followed by the company under Item 407 would include a discussion of how the company considers the self-identified diversity attributes of nominees as well as any other qualifications its diversity policy takes into account, such as diverse work experiences, military service, or socio-economic or demographic characteristics. [February 6, 2019] Congressional Developments On the same day that the C&DI were issued, Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) – who was recently named the Chair of the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions – introduced legislation requiring public companies to provide additional diversity disclosures.[4]  The “Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act of 2019,” would require public companies to disclose annually the gender, race, ethnicity, and veteran status of their directors, director nominees, and senior executive officers.  A companion bill in the Senate was simultaneously introduced by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who serves on the Senate’s Banking Committee. The bill also would involve the SEC’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI).  OMWI would (1) be empowered to publish triennially best practices, in consultation with an advisory council of investors and issuers, for compliance with these enhanced disclosure rules, (2) be required to create an advisory council consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act requiring formal reporting, public openness and accessibility, and various oversight procedures, and (3) be allowed to solicit public comment on its best practices publication consistent with the formal rulemaking process under the Administrative Procedures Act. According to a press release issued by Rep. Meeks, the bill is supported by The NAACP, the Urban League, the Council for Institutional Investors, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.    [1]   See https://www.congress.gov/committees/video/house-financial-services/hsba00/rNdly_FXlKs.    [2]   See https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201810&RIN=3235-AL91.    [3]   See https://www.sec.gov/divisions/corpfin/guidance/regs-kinterp.htm.    [4]   See https://meeks.house.gov/media/press-releases/rep-meeks-and-sen-menendez-introduce-corporate-diversity-bill. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have about these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following lawyers in the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group: Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) Ronald O. Mueller – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8671, rmueller@gibsondunn.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, lzyskowski@gibsondunn.com) Gillian McPhee – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8201, gmcphee@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

January 29, 2019 |
Webcast: Challenges in Compliance and Corporate Governance

Every year brings new compliance challenges, and 2018 has been no exception. Join our panelists as they discuss key changes in the 2018 regulatory landscape and look forward to 2019 with insight on how to effectively navigate risks in the new year. Topics discussed include: Global Enforcement and Regulatory Developments Board Oversight of Cyber Threats and Governance Allocation How to Effectively Identify and Address Key Compliance Risks Practical Tips for Improving Corporate Compliance DOJ and SEC Priorities, Policies, and Penalties Update on Core Governance Issues and Regulatory Requirements Legislative Developments Impacting Board Governance View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: Kendall Day, a partner in Washington, D.C., was an Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, the highest level of career official in the Criminal Division at DOJ. He represents financial institutions, multi-national companies, and individuals in connection with criminal, regulatory, and civil enforcement actions involving anti-money laundering (AML)/Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), sanctions, FCPA and other anti-corruption, securities, tax, wire and mail fraud, unlicensed money transmitter, and sensitive employee matters. Mr. Day’s practice also includes BSA/AML compliance counseling and due diligence, and the defense of forfeiture matters. Sacha Harber-Kelly, a partner in London, focuses his practice in global white-collar investigations. He was a Prosecutor and Case Controller at the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) where he was involved in the investigation and prosecution of international corporate corruption cases since 2007. He has worked extensively with a range of other enforcement authorities in the U.K., U.S. and beyond, including the DOJ, SEC, OFAC, the U.K. National Crime Agency, HM Revenue Commissioners, and the Financial Conduct Authority. He was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the SFO. In private practice, he represents clients in criminal and regulatory investigations as well as cross-border enforcement inquiries. Stuart Delery, a partner in Washington, D.C., was the Acting Associate Attorney General, the No. 3 position in the Justice Department, where he oversaw the civil and criminal work of five litigating divisions — Antitrust, Civil, Tax, Civil Rights, and Environment and Natural Resources — as well as other components. His practice focuses on representing corporations and individuals in high-stakes litigation and investigations that involve the federal government across the spectrum of regulatory litigation and enforcement. Adam M. Smith, a partner in Washington, D.C., was the Senior Advisor to the Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s OFAC and the Director for Multilateral Affairs on the National Security Council. His practice focuses on international trade compliance and white collar investigations, including with respect to federal and state economic sanctions enforcement, the FCPA, embargoes, and export controls. He routinely advises multi-national corporations regarding regulatory aspects of international business. Lori Zyskowski, a partner in New York, is Co-Chair of the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice. She was previously Executive Counsel, Corporate, Securities & Finance at GE.  She advises clients, including public companies and their boards of directors, on a wide variety of corporate governance and securities disclosure issues, and provides a unique perspective gained from over 12 years working in-house at S&P 500 corporations. F. Joseph Warin, a partner in Washington, D.C., is Co-Chair of the firm’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice and former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C. Mr. Warin is consistently recognized annually in the top-tier by Chambers USA, Chambers Global, and Chambers Latin America for his FCPA, fraud and corporate investigations acumen.  In 2018 Mr. Warin was selected by Chambers USAas a “Star” in FCPA, and “a “Leading Lawyer” in the nation in Securities Regulation: Enforcement.  Global Investigations Review reported that Mr. Warin has now advised on more FCPA resolutions than any other lawyer since 2008.  Who’s Who Legal and Global Investigations Review named Mr. Warin to their 2016 list of World’s Ten-Most Highly Regarded Investigations Lawyers based on a survey of clients and peers, noting that he was one of the “most highly nominated practitioners,” and a “’favourite’ of audit and special committees of public companies.”  Mr. Warin has handled cases and investigations in more than 40 states and dozens of countries.  His credibility at DOJ and the SEC is unsurpassed among private practitioners — a reputation based in large part on his experience as the only person ever to serve as a compliance monitor or counsel to the compliance monitor in three separate FCPA monitorships, pursuant to settlements with the SEC and DOJ: Statoil ASA (2007-2009); Siemens AG (2009-2012); and Alliance One International (2011-2013). MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of  3.0 credit hours, of which 3.0 credit hours may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the Texas State Bar for a maximum of 2.50 credit hours, of which 2.50 credit hours may be applied toward the area of accredited general requirement. Attorneys seeking Texas credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 2.50 hours. California attorneys may claim “self-study” credit for viewing the archived version of this webcast.  No certificate of attendance is required for California “self-study” credit.

January 15, 2019 |
2018 Year-End Securities Enforcement Update

Click for PDF I.   Introduction: Themes and Developments A.   2018 In Review The Securities and Exchange Commission, like most federal agencies, ended 2018 with a whimper, not a bang. Most staffers were furloughed as part of the federal government shutdown, a note on the SEC homepage cautioning that until further notice only a limited number of personnel would be on hand to respond to emergency situations. The shutdown curtailed the Division of Enforcement’s ability to close out the year with a raft of last-minute filings, not to mention causing most SEC investigations to grind to a halt.  That said, between the December 27 shutdown and the date of this publication, the SEC did manage to institute two enforcement actions – a settlement with a car rental company for accounting errors occurring between 2012 and 2014[1]; and a settlement with a small accounting firm for failing to comply with the Custody Rule in connection with audits of an investment adviser conducted between 2012 and 2015.[2]  Given the age of the conduct, it is unclear the nature of the “emergency” requiring unpaid SEC staffers to come to work in the midst of the shutdown to release these two particular cases, though perhaps an impending statute of limitations was to blame. While the shutdown may have cut the Enforcement Division’s year short, it was more than compensated for by the flurry of actions filed as the agency’s September 30 fiscal year-end loomed.  Indeed, the SEC issued nearly a dozen press releases announcing enforcement actions on the last three days of the fiscal year, including several significant cases involving prominent public companies and financial institutions. The (fiscal) year-end rush appeared intended to blunt some of the criticism of the Enforcement Division’s productivity in the new administration.  After filing 446 new stand-alone enforcement actions in fiscal 2017, an over 18% drop from the 548 actions filed in 2016, the docket recovered somewhat in 2018, with the SEC filing 490 new actions.[3]  (The SEC’s tally of “stand-alone” enforcement actions excludes “follow-on” proceedings sanctioning individuals separately charged for violating the securities laws, and routine administrative proceedings to deregister the stock of companies with delinquent SEC filings.)  While still falling short of the final years under the prior SEC and Enforcement Division leadership, the current Division Directors were quick to note in their Annual Report that the 2015 and 2016 results were somewhat skewed by the SEC’s Municipalities Continuing Disclosure (MCDC) Initiative, under which municipal securities issuers and underwriters who self-reported disclosure violations to the Division received leniency.  The initiative produced nearly 150 enforcement actions; stripped of those matters, the 2018 results actually exceeded those of recent years. The Division Directors further explained that these results were achieved notwithstanding a hiring freeze in place at the SEC since the onset of the Trump administration, and the Division’s Annual Report included a plea for additional resources.  As stated in the Report, “While this achievement is a testament to the hardworking women and men of the Division, with more resources the SEC could focus more on individual accountability, as individuals are more likely to litigate and the ensuing litigation is resource intensive.”  The Directors also noted the challenges posed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Kokesh v. SEC, which confirmed a strict five-year statute of limitations on SEC demands for disgorgement[4], as well as the Court’s more recent decision in Lucia v. SEC, which held that the SEC’s method of appointing its administrative law judges violated the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution and has necessitated the potential re-litigation of myriad administrative proceedings.[5] Thematically, the Enforcement Division (as well as SEC Chairman Clayton) repeatedly reiterated their focus on protecting “retail” or “Main Street” investors.  Indeed, the Division’s Annual Report invoked the word “retail” no fewer than twenty-six times.  (A close second was “cyber,” another Division priority, which appeared twenty-four times in the Report.)  The “retail” focus has led the SEC to highlight cases in which average investors appear to be victimized, particularly offering frauds, pump-and-dump-schemes, and misconduct by investment advisers and broker dealers directed at individual clients.  For fiscal 2018, according to the Annual Report, securities offering cases (which range from Ponzi schemes to various disclosure and registration violations in connection with securities offerings) comprised 25% of the year’s enforcement actions, the largest single category.  Cases against investment advisers and investment companies were just behind at 22% of the caseload; and while the SEC continues to bring cases involving private funds and institutional investors, the lion’s share of investment adviser cases fit within the SEC’s “retail” focus. Despite efforts in recent years for the Enforcement Division to renew its scrutiny of public company financial reporting and disclosure – which in the past had often been the top category of SEC enforcement actions, representing a quarter or more of the docket – such cases comprised only 16% of the SEC’s enforcement actions in 2018.  Rounding out the docket were cases involving broker-dealers (13%), insider trading (10%), and market manipulation (7%); FCPA cases and public finance abuse checked in at 3% of the enforcement filings apiece. B.   Whistleblowers The whistleblower bounty program enacted as part of Dodd-Frank continues to grow apace with each new year.  In its November 2018 annual report to Congress, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower reported that the program had once again netted a record number of tips.[6]  A total of 5,282 whistleblower complaints were received in fiscal 2018, up nearly 18% from 2017.  (The report noted that the Whistleblower Office appears to have its share of vexatious whistleblowers who submit an “unusually high” number of tips, which are excluded from the tally.) As with enforcement cases ultimately filed by the Enforcement Division in 2018, the largest single category for tips for 2018 was offering frauds, representing 20% of all complaints; tips concerning corporate disclosures and financials were a close second, representing 19% of the complaints. The SEC has also continued to announce large award payments to whistleblowers whose tips led to successful enforcement actions.  In September, the SEC announced that it had awarded $39 million to a single whistleblower, the second highest award in the history of the program; the same investigation also resulted in a $15 million payment to a second whistleblower.[7]  However, due to the whistleblower regulations’ confidentiality requirements, the nature of the enforcement action resulting in these awards is not reported. The SEC announced two additional whistleblower awards later that same month. First, the SEC reported a $1.5 million payment, while noting that “the award was reduced because the whistleblower did not promptly report the misconduct and benefitted financially during the delay.”[8]  And in a second case, the SEC awarded $4 million to an overseas whistleblower, touting the important service that even those outside the U.S. can provide to the SEC.[9]  The SEC further heralded the tipster’s continuing assistance throughout the course of the investigation. According to its most recent release, the SEC has now awarded over $326 million to 59 individuals under its whistleblower program. C.   Cybersecurity and Cryptocurrency As noted above, the SEC’s Enforcement Division remains acutely focused on all things “cyber.”  While this has manifested itself primarily, in recent months, on enforcement actions involving cryptocurrency and digital assets, the Division also had several noteworthy firsts in matters of cybersecurity in the latter half of the year. First, in September, the SEC brought its first enforcement action alleging violations of the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule.[10]  The SEC alleged that a broker-dealer lacked adequate safeguards to prevent intruders from resetting contractor passwords in order to gain access to personal information about certain customers.  Without admitting the allegations, the firm agreed to pay a $1 million penalty and to retain a consultant to evaluate its compliance with the Safeguards Rule and the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule. Then, in October, the Enforcement Division issued a report on its investigations of nine public companies which had been victimized by cyber fraud.[11]  According to the SEC, attackers had used fraudulent emails to pose as executives or vendors in order to dupe company personnel into sending about $100 million (in the aggregate) into bank accounts controlled by the perpetrators.  The SEC declined to charge the companies with wrongdoing, but cautioned companies that the internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws require them to ensure they have adequate policies and procedures to mitigate such incidents and safeguard shareholder assets.[12] But most of the high-tech action happened on the cryptocurrency front, with the Enforcement Division similarly touting a number of firsts.  Most of these actions related to registration-related conduct engaged in after the Commission’s 2017 DAO Report, in which the Commission concluded that digital assets may be securities under the federal securities laws. In September, the SEC settled an action against a so-called “ICO superstore” and its owners for acting as unregistered broker-dealers by operating a website that permitted visitors to purchase tokens in ICOs and engage in secondary trading.[13] This was the first case in which the SEC charged unregistered broker-dealers for selling digital assets.  Collectively, the company and owners paid nearly $475,000 in disgorgement, while the owners also paid $45,000 each in penalties and consented to industry and penny stock bars and an investment company prohibition with a right to reapply after three years. The same day, the SEC found for the first time that a hedge fund manager’s investments in digital assets constituted an investment company registration violation.[14]  According to the SEC, the fund falsely claimed to be regulated by and to have filed a registration statement with the SEC, and raised more than $3.6 million in four months.  It also engaged in an unregistered public offering and invested more than 40% of its assets in digital asset securities. The fund and its sole principal consented to pay a combined $200,000 penalty to settle the case. In November, the SEC settled an action against the founder of a digital token-trading platform, finding for the first time that such a platform operated as an unregistered national securities exchange.[15]  The platform in question matched buyers and sellers of digital assets, executed smart contracts, and updated a distributed ledger via the Ethereum blockchain, among other things. The founder consented to disgorge $300,000 and pay a $75,000 penalty.  The SEC noted that its investigation remains ongoing. Also in November, the SEC settled actions against two technology companies for failing to register their ICOs pursuant to federal securities laws.[16]  Both companies raised over $10 million worth of digital assets to fund their respective business ventures.  These were the first cases in which the SEC imposed civil penalties solely for ICO-related registration violations. The companies consented to return funds to investors, register their tokens as securities, file periodic reports with the SEC for at least one year, and pay $500,000 in total penalties. That same month, the SEC also for the first time brought actions against individuals for improperly promoting ICOs.  The SEC settled actions against two celebrities for their respective failures to disclose that they were being compensated for promoting upcoming ICOs on their social media accounts.[17]  The celebrities received approximately $350,000 in total for their promotions, all of which they were required to disgorge, along with $400,000 in total penalties. The celebrities also consented to a combined five-year ban on promoting any security. The second half of this year also saw the SEC crack down on ICOs claiming to be registered with the SEC.  In October, the SEC suspended trading of a company’s securities after the company issued two press releases falsely claiming to have partnered with an SEC-qualified custodian for use with cryptocurrency transactions and to be conducting an “officially registered” ICO.[18]  Also in October, the SEC obtained an emergency court order halting a planned ICO that falsely claimed to be SEC-approved.[19]  On October 11, a federal judge froze the assets of the defendants—the company and its founder.  Notably, in one of the few setbacks to the SEC’s aggressive enforcement program in the cryptocurrency space, the same judge subsequently denied the SEC’s motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that the Commission had failed to show that the digital asset offered in the ICO was a security subject to federal securities laws.[20]  Litigation remains ongoing. Finally, September saw the SEC file a litigated action against an international securities dealer and its CEO for soliciting investors to buy and sell securities-based swaps.[21]  The SEC filed the case after an undercover FBI agent allegedly purchased securities-based swaps on the company’s platform despite not meeting the required discretionary investment thresholds.  The SEC alleged that the company failed to register as a security-based swaps dealer and transacted the securities-based swaps outside of a registered national exchange. II.   Issuer and Auditor Cases A.   Accounting Fraud and Internal Controls In July, the SEC charged a drainage pipe manufacturer and its former CFO with reporting and accounting violations.[22]  According to the SEC, the company allegedly overstated its income before taxes from 2013-2015 as a result of insufficient internal accounting controls, improper accounting, and “unsupported journal entries directed or approved” by the former CFO.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay a $1 million penalty while the CFO agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty, reimburse the company approximately $175,000 in stock sale profits, and be barred from practicing as an accountant before the SEC. In early September, the SEC announced a settlement with a telecommunications expense management company and three members of the company’s senior management related to allegedly fraudulent accounting practices.[23]  According to the complaint, the company prematurely reported revenue for work that had not been performed or for transactions that did not actually produce revenue.  The SEC also alleged that the company’s former senior vice president of expense management operations falsified business records that were provided to auditors.  The company and three executives agreed to pay a combined penalty of $1.67 million to settle the allegations.  The litigated action against the senior VP of expense management operations remains pending. Later that month, the SEC charged a U.S.-based CFO of a public company in China with using his personal bank account to transfer over $400,000 in corporate funds from China to the U.S. to pay the company’s U.S. expenses.[24]  The SEC’s complaint alleged that he had previously engaged in the same practice for at least two other China-based public companies.  The SEC contended that the commingling of corporate and personal funds put the company’s assets at risk of misuse and loss, and that the CFO had failed to implement an adequate set of internal accounting controls.  The CFO agreed to settle the charges without admitting wrongdoing, agreeing to pay a $20,000 fine and to be barred from serving as a public company officer or director for five years. Also in September, the SEC initiated enforcement actions against a business services company, its former CFO, and the company’s former controller related to allegations of accounting fraud.[25]  The complaint alleged that the CFO manipulated the company’s books to hide the increasing expense of its workers’ compensation relative to revenue from its independent auditor.  When the company announced that it needed to restate its financial results to reflect the actual workers’ compensation expenses, the stock price fell by 32%.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the charges, and the controller, who allegedly approved some of the CFO’s accounting entries, agreed to pay $20,000 and be suspended from appearing before the SEC as an accountant for one year.  The case against the CFO is being litigated, and he has also been charged criminally by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.  The company’s CEO, who was not charged with wrongdoing, agreed to pay the company back his $20,800 in cash bonuses received during the period of the alleged accounting violations. The following day, a pipeline construction company agreed to settle charges that it failed to implement adequate internal accounting controls, and failed to adequately evaluate its control deficiencies when assessing the effectiveness of its Internal Control over Financial Reporting (“ICFR”), after problems with its revenue recognition surfaced.[26]  According to the SEC, the company used contingent cost estimates to cover potential risks inherent in a project that could add unanticipated expenses to its total costs.  The company failed to implement adequate controls around its contingent cost estimates, despite recognizing that such estimates were critical for properly recognizing revenue.  Without admitting liability, the company agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty. Later in September, the SEC announced a settled action against a pharmaceutical company and its former CFO for allegedly understating the amount of inventory held by its wholesaler customers, which occurred as a result of the company flooding its distribution channel with products.[27]  According to the complaint, this created more short-term revenue at the expense of future sales.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to be enjoined from future violations and the former CFO agreed to pay approximately $1 million in penalties and disgorgement, be subject to an officer and director bar for five years, and to be barred from appearing before the SEC as an accountant with a right to apply for reinstatement after five years. In a November case involving the Kenyan subsidiary of a U.S.-based tobacco company, the SEC charged that managers at the subsidiary overrode existing internal controls and failed to report accounting errors to the parent company.[28]  As a result, the parent company filed materially misstated financial statements for more than four years, including errors to its inventory, accounts receivable, and retained earnings numbers.  The parent company agreed to settle the internal controls violations on a no admit/no deny basis.  The SEC imposed a cease-and-desist order, noting the company’s remedial actions already undertaken, including sharing the results of its internal investigation with the SEC, hiring new accounting control positions within the African region, and implementing new internal accounting control procedures and policies. In December, the SEC filed a complaint against a multinational agricultural company and its executive chairman, alleging that they concealed substantial losses by improperly accounting for the divestiture of its China-based operating company.[29]  According to the SEC, the company overstated the value of stock received in the transaction and assigned a value of nearly $60 million to worthless land use rights.  The company agreed to pay a $3 million penalty and to cooperate with the SEC in future investigations, without admitting or denying the allegations.  Additionally, the CEO agreed to pay $400,000 and accept a five year officer and director bar. The next day, the SEC brought charges against a natural food company stemming from alleged weaknesses in the company’s internal controls regarding end-of-quarter sales practices that helped the company meet its internal sales targets.[30]  According to the SEC, the company’s sales personnel regularly offered incentives to customers to move inventory near quarter-end, including the right to return products that expired or spoiled prior to ultimate purchase, cash incentives, substantial discounts, and extended payment terms.  The company had failed to implement adequate controls to both detect and document these practices.  According to the SEC’s press release, no monetary penalties were imposed based on the company’s self-reporting to the SEC and significant remediation efforts, which included significant organizational changes and changes to its revenue recognition policies. Also in December, the SEC also instituted settled proceedings against a publicly-traded issuer of subprime automobile loan securities related to allegations that the company failed to accurately calculate its credit loss allowance from certain impaired loans and failed to segregate those loans from its general loan assets.[31]  The SEC also alleged that flaws in the company’s internal controls led to its errors in calculating credit loss allowance and caused the company to restate its financial statements twice in a one-year period.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty. Finally, the SEC brought a settled proceedings against five separate companies for filing quarterly financial forms without having their financial statements reviewed in advance, which is a violation of Regulation S-X.[32]  The SEC announced the charges against all five companies in a single press release, and each company agreed to remedial action, including payment of penalties ranging from $25,000 to $75,000. B.   Misleading Disclosures Beyond the accounting-related cases discussed above, the SEC pursued an unusual number of cases based on misleading disclosures by public companies in the latter half of the year. Misleading Metrics Many of the disclosure cases instituted by the SEC involved the use of allegedly misleading metrics of interest to investors. In July, the SEC filed settled proceedings against an engineering and construction company related to allegations that it inflated a key performance metric and had various accounting control deficiencies.[33]  According to the SEC’s order, the company’s “work in backlog” metric, which measured the revenue the company expected to earn from future firm orders under existing contracts, improperly included at least $450 million from orders that the company had not received.  Additionally, the SEC alleged that the company’s deficient accounting controls caused it to make inaccurate estimates of the costs to complete seven contracts, leading the company to restate its earnings.  Without admitting wrongdoing, the company agreed to pay a $2.5 million penalty. In August, the SEC separately instituted proceedings against a cloud communications company and two of its executives as well as executives at two online marketing companies related to allegations that they provided misleading numbers to investors.  In the first order, the SEC alleged that the company projected first quarter 2015 revenue of $74 million based on improperly reclassified sales forecasts when the CFO was aware of red flags that undermined confidence in that figure.[34]  Just a week before the end of the quarter, the company announced revenue projects that were approximately $25 million lower, causing the stock price to fall 33%.  Without admitting wrongdoing, the company agreed to pay $1.9 million and the two executives agreed to pay penalties ranging from $30,000 to $40,000.  In the second complaint, the SEC alleged that the former CEO and CFO of two online marketing companies, which formed a parent-subsidiary relationship in 2016, knowingly provided inflated subscriber figures.[35]  These charges arose out of a settled enforcement action the SEC brought against the companies themselves in June, in which the parent company agreed to pay a $8 million penalty.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the two executives agreed to pay $1.38 million and $34,000, respectively. In September, the SEC announced a settled action with a payment processing company and its CEO.[36]  According to the SEC’s allegations, the company materially overstated a key operating metric that caused research analysts to overrate the company’s stock and promoted it in  its filings with the SEC, even though both the company and CEO had reason to know that the metric was inaccurate.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay a penalty of $2.1 million while the former CEO agreed to pay $120,000. Finally, in a relatively novel action, the SEC settled charges against a seller of home and business security services for failing to afford equal or greater prominence to comparable GAAP earnings measures in two of its financial statements containing non-GAAP measures.[37]  While the SEC has highlighted concerns about the prominence of non-GAAP metrics previously, this appears to be the first case in which that issue alone has resulted in an enforcement action.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay $100,000 to settle the matter. Executive Perks The SEC also brought several cases involving executive perks.  In July, the SEC announced a settlement with a chemical company related to charges that the company allegedly failed to adequately disclose approximately $3 million in perquisites given to its CEO in its 2013-2016 proxy statements.[38]  The SEC alleged that the company failed to disclose personal benefits not widely available and not integrally and directly related to an executive’s job duties.  The company agreed to pay a $1.75 million penalty and hire an independent consultant to help implement new perquisite disclosure policies. Also in July, the SEC alleged that the CEO of an oil company hid approximately $10.5 million in personal loans from a company vendor and a prospective member of the board.[39]  Additionally, the SEC alleged that the CEO received undisclosed compensation and perks, and that the company failed to report more than $1 million in excess compensation in its disclosures.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the CEO agreed to pay a $180,000 penalty and be subject to a five year bar from serving as an officer or director of a public company.  The board member also agreed to pay a penalty. Other Disclosures In July, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against a publicly-traded real estate investment trust and four executives, alleging that they failed to adequately disclose certain cashflow issues and the status of real property within its portfolio.[40]  The parties agreed to settle the charges without admitting or denying the allegations. In September, the SEC instituted proceedings against an industrial waste water treatment company and two senior executives, alleging that they failed to disclose to investors certain contractual contingencies that had not occurred in a material contract with Nassau, New York.[41]  To settle the allegations, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, the company agreed to pay $133,000 in penalties, disgorgement, and pre-judgment interest and the two executives agreed to pay civil penalties of $60,000 and $35,000 respectively. Also in September, the SEC announced a settlement with SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and its former CEO.[42]  The SEC’s complaint alleged that the company and its CEO failed to adequately disclose the damaging impact a critical documentary had on the company’s business.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company and former CEO agreed to pay $5 million in penalties and disgorgement.  A former vice president of communications also agreed to pay $100,000 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, without admitting or denying the allegations. That same day, the SEC filed a settled action against a biopharmaceutical company, its CEO, and former CFO, related to allegations that the company failed to timely disclose questions about the efficacy of its flagship lung cancer drug.[43]  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the company and the executives agreed to the payment of disgorgement and penalties. Later that month, the SEC filed a settled action against a large drugstore chain, its former CEO, and former CFO for failing to communicate the increased risk of missing operating income projections in the wake of a corporate merger.[44]  The SEC alleged that in 2012, one of the predecessor entities had reaffirmed earlier projections despite internal projections showing an increased risk of falling short.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company paid a $34.5 million penalty and the two executives each agreed to pay $160,000. And at the end of September, the SEC announced a settlement with Tesla, Inc. and its CEO arising out of the CEO’s tweets about plans to take the company private.[45]  The SEC alleged that the potential transaction was subject to numerous contingencies, and that the company lacked sufficient controls to review the CEOs tweets.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company and its CEO agreed to pay civil penalties; additionally, the CEO agreed to step down from the board and be replaced by an independent chairman, and the company agreed to install two new independent directors, implement controls to oversee the CEO’s tweets, and establish a new committee of independent directors. C.   Auditor Cases In September, the SEC instituted proceedings against an accounting firm for improper professional conduct and violations of the securities law during the course of an audit of an information technology company.[46]   According to the SEC’s complaint, the firm ignored a series of red flags concerning cash held by a related entity and provided an unqualified opinion.  The firm and two of its principals agreed to be barred from appearing before the SEC as accountants for five years, and to pay monetary penalties. In October, the SEC suspended three former accountants from a larger audit firm related to allegations that they violated auditing standards and engaged in unprofessional conduct during an audit of an insurance company.[47]  According to the SEC’s order, the audit team fell behind schedule during the audit, but the senior manager directed team members to sign off on “predated” workpapers to make it appear that the audit had been completed before the company’s annual report was filed with the SEC.  The SEC also concluded that the engagement partner and quality review partner failed to exercise due professional care that would have prevented these deficiencies in the audit.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, the three accountants agreed to be suspended from practicing before the SEC as accountants for periods ranging from one to five years, pending applications for reinstatement. In December, the SEC instituted proceedings against an audit firm, two of its partners, and two partners from a now-defunct auditing firm, relating to “significant failures” in their audit of a company that went bankrupt after the discovery of more than $100 million in federal tax liability.[48]  According to the SEC’s order, the firm identified pervasive risks of fraud in the company but failed to undertake additional steps to address the risk.  The SEC also alleged that the audit firm was not actually independent of the company due to an ongoing business relationship.  To settle the allegations, the firm agreed to  pay a penalty of $1.5 million, and hire an independent compliance consultant.  All four partners agreed to be suspended from practicing before the SEC for between one and three years, and to pay penalties ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. Finally, outside the public company audit context, the SEC charged an audit firm with failing to maintain its independence when conducting “Custody Rule” and broker-dealer audits.  The SEC alleged that the firm violated independence standards by both preparing and auditing client financial statements, accompanying notes, and accounting entries for more than 60 audits over five years.  Without admitting nor denying the allegations, the firm settled with the SEC, agreeing to pay a $300,000 penalty and to cease any engagements that fall within the purview of the SEC for one year.  If the firm later chooses to accept such engagements, it must retain an independent complaint consultant for a three-year period and comply with all of the consultant’s recommendations for auditor independence. D.   Private Company Cases Finally, the SEC brought a number of financial reporting and disclosure cases against private (or pre-public) companies, including the following: In September, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against a seller of drones, toys, and other consumer products and its CEO related to allegations that they provided inaccurate sales information to the company’s auditor, which caused its Form S-1 registration statement to overstate the company’s revenue by approximately 15%.[49]  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the CEO agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty and the company agreed to withdraw its registration statement, which had never been declared effective. Also in September, the SEC instituted proceedings against a California-based medical aesthetics company and its former CEO.[50]  The SEC alleged that just days before the company was going to close a stock offering, the CEO learned that its Brazilian manufacturer’s certificate to sell products in the European Union had been suspended, but concealed it from the company’s General Counsel and underwriters.  After the offering closed and the suspension subsequently became public, the stock price fell by 52% and the CEO continued to misrepresent his knowledge.  The SEC settled with the company, recognizing the company’s self-reporting to the SEC and extensive cooperation.  The SEC is litigating against the CEO. In November, the SEC instituted proceedings against an entertainment media company and five of its former officers and directors.[51]  According to the complaint, the company purchased downloads for its mobile app from outside marketing firms in order to boost its download ranking in the Apple App Store.  The company allegedly misrepresented to its shareholders why its app had risen in the download rankings, and continued to allegedly lie to shareholders about the growth of its downloads even after it stopped paying for downloads and its rankings plummeted.  The parties agreed to settle the charges without admitting or denying the allegations; the individuals agreed to pay penalties of varying amounts, three agreed to a permanent officer and director bar, and one agreed to a five-year bar. III.   Investment Advisers and Funds A.   Fees and Expenses In November, a California-based investment adviser settled allegations that it overcharged clients by failing to apply “breakpoint” discounts as provided in its fee schedule.[52]  According to the SEC, the adviser’s fee schedule entailed “breakpoints” which would decrease advisory fees as the amount of client assets under management increased.  For approximately eight years, however, the advisory fee discounts were applied haphazardly, resulting in overcharges to certain client accounts.  Without admitting the allegations, the adviser agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000.  The SEC recognized that, during the investigation, the adviser undertook remedial efforts, including reimbursements to clients of overcharged fees and modifications to its policies. In December, a formerly SEC-registered fund manager settled allegations that it misallocated expenses (such as rent, overhead, and compensation) to its business development company clients as well as failed to review valuation models that caused a client to overvalue its portfolio companies.[53]  The adviser agreed to pay approximately $2.3 million disgorgement and prejudgment interest, as well as a civil money penalty of approximately $1.6 million. Also in December, the SEC filed a settled administrative proceeding against a Milwaukee-based investment adviser and its owner/chairman in connection with alleged undisclosed fees.[54]  According to the SEC, the adviser added a sum to client transactions, which it called a “Service Charge.”  Part of this “Service Charge” would go towards paying a third-party broker, while the remainder went to the adviser.  The SEC alleges that the adviser did not disclose these payments to clients.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the investment adviser and its owner agreed to pay approximately $470,000 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, as well as a $130,000 civil penalty. Later that month, the SEC settled with a private equity fund adviser for allegedly improperly allocating compensation-related expenses to three private equity funds that it advised.[55]  According to the SEC, firm employees charged the funds for work unrelated to the three funds, violating the mandates of the governing documents of the funds.  The alleged wrongdoing spanned four years.  The firm cooperated extensively with the SEC, and the Commission accounted for those remedial efforts in settlement.  The firm agreed to more than $2 million in disgorgement and a civil monetary penalty of $375,000.   In a similar case also filed in December, the SEC settled with a fund manager for inadequate disclosures regarding certain expense allocations, as well as the alleged failure to disclose potential conflicts of interest arising from certain third-party service providers.[56]  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the company agreed to pay $1.9 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a $1 million civil penalty to settle the charges. At the end of December, the SEC settled with a private equity investment adviser in connection with allegations of improper expense allocations.[57]  According to the SEC, the investment adviser manages private equity funds and as well as co-investment funds on behalf of the company’s employees.  The two types of funds invest alongside each other.  When the adviser sought to acquire certain portfolio companies, co-investors were able to provide additional capital to invest.  According to the SEC, over the course of approximately fifteen years, the adviser failed to allocate certain expenses on a proportional basis between the private equity funds and the co-investor funds.  In connection with settlement, the SEC acknowledged that, following an examination by the Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations but prior to being contacted by the Division of Enforcement staff, the adviser proactively made full reimbursements, with interest, to affected funds.  The adviser agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $400,000. The SEC also brought a number of cases involving wrap fee programs. In August, an investment advisory firm settled allegations that it lacked policies and procedures to provide investors with sufficient information for investors to evaluate the appropriateness of their investments in the company’s wrap fee programs.[58]  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the firm agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty and to undertake efforts to enhance its procedures.  And in September, an affiliated investment adviser settled allegations that it failed to disclose conflicts of interest in connection with wrap fee programs.[59]  According to the SEC, over the course of three years, the investment adviser recommended that its clients invest in wrap fee programs, one of which was sponsored by the investment adviser.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay a $100,000 civil penalty. B.   Conflicts of Interest In July, the SEC filed a settled administrative proceeding against the managing partner and chief compliance officer of a private equity fund adviser, alleging that he arranged for one of his funds to make a loan to a portfolio company, the proceeds of which were used to purchase his personal interest in the company.[60]  The SEC alleged that the manager failed to disclose the conflicted transaction to the fund’s limited partnership advisory committee.  The manager agreed to pay a civil money penalty of $80,000 without admitting or denying the allegations.  The SEC’s order noted that the fund ultimately did not lose any money on the transaction. In late August, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against an investment adviser in connection with alleged failures to disclose a conflict of interest relating to third-party products.[61]  According to the SEC, the adviser’s retail advisory accounts were invested in third-party products that a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign bank managed.  In contravention of established practice, the adviser’s governance committee did not vote on a proposed recommendation to terminate the third-party products, and instead later permitted new adviser accounts to invest in these products.  In so doing, according to the SEC, the adviser did not disclose a conflict of interest.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the adviser agreed to pay nearly $5 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, as well as a $4 million penalty. C.   Fraud and Other Misconduct In July, the SEC charged a Connecticut-based advisory firm and its CEO with placing around $19 million of investor funds into risky investments, including into companies in which they had an ownership stake, while charging large commissions on top of those investments.[62]  The complaint further alleged that the company overbilled some of its clients by calculating fees based on the earlier value of investments that had decreased in value.  The case is being litigated. In August, a Michigan-based investment management firm and its representative settled claims that they had engaged in a cherry-picking scheme.[63]  According to the SEC, the representative disproportionately allocated profitable trades to favored accounts, including personal and family accounts, at the expense of other clients.  The firm agreed to pay $75,000, and the individual respondent agreed to pay approximately $450,000 in disgorgement and penalties and to be barred from the industry.  The following month, the SEC pursued similar cherry-picking claims against a Louisiana-based adviser and its co-founder.[64]  That case is being litigated.  According to the SEC, it was the sixth case arising out of a recent initiative to combat cherry picking. September was a particularly busy month, as the SEC settled a number of fraud-based cases with investment advisers. The SEC settled charges with two New York City-based investment advisers and their 100% owner and president.[65]  The advisers allegedly engaged in a complex scheme to conceal the loss in the value of their clients’ assets by making false statements, improperly redeeming investments, and failing to disclose a variety of conflicts of interest.  To settle the charges, the advisers agreed to jointly and severally pay disgorgement of approximately $1.85 million and a civil penalty of $600,000. Also in September, the SEC charged a hedge fund adviser and its principal with running a “short and distort” scheme, taking a short position and then making a series of false statements to shake investor confidence and lower the stock price of a publicly-traded pharmaceutical company.[66]  According to the SEC, the fund used written reports, interviews and social media to spread untrue claims, driving the stock price down by more than a third.  The matter is being litigated. Later that month, the SEC settled with an asset manager, its former president, and its former CFO.[67]  The asset manager and former president were charged with fraudulently using investor funds to purchase interests in products offered by the firm’s parent corporation to benefit the parent, at which the former president also worked.  The individuals were also charged with improperly adjusting fund returns to show more favorable results to investors.  No charges were pursued against the parent corporation because of its prompt reporting of the misconduct, extraordinary cooperation with the SEC, and the reimbursement of around $1 million to adversely impacted investors.  The company settled for more than $4.2 million in penalties and disgorgement.  The former president and CFO agreed to pay penalties, and the president also agreed to a three-year bar from the securities industry. Early in December, an investment company settled charges of improperly recording and distributing taxable dividends, when those monies should have been recorded as return of capital.[68]  According to the SEC, while the error was not quantitatively large, it impacted a key metric used by investors and analysts to evaluate performance.  The only sanction imposed was a cease-and-desist order.  The firm admitted that its conduct violated federal securities laws and consented to the imposition of the order. D.   Share Class Selection The SEC has been particularly focused on advisers which recommend mutual funds to clients without adequately disclosing the availability of less expensive share classes.  In February 2018, the Division of Enforcement announced its Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative, under which the Division agreed not to recommend financial penalties against advisers which self-report violations of the federal securities laws relating to mutual fund share class selection and promptly return money to victimized investors.  While the SEC has yet to announce any enforcement actions resulting from the self-reporting initiative, it has filed a number of actions against advisers which did not self-report such violations. In August, the SEC filed a settled administrative proceeding against a Utah-based investment adviser and broker-dealer relating to mutual fund distribution fees, known as 12b-1 fees.[69]  According to the SEC, for more than four years, the company, in its capacity as a broker-dealer, reaped compensation in the form of 12b-1 fees due to its clients’ mutual fund investments.  However, the company, in its capacity as an investment adviser, disclosed to advisory clients that it did not receive compensation from the sale of mutual funds.  In addition, the adviser recommended more expensive share classes of certain mutual funds when cheaper shares of the same funds were available.  The company agreed to pay over $150,000 to compensate advisory clients and a $50,000 civil money penalty. In mid-September, the SEC filed a settled administrative proceeding against a limited liability company in connection with 12b-1 fees.[70]  According to the SEC, for approximately three years, the adviser improperly collected 12b-1 fees from clients by recommending more expensive mutual fund share classes with 12b-1 fees when lower-cost share classes, without 12b-1 fees, were available.  Further, the SEC alleged that the adviser received, but did not disclose, compensation it received when the adviser invested its clients in certain no-transaction fee mutual funds.  The SEC acknowledged remedial acts undertaken and the company’s cooperation with the Commission.  The adviser agreed to pay over $1.3 million in disgorgement and penalties. On the same day in late December, the SEC settled two additional share class selection cases.  In the first, a Tennessee-based investment adviser settled charges in connection with the recommendation and sale of higher-fee mutual fund shares when less expensive share classes were available.[71]  The SEC alleged that for a period of approximately four years, the company’s president and investment adviser representative were the top two recipients of avoidable 12b-1 fees.  The investment adviser agreed to pay approximately $850,000 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, as well as $260,000 as a civil penalty; collectively, the two individuals agreed to pay approximately $430,000 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, in addition to $140,000 in civil penalties.  In the second case, the SEC settled charges with two investment advisers and a CEO of one of the firm on the ground that, despite the availability of less expensive share classes of the same funds, advisory clients’ funds were invested in mutual fund share classes that paid 12b-1 fees to the firms’ investment adviser representatives.[72]  In total, the investment advisers and CEO agreed to pay more than $1.8 million to settle the charges. E.   Misleading Disclosures The SEC brought a number of cases alleging misleading disclosures and omissions in the second half of 2018.  In July, the SEC announced a settlement with a California-based investment adviser and its majority owner.[73]  In the firm’s written disclosures to clients, the firm allegedly made material misstatements about the firm’s financial condition – most saliently, omitting to disclose the firm was insolvent during the relevant period and was operating on $700,000 in loans.  The SEC also alleged that the firm improperly withheld refunds of prepaid advisory fees from clients who requested via email to terminate their relationships.  The firm and its majority owner agreed to pay $100,000 and $50,000 respectively in civil monetary penalties to settle the charges. In August, the SEC settled two cases based on failures to disclose and misleading disclosures by investment advisers.  First, a Boston–based employee-owned hedge fund sponsor settled with the SEC over allegations of omissions, misrepresentations, and compliance failures relating to its practices which resulted in materially different redemption amounts when the fund lost value in a short period of time.[74]  The allegations included a failure to implement a compliance program consistent with the adviser’s obligations under the Advisers Act, a lack of disclosure to all investors of their option to redeem their investment in the fund, and inaccurate statements concerning assets in the Form ADV filed annually with the SEC.  The firm agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000. Four days later, the SEC settled with four related investment adviser entities for allegedly misleading investors through the use of faulty investment models.[75]  According to the SEC, the  quantitative investment models contained errors, and after discovering the issue the firms discontinued their use but did not disclose the errors.  The entities agreed to pay $97 million in disgorgement and penalties without admitting liability.  Two individual defendants, the former Chief Investment Officer and the former Director of New Initiatives of one of the entities, were also charged and settled with civil penalties of $65,000 and $25,000 respectively. Also in August, the SEC filed a litigated case against a Buffalo-based advisory firm and principal.[76]  According to the SEC, in anticipation of an SEC imposed bar, the owner of the firm sold the firm to his son.  Yet, after the imposition of the bar, his son failed to apprise clients of the bar and made misleading statements when clients inquired about the bar.  Moreover, the father allegedly impersonated his son when on phone calls with clients. A Massachusetts-based investment manager settled with the SEC on the final day of August.[77]  The company allegedly disseminated advertisements touting hypothetical returns based on blended research strategies while failing to disclose that some key quantitative ratings were determined using a retroactive, back-tested application of the financial model.  The company agreed to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $1.9 million to settle the allegations of violating the Advisers Act by publishing, circulating, and distributing advertisements containing misleading statements of material fact. In the first week of September, the SEC settled with a private investment firm and its managing partner for allegedly failing to provide limited partners in a fund with material information related to a change in the valuation of the fund.[78]  The respondents jointly agreed to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $200,000.  A week later, the SEC filed a lawsuit against an Indianapolis-based investment advisory firm and its sole owner for omitting to disclose that the firm and its owner would receive commissions of almost 20% on sales of securities which it encouraged its clients to buy.[79]  The latter case is being litigated. In December, the SEC settled with a California-based registered investment adviser for material misstatements and omissions in its advertising materials, allegedly inflating the results and success of the back-tested performance for one of its indexes over the course of eight years.[80]  The adviser agreed to pay a civil penalty of $175,000. And in late December, the SEC brought its first enforcement action against robo-advisers for misleading disclosures.[81]  Robo-advisers provide software-based, automated portfolio management services.  In the first robo-adviser case, the company disclosed to clients that it would monitor client accounts for “wash sales,” which could negate the tax-loss harvesting strategy it provided to clients.  According to the SEC, however, for approximately three years the adviser did not provide such monitoring, and wash sales took place in almost one-third of accounts enrolled in the tax-loss harvesting program.  This robo-adviser agreed to pay a $250,000 penalty.  In a separate case, a second robo-adviser agreed to settle charges that it provided misleading performance information on its website and social media.  According to the SEC, the company purported to show its investment performance as compared to robo-adviser competitors, but only included a small fraction of its client accounts in the comparison.  This adviser agreed to pay a $80,000 penalty to settle the matter. F.   Other Investment Adviser Issues Supervision and Oversight In August, the SEC announced a settled action against a Minnesota-based diversified financial services company that had allegedly failed to protect retail investor assets from theft by its agents.[82]  The SEC alleged that the respondents’ agents, many of whom pled guilty to criminal charges, committed fraudulent actions such as stealing client funds and forging client documents.  The company allegedly failed to adopt and implement policies and procedures reasonably designed to safeguard investor assets against misappropriation by its representatives.  The company agreed to pay a penalty of $4.5 million to settle the charges. In November, the SEC settled charges with a formerly registered investment adviser and its former CEO for negligently failing to perform adequate due diligence on certain investments.[83]  The SEC alleges that the firm failed to implement and reasonably design compliance policies and procedures which led to a failure to escalate and advise clients regarding concerns surrounding the investments, which turned out to be fraudulent.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the firm agreed to pay a $400,000 civil penalty and the CEO agreed to a $45,000 civil penalty. Cross-Trades The SEC brought a handful of cases involving cross-trades between client accounts which favored one client at the expense of another.  In August, an investment adviser settled allegations that it had engaged in mispriced cross trades that resulted in the allocation of market savings to selected clients.[84]  According to the SEC, approximately 15,000 cross trades were executed at the bid price, resulting in the allocation of market savings to the adviser’s buying clients, while depriving selling clients of market savings.  The SEC further alleged that the adviser cajoled broker-dealers into increasing the price of certain municipal bonds and executed cross trades at these inflated prices, thereby causing buying advisory clients to overpay in these transactions.  To settle the matter, the adviser agreed to reimburse its clients over $600,000, plus interest, and pay a $900,000 penalty.  The following month, the SEC instituted a similar settled administrative proceeding against a Texas-based investment adviser for failing to disclose two cross trades, causing its clients to sustain $125,000 in brokerage fees.[85] Also in September, the SEC brought a settled action against a Boston firm and one of its portfolio managers, alleging that they facilitated a number of pre-arranged cross-trades between advisory client accounts that purposefully benefited certain clients at the expense of others.[86]  In addition to paying a $1 million penalty, the company agreed to reimburse approximately $1.1 million to its harmed clients.  The former portfolio manager agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty and to submit to a nine-month suspension. Testimonial Rule Violations In July, the SEC instituted five distinct settled proceedings against two registered investment advisers, three investment adviser representatives, and one marketing consultant in connection with violations of the Testimonial Rule, which bars investment advisers from publishing testimonial advertisements.[87]  The advertisements were published on social media and YouTube.  The civil penalties ranged from $10,000 to $35,000 for each of the individuals. In September, a Kansas-based investment adviser and its president/majority owner agreed to settle charges in connection with violations of the Testimonial Rule and ethics violations.[88]  The SEC alleges that the investment adviser broadcast advertisements through the radio, and one of the radio hosts later became a client and broadcast his experience.  According to the SEC, the investment adviser contravened its policies by not monitoring the radio coverage.  The firm agreed to pay a civil penalty of $200,000.  Separately, the company’s president/majority owner violated the company’s code of ethics by not reporting transactions in brokerage accounts held for the benefit of his family.  He agreed to pay a civil penalty of $50,000. Pay To Play Abuses There were two “pay to play” cases settled on the same day in July.  In the first matter, the SEC alleged that three associates of a California-based investment adviser made campaign contributions to candidates who had the ability to decide on the investment advisers for public pension plans.[89]  Within two years of the contributions, in contravention of the Advisers Act, the investment adviser received compensation in connection with advising the public pension plans.  The investment adviser agreed to pay a civil penalty of $100,000.  In the other case, the SEC alleged that the firm’s associates made contributions in a number of states, and the investment adviser similarly received payment to advise public pension plans in those states.[90]  The investment adviser agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty to settle the charges. Custody Rule Compliance The second half of the year entailed two Custody Rule cases against New York-based investment advisory firms.  Neither firm distributed annual audited financial statements in a timely fashion.  In the July matter, the SEC also alleged that the investment adviser lacked policies and procedures to preclude violations of the Advisers Act.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the adviser agreed to pay a $75,000 civil penalty.[91]  In the September matter, the SEC also alleged that the firm violated the Compliance Rule by failing to review its policies and procedures on an annual basis.[92]  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the adviser agreed to pay $65,000 as a civil penalty. IV.   Brokers and Financial Institutions A.   Supervisory Controls and Internal Systems Deficiencies In the latter half of 2018, the SEC brought a number of cases relating to failures of supervisory controls and internal systems – an increase in this area over the first half of the year.  As part of its ongoing initiative into American Depositary Receipt (“ADR”) practices, the SEC brought numerous cases relating to the handling of ADRs—U.S. securities that represent foreign shares of a foreign company and require corresponding foreign shares to be held in custody at a depositary bank.  In July, the SEC announced settled charges against two U.S. based-subsidiaries, a broker-dealer and a depositary bank, of an international financial institution alleging improper ADR handling that led to facilitating inappropriate short selling and profits.[93]  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the subsidiaries agreed to pay $75 million in disgorgement and penalties.  In September, the SEC brought settled charges against a broker-dealer and subsidiary of a French financial institution; the broker-dealer agreed to pay approximately $800,000 in disgorgement and penalties without admitting or denying the findings.[94]  In December, the SEC settled charges against a depositary bank; the bank agreed to pay $38 million in disgorgement and penalties without admitting or denying the findings. [95] And finally, also in December, the SEC brought settled charges in two cases for providing ADRs to brokers when neither the broker nor its customer owned the corresponding foreign shares.  In the first December case, the SEC settled charges with a depositary bank headquartered in New York; the bank agreed to disgorgement, interest, and penalties of approximately $55 million without admitting or denying the charges.[96]  In the second case, the SEC settled charges with another depositary bank, a subsidiary of a large New York financial services firm.[97]  The SEC’s order alleged that the improper ADR handling led to inappropriate short selling and dividend arbitrage.  The firm agreed to pay over $135 million in disgorgement, and penalties without admitting or denying the charges. In addition to the ADR cases, the SEC also brought supervision cases for the failure to safeguard customer information and for the failure to supervise representatives who sold unsuitable products.  In July, the SEC brought settled charges against an international investment banking firm for failing to maintain and enforce policies and procedures designed to protect confidential customer information, including the failure to maintain effective information barriers.[98]  The SEC’s order alleged that traders at the bank regularly disclosed material nonpublic customer stock buyback information to other traders and hedge fund clients; the bank agreed to a $1.25 million penalty without admitting or denying the charges.  In September, the SEC announced settled charges against a New York-based broker-dealer and two of its executives for failure to supervise representatives in sales of a leveraged exchange-traded note (“ETN”) linked to oil.[99]  The SEC’s order alleged that the broker-dealer’s representatives did not reasonably research or understand the risks of the ETN or the index it tracked.  The broker-dealer agreed to pay over $500,000 in penalties, interest, and customer disgorgement without admitting or denying the charges, and the two executives agreed to penalties as well as a 12-month supervisory suspension.  The broker who recommended the largest number of ETN sales also agreed to a penalty of $250,000. Along with the supervisory cases described above, the SEC also brought a few cases relating to internal controls.  In August, the SEC announced settled charges in two cases against a large financial institution and two subsidiary broker-dealers involving books and records, internal accounting controls, and trader supervision.[100]  The charges in one action related to losses due to trader mismarking and unauthorized proprietary trading, which the SEC alleged were not discovered earlier due to a failure to supervise.  In the second action, the SEC alleged that the bank lacked controls necessary to prevent certain fraudulent loans. The financial institution and subsidiaries agreed to pay over $10 million without admitting or denying the allegations. Also in August, the SEC initiated settled proceedings against a credit ratings agency for alleged internal controls deficiencies relating to a purported failure to consistently apply credit ratings symbols which were used in models used to rate residential mortgage backed securities.[101]  The ratings agency agreed to pay over $16 million without admitting or denying the allegations. B.   Anti-Money Laundering As in the first half of the year, the SEC continued to bring a number of cases in the anti-money laundering (“AML”) area, all relating to the failure to file suspicious activity reports (“SARs”).  The Bank Secrecy Act requires broker-dealers to file SARs to report transactions suspected to involve fraud or with no apparent lawful purpose. In July, the SEC announced the settlement with a national broker-dealer relating to the failure to file SARs on the transactions of independent investment advisers that it had terminated.[102]  The broker-dealer agreed to pay a $2.8 million penalty to settle the action, without admitting or denying the charges.  Similarly, in September, the SEC instituted a settled administrative proceeding against a New York brokerage firm for failing to file SARs relating to a number of terminated investment advisers.[103]  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the firm agreed to pay a penalty of $500,000; the SEC’s Order noted that the settlement took into account remedial acts undertaken by the firm.  Also in September, the SEC settled charges against a clearing firm for failure to file SARs relating to suspicious penny stock trades.[104]  As part of the settlement, the clearing firm agreed to pay a penalty of $800,000 without admitting or denying the allegations, and also agreed that it would no longer sell penny stocks deposited at the firm. In December, the SEC brought settled charges against a broker-dealer alleging that during the period 2011-2013 it neglected to monitor certain movements of funds through customers’ accounts and to properly review suspicious transactions flagged by its internal monitoring systems.[105]  The firm agreed to pay a $5 million penalty to resolve the charges, as well as a $10 million penalty to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to resolve parallel charges.  The broker-dealer did not admit or deny the SEC’s allegations except to the extent they appeared in the settlement with FinCEN. Also In December, the SEC announced settled charges against a broker-dealer for the failure to file SARs concerning over $40 million in suspicious wire transfers made by one customer in connection with a payday lending scam.[106]  The firm agreed to certain undertakings, including the hiring of an independent compliance consultant, without admitting or denying the allegations.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also instituted a settled civil forfeiture action against the broker-dealer in which it paid $400,000; the U.S. Attorney’s Office additionally entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the firm. C.   Market Abuse Cases In the second half of 2018, the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit was involved in bringing three cases relating to “dark pools” (i.e., private exchanges) and the use and execution of customer orders.  In September, the SEC announced settled charges against a large financial institution relating to alleged misrepresentations in connection with the operation of a dark pool by one of its affiliates.[107]  The SEC alleged that the firm misled customers relating to high-frequency trading taking place in the pool and also failed to disclose that over half of the orders routed to the dark pool were executed in other trading venues.  The firm and its affiliate agreed to pay over $12 million in disgorgement and penalties without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations. Also in September, the SEC, together with the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”), brought settled charges against an investment bank relating to the execution of customer orders by one of its desks responsible for handling order flow for retail investors.[108]  The SEC alleged that while the firm promoted the desk’s access to dark pool liquidity, a minimal number of orders were executed in dark pools; additionally, the firm allegedly failed to disclose that retail customers did not receive price improvement on non-reportable orders.  The firm agreed to pay a total of $10 million ($5 million to the SEC and $5 million to the NYAG) without admitting or denying the allegations. And in November, the SEC brought charges against a financial technology company and its affiliate for misstatements and omissions relating to the operation of the firm’s dark pool.[109]  The SEC alleged that the firm failed to safeguard subscribers’ confidential trading information despite assuring firm clients that it would do so, and also did not disclose certain structural features of the dark pool to clients.  The firm and its affiliate agreed to pay a $12 million penalty to settle the charges without admitting or denying the allegations. D.   Books and Records In July, the SEC brought settled charges against a New York-based broker-dealer relating to its failure to preserve records.[110]  The SEC alleged that the broker-dealer deleted audio files after receiving a document request from the Division of Enforcement (because the department responsible for the files was unaware of the request), and also failed to maintain books and records that accurately recorded expenses.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the firm agreed to pay a penalty of $1.25 million. In September, the SEC announced charges against a broker-dealer for providing the SEC with incomplete and deficient securities trading information known as “blue sheet data” used by the SEC in its investigations.[111]  The SEC’s order alleged that approximately 29% of the broker-dealer’s blue sheet submissions over a four-year time period contained deficiencies due to coding errors.  The broker-dealer admitted the findings in the SEC’s Order and agreed to pay a $2.75 million penalty to settled the charges.  In December, the SEC instituted settled administrative proceedings against three broker-dealers for recordkeeping violations in another matter relating to deficient blue sheet data submissions.[112]  The SEC’s Orders noted that as a result largely of undetected coding errors, the three firms submitted blue sheet data that continued various inaccuracies.  The three broker-dealers admitted the findings in the SEC’s Orders and agreed to pay penalties totaling approximately $6 million.  The SEC’s Orders noted the remedial efforts undertaken by the firms, including the retention of an outside consultant and the adoption of new policies and procedures for processing blue sheet requests. E.   Individual Brokers Finally, in addition to its cases involving large financial institutions, the SEC brought a number of cases against individual broker-dealer representatives.  In September, the SEC filed complaints against two brokers in New York and Florida for excessive trading in retail customer accounts which generated large commissions for the brokers but caused losses for their customers.[113]  The case is being litigated. Also in September, the SEC filed a complaint against a broker for a cherry-picking scheme in which the broker allegedly misused his access to an allocation account to cherry pick profitable trades for his own account while placing unprofitable trades in customer accounts.[114]  The SEC noted that it uncovered the alleged fraud using data analysis.  The case is being litigated, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced parallel criminal charges. Finally, in December, the SEC settled with a self-employed trader (and entities that he owned and controlled) for violations of Rule 105 of Regulation M, which prohibits a person from purchasing an equity security during the restricted period of an offering where that person has sold short the same security.[115]  The SEC’s Order alleged that the trader violated Rule 105 by effecting short sales during restricted periods and mismarking short sales as “long sales” in a total of 116 offerings.  The trader agreed to pay disgorgement, interest, and penalties total approximately $1.1 million without admitting or denying the charges V.   Insider Trading A.   Cases Against Corporate Insiders Corporate Executives July was a busy month for corporate executives accused of insider trading and tipping.  First, the SEC charged the former CEO of a New Jersey-based payment processing company and his romantic partner in an insider trading scheme that leveraged nonpublic information about the potential acquisition of his company by another payment processing company.[116]  On the CEO’s instructions and with his funds, the romantic partner opened a brokerage account and used almost $1 million of the funds to purchase stock in the target company.  According to the SEC, the pair generated $250,000 in profits after the merger was announced.  The case is being litigated. The SEC also settled with a former VP of Investor Relations at a company operating country clubs and sports clubs alleged to have traded in his company’s stock after learning that it was negotiating to be acquired.[117]  After receiving an inquiry from FINRA, the officer resigned from the company and retained counsel who reported the misconduct to the SEC and provided them substantiating documentation.  In return, the SEC agreed to a settlement that involved disgorgement of his profits of approximately $78,000 and a civil penalty equal to about one-half of the disgorgement amount. Later in July, the SEC sued a senior executive at a Silicon Valley tech company for allegedly short selling as well as selling stock in his company ahead of three different quarterly announcements that the company was likely going to miss its revenue guidance.[118]  According to the SEC, the executive made nearly $200,000 in profits from these trades.  Without admitting wrongdoing, the executive agreed to disgorge his profits and pay a corresponding civil penalty, and to bebarred from acting as an officer or director of a public company for five years.  The SEC noted that it had utilized data analysis from its Market Abuse Unit’s Analysis and Detection Center to detect suspicious trading patterns in advance of earnings announcements over time. And at the end of July, the SEC sued a VP of Finance who learned from a senior executive at his company that a Chinese investment group might acquire the company.[119]  While preparing financial projections and conducting diligence, the VP allegedly used his spouse’s brokerage account to purchase shares of his company.  When it became public that his company had rejected the Chinese investment group’s offer in the hopes of receiving a higher price, the company’s share increased 24%, resulting in the VP earning nearly $90,000.  Without admitting liability, the officer agreed to disgorgement of his gains and a corresponding civil penalty. In August, the SEC charged a former biotech executive and others with participating in a scheme that generated $1.5 million of profits by trading ahead of the announcement of a licensing agreement between his company and another large pharmaceutical company.[120]  According to the complaint, the executive informed a friend of the license agreement.  The friend then tipped a former day trader, who, in connection with an insider-trading ring, purchased stock and options and made $1.5 million in illegal profits when the agreement was announced and the company’s stock price jumped 38 percent.  In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey charged the day trader and four members of his group with illegal insider trading ahead of secondary public stock offerings. All five defendants have pled guilty to the parallel criminal charges; the four members of the insider-trading ring other than the trader have agreed to partial settlements with the SEC for conduct including their trading on the license agreement, with potential monetary sanctions to be determined at a later date.  The SEC is continuing a previous action against the trader for alleged insider trading ahead of the secondary stock offerings. In August, the SEC sued a former Sales VP at a cemetery and funeral home operator for allegedly benefiting from confidential information obtained through his employer.[121]  After learning about a substantial decline in sales that would necessitate a reduction in the company’s distribution payments, the executive sold all of his shares in the company.  As part of a settlement, the executive agreed to pay disgorgement and a civil penalty. Also in August, the SEC settled charges against a former executive of a cloud security and services company.[122]  According to the SEC, the executive informed his two brothers, to whom he had gifted stock in the past, that the company would miss its revenue guidance, and contacted his brothers’ brokerage firm to coordinate the sale of all of their stock.  When the negative news was announced, the stock price dropped significantly and the brothers collectively avoided losses of over $580,000.  Under the terms of his settlement, the former executive will be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for two years and will pay a $581,170 penalty. In September, the SEC brought a settled action against a former executive at a mortgage servicing company.[123]  The SEC alleged that the executive engaged in insider trading surrounding three separate events, including the resolution of litigation and a CFPB enforcement action against the company, as well as negotiations to sell the company. Without admitting or denying the allegations, the executive agreed to disgorge his ill-gotten gains of almost $65,000 and to pay a penalty equal to the disgorgement amount. In October, the SEC charged a company’s former Director of SEC Reporting with trading ahead of a corporate acquisition.[124]  The complaint alleged that the individual bought call options and stock in a company targeted for acquisition by a subsidiary of the company. The matter is being litigated. In November, the acquisition of two health care networks by a large health care company led to two separate misappropriation cases.  The SEC charged a man with insider trading based on information he misappropriated from his wife, a human resources executive at the acquiring company, about the planned acquisitions.[125]  According the SEC, the man overheard his wife’s phone calls while she was working at home.  The husband agreed to pay disgorgement of about $64,000 and a penalty of $72,144.  The SEC also settled an insider trading charge against a man alleged to have misappropriated information from his brother, an executive at one of the target companies.[126]  According to the SEC, the insider had shared the information in confidence at a family holiday party.  The trader agreed to pay disgorgement and penalties totaling about $40,000. Board Members In a high profile case involving drug trials, the SEC and DOJ filed parallel charges for insider trading against a U.S. Congressman, his son, and a host of other individuals.[127]  According to the SEC’s complaint, the Congressman learned of negative drug trial results through his seat on a biotech company’s board.  The Congressman allegedly provided his son the inside information, who then told a third individual.  Over the next few days, the Congressman’s son, the third individual, and a number of their friends and family members sold over a million shares of the biotech company’s stock, which plummeted more than 92 percent following the announcement of the negative results.  As a result of the trading, the Congressman’s son and the third individual avoided approximately $700,000 in losses.  Two of the individuals sued ultimately settled with the SEC without admitting or denying the charges, agreeing to disgorge their gains totaling approximately $35,000 and to pay a matching civil penalty.  The SEC’s cases against the Congressmen, his son, and a third individual are ongoing. In August, the SEC sued the son of a bank board member who learned of the bank’s potential acquisition by another bank from his father prior to the acquisition’s public announcement.[128]  The son realized approximately $40,000 in gains after the acquisition became public.  Without admitting or denying the charges, the son agreed to disgorge the gains and to pay a matching civil penalty. Employee Insiders In July, the SEC sued a former financial analyst at a medical waste disposal company and his mother for trading on inside information that the company would miss its revenue guidance.[129]  Following the company’s earnings announcement, its stock fell 22%, resulting in the analyst and his mother avoiding losses and earning profits of approximately $330,000.  Both the analyst and his mother agreed to settle the case without admitting liability.  They will be required to disgorge their profits and pay a civil penalty in amounts to be later determined by the court. Also in July, in the second SEC case arising out of the Equifax data breach, the SEC charged a software engineer tasked with constructing a website for consumers who were impacted by the data breach for trading the company’s stock before the data breach was publicly disclosed .[130]  The engineer was fired after refusing to cooperate with the company’s investigation, though he and the SEC ultimately settled the case.  As part of that settlement, the engineer was ordered to disgorge $75,000 in profits.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office also filed criminal charges against the engineer. The SEC also filed a number of cases involving corporate scientists.  In July, the SEC charged a scientist at a California biotech company for trading based on positive developments in a genetic sequencing platform.[131]  According to the SEC, the scientist traded during company trading blackouts, in a brokerage account not disclosed to his employer.  He settled the case, agreeing to disgorge approximately $40,000 in profits and paying a similar civil penalty.  In August, the SEC filed suit against a scientist who learned that his healthcare diagnostics company was about to acquire another company in a tender offer.[132]  On the date the acquisition was announced, his company’s stock increased 176%.  As part of the settlement, the scientist agreed to disgorge $14,000 in profits and pay a corresponding civil penalty.  And in a third case, the SEC settled with a scientist at a pharmaceutical company for allegedly trading in advance of positive results of a clinical trial.[133]  The scientist agreed to disgorgement of $134,000, but based on her voluntarily coming forward and reporting her improper trades, the SEC agreed to a reduced penalty of $67,000. The SEC brought charges in August against an in-house attorney for a shipping company who traded on inside information that his company had entered into a strategic partnership with a private equity fund.[134]  As part of a settlement, he was ordered to disgorge nearly $30,000 in profits with a matching civil penalty. And in September, the SEC charged a former professional motorcycle racer handling promotional activities for a beverage company, as well as his father, family friend, and investment adviser, with insider trading for tipping and trading ahead of an impending deal with a large beverage company.[135]  According to the SEC, after the racer had learned a significant deal was imminent, the four individuals collectively purchased over $770,000 in stock and options, in certain instances borrowing funds for the purchases.  Following the announcement, they made over $283,000 in trading profits. Without admitting or denying the findings, the individuals agreed to disgorge ill-gotten gains and to pay civil penalties. B.   Misappropriation by Investment Professionals and Other Advisors Several deal advisors, including bankers, corporate advisors, and accountants, were charged with insider trading by the SEC.  In August, the SEC charged a professional football player and a former investment banker with insider trading in advance of corporate acquisitions.[136]  The SEC alleges that after meeting at a party, the player began receiving illegal tips, facilitated through coded text messages and FaceTime conversations, from the banker about upcoming corporate mergers.  The player allegedly made $1.2 million in illegal profits by purchasing securities in companies that were soon to be acquired, in one instance generating a nearly 400 percent return.  In return, he is alleged to have rewarded the analyst by setting up an online brokerage account that both men could access, by providing cash kickbacks, free NFL tickets, and an evening on the set of a pop star’s music video in which the player made a cameo appearance.  The SEC action is being litigated; both men have pled guilty to related criminal charges.  In November, the SEC also charged a family friend of the banker in connection with the same scheme.[137]  The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced parallel criminal charges against this individual. In September, the SEC filed insider trading charges against a corporate deal advisor for trading in securities of two China-based companies based on confidential information about their impending acquisitions.[138]  According to the SEC, the individual, who had been providing advice to the acquiring companies, opened a brokerage account in his wife’s name and used that account to generate more than $79,500 in trading profits. That same executive later became a director at a Hong Kong-based investment banking firm.  In connection with advising a client on an acquisition of its rival, he was alleged to have again used his wife’s brokerage account to buy high risk call options, which he sold after news of the acquisition for profits of more than $94,400. The case is being litigated. And in December, the SEC charged an individual with misappropriating information from his fiancé, an investment banker working on a merger between two airline companies.[139]   According to the SEC, the trader overheard calls his now-wife made at home on nights and weekends, purchasing call options in the target company and netting approximately $250,000 in profits.  Without admitting or denying liability, the trader agreed to disgorge his profits and pay a matching penalty. Also in December, the SEC alleged that an IT contractor working at an investment bank had traded, and tipped his wife and father, based on information he’d learned from the bank.[140] According to the SEC, the three collectively reaped approximately $600,000 in profits by trading in advance of at least 40 corporate events.  The SEC obtained a court-ordered freeze of assets in multiple brokerage accounts connected to the alleged trading. The SEC brought several cases against accountants and their tippees.  In August, the SEC brought a settled action against a CPA who learned of an acquisition through his work as an accountant providing tax advice to a private company owned by a member of one of the companies.[141]  The individual agreed to disgorge his profits of approximately $8,000 and pay a matching civil penalty. Also that month, the SEC sued a former director of a major accounting and auditing firm for trading ahead of a merger between two of the firm’s clients.[142]  According to the SEC, after learning of the planned merger, the director used a relative’s account to purchase call options, which increased in value by about $150,000 following announcement of the merger.  Though the director later allowed the options to expire without selling or exercising them, he did not inform his employer that he controlled the account when the relative’s name appeared on a list of individuals in connection with a FINRA investigation into suspect trading.  Without admitting liability, the director agreed to pay a $150,500 penalty and to be barred from appearing and practicing before the SEC as an accountant for two years. The SEC brought several other cases involving misappropriation by industry professionals.  In July 2018, the SEC settled charges against a broker who traded ahead of a multi-billion dollar acquisition.[143]  According to the SEC, the broker misappropriated the information from a friend who was a certified public accountant providing personal tax advice to a senior executive at the company being acquired, and who had shared the information in confidence.  Without admitting liability, he agreed to disgorgement of his nearly $90,000 in profits, a comparable civil penalty, and debarment from being a broker.  And in September, the SEC settled a claim against a CPA and a doctor for allegedly trading while in possession of confidential information regarding an impending acquisition.[144]  According to the SEC, the CPA misappropriated the information from a friend who worked at one of the companies. The SEC alleges that after the CPA shared the information with the doctor, both purchased call options in the target company.  Both the CPA and doctor agreed to pay disgorgement and civil penalties. VI.   Municipal Securities and Public Finance Cases With the SEC’s Municipalities Continuing Disclosure (MCDC) Initiative (which as noted above generated  a significant number of cases) completed, the SEC’s Public Finance Abuse Unit returned to its traditionally slower pace, filing just a few cases in the latter half of the year. In August, the SEC charged two firms and 18 individuals with participating in a municipal bond “flipping” scheme (i.e. improperly obtaining new bond allocations from brokers and reselling to broker-dealers for a fee.[145]  According to the SEC, the firms and their principals used false identities to pose as retail investors in order to receive priority from the bond underwriters, and then resold the bonds to brokers for a pre-arranged commission.  The SEC also charged a municipal underwriter with taking kickbacks as part of the scheme.  Most of the parties settled (with sanctions including disgorgement, penalties, and industry bars and suspensions), but aspects of the case are being litigated as well.  The SEC filed another settled case for municipal bond flipping in December.[146] In September, the SEC instituted a settled action against a municipal adviser and its principal for failing to register as municipal advisor and failing to disclose its nonregistration to a school district to which it provided services.[147]  The firm and its principal agreed to pay about $50,000 in disgorgement and penalties, and the principal agreed to be barred from the securities industry. [1]      Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18965, In re Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (Dec. 31, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/33-10601.pdf. [2]      Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18966, In re Katz, Sapper & Miller, LLP (Jan. 9, 2019), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2019/34-84980.pdf. [3]      See SEC Press Release, SEC Enforcement Division Issues Report on FY 2018 Results (Nov. 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-250; and accompanying Annual Report at www.sec.gov/files/enforcement-annual-report-2018.pdf. [4]      For more on Kokesh, see Gibson Dunn Client Alert, United States Supreme Court Limits SEC Power to Seek Disgorgement Based on Stale Conduct (June 5, 2017), available at www.gibsondunn.com/united-states-supreme-court-limits-sec-power-to-seek-disgorgement-based-on-stale-conduct/. [5]      For more on Lucia, see Gibson Dunn Client Alert, Supreme Court Rules That SEC ALJs Were Unconstitutionally Appointed (June 21, 2018), available at www.gibsondunn.com/supreme-court-rules-that-sec-aljs-were-unconstitutionally-appointed. [6]      Whistleblower Program, 2018 Annual Report to Congress, available at www.sec.gov/files/sec-2018-annual-report-whistleblower-program.pdf. [7]      SEC Press Release, SEC Awards more Than $54 Million to Two Whistleblowers (Sept. 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-179. [8]      SEC Press Release, Whistleblower Receives Award of Approximately $1.5 Million (Sept. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-194. [9]      SEC Press Release, SEC Awards Almost $4 Million to Overseas Whistleblower (Sept. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-209. [10]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Firm with Deficient Cybersecurity Procedures (Sept. 26, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-213. [11]     SEC Press Release, SEC Investigative Report: Public Companies Should Consider Cyber Threats When Implementing Internal Controls (Oct. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-236. [12]     For further discussion, see Gibson Dunn Client Alert, SEC Warns Public Companies on Cyber-Fraud Controls (Oct. 27, 2018), available at www.gibsondunn.com/sec-warns-public-companies-on-cyber-fraud-controls/. [13]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges ICO Superstore and Owners with Operating as Unregistered Broker-Dealers (Sept. 11, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-185. [14]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Digital Asset Hedge Fund Manager with Misrepresentations and Registration Failures (Sept. 11, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-186. [15]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges EtherDelta Founder with Operating an Unregistered Exchange (Nov. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-258. [16]     SEC Press Release, Two ICO Issuers Settle SEC Registration Charges, Agree to Register Tokens as Securities (Nov. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-264. [17]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18906, In re Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Nov. 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/33-10578.pdf; SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18907, In re Khaled Khaled (Nov. 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/33-10579.pdf. [18]     SEC Press Release, SEC Suspends Trading in Company for Making False Cryptocurrency-Related Claims about SEC Regulation and Registration (Oct. 22, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-242. [19]     SEC Press Release, SEC Stops Fraudulent ICO That Falsely Claimed SEC Approval (Oct. 11, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-232. [20]     R. Todd, Judge to SEC: You Haven’t Shown This ICO Is a Security Offering, The Recorder (Nov. 27, 2018), available at www.law.com/therecorder/2018/11/27/judge-to-sec-this-ico-isnt-a-security-offering/. [21]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Bitcoin-Funded Securities Dealer and CEO (Sept. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-218. [22]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18582, SEC Charges Pipe Manufacturer and Former CFO with Reporting and Accounting Violations (July 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10517-s. [23]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Telecommunications Expense Management Company with Accounting Fraud (Sept. 4, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-175. [24]     SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Outsourced CFO with Accounting Controls Deficiencies (Sept. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24265.htm.  [25]     SEC Press Release, Business Services Company and Former CFO Charged With Accounting Fraud (Sept. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-205. [26]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18816, Pipeline Construction Company Settles Charges Relating to Internal Control Failures (Sept. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84251-s. [27]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Salix Pharmaceuticals and Former CFO With Lying About Distribution Channel (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-221. [28]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18891, Tobacco Company Settles Accounting and Internal Control Charges (Nov. 9, 2016), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84562-s.  For a description of the company’s remedial measures, see www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84562.pdf.  [29]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Agria Corporation and Executive Chairman With Fraud (Dec. 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-276. [30]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges The Hain Celestial Group with Internal Controls Failures (Dec. 11, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-277. [31]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18932, SEC Charges Santander Consumer for Accounting and Internal Control Failures (Dec. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84829-s. [32]     SEC Press Release, Public Companies Charged with Failing to Comply with Quarterly Reporting Obligations (Sept. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-207. [33]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges KBR for Inflating Key Performance Metric and Accounting Controls Deficiencies (July 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-127. [34]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Cloud Communications Company and Two Senior Executives With Misleading Revenue Projections (Aug. 7, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-150. [35]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Former Online Marketing Company Executives With Inflating Operating Metrics (Aug. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-161. [36]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18819, SEC Charges Payment Processing Company and Former CEO for Overstating Key Operating Metric (Sept. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10558-s. [37]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18955, In re ADT Inc. (Dec. 26, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84956.pdf. [38]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18570, Dow Chemical Agrees to $1.75 Million Penalty and Independent Consultant for Failing to Disclose Perquisites (July 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-83581-s. [39]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Oil Company CEO, Board Member With Hiding Personal Loans (July 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-133. [40]     SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Real Estate Investment Funds and Executives for Misleading Investors (July 3, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24185.htm. [41]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18770, SEC Charges Arizona Company And Two Senior Executives In Connection With Misleading Disclosures About Material Contract (Sept. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10550-s. [42]     SEC Press Release, SeaWorld and Former CEO to Pay More Than $5 Million to Settle Fraud Charges (Sept. 18, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-198. [43]     SEC Press Release, Biopharmaceutical Company, Executives Charged With Misleading Investors About Cancer Drug (Sept. 18, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-199. [44]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Walgreens and Two Former Executives With Misleading Investors About  Forecasted Earnings Goal (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-220. [45]     SEC Press Release, Elon Musk Settles SEC Fraud Charges; Tesla Charged With and Resolves Securities Law Charge (Sept. 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-226. [46]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18838, In re Lichter, Yu and Associates, Inc. et al. (Sept. 25, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84281.pdf. [47]     SEC Press Release, SEC Suspends Former BDO Accountants for Improperly “Predating” Audit Work Papers (Oct. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-235. [48]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Audit Firm and Suspends Accountants for Deficient Audits (Dec. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-302. [49]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18856, SEC Charges Drone Seller for Failing to Ensure Accuracy of Financial Statement in Advance of Planned IPO (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10564-s. [50]     SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Medical Aesthetics Company and Its Former CEO with Misleading Investors in a $60 Million Stock Offering (Sept. 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24275.htm. [51]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Giga Entertainment Media, Former Officers and Directors with Fraud in Pay-For-Download Campaign (Nov. 15, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-263. [52]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18901, SEC Charges San Jose Investment Adviser for Overcharging Fees (Nov. 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5065-s. [53]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18909, Investment Adviser Settles Charges Related to Expense Misallocation and Valuation Review Failures (Dec. 3, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10581-s. [54]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18926, SEC Charges Milwaukee-Based Advisory Firm for Receiving Undisclosed Compensation on Client Transactions (Dec. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84807-s. [55]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18935, SEC Charges Private Equity Fund Adviser for Overcharging Expenses (Dec. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5079-s. [56]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18930, SEC Settles with Investment Adviser Who Failed to Disclose Conflicts of Interest and Misallocated Expenses (Dec. 13, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5074-s. [57]     Admin Proc. File No. 3-18958, In re Lightyear Capital LLC (Dec. 26, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-5096.pdf. [58]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18638, SEC Charges Investment Adviser for Compliance Failures Relating to Wrap Fee Programs (Aug. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4984-s. [59]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18730, SEC Charges Investment Adviser for Failing to Fully Disclose Affiliate Compensation Arrangement (Sept. 7, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5002-s. [60]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18604, In re Michael Devlin (July 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4973.pdf. [61]     SEC Press Release, Merrill Lynch Settles SEC Charges of Undisclosed Conflict in Advisory Decision (Aug. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-159. [62]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Investment Adviser and CEO with Misleading Retail Investors (July 18, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-137. [63]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18649, In re Roger T. Denha (Aug. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-83873.pdf; Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18648, In re BKS Advisors LLC (Aug. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4987.pdf. [64]     SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Investment Adviser and Senior Officers with Defrauding Clients (Sept. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24278.htm. [65]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18724, In re Mark R. Graham et al. (Sept. 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-5000.pdf. [66]     SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser with Short-And-Distort Scheme (Sept. 13, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24267.htm. [67]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges LendingClub Asset Management and Former Executives With Misleading Investors and Breaching Fiduciary Duty (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-223. [68]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18912, In re KCAP Financial, Inc. (Dec. 4, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84718.pdf. [69]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18673, In re First Western Advisors (Aug. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-83934.pdf. [70]     Admin. Proc. File 3-18765, In re Capital Analysts, LLC (Sept. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-5009.pdf. [71]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18952, SEC Charges Tennessee Investment Advisory Firm and Two Advisory Representatives with Steering Clients to Higher-Fee Mutual Fund Share Classes (Dec. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84918-s. [72]     SEC Press Release, Two Advisory Firms, CEO Charged With Mutual Fund Share Class Disclosure Violations (Dec. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-303. [73]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18607, SEC Charges Beverly Hills Investment Adviser for Improper Fees and False Filings (July 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4975-s. [74]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18657, In re Aria Partners GP, LLC (Aug. 22, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4991.pdf. [75]     SEC Press Release, Transamerica Entities to Pay $97 Million to Investors Relating to Errors in Quantitative Investment Models (Aug. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-167. [76]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Buffalo Advisory Firm and Principal With Fraud Relating to Association With Barred Adviser (Aug. 30, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-172.  [77]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18704, In re Mass. Financial Services Co. (Aug. 31, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4999.pdf. [78]     Admin. Proc. File No 3-18729, In re VSS Fund Mmgt. LLC and Jeffrey T. Stevenson (Sept. 7, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-5001.pdf. [79]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Investment Advisers With Defrauding Retail Advisory Clients (Sept. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-195. [80]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18948, In re Sterling Global Strategies LLC (Dec. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-5085.pdf. [81]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Two Robo-Advisers With False Disclosures (Dec. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-300. [82]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Ameriprise Financial Services for Failing to Safeguard Client Assets (Aug. 15, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-154. [83]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18884, SEC Charges Advisory Firm With Due Diligence and Monitoring Failures (Nov. 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5061-s. [84]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18636, SEC Charges Investment Adviser With Mispricing Cross Trades Between Clients (Aug. 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4983-s. [85]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18767, In re Cushing Asset Management, LP (Sept. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ic-33226.pdf. [86]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18844, SEC Orders Putnam to Pay $1 Million Penalty, Suspends and Fines Former Portfolio Manager for Prearranged Cross-Trades (Sept. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5050-s. [87]     Admin. Proc. File Nos. 3-18586, 3-18587, 3-18588, 3-18589, 3-18590, SEC Charges Investment Advisers and Representatives for Violating the Testimonial Rule Using Social Media and the Internet (July 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/3-18586-90-s. [88]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18779, Investment Adviser and Its President Settle Charges for Testimonial Rule and Code of Ethics Violations (Sept. 18, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5035-s. [89]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18585, In re Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. (July 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4960.pdf. [90]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18584, In re EnCap Investments L.P. (July 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4959.pdf.    [91]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18599, Investment Adviser Settles Charges for Custody Rule Violations (July 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4970-s. [92]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18837, Investment Adviser Settles Charges for Custody Rule and Compliance Rule Violations (Sept. 25, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-5047-s. [93]     SEC Press Release, Deutsche Bank to Pay Nearly $75 Million for Improper Handling of ADRs (Jul. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-138. [94]     SEC Press Release, SG Americas Securities Charged for Improper Handling of ADRs (Sept. 25, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-211. [95]     SEC Press Release, Citibank to Pay More Than $38 Million for Improper Handling of ADRs (Nov. 7, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-255. [96]     Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18933, In re Bank of New York Mellon (Dec. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/33-10586.pdf. [97]     SEC Press Release, JPMorgan to Pay More Than $135 Million for Improper Handling of ADRs (Dec. 26, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-306. [98]     SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Mizuho Securities for Failure to Safeguard Customer Information (Jul. 23, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-140. [99]     SEC Press Release, SEC Obtains Relief to Fully Reimburse Retail Investors Sold Unsuitable Product (Sept. 11, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-184. [100]   SEC Press Release, Citigroup to Pay More Than $10 Million for Books and Records Violations and Inadequate Controls (Aug. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-155-0. [101]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Moody’s With Internal Controls Failures and Ratings Symbols Deficiencies (Aug. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-169. [102]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Charles Schwab with Failing to Report Suspicious Transactions (Jul. 9, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24189.htm. [103]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18829, In the Matter of TD Ameritrade, Inc. (Sept. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84269.pdf. [104]   SEC Press Release, Brokerage Firm to Exit Penny stock Deposit Business and Pay Penalty for Repeatedly Failing to Report Suspicious Trading (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-225. [105]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18931, SEC Charges UBS Financial Services Inc. with Anti-Money Laundering Violations (Dec. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84828-s. [106]   Admin. Proc. File No. 30-18940, Broker-Dealer Settles Anti-Money Laundering Charges (Dec. 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84851-s. [107]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Citigroup for Dark Pool Misrepresentations (Sept. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-193. [108]   SEC Press Release, Credit Suisse Agrees to Pay $10 Million to Settle Charges Related to Handling of Retail Customer Orders (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-224. [109]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges ITG With Misleading Dark Pool Subscribers (Nov. 7, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-256. [110]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges BCG Financial for Failure to Preserve Documents and Maintain Accurate Books and Records (Jul. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-134. [111]   SEC Press Release, Broker-Dealer to Pay $2.75 Million Penalty for Providing Deficient Blue Sheet Data (Sept. 13, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-191. [112]   SEC Press Release, Three Broker-Dealers to Pay More Than $6 Million in Penalties for Providing Deficient Blue Sheet Data (Dec. 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-275. [113]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Two Brokers With Defrauding Customers (Sept. 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-183. [114]   SEC Press Release, SEC Uses Data Analysis to Detect Cherry-Picking By Broker (Sept. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-189. [115]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18941, In the Matter of Andrew Nicoletta et al. (Dec. 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84876.pdf. [116]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Former Heartland CEO, Romantic Partner in Insider Trading Scheme (Jul. 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24191.htm. [117]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Former Executive for Insider Trading (Jul. 5, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24186.htm. [118]   SEC Press Release, SEC Detects Silicon Valley Executive’s Insider Trading (Jul. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-142. [119]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18618, SEC Charges VP of Finance with Insider Trading (Jul. 31, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-83742-s. [120]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Former Pharma Executive and Others with Insider Trading (Aug. 23, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24245.htm. [121]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18665, In re James T. Lentz (Aug. 22, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/33-10535.pdf. [122]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Former Senior Executive At Silicon Valley Company with Insider Trading (Aug. 30, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24251.htm. [123]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Former Vice President of Ocwen Financial Corporation with Insider Trading (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24298.htm. [124]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Ebay’s Former Director of SEC Reporting with Insider Trading (Oct. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24317.htm. [125]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Husband with Insider Trading Ahead of Announcements by Wife’s Employer (Nov. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24340.htm. [126]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges California Software Consultant with Insider Trading (Nov. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24338.htm. [127]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges U.S. Congressman and Others With Insider Trading (Aug. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-151; see also SEC Litigation Release, SEC Announces Settlement with Two Traders in Innate Insider Trading Case (Aug. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24236.htm. [128]   Admin. Proc. File No. 34-83795, SEC Charges California Bank Board Member’s Son with Insider Trading (Aug. 7, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-83795-s. [129]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Former Stericycle Financial Analyst and His Mother with Insider Trading (Jul. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24212.htm. [130]   SEC Litigation Release, Former Equifax Manager Charged With Insider Trading (Jul. 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24183.htm. [131]   SEC Litigation. Release, Former Biotech Company Employee Charged with Insider Trading (Jul. 10, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24194.htm. [132]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Scientist for Insider Trading (Aug. 1, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24221.htm. [133]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18645, In re Honglan Wang (Aug. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-83857.pdf. [134]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18655, SEC Charges Former In-House Counsel with Insider Trading (Aug. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-83896-s. [135]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Former Professional Motorcycle Racer, his Investment Adviser, and Others With Insider Trading (Sept. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84304-s. [136]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges NFL Player and Former Investment Banker With Insider Trading (Aug. 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-170. [137]   SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Family Friend of Former Investment Banker With Insider Trading (Nov. 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-251. [138]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Acquisition Advisor with Insider Trading (Sept. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24269.htm. [139]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Husband of Investment Banker with Insider Trading (Dec. 17, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24375.htm. [140]   SEC Press Release, SEC Halts Alleged Insider Trading Ring Spanning Three Countries (Dec. 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-273. [141]   SEC Litigation Release, SEC Charges Certified Public Accountant with Insider Trading (Aug. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24240.htm. [142]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18652, Former Director At Major Accounting Firm Settles Insider Trading Charges (Aug. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-83889-s. [143]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18574, In re Michael Johnson (July 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-83602.pdf. [144]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18858, In re Unal Patel (Sept. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-84315.pdf. [145]   SEC Press Release, SEC Files Charges in Municipal Bond “Flipping” and Kickback Schemes (Aug. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-153. [146]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18936, SEC Charges Former Municipal Bond Salesman with Fraudulent Trading Practices (Dec. 18, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10587-s. [147]   Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18803, SEC Bars Head of Unregistered Municipal Advisory Firm for Failing to Disclose Material Facts to School District (Sept. 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-84224-s. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update:  Marc Fagel, Amy Mayer, Andrew Paulson, Tina Samanta, Elizabeth Snow, Craig Streit, Collin James Vierra, Timothy Zimmerman and Maya Ziv. Gibson Dunn is one of the nation’s leading law firms in representing companies and individuals who face enforcement investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the New York and other state attorneys general and regulators, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the New York Stock Exchange, and federal and state banking regulators. Our Securities Enforcement Group offers broad and deep experience.  Our partners include the former Directors of the SEC’s New York and San Francisco Regional Offices, the former head of FINRA’s Department of Enforcement, the former United States Attorneys for the Central and Eastern Districts of California, and former Assistant United States Attorneys from federal prosecutors’ offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., including the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Securities enforcement investigations are often one aspect of a problem facing our clients. Our securities enforcement lawyers work closely with lawyers from our Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group to provide expertise regarding parallel corporate governance, securities regulation, and securities trading issues, our Securities Litigation Group, and our White Collar Defense Group. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work or any of the following: New York Reed Brodsky (+1 212-351-5334, rbrodsky@gibsondunn.com) Joel M. Cohen (+1 212-351-2664, jcohen@gibsondunn.com) Lee G. Dunst (+1 212-351-3824, ldunst@gibsondunn.com) Barry R. Goldsmith (+1 212-351-2440, bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com) Laura Kathryn O’Boyle (+1 212-351-2304, loboyle@gibsondunn.com) Mark K. Schonfeld (+1 212-351-2433, mschonfeld@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Avi Weitzman (+1 212-351-2465, aweitzman@gibsondunn.com) Lawrence J. Zweifach (+1 212-351-2625, lzweifach@gibsondunn.com) Tina Samanta (+1 212-351-2469 , tsamanta@gibsondunn.com) Washington, D.C. Stephanie L. Brooker (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. Chung(+1 202-887-3729, dchung@gibsondunn.com) Stuart F. Delery (+1 202-887-3650, sdelery@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Grime (+1 202-955-8219, rgrime@gibsondunn.com) Patrick F. Stokes (+1 202-955-8504, pstokes@gibsondunn.com) F. Joseph Warin (+1 202-887-3609, fwarin@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Winston Y. Chan (+1 415-393-8362, wchan@gibsondunn.com) Thad A. Davis (+1 415-393-8251, tadavis@gibsondunn.com) Marc J. Fagel (+1 415-393-8332, mfagel@gibsondunn.com) Charles J. Stevens (+1 415-393-8391, cstevens@gibsondunn.com) Michael Li-Ming Wong (+1 415-393-8234, mwong@gibsondunn.com) Palo Alto Michael D. Celio (+1 650-849-5326, mcelio@gibsondunn.com) Paul J. Collins (+1 650-849-5309, pcollins@gibsondunn.com) Benjamin B. Wagner (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) Denver Robert C. Blume (+1 303-298-5758, rblume@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Michael M. Farhang (+1 213-229-7005, mfarhang@gibsondunn.com) Douglas M. Fuchs (+1 213-229-7605, dfuchs@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

January 9, 2019 |
The Most Notable Government Contract Cost and Pricing Decisions of 2018

Washington, D.C. partner Karen Manos is the author of “The Most Notable Government Contract Cost and Pricing Decisions of 2018,” [PDF] published in Thomson Reuters’ The Government Contractor on January 9, 2019.

November 29, 2018 |
SEC Imposes Civil Penalties for ICO Registration Violations; Suggests a Path for Future Compliance

Click for PDF On November 16, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced settled charges in its first cases imposing civil penalties solely for registration violations related to initial coin offerings (ICOs).[1]  The SEC brought charges against CarrierEQ Inc. (AirFox) and Paragon Coin Inc. (Paragon) for their respective ICOs conducted in 2017 on the basis that (i) the digital tokens sold in those ICOs were securities under Section 2(a)(1) of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and (ii) those securities were neither registered nor exempt from registration under Section 5 of the Securities Act. Both AirFox and Paragon issued unregistered tokens in spite of an earlier warning from the SEC that certain tokens, coins or other digital assets can be considered securities under the federal securities laws and, consequently, issuers who offer or sell such securities must register the offering and sale with the SEC or qualify for an exemption.[2]  The cases follow the SEC’s first non-fraud registration case, Munchee, Inc., in which the SEC halted a coin sale by means of cease-and-desist order and no monetary penalties were imposed. In 2017, AirFox raised approximately $15 million worth of digital assets to finance its development of a token-denominated “ecosystem,” and Paragon raised approximately $12 million worth of digital assets to develop and implement its business plan related to the cannabis industry. After reviewing the nature of these tokens, the SEC concluded that they were securities under the Howey test, thereby making those offerings subject to the requirements of Section 5 of the Securities Act and related rules. The resolution of these charges has been suggested as a “model for companies that have issued tokens in ICOs . . . to seek to comply with the federal securities laws,” according to Steven Peiken, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.  The remedy has three parts.  First, both Airfox and Paragon agreed to pay monetary penalties of $250,000 each.  Second, in a nod to the statutory remedies provided by Section 12(a)(1) of the Securities Act, both companies agreed to distribute a “claim form” to their respective investors whereby purchased tokens could be exchanged for the amount of consideration paid plus interest and, for those investors no longer in possession of their purchased tokens, damages.  The  “claim form” approach was agreed to over another potential remedy used by other companies in the past, a “rescission offer” in which the companies would offer to repurchase issued tokens and, in the event an investor declined that offer, such investor would hold freely tradable tokens.  Third, perhaps most significantly, both companies agreed to register the tokens as securities under the Exchange Act and file periodic reports with the SEC, thereby granting investors the disclosure protections of the securities laws in deciding whether to put their securities.  It is likely that compliance with this regime will likely impose significant compliance burdens, particularly on smaller issuers.  It remains to be seen whether other ICO issuers who have conducted unregistered securities offerings will opt for this remedy following discussions with the SEC. [1]   See SEC Release No. 10574 and Release No. 10575. [2]   See Report of Investigation Pursuant To Section 21(a) Of The Securities Exchange Act of 1934: The DAO (Exchange Act Rel. No. 81207) (July 25, 2017)). See also www.securitiesregulationmonitor.com/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?List=f3551fe8-411e-4ea4-830c-d680a8c0da43&ID=297&Web=97364e78-c7b4-4464-a28c-fd4eea1956ac. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Arthur Long, Alan Bannister, Nicolas Dumont, and Jordan Garside. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Financial Institutions, Capital Markets or Securities Enforcement practice groups, or the following: Financial Institutions and Capital Markets Groups: Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, along@gibsondunn.com) J. Alan Bannister – New York (+1 212-351-2310, abannister@gibsondunn.com) Nicolas H.R. Dumont – New York (+1 212-351-3837, ndumont@gibsondunn.com) Stewart L. McDowell – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8322, smcdowell@gibsondunn.com) Securities Enforcement Group: Marc J. Fagel – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8332, mfagel@gibsondunn.com) Mark K. Schonfeld – New York (+1 212-351-2433, mschonfeld@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

November 29, 2018 |
Five Gibson Dunn Attorneys Named Among Washingtonian Magazine’s 2018 Top Lawyers

Washingtonian magazine named five DC partners to its 2018 Top Lawyers, featuring “[t]he area’s star legal talent” in their respective practice areas: Karen Manos was named a Top Lawyer in Government Contracts – Karen is Chair of the firm’s Government Contracts Practice Group.  She has nearly 30 years’ experience on a broad range of government contracts issues, including civil and criminal fraud investigations and litigation, complex claims preparation and litigation, bid protests, qui tam suits under the False Claims Act, defective pricing, cost allowability, the Cost Accounting Standards, and corporate compliance programs Eugene Scalia was named a Top Lawyer in Employment Defense – Co-Chair of the Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Group, Gene has a national practice handling a broad range of labor, employment, appellate, and regulatory matters. His success bringing legal challenges to federal agency actions has been widely reported in the legal and business press Jason Schwartz was recognized as a Top Lawyer in Employment Defense – Jason’s practice includes sensitive workplace investigations, high-profile trade secret and non-compete matters, wage-hour and discrimination class actions, Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower protection claims, executive and other significant employment disputes, labor union controversies, and workplace safety litigation F. Joseph Warin is a Top Lawyer in Criminal Defense, White Collar – Co-chair of the firm’s global White Collar Defense and Investigations Practice Group. His practice includes complex civil litigation, white collar crime, and regulatory and securities enforcement – including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, False Claims Act cases, special committee representations, compliance counseling and class action civil litigation Joseph West was named a Top Lawyer in Government Contracts – Joe concentrates his practice on contract counseling, compliance/enforcement, and dispute resolution.  He has represented both contractors and government agencies, and has been involved in cases before various United States Courts of Appeals and District Courts, the United States Court of Federal Claims, numerous Federal Government Boards of Contract Appeals, and both the United States Government Accountability Office and Small Business Administration The list was published in the December 2018 issue.

November 1, 2018 |
Glass Lewis Issues 2019 Proxy Voting Policy Updates

Click for PDF On October 24, 2018, Glass Lewis released its updated U.S. proxy voting policy guidelines for 2019, including guidelines for shareholder proposals.  The updated U.S. guidelines are available here, and the guidelines on shareholder proposals are available here.  The most significant updates to the guidelines are summarized below. The updated U.S. proxy voting guidelines include discussion of two previously announced policy changes that will take effect for meetings held after January 1, 2019, relating to board gender diversity and virtual-only annual meetings. Board Gender Diversity As previously announced, for a company that has no female directors, Glass Lewis generally will begin recommending votes “against” the nominating/governance committee chair, and may also recommend votes “against” other committee members depending on factors such as the company’s size, industry, state of headquarters, and governance profile. Glass Lewis will “carefully review a company’s disclosure of its diversity considerations” and may not recommend votes “against” directors when the board has provided a “sufficient rationale” for the absence of any female board members.  Such rationale may include any notable restrictions on the board’s composition (e.g., the existence of director nomination agreements with significant investors) or disclosure of a timetable for addressing the board’s lack of diversity. In light of California’s recently enacted legislation requiring a minimum number of women on public company boards (discussed here), which includes having at least one woman by the end of 2019, Glass Lewis will recommend votes “against” the nominating/governance committee chair at companies headquartered in California that do not have at least one woman on the board and do not disclose a “clear plan” for addressing this issue before the end of 2019. Conflicting Shareholder Proposals Glass Lewis updated its policy on conflicting shareholder proposals to address special meeting proposals specifically.  These updates respond to developments during the 2018 proxy season, when the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) staff permitted companies to exclude “conflicting” special meeting shareholder proposals when seeking shareholder ratification of an existing special meeting right with a higher ownership threshold. The updated policy states that Glass Lewis generally favors a 10%-15% special meeting right and will generally recommend votes “for” shareholder and company proposals within this range.  When companies exclude a special meeting shareholder proposal by seeking ratification of an existing special meeting right, Glass Lewis will recommend votes “against” both the company’s ratification proposal and the members of the nominating/governance committee. When the proxy statement includes both shareholder and company proposals on special meetings: Where the proposals have different thresholds for requesting a special meeting, Glass Lewis will generally recommend voting “for” the lower threshold (typically the shareholder proposal); and Where the company does not currently have a special meeting right, Glass Lewis may recommend that shareholders vote “for” the shareholder proposal and abstain from the company proposal seeking to establish a special meeting right.  Glass Lewis views the practice of abstaining as a means for shareholders to signal their preference for an appropriate special meeting threshold while not directly opposing establishment of a special meeting right. While it appears that the special meeting threshold will be the primary focus of Glass Lewis’s analysis, Glass Lewis also will consider the company’s overall governance profile, including its responsiveness to and engagement with shareholders. Director Voting Recommendations Based on Excluded Shareholder Proposals With respect to the exclusion of shareholder proposals more generally, Glass Lewis states in the updated policy that “it generally believe[s] that companies should not limit investors’ ability to vote on shareholder proposals that advance certain rights or promote beneficial disclosure.”  In light of this, Glass Lewis will make note of instances where a company has successfully petitioned the SEC to exclude shareholder proposals and, “in certain very limited circumstances,” may recommend votes “against” the members of the nominating/governance committee if it believes exclusion of a shareholder proposal was “detrimental to shareholders.” Environmental and Social Risk Oversight Glass Lewis believes that companies should have “appropriate board-level oversight of material risks” to their operations, including those that are environmental and social in nature.  For large cap companies or companies where Glass Lewis identifies “material oversight issues,” Glass Lewis will seek to identify the directors or committees charged with oversight of environmental and social issues, and will note instances where companies have not clearly defined this oversight in their governance documents. Where Glass Lewis believes that a company has not properly managed or mitigated environmental or social risks “to the detriment of shareholder value,” Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” directors who are responsible for oversight of environmental and social risks.  If there is no explicit board oversight of environmental and social issues, Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” members of the audit committee.  Ratification of Auditor: Additional Considerations Glass Lewis’s policies list situations in which it may recommend votes “against” ratification of the outside auditor.  Under the 2019 policy updates, Glass Lewis will consider factors that may call into question an auditor’s effectiveness, including auditor tenure, any pattern of inaccurate audits, and any ongoing litigation or controversies.  In “limited cases,” these factors may lead to a recommendation “against” auditor ratification. Virtual-Only Shareholder Meetings As previously announced, Glass Lewis’s new policy on virtual-only shareholder meetings will take effect January 1, 2019.  Under this policy, for a company that chooses to hold a virtual-only meeting, Glass Lewis will analyze the company’s disclosure of its virtual meeting procedures and may recommend votes “against” the members of the nominating/governance committee if the company does not provide “effective” disclosure assuring that shareholders will have the same opportunities to participate at the virtual meeting as they would at in-person meetings. Examples of effective disclosure include descriptions of how shareholders can ask questions during the meeting, the company’s guidelines on how questions and comments will be recognized and disclosed to meeting participants, procedures for posting questions and answers on the company’s website as soon as practical after the meeting, and how the company will deal with any potential technical issues regarding accessing the virtual meeting including providing technical support. Director Recommendations Based on Company Performance Glass Lewis typically recommends that shareholders vote against directors who have served on boards or as executives at companies with “indicators of mismanagement or actions against the interests of shareholders.”  One instance where Glass Lewis may issue an “against” recommendation is where a company’s performance for the past three years has been in the bottom quartile of the sector and the board has not taken reasonable steps to address the poor performance.  For 2019, Glass Lewis has clarified that rather than looking solely at stock price performance, it will also consider the company’s overall corporate governance, pay-for-performance alignment, and board responsiveness to shareholders, in order to assess whether “the company performed significantly worse than its peers.” Directors Who Provide Consulting Services Under its voting policies on conflicts of interest, Glass Lewis recommends that shareholders vote “against” directors who provide, or whose immediate family members provide, material professional services to the company, including legal, consulting or financial services.  Beginning in 2019, Glass Lewis will generally refrain from voting against directors who provide consulting services if they do not serve on the audit, compensation or nominating/governance committees and Glass Lewis has not identified “significant governance concerns” at the company. Executive Compensation Glass Lewis clarified or amended several executive compensation policies: Say-on-pay voting recommendations.  Glass Lewis has provided additional guidance on how it evaluates executive compensation programs in making recommendations on say-on-pay proposals.  In particular, Glass Lewis evaluates both the structure of a company’s program and the company’s disclosures, in each case using a rating scale of “Good,” “Fair” and “Poor.”  According to Glass Lewis, most companies receive a “Fair” rating for both structure and disclosure, and the other two ratings primarily highlight companies that are outliers. Peer group and other practices.  Glass Lewis’s say-on-pay policy identifies practices that may lead to an “against” recommendation for say-on-pay proposals.  The 2019 updates clarify that these practices may also influence Glass Lewis’s evaluation of the structure of a company’s compensation program.  The updates also provide more detail on the peer group practices that Glass Lewis views as problematic.  These practices now will include the use of outsized peer groups and compensation targets set well above peers. Pay-for-performance assessment.  Glass Lewis uses a grading system of “A” through “F” to benchmark executive pay and company performance against a peer group.  The updated voting policies clarify that the grades represent the relationship between a company’s percentile rank for pay and its percentile rank for performance.  In other words, a grade of “A” reflects that a company’s percentile rank for pay is significantly less than its percentile rank for performance, while a grade of “F” reflects that the pay ranking is significantly higher than the performance ranking.  Separately, the analysis in Glass Lewis’s proxy papers reflects a comparison between a company and its peer group, with respect to both pay levels and performance. Added excise tax gross-ups.  Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” all members of the compensation committee if executive employment agreements contain new excise tax gross-up provisions, particularly if the company had previously committed not to provide gross-ups.  New gross-up provisions related to excise taxes on excess parachute payments also may lead to votes “against” a company’s say-on-pay proposal. Sign-on and severance arrangements.  Glass Lewis has clarified the terms of sign-on and severance arrangements that may contribute to negative voting recommendations on say-on-pay proposals.  Glass Lewis will consider the size and design of any contractual payments, as well as U.S. market practice.  Excessive sign-on awards may support or drive a negative voting recommendation, and multi-year guaranteed bonuses may drive “against” recommendations on their own.  In addition to the size of contractual payments, Glass Lewis will consider their terms.  Key man clauses, board continuity conditions, or excessively broad change in control triggers may help drive a negative voting recommendation.  In general, Glass Lewis will be wary of terms that are “excessively restrictive” in favor of an executive or could incentive behaviors that are not in a company’s best interests.  Glass Lewis believes companies should abide by pre-determined severance amounts in most circumstances, and will consider severance amounts actually paid and in “special cases,” their appropriateness given the circumstances of the executive’s departure. Grants of front-loaded awards.  Glass Lewis has added a new discussion of “front-loading,” or providing large grants intended to serve as compensation for multiple years.  In making recommendations on say-on-pay proposals, Glass Lewis will apply particular scrutiny to front-loaded awards.  It will consider a company’s rationale for front-loaded awards and expects companies to include a firm commitment not to grant additional awards for a defined period.  If a company breaks this commitment, Glass Lewis may recommend “against” the company’s say-on-pay proposal unless the company provides a “convincing” rationale. Clawbacks.  Glass Lewis will begin looking beyond the minimum legal requirements for clawbacks and considering the specific terms of companies’ clawback policies.  According to the updated voting policies, Glass Lewis believes that clawbacks “should be triggered, at a minimum, in the event of a restatement of financial results or similar revision of performance indicators upon which bonuses were based.”  Clawback policies that simply track minimum legal requirements “may inform” Glass Lewis’s overall view of a company’s compensation program. Discretionary short-term incentives.  Glass Lewis will not recommend votes “against” a say-on-pay proposal solely based on a company’s use of discretionary short-term bonuses if there is meaningful disclosure of the rationale behind the use of a discretionary mechanism and the bonus amount determinations.  However, other “significant” issues, such as a disconnect between pay and performance, may help drive a negative voting recommendation. Equity plans that cover directors.  Glass Lewis continues to believe that equity grants to directors should not be performance-based.  Where an equity plan covers non-management directors exclusively or primarily, the updated voting policies state that the plan should not provide for any performance-based awards.  Where non-management director grants are made under a broad-based equity plan, Glass Lewis will continue to use its proprietary model to guide its voting recommendations.  However, beginning in 2019, if a broad-based plan allows or explicitly provides for performance-based awards to directors, Glass Lewis may recommend “against” the plan on this basis, particularly if the company has granted performance-based awards to directors in the past. Reduced executive compensation disclosure for smaller reporting companies.  Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” all compensation committee members when the board has “materially decreased” proxy disclosure about executive compensation practices in a manner that “substantially impacts” shareholders’ ability to make an informed assessment of a company’s executive compensation practices.  In its summary of the 2019 policy updates, Glass Lewis indicates that this new policy applies to smaller reporting companies, in light of recent SEC rule changes to the definition of “smaller reporting company” that expand the number of registrants qualifying for scaled disclosure accommodations in their SEC filings, including in the area of executive compensation. Shareholder Proposals In addition to special meeting shareholder proposals (discussed above), Glass Lewis has also updated its policies on other shareholder proposals in several respects: Environmental and social proposals.  Glass Lewis has formalized the role that financial materiality will play in its consideration of environmental and social proposals.  In the discussion of its “Overall Approach” to these proposals, Glass Lewis states that it will evaluate shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues “in the context of the financial materiality of the issue to the company’s operations” and will “place a significant emphasis on the financial implications of a company adopting, or not adopting” a proposal.  Glass Lewis believes that all companies face risks associated with environmental and social issues, but that these risks manifest themselves differently at different companies, based on factors including a company’s operations, workforce, structure and geography.  Glass Lewis plans to use the standards developed by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”) to assist it in determining financial materiality. Written consent proposals.  If a company has adopted a special meeting right of 15% or lower and reasonable proxy access provisions, Glass Lewis will generally recommend that shareholders vote “against” a shareholder proposal seeking the right for shareholders to act by written consent. Workforce diversity.  Glass Lewis has adopted a formal policy on shareholder proposals asking companies to provide disclosure about workforce diversity or efforts to promote diversity within the workforce.  In making voting recommendations, Glass Lewis will consider a company’s industry and the nature of its operations, the company’s current disclosures on issues involving workforce diversity, the level of disclosure at peer companies, and any lawsuits or accusations of discrimination within the company. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have about these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following lawyers in the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits practice groups: Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, lzyskowski@gibsondunn.com) Ronald O. Mueller – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8671, rmueller@gibsondunn.com) Gillian McPhee – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8201, gmcphee@gibsondunn.com) Aaron Briggs – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8297, abriggs@gibsondunn.com) Maia Gez – New York (+1 212-351-2612, mgez@gibsondunn.com) Julia Lapitskaya – New York (+1 212-351-2354, jlapitskaya@gibsondunn.com) Michael Titera – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4365, mtitera@gibsondunn.com) Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Group Sean C. Feller – Los Angeles (+1 310-551-8746, sfeller@gibsondunn.com) Michael J. Collins – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3551, mcollins@gibsondunn.com) Krista Hanvey – Dallas (+1 214-698-3425; khanvey@gibsondunn.com)  © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 30, 2018 |
Webcast: Spinning Out and Splitting Off – Navigating Complex Challenges in Corporate Separations

In the current strong market environment, spin-off deals have become a regular feature of the M&A landscape as strategic companies look for ways to maximize the value of various assets. Although the announcements have become routine, planning for and completing these transactions is a significant and multi-disciplinary undertaking. By its nature, a spin-off is at least a 3-in-1 transaction starting with the reorganization and carveout of the assets to be separated, followed by the negotiation of separation-related documents and finally the offering of the securities—and that does not even account for the significant tax, corporate governance, finance, IP and employee benefits aspects of the transaction. In this program, a panel of lawyers from a number of these key practice areas provided insights based on their recent experience structuring and executing spin-off transactions. They walked through the hot topics, common issues and potential work-arounds. View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: Daniel Angel is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Technology Transactions Practice Group and a member of its Strategic Sourcing and Commercial Transactions Practice Group. He is a transactional attorney who has represented clients on technology-related transactions since 2003. Mr. Angel has worked with a broad variety of clients ranging from market leaders to start-ups in a wide range of industries including financial services, private equity funds, life sciences, specialty chemicals, insurance, energy and telecommunications. Michael J. Collins is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and Co-Chair of the Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Practice Group. His practice focuses on all aspects of employee benefits and executive compensation. He represents buyers and sellers in corporate transactions and companies in drafting and negotiating employment and equity compensation arrangements. Andrew L. Fabens is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Capital Markets Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group. Mr. Fabens advises companies on long-term and strategic capital planning, disclosure and reporting obligations under U.S. federal securities laws, corporate governance issues and stock exchange listing obligations. He represents issuers and underwriters in public and private corporate finance transactions, both in the United States and internationally. Stephen I. Glover is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and Co-Chair of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group. Mr. Glover has an extensive practice representing public and private companies in complex mergers and acquisitions, including spin-offs and related transactions, as well as other corporate matters. Mr. Glover’s clients include large public corporations, emerging growth companies and middle market companies in a wide range of industries. He also advises private equity firms, individual investors and others. Elizabeth A. Ising is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Hostile M&A and Shareholder Activism team and Financial Institutions Practice Group. She advises clients, including public companies and their boards of directors, on corporate governance, securities law and regulatory matters and executive compensation best practices and disclosures. Saee Muzumdar is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office and a member of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group. Ms. Muzumdar is a corporate transactional lawyer whose practice includes representing both strategic companies and private equity clients (including their portfolio companies) in connection with all aspects of their domestic and cross-border M&A activities and general corporate counseling. Daniel A. Zygielbaum is an associate in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and a member of the firm’s Tax and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) Practice Groups. Mr. Zygielbaum’s practice focuses on international and domestic taxation of corporations, partnerships (including private equity funds), limited liability companies, REITs and their debt and equity investors. He advises clients on tax planning for fund formations and corporate and real estate acquisitions, dispositions, reorganizations and joint ventures. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hours may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the Texas State Bar for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hour may be applied toward the area of accredited general requirement. Attorneys seeking Texas credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.50 hours. California attorneys may claim “self-study” credit for viewing the archived version of this webcast. No certificate of attendance is required for California “self-study” credit.

October 17, 2018 |
SEC Warns Public Companies on Cyber-Fraud Controls

Click for PDF On October 16, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a report warning public companies about the importance of internal controls to prevent cyber fraud.  The report described the SEC Division of Enforcement’s investigation of multiple public companies which had collectively lost nearly $100 million in a range of cyber-scams typically involving phony emails requesting payments to vendors or corporate executives.[1] Although these types of cyber-crimes are common, the Enforcement Division notably investigated whether the failure of the companies’ internal accounting controls to prevent unauthorized payments violated the federal securities laws.  The SEC ultimately declined to pursue enforcement actions, but nonetheless issued a report cautioning public companies about the importance of devising and maintaining a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to protect company assets. While the SEC has previously addressed the need for public companies to promptly disclose cybersecurity incidents, the new report sees the agency wading into corporate controls designed to mitigate such risks.  The report encourages companies to calibrate existing internal controls, and related personnel training, to ensure they are responsive to emerging cyber threats.  The report (issued to coincide with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month) clearly intends to warn public companies that future investigations may result in enforcement action. The Report of Investigation Section 21(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 empowers the SEC to issue a public Report of Investigation where deemed appropriate.  While SEC investigations are confidential unless and until the SEC files an enforcement action alleging that an individual or entity has violated the federal securities laws, Section 21(a) reports provide a vehicle to publicize investigative findings even where no enforcement action is pursued.  Such reports are used sparingly, perhaps every few years, typically to address emerging issues where the interpretation of the federal securities laws may be uncertain.  (For instance, recent Section 21(a) reports have addressed the treatment of digital tokens as securities and the use of social media to disseminate material corporate information.) The October 16 report details the Enforcement Division’s investigations into the internal accounting controls of nine issuers, across multiple industries, that were victims of cyber-scams. The Division identified two specific types of cyber-fraud – typically referred to as business email compromises or “BECs” – that had been perpetrated.  The first involved emails from persons claiming to be unaffiliated corporate executives, typically sent to finance personnel directing them to wire large sums of money to a foreign bank account for time-sensitive deals. These were often unsophisticated operations, textbook fakes that included urgent, secret requests, unusual foreign transactions, and spelling and grammatical errors. The second type of business email compromises were harder to detect. Perpetrators hacked real vendors’ accounts and sent invoices and requests for payments that appeared to be for otherwise legitimate transactions. As a result, issuers made payments on outstanding invoices to foreign accounts controlled by impersonators rather than their real vendors, often learning of the scam only when the legitimate vendor inquired into delinquent bills. According to the SEC, both types of frauds often succeeded, at least in part, because responsible personnel failed to understand their company’s existing cybersecurity controls or to appropriately question the veracity of the emails.  The SEC explained that the frauds themselves were not sophisticated in design or in their use of technology; rather, they relied on “weaknesses in policies and procedures and human vulnerabilities that rendered the control environment ineffective.” SEC Cyber-Fraud Guidance Cybersecurity has been a high priority for the SEC dating back several years. The SEC has pursued a number of enforcement actions against registered securities firms arising out of data breaches or deficient controls.  For example, just last month the SEC brought a settled action against a broker-dealer/investment-adviser which suffered a cyber-intrusion that had allegedly compromised the personal information of thousands of customers.  The SEC alleged that the firm had failed to comply with securities regulations governing the safeguarding of customer information, including the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule.[2] The SEC has been less aggressive in pursuing cybersecurity-related actions against public companies.  However, earlier this year, the SEC brought its first enforcement action against a public company for alleged delays in its disclosure of a large-scale data breach.[3] But such enforcement actions put the SEC in the difficult position of weighing charges against companies which are themselves victims of a crime.  The SEC has thus tried to be measured in its approach to such actions, turning to speeches and public guidance rather than a large number of enforcement actions.  (Indeed, the SEC has had to make the embarrassing disclosure that its own EDGAR online filing system had been hacked and sensitive information compromised.[4]) Hence, in February 2018, the SEC issued interpretive guidance for public companies regarding the disclosure of cybersecurity risks and incidents.[5]  Among other things, the guidance counseled the timely public disclosure of material data breaches, recognizing that such disclosures need not compromise the company’s cybersecurity efforts.  The guidance further discussed the need to maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures.  However, the February guidance did not address specific controls to prevent cyber incidents in the first place. The new Report of Investigation takes the additional step of addressing not just corporate disclosures of cyber incidents, but the procedures companies are expected to maintain in order to prevent these breaches from occurring.  The SEC noted that the internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws are not new, and based its report largely on the controls set forth in Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act.  But the SEC emphasized that such controls must be “attuned to this kind of cyber-related fraud, as well as the critical role training plays in implementing controls that serve their purpose and protect assets in compliance with the federal securities laws.”  The report noted that the issuers under investigation had procedures in place to authorize and process payment requests, yet were still victimized, at least in part “because the responsible personnel did not sufficiently understand the company’s existing controls or did not recognize indications in the emailed instructions that those communications lacked reliability.” The SEC concluded that public companies’ “internal accounting controls may need to be reassessed in light of emerging risks, including risks arising from cyber-related frauds” and “must calibrate their internal accounting controls to the current risk environment.” Unfortunately, the vagueness of such guidance leaves the burden on companies to determine how best to address emerging risks.  Whether a company’s controls are adequate may be judged in hindsight by the Enforcement Division; not surprisingly, companies and individuals under investigation often find the staff asserting that, if the controls did not prevent the misconduct, they were by definition inadequate.  Here, the SEC took a cautious approach in issuing a Section 21(a) report highlighting the risk rather than publicly identifying and penalizing the companies which had already been victimized by these scams. However, companies and their advisors should assume that, with this warning shot across the bow, the next investigation of a similar incident may result in more serious action.  Persons responsible for designing and maintaining the company’s internal controls should consider whether improvements (such as enhanced trainings) are warranted; having now spoken on the issue, the Enforcement Division is likely to view corporate inaction as a factor in how it assesses the company’s liability for future data breaches and cyber-frauds.    [1]   SEC Press Release (Oct. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-236; the underlying report may be found at www.sec.gov/litigation/investreport/34-84429.pdf.    [2]   SEC Press Release (Sept. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-213.  This enforcement action was particularly notable as the first occasion the SEC relied upon the rules requiring financial advisory firms to maintain a robust program for preventing identify theft, thus emphasizing the significance of those rules.    [3]   SEC Press Release (Apr. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-71.    [4]   SEC Press Release (Oct. 2, 2017), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2017-186.    [5]   SEC Press Release (Feb. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-22; the guidance itself can be found at www.sec.gov/rules/interp/2018/33-10459.pdf.  The SEC provided in-depth guidance in this release on disclosure processes and considerations related to cybersecurity risks and incidents, and complements some of the points highlighted in the Section 21A report. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist with any questions you may have regarding these issues.  For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Securities Enforcement or Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection practice groups, or the following authors: Marc J. Fagel – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8332, mfagel@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell – New York (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact the following practice leaders and members: Securities Enforcement Group: New York Barry R. Goldsmith – Co-Chair (+1 212-351-2440, bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com) Mark K. Schonfeld – Co-Chair (+1 212-351-2433, mschonfeld@gibsondunn.com) Reed Brodsky (+1 212-351-5334, rbrodsky@gibsondunn.com) Joel M. Cohen (+1 212-351-2664, jcohen@gibsondunn.com) Lee G. Dunst (+1 212-351-3824, ldunst@gibsondunn.com) Laura Kathryn O’Boyle (+1 212-351-2304, loboyle@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Avi Weitzman (+1 212-351-2465, aweitzman@gibsondunn.com) Lawrence J. Zweifach (+1 212-351-2625, lzweifach@gibsondunn.com) Washington, D.C. Richard W. Grime – Co-Chair (+1 202-955-8219, rgrime@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Brooker  (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. Chung (+1 202-887-3729, dchung@gibsondunn.com) Stuart F. Delery (+1 202-887-3650, sdelery@gibsondunn.com) Patrick F. Stokes (+1 202-955-8504, pstokes@gibsondunn.com) F. Joseph Warin (+1 202-887-3609, fwarin@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Marc J. Fagel – Co-Chair (+1 415-393-8332, mfagel@gibsondunn.com) Winston Y. Chan (+1 415-393-8362, wchan@gibsondunn.com) Thad A. Davis (+1 415-393-8251, tdavis@gibsondunn.com) Charles J. Stevens (+1 415-393-8391, cstevens@gibsondunn.com) Michael Li-Ming Wong (+1 415-393-8234, mwong@gibsondunn.com) Palo Alto Paul J. Collins (+1 650-849-5309, pcollins@gibsondunn.com) Benjamin B. Wagner (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) Denver Robert C. Blume (+1 303-298-5758, rblume@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Michael M. Farhang (+1 213-229-7005, mfarhang@gibsondunn.com) Douglas M. Fuchs (+1 213-229-7605, dfuchs@gibsondunn.com) Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection Group: Alexander H. Southwell – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall – Dallas (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Debra Wong Yang – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7472, dwongyang@gibsondunn.com) Christopher Chorba – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7396, cchorba@gibsondunn.com) Richard H. Cunningham – Denver (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) Howard S. Hogan – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3640, hhogan@gibsondunn.com) Joshua A. Jessen – Orange County/Palo Alto (+1 949-451-4114/+1 650-849-5375, jjessen@gibsondunn.com) Kristin A. Linsley – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8395, klinsley@gibsondunn.com) H. Mark Lyon – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5307, mlyon@gibsondunn.com) Shaalu Mehra – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5282, smehra@gibsondunn.com) Karl G. Nelson – Dallas (+1 214-698-3203, knelson@gibsondunn.com) Eric D. Vandevelde – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7186, evandevelde@gibsondunn.com) Benjamin B. Wagner – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) Michael Li-Ming Wong – San Francisco/Palo Alto (+1 415-393-8333/+1 650-849-5393, mwong@gibsondunn.com) Ryan T. Bergsieker – Denver (+1 303-298-5774, rbergsieker@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 15, 2018 |
M&A Report – Flood v. Synutra Refines “Ab Initio” Requirement for Business Judgment Review of Controller Transactions

Click for PDF On October 9, 2018, in Flood v. Synutra Intth’l, Inc.,[1] the Delaware Supreme Court further refined when in a controller transaction the procedural safeguards of Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp.[2] (“MFW“) must be implemented to obtain business judgment rule review of the transaction.  Under MFW, a merger with a controlling stockholder will be reviewed under the deferential business judgment rule standard, rather than the stringent entire fairness standard, if the merger is conditioned “ab initio” upon approval by both an independent, adequately-empowered Special Committee that fulfills its duty of care, and the uncoerced, informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders.[3]  Writing for the majority in Synutra, Chief Justice Strine emphasized that the objective of MFW and its progeny is to incentivize controlling stockholders to adopt the MFW procedural safeguards early in the transaction process, because those safeguards can provide minority stockholders with the greatest likelihood of receiving terms and conditions that most closely resemble those that would be available in an arms’ length transaction with a non-affiliated third party.  Accordingly, the Court held that “ab initio” (Latin for “from the beginning”) requires that the MFW protections be in place prior to any substantive economic negotiations taking place with the target (or its board or Special Committee).  The Court declined to adopt a “bright line” rule that the MFW procedures had to be a condition of the controller’s “first offer” or other initial communication with the target about a potential transaction. Factual Background Synutra affirmed the Chancery Court’s dismissal of claims against Liang Zhang and related entities, who controlled 63.5% of Synutra’s stock.  In January 2016, Zhang wrote a letter to the Synutra board proposing to take the company private, but failed to include the MFW procedural prerequisites of Special Committee and majority of the minority approvals in the initial bid.  One week after Zhang’s first letter, the board formed a Special Committee to evaluate the proposal and, one week after that, Zhang submitted a revised bid letter that included the MFW protections.  The Special Committee declined to engage in any price negotiations until it had retained and received projections from its own investment bank, and such negotiations did not begin until seven months after Zhang’s second offer. Ab Initio Requirement The plaintiff argued that because Zhang’s initial letter did not contain the dual procedural safeguards of MFW as pre-conditions of any transaction, the “ab initio” requirement of MFW was not satisfied and therefore business judgment standard of review had been irreparably forfeited.  The Court declined to adopt this rigid position, and considered that “ab initio” for MFW purposes can be assessed more flexibly.  To arrive at this view, the Court explored the meaning of “the beginning” as used in ordinary language to denote an early period rather than a fixed point in time.  The Court also parsed potential ambiguities in the language of the Chancery Court’s MFW opinion, which provided that MFW pre-conditions must be in place “from the time of the controller’s first overture”[4] and “from inception.”[5] Ultimately, the Court looked to the purpose of the MFW protections to find that “ab initio” need not be read as referring to the single moment of a controller’s first offer.  As Synutra emphasizes, the key is that the controller not be able to trade adherence to MFW protections for a concession on price.  Hence the “ab initio” analysis focuses on whether deal economics remain untainted by controller coercion, so that the transaction can approximate an arms’ length transaction process with an unaffiliated third party.  As such, the Court’s reasoning is consistent with the standard espoused by the Chancery Court in its prior decision in Swomley v. Schlecht,[6] which the Court summarily affirmed in 2015, that MFW requires procedural protections be in place prior to the commencement of negotiations.[7] In a lengthy dissent, Justice Valihura opined that the “ab initio” requirement should be deemed satisfied only when MFW safeguards are included in the controller’s initial formal written proposal, and that the “negotiations” test undesirably introduces the potential for a fact-intensive inquiry that would complicate a pleadings-stage decision on what standard of review should be applied.  Chief Justice Strine acknowledged the potential appeal of a bright line test but ultimately rejected it because of the Court’s desire to provide strong incentive and opportunity for controllers to adopt and adhere to the MFW procedural safeguards, for the benefit of minority stockholders.  In doing so, the Court acknowledged that its approach “may give rise to close cases.”  However, the Court went on to add, “our Chancery Court is expert in the adjudication of corporate law cases.”  The Court also concluded that the facts in Synutra did not make it a close case.[8] Duty of Care The Court also upheld the Chancery Court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s claim that the Special Committee had breached its duty of care by failing to obtain a sufficient price.  Following the Chancery Court’s reasoning in Swomley, Synutra held that where the procedural safeguards of MFW have been observed, there is no duty of care breach at issue where a plaintiff alleges that a Special Committee could have negotiated differently or perhaps obtained a better price – what the Chancery Court in Swomley described as “a matter of strategy and tactics that’s debatable.”[9]  Instead, the Court confirmed that a duty of care violation would require a finding that the Special Committee had acted in a grossly negligent fashion.  Observing that the Synutra Special Committee had retained qualified and independent financial and legal advisors and engaged in a lengthy negotiation and deal process, the Court found nothing to support an inference of gross negligence and thus deferred to the Special Committee regarding deal price.[10] Procedural Posture Synutra dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint at the pleadings stage.  In its procedural posture, the Court followed Swomley, which allowed courts to resolve the MFW analysis based on the pleadings.  The dissent noted that adoption of a bright-line test would be more appropriate for pleadings-stage dismissals.  However, the Court established that it would be willing to engage some degree of fact-finding at the pleadings stage in order to allow cases to be dismissed at the earliest opportunity, even using the Court’s admittedly more flexible view of the application of MFW. Takeaways Synutra reaffirms the Court’s commitment to promoting implementation of MFW safeguards in controller transactions.  In particular: The Court will favor a pragmatic, flexible approach to “ab initio” determination, with the intent of determining whether the application of the MFW procedural safeguards have been used to affect or influence a transaction’s economics; Once a transaction has business judgment rule review, the Court will not inquire further as to sufficiency of price or terms absent egregious or reckless conduct by a Special Committee; and Since the goal is to incentivize the controller to follow MFW at a transaction’s earliest stages, complaints can be dismissed on the pleadings, thus avoiding far more costly and time consuming summary judgment motions. Although under Synutra a transaction may receive business judgment rule review despite unintentional or premature controller communications that do not reference the MFW procedural safeguards as inherent deal pre-conditions, deal professionals would be well advised not to push this flexibility too far.  Of course, there can be situations where a controller concludes that deal execution risks or burdens attendant to observance of the MFW safeguards are too great (or simply not feasible), and thus is willing to confront the close scrutiny of an entire fairness review if a deal is later challenged.  However, if a controller wants to ensure it will receive the benefit of business judgment rule review, the prudent course is to indicate, in any expression of interest, no matter how early or informal, that adherence to MFW procedural safeguards is a pre-condition to any transaction.  Synutra makes clear that the availability of business judgment review under MFW will be a facts and circumstances assessment, but we do not yet know what the outer limits of the Court’s flexibility will be, should it have to consider a more contentious set of facts in the future. [1]       Flood v. Synutra Int’l, Inc., No. 101, 2018 WL 4869248 (Del. Oct. 9, 2018). [2]      Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp., 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014). [3]      Id. at 644. [4]      In re MFW Shareholders Litigation, 67 A.3d 496, 503 (Del. Ch. 2013). [5]      Id. at 528. [6]      Swomley v. Schlecht, 2014 WL 4470947 (Del. Ch. 2014), aff’d 128 A.3d 992 (Del. 2015) (TABLE). [7]      The Court did not consider that certain matters that transpired between Zhang’s first and second offer letters, namely Synutra’s granting of a conflict waiver to allow its long-time counsel to represent Zhang (the Special Committee subsequently hired separate counsel), constituted substantive “negotiations” for this purpose since the waiver was not exchanged for any economic consideration. [8]      Synutra, 2018 WL 4869248, at *8. [9]      Id. at *11, citing Swomley, 2014 WL 4470947, at 21. [10]     In a footnote, the Court expressly overruled dicta in its MFW decision that the plaintiff cited to argue that a duty of care claim could be premised on the Special Committee’s obtaining of an allegedly insufficient price.  Id. at *10, Footnote 81. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Barbara Becker, Jeffrey Chapman, Stephen Glover, Mark Director, Eduardo Gallardo, Marina Szteinbok and Justice Flores. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist with any questions you may have regarding these issues.  For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions practice group: Mergers and Acquisitions Group / Corporate Transactions: Barbara L. Becker – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-4062, bbecker@gibsondunn.com) Jeffrey A. Chapman – Co-Chair, Dallas (+1 214-698-3120, jchapman@gibsondunn.com) Stephen I. Glover – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8593, siglover@gibsondunn.com) Dennis J. Friedman – New York (+1 212-351-3900, dfriedman@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan K. Layne – Los Angeles (+1 310-552-8641, jlayne@gibsondunn.com) Mark D. Director – Washington, D.C./New York (+1 202-955-8508/+1 212-351-5308, mdirector@gibsondunn.com) Eduardo Gallardo – New York (+1 212-351-3847, egallardo@gibsondunn.com) Saee Muzumdar – New York (+1 212-351-3966, smuzumdar@gibsondunn.com) Mergers and Acquisitions Group / Litigation: Meryl L. Young – Orange County (+1 949-451-4229, myoung@gibsondunn.com) Brian M. Lutz – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8379, blutz@gibsondunn.com) Aric H. Wu – New York (+1 212-351-3820, awu@gibsondunn.com) Paul J. Collins – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5309, pcollins@gibsondunn.com) Michael M. Farhang – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7005, mfarhang@gibsondunn.com) Joshua S. Lipshutz – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8217, jlipshutz@gibsondunn.com) Adam H. Offenhartz – New York (+1 212-351-3808, aoffenhartz@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 5, 2018 |
What Employers Need to Know About California’s New #MeToo Laws

Click for PDF On September 30, 2018, Governor Edmund G. Brown signed several new workplace laws, and vetoed others, that arose out of the #MeToo movement.  We briefly review the newly signed legislation and also highlight bills that Governor Brown rejected.  Unless otherwise indicated, these new laws will take effect on January 1, 2019. New Requirements for Employers New Training Requirements Expanded Requirements for Harassment and Discrimination Training.  Most California employers are aware that, under existing California law, employers with 50 or more employees must provide at least two hours of prescribed training regarding sexual harassment within six months of an individual’s hiring or promotion to a supervisory position and every two years while an employee remains in a supervisory position.  SB 1343 expands this requirement in two critical ways: The training requirements now cover all employers with five or more employees, which includes temporary or seasonal employees, meaning that many smaller employers are now subject to California’s training requirements. All covered employers must now provide at least one hour of sexual harassment training to non-supervisory employees by January 1, 2020, and once every two years thereafter, which may greatly expand the scope of required training for employers with large line-level workforces. SB 1343 also requires the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to make available online training courses that employers may use to meet these requirements.  However, employers may wish to work with their counsel and Human Resources departments to develop training that is specific to their business and industry, which is generally regarded as more effective than “one size fits all” trainings. Education and Training for Employees in Entertainment Industry.  AB 2338 requires, prior to the issuance of a permit to employ a minor in the entertainment industry, that the minor and the minor’s parents or legal guardians receive and complete sexual harassment training.  The law also requires that talent agencies ensure that minors have a valid work permit, and that agencies provide adult artists with accessible educational material “regarding sexual harassment prevention, retaliation, and reporting resources,” as well as nutrition and eating disorders. Anti-Harassment Legislation Restrictions on Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreements and More Rigorous Sexual Harassment Standards.  SB 1300 amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to agree to a non-disparagement agreement or other document limiting the disclosure of information about unlawful workplace acts in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment.  Employers are also prohibited from requiring an individual to “execute a statement that he or she does not possess any claim or injury against the employer” or to release “a right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint with, or otherwise notify, a state agency, other public prosecutor, law enforcement agency, or any court or other governmental entity.”  Under the law, any such agreement is contrary to public policy and unenforceable.  (Some of these activities, such as reporting to law enforcement, are already protected, of course.)  While negotiated settlement agreements of civil claims supported by valuable consideration are exempted from these prohibitions, employers will want to review their various employee agreement templates to ensure none contain these or other types of prohibited clauses. SB 1300 also codifies several legal standards that may make it more challenging for employers to prevail on harassment claims before trial.  For example, the law provides that a single incident of harassing conduct may create a triable issue of fact in a hostile work environment case; that it is irrelevant to a sexual harassment case that a particular occupation may have been characterized by more sexualized conduct in the past; and that “hostile working environment cases involve issues ‘not determinable on paper.'”  Employers can expect to see SB 1300 cited in any plaintiff’s opposition to summary judgment in a sexual harassment case, and they will need to give serious consideration as to whether and how to seek summary judgment in light of the new law. Limitations on Confidentiality in Settlement Agreements.  SB 820 prohibits provisions in settlement agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2019 that prevent the disclosure of facts related to sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination claims that have been “filed in a civil action or a complaint filed in an administrative action.”  Note, however, that SB 820 does not prohibit provisions precluding the disclosure of the settlement payment amount, and the law carves out an exception for provisions protecting the identity of the claimant where requested by the claimant. Expanded Sexual Harassment Liability to Cover Certain Business Relationships.  Businesses in the venture capital, entertainment, and similar industries will want to be alert to SB 224, which modifies California Civil Code section 51.9 and would include within the elements in a cause of action for sexual harassment when the plaintiff proves, among other things, that the “defendant holds himself or herself as being able to help the plaintiff establish a business, service, or professional relationship with the defendant or a third party.”  The law identifies additional examples of potential defendants under the statute, such as investors, elected officials, lobbyists, directors, and producers. Limitations on Barring Testimony Related to Criminal Conduct or Sexual Harassment.  AB 3109 prohibits waivers of a party’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment by the other party to a contract, when the party has been required or requested to attend the proceeding pursuant to a court order, subpoena, or written request from an administrative agency or the legislature. Mandating Gender Diversity on Boards of Directors for Publicly Held Corporations SB 826 requires a minimum number of female directors on the boards of publicly traded corporations with principal executive offices in California.  The location of a corporation’s principal executive office will be determined by the Annual Report on Form 10-K. Under SB 826, a corporation covered by the law must have at least one female member on its board of directors by December 31, 2019, and additional female members by 2021 depending on the size of the board.  If the corporation has a board of directors with: four members or less, no additional female directors are required; five members, the board must have at least two female directors by December 31, 2021; and six or more members, at least three female directors are required to be in place by December 31, 2021. The California Secretary of State can impose fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for subsequent violations. Potential challengers of this law argue that it suffers from numerous legal deficiencies, including that it violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.  Indeed, Governor Brown himself acknowledged in his signing statement that this new law has “potential flaws that indeed may provide fatal to its ultimate implementation” and will likely be subject to challenge.  For more information on SB 826, please consult our Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance group’s analysis, available here. Bills Vetoed by Governor Brown Governor Brown also vetoed several bills relating to sexual harassment that could have significantly impacted employers in California, including: The closely watched AB 3080, which sought to forbid mandatory arbitration agreements in the workplace. AB 1867, which sought to require employers with fifty or more employees to “maintain records of employee complaints alleging sexual harassment” for a period of five years after the last day of employment of either “the complainant or any alleged harasser named in the complaint, whichever is later.” AB 1870, which sought to extend the deadline in which a complainant may file an administrative charge with the DFEH alleging employment discrimination from one year to three years. AB 3081, which sought to require a client employer and a labor contractor to share all “civil legal responsibility and civil liability for harassment” for all workers supplied by that labor contractor and prohibit an employer from shifting its duties or liabilities to a labor contractor. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have about these developments. We have been engaged by numerous clients recently to conduct investigations of #MeToo complaints; to proactively review sexual harassment policies, practices and procedures for the protection of employees and the promotion of a safe, respectful and professional workplace; to conduct training for executives, managers and employees; and to handle related counseling and litigation. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work or the following Labor and Employment or Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group leaders and members: Labor and Employment Group: Catherine A. Conway – Co-Chair, Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7822, cconway@gibsondunn.com) Jason C. Schwartz – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8242, jschwartz@gibsondunn.com) Rachel S. Brass – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Jesse A. Cripps – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7792, jcripps@gibsondunn.com) Theane Evangelis – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7726, tevangelis@gibsondunn.com) Michele L. Maryott – Orange County (+1 949-451-3945,mmaryott@gibsondunn.com) Katherine V.A. Smith – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7107, ksmith@gibsondunn.com) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: Elizabeth Ising – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) Lori Zyskowski – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-2309, lzyskowski@gibsondunn.com) Stewart L. McDowell – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8322, smcdowell@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 3, 2018 |
M&A Report – 2018 Mid-Year Activism Update

Click for PDF This Client Alert provides an update on shareholder activism activity involving NYSE- and NASDAQ-listed companies with equity market capitalizations above $1 billion during the first half of 2018.  After a modest decline in activist activity in the second half of 2017, activism resumed a torrid pace during the first half of 2018.  Compared to the same period in 2017, which had previously been the most active half-year period covered by any edition of this report, this mid-year edition of Gibson Dunn’s Activism Update reflects a further increase in public activist actions (62 vs. 59) and companies targeted by such actions (54 vs. 50). In this edition of the Activism Update, our survey covers 62 total public activist actions, involving 41 different activist investors targeting 54 different companies.  Eight of those companies faced activist campaigns from two different investors, and five of those situations involved at least some degree of coordination between the activists involved.  Nine activist investors were responsible for two or more campaigns between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2018, representing 30, or nearly half, of the 62 campaigns covered by this report. By the Numbers – 2018 Full Year Public Activism Trends *All data is derived from the data compiled from the campaigns studied for the 2018 M Activism Update. Additional statistical analyses may be found in the complete Activism Update linked below.  While changes in business strategy were the top goal of activist campaigns covered by Gibson Dunn’s Activism Update for the second half of 2017, changes to board composition have returned to prominence in the first half of 2018 (75.8% of campaigns), coinciding with a dramatic uptick in publicly filed settlement agreements during the same period.  Activists pursued governance initiatives, sought to influence business strategy, and took positions on M&A-related issues (including pushing for spin-offs and advocating both for and against sales or acquisitions) at nearly equal rates, representing 35.5%, 33.9%, and 32.3% of campaigns, respectively.  Demands for management changes (21.0% of campaigns), attempts to take control of companies (9.5% of campaigns), and requests for capital returns (6.1% of campaigns) remained relatively less common goals of activist campaigns over the first half of 2018.  The frequency of activists filing proxy materials remained relatively consistent with periods covered by recent editions of this report, with investors filing proxy materials in just over one in five campaigns.  While market capitalizations of target companies ranged from this survey’s $1 billion minimum threshold to $100 billion, activists’ focus remained largely on small-cap companies with market capitalizations below $5 billion, which represented 64.8% of the 54 target companies captured by our survey. The most significant development noted in our previous report, covering the second half of 2017, was the decrease in publicly filed settlement agreements between activist investors and target companies, which we attributed partially to the concurrent decline in campaigns involving activists seeking board seats.  This trend has been reversed.  As campaigns seeking board representation have returned to prominence, the number of publicly filed settlement agreements in the first half of 2018 has seen a fivefold increase from the previous half-year period, from four such agreements in the second half of 2017 to 21 in the first half of 2018.  Trends in the key terms of settlement agreements remain relatively steady.  Voting agreements, standstills, and ownership thresholds remain nearly ubiquitous.  Non-disparagement provisions dropped off slightly in the first half of 2018, while committee appointments for new directors and other strategic initiatives (e.g., replacement of management, spin-offs, governance changes) remained near their historical averages in prior editions of this report.  The increased frequency of expense reimbursement noted in our last report has also continued into 2018, with 62% of publicly filed settlement agreements containing such a provision compared to a historical average of just 36% from 2014 through the first half of 2017.  Further details and data on publicly filed settlement agreements may be found in the latter half of this report. We hope you find Gibson Dunn’s 2018 Mid-Year Activism Update informative. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to a member of your Gibson Dunn team. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed in this publication.  For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following authors in the firm’s New York office: Barbara L. Becker (+1 212.351.4062, bbecker@gibsondunn.com) Richard J. Birns (+1 212.351.4032, rbirns@gibsondunn.com) Dennis J. Friedman (+1 212.351.3900, dfriedman@gibsondunn.com) Eduardo Gallardo (+1 212.351.3847, egallardo@gibsondunn.com) William Koch (+1 212.351.4089, wkoch@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the following practice group leaders and members: Mergers and Acquisitions Group: Jeffrey A. Chapman – Dallas (+1 214.698.3120, jchapman@gibsondunn.com) Stephen I. Glover – Washington, D.C. (+1 202.955.8593, siglover@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan K. Layne – Los Angeles (+1 310.552.8641, jlayne@gibsondunn.com) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: Brian J. Lane – Washington, D.C. (+1 202.887.3646, blane@gibsondunn.com) Ronald O. Mueller – Washington, D.C. (+1 202.955.8671, rmueller@gibsondunn.com) James J. Moloney – Orange County, CA (+1 949.451.4343, jmoloney@gibsondunn.com) Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202.955.8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212.351.2309, lzyskowski@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 2, 2018 |
M&A Report – Fresenius Marks a Watershed Development in the Analysis of “Material Adverse Effect” Clauses

Click for PDF On October 1, 2018, in Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi AG,[1]  the Delaware Court of Chancery determined conclusively for the first time that a buyer had validly terminated a merger agreement due to the occurrence of a “material adverse effect” (MAE). Though the decision represents a seminal development in M&A litigation generally, Vice Chancellor Laster grounded his decision in a framework that comports largely with the ordinary practice of practitioners. In addition, the Court went to extraordinary lengths to explicate the history between the parties before concluding that the buyer had validly terminated the merger agreement, and so sets the goalposts for a similar determination in the future to require a correspondingly egregious set of facts. As such, the ripple effects of Fresenius in future M&A negotiations may not be as acute as suggested in the media.[2] Factual Overview On April 24, 2017, Fresenius Kabi AG, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Germany, agreed to acquire Akorn, Inc., a specialty generic pharmaceutical manufacturer based in Illinois. In the merger agreement, Akorn provided typical representations and warranties about its business, including its compliance with applicable regulatory requirements. In addition, Fresenius’s obligation to close was conditioned on Akorn’s representations being true and correct both at signing and at closing, except where the failure to be true and correct would not reasonably be expected to have an MAE. In concluding that an MAE had occurred, the Court focused on several factual patterns: Long-Term Business Downturn. Shortly after Akorn’s stockholders approved the merger (three months after the execution of the merger agreement), Akorn announced year-over-year declines in quarterly revenues, operating income and earnings per share of 29%, 84% and 96%, respectively. Akorn attributed the declines to the unexpected entrance of new competitors, the loss of a key customer contract and the attrition of its market share in certain products. Akorn revised its forecast downward for the following quarter, but fell short of that goal as well and announced year-over-year declines in quarterly revenues, operating income and earnings per share of 29%, 89% and 105%, respectively. Akorn ascribed the results to unanticipated supply interruptions, added competition and unanticipated price erosion; it also adjusted downward its long-term forecast to reflect dampened expectations for the commercialization of its pipeline products. The following quarter, Akorn reported year-over-year declines in quarterly revenues, operating income and earnings per share of 34%, 292% and 300%, respectively. Ultimately, over the course of the year following the signing of the merger agreement, Akorn’s EBITDA declined by 86%. Whistleblower Letters. In late 2017 and early 2018, Fresenius received anonymous letters from whistleblowers alleging flaws in Akorn’s product development and quality control processes. In response, relying upon a covenant in the merger agreement affording the buyer reasonable access to the seller’s business between signing and closing, Fresenius conducted a meticulous investigation of the Akorn business using experienced outside legal and technical advisors. The investigation revealed grievous flaws in Akorn’s quality control function, including falsification of laboratory data submitted to the FDA, that cast doubt on the accuracy of Akorn’s compliance with laws representations. Akorn, on the other hand, determined not to conduct its own similarly wide-ranging investigation (in contravention of standard practice for an FDA-regulated company) for fear of uncovering facts that could jeopardize the deal. During a subsequent meeting with the FDA, Akorn omitted numerous deficiencies identified in the company’s quality control group and presented a “one-sided, overly sunny depiction.” Operational Changes. Akorn did not operate its business in the ordinary course after signing (despite a covenant requiring that it do so) and fundamentally changed its quality control and information technology (IT) functions without the consent of Fresenius. Akorn management replaced regular internal audits with “verification” audits that only addressed prior audit findings rather than identifying new problems. Management froze investments in IT projects, which reduced oversight over data integrity issues, and halted efforts to investigate and remediate quality control issues and data integrity violations out of concern that such investigations and remediation would upend the transaction. Following signing, NSF International, an independent, accredited standards development and certification group focused on health and safety issues, also identified numerous deficiencies in Akorn’s manufacturing facilities. Conclusions and Key Takeaways The Court determined, among others, that the sudden and sustained drop in Akorn’s business performance constituted a “general MAE” (that is, the company itself had suffered an MAE), Akorn’s representations with respect to regulatory compliance were not true and correct, and the deviation between the as-represented condition and its actual condition would reasonably be expected to result in an MAE. In addition, the Court found that the operational changes implemented by Akorn breached its covenant to operate in the ordinary course of business. Several aspects of the Court’s analysis have implications for deal professionals: Highly Egregious Facts. Although the conclusion that an MAE occurred is judicially unprecedented in Delaware, it is not surprising given the facts. The Court determined that Akorn had undergone sustained and substantial declines in financial performance, credited testimony suggesting widespread regulatory noncompliance and malfeasance in the Akorn organization and suggested that decisions made by Akorn regarding health and safety were re-prioritized in light of the transaction (and in breach of a highly negotiated interim operating covenant). In In re: IBP, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, then-Vice Chancellor Strine described himself as “confessedly torn” over a case that involved a 64% year-over-year drop-off in quarterly earnings amid allegations of improper accounting practices, but determined that no MAE had occurred because the decline in earnings was temporary. In Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc. v. Huntsman Corp., Vice Chancellor Lamb emphasized that it was “not a coincidence” that “Delaware courts have never found a material adverse effect to have occurred in the context of a merger agreement” and concluded the same, given that the anticipated decline in the target’s EBITDA would only be 7%. No such hesitation can be found in the Fresenius opinion.[3] MAE as Risk Allocation Tool. The Court framed MAE clauses as a form of risk allocation that places “industry risk” on the buyer and “company-specific” risk on the seller. Explained in a more nuanced manner, the Court categorized “business risk,” which arises from the “ordinary operations of the party’s business” and which includes those risks over which “the party itself usually has significant control”, as being retained by the seller. By contrast, the Court observed that the buyer ordinarily assumes three others types of risk—namely, (i) systematic risks, which are “beyond the control of all parties,” (ii) indicator risks, which are markers of a potential MAE, such as a drop in stock price or a credit rating downgrade, but are not underlying causes of any MAE themselves, and (iii) agreement risks, which include endogenous risks relating to the cost of closing a deal, such as employee flight. This framework comports with the foundation upon which MAE clauses are ordinarily negotiated and underscores the importance that sellers negotiate for industry-specific carve-outs from MAE clauses, such as addressing adverse decisions by governmental agencies in heavily regulated industries. High Bar to Establishing an MAE. The Court emphasized the heavy burden faced by a buyer in establishing an MAE. Relying upon the opinions that emerged from the economic downturns in 2001 and 2008,[4]  the Court reaffirmed that “short-term hiccups in earnings” do not suffice; rather, the adverse change must be “consequential to the company’s long-term earnings power over a commercially reasonable period, which one would expect to be measured in years rather than months.” The Court underscored several relevant facts in this case, including (i) the magnitude and length of the downturn, (ii) the suddenness with which the EBITDA decline manifested (following five consecutive years of growth) and (iii) the presence of factors suggesting “durational significance,” including the entrance of new and unforeseen competitors and the permanent loss of key customers.[5] Evaluation of Targets on a Standalone Basis. Akorn advanced the novel argument that an MAE could not have occurred because the purchaser would have generated synergies through the combination and would have generated profits from the merger. The Court rejected this argument categorically, finding that the MAE clause was focused solely on the results of operations and financial condition of the target and its subsidiaries, taken as a whole (rather than the surviving corporation or the combined company), and carved out any effects arising from the “negotiation, execution, announcement or performance” of the merger agreement or the merger itself, including “the generation of synergies.” Given the Court’s general aversion to considering synergies as relevant to determining an MAE, buyers should consider negotiating to include express references to synergies in defining the concept of an MAE in their merger agreements. Disproportionate Effect. Fresenius offers a useful gloss on the importance to buyers of including “disproportionate effects” qualifications in MAE carve-outs regarding industry-wide events. Akorn argued that it faced “industry headwinds” that caused its decline in performance, such as heightened competition and pricing pressure as well as regulatory actions that increased costs. However, the Court rejected this view because many of the causes of Akorn’s poor performance were actually specific to Akorn, such as new market entrants in Akorn’s top three products and Akorn’s loss of a specific key contract. As such, these “industry effects” disproportionately affected and were allocated from a risk-shifting perspective to Akorn. To substantiate this conclusion, the Court relied upon evidence that Akorn’s EBITDA decline vastly exceeded its peers. The Bring-Down Standard. A buyer claiming that a representation given by the target at closing fails to satisfy the MAE standard must demonstrate such failure qualitatively and quantitatively. The Court focused on a number of qualitative harms wrought by the events giving rise to Akorn’s failure to bring down its compliance with laws representation at closing, including reputational harm, loss of trust with principal regulators and public questioning of the safety and efficacy of Akorn’s products. With respect to quantitative measures of harm, Fresenius and Akorn presented widely ranging estimates of the cost of remedying the underlying quality control challenges at Akorn. Using the midpoint of those estimates, the Court estimated the financial impact to be approximately 21% of Akorn’s market capitalization. However, despite citing several proxies for financial performance suggesting that this magnitude constituted an MAE, the Court clearly weighted its analysis towards qualitative factors, noting that “no one should fixate on a particular percentage as establishing a bright-line test” and that “no one should think that a General MAE is always evaluated using profitability metrics and an MAE tied to a representation is always tied to the entity’s valuation.” Indeed, the Court observed that these proxies “do not foreclose the possibility that a buyer could show that percentage changes of a lesser magnitude constituted an MAE. Nor does it exclude the possibility that a buyer might fail to prove that percentage changes of a greater magnitude constituted an MAE.” Fresenius offers a useful framework for understanding how courts analyze MAE clauses. While this understanding largely comports with the approach taken by deal professionals, the case nevertheless offers a reminder that an MAE, while still quite unlikely, can occur. Deal professionals would be well-advised to be thoughtful about how the concept should be defined and used in an agreement.    [1]   Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi AG, C.A. No. 2018-0300-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 2018).    [2]   See, e.g., Jef Feeley, Chris Dolmetsch & Joshua Fineman, Akorn Plunges After Judge Backs Fresenius Exit from Deal, Bloomberg (Oct 1, 2018) (“‘The ruling is a watershed moment in Delaware law, and will be a seminal case for those seeking to get out of M&A agreements,’ Holly Froum, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, said in an emailed statement.”); Tom Hals, Delaware Judge Says Fresenius Can Walk Away from $4.8 Billion Akorn Deal, Reuters (Oct. 1, 2018) (“‘This is a landmark case,’ said Larry Hamermesh, a professor at Delaware Law School in Wilmington, Delaware.”).    [3]   The egregiousness of the facts in this case is further underscored by the fact that the Court determined that the buyer had breached its own covenant to use its reasonable best efforts to secure antitrust clearance, but that this breach was “temporary” and “not material.”    [4]   See, e.g., Hexion Specialty Chems. Inc. v. Huntsman Corp., 965 A.2d 715 (Del. Ch. 2008); In re: IBP, Inc. S’holders Litig., 789 A.2d 14 (Del. Ch. 2001).    [5]   This view appears to comport with the analysis highlighted by the Court from In re: IBP, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, in which the court determined that an MAE had not transpired in part because the target’s “problems were due in large measure to a severe winter, which adversely affected livestock supplies and vitality.” In re: IBP, 789 A.2d at 22. In this case, the decline of Akorn was not the product of systemic risks or cyclical declines, but rather a company-specific effect. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update:  Barbara Becker, Jeffrey Chapman, Stephen Glover, Mark Director, Andrew Herman, Saee Muzumdar, Adam Offenhartz, and Daniel Alterbaum. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist with any questions you may have regarding these issues.  For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions practice group: Mergers and Acquisitions Group / Corporate Transactions: Barbara L. Becker – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-4062, bbecker@gibsondunn.com) Jeffrey A. Chapman – Co-Chair, Dallas (+1 214-698-3120, jchapman@gibsondunn.com) Stephen I. Glover – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8593, siglover@gibsondunn.com) Dennis J. Friedman – New York (+1 212-351-3900, dfriedman@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan K. Layne – Los Angeles (+1 310-552-8641, jlayne@gibsondunn.com) Mark D. Director – Washington, D.C./New York (+1 202-955-8508/+1 212-351-5308, mdirector@gibsondunn.com) Andrew M. Herman – Washington, D.C./New York (+1 202-955-8227/+1 212-351-5389, aherman@gibsondunn.com) Eduardo Gallardo – New York (+1 212-351-3847, egallardo@gibsondunn.com) Saee Muzumdar – New York (+1 212-351-3966, smuzumdar@gibsondunn.com) Mergers and Acquisitions Group / Litigation: Meryl L. Young – Orange County (+1 949-451-4229, myoung@gibsondunn.com) Brian M. Lutz – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8379, blutz@gibsondunn.com) Aric H. Wu – New York (+1 212-351-3820, awu@gibsondunn.com) Paul J. Collins – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5309, pcollins@gibsondunn.com) Michael M. Farhang – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7005, mfarhang@gibsondunn.com) Joshua S. Lipshutz – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8217, jlipshutz@gibsondunn.com) Adam H. Offenhartz – New York (+1 212-351-3808, aoffenhartz@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

August 27, 2018 |
SEC Streamlines Disclosure Requirements As Part of Its Overall Disclosure Effectiveness Review

Click for PDF This client alert provides an overview of changes to existing disclosure requirements recently adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”).  On August 17, 2018, the Commission adopted several dozen amendments (available here) to existing disclosure requirements to “simplify compliance without significantly altering the total mix of information” (the “Final Rules”).  In Release No. 33-10532, the Commission characterized the amended requirements as redundant, duplicative, overlapping, outdated or superseded, in light of subsequent changes to Commission disclosure requirements, U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”), International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) and technology developments.  The Final Rules are largely consistent with the changes outlined in the Commission’s July 13, 2016 proposing release, available here (the “Proposed Rules”).  They form part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts in connection with the Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative relating to Regulations S-K and S-X and the Commission’s mandate under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (“FAST”) Act to eliminate provisions of Regulation S-K that are duplicative, overlapping, outdated, or unnecessary. The Commission adopted the amendments addressed in the Proposed Rules with few exceptions. The Final Rules will become effective 30 days from publication in the Federal Register.  In the short term, issuers and registrants will need to revise their disclosure practices and compliance checklists in light of the amendments before filing a registration statement or periodic report following effectiveness of the Final Rules. I.   Summary of Adopted Changes For certain disclosure requirements that are related to, but not the same as, U.S. GAAP, IFRS, or other Commission disclosure requirements, the Commission: (i) deleted those disclosure requirements that convey reasonably similar information to or are encompassed by the disclosures that result from compliance with overlapping U.S. GAAP, IFRS, or Commission disclosure requirements; and (ii) integrated those disclosure requirements that overlapped, but required information that was incremental to, other Commission disclosure requirements. A.   Deletions of Requirements Covered Otherwise The Commission eliminated the following disclosure requirements, as proposed:[1] Amount Spent on R&D.  The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose amounts spent on research and development activities for all years presented (Item 101(c)(1)(xi) of Regulation S-K) because it is already covered by U.S. GAAP. Financial Information by Segment.  The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose financial information (specifically, revenues from external customers, a measure of profit or loss and total assets) about segments for the last three years (Item 101(b) of Regulation S-K),[2] because it is already covered by U.S. GAAP. Financial Information by Geographic Area.  The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose financial information by geographic area (Item 101(d)(2) of Regulation S-K) and risks associated with an issuer’s foreign operations and any segment’s dependence on foreign operations (Item 101(d)(3) of Regulation S-K), because it is already covered by U.S. GAAP. Dividend History.  The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose the frequency and amount of cash dividends declared (Item 201(c)(1) of Regulation S-K), because this information is already covered by amended Rule 3-04 of Regulation S-X. Ratio of Earnings to Fixed Charges.  The Commission deleted the requirement to provide a ratio of earnings to fixed charges (Items 503(d) and 601(b)(12) of Regulation S-K; Instruction 7 to Exhibits of Form 20-F), because U.S. GAAP already provides the disclosure of the components commonly used to calculate these ratios.  Issuers no longer need to include this information in an exhibit to their 10-K or in their registration statements. B.   Integrations of Duplicative Requirements The Commission integrated the following duplicative disclosure requirements, as proposed: Restrictions on Dividends.  The Commission consolidated several disclosure requirements related to the restriction of dividends and related items.  Where formerly the disclosure requirements were located in parts of both Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X, the Commission consolidated such disclosure requirements for domestic issuers under a single requirement in revised Rule 4-08(e)(3) of Regulation S-X. The disclosure will now only appear in the notes to the financial statements. Discussion of Geographic Areas.  The Commission integrated the requirement to discuss facts indicating why performance in certain geographic areas may not be indicative of current or future operations by eliminating the requirement from Item 101(d)(4) of Regulation S-K and revising Item 303 of Regulation S-K (which currently requires a discussion regarding elements of income that are not indicative of the issuer’s ongoing business), to add an explicit reference to “geographic areas.”  In addition, the Commission adopted the following clarification as suggested by the commenters: the discussion of income from certain geographic areas under revised Item 303 of Regulation S-K is not required in all circumstances, but only when management believes such discussion would be appropriate to an understanding of the business. C.   Deletions of Outdated Disclosure Requirements[3] The Commission also eliminated provisions that have become outdated as a result of the passage of time or changes in the regulatory, business, or technological environment (such as stale transition dates and moot income tax instructions), including the following: Available Information. The Commission deleted the requirement (contained in Item 101(e)(2) and Item 101(h)(5)(iii) of Regulation S-K, Forms S-1, S-3, S-4, S-11, F-1, F-3, and F-4,  Item 1118(b) of Regulation AB, and Forms SF-1, SF-3, N-1A, N-2, N-3, N-5, N6, and N-8B-2) to identify the Public Reference Room and disclose its physical address and phone number. The Commission retained the requirement (contained in Item 101(e)(2) of Regulation S-K, and Forms S-1, S-3, S-4, S-11, F-3, F-4, SF-1, SF-3, and N-4) to disclose the Commission’s Internet address and a statement that electronic SEC filings are available there and expanded this requirement to Forms 20-F and F-1. The Commission added a requirement to Items 101(e) and 101(h)(5) of Regulation S-K, and Forms S-3, S-4, F-1, F-3, F-4, 20-F, SF-1, and SF-3 that all issuers disclose their Internet addresses (or, in the case of asset-backed issuers, the address of the specified transaction party). Exchange Rate Data. The Commission deleted the requirement in Item 3.A.3 of Form 20-F  that foreign private issuers provide exchange rate data when financial statements are prepared in a currency other than the U.S. dollar insofar as this data is widely available on the internet. Age of Financial Statements. The Commission added language clarifying the facts and circumstances when foreign private issuers may comply with the aging requirement to include audited financial statements in an initial public offering that are not older than 15 months compared to the 12 months aging requirement. They also deleted the reference to a waiver in Instruction 2 to Item 8.A.4 of Form 20-F. Market Price. The Commission eliminated the detailed disclosure requirement under Item 201(a)(1) of Regulation S-K related to historical high and low sale prices in light of the fact that the daily market price of most publicly traded securities are easily accessible free of charge on numerous websites that provide more information than is required under Regulation S-K.  Such requirements remain in place for issuers with no class of common equity traded in an established trading market; however, for issuers with established trading markets, the Final Rules require the disclosure of the trading symbols used for each class of common equity and the principal foreign public trading market in the case of foreign issuers.  In addition, issuers with common equity that is not traded on an exchange are required to indicate, as applicable, that any over-the-counter quotations reflect inter-dealer prices and may not necessarily represent actual transactions. The Final Rules also amended Item 9.A.4 of Form 20-F to be consistent with the adopted amendments to Item 201(a). D.   Amendments to Superseded Disclosure Requirements[4] The Commission amended disclosure requirements that were inconsistent with recent legislation and more recently updated U.S. GAAP and Commission disclosure requirements.  In addition to updating references to auditing standards in numerous rules and Commission forms and eliminating non-existent or incorrect references and typographical errors, the Final Rules include several substantive changes with both generally applicable and industry-specific effects in light of changes to U.S. GAAP requirements, including the following: Sale of REIT Property.  The Commission eliminated the requirement that REITs present separately all gains and losses on the sale of properties outside of continuing operations (Rule 3-15(a)(1) of Regulation S-X), insofar as U.S. GAAP rules require only the presentation of gains and losses on the disposal of “discontinued operations.” Insurance Companies.  The Final Rules include changes applicable to Insurance Company issuers. The Commission removed elements of disclosure requirements regarding reinsurance recoverable on paid losses and the reporting of separate account assets (Rules 7-03(a)(6) and 7-03(a)(11) of Regulation S-X) that conflict with U.S. GAAP. Consolidated and Combined Financial Statements.  The Final Rules include several changes to Regulation S-X related to the presentation of consolidated and combined financial statements in order to reflect changes to U.S. GAAP. Specifically, the Commission corrected for numerous inconsistencies with respect to Differences in Fiscal Periods (Rule 3A-02 of Regulation S-X), the Bank Holding Act of 1956 (Rule 3A-02 of Regulation S-X), Intercompany Transactions (Rules 3A-04 and 4-08 of Regulation S-X) and Dividends Per Share in Interim Financial Statements (Rules 3-04, 8-03, and 10-01 of Regulation S-X). E.   Deletion of Redundant or Duplicative Requirements[5] The Commission deleted all duplicative requirements identified in the Proposed Rules, primarily under Regulation S-X, that require substantially similar disclosure as required under U.S. GAAP, IFRS, or other Commission requirements (with the exception of the requirements in Rule 3-20 of Regulation S-X related to the foreign currency disclosure in the financial statements of foreign private issuers).  These minor amendments deleted duplicative language covering a wide variety of disclosure topics, including the following: Consolidation. The Commission deleted Rule 4-08(a) of Regulation S-X requiring compliance with Article 3A (duplicative of Article 3A), Rule 3A-01 of Regulation S-X stating the subject matter of Article 3A (duplicative of Article 3A), language in Rule 3A-02(b)(1) of Regulation S-X permitting consolidation of an entity’s financial statements for its fiscal period if the period does not differ from that of the issuer by more than 93 days (duplicative of ASC 810-10-45-12), language in Rule 3A-02(d) of Regulation S-X requiring consideration of the propriety of consolidation under certain restrictions (duplicative of ASC 810-10-15-10), language in Rule 3A-02 and 3A-03(a) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the accounting policies followed in consolidation or combination (duplicative of ASC 235-10-50-1 and ASC 810-10-50), and language in  Rule 3A-04 of Regulation S-X requiring the elimination of intercompany transactions (duplicative of ASC 323-10-35-5a and ASC 810-10-45). Income Tax Disclosure. The Commission deleted language in Rule 4-08(f) of Regulation S-X requiring income tax rate reconciliation (duplicative of ASC 740-10-50-12) and language in Rule 4-08(h)(2) of Regulation S-X permitting income tax rate reconciliation to be presented in either percentages or dollars (duplicative of ASC 740-10-50-12). Earnings Per Share. The Commission deleted language in Rule 10-01(b)(2) of Regulation S-X requiring presentation of earnings per share on interim income statement (duplicative of ASC 270-10-50-1b) and Item 601(b)(11) of Regulation S-K and Instruction 6 to “Instructions as to Exhibits” of Form 20-F requiring disclosure of the computation of earnings per share in annual filings (duplicative of ASC 260-10-50-1a, Rule 10-01(b)(2) of Regulation S-X, and IAS 33, paragraph 70). Interim Financial Statements. The Commission deleted Rule 10-01(b)(5) of Regulation S-X requiring  disclosure of the effect of discontinued operations on interim revenues, net income, and earnings per share for all periods presented (duplicative of ASC 205-20-50-5B, ASC 205-20-50-5C, ASC 260-10- 45-3, and ASC 270-10-50-7) and language in Rule 10-01(b)(3) of Regulation SX requiring that common control transactions be reflected in current and prior comparative periods’ interim financial statements (duplicative of ASC 805-50-45-1 to 5). Bank Holding Companies. The Commission deleted Rule 9-03.6(a) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the carrying and market values of securities of the U.S. Treasury and other U.S. Government agencies and corporations, securities of states of the U.S. and political subdivisions, and other securities (duplicative of ASC 320-10-50-1B, ASC 320-10-50-2, ASC 320-10-50-5, and ASC 942-320-50-2), Rule 9-03.7(d) of Regulation S-X requiring  disclosure of changes in the allowance for loan losses (duplicative of ASC 310-10-50-11B(c)), and language in Rule 9-04.13(h) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the method followed in determining the cost of investment securities sold (duplicative of ASC 235-10-50-1 and ASC 320-10-50-9b). II.   Summary of Proposed Rules Not Adopted A.   Retained Requirements The Commission originally proposed to delete the following overlapping disclosure requirements, but instead chose to retain the requirements without amendment: Pro-Forma Dispositions.  The Commission retained the requirement under Rule 8-03(b)(4) of Regulation S-X to present pro forma financial information regarding business dispositions. This decision was in response to commenter concerns that the disclosure would not be sufficiently substituted by Regulation S-K, because Item 9.01 of Form 8-K only references significant acquisitions rather than dispositions.  The Commission determined that the issue warranted additional analysis and consideration and opted not to amend the requirement. Seasonality.  The requirement to discuss seasonality under Item 101(c)(1)(v) of Regulation S-K was retained without amendment. This decision was in response to concerns about the potential loss of information in the fourth quarter about the extent to which an issuer’s business is seasonal because U.S. GAAP may not elicit this disclosure. Legal Proceedings.  The Commission declined to adopt amendments to the legal proceedings disclosure required under Item 103 of Regulation S-K or to refer the disclosure requirements under Item 103 to the FASB for potential incorporation into U.S. GAAP.  The Commission cited several differences between the Regulation S-K requirement and its parallel requirement under U.S. GAAP, and emphasized that integration could have broad implications such as expanding costly audit reviews and increasing the disclosure of immaterial items. Mutual Life Insurance Companies. The Commission did not adopt the proposed change to Rule 7-02(b) of Regulation S-X, which would have eliminated the ability of mutual life insurance companies to prepare financial statements in accordance with statutory accounting requirements. B.   Potential Changes Referred to FASB For Prompt Review The Commission originally proposed to delete the following overlapping disclosure requirements, but instead opted to retain these requirements and refer them to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”), with a request that FASB complete its review within 18 months of the publication of the Final Rules in the Federal Register: Repurchase and Reverse Repurchase Agreements.  The Commission retained  the Regulation S-X disclosure requirements related to repurchase and reverse repurchase agreements (such as the separate presentation of repurchase liabilities on the balance sheet).  The Commission emphasized that several commenters had expressed concern that deletion of this requirement would eliminate disclosures that are material and not otherwise available to investors in the repo market. Equity Compensation Plans.  The Commission also retained the requirement under Item 201(d) of Regulation S-K to discuss securities authorized under equity compensation plans in an information table, noting commenter concerns that U.S. GAAP does not require certain information, such as the number of securities available for issuance under an equity compensation plan, which may be material to investors. C.   Retained Requirements Referred to FASB for Potential Review For disclosure requirements that overlapped with, but required information incremental to, U.S. GAAP, the Commission elected to solicit further comment before determining whether to retain, modify, eliminate, or refer them to FASB for potential incorporation into U.S. GAAP.[6]  In the Final Rules, the Commission generally retained and referred such requirements to FASB to be considered in its normal standard-setting process.  For example: Major Customers.  The Commission retained the requirement to discuss major customers under Item 101(c)(1)(vii) of Regulation S-K despite it being substantially similar to U.S. GAAP requirements, because Regulation S-K (unlike U.S. GAAP) contains an incremental requirement to disclose the name of a major customer in certain instances.  The Commission referred this particular requirement to FASB because it continues to believe the identity of major customers represents material information to investors and allows investors to better assess the risks associated with a particular customer. Revenue from Products and Services.  While Regulation S-K and U.S. GAAP both require the disclosure of the amount of revenue from products and services, Item 101(c)(1)(i) of Regulation S-K only requires this information if a certain threshold is met, while U.S. GAAP includes a “practicability” exception.  Accordingly, the Commission retained and referred the Regulation S-K requirement to FASB for potential incorporation into U.S. GAAP. Conclusion The amendments contained in the Final Rules are highly technical and are explicitly intended to avoid any substantive changes to the “total mix of information provided to investors.” Nonetheless, these changes should reduce the cost and time of issuer compliance both by eliminating specific outdated and superfluous disclosure requirements and by reducing the overall number of rules to consider. In the short term, issuers and registrants will need to revise their disclosure practices and compliance checklists in light of the amendments before filing a registration statement or periodic report following effectiveness of the Final Rules. Furthermore, issuers should expect additional changes in the future as part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to clean up and modernize disclosure requirements in connection with its Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.    [1]   For a complete discussion on final adoptions for overlapping disclosure requirements proposed to be deleted, see page 37 of the Final Rules.    [2]   Additionally, the Commission eliminated Rule 3-03(e) of Regulation S-X as suggested by a commenter (which was not in the Proposed Rules), because it is likewise redundant with U.S. GAAP (see page 71 of the Final Rules).    [3]   A complete discussion of adopted amendments for outdated disclosure requirements begins on page 100 of the Final Rules.    [4]   A complete discussion of adopted amendments for superseded disclosure requirements begins on page 108 of the Final Rules.    [5]   A complete discussion of adopted amendments for redundant or duplicative disclosure requirements begins on page 28 of the Final Rules.    [6]   For a complete discussion on overlapping disclosure requirements where the Commission solicited comments see page 83 of the Final Rules. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Capital Markets or Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice groups, or the authors: Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, hholmes@gibsondunn.com) Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) James J. Moloney – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4343, jmoloney@gibsondunn.com) Michael Titera – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4365, mtitera@gibsondunn.com) Michael A. Mencher – New York (+1 212-351-5309, mmencher@gibsondunn.com) Maya J. Hoard – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4046, mhoard@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the following practice leaders: Capital Markets Group: Stewart L. McDowell – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8322, smcdowell@gibsondunn.com) Peter W. Wardle – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7242, pwardle@gibsondunn.com) Andrew L. Fabens – New York (+1 212-351-4034, afabens@gibsondunn.com) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, hholmes@gibsondunn.com) J. Alan Bannister – New York (+1 212-351-2310, abannister@gibsondunn.com) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: Elizabeth Ising – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) James J. Moloney – Co-Chair, Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4343, jmoloney@gibsondunn.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, lzyskowski@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn &amp Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

August 6, 2018 |
SEC Proposes Streamlined Financial Disclosures for Certain Guaranteed Debt Securities and Affiliates Whose Securities Are Pledged to Secure a Series of Debt Securities

Click for PDF On July 24, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) proposed amendments to Rules 3-10 and 3-16 of Regulation S-X (available here) (the “Proposal”) in an effort to “simplify and streamline” the financial disclosures required in offerings of certain guaranteed debt and debt-like securities (collectively referred to as “debt securities”), as well as offerings of securities collateralized by securities of an affiliate of the registrant, registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). These proposed changes would, if implemented, facilitate greater speed to market for such public offerings, significantly reducing the Securities Act disclosure burdens for such registrants, as well as reducing the registrant’s disclosure obligations in its subsequent annual and interim reports required under Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). Background Current Alternative Disclosure Regime for Certain Guaranteed Debt Securities.  For purposes of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act, guarantees of securities are deemed separate securities from the underlying security that is guaranteed.  As a result, absent a regulatory exception or exemption, a prospectus prepared for a public offering of guaranteed debt securities registered under the Securities Act is required to include the full separate financial statements of (and disclosure regarding) each guarantor (in addition to those of the issuer of the guaranteed debt security) in the form and for the periods required for registrants under Regulation S-X, and each such guarantor (like the issuer of the guaranteed debt security) is also required to be registered under the Exchange Act and thereafter file annual and interim reports under that Act just as any other registrant.  Recognizing the substantial burdens of such disclosures that would otherwise be imposed in connection with registered public offerings of certain guaranteed debt securities involving parent companies and their wholly-owned subsidiaries, much of which would be duplicative, the SEC has embraced exceptions (as currently set out in Regulation S-X Rule 3-10 (“S-X 3-10”)) to instead permit the parent company in a qualifying offering of such guaranteed debt securities to file only its consolidated financial statements, together with certain condensed consolidating financial information (“Consolidating Financial Information”) intended to allow investors to distinguish between the obligor and non-obligor components of the consolidated group of companies represented in the parent’s consolidated financial statements.  S-X 3-10 also requires the registrant to include specified textual disclosure, where applicable,  about the limited nature of the assets and operations of the issuer, guarantor(s) or non-guaranteeing subsidiaries, as the case may be, and describing any material limitations on the ability of the parent or any guarantor to obtain funds (whether by dividend, loan or otherwise) from its subsidiaries and any other relevant limitations on any subsidiary’s use of its fund (together with the Consolidating Financial Information, the “Alternative Disclosure”).  The Alternative Disclosure is required to be included in a note to the parent’s consolidated audited financial statements and must cover the same periods for which the parent is required to include its consolidated financial statements.  The parent company is required to include the Alternative Disclosure in its annual and quarterly Exchange Act reports filed after the guaranteed debt securities are issued and to continue to do so as long as the securities remain outstanding, even for periods in which the issuer(s) and guarantors have no Exchange Act reporting obligation with respect to such securities.  In addition, for certain significant recently-acquired subsidiary guarantors, S-X 3-10 currently requires that the registration statement for the offering include the separate audited financial statements for such subsidiaries’ most recent fiscal year and unaudited financial statements for any interim period for which the parent is required to include its interim financial statements. Pursuant to Rule 12h-5, each guarantor or issuer subsidiary in any such qualifying transaction is exempt from the separate ongoing Exchange Act reporting obligations otherwise applicable to a registrant. Notwithstanding the advantages offered by the exception provided by S-X 3-10, the conditions to the current regulation, including that the subsidiaries be 100% owned by the parent and that all guarantees be full and unconditional, the often time-consuming process of producing and auditing the Consolidating Financial Information, as well as the requirement that the parent continue to include the Alternative Disclosure for as long as any of the guaranteed debt securities remain outstanding, have limited the range of subsidiaries that are used as guarantors, delayed offerings and/or led to reliance on Rule 144A for life offer structures for some guaranteed debt offerings to avoid registration. Current Disclosure Requirements for Securities Collateralized by Affiliate Securities.  Current Regulation S-X Rule 3-16 (“S-X 3-16”) requires a registrant to provide separate audited annual financial statements, as well as unaudited interim financial statements, for each affiliate whose securities constitute a “substantial portion”[1] of the collateral pledged for such registrant’s registered securities as though such affiliate were itself a registrant, and thereafter file annual and interim reports under the Exchange Act for such affiliate.  The production of the financial statements required by S-X 3-16 is often time consuming and costly to the issuer and the requirement is triggered entirely by the outcome of the substantial portion test, without regard to the comparative importance of the relevant affiliate to the registrant’s business and operations as a whole or the materiality of such financial statements to an investment decision.  To avoid the burden of preparing separate full financial statements for each affiliate whose securities are pledged as collateral, issuers often reduce collateral packages or structure collateralized securities as unregistered offerings.  Additionally, debt agreements are sometimes structured to specifically release collateral if and when such collateral may trigger the S-X 3-16 financial statement requirements. Proposed Amendments In the SEC’s effort to streamline the disclosure requirements in connection with certain guaranteed debt securities offered and sold in public offerings registered under the Securities Act, as well as simplify the current number of myriad offer structures entitled to disclosure relief, the amendments proposed to S-X 3-10 would: replace the current detailed list of offer structures permitted relief under S-X 3-10 with a more simple requirement that the debt securities be either: issued by the parent or co-issued by the parent, jointly and severally, with one or more of its consolidated subsidiaries; or issued by a consolidated subsidiary of the parent (or co-issued with one or more other consolidated subsidiaries of the parent) and fully and unconditionally guaranteed by the parent; replace the condition currently included in S-X 3-10 that a subsidiary issuer or guarantor be 100% owned by the parent company, requiring instead that the subsidiary merely be consolidated in the parent company’s consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP or, in the case of foreign private issuer, IFRS (as promulgated by the IASB).  As a result, in addition to 100% owned subsidiaries, controlled subsidiaries and joint ventures which are consolidated in the parent’s financial consolidated financial statements could be added as issuers or guarantors in such offerings and take advantage of the reduced disclosure permitted under the Proposal, provided the other conditions of the revised regulation are met; modify the requirement that all guarantees be full and unconditional, requiring only that the parent guarantee (in the case of a subsidiary issuer) be full and unconditional.  The proposal would thereby allow greater flexibility with the extent and nature of guarantees to be given by subsidiary guarantors, provided the terms and limitations of such guarantees are adequately disclosed; eliminate the Consolidating Financial Information currently required to be included in the registration statement and the parent’s Exchange Act annual and (where applicable) quarterly reports under S-X 3-10, and, in lieu thereof, add a new Rule 13-01 of Regulation S-X requiring such parent companies to include (i) certain summary financial information (the “Summary Financial Information”) for the parent and guarantors (the “Obligor Group”) on a combined basis (after eliminating intercompany transactions among members of this Obligor Group), and (ii) certain non-financial disclosures, including expanded qualitative disclosures about the guarantees and factors which could limit recovery thereunder, and any other quantitative or qualitative information that would be material to making an investment decision about the guaranteed debt securities (the Summary Financial Information and such non-financial disclosures, the “Proposed Alternative Disclosure”); require that the Summary Financial Information conform to the current provisions of Regulation S-X Rule 1-02(bb) and include summarized information as to the assets, liabilities and results of operations of the Obligor Group only; reduce the periods for which the Summary Financial Information must be provided, requiring such information for only the most recent fiscal year and any interim period for which consolidated financial statements of the parent are otherwise required to be included; permit the parent flexibility as to the location of the Summary Financial Information and other Proposed Alternative Disclosures, including in the notes to it consolidated financial statements, in the “management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations” or immediately following “risk factors” (if any”) or the pricing information in the Securities Act registration statement and related prospectus and in Exchange Act reports on Forms 10-K, 20-F and 10-Q required to be filed during the fiscal year in which the first bona fide sale of the guaranteed debt securities is completed.  By permitting such flexibility, the parent issuers may realize greater speed to market for such offering as the Summary Financial Information would not be required to be audited if located outside the notes to its consolidated financial statements; by allowing a parent company the option to exclude the Summary Financial Information from the notes to its audited financial statements, such parent may realize greater speed to market for such offerings as the Summary Financial Information would not be required to be audited as part of the offer process; such Summary Financial Information would, however, be required to be included in a footnote to the parent’s annual and (where applicable) quarterly reports (and thus audited), beginning with its annual report filed on Form 10-K or 20-F for the fiscal year during which the first bona fide sale of the guaranteed debt securities is completed.  Thus, for example, for guaranteed debt securities issued in the second quarter of fiscal 2018, the Summary Financial Information would first be required to be included in the notes to the parent’s financial statements filed in its annual report filed on Form 10-K for its fiscal year 2019; eliminate the current requirement that, for so long as the guaranteed debt securities remain outstanding, a parent company continue to include the Consolidating Financial Information within its annual and interim reports (including for periods in which the Obligor Group is not then  subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act).  Under the Proposal, the Summary Financial Information and other Proposed Alternative Disclosures would not be required to be included in the parent’s annual and quarterly reports for such periods in which the Obligor Group is not then subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act.  Nonetheless, some parent companies with an Obligor Group that issues guaranteed debt securities on a regular basis may elect to continue to prepare and include the Revised Alternative Disclosure in its Exchange Act reports to ensure a more rapid access to the market for future transactions; and eliminate, with respect to recently-acquired subsidiary guarantors or issuers, the current requirement under S-X 3-10 that the parent include in the registration statement for the offering separate audited financial statements for the most recent fiscal year of the recently-acquired subsidiary (as well as separate unaudited interim financial statements for any relevant interim periods).  Note, however, that other provisions of Regulation S-X regarding the impact of recent material acquisitions and the potential requirement thereunder to include separate financial statements of the acquired entity (and, in some cases, pro forma consolidated financial information regarding the acquisition) remain unchanged by the Proposal. The proposed amendments to S-X 3-16 would: replace the existing requirement to provide separate financial statements for each affiliate whose securities are pledged as collateral with a requirement to include the Summary Financial Information and any additional non-financial information material to investment decisions about the affiliate(s) (if more than one affiliate, such information could be provided on a combined basis) and the collateral arrangement(s).  The elimination of the requirement to include the affiliate’s separate audited financial statements would significantly decrease the cost and burden of an offering secured by the securities of an affiliate of the registrant; permit the proposed financial and non-financial affiliate disclosures to be located in filings in the same manner (and for reports for the same corresponding periods) as described above for the disclosures related to guarantors and guaranteed securities, which would bring the level and type of disclosure for collateralized securities in line with other forms of credit enhancement; and replace the requirement to provide disclosure only when the pledged securities meet or exceed a numerical threshold relative to the securities registered or being registered with a requirement to provide the applicable disclosures in all cases, unless they are immaterial to holders of the collateralized security, which would replace the arbitrary numerical cutoff with a consideration of materiality to investors. Set forth below, we summarizing the current requirements, and proposed changes to such requirements, for the use of abbreviated disclosure for subsidiary issuer/guarantors of certain guaranteed debt securities and for issuers of securities collateralized by securities of affiliates. Guaranteed Debt Securities:  Summary of Current Requirements for Abbreviated Disclosure and Proposed Revisions Current Provisions of S-X 3-10: Proposed Provisions: Offer Structures Permitted Disclosure Relief Finance subsidiary issuer of debt securities guaranteed by  parent; Operating subsidiary issuer of debt securities guaranteed by parent; Subsidiary issuer of debt securities guaranteed by  parent and one or more other subsidiaries; Single subsidiary guarantor of debt securities issued by parent; or Multiple subsidiary guarantors of debt securities issued by parent Debt securities: Issued by parent or co-issued by parent, jointly and severally, with one or more of its consolidated subsidiaries; or Issued by a consolidated subsidiary of parent (or co-issued with one or more other consolidated subsidiaries) and fully and unconditionally guaranteed by parent Conditions to Relief Each subsidiary issuer or guarantor must be 100% owned by parent; and All guarantees must be full and unconditional Subsidiary issuer/guarantors must be consolidated in the parent’s consolidated financial statements Only the parent guarantee, if any, must be full and unconditional Alternative Disclosure Condensed Consolidating Financial  Information, and certain textual disclosure Summary Financial Information for Obligor Group on a combined basis (after eliminating transactions between Obligors) and certain textual disclosure Periods for which Disclosure Required in Registration Statement For each year and any interim periods for which parent is required to include financial statements The most recent fiscal year and any interim period for which the parent is required to include financial statements Locations of Disclosure The Alternative Disclosure must be included in the notes to the parent’s audited consolidated financial statements (and in its unaudited interim financial statements where such financial statements are required to be included) In the Registration Statement and in Exchange Act reports filed during the fiscal year in which the debt securities are first bona fide offered to the public, the parent has the choice of including them in the notes to its consolidated financial statements or elsewhere, including within “management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations” or immediately following “risk factors” For the parent’s annual report for the fiscal year in which the debt securities were first offered to the public, and all Exchange Act reports required to be filed thereafter, the Proposed Alternative Disclosures must be included in the notes to the parent’s consolidated financial statements How Long is Exchange Act Disclosure Required For so long as any of the debt securities remain outstanding Only for periods in which the Obligors are required to file Exchange Act reports in respect of the debt securities Additional Requirements For Recently Acquired Subsidiary Guarantor/Issuers Parent must include separate audited financial statements of the recently acquired subsidiary issuer/guarantor for the most recent fiscal and any interim period for which the parent is required to include financial statements No separate financial statements of a recently acquired subsidiary issuer/guarantor is required for relief under the Proposal Summary of Current Disclosure Requirements for Securities Collateralized by Securities of Affiliates and the Proposed Revisions Current Provisions of S-X 3-16: Proposed Provisions: Offer Structure Triggering Disclosure Requirement Securities issued by a registrant and collateralized with the securities of its affiliates where such collateral constitutes a “substantial portion” of the collateral for any class of securities Securities issued by a registrant and collateralized with the securities of its affiliates, unless such collateral is immaterial to making an investment decision about the registrant’s securities Additional Disclosure Required If the pledged securities of an affiliate constitute a “substantial portion” of the collateral for the secured class of securities, separate audited annual financial statements, as well as unaudited interim financial statements, for such affiliate as though such affiliate were itself a registrant Summary Financial Information with respect to any affiliate whose securities are pledged to secure a class of securities, and any additional non-financial information material to investment decisions about the affiliate(s) and the collateral arrangement Basis of Presentation Separate financial statements for each affiliate whose securities constitute a “substantial portion” of the collateral Summary Financial Information of affiliates consolidated in the registrant’s financial statements can be presented on combined basis If information is applicable to a subset of affiliates (but not all) separate Summary Financial Information required for such affiliates Periods for which Disclosure Required in Registration Statement For each year and any interim period as if affiliate were a registrant The most recent fiscal year and any interim period for which the registrant is required to include consolidated financial statements Locations of Disclosure Separate financial statements required to be included in the registration statement in the registrant’s annual report on Form 10-K or 20-F Disclosure not required in quarterly reports of the registrant In the Registration Statement and in Exchange Act reports filed during the fiscal year in which the first bona fide sale is completed, the registrant has the choice of including them in the notes to its consolidated financial statements or elsewhere, including within “management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations” or immediately following “risk factors” For the registrant’s annual report for the fiscal year in which the first sale was completed, and all Exchange Act reports required to be filed thereafter, the required information must be included in the notes to the registrant’s consolidated financial statements   The SEC is seeking public comments on its proposal for a period of 60 days from July 24, 2018. Comments can be submitted on the internet at http://www.sec.gov/rules/other.shtml; via email to  rule-comments@sec.gov (File Number S7-19-18 should be included on the subject line); or via mail to Brent J. Fields, Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC 20549-1090.    [1]   E.g., if the aggregate principal amount, par value or book value of the pledged securities as carried by the issuer of the collateralized securities, or market value, equals 20% or more of the aggregate principal amount of the secured class of securities offered. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Capital Markets or Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice groups, or the authors: J. Alan Bannister – New York (+1 212-351-2310, abannister@gibsondunn.com) Andrew L. Fabens – New York (+1 212-351-4034, afabens@gibsondunn.com) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, hholmes@gibsondunn.com) Alina E. Iarve – New York (+1 212-351-2406, aiarve@gibsondunn.com) Michael J. Scanlon – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3668, mscanlon@gibsondunn.com) Peter W. Wardle – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7242, pwardle@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 31, 2018 |
Webcast: Strategies Regarding Corporate Veil Piercing and Alter Ego Doctrine

Please join a panel of seasoned Gibson Dunn attorneys for a presentation on how a company can best protect itself against “veil-piercing” claims and “alter ego” liability.  We provide an overview of what it means to “pierce the corporate veil” and the circumstances that have prompted courts to ignore the corporate separateness of entities and impose “alter ego” liability. We also focus on strategies to minimize the risk of facing claims for veil piercing and alter ego liability and maximize your chances for success in connection with any such claims. View Slides [PDF] PANELISTS: Robert A. Klyman is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Los Angeles office. He is Co-Chair of the Firm’s Business Restructuring and Reorganization practice group. Mr. Klyman represents debtors, acquirers, lenders, ad hoc groups of bondholders and boards of directors in all phases of restructurings and workouts. His experience includes advising debtors in connection with traditional, prepackaged and “pre-negotiated” bankruptcies; representing lenders and bondholders in complex workouts; counseling strategic and financial players who acquire debt or provide financing as a path to take control of companies in bankruptcy; structuring and implementing numerous asset sales through Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code; and litigating complex bankruptcy and commercial matters arising in chapter 11 cases, both at trial and on appeal. John M. Pollack is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office. He is a member of the Firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions, Private Equity, Aerospace and Related Technologies and National Security practice groups. Mr. Pollack focuses his practice on public and private mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and tender offers, and his clients include private investment funds, publicly-traded companies and privately-held companies. Mr. Pollack has extensive experience working on complex M&A transactions in a wide range of industries, with a particular focus on the aerospace, defense and government contracts industries. Lori Zyskowski is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office. She is Co-Chair of the Firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group. Ms. Zyskowski advises public companies and their boards of directors on corporate governance matters, securities disclosure and compliance issues, executive compensation practices, and shareholder engagement and activism matters. Ms. Zyskowski advises clients, including public companies and their boards of directors, on corporate governance and securities disclosure matters, with a focus on Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements, proxy statements, annual shareholders meetings, director independence issues, and executive compensation disclosure best practices. Ms. Zyskowski also advises on board succession planning and board evaluations and has considerable experience advising nonprofit organizations on governance matters. Sabina Jacobs Margot is an associate in Gibson Dunn’s Los Angeles office. She is a member of the Firm’s Business Restructuring and Reorganization and Global Finance practice groups. Ms. Jacobs Margot practices in all aspects of corporate reorganization and handles a wide range of bankruptcy and restructuring matters, representing debtors, lenders, equity holders, and strategic buyers in chapter 11 cases, sales and acquisitions, bankruptcy litigation, and financing transactions. Ms. Jacobs Margot also represents borrowers, sponsors, and lending institutions in connection with acquisition financings, secured and unsecured credit facilities, asset-based loans, and debt restructurings. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.0 credit hour, of which 1.0 credit hour may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the Texas State Bar for a maximum of 1.0 credit hour, of which 1.0 credit hour may be applied toward the area of accredited general requirement. Attorneys seeking Texas credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.0 hour. California attorneys may claim “self-study” credit for viewing the archived version of this webcast. No certificate of attendance is required for California “self-study” credit.

July 30, 2018 |
2018 Mid-Year Securities Enforcement Update

Click for PDF I.  Significant Developments A.  Introduction For a brief moment in time, after several years with as many as 3 of the 5 commissioner seats vacant, the SEC was operating at full force, with the January 2018 swearing in of newest commissioners Hester Peirce and Robert Jackson.  This situation was short-lived, as Commissioner Piwowar, a Republican appointee with a deregulatory bent who had pulled back on certain enforcement powers, stepped down at the beginning of July.  While the president has named a potential replacement, the Senate has not yet held confirmation hearings; with Democratic Commissioner Kara Stein also set to leave the agency sometime later this year, the Senate may defer consideration until both the Republican and Democratic nominees have been named.  The vacancy could cause the Commission, which has already split on several key rulemakings, to defer some more controversial regulatory initiatives and even some enforcement actions which pose thornier policy questions. Meanwhile, the most noteworthy Enforcement-related event came with the Supreme Court’s Lucia decision, in which the Court held that the agency’s administrative law judges have been unconstitutionally appointed, resolving a technical but significant legal issue which has dogged the SEC’s administrative proceedings for several years.  As discussed further below, the decision throws a wrench in the works for the Enforcement Division, which until the past couple years had been litigating a growing number of enforcement actions in its administrative forum rather than in federal court. In terms of enforcement priorities, the SEC has continued to pursue a relatively small number of significant public company cases; despite a push in recent years to increase its focus on accounting fraud, few new actions were filed in the first half of 2018.  In contrast, the Division filed a surprisingly large number of cases against investment advisers and investment companies, including advisers to individual retail clients, private fund managers, and mutual fund managers. And the SEC’s concentration on all things “cyber” continued to make headlines in the initial months of 2018.  The SEC rolled out guidance on appropriate cybersecurity disclosures, and filed its first (and to date only) case against a public company for allegedly failing to report a data breach to investors on a timely basis.  Additionally, the SEC continues to institute enforcement actions in the cryptocurrency space, though is focus remains primarily on outright frauds, leaving ongoing uncertainty as to the regulatory status of certain digital assets. B.  Significant Legal Developments On June 21, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Lucia v. SEC that the SEC’s administrative law judges (ALJs) were inferior officers of the United States for purposes of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, and that the SEC had failed to properly appoint its ALJs in a manner consistent with the Clause.[1]  (Mr. Lucia was represented by Gibson Dunn before the Supreme Court.)  After several years in which the SEC had increasingly filed contested proceedings administratively rather than in federal district court, the agency reversed course in the face of mounting court challenges to the constitutionality of its ALJs (who had been appointed by a government personnel office rather than by the commissioners themselves).  Even with the reduced number of pending, litigated administrative proceedings, the SEC still faces the prospect of retrying dozens of cases which had been tried before improperly-appointed ALJs.  As this report went to press, the SEC had yet to determine how it would handle these pending cases, or how or when it would go about appointing ALJs to hear litigated administrative proceedings going forward. Even with Lucia resolving the primary legal question which had been floating about in recent years, other questions about the legality of ALJs may continue to complicate administrative proceedings, and thus for the time being the SEC has determined to pursue most litigated cases in court.  (Though the SEC continues to bring settled administrative proceedings, as such settled orders are issued by the Commission itself rather than by an ALJ.) Another Supreme Court decision that curtailed SEC enforcement actions, SEC v. Kokesh, continues to impact the enforcement program.  As detailed previously, in June 2017 the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that required the defendant to disgorge $34.9 million for conduct dating back to 1995.  The Supreme Court found that disgorgement was a form of penalty and was therefore subject to a five-year statute of limitations.[2]  In March 2018, on remand, the Tenth Circuit determined that the statute of limitations still did not bar the SEC’s action since the “clock” restarted with each act of misappropriation.[3]  Moreover, notwithstanding Kokesh, the issue of whether SEC actions seeking injunctive relief or other non-monetary sanctions (such as industry bars) are governed by the five-year statute remains hotly contested.  In a May 2018 speech, Co-Enforcement Director Steven Peiken noted that the SEC continues to maintain that injunctive relief is not subject to the five-year statute of limitations under Kokesh, and admonished parties that the staff would not forgo pursuing actions based on such arguments.[4]  However, the issue is far from settled, and just this month a district court came to a different conclusion.[5] In June, the Supreme Court granted a petition of certiorari filed by Francis V. Lorenzo, an investment banker who copied and pasted his boss’s allegedly fraudulent email into a message to his clients and who the D.C. Circuit found liable for fraud as a result[6].  Mr. Lorenzo has argued that, based on the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Janus Capital Group Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, he should not be considered the “maker” of the allegedly fraudulent statements.  Mr. Lorenzo’s petition asserts that the D.C. Circuit decision allows the SEC to avoid the requirements of Janus by characterizing fraud claim as “fraudulent scheme” claims.  A circuit split exists as to whether a misstatement alone can form the basis of a fraudulent scheme claim. C.  Whistleblower Developments The first half of 2018 saw the SEC’s largest whistleblower bounties to date, as well as some related rulemaking proposals which could potentially cap such awards.  As of April, the SEC reported that it had paid more than $266 million to 55 whistleblowers since 2012.[7] In March, the SEC announced its highest-ever whistleblower awards, paying a combined $50 million to two individuals and an additional $33 million to a third.[8]  While the SEC may not disclose the identities of whistleblowers, their counsel subsequently publicly disclosed that the awards were paid in connection with a $415 million SEC settlement with a major financial institution alleged to have misused customer cash.[9]  In its Order granting the awards, the Commission declined to grant awards to additional putative whistleblowers and, in doing so, clarified the standard for finding that a tip “led to” the success of a particular action.[10]  For a tip to “significantly contribute[] to the success of an . . . action” and entitle the whistleblower to an award, the “information must have been ‘meaningful,'” i.e., must “‘make a substantial and important contribution’ to the success of the . . . action.”  The Commission declined to adopt a more flexible standard. In a separate action the following month, the SEC awarded $2.2 million to a former company insider.[11]  The SEC noted that the $2.2 million award was paid under the 120-day “safe harbor” rule, which provides that, when a whistleblower reports to another federal agency and then submits the same information to the SEC within 120 days, the SEC will treat the information as having been submitted on the day it was submitted to the other agency.  A week later, the SEC announced a $2.1 million award to a former company insider whose tips had led to “multiple” successful enforcement actions.[12] In addition to developments relating to award payments, the first half of 2018 also included a Supreme Court decision affecting the rights of whistleblowers pursuant to anti-retaliation protections.  In Digital Realty Trust, the Court overturned the Ninth Circuit’s decision (described in our 2017 Year-End Update) and found that Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation measures protect only whistleblowers who report their concerns to the SEC and not those who only report internally.[13] Finally, in a late June open meeting, the Commission voted to propose various amendments to its whistleblower program.[14]  In response to the record-breaking award noted above, the proposed rules would give the SEC discretion to limit the size of awards in cases resulting in monetary sanctions greater than $100 million (which, given a permissible award size of 10-30% of money collected by the SEC, would effectively create a $30 million award cap).  Other proposed amendments include: allowing awards based on deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements entered into in criminal cases; permitting awards made when the Commission reaches a settlement outside the context of a judicial or administrative proceeding; allowing the SEC to bar individuals from later seeking awards after they submit false or frivolous claims; and, in response to Digital Realty, requiring a whistleblower to submit information in writing to receive retaliation protection. D.  Cybersecurity and Cryptocurrency In 2017, the SEC touted cybersecurity as a major enforcement priority and created a dedicated “Cyber Unit” to investigate and prosecute cyber-related threats.  The SEC’s cyber-focus continued in the first half of 2018 with its February release of interpretive guidance on public companies’ disclosure obligations regarding cybersecurity risks and incidents.[15]  The Guidance, which reaffirms and expands upon the SEC Division of Corporation Finance’s existing guidance on the topic from 2011, encourages companies to adopt “comprehensive policies and procedures related to cybersecurity,” and to consider how their insider trading policies address trading related to cybersecurity incidents.  While not creating any bright-line rules, it discusses that the “materiality of cybersecurity risks and incidents depends upon their nature, extent, and potential magnitude,” as well as “the range of harm that such incidents could cause,” including “harm to a company’s reputation, financial performance, and customer and vendor relationships, as well as the possibility of litigation or regulatory investigations or actions.”  The SEC further noted that the existence of an ongoing internal or external investigation into an incident “would not on its own provide a basis for avoiding disclosures” of an otherwise material incident.  As discussed further below, the Guidance was followed two months later by the SEC’s announcement of its first enforcement action against a company arising out of a data breach. Regarding the continuing proliferation of digital (or “crypto”) currencies, the staff of the SEC’s Divisions of Enforcement and Trading and Markets issued a statement in March reinforcing that digital platforms that trade securities and operate as an “exchange,” as defined by the federal securities laws, must register as a national securities exchange or operate under an exemption from registration.[16]  The statement also outlines a list of questions that potential investors should consider before deciding to trade on such platforms.  The statement came on the heels of a litigated enforcement action charging a bitcoin-denominated platform, BitFunder, and its founder with operating an unregistered securities exchange, defrauding users by misappropriating their bitcoins and failing to disclose a cyberattack, and making false and misleading statements in connection with an unregistered offering of securities.[17]  In a parallel criminal case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged BitFunder’s founder with perjury and obstruction of the SEC’s investigation. The SEC also brought a handful of initial coin offering (ICO) enforcement actions in the first half of 2018.  In January, the SEC obtained a court order halting an ICO it characterized as “an outright scam,” which had raised $600 million in just two months by claiming to be the world’s first “decentralized bank” and falsely representing that it had purchased an FDIC-insured bank.[18]  In April, the SEC charged two co-founders of a financial services start-up with orchestrating a fraudulent ICO by falsely claiming to offer a debit card backed by major credit card companies that would allow users to convert cryptocurrencies into U.S. dollars.[19]  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York brought parallel criminal actions against the co-founders, and the SEC later charged a third co-founder with fraud after discovery of text-messages revealing fraudulent intent.[20]  Then, in May, the SEC obtained a court order halting an ICO by a self-proclaimed “blockchain evangelist” who had fabricated customer testimonials and misrepresented having business relationships with the Federal Reserve and dozens of companies.[21] Additionally, in April, the SEC obtained a court order freezing over $27 million in proceeds raised by Longfin Corp. after the company and its CEO allegedly violated Section 5 by issuing unregistered shares to three other individuals so they could sell them to the public right after the company’s stock had risen dramatically due to announcement of acquisition of a cryptocurrency platform.[22] II.  Issuer and Auditor Cases A.  Accounting Fraud and Other Misleading Disclosures In March, the SEC settled charges of accounting fraud against a California-based energy storage and power delivery product manufacturer and three of its former officers.[23]  The SEC alleged that the company prematurely recognized revenue to better meet analyst expectations, that a former sales executive inflated revenues by executing secret deals with customers and concealing them from finance and accounting personnel, and that the former CEO and former controller failed to adequately respond to red flags that should have alerted them to the misconduct.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the company agreed to pay penalties of $2.8 million; the former CEO and controller agreed to pay a combined total of approximately $100,000 in disgorgement, interest and penalties; and the former sales executive agreed to be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for five years and pay a $50,000 penalty. In April, the SEC settled charges of accounting fraud against a Japanese electronics company.[24]  The SEC alleged that the company’s U.S. subsidiary prematurely recognized more than $82 million in revenue by backdating an agreement with an airline and providing misleading information to an auditor.  The matter involved FCPA allegations as well. Also in April, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against a California internet services and content provider.[25]  The SEC alleged that the company failed to timely disclose a major data breach in which hackers stole personal data relating to hundreds of millions of user accounts.  In addition, the SEC alleged that the company did not share its knowledge of the breach with its auditors or outside counsel, and failed to maintain adequate controls and procedures to assess its cyber-disclosure obligations.  Without admitting the allegations, the company agreed to pay a $35 million penalty to settle the charges. In May, the SEC filed a complaint against three former executives of a Houston-based health services company.[26]  The complaint alleged that the executives falsified financial information—including financial statements for three fictitious subsidiaries acquired by the company—to induce a private firm to acquire a majority of the company’s equity.  In a parallel action, DOJ brought criminal charges against the defendants. In June, the SEC filed a complaint against a California-based telecommunications equipment manufacturer and three of its executives.[27]  According to the SEC’s complaint, the executives inflated company revenues by prematurely recognizing revenue on sales and entering into undisclosed side agreements that relieved customers of payment obligations.  The SEC also alleged that the defendants inflated the prices of products to hit revenue targets with the agreement that the company would later repay the difference as marketing development fees.  Without admitting or denying the charges, the defendants agreed to pay penalties totaling $75,000.  In addition, two of the individual defendants consented to five-year officer and director bars; the other individual defendant consented to a bar from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant for five years. B.  Auditor Cases In February, in a case the SEC said underscores its determination to pursue violations “regardless of the location of the violators,” a foreign auditor and his U.S.-based accounting firm, settled charges alleging they providing substantial assistance in a fraudulent shell company scheme by issuing misleading audit reports for numerous companies.[28]  The SEC suspended the auditor and his firm from appearing or practicing before the Commission. In March, the SEC announced settled charges against several foreign firms of the large international accounting networks based on allegations that the firms improperly relied on component auditors that were not registered with the PCAOB, even though the component auditors performed substantial work that should have triggered registration.[29] The SEC alleged violations of PCAOB standards that require sufficient analysis and inquiry when relying on another auditor.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the four foreign firms agreed to pay roughly $400,000 combined in disgorgement and penalties. Additionally, an auditing firm, two of its partners and a registered financial advisory firm settled charges in May relating to violations of the Custody Rule.[30]  According to the SEC, the auditors failed to meet the independence requirements of the Custody Rule by both preparing and auditing financial statements of several funds and because they had a direct business relationship with the financial advisory firm through a fee-referral relationship.  The SEC also charged the respondents for failing to comply with the requirement of regular PCAOB inspections and cited multiple professional conduct violations, including for failing to design and implement appropriate oversight mechanisms, insufficient quality control and violation of professional due care, among others.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the defendants were barred from appearing before the Commission and agreed to pay roughly $52,000 combined in disgorgement and penalties. The SEC is also ensuring that firms are not associating with barred auditors. In April, an accounting firm and its sole officer and founder settled charges with the SEC for allegedly violating the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2012, which prohibits auditors barred by the PCAOB from association with a registered public accounting firm from associating with corporate issuers in an accountancy or financial management capacity.[31]  Without admitting or denying the findings, the company and its founding officer agreed to cease and desist from the association and agreed to pay a $22,500 civil penalty. C.  Private Company Cases While the number of cases against public companies remains low, the SEC has continued to step up its enforcement efforts against private companies. In March, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against a California-based financial technology company.[32]  The SEC alleged that the respondent offered unregistered stock options to its employees without providing the employees with timely financial statements and risk disclosures.  Without admitting the allegations, the company agreed to pay a $160,000 penalty to settle the charges. Also in March, the SEC filed a complaint against a California-based health care technology company, its former CEO, and a former president at the company.[33]  The complaint alleged that the defendants made numerous false statements in investor presentations, product demonstrations and media articles about their flagship product—including misrepresentations regarding expected revenue and the U.S. Department of Defense’s adoption of the product—which deceived investors into believing the product was revolutionary.  Without admitting the allegations, the company and former CEO agreed to settle the charges.  Under the settlement terms, the former CEO agreed to pay a $0.5 million penalty, be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for ten years, return 18.9 million shares of the company, and relinquish her voting control by converting her Class B Common shares to Class A Common shares.  The SEC will continue to litigate its claims against the former president in federal court. And in April, the SEC filed a fraud complaint against four parties:  a biotechnology startup formerly based in Massachusetts, its CEO, an employee, and the CEO’s close friend.[34]  According to the SEC, the CEO and the employee made false claims to investors about the company’s finances and the company’s progress in seeking FDA approval for one of its products.  The complaint also alleged that the defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme to acquire and merge the company with a publicly traded company, manipulated the shares of the new entity, and diverted a portion of the sale proceeds.  The SEC is litigating the case in federal court and seeks to freeze the company’s and CEO’s assets, as well as prohibit the defendants from soliciting money from investors.  In addition, the SEC seeks a permanent injunction, the return of the ill-gotten gains with penalties, and industry and penny stock bars.  The DOJ brought parallel criminal charges against the individual defendants. III.  Investment Advisers and Funds A.  Fees and Expenses In June, a private equity firm settled allegations that it had charged accelerated monitoring fees on portfolio company exits without adequate disclosure.[35]  According to the SEC, the undisclosed receipt of accelerated fees from portfolio companies resulted in negligent violations of various provisions of the Advisers Act.  To settle the matter, the Respondents agreed to pay $4.8 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and $1.5 million in penalties. Shortly thereafter, the SEC filed a settled action against a New York-based venture capital fund adviser for allegedly failing to offset consulting fees against management fees in accordance with organizational documents for the funds it advised.[36]  The SEC alleged that the adviser received $1.2 million in consulting fees from portfolio companies in which the funds had invested, and that those fees were not properly offset against advisory or management fees paid by investors, resulting in an overpayment of over $750,000.  The adviser reimbursed its clients, plus interest, and agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty.  Significantly, the SEC’s press release cites to the adviser’s remediation and cooperation, indicating that this was taken into account in determining the appropriate resolution. B.  Conflicts of Interest In March, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against two investment adviser subsidiaries for undisclosed conflicts of interest with regard to the practice of recalling securities on loan.[37]  The SEC alleged that the advisers were affiliated with insurance companies, but also served as investment advisers to insurance-dedicated mutual funds.  The advisers would lend securities held by the mutual funds, and then recall those securities prior to their dividend record dates.  This meant that the insurance company affiliates, as record shareholders of such shares, would receive a tax benefit on the basis of the dividends received.  However, according to the SEC, this recall system resulted in the mutual funds (and their investors) losing income, while the insurance company affiliates reaped a tax benefit.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the advisers agreed to pay approximately $3.6 million to settle the charges. In April, the SEC instituted proceedings against a New York-based investment adviser in connection with the receipt of revenue sharing compensation from a service provider without disclosing conflicts of interest to its private equity clients.[38]  According to the SEC, the investment adviser entered into an agreement with a company that provided services to portfolio companies.  Pursuant to that agreement, when portfolio companies made purchases, the service provider would receive revenue, and, in turn, the investment adviser would receive a portion of that revenue.  Without admitting or denying the allegations of Advisers Act violations, the investment adviser agreed to pay nearly $800,000 in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties. In early June, the SEC instituted settled proceedings against a New York-based investment adviser in connection with alleged failures to disclose conflicts of interest to clients and prospective clients relating to compensation paid to the firm’s individual advisers and an overseas affiliate.[39]  According to the SEC, this undisclosed compensation, which came from overseas third-party product and service providers recommended by the adviser, incentivized the adviser to recommend certain products and services and a pension transfer.  The SEC also found that the adviser made misleading statements regarding investment options and tax treatment of investments.  In settling the action without admitting or denying the allegations, the investment adviser agreed to pay an $8 million civil penalty and to engage an independent compliance consultant.  In a parallel action, the Commission filed a complaint in federal court in Manhattan against the adviser’s former CEO and a former manager. On the same day, the SEC filed another settled administrative proceeding relating to undisclosed conflicts of interest with a Delaware-based investment adviser.[40]  The settlement order alleges that the adviser negotiated side letters with outside asset managers resulting in arrangements under which the asset managers would make payments to the adviser based on the amount of client assets placed or maintained in funds advised by those asset managers.  This was not disclosed to clients, and contravened the adviser’s agreements with two specific advisory clients.  The SEC also alleged that the adviser failed to implement policies and procedures to prevent conflicts of interest and failed to maintain accurate records relating to the payments from the outside asset managers.  Without admitting or denying the Commission’s findings, the adviser agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty. C.  Fraud and Other Misconduct In January, the SEC filed settled charges against a California-based investment adviser and its CEO and President for failing to adequately disclose the risks associated with investing in their advisory business.[41]  According to the SEC, the firm decided to borrow cash from investors—including its own retail investor clients whose portfolio accounts were managed by the CEO—in the form of promissory notes, in order to fund its business expenses, which exceeded the amount of money received from advisory fees.  In their efforts to market the promissory notes, the CEO and President failed to disclose the true financial state of the firm or the significant risk of default.  In settling the action, the investment adviser agreed to various undertakings, including an in-depth review and enhancement of compliance policies and procedures, and the provision of detailed information regarding noteholders to the staff.  In addition, the firm paid a $50,000 penalty and each principal paid a $25,000 penalty. Also in January, the SEC filed charges in the District of Massachusetts against two Boston-based investment advisers, alleging they engaged in various schemes to defraud their clients, including stealing client funds, failing to disclose conflicts of interest, and secretly using client funds to secure financing for their own investments.[42]  The SEC also alleged that one of the individuals violated his fiduciary duties to clients by obtaining a loan from a client on unfavorable terms to that client and charging advisory fees over 50% higher than the promised rate.  According to the complaint, the pair in one instance misappropriated nearly $450,000 from an elderly client, using the funds to make investments in their own names and to pay personal expenses for one of the individual advisers.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts also filed criminal charges against the same advisers in a parallel action.  While the SEC action remains pending, the individuals have both pleaded guilty to criminal charges.[43] The SEC also initiated a number of enforcement actions for alleged cherry-picking by investment advisers.  In February, the SEC instituted a litigated action against a California-based investment adviser, its president and sole owner, and its former Chief Compliance Officer for allocating profitable trades to the investment adviser’s account at the expense of its clients.[44]  The SEC’s complaint also alleges that the adviser and president misrepresented trading and allocation practices in Forms ADV filed with the Commission.  The former CCO agreed to settle the charges against him—without admitting or denying allegations that he ignored red flags relating to the firm’s allocation practices—and pay a fine of $15,000; the litigation against the investment adviser and president remains ongoing.  And in March the SEC instituted settled proceedings against a Texas-based investment adviser and its sole principal for disproportionately allocating unprofitable trades to client accounts and profitable trades to their own accounts.[45]  The investment adviser agreed to pay a total of over $700,000 in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties, and the principal agreed to a permanent bar from the securities industry. In April, the SEC filed a settled administrative proceedings against an Illinois-based investment adviser and its president in connection with allegedly misleading advertisements about investment performance.[46]  According to the SEC, the adviser did not disclose that performance results included in advertisements—in the form of written communications and weekly radio broadcasts and video webcasts by its president—were often based on back-tested historical results generated by the adviser’s models, rather than actual results.  The adviser also allegedly failed to adopt written policies and procedures designed to prevent violations of the Advisers Act.  In reaching the agreed-upon resolution, the SEC took into account remediation efforts undertaken by the adviser during the course of the SEC’s investigation, including hiring a new CCO and engaging an outside compliance consultant who conducted an in-depth review of the compliance program and made recommendations which were then implemented by the adviser.  The investment adviser agreed to pay a $125,000 penalty, and the adviser’s president agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty. In May, the SEC charged a California-based individual investment adviser with lying to clients about investment performance and strategy, inflating asset values and unrealized profits in order to overpay himself in management fees and bonuses, and failing to have the private funds audited.[47]  The adviser settled the charges without admitting or denying the allegations, agreeing pay penalties and disgorgement in amounts to be determined by the court. Later that month, the SEC filed settled charges against a Delaware-based investment adviser and its managing member for allegedly making misrepresentations and omissions about the assets and performance of a hedge fund they managed.[48]  According to the SEC, the adviser misrepresented the performance and value of assets in the hedge fund after losing nearly all of its investments after the fund’s trading strategy led to substantial losses.  In addition to making false representations to the fund’s two investors, the adviser withdrew excessive advisory fees based on the inflated asset values.  Without admitting or denying the charges, the adviser and managing member agreed to a cease-and-desist order under which the individual also agreed to a broker-dealer and investment company bar, as well as a $160,000 penalty. In another pair of cases filed in May, the SEC charged a hedge fund and a private fund manager in separate cases involving inflated valuations.  In one case, the SEC alleged that the fund manager’s Chief Financial Officer failed to supervise portfolio managers who engaged in asset mismarking.[49]  The asset mismarking scheme resulted in the hedge fund reaping approximately $3.15 million in excess fees.  The SEC had previously charged the portfolio managers in connection with their misconduct in 2016.  The CFO agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty and to be suspended from the securities industry for twelve months, while the firm agreed to pay over $9 million in disgorgement and penalties.  In the other case, the SEC filed a litigated action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a New York-based investment adviser, the company’s CEO and chief investment officer, a former partner and portfolio manager at the company, and a former trader, in connection with allegations that the defendants inflated the value of private funds they advised.[50]  According to the complaint, the defendants fraudulently inflated the value of the company’s holdings in mortgage-backed securities in order to attract and retain investors, as well as to hide poor fund performance.  This litigation is ongoing. Finally, in late June the SEC announced a settlement with an investment adviser that allegedly failed to protect against advisory representatives misappropriating or misusing client funds.[51]  Without sufficient safeguards in place, one advisory representative was able to misappropriate or misuse $7 million from advisory clients’ accounts.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, the adviser agreed to pay a $3.6 million penalty, in addition to a cease-and-desist order and a censure.  The representative who allegedly misused the $7 million from client accounts faces criminal charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. D.  Investment Company Share Price Selection The first half of 2018 saw the launch of the SEC’s Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative (SCSD Initiative), as well as several cases involving share class selections.  Under the SCSD Initiative, announced in February, the SEC’s Division of Enforcement agreed not to recommend financial penalties against mutual fund managers which self-report violations of the federal securities laws relating to mutual fund share class selection and promptly return money to victimized investors.[52]  Where investment advisers fail to disclose conflicts of interest and do not self-report, the Division of Enforcement will recommend stronger sanctions in future actions. In late February, a Minnesota-based broker-dealer and investment adviser settled charges in connection with the recommendation and sale of higher-fee mutual fund shares when less expensive share classes were available.[53]  In turn, those recommendations resulted in greater revenue for the company and decreased customers’ returns.  The company, without admitting or denying the allegations, consented to a penalty of $230,000. In April, three investment advisers agreed to settle charges in connection with their failure to disclose conflicts of interest and violations of their fiduciary duties by recommending higher-fee mutual fund share classes despite the availability of less expensive share classes.[54]  Collectively, the companies agreed to pay nearly $15 million in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and penalties.  The SEC used the announcement of the cases to reiterate its ongoing SCSDC Initiative. E.  Other Compliance Issues In January, the SEC announced settled charges against an Arizona-based investment adviser and its sole principal in connection with a number of Advisers Act violations, including misrepresentations in filed Forms ADV, misrepresentations and failure to produce documents to the Commission examination staff, and other compliance-related deficiencies.[55]  According to the SEC, the adviser’s Forms ADV for years misrepresented its principal’s interest in private funds in which its advisory clients invested.  While the clients were aware of the principal’s involvement with the funds, the adviser falsely stated in filings that the principal had no outside financial industry activities and no interests in client transactions.  Additionally, the SEC alleged that the adviser misstated its assets under management, failed to adopt written policies and procedures relating to advisory fees, and failed to conduct annual reviews of its policies and procedures.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the investment adviser agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty, and the principal agreed to a $50,000 penalty and to a prohibition from acting in a compliance capacity. In April, the SEC filed settled charges against a Connecticut-based investment adviser and its sole owner for improper registration with the Commission and violations of the Commission’s custody and recordkeeping rules.[56]  According to the settled order, the adviser misrepresented the amount of its assets under management in order to satisfy the minimum requirements for SEC registration.  The adviser also allegedly—while having custody over client assets—failed to provide quarterly statements to clients or to arrange for annual surprise verifications of assets by an independent accountant, as required by the Custody Rule, and also failed to make and keep certain books and records required by SEC rules.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the adviser and its owner agreed to the entry of a cease-and-desist order, and the owner agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty and to a 12-month securities industry suspension. A few weeks later, a fund administrator settled cease-and-desist proceedings in connection with the company’s alleged noncompliance in maintaining an affiliated cash fund.[57]  According to the SEC, from mid-2008 to the end of 2012, the firm’s pricing methodology for its affiliated unregistered money market fund was flawed.  The SEC alleged that the deficiencies in the pricing methodology caused the affiliated cash fund to violate Investment Company Act.  To settle the charges, the trust agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $225,000. And in June, the SEC announced settlements with 13 private fund advisers in connection with their failures to file Form PF.[58]  Advisers who manage $150 million or more of assets are obligated to file annual reports on Form PF that indicate the amount of assets under management and other metrics about the private funds that they advise.  In turn, the SEC uses the data contained in Form PF in connection with quarterly reports, to monitor industry trends, and to evaluate systemic risks posed by private funds.  Each of the 13 advisers failed to timely file Form PF over a number of years.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, each of the 13 advisers agreed to pay a $75,000 civil penalty. IV.  Brokers and Financial Institutions A.  Supervisory Controls and Internal Systems Deficiencies The SEC brought several cases during the first half of 2018 relating to failures of supervisory controls and internal systems.  In March, the SEC filed a litigated administrative proceeding against a Los Angeles-based financial services firm for failing to supervise one of its employees who was involved in a long-running pump-and-dump scheme and who allegedly received undisclosed benefits for investing her customers in microcap stocks that were the subject of the scheme.[59]  The employee agreed to settle fraud charges stemming from the scheme.  The SEC alleged that the firm ignored multiple signs of the employee’s fraud, including a customer email outlining her involvement in the scheme and multiple FINRA arbitrations and inquiries regarding her penny stock trading activity.  The firm even conducted two investigations, deemed “flawed and insufficient” by the SEC, but failed to take action against the employee.  The SEC previously charged the orchestrator of the pump-and-dump scheme, as well as 15 other individuals and several entities. Also in March, the SEC announced settled charges against a New York-based broker-dealer for its failure to perform required gatekeeping functions in selling almost three million unregistered shares of stock on behalf of a China-based issuer and its affiliates.[60]  The SEC alleged that the firm ignored red flags indicating that the sales could be part of an unlawful unregistered distribution. At the end of June, the SEC charged a New York-based broker-dealer and two of its managers for failing to supervise three brokers, all three of whom were previously charged with fraud in September 2017.[61]  According to the SEC, the firm lacked reasonable supervisory policies and procedures, as well as systems to implement them, and if those systems had been in place, the firm likely would have prevented and detected the brokers’ wrongdoing.  In separate orders, the SEC found that two supervisors ignored red flags indicating excessive trading and failed to supervise brokers with a view toward preventing and detecting their securities-laws violations. B.  AML Cases During the first half of 2018, the SEC brought a number of cases in the anti-money laundering (“AML”) arena.  In March, the SEC brought settled charges against a New York-based brokerage firm for failure to file Suspicious Activity Reports (or “SARs”) reporting numerous suspicious transactions.[62]  The brokerage firm admitted to the charges, and agreed to retain a compliance expert and pay a $750,000 penalty.  The SEC also brought charges against the brokerage firm’s CEO for causing the violation, and its AML compliance officer for aiding and abetting the violation.  Without admitting or denying the charges, the CEO and AML compliance officer respectively agreed to pay penalties of $40,000 and $25,000. In May, the SEC instituted settled charges against two broker-dealers and an AML officer for failing to file SARs relating to the suspicious sales of billions of shares in penny stock.[63]  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, the broker-dealers agreed to penalties; the AML officer agreed to a penalty and an industry and penny stock bar for a minimum of three years. C.  Regulatory Violations In January, the SEC instituted a settled administrative proceeding against an international financial institution for repeated violations of Rule 204 of Regulation SHO, which requires timely delivery of shares to cover short sales.[64]  The SEC’s order alleged that the firm improperly claimed credit on purchases and double counted purchases, resulting in numerous, prolonged fail to deliver positions for short sales.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the firm agreed to pay a penalty of $1.25 million and entered into an undertaking to fully cooperate with the SEC in all proceedings relating to or arising from the matters in the order. In March, the SEC announced settled charges against a Los-Angeles broker dealer for violating the Customer Protection Rule, which requires that broker-dealers safeguard the cash and securities of customers, by illegally placing more than $25 million of customers’ securities at risk to fund its own operations.[65]  Specifically, the broker-dealer on multiple occasions moved customers’ securities to its own margin account without obtaining the customers’ consent.  The SEC’s Press Release noted that it had recently brought several cases charging violations of the Customer Protection Rule.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the broker dealer agreed to pay a penalty of $80,000. Also in March, the SEC filed a settled action against a New York-based broker dealer and its CEO and founder for violating the net capital rule, which requires a broker-dealer to maintain sufficient liquid assets to meet all obligations to customers and counterparties and have adequate additional resources to wind down its business in an orderly manner if the firm fails financially.[66]  The SEC found that for ten months, the firm repeatedly failed to maintain sufficient net capital, failed to accrue certain liabilities on its books and records, and misclassified certain assets when performing its net capital calculations.  According to the SEC, the firm’s CEO was involved in discussions about the firm’s unaccrued legal liabilities and was aware of the misclassified assets, but he nevertheless prepared the firm’s erroneous net capital calculations.  As part of the settlement, he agreed to not serve as a financial and operations principal (FINOP) for three years and to pass the required licensing examination prior to resuming duties as a FINOP; the firm agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty. And in a novel enforcement action also arising in March, the SEC filed a settled action against the New York Stock Exchange and two affiliated exchanges in connection with multiple episodes, including several disruptive market events, such as erroneously implementing a market-wide regulatory halt, negligently misrepresenting stock prices as “automated” despite extensive system issues ahead of a total shutdown of two of the exchanges, and applying price collars during unusual market volatility on August 24, 2015, without a rule in effect to permit them.[67]  The SEC also, for the first time, alleged a violation of Regulation SCI, which was adopted by the Commission to strengthen the technology infrastructure and integrity of the U.S. securities markets.  The SEC charged two NYSE exchanges with violating Regulation SCI’s business continuity and disaster recovery requirement.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the exchanges agreed to pay a $14 million penalty to settle the charges. D.  Other Broker-Dealer Enforcement Actions In June, the SEC settled with a Missouri-based broker-dealer, alleging that the firm generated large fees by improperly soliciting retail customers to actively trade financial products called market-linked investments, or MLIs, which are intended to be held to maturity.[68]  The SEC alleged that the trading strategy, whereby the MLIs were sold before maturity and the proceeds were invested in new MLIs, generated commissions for the firm, which reduced the customers’ investment returns.  The order also found that certain representatives of the firm did not reasonably investigate or understand the significant costs of the MLI exchanges.  The SEC also alleged that the firm’s supervisors routinely approved the MLI transactions despite internal policies prohibiting short-term trading or “flipping” of the products. Later in June, the SEC announced that it had settled with a New York-based broker-dealer for the firm’s violations of its record-keeping provisions by failing to remediate an improper commission-sharing scheme in which a former supervisor received off-book payments from traders he managed.[69]  The SEC also filed a litigated complaint in federal court against the former supervisor and former senior trader for their roles in the scheme.  As alleged by the SEC, the former supervisor and another trader used personal checks to pay a portion of their commissions to the firm’s former global co-head of equities and to another trader.  The practice violated the firm’s policies and procedures and resulted in conflicts of interest that were hidden from the firm’s compliance department, customers, and regulators. E.  Mortgage Backed Securities Cases The SEC appeared to be clearing out its docket of enforcement actions dating back to the mortgage crisis. In February, the SEC announced a settlement against a large financial institution and the former head of its commercial mortgage-backed securities (“CMBS”) trading desk, alleging that traders and salespeople at the firm made false and misleading statements while negotiating secondary market CMBS sales.[70]  According to the SEC’s order, customers of the financial institution overpaid for CMBS because they were misled about the prices at which the firm had originally purchased them, resulting in increased profits for the firm to the detriment of its customers.  The order also alleged that the firm did not have in place adequate compliance and surveillance procedures which were reasonably designed to prevent and detect the misconduct, and also found supervisory failures by the former head trader for failing to take appropriate corrective action.  The firm and trader, without admitting or denying the allegations, agreed to respective penalties of $750,000 and $165,000.  The firm also agreed to repay $3.7 million to customers, which included $1.48 million ordered as disgorgement, and the trader agreed to serve a one-year suspension from the securities industry. Similarly, in mid-June, a large New York-based wealth management firm paid $15 million to settle SEC charges that its traders and salespersons misled customers into overpaying for residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) by deceiving them about the price that the firm paid to acquire the securities.[71]  The SEC also alleged that the firm’s RMBS traders and salespersons illegally profited from excessive, undisclosed commissions, which in some instances were more than twice the amount that customers should have paid.  According to the SEC, the firm failed to have compliance and surveillance procedures in place that were reasonably designed to prevent and detect the misconduct. V.  Insider Trading A.  Classical Insider Trading And Misappropriation Cases In January, a former corporate insider and a former professional in the brokerage industry agreed to settle allegations that they traded on the stock of a construction company prior to the public announcement of the company’s acquisition.[72]  The insider purportedly tipped his friend, who was then a registered broker-dealer, about the impending transaction in return for assistance in obtaining a new job with his friend’s employer following the merger.  According to the SEC, the broker-dealer traded on that information for a profit exceeding $48,000.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, both individuals consented to pay monetary penalties, and the trader agreed to disgorge his ill-gotten gains. The following month, the SEC sued a pharmaceutical company employee who allegedly traded in the stock of an acquisition target despite an explicit warning not to do so.[73]  According to the SEC, the defendant bought stock in the other company a mere 14 minutes after receiving an e-mail regarding the acquisition.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, the employee agreed to disgorgement of $2,287 and a $6,681 penalty. In February, the SEC charged the former CEO and a former officer of a medical products company with trading on information regarding a merger involving one of their company’s largest customers.[74]  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the two executives agreed to disgorge a total of about $180,000 in trading proceeds and to pay matching penalties. In March, the SEC charged a former communications specialist at a supply chain services company with garnering more than $38,000 in illicit profits after purchasing shares in his company prior to the public announcement of its acquisition.[75]  Without admitting or denying the allegations, the defendant subsequently agreed to $38,242 in disgorgement and the payment of a penalty to be determined following a subsequent motion by the SEC.[76] That same month, the SEC filed suit against the former chief information officer of a company who sold shares of his employer prior to public revelations that that company had suffered a data breach.[77]  In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia brought  parallel criminal charges.  Both cases are still pending.  Subsequently, at the end of June, the SEC charged another employee at that same company with trading on nonpublic information that he obtained while creating a website for customers affected by the data breach.[78]  The defendant agreed to a settlement requiring him to return ill-gotten gains of more than $75,000 plus interest, and a criminal case filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia remains ongoing. In April, the SEC charged a New York man with tipping his brother and father about the impending acquisition of a medical-supply company based on information that he learned from his friend, the CEO of the company being acquired.[79]  The SEC alleged that the father and brother garnered profits of about $145,000 based on their unlawful trading, and—without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations—the tipper agreed to pay a $290,000 penalty.  The SEC’s investigation remains ongoing. Also in April, the SEC and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed parallel civil and criminal charges against a man accused of trading on a company’s stock based on information gleaned from an unidentified insider.[80]  The man purportedly purchased shares using his retirement savings in advance of eight quarterly earnings announcements over a two-year period, reaping over $900,000 in illicit profits.  The SEC’s complaint also names the man’s wife as a relief defendant, and the matter remains ongoing. Finally, in May, the SEC charged two men with reaping small profits by trading on non-public information in advance of a merger of two snack food companies based on information gained from a close personal friend at one of the merging companies.[81]  Both defendants agreed to settle the lawsuit by disgorging ill-gotten gains and paying penalties. B.  Misappropriation by Investment Professionals and Other Advisors At the end of May, the SEC charged a vice president at an investment bank with repeatedly using confidential knowledge to trade in advance of deals on which his employer advised.[82]  The defendant allegedly used client information to trade in the securities of 12 different companies via a brokerage account held in the name of a friend living in South Korea, evading his employer’s rules that he pre-clear any trades and use an approved brokerage firm.  The trader purportedly garnered approximately $140,000 in illicit profits, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a parallel criminal case.  Both matters are still being litigated. In June, the SEC sued a Canadian accountant for trading on information misappropriated from his client, a member of an oil and gas company’s board of directors.[83]  Based on this relationship, the defendant gained knowledge of an impending merger involving the company.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, he agreed to be barred from acting as an officer or director of a public company, and to pay disgorgement and civil penalties of $220,500 each.  The defendant also consented to an SEC order suspending him from appearing or practicing before the Commission as an accountant. Finally, that same month, the SEC charged a credit ratings agency employee and the two friends he tipped about a client’s nonpublic intention to acquire another company.[84]  According to the SEC, the tipper learned the confidential information when the client reached out to the agency to assess the impact of the merger on the company’s credit rating.  Based on the information they received, the friends allegedly netted profits of $192,000 and $107,000, respectively.  In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a parallel criminal case against all three individuals.. C.  Other Trading Cases And Developments In February, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in United States v. Metro reversing the district court’s sentencing calculation following the appellant’s conviction on insider trading charges.[85]  The appellant, Steven Metro, was a managing clerk at a New York City law firm, and over the course of five years, he disclosed material nonpublic information to a close friend, Frank Tamayo, concerning 13 different corporate transactions.  Tamayo then transmitted that information to a third-party broker, who placed trades on behalf of Tamayo, himself, and other clients, yielding illicit profits of approximately $5.5 million.  Metro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of securities fraud, and the district court attributed the entire $5.5 million sum to Metro in calculating the length of his sentence.  Metro objected, arguing that he was unaware of the broker’s existence until after he stopped tipping Tamayo. On appeal, the Third Circuit vacated Metro’s sentence after determining that the district court made insufficient factual findings to substantiate imputation of all illicit profits to Metro, holding: “When the scope of a defendant’s involvement in a conspiracy is contested, a district court cannot rely solely on a defendant’s guilty plea to the conspiracy charge, without additional fact-finding, to support attributing co-conspirators’ gains to a defendant.”  The court emphasized that “when attributing to an insider-trading defendant gains realized by other individuals . . . a sentencing court should first identify the scope of conduct for which the defendant can fairly be held accountable . . . .”  Such an inquiry “may lead the court to attribute to a defendant gains realized by downstream trading emanating from the defendant’s tips, but, depending on the facts established at sentencing, it may not,” and the court therefore found that the government erred in propounding a “strict liability” standard. Finally, the first half of this year also saw limited activity by the SEC to freeze assets used to effectuate alleged insider trades.  In January, the SEC obtained an emergency court order freezing the assets of unknown defendants in Swiss bank accounts.[86]  According to the SEC, those unknown defendants were in possession of material nonpublic information regarding the impending acquisition of a biopharmaceutical company, and some of the positions taken in those accounts represented almost 100 percent of the market for those particular options.  The illicit trades allegedly yielded about $5 million in profits.. VI.  Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Cases In the first half of 2018, the SEC’s Public Finance Abuse Unit continued the slower pace of enforcement that began in 2017, pursuing two separate cases against municipal advisors. In January, the SEC charged an Atlanta, Georgia-based municipal advisor and its principal with defrauding the city of Rolling Fork, Mississippi.[87]  The SEC alleged that the municipal advisor had fraudulently overcharged Rolling Fork for municipal advisory services in connection with an October 2015 municipal bond offering and had failed to disclose certain related-party payments.  The related-party payments consisted of an undisclosed $2500 payment made to the advisor by an employee of a municipal underwriter shortly before the advisor recommended that the city hire the underwriter’s firm.  The parties subsequently agreed to settle the case.[88]  Without admitting or denying the allegations against them, the advisor and principal consented to the entry of judgments permanently enjoining them from violating Sections 15B(a)(5) and 15B(c)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and MSRB Rule G-17.  The judgment also requires the defendants to pay a total of about $111,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties. In addition, the SEC settled its case against the municipal underwriter.  Without admitting the SEC’s findings, the underwriter agreed to a six-month suspension and to pay a $20,000 penalty. And in May, the SEC brought settled administrative proceedings against another municipal advisor and its owner.[89]  The SEC alleged that, by misrepresenting their municipal advisory experience and failing to disclose conflicts of interest, the advisor and owner had defrauded a South Texas school district and breached their fiduciary duties to that district.  Without admitting to the allegations, the advisor and owner agreed to pay a combined total of approximately $562,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties.. [1] Lucia v. SEC, 585 U.S. __ (2018).  For more on Lucia, see Gibson Dunn Client Alert, SEC Rules That SEC ALJs Were Unconstitutionally Appointed (June 21, 2018), available at www.gibsondunn.com/supreme-court-rules-that-sec-aljs-were-unconstitutionally-appointed. [2] See Gibson Dunn Client Alert, U.S. Supreme Court Limits SEC Power to Seek Disgorgement Based on Stale Conduct (June 5, 2017), available at www.gibsondunn.com/united-states-supreme-court-limits-sec-power-to-seek-disgorgement-based-on-stale-conduct. [3] SEC v Kokesh, No. 15-2087 (10th Cir. Mar. 5, 2018); see also Jonathan Stempel, SEC Can Recoup Ill-gotten Gains from New Mexico Businessman: U.S. Appeals Court, Reuters (Mar. 5, 2018), available at www.reuters.com/article/us-sec-kokesh/sec-can-recoup-ill-gotten-gains-from-new-mexico-businessman-u-s-appeals-court-idUSKBN1GH2YK. [4] Adam Dobrik, Unhelpful to Threaten SEC with Trial, Says Enforcement Director, Global Investigations Review (May 10, 2018), available at globalinvestigationsreview.com/article/jac/1169315/unhelpful-to-threaten-sec-with-trial-says-enforcement-director. [5] See SEC v. Cohen, No. 1:17-CV-00430 (E.D.N.Y. July 12, 2018) (holding claims for injunctive relief time-barred). [6] Dunstan Prial, High Court Agrees To Review Banker’s Copy-Paste Fraud, Law360 (Jun. 18, 2018), available at https://www.law360.com/securities/articles/1054568. [7] SEC Press Release, SEC Awards Whistleblower More Than $2.1 Million (Apr. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-64. [8] SEC Press Release, SEC Announces Its Largest-Ever Whistleblower Awards (Mar. 19, 2018), available at https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-44. [9] Ed Beeson, SEC Whistleblowers Net $83M In Largest Ever Bounties, Law360 (Mar. 19, 2018), available at www.law360.com/articles/1023646/sec-whistleblowers-net-83m-in-largest-ever-bounties. [10] In re Claims for Award in connection with [redacted], Admin. Proc. File No. 2018-6 (Mar. 19, 2018), available at https://www.sec.gov/rules/other/2018/34-82897.pdf. [11] SEC Press Release, SEC Awards More Than $2.2 Million to Whistleblower Who First Reported Information to Another Federal Agency Before SEC (Apr. 5, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-58. [12] SEC Press Release, SEC Awards Whistleblower More Than $2.1 Million (Apr. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-64. [13] Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, 583 U.S. __ (2018); see Dunstan Prial, Supreme Court Narrows Definition Of Whistleblower, Law360 (Feb. 21, 2018), available at www.law360.com/securities/articles/1003954. [14] Jennifer Williams Alvarez, SEC Proposes Changes to Whistle-Blower Program, Agenda: A Financial Times Services (Jun. 28, 2018), available at [insert]. [15] SEC Public Statement, Statement on Cybersecurity Interpretive Guidance (Feb. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/statement-clayton-2018-02-21. [16] SEC Public Statement, Statement on Potentially Unlawful Online Platforms for Trading Digital Assets (March 7, 2018), available at https://www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/enforcement-tm-statement-potentially-unlawful-online-platforms-trading. [17] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Former Bitcoin-Denominated Exchange and Operator with Fraud (Feb. 21, 2018), available at https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-23. [18] SEC Press Release, SEC Halts Alleged Initial Coin Offering Scam (Jan. 30, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-8. [19] SEC Press Release, SEC Halts Fraudulent Scheme Involving Unregistered ICO (April 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-53. [20] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Additional Defendant in Fraudulent ICO Scheme (April 20, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-70. [21] SEC Press Release, SEC Obtains Emergency Order Halting Fraudulent Coin Offering Scheme (May 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-94. [22] SEC Press Release, SEC Obtains Emergency Freeze of $27 Million in Stock Sales of Purported Cryptocurrency Company Longfin (April 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-61. [23] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Energy Storage Company, Former Executive in Fraudulent Scheme to Inflate Financial Results (Mar. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-48. [24] SEC Press Release, Panasonic Charged with FCPA and Accounting Fraud Violations (Apr. 30, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-73. [25] SEC Press Release, Altaba, Formerly Known as Yahoo!, Charged With Failing to Disclose Massive Cybersecurity Breach; Agrees To Pay $35 Million (Apr. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-71. [26] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Three Former Healthcare Executives With Fraud (May 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-90. [27] SEC Litig. Rel. No. 24181, SEC Charges California Company and Three Executives with Accounting Fraud (July 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24181.htm. [28] SEC Press Release, SEC Obtains Bars and Suspensions Against Individuals and Accounting Firm in Shell Factory Scheme (Feb. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-21. [29] SEC Press Release, Foreign Affiliates of KPMG, Deloitte, BDO Charged in Improper Audits (Mar. 13, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-39. [30] In the Matter of Winter, Kloman, Moter & Repp, S.C., Curtis W. Disrud, CPA, and Paul R. Sehmer, CPA, Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18466 (May 04, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-83168.pdf. [31] AP File No. 3-18442, SEC Charges New Jersey-Based Company and Founder for Impermissible Association with Barred Auditor (Apr. 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-83067-s. [32] SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18398, Fintech Company Charged For Stock Option Offering Deficiencies, Failed To Provide Required Financial Information To Employee Shareholders (Mar. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2017/34-82233-s.pdf. [33] SEC Press Release, Theranos, CEO Holmes, and Former President Balwani Charged With Massive Fraud (Mar. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-41. [34] SEC Litig. Rel. No. 24121, SEC Charges Biotech Start-up, CEO With Fraud (Apr. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24121.htm. [35] In the Matter of THL Managers V, LLC, and THL Managers, VI, LLC, Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18565 (June 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4952.pdf. [36] SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18564, SEC Charges New York-Based Venture Capital Fund Adviser for Failing to Offset Consulting Fees (June 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4951-s. [37] SEC Press Release, (Mar. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-35. [38] SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18449, SEC Charges a New York-Based Investment Adviser for Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Apr. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4896-s. [39] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Investment Adviser and Two Former Managers for Misleading Retail Clients (June 4, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-101. [40] In re Lyxor Asset Management, Inc., Admin Proc. File No. 3-18526 (June 4, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4932.pdf. [41] SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18349, Investment Adviser and Its Principals Settle SEC Charges that They Failed to Disclose Risks of Investing in Their Advisory Business (Jan. 23, 2018), available at  www.sec.gov/enforce/33-10454-s. [42] SEC Litig. Rel. No. 24037, SEC Charges Two Boston-Based Investment Advisers with Fraud (Jan. 31, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24037.htm. [43] Nate Raymond, Ex-Morgan Stanley adviser sentenced to U.S. prison for fraud, Reuters (June 28, 2018), available at www.reuters.com/article/morgan-stanley-fraud/ex-morgan-stanley-adviser-sentenced-to-u-s-prison-for-fraud-idUSL1N1TU28Q. [44] SEC Litig. Rel. No. 24054, SEC Charges Orange County Investment Adviser and Senior Officers in Fraudulent “Cherry-Picking” Scheme (Feb. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24054.htm. [45] SEC Press Release, Investment Adviser Settles Charges for Cheating Clients in Fraudulent Cherry-Picking Scheme (Mar. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-36. [46] In re Arlington Capital Management, Inc. and Joseph L. LoPresti, Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18437 (Apr. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4885.pdf. [47] SEC Litig. Rel. No. 24142, SEC Charges California Investment Adviser in Multi-Million Dollar Fraud (May 15, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24142.htm. [48] In re Aberon Capital Management, LLC and Joseph Krigsfeld, Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18503 (May 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4914.pdf. [49] SEC Press Release, Hedge Fund Firm Charged for Asset Mismarking and Insider Trading (May 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-81. [50] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser With Deceiving Investors by Inflating Fund Performance (May 9, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-83. [51] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Morgan Stanley in Connection With Failure to Detect or Prevent Misappropriation of Client Funds (June 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-124. [52] SEC Press Release, SEC Launches Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative to Encourage Self-Reporting and the Prompt Return of Funds to Investors (Feb. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-15. [53] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Ameriprise With Overcharging Retirement Account Customers for Mutual Fund Shares (Feb. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-26. [54] SEC Press Release, SEC Orders Three Investment Advisers to Pay $12 Million to Harmed Clients (Apr. 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-62. [55] SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18328, Formerly Registered Investment Adviser Settles SEC Charges Related to Filing False Forms ADV and Other Investment Advisers Act Violations (Jan. 3, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ia-4836-s.pdf. [56] SEC Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18423, SEC Charges Investment Adviser for Improperly Registering with the Commission and Violating Several Rules (Apr. 5, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/ia-4875-s. [57] In re SEI Investments Global Funds Services, Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18457 (Apr. 26, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/ic-33087.pdf. [58] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges 13 Private Fund Advisers for Repeated Filing Failures (June 1, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-100. [59] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Recidivist Broker-Dealer in Employee’s Long-Running Pump-and-Dump Fraud (Mar. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-49. [60] SEC Press Release, Merrill Lynch Charged With Gatekeeping Failures in the Unregistered Sales of Securities (Mar. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-32. [61] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges New York-Based Firm and Supervisors for Failing to Supervise Brokers Who Defrauded Customers (June 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-123. [62] SEC Press Release, Broker-Dealer Admits It Failed to File SARs (Mar. 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-50. [63] SEC Charges Brokerage Firms and AML Officer with Anti-Money Laundering Violations (May 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-87. [64] Administrative Proceeding File No. 3-18341, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Financial Services LLC Agrees to Settle SEC Charges Relating to Numerous Regulation SHO Violations That Resulted in Prolonged Fails to Deliver (Jan. 18, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-82533-s.pdf. [65] SEC Press Release, Broker Charged with Repeatedly Putting Customer Assets at Risk (Mar. 19, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-45. [66] Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18409, SEC Charges Broker-Dealer, CEO With Net Capital Rule Violations (Mar. 27, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/enforce/34-82951-s. [67] SEC Press Release, NYSE to Pay $14 Million Penalty for Multiple Violations (Mar. 6, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-31. [68] SEC Press Release, Wells Fargo Advisors Settles SEC Chargers for Improper Sales of Complex Financial Products (June 25, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-112. [69] Lit. Rel. No. 24179, SEC Charges Cantor Fitzgerald and Brokers in Commission-Splitting Scheme (June 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24179.htm. [70] SEC Press Release, Deutsche Bank to Repay Misled Customers (Feb. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-13. [71] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Merrill Lynch for Failure to Supervise RMBS Traders (June 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-105. [72] Admin. Proc. File No. 3-18335, Former Corporate Insider and Brokerage Industry Employee Settle Insider Trading Charges with SEC (Jan. 11, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2018/34-82485-s.pdf. [73] Lit. Rel. No. 24056,  SEC: Insider Bought Minutes After Warnings Not to Trade (Feb. 28., 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24056.htm. [74] Lit Rel. No. 24044, SEC Charges Former Medical Products Executives with Insider Trading (Feb. 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24044.htm. [75] Lit Rel. No. 24065, SEC Charges Corporate Communications Specialist with Insider Trading Ahead of Acquisition Announcement (Mar. 8, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24065.htm. [76] Lit Rel. No. 24163, Court Enters Consent Judgment against Robert M. Morano (June 11, 2018), available at https://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24163.htm. [77] Press Release, Former Equifax Executive Charged With Insider Trading (Mar. 14, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-40. [78] Press Release, Former Equifax Manager Charged With Insider Trading (June 28, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-115. [79] Lit Rel. No. 24104, SEC Charges New York Man with Insider Trading (Apr. 5, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24104.htm. [80] Lit Rel. No. 24097, SEC Charges Massachusetts Man in Multi-Year Trading Scheme (Apr. 5, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24097.htm. [81] Lit Rel. No. 24134, SEC Charges Two Pennsylvania Residents with Insider Trading (May 4, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24134.htm. [82] Press Release, SEC Charges Investment Banker in Insider Trading Scheme (May 31, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-97. [83] Lit Rel. No. 24165, SEC Charges Canadian Accountant with Insider Trading (June 12, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24164.htm. [84] Lit Rel. No. 24178, SEC Charges Credit Ratings Analyst and Two Friends with Insider Trading (June 29, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24178.htm. [85] 882 F.3d 431 (3d Cir. 2018); see also Tom Gorman, “SEC Disgorgement: A Path For Reform?,” SEC Actions Blog (Feb. 20, 2018), available at http://www.lexissecuritiesmosaic.com/net/Blogwatch/Blogwatch.aspx?ID=32139&identityprofileid=PJ576X25804. [86] Lit Rel. No. 24035, SEC Freezes Assets Behind Alleged Insider Trading (Jan. 26, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24035.htm. [87] SEC Press Release, SEC Charges Municipal Adviser and its Principal with Defrauding Mississippi City (January 5, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24025.htm. [88] SEC Press Release, SEC Obtains Judgments Against Municipal Adviser and Its Principal for Defrauding Mississippi City (July 2, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2018/lr24182.htm. [89] SEC Press Release, SEC Levies Fraud Charges Against Texas-Based Municipal Advisor, Owner for Lying to School District (May 9, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-82. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update:  Marc Fagel, Mary Kay Dunning, Amruta Godbole, Amy Mayer, Jaclyn Neely, Joshua Rosario, Alon Sachar, Tina Samanta, Lindsey Young and Alex Zbrozek. 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July 30, 2018 |
2018 Mid-Year Government Contracts Litigation Update

Click for PDF In this mid-year analysis of government contracts litigation, Gibson Dunn examines trends and summarizes key decisions of interest to government contractors from the first half of 2018.  This publication covers the waterfront of the opinions most important to this audience issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”), and Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”). The first six months of 2018 yielded 4 government contracts-related opinions of note from the Federal Circuit, excluding decisions related to bid protests.  From January 1 through July 30, 2018, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued 7 notable non-bid protest government contracts-related decisions (and one bid-protest decision with wider-reaching implications we address here), and the ASBCA and CBCA published 54 and 64 substantive government contracts decisions, respectively.  As discussed herein, these cases address a wide range of issues with which government contractors should be familiar, including matters of cost allowability, jurisdictional requirements, terminations, contract interpretation, remedies, and the various topics of federal common law that have developed in the government contracts arena.  For background on the tribunals that adjudicate government contracts disputes, please see our 2017 Year-End Update. Of 1,502 cases pending before the Federal Circuit as of June 30, 2018, 12 were appeals from the boards of contract appeals and 132 were appeals from the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”)—cumulatively comprising just under 10% of the appellate court’s docket. Only 4% of the appeals filed at the Federal Circuit in FY 2017 were governments contracts cases, which is consistent with previous years. On May 13, 2018, Judge Lis B. Young was appointed to the ASBCA after over 25 years of public service with the Federal Government, holding various positions with the former General Services Board of Contract Appeals and  the Department of the Navy, including most recently as Associate Counsel, Navy Acquisition Integrity Office, where she worked on suspension and debarment actions. On March 28, 2018, the CBCA proposed to amend its rules of procedure for cases arising under the CDA. The Board’s current rules were issued in 2008, and were last amended in 2011. The proposed revisions establish a preference for electronic filing, are designed to “increase[e] conformity” between the Board’s rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by cross-referencing and incorporating the FRCP standards, and streamlines and clarifies the Board’s current rules and practices. Notably, a proposed change to CBCA Rule 6, which governs pleadings, would require the opposing party’s consent to amend a pleading once without permission of the Board. Comments on the Proposed Rule were due on May 29, 2018. I.    COST ALLOWABILITY & COST ACCOUNTING STANDARDS The Court of Federal Claims issued one decision during the first half of 2018 addressing the merits of cost allowability issues under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”).  Pursuant to FAR 31.201-2, a cost is allowable only if it (1) is reasonable; (2) is allocable; (3) complies with any applicable Cost Accounting Standards, or otherwise with generally accepted accounting principles appropriate in the circumstances; (4) complies with the terms of the contract; and (5) complies with any limitations in FAR subpart 31.2. Bechtel Nat’l, Inc. v. United States, No. 17-757C (Fed. Cl. Apr. 3, 2018) In Bechtel, the Court of Federal Claims considered whether the Department of Energy’s disallowance of litigation costs breached Bechtel’s contract. Two former employees of Bechtel sued Bechtel for sexual and racial harassment and discrimination. Bechtel ultimately settled both suits and sought reimbursement of litigation costs from the government for each suit, which the contracting officer denied in a final decision. In disallowing the costs, the contracting officer relied in part on the Federal Circuit’s decision in Geren v. Tecom, Inc., 566 F.3d 1037 (Fed. Cir. 2009), which held that costs incurred in the defense of an employment discrimination suit settled before trial are unallowable unless the contracting officer determines that the plaintiff had “very little likelihood of success on the merits.” Bechtel argued that Tecom had no bearing on the allowability of its litigation costs because, unlike in Tecom, the contract here included a Department of Energy Acquisition Regulation (“DEAR”) clause that “explicitly allocat[ed] the risk of third party claims to the Government.” The Court (Kaplan, J.) rejected this argument, finding that an exception in the DEAR clause prohibiting reimbursement of liabilities “otherwise unallowable by law or the visions of this contract” applied. Employing the principles in Tecom, the COFC found the “provisions of the contract,” including the contract’s anti-discrimination provision, rendered Bechtel’s costs of defending against and settling the discrimination complaints unallowable. However, the COFC stated that the holding in Tecom “was a limited one” that did not necessarily extend to breaches of contractual obligations other than anti-discrimination provisions. Bechtel’s appeal to the Federal Circuit is pending. ___________________ The COFC also considered two questions relating to the allocation of pension assets and liabilities for the purpose of a segment closing under Cost Accounting Standard (“CAS”) 413. United States Enrichment Corp. v. United States, No. 15-68C (Fed. Cl. Jan. 16, 2018) United States Enrichment Corporation (“USEC”) became a private entity in 1998 pursuant to the 1996 USEC Privatization Act.  Post-privatization, USEC continued to operate uranium enrichment facilities for the government at Portsmouth, Ohio and Paducah, Kentucky.  In 2010, DOE wound down all enrichment work at USEC’s Portsmouth facility, and on January 1, 2011, USEC divided what had been a single cost accounting segment for Paducah and Portsmouth into two separate segments. USEC announced it would close the Portsmouth segment on September 30, 2011, which triggered its obligation to perform a segment closing adjustment under CAS 413-50(c)(12). First, rejecting USEC’s argument that CAS 413-50(c)(5) requires the use of historical “data of the segment,” the COFC (Firestone, J.) determined that USEC had applied CAS 413 incorrectly when it failed to use data from the earliest date that USEC had data for employees associated with Portsmouth to allocate pension assets and liabilities to the new segment.   Instead, the Court agreed with the Government’s argument that the allocation must be based on historic data for the workers employed at the closed segment from the earliest period when that data is available and readily determinable – including the period before USEC became a private enterprise. Second, the COFC considered whether USEC could recover any deficit for under-funded post-retirement benefit obligations (“PRB”) from the Government in the CAS 413 segment closing adjustment, or whether the PRB obligations at issue should be excluded from the closing adjustment. Applying the holding from Raytheon Co. v. United States, 92 Fed. Cl. 549 (2012), the COFC found that while some of the PRBs at issue were not vested or integral because USEC’s Plan provided that USEC could terminate or modify its obligation to pay PRBs, others were protected by the Privatization Act such that they should be factored into the segment closing adjustment, and granted-in-part and denied-in-part both parties’ cross motions for summary judgment on the issue. II.  JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES As is frequently the case, jurisdictional issues dominated the landscape of key government contracts decisions during the first half of 2018. A.  Requirement for a Valid Contract In order for there to be Contract Disputes Act jurisdiction over a claim, there must be a contract from which that claim arises.  See FAR 33.201 (defining a “claim” as “a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking . . . relief arising under or relating to this contract“).  The CDA applies to contracts made by an executive agency for: (1) the procurement of property, other than real property in being; (2) the procurement of services; (3) the procurement of construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance of real property; and (4) the disposal of personal property.  41 U.S.C. § 7102(a)(1)-(4). Additionally, claims under the Contract Disputes Act must be brought by a contractor in privity of contract with the government. The Federal Circuit and the ASBCA addressed these issues in the first half of 2018. Agility Logistics Servs. Co. KSC v. Mattis, No. 2015-1555 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 16, 2018) In Agility, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals’ dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of Agility’s claim arising from a contract originally awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority (“CPA”) in Iraq. The COFC (Prost, C.J.) found that the CPA did not constitute an “executive agency” so as to invoke jurisdiction under the Contracts Disputes Act. The court relied primarily on the plain language of the agreement, which made clear that the CPA, which was not an executive agency, awarded the contract.  The COFC also rejected Agility’s argument that the government became the contracting party after the CPA dissolved because the Iraqi Interim Government’s Minister of Finance had properly taken responsibility for the contract after the dissolution of the CPA.  The COFC also rejected Agility’s argument that each individual task order issued was a discrete contract, finding that “even if an executive agency issued the Task Orders, it did so as a contract administrator and not as a contracting party.”  The COFC additionally found that it had no jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision regarding jurisdiction under the Board’s charter. Cooper/Ports America, LLC, ASBCA No. 61461 (May 2, 2018) After Cooper/Ports America LLC (“CPA”) entered into a novation agreement with the government and the original contractor, Shippers, CPA filed a claim for unilateral mistake based, in part, on the fact that Shippers’ bid was 63% below that of the next lowest bidder and contained mistakes that should have been apparent to the government. The government moved to dismiss, claiming that CPA lacked the required privity of contract to qualify as a “contractor” with standing to pursue a claim that accrued when it was not a party to the contract (i.e., pre-novation). More specifically, the government asserted that there must have been an express assignment of that claim to which the government consented in order for the Board to find a valid government waiver of the statutory prohibition against assignment of claims. The ASBCA (O’Sullivan, A.J.) denied the government’s motion to dismiss because the government expressly recognized CPA as the “contractor” in the novation agreement. Moreover, the novation agreement recognized CPA as “entitled to all rights, titles and interests of the Transferor in and to the contracts as if the Transferee were the original party to the contracts,” and the Board found that a narrow interpretation of the novation would fly in the face of the plain language of the agreement. B.  Adequacy of the Claim Another common issue arising before the tribunals that hear government contracts disputes is whether the contractor appealed a valid CDA claim.  FAR 33.201 defines a “claim” as “a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking, as a matter of right, the payment of money in a sum certain, the adjustment or interpretation of contract terms, or other relief arising under or relating to this contract.”  Under the CDA, a claim for more than $100,000 must be certified.  In the first half of 2018, the boards considered the elements of an adequate claim under the CDA. Meridian Eng’g Co. v. United States, 2017-1584 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 20, 2018) Meridian Engineering Company appealed the Court of Federal Claims’ dismissal of its claims arising from its 2007 contract to build flood control structures.  Meridian’s initial suit in the COFC alleged breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the CDA as an independent claim. Meridian argued that the COFC erred when it “reasoned that only Meridian’s breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing claims presented a viable cause of action” because its claims should have been “analyzed under the framework contemplated by the CDA, and not under the rubric of a ‘breach’ claim.” The Federal Circuit (Wallach, J.) affirmed the dismissal, finding that Meridian had not submitted a valid claim because the CDA did not itself provide a cause of action. Rather, “it is the claim asserted pursuant to the CDA that is the source of potential damages and review by the trier of fact.”  The court concluded that the COFC had not erred in finding jurisdiction under the CDA to evaluate the breach of contract claims, but found that the COFC had erred with respect to the substantive merits of certain claims. 1.  Claim Accrual Under the CDA, a claim must be submitted within six years after the claim accrues. FAR 33.201 defines accrual of a claim as the date when all events that fix alleged liability and permit assertion of the claim are known or should be known. Green Valley Co., ASBCA No. 61275 (Feb. 13, 2018) Green Valley held a blanket purchase agreement to supply life support services to the Army.  In 2006, Green Valley began invoicing the government for services it performed under the BPA, but it did not submit a certified claim for those unpaid invoices until 2017.  The contracting officer denied the claim, and Green Valley appealed.  The government sought to dismiss the claim because it had not been submitted within six years of accrual of the claim, as required by the CDA’s statute of limitations. The ASBCA (Melnick, A.J.) found that Green Valley’s claim accrued in 2006 after it submitted its invoices for payment, and that the ten-year delay in submitting the claim rendered it time-barred.  The Board explained that while an invoice is not necessarily a claim, it can be converted into one within a reasonable time if it is not acted upon or paid.  The Board considered Green Valley’s argument that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled, noting that tolling might be appropriate if a litigant has been pursuing its rights diligently, and some extraordinary circumstance stood in its way and prevented the timely filing of the claim.  However, the Board found that Green Valley had not proven such circumstances, and dismissed the appeal as untimely. 2.  Sum Certain Fluor Fed. Sols., LLC, ASBCA No. 61353 (May 30, 2018) Fluor submitted a certified claim to the Navy for the estimated additional cost of performing work  under a unilateral modification to the contract.  The Navy argued that the claim was complex and, thus, refused to issue a final decision until it received an audit report from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”).  Fluor notified the Navy that it would treat the claim as a deemed denial and subsequently appealed to the ASBCA on this basis.  The Board asked the parties to respond whether the claimed amount qualified as a sum certain since it was based on estimated costs. Both parties agreed that Fluor’s claim satisfied the sum certain requirement.  The Navy argued, however, that the claim was complex and required a DCAA audit before the CO could issue a final decision. Without a final decision, the Navy argued, the claim was premature and the Board lacked jurisdiction. The Board (Clarke, A.J.) denied the Navy’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the desired DCAA audit does not change the status of a contractor’s claim because it is not needed to assess entitlement, only quantum. The Board affirmed previous decisions that the use of estimated or approximate costs in determining the value of a claim is permissible so long as the total overall demand is for a sum certain. 3.  Claim Certification Horton Constr. Co., Inc., ASBCA No. 61085 (Feb. 14, 2018) Horton requested an equitable adjustment to its contract for the crushing of a concrete stockpile because the amount of concrete stockpile was smaller than originally anticipated. When Horton appealed from the contracting officer’s denial of its equitable adjustment claim, the government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, claiming Horton had not shown that it possessed the legal capacity to initiate or continue the appeal because the company’s status had been administratively terminated by the state of Louisiana, and that any attempt to ratify the appeal was too late. The ASBCA (Osterhout, A.J.) rejected the government’s first argument that Horton did not have the capacity to continue the appeal because Louisiana had subsequently reinstated the company.  The Board also rejected the government’s argument that the signatory to the claim was not authorized to certify the claim.  The CDA requires that a certified claim be executed by an individual authorized to bind the contractor with respect to the claim.  The test is one of authorization, and the signatory here was appointed as executrix to the estate of Mr. Horton Sr., who owned the company, and thus had power to bind the company. Moreover, the Board held, even if the executrix had not been authorized to bind the company, a defective certification under the CDA may be corrected prior to the entry of final judgment by the Board.  Accordingly, because the appeal was timely filed and the claim was properly certified and prosecuted, the Board denied the government’s motion to dismiss. Mayberry Enters., LLC v. Department of Energy, CBCA No. 5961 (Mar. 13, 2018) The Western Area Power Administration (“WAPA”), acting through the Department of Energy, filed a motion to dismiss Mayberry’s appeal from a contracting officer’s decision denying its monetary claims because Mayberry’s claim letter was uncertified. Under the CDA, while a defective certification can be corrected, a complete failure to certify may not and the Board must dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. In light of the Federal Circuit’s caution that tribunals should be wary of automatically applying claim certification to a single claim letter containing multiple claims that do not arise out of the same operative facts, Placeway Construction v. United States, 920 F.2d 903 (Fed. Cir. 1990), the CBCA reviewed the letter to determine whether the “claims” should be interpreted as a single claim or multiple claims. Because the Board (Lester, A.J.)found that each claim arose from different and unrelated problems during contract performance, each claim was analyzed for certification independently. The Board dismissed one of the three claims for lack of jurisdiction because it was in excess of $100,000 and had not been certified. Areyana Grp. of Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 60648 (May 11, 2018) Areyana Group of Construction Co. (“AGCC”) timely appealed a CO’s final decision denying a request for a time extension and the return of liquidated damages withheld by the government. The government filed a motion to dismiss, contending that AGCC failed to certify its request and that, accordingly, the ASBCA lacked jurisdiction to review its allegations. The Board (Paul, A.J.) agreed with the government and dismissed the AGCC’s claim, affirming prior holdings that absence of a certification bars the Board’s exercise of jurisdiction and is not considered a “defect.” Additionally, the Board noted that the CO’s purported issuance of a final decision does not remedy this problem. C.  Requirement for a Contracting Officer’s Final Decision A number of decisions from the tribunals that hear government contracts disputes dealt with the CDA’s requirement that a claim have been “the subject of a contracting officer’s final decision.” Hejran Hejrat Co., ASBCA No. 61234 (Apr. 23, 2018) After HHL’s contract was suspended pending a bid protest, HHL informed the contracting officer that it incurred additional costs due to the time necessary for the government’s corrective action and delay in the issuance of the notice to proceed. There was no evidence that the government considered HHL’s concerns regarding additional costs. Instead, the government issued a unilateral modification that lifted the prior award suspension; decreased the contract price; revised the performance work statement to reflect delays in government furnished equipment; and declared that an equitable adjustment due to the suspension was not required and the government was absolved of any claims due to that suspension. The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.) dismissed HHL’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction because HHL’s purported claim was not certified and failed to request a final decision from the contracting officer.  The Board noted that the CO’s statements promising to send a final decision and, in fact, sending a document labeled final decision did not cure HHL’s failure to request a final decision.  The Board stated: “There can be no contracting officer’s final decision on a claim if the contractor has not requested that decision from the contracting officer.” H2Ll-CSC, JV, ASBCA No. 61404 (June 14, 2018) H2Ll-CSC, JV (“HCJ”) appealed a CO’s decision denying HCJ’s claim arising from an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity type contract with firm-fixed-price task orders for design/build construction, and incidental service projects. The ASBCA sua sponte directed the parties to brief the issue of the Board’s jurisdiction. Specifically, the Board noted that HCJ had requested telephonically, but not in writing, that its request for an equitable adjustment be treated as a claim under the CDA. The Board (Paul, A.J.) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that a request for a final decision, like the totality of a claim submission, must be in writing and the CO cannot waive this requirement by issuing a final decision. OCCI, Inc., ASBCA No. 61279 (May 29, 2018) OCCI sought remission of liquidated damages that the government claimed for late completion of contract work, arguing that it was entitled to time extensions for government-caused and/or concurrent delay and that its failure to timely complete work under the contract was excusable. The ASBCA (Shackleford, A.J.) dismissed the appeal, holding that OCCI was precluded from raising the issue that its delay was excusable and that it was entitled to time extensions because OCCI never filed a proper CDA claim asserting entitlement to the time extensions as required by M. Maropakis Carpentry, Inc. v. United States, 609 F.3d 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2010), which held that “a contractor seeking an adjustment of contract terms [such as an extension of time] must meet the jurisdictional requirements and procedural prerequisites of the CDA, whether asserting the claim against the government as an affirmative claim or as a defense to a government action” (emphasis added). Walker Dev. & Trading Grp., Inc., CBCA No. 5907 (June 6, 2018) The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) moved to strike certain counts of Walker Development & Trading Group Inc.’s complaint, asserting that the CBCA lacks jurisdiction to decide those portions of the complaint because they were not included in its claims submitted to the contracting officer. The Board (Beardsley, A.J.) observed that, while it may not consider new claims that a contractor failed to present to the contracting officer, a claim before the Board is not required to rigidly adhere to the exact language or structure of the original administrative CDA claim presented to the contracting officer.  The Board denied the motion to dismiss, finding that “the allegations in the complaint arise from the same operative facts and are not materially different.” D.  Filing Deadlines The boards of contract appeals heard cases concerning two different types of timing deadlines – the CDA’s six-year statute of limitations, and the requirement that a claim for equitable adjustment be filed before final payment is made on the contract. Khenj Logistics Grp., ASBCA No. 61178 (Feb. 15, 2018) In 2009, the government awarded KLG a contract to construct a facility in Afghanistan.  After commencing work on the contract, the government issued a stop-work order.  Shortly thereafter, the parties executed a bilateral contract modification which terminated the contract for convenience, and the government agreed to reimburse KLG for the cost of maintaining insurance, while KLG in turn released further claims against the government.  KLG finally submitted a termination claim in 2017. After KLG appealed, the government filed a motion for summary judgment based on KLG’s release and on the basis that KLG’s claim was untimely.  The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.) held that KLG’s claim was time-barred due to the six-year CDA statute of limitations, concluding that KLG should have known that the government’s payment would not be forthcoming when the government failed to make a last payment in accordance with promises made by the contracting officer.  The Board also found there was no basis for equitable tolling because KLG had not diligently pursued its rights and there were no extraordinary circumstances that would have prevented the timely filing of the claim. Merrick Constr., LLC, ASBCA No. 60906 (Mar. 22, 2018) Merrick appealed a contracting officer’s decision denying its claim for rental costs on a bypass pumping system installed pursuant to a government change order.  The government moved for summary judgment, arguing that Merrick’s claim was precluded by the general release, and that there was an accord and satisfaction based upon a modification to the contract. The ASBCA (D’Alessandris, A.J.) explained that a release is a type of contract that grants the release of any claim or right that could be asserted against the other.  After interpreting the plain language of the release, the Board found that as a rule, a general release which is not qualified on its face bars any claims based upon events occurring before the execution of the release, and thus the government had met its burden of establishing that the general release applied.  The Board went on to note that there can be exceptions to a release, such as fraud, mutual mistake, economic duress, or consideration of a claim after release.  In this instance, the Board found that there was no mistake because Merrick’s argument was entirely speculative and no evidence was presented that would have shown that there was mistake.  The Board also held that Merrick’s claim was barred because it was submitted after final payment.  Pursuant to the Changes clause, FAR 52.243-4(f), no proposal by a contractor for an equitable adjustment can be allowed if asserted after final payment under the contract.  Because Merrick could not establish that the contracting officer knew or should have known of Merrick’s claim prior to the final payment, the Board held that Merrick’s claim was barred by final payment.  Accordingly, the Board granted the government summary judgment. Michaelson, Connor & Boul, CBCA 6021 (May 29, 2018) In February 2010, HUD awarded MCB a contract to serve as HUD’s mortgagee compliance manager to ensure lender compliance with the property conveyance requirements of HUD’s real-estate portfolio.  After the contract ended, MCB submitted a claim to the contracting officer requesting payment in the amount of $661,312.81, which MCB stated was incurred “in connection to” “extra-contractual work” allegedly requested by HUD.  The contracting officer denied MCB’s claim and MCB timely appealed to the CBCA.  HUD challenged the Board’s jurisdiction over the claim, alleging that because MCB’s claim arose after the contract ended, it did not arise out of the same operating facts as the contract and thus precluded the Board’s jurisdiction over the matter. The Board (Russell, A.J.) raised concerns about whether the claim presented to the contracting officer is the same claim that MCB presented on appeal, and ordered MCB to clarify whether it was seeking relief (1) under the contract identified in the notice of appeal, (2) under no contract, or (3) under a different contract. The Board held that it did have jurisdiction to hear MCB’s appeal because MCB’s appeal filings were “fundamentally the same” as those asserted in its claim to the contracting officer. Judge Chadwick dissented, noting that while the case presented the “closest ‘same claim/new claim’ issue” he had come across, the controlling question is whether MCB intends to litigate the operative facts of its certified claim, which according to Judge Chadwick MCB had abandoned because while the appeal sounded in contract, the certified claim was not based on any “provision, clause, or even a single word of the written contract.” E.  Amending the Complaint John C. Grimberg Co., Inc., ASBCA No. 60371 (Feb. 15, 2018) Grimberg held a contract to construct an advanced analytical chemistry wing for work with toxic agents.  After a dispute arose regarding contract terms, Grimberg filed a claim and an appeal of the contracting officer’s deemed denial when a year passed without a final decision on the claim.  Three weeks prior to the scheduled hearing date, Grimberg filed an amended complaint adding a new count based on the government’s failure to disclose superior knowledge of contract requirements.  The hearing was subsequently rescheduled by the Board to a date several months after the original hearing date.  Grimberg filed a motion for reconsideration after the Board rejected the amended complaint due to the absence of a motion for leave to amend. The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) held that it had jurisdiction to hear the new count in the amended complaint because a new legal theory of recovery asserted in an amended complaint does not constitute a new claim if based upon the same operative facts as the original claim, and the new count would require review of the same evidence as the original counts.  Therefore, the Board concluded that it possessed jurisdiction to hear the new count.  The Board then determined that the proposed amendment to the complaint would be fair to both parties, as required by Board Rule 6, because the rescheduling of the hearing allowed the government additional time to address concerns raised by the new count.  Thus, the Board granted Grimberg leave to file its amended complaint. F.  Availability of Declaratory Relief The Federal Circuit and boards of contract appeals considered the availability of declaratory relief in an action brought pursuit to the CDA. Securiforce Int’l Am., LLC v. United States, Nos. 2016-2589, 2016-2633 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 17, 2018) Securiforce International America, LLC (“Securiforce”) supplied fuel to eight locations in Iraq under a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”). DLA partially terminated the contract for convenience with respect to two of the sites, but subsequently placed oral orders for small deliveries to those sites.  When Securiforce’s deliveries to the remaining sites were late, the government sent a show cause notice, in response to which Securiforce claimed the delays were due in part to the allegedly improper termination for convenience. The government terminated the remainder of the contract for default.  In 2012, Securiforce filed a complaint in the COFC claiming that the termination for default was improper, and then requested a final decision from the contracting officer (“CO”) that the termination for convenience had been improper. After the CO denied the request for final decision, Securiforce amended its COFC complaint to include a request for declaratory judgment that the government’s termination for convenience had been improper.  The COFC found jurisdiction over both claims and held that the partial termination for convenience of the contract had been an abuse of discretion and thus a breach of the contract, but found the termination for default proper and rejected Securiforce’s claim that its nonperformance was excused by the improper termination for convenience. On appeal, the Federal Circuit (Dyk, J.) found that the COFC lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the declaratory relief claim regarding the validity of the government’s termination for convenience.  While contractors may seek declaratory relief in some cases, the Federal Circuit stated they may not “circumvent the general rule requiring a sum certain by reframing monetary claims as nonmonetary.”  The Federal Circuit characterized Securiforce’s declaratory relief claim as a claim for monetary relief because the default remedy for a breach of contract would be damages, and that Securiforce had failed to state a sum certain as required by the CDA.  The court further held that there would have been no jurisdictional impediment to Securiforce invoking the improper termination for convenience as an affirmative defense for its default without presenting the defense to the CO because Securiforce was neither seeking the payment of money nor attempting to change the terms of the contract.  However, under the facts at hand, the Federal Circuit concluded that the termination for convenience did not, in fact, amount to an abuse of discretion or breach of the contract.  Duke University, CBCA No. 5992 (Apr. 6, 2018) Duke University appealed a contracting officer’s final decision on what Duke referred to as a “non-monetary claim” that it had submitted to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (“NIAID”).  Duke did not specify a sum of monetary payment in its claim, instead seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract.  Applying the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Securiforce, and upon a joint motion by the parties to dismiss the appeal without prejudice, the CBCA (Lester, A.J.) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that Duke’s claim was one contemplated by Securiforce, requiring Duke to state a sum certain. Mare Solutions, Inc., CBCA Nos. 5540, 5541, 6037 (May 16, 2018) Mare Solutions, Inc. (“Mare”) was awarded a contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) for the construction of a two-story parking garage at the VA Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.  When the project was nearly complete, two disputes arose – one involving bucked metal conduit on the first floor ceiling of the garage and the other regarding which party was responsible for purchasing “head-end” equipment for the video surveillance system.  Mare appealed the contracting officer’s final decisions and sought declaratory relief absolving it of liability for the buckled conduit and for the purchase of head-end equipment. At the time the appeals were filed, the ASBCA found its jurisdiction was proper because both appeals involved live performance disputes that could be resolved by declaration of the Board. At the hearing, however, the Board learned that, in addition to seeking declaratory relief, Mare had procured and installed the head-end equipment and was seeking reimbursement for those costs. Accordingly, Mare submitted a related monetary claim to the CO, which was also denied and which Mare appealed.  While there were no jurisdictional issues with the first appeal for declaratory relief relating to the metal conduit, the ASBCA (O’Rourke, A.J.) found that it no longer had jurisdiction over the head-end equipment claim for declaratory relief because the issues had been subsumed within the monetary claim.  Thus, the Board’s jurisdiction to issue declaratory relief can be obviated by the filing of a related monetary claim. Based on its interpretation of the contract, the Board ruled that Mare was not liable for the buckled conduit, but denied Mare’s monetary claim. G.  Election Doctrine A decision from the COFC highlights the issues that can arise from bringing proceedings before more than one tribunal that hear government contracts disputes. ACI-SCC JV et al v. United States, No. 17-1749C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 12, 2018) In what it described as a “conundrum of a case,” the COFC dismissed a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers brought by Plaintiff Arwand Road and Construction Company (“Arwand”), acting as Trustee for Plaintiff-Intervenors ACI-SCC JV, ACI-SCC JV LLC (together, “the JV”), and Plaintiff Advance Constructors International LLC (“ACI”). Arwand was a subcontractor to the JV, which held a number of construction contracts in Afghanistan. However, the JV did not pay Arwand on time for its work, claiming it had not yet been paid by the government. The contracting officer terminated the government’s contracts with the JV, and the JV and ACI appealed the terminations separately to the ASBCA. Both parties settled their claims and the ASBCA dismissed their appeals with prejudice. Arwand sued both the JV and ACI in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware for damages due under its subcontract with the JV, and the court awarded judgment in Arwand’s favor later that year. Arwand then filed a “petition” before the ASBCA asserting breach of contract claims against the government, which Arwand later voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. After the Delaware Court of Chancery appointed Arwand as trustee for the JV and ACI, Arwand filed suit against the Corps before the COFC in its capacity as trustee to recover unpaid fees on the JV’s contracts. The JV intervened and filed a motion to dismiss. The COFC (Wheeler, J.) dismissed the case as moot as a result of the settled ASBCA cases that had been dismissed with prejudice, at which time Arwand was merely a subcontractor with no rights, privity, or standing to sue the Government over the prime contract. Second, the COFC also held that by first filing suit at the ASBCA, Arwand lost its right to file in the COFC because courts have interpreted the CDA to impose an “either-or choice” of forum, meaning that a contractor is barred from filing in one forum if it chooses to file in the other forum first. Even though Arwand may not have had standing to file a “petition” before the ASBCA and  voluntarily dismissed the suit, he was precluded from litigating the same claim in the COFC under the CDA. III.  TERMINATIONS In two noteworthy decisions during the first half of 2018 arising from contract terminations, the ASBCA strictly construed the one-year time limit to submit a termination settlement proposal in accordance with the FAR’s termination for convenience clause. Am. Boys Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 61163 (Jan. 9, 2018) In 2013, the government awarded a contract for the construction of a prime power overhead cover to American Boys Construction Company (“American Boys”).  More than three and a half years after receiving notice of the government’s termination of the contract for convenience, American Boys submitted a termination settlement agreement proposal as a certified claim to the contracting officer.  The contracting officer denied the claim because American Boys did not file a settlement proposal within one year of the termination.  American Boys timely appealed the CO’s final decision and the government filed a motion for summary judgment requesting that the Board deny the appeal. The Board (Osterhout, A.J.) granted the government’s motion and denied the appeal because American Boys did not file its termination settlement claim until 2017 – nearly four years after the contract termination – in violation of FAR 52.249-2. Abdul Khabir Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 61155 (Apr. 6, 2018) Abdul Khabir Construction Co. appealed a contracting officer’s denial of a claim seeking settlement costs resulting from the government’s termination for convenience of its construction contract.  The government filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Abdul failed to submit its termination settlement proposal within a year of the effective date of termination, and did not submit its certified claim until more than seven years after termination. Abdul countered that the government never asked for a settlement proposal, and never told it where to file a claim. The Board (Osterhout, A.J.) found no evidence that the contracting officer extended the FAR’s one-year time period to file a termination claim.  Because no extension was granted and the parties did not dispute that Abdul Khabir did not submit a proposal or contact the government until over 18 months after the due date, the Board found the claim untimely and denied the appeal. IV.  CONTRACT INTERPRETATION A number of noteworthy decisions from the first half of 2018 articulate broadly applicable contract interpretation principles that should be considered by government contractors. CB&I AREVA MOX Servs., LLC v. United States, No. 16-950C, 17-2017C, 18-80C, 18-522C, 18-677C, 18-691C, 18-701C (Fed. Cl. June 11, 2018) In 1999, the Department of Energy awarded a cost reimbursement contract to the predecessor in interest of CB&I AREVA MOX Services, LLC (“MOX Services”) to construct a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (“MFFF”) at a site in South Carolina. The original target completion date was in 2016, but was extended until 2029 and the estimated cost more than doubled. Under the contract, MOX Services was eligible to receive quarterly incentive fees pursuant to a vesting schedule for making progress towards completion of the construction of the MFFF beginning in 2008. Although the entire fee was provisional for at least the first year after it was invoiced, the incentive fee became 50% vested if MOX Services’ performance remained within the schedule and cost parameters for the subsequent four quarters. The government paid MOX incentive fees, of which a portion was provisional. The government suspended further incentive fee payments in 2011 when it determined that MOX Services was no longer performing within the applicable cost and schedule parameters. In 2016, MOX Services submitted a certified claim to the government for the suspended incentive fees that the company did not receive from 2011 through 2015. In response, the contracting officer not only denied the certified claim suspended payments, but also demanded that MOX Services refund the provisional incentive fee payments already made. The government argued that MOX Services has no hope of meeting the project’s parameters on cost and schedule and thus will not be entitled to retain any incentive fees at project completion. The Court of Federal Claims (Wheeler, J.) rejected this position, noting that “the contract provisions taken together unambiguously provide that the incentive fee [paid] to MOX Services is to remain in the custody of MOX Services until the MFFF construction is completed.” The court also criticized the CO’s demand for a refund of $21.6 million “as a way to gain leverage over MOX Services through baseless retaliation.” The court granted plaintiff’s partial motion for summary judgment, effectively requiring the government to return the provisional incentive fees to MOX Services until the project is completed. ABB Enter. Software, Inc., f/k/a/ Ventyx, ASBCA No. 60314 (Jan. 9, 2018) Tech-Assist, the corporate predecessor to ABB Enterprise Software, Inc., provided software and licenses to support naval maintenance requirements.  Pursuant to a master license agreement, the Navy was only allowed to install one copy of ABB’s software on ships and Navy bases, but ABB alleged that the Navy breached its licensing agreement by allowing two copies of the software to be installed on certain aircraft carriers.  After the Board granted the Navy’s motion to amend its answer to include an affirmative defense for equitable estoppel, ABB moved for summary judgment on its claim for entitlement based on its contention that the licensing agreement’s plain language only allowed for one copy of the software to be installed. The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.) determined that the plain language of the licensing agreement controlled, and was explicitly clear that only one installation of software for each location would be allowed.  The Board also found that the Navy had not shouldered its burden to establish equitable estoppel by demonstrating that (1) the party to be stopped knew the facts; (2) the government intended that the conduct alleged to have induced continued performance will be acted on, or the contract must have a right to believe the conduct in question was intended to induce continued performance; (3) the contract must not be aware of the true facts; and (4) the contractor must rely on the government’s conduct to its detriment.  Thus, the Board granted ABB’s motion for summary judgment. Name Redacted, ASBCA No. 60783 (Feb. 8, 2018) In 2016, the government awarded a firm-fixed-price contract to Appellant for enhanced force protection and facility upgrades in Afghanistan.  The contract provided for a certain exchange rate between Afghani currency and U.S. dollars.  Following the contract’s termination for default, the contractor submitted a certified claim for additional costs, which the CO denied and the contractor appealed. In a subsequent modification converting the termination to one for convenience, the government agreed to pay over $93,000 to settle the pending appeal at the agreed upon exchange rate.  After some delay, the government paid Appellant, but Appellant countered that due to the delay there had been a change in the exchange rate, and that it was entitled to an additional $4,300.  The government moved to dismiss on the ground that the claim had been settled and Appellant had agreed to its dismissal. The Board (Melnick, A.J.) found that Appellant was not entitled to any additional costs because nothing in the modification allowed for additional compensation if the exchange rate fluctuated, and Appellant had released its claim when it agreed to the modification. Accordingly, the Board dismissed the appeal. UNIT Co., ASBCA No. 60581 (Feb. 12, 2018) The government awarded a contract for the construction of a battle command training center to UNIT.  During the course of the contract, UNIT subcontracted with other companies to perform certain mechanical work.  Due to various interpretations of design requirements, one of the subcontractors, Klebs Mechanical (“Klebs”) submitted “request for information” (“RFI”) forms to UNIT to pose questions to the government.  After some disagreement, UNIT submitted a claim for damages and costs for defective specifications, which the contracting officer denied.  The CO found that UNIT did not provide contractually required notice of the defective specifications and that its recovery was therefore barred. UNIT appealed the CO’s final decision and the government moved for summary judgment. The ASBCA (Newsom, A.J.) relied on FAR 52.236-21(a), Specifications and Drawings for Construction (Feb 1997) to find that UNIT had provided sufficient notice to the government in its RFI forms, or at the very least, that UNIT had created a disputed issue of material fact on whether or not sufficient notice was provided, and the Board accordingly denied summary judgment. MW Builders, Inc. v. United States, No. 13-1023C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 5, 2018) In our 2017 Year-End Update, we covered the Court of Federal Claims’ grant of partial judgment in favor of MW Builders, Inc. (“MW Builders”) on its claims that the Army Corps of Engineers breached its contract for electrical utility services and violated the duty of good faith and fair dealing. In a portion of the decision not covered in our Year-End Update, the COFC (Braden, C.J.) also determined that the claims of MW Builders’ subcontractor, Bergelectric, were waived as the result of a lien waiver in its subcontract providing that Bergelectric waived “any other claim whatsoever in connection with this Contract…” MW Builders moved for reconsideration of Bergelectric’s pass-through claims, arguing  that the precedent relied upon in the initial decision was inapplicable because that case was about a settlement dispute, whereas Bergelectric and MW agree that the contract does not evidence their intent. In the alternative, MW Builders claimed that the court should reform the release language. The court rejected both arguments. First, it held that the terms of the contractual release were unambiguous and that the court was therefore precluded from considering the extrinsic evidence regarding the parties’ intent even though the scope of the release included in the contract was unintentionally broad. Second, the COFC held that it does not have jurisdiction to reform an agreement between a contractor and its subcontractor, citing the Severin doctrine. Accordingly, the court denied the motion for reconsideration. V.  DAMAGES John Shaw LLC d/b/a/ Shaw Bldg. Maint., ASBCA No. 61379 (Mar. 8, 2018) In 2010, John Shaw LLC was awarded a contract to provide janitorial services at an Air Force base.  After the contract expired, Shaw presented a claim for “punitive damages” to the contracting officer, which was denied. Shaw appealed, and requested punitive damages and “missed opportunities” damages stemming from contracts allegedly not obtained due to the government’s handling of its contract.  The government moved to dismiss the claims for punitive and “missed opportunities” damages. The ASBCA (McIlmail, A.J.) dismissed Shaw’s damages claims, finding the connection between the government’s administration of the contract and the allegedly lost contracts with third parties was a claim for consequential damages, which were too remote and speculative to be recovered.  The Board further noted that it has no authority to award punitive damages, and dismissed both claims. Green Bay Logistic Servs. Co.,  ASBCA No. 61063 (Apr. 12, 2018) Green Bay appealed the Defense Contract Management Agency (“DCMA”)’s termination for convenience of its lease of two stakebed or flatbed trucks. Green Bay argued that it was owed twice the value of the contract because it attempted to deliver the vehicles twice. The ASBCA (Osterhout, A.J.) denied Green Bay’s appeal, finding that Green Bay failed to prove that it was entitled to any amount it presented to the government in its termination settlement proposal. Upon a termination for convenience of a commercial item contract, FAR 52.212-4(1) directs the government to pay the contractor: (1) a percentage of the contract price reflecting the percentage of the work performed prior to the notice of termination; and (2) reasonable charges the contractor can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the government using its standard record keeping system, have resulted from the termination. The Board concluded that because Green Bay delivered non-compliant vehicles, it did not complete any percentage of the contract, and that Green Bay did not present any reasonable charges that imposed upon the government a requirement to pay. Entergy Nuclear Generation Co. v. United States, No. 14-1248C (Fed. Cl. June 19, 2018) Entergy Nuclear Generation Company (“Entergy”) operates a nuclear power station. In 1983, Entergy’s predecessor, Boston Edison Company entered into a contract authorized by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel generated at the station to begin by January 31, 1998, but the Department of Energy (“DOE”) breached the contract and did not dispose of the spent fuel. In 2012, Entergy was awarded damages for the additional costs incurred in operating the plant due to the breach through December 31, 2008. In this second lawsuit, Entergy sought to recover damages allegedly incurred between December 31, 2008 and June 30, 2015 because Entergy could not recover future damages in the first suit. Because the government did not contest two-thirds of the damages sought by Entergy, Entergy sought partial summary judgment on liability and entry of partial final judgment on the uncontested amount. The court granted Entergy’s motion for partial summary judgment on liability for the uncontested amount, but found that the entry of partial final judgment as to the uncontested amount was improper under COFC Rule 54(b), which allows the court to direct final judgment “as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims” in an action. Here, where the COFC determined that Entergy is only alleging one “claim”—partial breach of contract—granting partial final judgment on some but not all of the harms arising out of a single claim “would be to enter judgment on less than one claim, violating Rule 54(b).” The government cross-moved for summary judgment as to Entergy’s claim for storage fees paid to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”). The court rejected the government’s argument that Entergy was foreclosed from proving causation between the breach and the increased fees because it had already presented such evidence, and the government’s argument had been rejected in a prior Federal Circuit case. The COFC denied the Government’s motion, finding that Entergy’s intent to present substantially different evidence from that considered in the prior Federal Circuit case created genuine dispute as to causation. Although not briefed by the parties, the court also found that because the COFC determined in a prior suit for damages brought by the Boston Edison Company that DOE’s breach was a but-for cause of the NRC fee change at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, and the causation issue was not raised on appeal, issue preclusion may have provided an alternate basis to deny the Government’s motion. But the COFC had an opportunity to prohibit re-litigation of this same issue based on collateral estoppel in another case, discussed infra in Section VI(C). VI.  COMMON LAW PRINCIPLES The boards of contract appeals and COFC addressed a number of issues during the first half of 2018 arising out of the body of federal common law that has developed in the context of government contracts. A.  Application of Common Law in Government Contracts Cases Assessment and Training Solutions Consulting Corp., ASBCA No. 61047 (Mar. 6, 2018) ATSCC sought reconsideration of the ASBCA’s earlier decision sustaining ATSCC’s appeal, arguing that the Board erroneously applied a common law of bailment presumption of negligence and that the written contract should be enforced over the common law.  The Board (Clarke, A.J.) explained that the common law of bailment imposes upon the bailee the duty to protect property by exercising ordinary care and to return said property in substantially the same condition.  Thus, when the government receives property in good condition and returns it in damaged condition, there is a presumption that the cause of the damage was due to the government’s failure to exercise ordinary care.  The government argued that the presumption did not apply, and that where there was a written bailment contract, the contract should apply, not common law.  However, the Board noted that this was only true if the written contract and the common law differed.  Because the written contract and common law were the same in this instance, the Board concluded that the common law bailment presumption would apply.  Accordingly, the Board held, the prior decision’s reliance on the common law presumption was not legal error. B.  Fraud We have been following in our recent publications developments in the law of whether and to what extent the boards of contract appeals may exercise jurisdiction over claims and defenses sounding in fraud when the alleged fraud affects the administration of government contracts.  For example, in our 2016 Year-End Government Contracts Litigation Update, we covered the Federal Circuit’s decision in Laguna Construction Company, Inc. v. Carter, 828 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2016), which held that as long as the ASBCA can rely upon prior factual determinations from other tribunals (such as through a guilty plea), the Board has jurisdiction to adjudicate legal defenses based upon those prior determinations of fraud.  In the first half of 2018, the ASBCA considered one case addressing the impact of Laguna on its jurisdiction, and another that evaluated the validity of a contracting officer’s final decision based partially on a decision of fraud. Int’l Oil Trading Co., ASBCA Nos. 57491, 57492, 57493 (Jan. 12, 2018) IOTC sought partial judgment on the pleadings or, alternatively, renewed its motion to strike the Government’s affirmative defense that IOTC obtained its contracts for fuel delivery to the government in Iraq through fraud or bribery, claiming that the Federal Circuit’s decision in Laguna abrogated the Board’s previous ruling denying IOTC’s initial motion to strike by preventing the Board from hearing the fraud-based affirmative defense. Citing ABS Development Corp., which we discussed in our 2017 Year-End Government Contracts Litigation Update, the ASBCA (Melnick, A.J.) held that Laguna did not impact its prior ruling that it was not precluded from considering fraud related claims based because the CDA’s statutory bar did not apply to an affirmative defense that a contract is void under the common law for fraud or bribery in its formation. The Board noted that the Federal Circuit’s decision did not restrict the Board’s power to determine the validity of a contract when the government has lodged an affirmative defense that the contract is void  ab initio due to fraud or bribery, as opposed to when the government is asserting a fraud claim (such as a claim under the False Claims Act) that the Board does not have jurisdiction to entertain. Accordingly, the Board denied IOTC’s motion. PROTEC GmbH, ASBCA Nos. 61161, 61162, 61185 (Mar. 20, 2018) The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction PROTEC’s appeals from the Army’s denials of its claims for unpaid invoices, arguing that the contracting officers’ final decisions were invalid because denials were based on  suspicion of fraud. None of the final decisions mentioned any suspicion of fraud; however, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command was conducting an investigation into allegations of fraud at the time the final decisions were issued and at the time of the appeal. Under the FAR, a contracting officer’s authority to decide or resolve claims does not extend to settlement, compromise, payment, or adjustment of any claim involving fraud.  The COFC and CBCA have held that a final decision is therefore invalid if it is based upon a suspicion of fraud.  However, the Federal Circuit has clarified that a final decision is invalid only if the decision rests solely upon a suspicion of fraud.  Because the decisions issued to PROTEC were not based upon a suspicion of fraud and the decisions also relied upon other rationales,  it did not matter for jurisdictional purposes  that there was an ongoing criminal investigation into fraud allegations.  The Board (Sweet, A.J.) therefore denied the motion to dismiss. C.  Good Faith & Fair Dealing Ala. Power Co. v. United States, No. 17-1480, Ga. Power Co. v. United States, Nos.  17-1492C, 17-1481C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 26, 2018) In a pair of cases arising from ongoing litigation regarding the government’s failure to collect spent nuclear fuel (“SNF”) from the plaintiffs’ facilities pursuant to its contracts, the Government  sought to dismiss two claims—the first relating to the recovery of certain fees levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”), and the second to plaintiffs’ claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In 2004, the COFC granted summary judgment in plaintiffs’ favor on their initial breach of contract suit. The plaintiffs sued again in 2010 to recover the damages accrued from the government’s continued breach by failing to remove the material between 2005 and 2010, including fees collected by the NRC. During that second phase of litigation, the COFC held that although the plaintiffs were entitled to recovery, they could not recover the additional NRC fees because they did not sufficiently prove the breach of contract caused the increase in the fees. The plaintiffs sued a third time to recover all costs incurred after 2011, at which point the COFC granted partial summary judgment for the government on the issue of the NRC fees as barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel. This fourth case, based upon nearly identical facts, is framed as both a breach of contract claim and a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Government moved dismiss the breach claims related to the recovery of the NRC fees based on collateral estoppel and to dismiss the good faith and fair dealing claim as duplicative of the breach of contract claim for which liability had been established in the 1998 case. The COFC (Campbell-Smith, J.) granted the motion to dismiss the NRC fees because the allegations in the complaint were virtually identical to those in the previous complaint and there had been no change in the law between the two suits. The COFC also found that the good faith and fair dealing claim was duplicative of the breach of contract claim. To state a separate claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,  a plaintiff must allege some kind of subterfuge—evasion that goes against the spirit of the bargain, lack of diligence, willful rendering of imperfect performance, abuse of power, or interference with performance—founded upon different allegations than the breach of contract claim. The COFC found no alleged facts that even arguably support plaintiff’s conclusion that defendant was attempting to avoid its obligations, and therefore granted the motion to dismiss. Raytheon Co., ASBCA Nos. 60448, 60785 (Apr. 9, 2018) Raytheon appealed from the CO’s denial of two claims relating to additional services rendered under its “Lot 27” contract with the Air Force. About two months before the hearing, the government moved to amend its answer to add an additional “unclean hands” affirmative defense based on the latest round of government depositions of Raytheon personnel, which the government claimed revealed that Raytheon had an undisclosed pre-award plan to complete the Lot 27 contract work with future appropriated funds siphoned away from future missile production contracts that Raytheon hoped to obtain on an annual basis. Raytheon moved to dismiss the additional defense, arguing the ASBCA did not have jurisdiction to entertain the defense because it had not been submitted as  claim to the CO, and that the government did not justify the defense or the delay in raising it. The ASBCA (Scott, A.J.) granted the government’s motion to amend its answer. Although the Board recognized that the government’s amendment was filed only shortly before the hearing, there was insufficient information for the Board to conclude that the government delayed unduly in raising the defense. The Board also concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish bad faith on the part of the government or for the Board to decide the futility of the amendment. The ASBCA did, however, allow Raytheon additional discovery and/or submissions both before and after the scheduled hearing. VII.  CASES TO WATCH While the Government Contracts Litigation Update does not typically analyze bid protest cases from the GAO or the Court of Federal Claims, two recent cases—a decision from the Court of Federal Claims, and a case still pending before the Federal Circuit— have wide-reaching implications of which government contractors should be aware. A.  Trade Agreements Act Acetris Health, LLC v. United States, No. 18-433C (Fed. Cl. May 8, 2018) The Court of Federal Claims considered Acetris Health, LLC’s challenge to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ reliance on a determination by Customs and Border Patrol that the pharmaceuticals Acetris provided under contract to the VA and the Department of Defense were considered a product of India because the active ingredient in the drug was not “substantially transformed” in the United States. The VA determined that Acetris was required to supply “only U.S.-made or designated country end products” under the contract because it was subject to the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (“TAA”). Acetris claimed that the pharmaceuticals it provide were TAA compliant because the foreign ingredients were processed into the final product in the U.S. Acetris challenged CBP’s country of origin determination at the Court of International Trade (“CIT”) in March 2018. Before the COFC, Acetris lodged a pre-award bid protest challenge to the VA’s reliance on CBP’s determination in interpreting its solicitation. After receiving the CBP determination, the VA notified Acetris that it could no longer fulfill the relevant contract using the existing pharmaceutical supply, and solicited new proposals to supply a TAA-compliant version of the product. Acetris submitted a proposal that was rejected by the VA. The VA expressed its intention to “rely entirely” on the findings of CBP for the purpose of country of origin determinations for TAA compliance. Acetris challenged both the VA’s substantive interpretation of the TAA and its reliance on CBP to make the country of origin determination. The COFC (Sweeney, J.) denied the government’s motion to dismiss, finding that  “all of plaintiff’s claims are aimed at the actions (or inaction) of the VA” and thus are “properly the subject of a preaward bid protest.” The COFC also determined that 28 U.S.C. §1500 does not divest the COFC of jurisdiction because the court determined that the challenge to CBP’s country-of-origin determination pending before the CIT was not based on substantially the same operative facts, and that Acetris’ claims were ripe for review and stated claims upon which relief could be granted. After oral argument earlier this month, the COFC granted declaratory judgment in favor of Acetris. The COFC found that the VA misconstrued the Trade Agreements clause included in the solicitation as preventing the purchase of products that qualify as domestic end products under relevant FAR provisions. The COFC also held that the VA’s reliance on CBP’s country of origin determination, rather than independently assessing TAA compliance, was arbitrary and capricious. B.  Commercial Item Contracting Palantir USG Inc. v. United States, No. 17-1465 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018) In February, Gibson Dunn argued before the Federal Circuit on behalf of its client Palantir Technologies to uphold a 2016 Court of Federal Claims ruling (Horn, J.) that the Army violated the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (“FASA”) when it decided to develop a new data-management platform from scratch without undertaking market research to determine whether its needs could be met by a commercially available product. The COFC found that Palantir was wrongly excluded from a $206 million intelligence software procurement when the Army refused to consider procuring its platform on a firm fixed price, commercial item basis, and instead issued a solicitation calling for developmental solutions on a cost-plus basis. On appeal, the Government argued that the COFC erroneously added a requirement to FASA that government market research must “fully investigate” whether commercial items could meet all or part of the agency’s requirements, and that the COFC wrongly substituted its judgment in determining that the Army’s market research was inadequate. Palantir argued that reversal of the COFC decision would “flout” the FASA procedures requiring that agencies acquire commercial items “to the maximum extent possible,” which were designed to prevent federal agencies from “wasting taxpayer funds by developing products that are already available in the commercial marketplace.” The Federal Circuit’s impending decision in this case will have wide reaching impacts on the procurement community and the deference afforded the Government’s market research in developing its solicitation requirements. VIII.  CONCLUSION We will continue to keep you informed on these and other related issues as they develop. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Karen L. Manos, Lindsay M. Paulin, Melinda Biancuzzo, Jessica Altman, Sydney Sherman, and Casper J. Yen. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed above.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following: Washington, D.C. Karen L. Manos (+1 202-955-8536, kmanos@gibsondunn.com) Joseph D. West (+1 202-955-8658, jwest@gibsondunn.com) John W.F. Chesley (+1 202-887-3788, jchesley@gibsondunn.com) David P. Burns (+1 202-887-3786, dburns@gibsondunn.com) Michael Diamant (+1 202-887-3604, mdiamant@gibsondunn.com) Michael K. Murphy(+1 202-995-8238, mmurphy@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan M. Phillips (+1 202-887-3546, jphillips@gibsondunn.com) Melinda R. Biancuzzo (+1 202-887-3724, mbiancuzzo@gibsondunn.com) Ella Alves Capone (+1 202-887-3511, ecapone@gibsondunn.com) Michael R. 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