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June 21, 2018 |
Supreme Court Rules That SEC ALJs Were Unconstitutionally Appointed

Click for PDF Lucia v. SEC, No. 17-130  Decided June 21, 2018 Today, the Supreme Court held that administrative law judges of the Securities and Exchange Commission are inferior “Officers of the United States” within the meaning of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause.  Thus, the ALJs were unconstitutionally appointed by SEC staff. Background: The SEC has relied on ALJs to resolve hundreds of enforcement actions.  Raymond Lucia challenged the lawfulness of sanctions that the SEC had imposed on him, arguing that the ALJ hearing his case was not constitutionally appointed.  He asserted that SEC ALJs are “Officers of the United States” under the Constitution’s Appointments Clause, which requires such officers to be appointed by the President, “Courts of Law,” or “Heads of Departments.” SEC ALJs, however, were appointed by agency staff.  A panel of the D.C. Circuit held that the ALJs are mere “employees”—governmental officials with lesser responsibilities than “Officers” and thus not subject to the Appointments Clause.  An evenly divided en banc court affirmed. Issue: Whether SEC ALJs are “Officers of the United States” subject to the Appointments Clause. Court’s Holding: Yes.  Because SEC ALJs exercise “significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States,” they are inferior “Officers” under the Appointments Clause.  As such, the ALJs may not be appointed by agency staff and must instead be appointed by the President, the SEC itself, or a court of law. “[T]he Commission’s ALJs issue decisions containing factual findings, legal conclusions, and appropriate remedies. . . . And when the SEC declines review (and issues an order saying so), the ALJ’s decision itself ‘becomes final’ and is ‘deemed the action of the Commission.’” Justice Kagan, writing for the Court Gibson Dunn represented the winning party:  Raymond Lucia What It Means: The ruling largely rests on the Court’s conclusion that SEC ALJs are “near-carbon copies” of special trial judges of the Tax Court that the Court had previously found were inferior “Officers” because they exercise “significant authority.”  See Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868 (1991). The ruling provides new guidance on the relief available for litigants who make a timely Appointments Clause challenge:  The Court ordered the SEC to provide Mr. Lucia a new hearing before a different ALJ who has been constitutionally appointed, reasoning that the ALJ who originally presided over Mr. Lucia’s case could not be expected to consider the case “as though he had not adjudicated it before.” Before the Court issued its decision, the SEC released an order purporting to “ratify” the past ALJ appointments, but the Court did not address the validity of that order.   Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding developments at the Supreme Court.  Please feel free to contact the following practice leaders: Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Caitlin J. Halligan +1 212.351.3909 challigan@gibsondunn.com Mark A. Perry +1 202.887.3667 mperry@gibsondunn.com Nicole A. Saharsky +1 202.887.3669 nsaharsky@gibsondunn.com Related Practice: Securities Litigation Brian M. Lutz +1 415.393.8379 blutz@gibsondunn.com Robert F. Serio +1 212.351.3917 rserio@gibsondunn.com Meryl L. Young +1 949.451.4229 myoung@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.

June 20, 2018 |
Acting Associate AG Panuccio Highlights DOJ’s False Claims Act Enforcement Reform Efforts

Click for PDF On June 14, 2018, Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio gave remarks highlighting recent enforcement activity and policy initiatives by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”).  The remarks, delivered at the American Bar Association’s 12th National Institute on the Civil False Claims Act and Qui Tam Enforcement, included extensive commentary about DOJ’s ongoing efforts to introduce reforms to promote a more fair and consistent application of the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  While the impact of these policy initiatives remains to be seen, DOJ’s continued focus on these efforts, led by officials at the highest levels within DOJ, suggests that FCA enforcement reform is a priority for the Department. After giving an overview of several FCA settlements from the last eighteen months—apparently designed to demonstrate that this DOJ recognizes the importance of the FCA in a breadth of traditional enforcement areas—Mr. Panuccio discussed two particular priorities: the opioid epidemic and the nation’s elderly population.  He emphasized that DOJ would “actively employ” the FCA against any entity in the opioid distribution chain that engages in fraudulent conduct.  He then highlighted the crucial role of the FCA in protecting the nation’s elderly from fraud and abuse, citing examples of enforcement against a nursing home management company, hospices, and skilled rehabilitation facilities. The majority of Mr. Panuccio’s remarks focused, however, on policy initiatives DOJ is undertaking to ensure that enforcement “is fair and consistent with the rule of law.”  Mr. Panuccio alluded to general reform initiatives by the department, such as the ban on certain third-party payments in settlement agreements, before expanding on reforms specific to the FCA.  Mr. Panuccio highlighted that the recent FCA reform efforts have been spearheaded by Deputy Associate Attorney General Stephen Cox; Mr. Cox had delivered remarks at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Conference in February of this year that had provided insight into the positions articulated in the Brand and Granston memoranda.  In his speech, Mr. Panuccio described five policy initiatives being undertaken by DOJ to reform FCA enforcement: (i) qui tam dismissal criteria; (ii) the use of guidance in FCA cases; (iii) cooperation credit; (iv) compliance program credit; and (v) preventing “piling on.” Qui tam dismissals Mr. Panuccio acknowledged the tremendous increase in the number qui tam cases that are filed each year, which includes cases that are not in the public interest.  Recognizing that DOJ expends significant resources to monitor cases even when it declines to intervene, Mr. Panuccio noted that DOJ attorneys have been instructed to consider whether moving to dismiss the action would be an appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion under the FCA.  While DOJ previously exercised this authority only rarely, consistent with the Granston memo, Mr. Panuccio suggested that, going forward, DOJ may use that authority more frequently in order to free up DOJ’s resources for matters in the public interest. Although defendants generally may not yet be experiencing significant differences regarding the possibility of dismissal at the DOJ line level, the continued public discussion of the potential use of DOJ’s dismissal authority by high-level officials suggests that DOJ appreciates the problems caused by frivolous qui tams and may ultimately be more receptive to dismissal of actions lacking merit. Guidance As stated in the Brand Memorandum, DOJ will no longer use noncompliance with agency guidance that expands upon statutory or regulatory requirements as the basis for an FCA violation.  Mr. Panuccio explained that, in an FCA case, evidence that a party received a guidance document would be relevant in proving that the party had knowledge of the law explained in that guidance.  However, DOJ attorneys have been instructed “not to use [DOJ’s] enforcement authority to convert sub-regulatory guidance into rules that have the force or effect of law.” Cooperation With respect to cooperation credit, Mr. Panuccio indicated that DOJ is working on formalizing its practices and that modifications to prior practices should be expected.  That notwithstanding, Mr. Panuccio provided assurances that DOJ will continue to “expect and recognize genuine cooperation” in both civil and criminal matters.  He also noted that the extent of the discount provided when negotiating a settlement would depend on the nature of the cooperation, how helpful it was, and whether it helped identify individual wrongdoers. Though DOJ’s new policies on cooperation credit are still forthcoming, Mr. Panuccio’s remarks suggest that formal cooperation credit might be expanded to cover situations outside of those in which the defendant makes a self-disclosure. Compliance In recognition of the challenges of running large organizations, DOJ will “reward companies that invest in strong compliance measures.”  How this may differ, if at all, from current ad hoc considerations remains to be seen. Piling On Mr. Panuccio acknowledged that, when multiple regulatory bodies pursue a defendant for the same or substantially the same conduct, “unwarranted and disproportionate penalties” can result. In order to avoid this “piling on,” DOJ attorneys will promote coordination within the agency and other regulatory bodies to ensure that defendants are subject to fair punishment and receive the benefit of finality that should accompany a settlement.  Moreover, Mr. Panuccio remarked that DOJ attorneys should not “invoke the threat of criminal prosecution solely to persuade a company to pay a larger settlement in a civil case,” which really is simply a restatement of every attorney’s existing ethical duty.  Whether DOJ leadership’s interest here will result in significant practical developments is uncertain.  Such developments, though perhaps unlikely, could include eliminating the cross-designation of Assistant U.S. Attorneys as both Civil and Criminal; limiting the ability of Civil Division attorneys to invite Criminal Division lawyers to participate in meetings without the request or consent of defendants; or perhaps even somehow inhibiting the Civil Division from using the FCA, with its mandatory treble damages and per-claim penalties, following criminal fines and restitution. We will continue to monitor and report on these important developments. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Stephen Payne, Jonathan Phillips and Claudia Kraft. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers have handled hundreds of FCA investigations and have a long track record of litigation success.  Among other significant victories, Gibson Dunn successfully argued the landmark Allison Engine case in the Supreme Court, a unanimous decision that prompted Congressional action.  See Allison Engine Co. v. United States ex rel. Sanders, 128 S. Ct. 2123 (2008).  Our win rate and immersion in FCA issues gives us the ability to frame strategies to quickly dispose of FCA cases.  The firm has more than 30 attorneys with substantive FCA expertise and more than 30 former Assistant U.S. Attorneys and DOJ attorneys.  For more information, please feel free to contact the Gibson Dunn attorney with whom you work or the following attorneys. Washington, D.C. F. Joseph Warin (+1 202-887-3609, fwarin@gibsondunn.com) Stuart F. Delery (+1 202-887-3650, sdelery@gibsondunn.com) Joseph D. West (+1 202-955-8658, jwest@gibsondunn.com) Andrew S. Tulumello (+1 202-955-8657, atulumello@gibsondunn.com) Karen L. Manos (+1 202-955-8536, kmanos@gibsondunn.com) Stephen C. Payne (+1 202-887-3693, spayne@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan M. Phillips (+1 202-887-3546, jphillips@gibsondunn.com) New York Reed Brodsky (+1 212-351-5334, rbrodsky@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Denver Robert C. Blume (+1 303-298-5758, rblume@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) John D.W. Partridge (+1 303-298-5931, jpartridge@gibsondunn.com) Ryan T. Bergsieker (+1 303-298-5774, rbergsieker@gibsondunn.com) Dallas Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Timothy J. Hatch (+1 213-229-7368, thatch@gibsondunn.com) James L. Zelenay Jr. (+1 213-229-7449, jzelenay@gibsondunn.com) Palo Alto Benjamin Wagner (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Charles J. Stevens (+1 415-393-8391, cstevens@gibsondunn.com)Winston Y. Chan (+1 415-393-8362, wchan@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.

June 14, 2018 |
Revisions to the FFIEC BSA/AML Manual to Include the New CDD Regulation

Click for PDF On May 11, 2018, the federal bank regulators and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) published two new chapters of the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual (“BSA/AML Manual”) to reflect changes made by FinCEN to the CDD regulation.[1]  One of the chapters replaces the current chapter “Customer Due Diligence – Overview and Examination Procedures” (“CDD Chapter”), and the other chapter is entirely new and contains an overview of and examination procedures for “Beneficial Ownership for Legal Entity Customers” to reflect the beneficial ownership requirements of the CDD regulation (“Beneficial Ownership Chapter”).[2] The new CDD Chapter builds upon the previous chapter, adds the requirements of the CDD regulation, and otherwise updates the chapter, which had not been revised since 2007.  The Beneficial Ownership Chapter largely repeats what is in the CDD Rule.  Both new chapters reference the regulatory guidance and clarifications from the Frequently Asked Questions issued by FinCEN on April 3, 2018 (the “FAQs”).[3]   Other Refinements to the CDD Regulation May Impact the BSA/AML Manual Implementation of the CDD regulation is a dynamic process and may require further refinement of these chapters as FinCEN issues further guidance.  For instance, in response to concerns of the banking industry, on May 16, 2018, FinCEN issued an administrative ruling imposing a 90-day moratorium on the requirement to recertify CDD information when certificates of deposit (“CDs”) are rolled over or loans renewed (if the CDs or loans were opened before May 11, 2018).  FinCEN will have further discussions with the banking industry and will make a decision whether to make this temporary exception permanent within this 90-day period (before August 9, 2018).[4] In his May 16, 2018, testimony at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on “Implementation of FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule,” FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco suggested that FinCEN may be receptive to refinements as compliance experience is gained with the regulation.  Director Blanco also indicated that there will be a period of adjustment for compliance with the regulation and that FinCEN and the regulators will not engage in “gotcha” enforcement, but are seeking “good faith compliance.” Highlights from the New Chapters Periodic Reviews:  The BSA/AML Manual no longer expressly requires periodic CDD reviews, but suggests that regulators may still expect periodic reviews for higher risk customers.  The language in the previous CDD Chapter requiring periodic CDD refresh reviews has been eliminated.[5]Consistent with FAQ 14, the new CDD Chapter states that updating CDD information will be event driven and provides a list of possible event triggers, such as red flags identified through suspicious activity monitoring or receipt of a criminal subpoena.  Nevertheless, the CDD Chapter does not completely eliminate the expectation of periodic reviews for higher risk clients, stating:  “Information provided by higher profile customers and their transactions should be reviewed . . . more frequently throughout the term of the relationship with the bank.”Although this appears to be a relaxation of the expectation to conduct periodic reviews, we expect many banks will not change their current practices.  For a number of years, in addition to event driven reviews, many banks have conducted periodic CDD reviews at risk based intervals because they have understood periodic reviews to be a regulatory expectation. Lower Beneficial Ownership Thresholds:  Somewhat surprisingly, there is no expression in the new chapters that consideration should be given to obtaining beneficial ownership at a lower threshold than 25% for certain high risk business lines or customer types.  The new Beneficial Ownership Chapter simply repeats the regulatory requirement stating that:  “The beneficial ownership rule requires banks to collect beneficial ownership information at the 25 percent ownership threshold regardless of the customer’s risk profile.”  The FAQs (FAQ 6 and 7) refer to the fact that a financial institution may “choose” to apply a lower threshold and “there may be circumstances where a financial institution may determine a lower threshold may be warranted.”  We understand that specifying an expectation that there should be lower beneficial thresholds for certain higher risk customers was an issue that was debated among FinCEN and the bank regulators.For a number of years, many banks have obtained beneficial ownership at lower than 25% thresholds for high risk business lines and customers (e.g., private banking for non-resident aliens).  Banks that have previously applied a lower threshold, however, should carefully evaluate any decision to raise thresholds to the 25% level in the regulation.  If a bank currently applies a lower threshold, raising the threshold may attract regulatory scrutiny about whether the move was justified from a risk standpoint.  Moreover, a risk-based program should address not only regulatory risk, but also money laundering risk.  Therefore, banks should consider reviewing beneficial ownership at lower thresholds for certain customers and business lines and when a legal entity customer has an unusually complex or opaque ownership structure for the type of customer regardless of the business line or risk rating of the customer. New Accounts:  The new chapters do not discuss one of the most controversial and challenging requirements of the CDD rule, the requirement to verify CDD information when a customer previously subject to CDD opens a new account, including when CDs are rolled over or loans renewed.  This most likely may be because application of the requirement to CD rollovers and loan renewals is still under consideration by FinCEN, as discussed above. Enhanced Due Diligence:  The requirement to maintain enhanced due diligence (“EDD”) policies, procedures, and processes for higher risk customers remains with no new suggested categories of customers that should be subject to EDD. Risk Rating:  The new CDD Chapter seems to articulate an expectation to risk rate customers:  “The bank should have an understanding of the money laundering and terrorist financing risk of its customers, referred to in the rule as the customer risk profile.  This concept is also commonly referred to as the customer risk rating.”  The CDD Chapter, therefore, could be read as expressing for banks an expectation that goes beyond FinCEN’s expectation for all covered financial institutions in FAQ 35, which states that a customer profile “may, but need not, include a system of risk ratings or categories of customers.”  It appears that banks that do not currently risk rate customers should consider doing so.  Since the CDD section was first drafted in 2006 and amended in 2007, customer risk rating based on an established method with weighted risk factors has become a best and almost universal practice for banks to facilitate the AML risk assessment, CDD/EDD, and the identification of suspicious activity. Enterprise-Wide CDD:  The new CDD Chapter recognizes the CDD approach of many complex organizations that have CDD requirements and functions that cross financial institution legal entities and the general enterprise-wide approach to BSA/AML long referenced in the BSA/AML Manual.  See BSA/AML Manual, BSA/AML Compliance Program Structures Overview, at p. 155.  The CDD Chapter states that a bank “may choose to implement CDD policies, procedures and processes on an enterprise-wide basis to the extent permitted by law sharing across business lines, legal entities, and with affiliate support units.” Conclusion Despite the CDD regulation, at its core CDD compliance is still risk based and regulatory risk remains a concern.  Every bank must carefully and continually review its CDD program against the regulatory requirements and expectations articulated in the BSA/AML Manual, as well as recent regulatory enforcement actions, the institution’s past examination and independent and compliance testing issues, and best practices of peer institutions.  This review will help anticipate whether there are aspects of its CDD/EDD program that could be subject to criticism in the examination process.  As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently recognized, detailed manuals issued by agencies with enforcement authority like the BSA/AML Manual “can put regulated banks on notice of expected conduct.”  California Pacific Bank v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 885 F.3d 560, 572 (9th Cir. 2018).  The BSA/AML Manual is an important and welcome roadmap although not always as up to date, clear or detailed as banks would like it to be. These were the first revisions to the BSA/AML Manual since 2014.  We understand that additional revisions to other chapters are under consideration.    [1]   May 11, 2018 also was the compliance date for the CDD regulations.  The Notice of Final Rulemaking for the CDD regulation, which was published on May 11, 2016, provided a two-year implementation period.  81 Fed. Reg. 29,398 (May 11, 2016).  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-11/pdf/2016-10567.pdf. For banks, the new regulation is set forth in the BSA regulations at 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230 (beneficial ownership requirements) and 31 C.F.R. § 1020.210(a)(5).    [2]   The new chapters can be found at: https://www.ffiec.gov/press/pdf/Customer%20Due%20Diligence%20-%20Overview%20and%20Exam%20Procedures-FINAL.pdfw  (CDD Chapter) and https://www.ffiec.gov/press/pdf/Beneficial%20Ownership%20Requirements%20for %20Legal%20Entity%20CustomersOverview-FINAL.pdf (Beneficial Ownership Chapter).    [3]   Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions, FIN-2018-G001.  https://www.fincen.gov/resources/statutes-regulations/guidance/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-customer-due-0.  On April 23, 2018, Gibson Dunn published a client alert on these FAQs.  FinCEN Issues FAQs on Customer Due Diligence Regulation.  https://www.gibsondunn.com/fincen-issues-faqs-on-customer-due-diligence-regulation/. FinCEN also issued FAQs on the regulation on September 29, 2017. https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/FAQs_for_CDD_Final_Rule_%287_15_16%29.pdf.    [4]   Beneficial Ownership Requirements for Legal Entity Customers of Certain Financial Products and Services with Automatic Rollovers or Renewals, FIN-2018-R002.  https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2018-05/FinCEN%20Ruling%20CD%20and%20Loan%20Rollover%20Relief_FINAL%20508-revised.pdf    [5]   The BSA/AML Manual previously stated at p. 57:  “CDD processes should include periodic risk-based monitoring of the customer relationship to determine if there are substantive changes to the original CDD information. . . .” 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 Financial Institutions practice group, or the authors: Stephanie L. Brooker – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) M. Kendall Day – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8220, kday@gibsondunn.com) Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, along@gibsondunn.com) Linda Noonan – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3595, lnoonan@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.

May 9, 2018 |
The Trump Administration Pulls the Plug on the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Click for PDF On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his decision to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the “JCPOA”)—and re-impose U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime.[1]  Though it came as no surprise, the decision went further than many observers had anticipated.  Notably, under the terms of the JCPOA, U.S. sanctions were held in abeyance through a series of waivers that were periodically renewed by both the Obama and Trump administrations.  Many commentators expected the current administration to discontinue only waivers of sanctions on the Iranian financial sector that were set to expire on May 12, 2018, leaving other sanctions untouched.[2]  Instead, the Trump administration re-imposed all nuclear related sanctions on Iran, staggering the implementation over the course of the next six months.  As described in an initial volley of frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) set forth by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the re-imposition of nuclear sanctions will be subject to certain 90 and 180 day wind-down periods that expire on August 6, 2018 and November 4, 2018, respectively.[3] Background The JCPOA The JCPOA was a purposefully limited accord focusing only on Iran’s nuclear activities and the international community’s nuclear-related sanctions.  Prior to the JCPOA, the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States imposed substantial sanctions on Iran of varying scope and severity.  The European Union had implemented an oil embargo and U.S. nuclear sanctions had included the “blacklisting” of more than 700 individuals and entities on OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (“SDN List”), as well as economic restrictions imposed on entities under U.S. jurisdiction (“Primary Sanctions”) and restrictions on entities outside U.S. jurisdiction (“Secondary Sanctions”).  Secondary Sanctions threatened non-U.S. entities with limitations on their access to the U.S. market if they transacted with various Iranian entities.  Broadly, Secondary Sanctions forced non-U.S. entities to decide whether they were going to deal with Iran or with the United States.  They could not do both. The JCPOA, signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) and Germany (the “P5+1”) in 2015, committed both sides to certain obligations related to Iran’s nuclear development.[4]  Iran committed to various limitations on its nuclear program, and in return the international community (the P5+1 alongside the European Union and the United Nations) committed to relieving substantial portions of the sanctions that had been placed on Iran to address that country’s nuclear activities.  This relief included the United States’ commitment to ease certain Secondary Sanctions, thus opening up the Iranian economy for non-U.S. persons without risking their access to the U.S. market to pursue Iranian deals.  This sanctions relief came into effect in January 2016 (on “Implementation Day”) when the IAEA determined that Iran was compliant with the initial nuclear components of the JCPOA. Criticism of the Deal Donald Trump made his opposition to the JCPOA a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.  On occasions too numerous to count, then candidate and now President Trump criticized the deal and indicated his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA unless it was “fixed” to address his concerns, including the deal’s silence on Iran’s ballistic missile development and the existence of certain “sunset provisions” (after which any remaining sanctions would be permanently lifted).[5] There were at least two challenges built into the JCPOA that critics—including President Trump—have seized upon.  First, in an effort to reach an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the Obama administration and other JCPOA parties not only included “sunset” provisions in the accord after which certain restrictions on Iran would be lifted, but also drew a distinction between Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal and its conduct in other areas (including its support for groups the United States deems terrorists, its repression of its citizens, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its conventional weapons development programs).  Supporters of the deal argued that addressing the immediate nuclear weapons risk was paramount—this necessitated both the sunset provisions and the absence of addressing other troubling activities.  Critics of the deal, however, including some powerful Congressional leaders and President Trump, derided these compromises and claimed not only that the sunset periods were too brief to be meaningful, but also that by ignoring non-nuclear issues Iran was given both a free pass to continue its bad behavior and indeed the ability to fund that bad behavior out of proceeds received from the nuclear-related sanctions relief. A second challenge to the deal came from the fact that while the other parties to the JCPOA agreed to remove almost all of their sanctions on Iran, U.S. relief was far more surgical and reversible.  This was recognized by all parties to the JCPOA but so long as President Obama (or a successor with similar political views) was in office, it was thought to be a manageable limitation.  One of the key limits to the U.S. relief was that U.S. persons—including financial institutions and companies—have remained broadly prohibited from engaging with Iran even after the JCPOA was implemented in 2016.  Instead, the principal relief the U.S. offered was on the sanctions risks posed to non-U.S. parties pursuant to Secondary Sanctions and related measures.  As a consequence, it has remained a challenge for non-U.S. persons to fully engage with Iran due to the continued inability to leverage U.S. banks, insurance and other institutions that remain central to the bulk of cross-border finance and trade. Changes to U.S. Sanctions Regarding Iran Wind-Down Periods In conjunction with the May 8, 2018 announcement, the President issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (“NSPM”) directing the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare immediately for the re-imposition of all of the U.S. sanctions lifted or waived in connection with the JCPOA, to be accomplished as expeditiously as possible and in no case later than 180 days from the date of the NSPM. According to FAQs published by OFAC, the 90-day wind-down period will apply to sanctions on:[6] The purchase and acquisition of U.S. dollar banknotes by the Government of Iran; Gold and precious metals; Graphite, raw or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel; Coal; Software for integrating industrial processes; Iranian rials; Iranian sovereign debt; and Iran’s automobile sector. At the end of the 90-day wind-down period, the U.S. government will also revoke authorizations to import into the United States Iranian carpets and foodstuffs and to sell to Iran commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services.[7] The longer 180-day wind-down period will apply to sanctions on:[8] Iranian port operators, shipping and shipbuilding; Petroleum-related transactions; Transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions; Provision of specialized financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran and certain Iranian financial institutions; Underwriting services, insurance and reinsurance; and Iran’s energy sector. At the end of the 180-day wind-down period, the U.S. government will also revoke General License H, which authorizes foreign entities of U.S. companies to do business with Iran, and the U.S. government will re-impose sanctions against individuals and entities removed from the SDN List on Implementation Day.[9] The nature and scope of the “wind-down” period resulted in immediate, and significant, concerns from companies seeking to comply with U.S. sanctions.  OFAC has clarified that, in the event a non-U.S. non-Iranian person is owed payment after the conclusion of the wind-down period for goods or services that were provided lawfully therein, the U.S. government would allow that person to receive payment according to the terms of the written contract or written agreement.[10]  Similarly, if a non-U.S., non-Iranian person is owed repayment after the expiration of the wind-down periods for loans or credits extended to an Iranian counterparty prior to the end of the 90-day or 180-day wind-down period, as applicable, provided that such loans or credits were extended pursuant to a written contract or written agreement entered into prior to May 8, 2018, and such activities were consistent with U.S. sanctions in effect at the time the loans or credits were extended, the U.S. government would allow the non-U.S., non-Iranian person to receive repayment of the related debt or obligation according to the terms of the written contract or written agreement.[11]  These allowances are designed for such parties to be made whole for debts and obligations owed or due to them for goods or services fully provided or delivered or loans or credit extended to an Iranian party prior to the end of the wind-down periods.  Notably, any payments would need to be consistent with U.S. sanctions, including that payments could not involve U.S. persons or the U.S. financial system, unless the transactions are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC.[12] Changes to the SDN List In assessing the impact of the “re-designations” under the SDN List, it is useful to note the restrictions that remained in place after the JCPOA was implemented.  For example, although they were not classified as SDNs, the property and interests in property of persons of the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions remained blocked if they are in or come within the United States or if they are in or come within the possession or control of a U.S. person, wherever located.  As a result, U.S. persons were broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealing with the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions, while non-U.S. persons could deal with them in non-dollar currencies.[13]  But under the new policy, such persons will be moved to the SDN List, which means that non-U.S. persons who continue to deal with them will be subject to Secondary Sanctions.[14]  OFAC indicated that it will not add such persons to the SDN List immediately, so as “to allow for the orderly wind down by non-U.S., non-Iranian persons of activities that had been undertaken” consistent with the prior regulations.  This change will happen no later than November 5, 2018.[15] Diplomatic Next Steps Yesterday’s announcement followed significant diplomatic efforts to save the deal.  Trump’s January 2018 announcement that he would extend existing waivers until May 2018 set off a feverish round of negotiations with European partners, culminating in recent visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to persuade the Trump administration to remain in the deal.  Many expect those negotiations to continue, as the global community is significantly more exposed to the Iranian market than U.S. persons, who continued to be subject to sanctions post-JCPOA.  Indeed, since sanctions were suspended in early 2016, Iran’s oil exports have increased dramatically, reaching approximately two million barrels per day in 2017.  European imports from Iran rose by nearly 800 percent between 2015 and 2017 (primarily imports of Iranian oil), while European exports to Iran rose by more than four billion euros ($5 billion) annually over the same period.[16]  Major European companies have also resumed investing in Iran—France’s Total has announced plans to invest $1 billion in one of Iran’s largest offshore gas fields.[17]  Early press reports following President Trump’s May 2018 announcement, if accurate, suggest that Iran and the other JCPOA parties remain committed to the underlying deal and plan to begin prompt negotiations to salvage the JCPOA.[18] Because full re-imposition of U.S. sanctions is not scheduled to take effect for another six months, it is entirely possible that the announcement by President Trump will serve as an impetus to negotiations that bring Iran and the rest of the P5+1 to the table.  Such an approach could mirror the Trump administration’s recent tactics with respect to steel and aluminum tariffs, where a splashy public announcement is followed by a series of repeated extensions as the administration seeks to extract further concessions.  One point of leverage the EU may have in these negotiations is the possibility of extending the existing “Blocking Regulation,”[19] which makes it unlawful for EU persons to comply with a specific list of U.S. sanctions laws against Cuba, Libya and Iran as of 1996.  That list could be extended to capture U.S. sanctions against Iran in respect of which the JCPOA offered relief.  This possibility has been mentioned by senior EU officials a number of times since late last year, including by the EU ambassador to the United States in September 2017,[20] and the head of the Iranian Taskforce in the EU’s External Action Service in February 2018.[21] For now, the EU remains committed to the deal.  On the same day that President Trump announced the change in Iran sanctions policy, European Union High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini remarked that “[a]s long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it is doing so far, the European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal. . . . The lifting of nuclear related sanctions is an essential part of the agreement.  The European Union has repeatedly stressed that the lifting of nuclear related sanctions has not only a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, but also and mainly crucial benefits for the Iranian people.  The European Union is fully committed to ensuring that this continues to be delivered on.”[22] Notably, the Trump administration may be hard pressed to convince Iran’s most significant trading partners —many of whom are mired in disputes with the United States—to add pressure on Tehran.  China and India are Iran’s largest importers, and China appears particularly unlikely to reduce its reliance on Iranian oil given heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington over bilateral trade and investment issues.  Furthermore, the Trump administration would need to convince Russia to halt plans to invest potentially tens of billions of dollars in Iran’s oil and gas sector, and the Trump administration’s strained ties with Turkey make it far from clear that Turkey would cooperate with renewed U.S. pressure on Iran.[23]  Furthermore, the expected rise in oil prices as a result of the withdrawal is seen as a boon to Russia, whose economy is heavily dependent on petroleum and natural gas exports. Alternatively, U.S. allies in the Middle East, led by Israel and Saudi Arabia, support the Trump administration and have argued that Iran threatens their own national security.  Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled documents regarding Iran’s covert nuclear weapons project from the 1990s as proof that Iran lied about the extent of its program, a move that was widely criticized as an effort to influence U.S. public opinion with information that was widely known and had provided the impetus for the negotiations in the first place.  The U.S. intelligence community had confirmed the weapons program ended in 2003. Furthermore, the Trump administration could have a difficult time persuading countries to cut commercial ties with Iran in the absence of any international legal basis for doing so.  Although U.S. sanctions on Iran have more force than United Nations sanctions, the latter created an important international framework that the United States and other countries could expand on.  Most of these sanctions were repealed with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA.  The “snapback” mechanism in UNSCR 2231 would enable the United States to unilaterally require the restoration of UN sanctions on Iran under international law.  But as the UN’s nuclear watchdog has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA’s nuclear terms, the diplomatic costs of unilaterally requiring UN sanctions’ reactivation would likely outweigh any benefits.[24] Although the JCPOA contains no provisions for withdrawal, Iran has long threatened to resume its nuclear program if the United States reneges on its obligations by reinstituting sanctions.[25]  In the immediate aftermath of the Trump administration’s May 8 announcement, however, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his government remains committed to maintaining the nuclear deal with other world powers.  The Iranian leader said he had directed his diplomats to negotiate with the deal’s remaining signatories—including European countries, Russia and China—and that the JCPOA could survive without the United States.  Rouhani, who had made the deal his signature achievement, faces stiff pressure from the hardline elements within Iran who objected to the deal.  If Iran resumes uranium enrichment activities, that could move European parties to walk away from the negotiating table, thereby dooming the JCPOA on which President Rouhani has staked so much political capital and empowering more hardline elements within the Iranian regime.[26] Conclusion Although many expect negotiations regarding the fate of the JCPOA to continue over the next six months, the outcome of such deliberations is highly uncertain.  Notably, it took the combined efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations to convince foreign governments and companies to join the United States in imposing sanctions on Iran, and such coordinated actions are unlikely to be replicated in the wake of leaving the JCPOA.  As the Trump administration negotiates with the rest of the parties to the JCPOA, it is possible that the U.S. administration may exercise discretion and decline to bring enforcement actions against non-U.S. persons that continue to do business with Iran.  That would mitigate the immediate impact of re-imposing sanctions. The precise nature of any EU response remains to be seen.  Although potential blocking regulations may serve as leverage in negotiations, the impact would be severe for European companies seeking to comply with both U.S. and European laws.  Whether the position of the United Kingdom will remain aligned with its European partners once it has left the EU is another imponderable,[27] although the U.K., French and German governments have projected a united front in re-affirming their commitment to the JCPOA,[28] and the U.K. is a signatory to the JCPOA separate from its status as an EU member state.  Further strains to the U.S.–EU relationship are likely if the U.S. were to bring enforcement actions against EU persons for alleged breaches of re-imposed sanctions.  The EU has stated that “it is determined to act in accordance with its security interests and to protect its economic investments.”[29]  However, what this might mean in practice remains unclear.    [1]   Press Release, White House, Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action; see also Presidential Memorandum, Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA and Taking Additional Action to Counter Iran’s Malign Influence and Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/ceasing-u-s-participation-jcpoa-taking-additional-action-counter-irans-malign-influence-deny-iran-paths-nuclear-weapon.    [2]   These sanctions were enacted on the last day of 2011, when President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (“NDAA”).  Included within the NDAA is a measure that designated the entire Iranian financial sector as a primary money laundering concern, which effectively required the President to freeze the assets of Iranian financial institutions and prohibit all transactions with respect to Iranian financial institutions’ property and interests in property if the property or interest in property comes within the United States’ jurisdiction or the possession and control of a United States person.  In addition, the measure broadly authorized the President to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.    [3]   Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Statement by Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin on Iran Decision (May 8, 2018), available at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0382.    [4]   U.S. Dep’t of State, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015), available at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245317.pdf.    [5]   Press Release, White House, Statement by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal (Jan. 12, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-iran-nuclear-deal.    [6]   U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to the May 8, 2018 National Security Presidential Memorandum Relating to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/jcpoa_winddown_faqs.pdf, FAQ No. 1.2.    [7]   Id.    [8]   OFAC FAQ No. 1.3.    [9]   Id. [10]   OFAC FAQ No. 2.1. [11]   Id. [12]   Id. [13]   E.O. 13599, 77 Fed. Reg. 6659 (Feb. 5, 2012); U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Resource Center, OFAC, JCPOA-related Designation Removals, JCPOA Designation Updates, Foreign Sanctions Evaders Removals, NS-ISA List Removals; 13599 List Changes (Jan. 16, 2016), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/updated_names.aspx. [14]   OFAC FAQ No. 3. [15]   Id. (“Beginning on November 5, 2018, activities with most persons moved from the E.O. 13599 List to the SDN List will be subject to secondary sanctions.  Such persons will have a notation of “Additional Sanctions Information – Subject to Secondary Sanctions” in their SDN List entry.”) [16]   Peter Harrell, The Challenge of Reinstating Sanctions Against Iran, Foreign Affairs (May 4, 2018), available at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2018-05-04/challenge-reinstating-sanctions-against-iran?cid=int-fls&pgtype=hpg. [17]   Id. [18]   See, e.g., Erin Cunningham & Bijan Sabbagh, Iran to Negotiate with Europeans, Russia and China about Remaining in Nuclear Deal, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2HWaI9w?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.ed12421ad6a6; James McAuley, After Trump Says U.S. Will Withdraw from Iran Deal, Allies Say They’ll Try to Save It, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2rokYfI?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.291cd9490f2e. [19]   Council Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 of 22 November 1996 protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom. [20]   Jessica Schulberg, Europe Considering Blocking Iran Sanctions if U.S. Leaves Nuclear Deal, EU Ambassador Says, Huffington Post (Sept. 26, 2017), available at https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/europe-iran-sanctions-nuclear-deal_us_59c9772ce4b0cdc77333e758. [21]   John Irish & Parisa Hafezi, EU could impose blocking regulations if U.S. pulls out of Iran deal, Reuters, (Feb. 8, 2018), available at https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-iran-nuclear-eu/eu-could-impose-blocking-regulations-if-u-s-pulls-out-of-iran-deal-idUKKBN1FS2F0. [22]   Press Release, European Union External Action Service, Remarks by HR/VP Mogherini on the statement by US President Trump regarding the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018). [23]   Harrell, see supra n. 16. [24]   Id. [25]   The last sentence of the JCPOA expressly provides: “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.” [26]   See Erin Cunningham & Bijan Sabbagh, Iran to Negotiate with Europeans, Russia and China about Remaining in Nuclear Deal, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2HWaI9w?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.ed12421ad6a6; James McAuley, After Trump Says U.S. Will Withdraw from Iran Deal, Allies Say They’ll Try to Save It, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2rokYfI?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.291cd9490f2e. [27]   While the U.K. is currently in the EU, it will be leaving the EU shortly, at which time it may seek to negotiate trade deals with a variety of governments.  Particularly if negotiations over the U.K.’s exit from the EU were to become fractious, it is possible a post-Brexit U.K. could use its stance on the JCPOA as a bargaining counter in negotiations with the Trump administration over a new U.K.–U.S. trade deal. [28]   Press Release, U.K. Prime Minister’s Office, Joint statement from Prime Minister May, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron following President Trump’s statement on Iran (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-from-prime-minister-may-chancellor-merkel-and-president-macron-following-president-trumps-statement-on-iran. [29]   Press Release, EU External Action Serv., Remarks by HR/VP Mogherini on the statement by US President Trump regarding the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Alison Lee, Adam Smith, Patrick Doris, Mark Handley, Stephanie Connor, Richard Roeder, and Scott Toussaint. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  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 International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. Chung – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3729, dchung@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Kamola Kobildjanova – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5291, kkobildjanova@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Mark Handley – London (+44 (0)207 071 4277, mhandley@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@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.

May 4, 2018 |
Efforts to Strengthen U.S. Public Capital Markets Continue – New SIFMA Report Provides Recommendations to Help More Companies Go and Stay Public

Click for PDF On April 27, 2018, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (“SIFMA”), the leading industry group representing broker-dealers, banks and asset managers, along with other securities industry related groups, released a report called “Expanding the On-Ramp: Recommendations to Help More Companies Go and Stay Public” (the “Report”).[1]  In response to the decline in the number of IPOs and the number of public companies generally in the United States over the last twenty years, the Report provides recommendations aimed at reducing perceived impediments to becoming and remaining a public company. As the Report notes, the United States is now home to only about half the number of public companies that existed 20 years ago.  This decline is believed to have had adverse repercussions for the American economy generally, and the jobs market specifically.  For example, the Report cites a 2010 study by IHS Global Insight suggesting that, generally speaking, 92% of a company’s job growth occurs after it completes an IPO.[2]  In addition, the growth of private capital markets at the expense of public capital markets has raised concerns that individual investors are being marginalized.  More specifically, as many of the most innovative companies in the U.S. stay private longer and raise significant amounts of capital privately, the returns generated by such companies appear to accrue disproportionally to institutional, high net worth and other similar investors.  As Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) Chairman Jay Clayton noted in a July 2017 speech, “the reduction in the number of U.S.-listed public companies is a serious issue for our markets and the country more generally.  To the extent companies are eschewing our public markets, the vast majority of main street investors will be unable to participate in their growth.  The potential lasting effects of such an outcome to the economy and society are, in two words, not good.” To remedy this decline, the Report makes recommendations in five areas: 1.      enhance several provisions of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”); 2.      encourage more research on emerging growth companies (“EGCs”)[3] and other small public companies; 3.      improve certain corporate governance, disclosure, and other regulatory requirements; 4.      address concerns relating to financial reporting; and 5.      tailor the equity market structure for small public companies. 1. Enhancing the JOBS Act Over the past six years, the JOBS Act has demonstrated that rules and regulations around capital raising can be modernized while maintaining investor protections.  Its accomodations have been widely adopted. The Report sets forth four recommendations to further enhance some of the key provisions of the JOBS Act: Extend Title I “on-ramp provisions.” The JOBS Act Title I “on-ramp” provisions  provide a number of significant benefits to EGCs, including confidential review of registration statements and streamlined financial and executive compensation disclosure requirements, among others.  The Report recommends that the benefits available to EGCs be extended from 5 years to 10 years after a company goes public.  The “on-ramp” provisions have been widely utilized by EGCs since enactment.  By increasing the length of time these benefits are available, the Report argues that even more companies may consider going public. Expand the “testing the waters” exemption to all issuers. The Report recommends that Section 5(d) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) be modified to permit all issuers, not just EGCs, to engage in “testing the waters” communications with qualified institutional buyers (“QIBs”) or institutional accredited investors to determine interest in a securities offering.  Consistent with this, in April 2018, SEC Director of Corporation Finance Bill Hinman reported to a congressional committee that the SEC is planning to expand the “testing the waters” benefit to all companies.  This change would allow companies to better understand investor interest prior to undertaking the expense of an IPO. Increase exemption for reporting on adequacy of internal controls from 5 to 10 years for EGCs. The JOBS Act gives EGCs a five-year exemption from Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires external auditors to attest to the adequacy of the company’s internal control on financial reporting.  The Report recommends that this be extended from 5 years to 10 years for EGCs that have less than $50 million in revenue and less than $700 million in public float.  This change is designed to ensure that internal control reporting requirements, and associated costs, are appropriately scaled to the size of the company. Remove “phase out” rules relating to EGC status. The Report argues that the “phase out” rules related to EGC status should be removed, specifically given the overlap in certain status designations (e.g., companies who qualify as both a large accelerated filer and an EGC face uncertainty as to their status after going public. See Section 4 below).  Instead, issuers should be allowed to maintain their EGC status based on the JOBS Act definition.  The Report suggests that the SEC could still set a public float or other threshold requirement to limit the size of company that could benefit from the change in phase out triggers.[4] 2. Encourage More Research  Research coverage can increase interest from investors in a company, and a lack of research coverage can adversely impact liquidity for certain companies.  However, the Report notes that 61% of all companies listed on a major exchange with less than a $100 million market capitalization have no research coverage.  To address this disparity, the Report makes the following three recommendations: Amend the Securities Act Rule 139 research safe harbor to allow continuing research coverage for all issuers during an offering. The Report recommends that Rule 139 of the Securities Act be amended to provide that continued research analyst coverage does not constitute an offer or sale of securities, before, during, or after an offering by such issuer, regardless of whether the publishing broker-dealer is also an underwriter in the offering.  Currently, only issuers who are eligible to use Form S-3 qualify for the Rule 139 safe harbor.  As the Report notes, if an analyst has already been covering an issuer, there is no obvious logic to distinguishing companies that are S-3 eligible for the purposes of research coverage. Allow investment banking and research analysts to attend “pitch” meetings together. While the JOBS Act permits investment banks and analysts to jointly attend pitch meetings, given other restrictions on the content of what those discussions may contain, bankers and analysts typically refrain from jointly attending pitch meetings with IPO candidates.  The Report proposes that the SEC consider the removal of barriers prohibiting investment banks and analysts from jointly attending these meetings, as long as no direct or indirect promise of favorable research is given.  The Report also endorses reviewing the 2003 global research settlement between many large investment banks and the SEC, self-regulatory organizations, such as Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), and other regulators regarding research analyst conflicts of interest (the “Global Research Settlement”).  The Global Research Settlement precludes settling firms from having research analysts attend EGC IPO pitch meetings, irrespective of the regulatory easing afforded by the JOBS Act.[5] Investigate why pre-IPO research remains limited. Despite the liberalization of “gun jumping” rules related to research as part of the JOBS Act, the Report states that very few investment banks have published any pre-IPO research.  The Report urges the SEC to investigate why the JOBS Act has not led to an increase in pre-IPO research.  This may be due to existing FINRA rules, the Global Research Settlement, and federal and state law liability concerns.  The Report advocates for the SEC to examine this issue in an effort to increase pre-IPO research coverage. 3. Improve Certain Corporate Governance, Disclosure and other Regulatory Requirements According to the 2011 IPO Task Force, a group convened in response to a capital access roundtable sponsored by the Department of the Treasury, 92% of U.S. public company CEOs have found the “administrative burden of public reporting” to be a significant barrier to completing an IPO.  In addition, pressure from activist investors (often supported by proxy advisory firms) can distract management from carrying out their management duties, which in turn costs shareholders.  In response to these and other pressures, the Report recommends the following eleven improvements to help deal with some of these issues: Institute reasonable and effective SEC oversight of proxy advisory firms. Proxy advisory firms have become so influential over public companies that they have in essence become the standard setters for corporate governance.  Two advisory firms effectively control the market: Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) and Glass Lewis.  According to the Report, these firms operate with significant conflicts of interest and lack transparency, discouraging small and midsized companies from tapping into the public markets.  Legislation introduced in December 2017 would require proxy advisory firms to register with the SEC and to (1) disclose and manage their conflicts of interest, (2) provide issuers with reasonable time to respond to errors or flaws in advisory voting recommendations, and (3) demonstrate that they have the proper expertise to make accurate and objective recommendations.  The Report endorses the passage of this or similar legislation, and at a minimum, recommends the SEC’s withdrawal of the Egan-Jones Proxy Services (avail. May 27, 2004) and Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc. (avail. Sept. 15, 2004) no-action letters that minimize scrutiny of proxy advisory firms with respect to conflicts of interest. Reform shareholder proposal “resubmission thresholds” under Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) to facilitate more meaningful shareholder engagement with management. Rule 14a-8 allows shareholders who own a relatively small amount of company shares to include qualifying proposals in a company’s proxy materials.  Under current law, Rule 14-8a(i)(12) (the “Resubmission Rule”) allows companies to exclude certain shareholder proposals that were voted on in recent years.  Specifically, a company may exclude a resubmitted proposal if in the last five years the proposal: was voted on once and received less than 3% of votes cast; was voted on twice and received less than 6% of votes cast the last time it was voted on; or was voted on three or more times and received less than 10% of votes cast the last time it was voted on. The Report asserts that the proxy process is currently subject to abuse by a “minority of special interests that use it to advance idiosyncratic agendas.”  The Report argues that raising these resubmission thresholds, as the SEC proposed in 1997 (6%, 15%, and 30%), is a “good starting point” to modernize the SEC’s shareholder proposal system. The Report also notes that the SEC should withdraw Staff Legal Bulletin 14H (Oct. 22, 2015), which effectively declawed Rule 14a-8(i)(9) that allowed companies to exclude certain shareholder proposals that directly conflict with a management proposal. Simplify quarterly reporting requirements. Due to the increased size and complexity of annual (Form 10-K) and quarterly (Form 10‑Q) reports, compliance has become increasingly costly and more difficult, especially for smaller companies.  The Report recommends granting EGCs the option of issuing a press release that includes quarterly earnings results in lieu of a full Form 10-Q.  This approach would simplify the quarterly reporting process for EGCs and reduce the burdens related to financial quarterly reporting, while at the same time still providing investors with necessary material information. The “materiality” standard for corporate disclosure should be maintained and certain disclosure requirements should be scaled for EGCs. The Report suggests that the SEC should maintain the longstanding “materiality” standard with respect to corporate disclosures.  The Report points to the conflict minerals and pay ratio rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) as examples of disclosure requirements that veer the application of securities laws away from their original mission to provide material information to investors.The Report also recommends that policymakers continue to scale down disclosure requirements for EGCs.  For example, the Report proposes exempting EGCs from conflict minerals, mine safety, and resources extraction disclosures implemented under the Dodd-Frank Act. Allow purchases of EGC shares to be qualifying investments for purposes of Registered Investment Adviser (“RIA”) exemption determinations. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, venture capital funds were meant to be exempt from the certain costs and requirements to become an RIA.  However, the definition of “venture capital fund” under the Investment Advisers Act is viewed by the Report as narrow, which limits the ability of these funds to invest in EGCs.  The Report argues that shares of EGCs should be considered qualifying investments, which would potentially expand investment in EGCs. Allow issuers of all sizes to be eligible to use Forms S-3 and F-3 for shelf registration. Many EGCs and small issuers are precluded from using the simplified registration statement Forms S-3 and F-3, which allows faster and cheaper access to public capital markets.  The Report, along with the SEC’s Annual Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation, recommends that all issuers be allowed to use Forms S-3 and F-3.[6]  In addition, the Report suggests eliminating the “baby-shelf” rules applicable to companies with a public float of less than $75 million, which limit the amount of capital a small-market cap company can raise using a shelf registration statement. Address unlawful activity related to short sales. There are currently no disclosure requirements applicable to investors who take short positions in publicly registered stock.  Although short selling can have positive effects on the overall market, the Report argues that such transactions can also lead to abusive activity that unduly harms investors or the reputation of a company.  The Report recommends that the SEC continue to take action against market manipulators who engage in unlawful activity that harms the market and ensure that there is sufficient public information with respect to potential market manipulation. Allow prospective underwriters to make offers of well-known seasoned issuer securities in advance of filing a registration statement. Since 2005, “well-known seasoned issuers” (or “WKSIs”) have been permitted to engage in oral or written communications in accordance with Securities Act Rule 163 in advance of filing a registration statement without violating “gun jumping” rules.  The SEC proposed an amendment in 2009 that would permit underwriters or dealers to engage in communications “by or on behalf of” WKSIs under similar circumstances, which would allow WKSIs to better gauge investor interest and market conditions prior to an offering.  The Report argues that this amendment should be enacted. Make eXtensible Business Reporting Language (“XBRL”) compliance optional for EGCs, smaller reporting companies (“SRCs”), and non-accelerated filers. Public companies are required to provide financial statements in XBRL, which imposes significant costs on EGCs and SRCs, and in the view of the Report, minimal benefit to investors.  Accordingly, the Report recommends exempting EGCs, SRCs, and non-accelerated filers from XBRL reporting requirements. Increase the diversified funds limit for mutual funds’ position in companies from current 10% of voting shares to 15%. Due to the increased size of mutual funds, the diversified fund thresholds have limited mutual funds’ ability to take meaningful positions in small-cap companies.  The Report argues that moving the threshold up from 10% to 15% would make investments in EGCs and other small-cap companies more attractive to mutual funds. Allow disclosure of selling stockholders to be done on a group basis. The Report recommends that disclosure of selling stockholders in registration statements should be permitted on a group or aggregate basis if each selling stockholder is (1) not a director or named executive officer of the registrant, and (2) holds less than 1% of outstanding shares. 4. Financial Reporting The SEC should consider aligning the SRC definition with the definition of a non-accelerated filer and institute a revenue-only test for pre- or low- revenue companies that may be highly valued. In 2016, the SEC proposed increasing the public float cap for SRCs from $75 million to $250 million, but did not do so with respect to non-accelerated filers that are subject to the same limit.  In the Report’s view, raising this cap for SRCs would help promote capital formation and reduce compliance costs for small companies, including scaled disclosure obligations under Regulation S-K for SRCs.  In addition, consideration should be given to whether the exemption available to non-accelerated filers from the requirement for auditor attestation over internal controls should also be extended to SRCs.  In particular, the Report points out that many companies may still choose to comply with auditor attestation requirements, noting that shareholders could also encourage issuers to maintain internal control systems similar to those called for by Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404(b).In addition, the 2016 SRC proposal introduced an alternative “revenue only” test for companies to qualify as an SRC if the company had less than $100 million in revenue, regardless of its public float.  The Report proposes that a revenue-only test should be considered as an alternative standard. Modernize the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) inspection process related to internal control over financial reporting (“ICFR”). In 2007, the SEC issued Commission Guidance Regarding Management’s Report on Internal Controls over Financial Reporting under Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act (the “2007 Guidance”).  The 2007 Guidance was meant to allow companies to prioritize and focus on “what matters most” in assessing ICFR, principally those material issues that pose the greatest risk of material misstatements.  However, companies have continued to experience unintended ICFR-related burdens due to audit processes and PCAOB inspections.  The 2007 Guidance has not been effective due to changing interpretations of PCAOB standards for attestations during the inspection process.  Accordingly, the Report proposes that the 2007 Guidance should be updated to ensure that it is working as originally intended.  The Group also suggests that the PCAOB should consider an ICFR task force to address issues companies face as a result of the PCAOB inspection process and its consequences for audit firms and auditors.  Pre- and post-implementation reviews by the PCAOB would improve audit standard setting, prevent harmful impacts, and address the unintended consequences that result from implementation of new PCAOB auditing standards. 5. Tailoring Equity Market Structure for Small Public Companies While the overall U.S. equity markets have become more efficient due to venue competition and increased liquidity, some of these benefits have failed to reach small and mid-size stocks.  The Report makes two recommendations to address market structure challenges faced by these issuers: Examine tick sizes for EGCs and small capitalization stocks. The Report argues that the SEC should examine the appropriate tick size, which is the minimum price movement of a trading instrument, for EGCs and small capitalization stocks.  The Report notes that while stocks trading in penny increments may be an appropriate trading increment for large capitalization stocks, it may not be the best option for EGCs.  This is because narrower spreads resulting from penny increments may disincentivize market makers from trading in EGCs and small capitalization stocks.  Instead, individual exchanges should have the flexibility to develop tick sizes that are tailored for a limited number of stocks with distressed liquidity.[7] Allow EGCs or small issuers with distressed liquidity the choice to opt out of unlisted trading privileges. The Report recommends that a limited number of SRCs with distressed liquidity be able to opt out of unlisted trading privileges.  This would allow these less frequently traded stocks to focus their trading on fewer exchanges, thus enabling buyers and sellers to more easily find each other, providing more liquidity in these stocks.  This would also enable these companies to reduce fragmentation in trading, and simplify market making for these stocks. Conclusion Since at least 2012, the SEC and Congress have proposed various reforms[8] aimed at improving the attractiveness and competitiveness of the U.S. public capital markets.  In the last year, consistent with Chairman Clayton’s core principles,[9] the SEC has taken steps to further expand the benefits of the JOBS Act and the FAST Act to a broader range of companies, such as allowing non-EGCs to make confidential submissions of initial registration statements, permitting all companies to confidentially submit registration statements in connection with offerings within one year of an IPO and granting more waivers of financial statement requirements.  In addition, there have been a number of legislative proposals intended to further expand the benefits of the JOBS Act and the FAST Act.  The Report is consistent with these themes.  Congress and the SEC must now consider comprehensive reform in this vein and also consider how a complex system of regulations could be further simplified.  Ultimately, a company’s decision whether to go public is driven primarily by business rationales, including valuation, liquidity and investor considerations.  However, reducing the burdens of becoming and staying a public company without compromising investor protection will benefit both companies and investors, help ensure that the U.S. public capital markets remain attractive and competitive in the face of global competition, and provide more diverse investment opportunities for all investors.    [1]   SIFMA, Expanding the On-Ramp: Recommendations to Help More Companies Go and Stay Public, available at https://www.sifma.org/resources/submissions/expanding-the-on-ramp-recommendations-to-help-more-companies-go-and-stay-public (last visited April 27, 2018). Other organizations joining SIFMA in the Report included, among others, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Venture Capital Association, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (Bio), Technet and Nasdaq.    [2]   Id.    [3]   Under the JOBS Act, EGCs are defined as companies with less than $1.07 billion of annual revenue.    [4]   For a more complete discussion on the transition from EGC status, see our Alert from March 12, 2014, which is available at the following link:  https://www.gibsondunn.com/emerging-from-egc-status-transition-periods-for-former-egc-issuers-to-comply-with-reporting-and-corporate-governance-requirements/    [5]   For a more complete discussion of the interaction between the JOBS Act and the Global Research Settlement, see our alert from October 11, 2012, which is available at the following link: https://www.gibsondunn.com/jobs-act-finra-proposes-rule-changes-relating-to-research-analysts-and-underwriters/    [6]   See generally SEC Government-Business Forum on Small Capital Business Formation, which is available at the following link: https://www.sec.gov/files/gbfor36.pdf    [7]   For additional information, see the SEC’s investor alert titled “Investor Alert: Tick Size Pilot Program – What Investors Need to Know” which is available at the following link: https://www.sec.gov/oiea/investor-alerts-bulletins/ia_ticksize.html    [8]   For more information, see our post from October 13, 2017 titled “SEC Proposes Amendments to Securities Regulations to Modernize and Simplify Disclosure,” which is available at the following link: https://www.gibsondunn.com/sec-proposes-amendments-to-securities-regulations-to-modernize-and-simplify-disclosure/    [9]   See, e.g., “SEC to Tailor Disclosure Regime Under New Chair Clayton” (July 12, 2017), which is available at the following link: https://www.bna.com/sec-tailor-disclosure-n73014461648/ 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: Glenn R. Pollner – New York (+1 212-351-2333, gpollner@gibsondunn.com) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, hholmes@gibsondunn.com) Jessica Annis – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8234, jannis@gibsondunn.com) Nicolas H.R. Dumont – New York (+1 212-351-3837, ndumont@gibsondunn.com) Sean Sullivan – San Francisco (+1 415–393–8275, ssullivan@gibsondunn.com) Victor Twu – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-3870, vtwu@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) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: 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) 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.

April 23, 2018 |
FinCEN Issues FAQs on Customer Due Diligence Regulation

Click for PDF On April 3, 2018, FinCEN issued its long-awaited Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions, FIN-2018-G001. https://www.fincen.gov/resources/statutes-regulations/guidance/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-customer-due-0.[1]  The timing of this guidance is very controversial, issued five weeks before the new Customer Due Diligence (“CDD”) regulation goes into effect on May 11, 2018.[2]  Most covered financial institutions (banks, broker-dealers, mutual funds, and futures commission merchants and introducing brokers in commodities) already have drafted policies, procedures, and internal controls and made IT systems changes to comply with the new regulation.  Covered financial institutions will need to review these FAQs carefully to ensure that their proposed CDD rule compliance measures are consistent with FinCEN’s guidance. The guidance is set forth in 37 questions.  As discussed below, some of the information is helpful, allaying financial institutions’ most significant concerns.  Other FAQs confirm what FinCEN has said in recent months informally to industry groups and at conferences.  A few FAQs raise additional questions, and others, particularly the FAQ on rollovers of certifications of deposit and loan renewals, are not responsive to industry concerns and may raise significant compliance burdens for covered financial institutions.  The guidance reflects FinCEN’s regulatory interpretations based on discussions within the government and with financial institutions and their trade associations.  The need for such extensive guidance on so many issues in the regulation illustrates the complexity of compliance and suggests that FinCEN should consider whether clarifications and technical corrections to the regulation should be made.  We provide below discussion of highlights from the FAQs, including areas of continued ambiguity and uncertainty in the regulation and FAQs. Highlights from the FAQs FAQ 1 and 2 discuss the threshold for obtaining and verifying beneficial ownership.  FinCEN states that financial institutions can “choose” to collect beneficial ownership information at a lower threshold than required under the regulation (25%), but does not acknowledge that financial institution regulators may expect a lower threshold for certain business lines or customer types or that there may be regulatory concerns if financial institutions adjust thresholds upward to meet the BSA regulatory threshold.  A covered financial institution may be in compliance with the regulatory threshold, but fall short of regulatory expectations. FAQ 7 states that a financial institution need not re-verify the identity of a beneficial owner of a legal entity customer if that beneficial owner is an existing customer of the financial institution on whom CIP has been conducted previously provided that the existing information is “up-to-date, accurate, and the legal entity’s customer’s representative certifies or confirms (verbally or in writing) the accuracy of the pre-existing CIP information.”  The example given suggests that no steps are expected to verify that the information is up-to-date and accurate beyond the representative’s confirmation or certification.  The beneficial ownership records must cross reference the individual’s CIP record. FAQs 9-12 address one of the most controversial aspects of the regulation, about which there has been much confusion: the requirement that, when an existing customer opens a new account, a financial institution must identify and verify beneficial ownership information.  FinCEN provides further clarity on what must be updated and how:Under FAQ 10, if a legal entity customer, for which the required beneficial ownership information has been obtained for an existing account, opens a new account, the financial institution can rely on the information obtained and verified previously “provided the customer certifies or confirms (verbally or in writing) that such information is up-to-date and accurate at the time each subsequent new account is opened,” and the financial institution has no knowledge that would “reasonably call into question” the reliability of the information.  The financial institution also would need to maintain a record of the certification or confirmation by the customer.There is no grace period.  If an account is opened on Tuesday, and a new account is opened on Thursday, the certification or confirmation is still required.  In advance planning for compliance, many financial institutions had included a grace period in their procedures. FAQ 11 provides that, when the financial institution opens a new account or subaccount for an existing legal entity customer whose beneficial ownership has been verified for the institution’s own recordkeeping and operational purposes and not at the customer’s request, there is no requirement to update the beneficial ownership information for the new account.  This is because the account would be considered opened by the financial institution and the requirement to update only applies to each new account opened by a customer.  This is consistent with what FinCEN representatives have said at recent conferences.The FAQ specifies that this would not apply to (1) accounts or subaccounts set up to accommodate a trading strategy of a different legal entity, e.g., a subsidiary of the customer, or (2) accounts of a customer of the existing legal entity customer, “i.e., accounts (or subaccounts) through which a customer of a financial institution’s existing legal entity carries out trading activity through the financial institution without intermediation from the existing legal entity customer.”  We believe the FAQ may fall far short of addressing all the concerns expressed to FinCEN on this issue by the securities industry. FAQ 12 addresses an issue which has been a major concern to the banking industry:  whether beneficial ownership information must be updated when a certificate of deposit (“CD”) is rolled over or a loan is renewed.  These actions are generally not considered opening of new accounts by banks.FinCEN continues to maintain that CD rollovers or loan renewals are openings of new accounts for purposes of the CDD regulation.  Therefore, the first time a CD or loan renewal for a legal entity customer occurs after May 11, 2018, the effective date of the CDD regulation, beneficial ownership information must be obtained and verified, and at each subsequent rollover or renewal, there must be confirmation that the information is current and accurate (consistent with FAQ 10) as for any other new account for an existing customer.  There is an exception or alternative approach authorized in FAQ 12 “because the risk of money laundering is very low”:  If, at the time of the rollover or renewal, the customer certifies its beneficial ownership information, and also agrees to notify the financial institution of any change in information in the future, no action will be required at subsequent renewals or rollovers.The response in FAQ 12 is not responsive to the concerns that have been expressed by the banking industry and will be burdensome for banks to administer.  Obtaining a certification in time, without disrupting the rollover or renewal, will be challenging, and it appears that if it the certification or promise to update is not obtained in time, the account may have to be closed. FAQs 13 through 17 address another aspect of the regulation that has generated extensive discussion: When (1) must beneficial ownership be obtained for an account opened before the effective date of the regulation, or (2) beneficial ownership information updated on existing accounts whose beneficial ownership has been obtained and verified.Following closely what was said in the preamble to the final rule, FAQ 13 states that the obligation is triggered when a financial institution “becomes aware of information about the customer during the course of normal monitoring relevant to assessing or reassessing the risk posed by the customer, and such information indicates a possible change in beneficial ownership.”FAQ 14 clarifies somewhat what is considered normal monitoring but is not perfectly clear what triggers obtaining and verifying beneficial ownership.  It is clear that there is no obligation to obtain or update beneficial ownership information in routine periodic CDD reviews (CDD refresh reviews) “absent specific risk-based concerns.” We would assume that means, following FAQ 13, concerns about the ownership of the customer.  Beyond that FAQ 14  is less clear.  It states that the obligation is triggered “when, in the course of normal monitoring a financial institution becomes aware of information about a customer or an account, including a possible change of beneficial ownership information, relevant to assessing or reassessing the customer’s overall risk profile.  Absent such a risk-related trigger or event, collecting or updating of beneficial ownership information is at the discretion of the covered financial institution.”The trigger or event may mean in the course of SAR monitoring or when conducting event-driven CDD reviews, e.g., when a subpoena is received or material negative news is identified – something that may change a risk profile.  Does the obligation then arise only if the risk profile change includes a concern about whether the financial institution has accurate ownership information?  That may be the intent, but is not clearly stated.  If the account is being considered for closure because of the change in risk profile, would the financial institution be released from the obligation to obtain beneficial ownership?   That would make sense, but is not stated.  This FAQ is in need of clarification and examples would be helpful.On another note, the language in FAQ 14 also is of interest because it may suggest, in FinCEN’s view, that periodic CDD reviews should be conducted on a risk basis, and CDD refresh reviews may not be expected for lower risk customers, as is the practice for some banks. FAQ 18 seems to address at least partially a technical issue with the regulation that arises because SEC-registered investment advisers are excluded from the definition of legal entity customer in the regulation, but U.S. pooled investment vehicles advised by them are not excluded.[3]  FAQ 18 states that, if the operator or adviser of a pooled investment vehicle is not excluded from the definition of legal entity customer, under the regulation, e.g., like a foreign bank, no beneficial ownership information is required to be obtained on the pooled investment vehicle under the ownership prong, but there must be compliance with beneficial ownership control party prong, i.e., verification of identity of a control party.  A control party could be a “portfolio manager” in these situations.FinCEN describes why no ownership information is required as follows:  “Because of the way the ownership of a pooled investment vehicle fluctuates, it would be impractical for covered financial institutions to collect and verify ownership identity for this type of entity.”  Thus, in the case where the operator or adviser of the pooled investment vehicle is excluded from the definition of legal entity, like an SEC-registered investment adviser, it would seem not to be an expectation to obtain beneficial ownership information under the ownership prong.  Nevertheless, the question of whether you need to obtain and verify the identity of a control party for a pooled investment vehicle advised by a SEC registered investment adviser is not squarely answered in the FAQ.  A technical correction to the regulation is still needed, but it is unlikely there would be regulatory or audit criticism for following the FAQ guidance at least with respect to the ownership prong. FAQ 19 clarifies that, when a beneficial owner is a trust (where the legal entity customer is owned more than 25% by a trust), the financial institution is only required to verify the identity of one trustee if there are multiple trustees. FAQ 20 deals with what to do if a trust holds more than a 25% beneficial interest in a legal entity customers and the trustee is not an individual, but a legal entity, like a bank or law firm.  Under the regulation, if a trust holds more than 25% beneficial ownership of a legal entity customer, the financial institution must verify the identity of the trustee to satisfy the ownership prong of the beneficial ownership requirement.  The ownership prong references identification of “individuals.”  Consequently, the language of the regulation does not seem to contemplate the situation where the trustee was a legal entity.FAQ 20 seems to suggest that, despite this issue with the regulation, CIP should be conducted on the legal entity trustee, but apparently, on a risk basis, not in every case:  “In circumstances where a natural person does not exist for purposes of the ownership/equity prong, a natural person would not be identified.  However, a covered financial institution should collect identification information on the legal entity trustee as part of its CIP, consistent with the covered institution’s risk assessment and customer risk profile.”  (Emphasis added.)More clarification is needed on this issue, and perhaps an amendment to the regulation to address this specific situation.  Pending additional guidance, the safest course appears to be to verify the identity of legal entity trustee consistent with CIP requirements, which may pose practical difficulties, e.g., will a law firm trustee easily provide its TIN?  Presumably, CIP would not be required on any legal entity trustee that is excepted from the definition of legal entity under 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(2). FAQ 21 addresses the question of how does a financial institution verify that a legal entity comes within one of the regulatory exceptions to the definition of legal entity customer in 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(2).  The answer is that the financial institution generally can rely on information provided by the customer if it has no knowledge of facts that would reasonably call into question the reliability of the information.  Nevertheless, that is not the end of the story.  The FAQ provides that the financial institution also must have risk-based policies and procedures that specify the type of information they will obtain and reasonably rely on to determine eligibility for exclusions. FAQ 24 may resolve another technical issue in the regulation.  The exceptions to the definition of legal entity in the regulation refer back to the BSA CIP exemption provisions, which in turn, cross reference the Currency Transaction Reporting (CTR) exemption for banks when granting so-called Tier One exemptions.  One category for the CTR exemption is “listed” entities, which includes NASDAQ listed entities, but excludes NASDAQ Capital Markets Companies, i.e., this category of NASDAQ listed entity is not subject to CIP or CTR Tier One exemptions.  31 C.F.R. § 1020.315(b)(4).  This carve out was not discussed in the preamble to the CDD final regulation or in FAQ 24.The FAQ simply states:  “[A]ny company (other than a bank) whose common stock or analogous equity interests are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange (currently known as the NYSE American), or NASDAQ stock exchange” is excepted from the definition of legal entity.  In any event, as with the FAQ 18 issue, it would appear that a technical correction is needed on this point, but, given the FAQ, it is unlikely that a financial institution would be criticized if it treated NASDAQ Capital Markets Companies as excepted legal entities. FAQs 32 and 33 end the speculation that the CDD regulation impacts CTR compliance.  Consistent with FinCEN CTR guidance, under FAQ 32, the rule remains that, for purposes of CTR aggregation, the fact that two businesses share a common owner does not mean that a financial institution must aggregate the currency transactions of the two businesses for CTR reporting, except in the narrow situation where there is a reason to believe businesses are not being operated separately. Conclusion Financial institutions and their industry groups will likely continue to seek further guidance on the most problematic issues in the CDD regulation.  It is our understanding that FinCEN and the bank regulators also will address compliance with the CDD regulation in the upcoming update to the FFIEC Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual. Covered financial institutions already have spent, and will continue to spend, significant time and resources to meet the complex regulatory requirements and anticipated regulatory expectations.  In this flurry of activity to address regulatory risk, it is essential for financial institutions to continue to consider any money laundering risk of legal entity clients and that CDD not become simply mechanical.  It is not only a matter of documenting and updating all of the right information about beneficial ownership and control, but financial institutions should continue to assess whether the ownership structure makes sense for the business or whether it is overly complex for the business type and purposely opaque.  Also, it is important to consider whether it makes sense for a particular legal entity to be seeking a relationship with your financial institution and whether the legal entity is changing financial institutions voluntarily.  CDD measures to address regulatory risk and money laundering risk overlap but are not equivalent.    [1]   FinCEN also issued FAQs on the regulation on July 19, 2016. https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/FAQs_for_CDD_Final_Rule_%287_15_16%29.pdf.   FINRA issued guidance on the CDD regulation in FINRA Notice to Members 17-40 (Nov. 21, 2017). http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/notice_doc_file_ref/Regulatory-Notice-17-40.pdf.    [2]   The Notice of Final Rulemaking was published on May 11, 2016 and provided a two-year implementation period.  81 Fed. Reg. 29,398 (May 11, 2016). https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-11/pdf/2016-10567.pdf.  FinCEN made some slight amendments to the rule on September 29, 2017.  https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/federal_register_notices/2017-09-29/CDD_Technical_Amendement_17-20777.pdf The new regulations are set forth in the BSA regulations at 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230 (beneficial ownership requirements); 31 C.F.R. § 1020.210(a)(5) (banks); 31 C.F.R. § 1023.210(b)(5) (broker-dealers); 31 C.F.R. § 1024.210(b)(4) (mutual funds); and 31 C.F.R. § 1026.210(b)(5) (future commission merchants and introducing brokers in commodities).    [3]   The regulation does not clearly address the beneficial ownership requirements for a U.S. pooled investment vehicle operated or controlled by a registered SEC investment adviser.  Pooled investment vehicles operated or advised by a “financial institution” regulated by a Federal functional regulator are not considered legal entities under the regulation.  31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(2)(xi).  An SEC registered investment adviser, however, is not yet a financial institution under the BSA.  Under 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(3), a pooled investment vehicle that is operated or advised by a “financial institution” not excluded from the definition of legal entity is subject to the beneficial ownership control party prong. 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 Financial Institutions practice group, or the authors: Stephanie L. Brooker – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, along@gibsondunn.com) Linda Noonan – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3595, lnoonan@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.

April 12, 2018 |
Trump Administration Imposes Unprecedented Russia Sanctions

Click for PDF On April 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) significantly enhanced the impact of sanctions against Russia by blacklisting almost 40 Russian oligarchs, officials, and their affiliated companies pursuant to Obama-era sanctions, as modified by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA”) of 2017.  In announcing the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cited Russia’s involvement in “a range of malign activity around the globe,” including the continued occupation of Crimea, instigation of violence in Ukraine, support of the Bashal al-Assad regime in Syria, attempts to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.[1]  Russian stocks fell sharply in response to the new measures, and the ruble depreciated almost 5 percent against the dollar.[2] Although this is not the first time that the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Russia, it is the most significant action taken to date.  In June 2017, OFAC added 38 individuals and entities involved in the Ukraine conflict to OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”).[3]  The April 6 sanctions added seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, the primary state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank, to the SDN List.[4]  These designations include major, publicly-traded companies that have been listed on the London and Hong Kong exchanges and that have thousands of customers and tens of thousands of investors throughout the world. OFAC has never designated similar companies, and the potential challenges for global companies seeking to comply with OFAC measures are substantial.  An SDN designation prohibits U.S. persons—including U.S. companies, U.S. financial institutions, and their foreign branches—from engaging in any transactions with the designees or with entities in which they hold an aggregate ownership of 50 percent or more.  The designation of a small company in a regional market can be devastating for the company, but rarely would it impose meaningful collateral consequences on global markets or investors.  In this case, sanctions on companies such as EN+ and RUSAL (amongst others) have already impacted a substantial portion of a core global commodity (the aluminum market) while also preventing further trades in their shares, a move that could harm pension funds, mutual funds, and other investors that have long held stakes worth billions of dollars. To minimize the immediate disruptions, OFAC issued two time-limited general licenses (regulatory exemptions) permitting companies and individuals to undertake certain transactions to “wind down” business dealings related to the designated parties.[5]  However, our assessment is that disruptions are inevitable and the size of the sanctions targets in this case means that the general licenses will have potentially limited effect in reducing dislocations. Background OFAC’s April 6 designations mark a clear change in tone from the Trump administration, which had initially resisted imposing the full force of CAATSA’s sanctions.  For example, as we wrote in our 2017 Year-End Sanctions Update, CAATSA required the imposition of secondary sanctions on any person the President determined to have been engaging in “a significant transaction with a person that is part, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government Russia.”[6]  On the day such sanctions were to be imposed, State Department representatives provided classified briefings to Congressional leaders to explain their decision not to impose any such sanctions under CAATSA, namely because the Trump administration felt that CAATSA was already having an deterrent effect which removed any immediate need to impose sanctions.[7] Section 241 of CAATSA also required OFAC to publish a report on January 29, 2018 identifying “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation,”[8] (the “Section 241 List”).  The Treasury Department issued the report shortly before midnight on the due date, publicly naming 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 oligarchs.[9]  Although the report did not result in any sanctions or legal repercussions, the public naming of such persons did cause confusion for those who sought to engage with them in compliance with U.S. law.[10]  However, most observers were highly critical of the list, claiming that it demonstrated that the Trump administration was failing to adequately address Congressional intent to punish Moscow.  Interestingly, almost all of the oligarchs designated on April 6 originally appeared on the Section 241 List.[11] Designations Included among the list of sanctioned parties were seven Russian oligarchs designated for being a Russian government official or operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy, and 12 companies they own or control.  In its press release, OFAC warned that the 12 companies identified as owned or controlled by the designated Russian oligarchs “should not be viewed as exhaustive, and the regulated community remains responsible for compliance with OFAC’s 50 percent rule.”  This rule extends U.S. sanctions prohibitions to entities owned 50 percent or more, even if those companies are not themselves listed by OFAC.  The opacity of ownership in the Russian economy makes the 50 percent rule very difficult to operationalize. In addition, OFAC designated 17 senior Russian government officials, a state-owned company and its subsidiary.  The sanctioned individuals and entities, as described by OFAC, are provided in the following table. SDN Description Designated Russian Oligarchs 1. Vladimir Bogdanov Bogdanov is the Director General and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Surgutneftegaz, a vertically integrated oil company operating in Russia. OFAC imposed sectoral sanctions on Surgutneftegaz pursuant to Directive 4 issued under E.O. 13662 in September 2014. 2. Oleg Deripaska Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state.  He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries.  Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.  There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group. 3. Suleiman Kerimov Kerimov is a member of the Russian Federation Council.  On November 20, 2017, Kerimov was detained in France and held for two days. He is alleged to have brought hundreds of millions of euros into France – transporting as much as 20 million euros at a time in suitcases, in addition to conducting more conventional funds transfers – without reporting the money to French tax authorities.  Kerimov allegedly launders the funds through the purchase of villas.  Kerimov was also accused of failing to pay 400 million euros in taxes. 4. Kirill Shamalov Shamalov married Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova in February 2013 and his fortunes drastically improved following the marriage; within 18 months, he acquired a large portion of shares of Sibur, a Russia-based company involved in oil and gas exploration, production, processing, and refining.  A year later, he was able to borrow more than one $1 billion through a loan from Gazprombank, a state-owned entity subject to sectoral sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13662.  That same year, long-time Putin associate Gennady Timchenko, who is himself designated pursuant to E.O. 13661, sold an additional 17 percent of Sibur’s shares to Shamalov.  Shortly thereafter, Kirill Shamalov joined the ranks of the billionaire elite around Putin. 5. Andrei Skoch Skoch is a deputy of the Russian Federation’s State Duma.  Skoch has longstanding ties to Russian organized criminal groups, including time spent leading one such enterprise. 6. Viktor Vekselberg Vekselberg is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Renova Group.  The Renova Group is comprised of asset management companies and investment funds that own and manage assets in several sectors of the Russian economy, including energy.  In 2016, Russian prosecutors raided Renova’s offices and arrested two associates of Vekselberg, including the company’s chief managing director and another top executive, for bribing officials connected to a power generation project in Russia. Designated Oligarch-Owned Companies 7. B-Finance Ltd. British Virgin Islands company owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska. 8. Basic Element Limited Basic Element Limited is based in Jersey and is the private investment and management company for Deripaska’s various business interests. 9. EN+ Group Owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska, B-Finance Ltd., and Basic Element Limited.  EN+ Group is located in Jersey and is a leading international vertically integrated aluminum and power producer.  This is a publicly traded company that has been listed, inter alia, on the London Stock Exchange. 10. EuroSibEnergo Owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska and EN+ Group. EuroSibEnergo is one of the largest independent power companies in Russia, operating power plants across Russia and producing around nine percent of Russia’s total electricity. 11. United Company RUSAL PLC Owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, EN+ Group.  United Company RUSAL PLC is based in Jersey and is one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, responsible for seven percent of global aluminum production.  This is a publicly traded company that has been listed, inter alia¸ on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. 12. Russian Machines Owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska and Basic Element Limited.  Russian Machines was established to manage the machinery assets of Basic Element Limited. 13. GAZ Group Owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska and Russian Machines.  GAZ Group is Russia’s leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles. 14. Agroholding Kuban Owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, Oleg Deripaska and Basic Element Limited. 15. Gazprom Burenie, OOO Owned or controlled by Igor Rotenberg.  Gazprom Burenie, OOO provides oil and gas exploration services in Russia. 16. NPV Engineering Open Joint Stock Company Owned or controlled by Igor Rotenberg.  NPV Engineering Open Joint Stock Company provides management and consulting services in Russia. 17. Ladoga Menedzhment, OOO Owned or controlled by Kirill Shamalov.  Ladoga Menedzhment, OOO is located in Russia and engaged in deposit banking. 18. Renova Group Owned or controlled by Viktor Vekselberg.  Renova Group, based in Russia, is comprised of investment funds and management companies operating in the energy sector, among others, in Russia’s economy. Designated Russian State-Owned Firms 19. Rosoboroneksport State-owned Russian weapons trading company with longstanding and ongoing ties to the Government of Syria, with billions of dollars’ worth of weapons sales over more than a decade.  Rosoboroneksport is being designated under E.O. 13582 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, the Government of Syria. 20. Russian Financial Corporation Bank (RFC Bank) Owned by Rosoboroneksport.  RFC Bank incorporated is in Moscow, Russia and its operations include deposit banking activities. Designated Russian Government Officials 21. Andrey Akimov Chairman of the Management Board of state-owned Gazprombank 22. Mikhail Fradkov President of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a major research and analytical center established by the President of the Russian Federation, which provides information support to the Presidential Administration, Federation Council, State Duma, and Security Council. 23. Sergey Fursenko Member of the board of directors of Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of state-owned Gazprom 24. Oleg Govorun Head of the Presidential Directorate for Social and Economic Cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States Member Countries.  Govorun is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13661 for being an official of the Government of the Russian Federation. 25. Alexey Dyumin Governor of the Tula region of Russia.  He previously headed the Special Operations Forces, which played a key role in Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea. 26. Vladimir Kolokoltsev Minister of Internal Affairs and General Police of the Russian Federation 27. Konstantin Kosachev Chairperson of the Council of the Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs 28. Andrey Kostin President, Chairman of the Management Board, and Member of the Supervisory Council of state-owned VTB Bank 29. Alexey Miller Chairman of the Management Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of state-owned company Gazprom 30. Nikolai Patrushev Secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council 31. Vladislav Reznik Member of the Russian State Duma 32. Evgeniy Shkolov Aide to the President of the Russian Federation 33. Alexander Torshin State Secretary – Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation 34. Vladimir Ustinov Plenipotentiary Envoy to Russia’s Southern Federal District 35. Timur Valiulin Head of the General Administration for Combatting Extremism within Russia’s Ministry of Interior 36. Alexander Zharov Head of Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media) 37. Viktor Zolotov Director of the Federal Service of National Guard Troops and Commander of the National Guard Troops of the Russian Federation All assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction of the designated individuals and entities, and of any other entities blocked by operation of law as a result of their ownership by a sanctioned party, are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealings with them.  OFAC’s Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) make clear that if a blocked person owns less than 50 percent of a U.S. company, the U.S. company will not be blocked.  However, the U.S. company (1) must block all property and interests in property in which the blocked person has an interest and (2) cannot make any payments, dividends, or disbursement of profits to the blocked person and must place them in a blocked account at a U.S. financial institution.[12] Non-U.S. persons could face secondary sanctions for knowingly facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the designated individuals or entities.  CAATSA strengthened the secondary sanctions measures that could be used to target such persons, although such measures typically carry less risk because as a matter of implementation OFAC traditionally warns those who may be transacting with parties that could subject them to secondary sanctions and provides them with an opportunity to cure.  While this outreach and deterrence model of imposing secondary sanctions was developed under the Obama administration (and resulted in very few impositions of secondary sanctions), the Trump administration could theoretically change it and impose secondary sanctions without the traditional warning.  However, that appears unlikely and the Trump administration has indicated that it will continue to provide warnings before imposing secondary sanctions. Two CAATSA provisions bear particular note as they are implicated by Friday’s actions:  section 226, which authorizes sanctions on foreign financial institutions for facilitating a transaction on behalf of a Russian person on the SDN List, and section 228, which seeks to impose sanction on a person who “facilitates a significant transaction…for or on behalf of any person subject to sanctions imposed by the United States with respect to the Russian Federation.”[13]  OFAC has clarified that the section 228 provision extends to persons listed on either the SDN or the Sectoral Sanctions Identifications (“SSI”) List, as well as persons they may own or control pursuant to OFAC’s 50 percent rule.[14]  As we noted when CAATSA was passed, despite the mandatory nature of these sections, the President appears to retain the discretion to impose restrictions based upon whether he finds certain transaction significant or for other reasons.  With the increase in the SDN list to include major players in global commodities such as EN+ or RUSAL, more companies around the world that rely on these companies could find themselves at least theoretically at risk of being sanctioned themselves.  Companies should also consider this risk where there is reliance on material produced by any company in the Russian military establishment and sold by the Russian state arms company such as Rosoboronexport, which was also sanctioned. General Licenses In an effort to minimize the immediate disruptions to U.S. persons and global markets (especially given the sanctioning of major publicly traded corporations that have thousands of clients and investors throughout the world), OFAC issued General Licenses 12 and 13, permitting companies to undertake certain transactions and activities to “wind down” certain business dealings related to certain, listed designated parties.  These General Licenses only cover U.S. persons, which has led some non-U.S. companies to inquire whether their ability to wind down operations with respect to the SDN companies would place them at risk for secondary sanctions (as they would be engaging with sanctioned parties and perhaps trigger the CAATSA provisions above).  OFAC has noted in its FAQs that the U.S. Government would not find a transaction “significant” if a U.S. person would not need a specific license to undertake it.[15]  That is, it would seem that at least for the duration of the General Licenses a non-U.S. party can engage in similar wind down operations without risking secondary sanctions. General License 12, which expires June 5, 2018, authorizes U.S. persons to engage in transactions and activities with the 12 oligarch-owned designated entities that are “ordinarily incident and necessary to the maintenance or wind down of operations, contracts, or other agreements” related to these 12 entities (as well as those entities impacted by operation of OFAC’s 50 percent rule).  This is a broader wind down provision than OFAC has issued in the past in that it allows not just “wind down” activities but also non-defined “maintenance” activities.  Despite this breadth it is already uncertain how this General License will actually work in practice.  Permissible transactions and activities include importation from blocked entities and broader dealings with them.  However, no payments are allowed to be made to blocked entities–rather such payments can only be made to the blocked entities listed in General License 12 into blocked, interest-bearing accounts and reported to OFAC by June 18, 2018 (10 business days after the expiration of the license).[16]  It is not clear why a sanctioned party would wish to deliver goods and services to parties if the sanctioned party cannot be paid.  In line with the FAQ noted above, for non-U.S. companies it would seem that in order to avoid secondary sanctions implications the same restrictions would apply–that is, continued transactions are permitted on a wind down basis, but transfer of funds to the SDN companies could be viewed as “significant” or otherwise sanctionable. Recognizing how broad the sanctions are and how far they may implicate subsidiaries of SDN companies inside the United States, OFAC’s FAQs clarify that General License 12 generally permits the blocked entities listed to pay U.S. persons their salaries, pension payments, or other benefits due during the wind down period.  U.S. persons employed by entities that are not explicitly listed in General License 12—principally the designated Russian state-owned entities—do not have the benefit of this wind down period.  OFAC FAQs note that such U.S. persons may seek authorization from OFAC to maintain or wind down their relationships with any such blocked entity, but make clear that continued employment or board membership related to these entities is prohibited.[17]  The implications of these restrictions are significant where, as is the case with the blocked entities listed in General License 12, U.S. subsidiaries exist and U.S. persons are involved throughout company operations. General License 13, which expires May 7, 2018, similarly allows transactions and activities otherwise prohibited under the April 6 sanctions.  This license allows transactions and activities necessary to “divest or transfer debt, equity, or other holdings” in three designated Russia entities:  EN+ Group PLC, GAZ Group, and United Company RUSAL PLC.  Permitted transactions include facilitating, clearing, and settling transactions.  General License 13, however, does not permit any divestment or transfer to a blocked person, including the three entities listed in General License 13.[18]  As with General License 12, transactions permitted under General License 13 must be reported to OFAC within 10 business days after the expiration of the license. Once again, it is uncertain how the General License will work in practice.  Given the designations which have depressed the share prices of the sanctions parties it is unknown who might be willing to purchase the shares even if U.S. holders are permitted to sell them. Other Ramifications for Investors, Supply Chains, and Customers The April 6 sanctions raise other significant questions and practical challenges for U.S. and non-U.S. companies, with particular risks for investors as well as the manufacturers, suppliers, and customers of the SDN companies. Investors and fund managers will need to conduct significant diligence into the participants and ownership structures of their funds, including fund limited partners, to determine whether sanctioned persons or entities are involved.  Moreover, for those who have seen the value of any assets tied to these companies decline significantly, they are allowed to continue to try sell their assets to non-U.S. persons.  However, given the challenge in finding buyers and evidence that certain financial institutions and brokers are already refusing to engage in any trades (even during the wind down period), the investment community needs to potentially prepare for long-term holding of blocked assets (by setting up sequestered accounts). For those within the supply chains of sanctioned companies, from suppliers of commodities to finished goods, as well as customers of sanctioned companies, the concern will be to potentially replace key commercial relationships which will become increasingly difficult (if not prohibited) to maintain.  For companies that have relied on RUSAL, for example, as a source of aluminum or as a customer for their goods they will potentially need to find replacements.  While aluminum is not in short supply globally, in certain jurisdictions RUSAL has a commanding position and even a monopoly.  It is unclear how companies that seek to be compliant with OFAC regulations will navigate a world in which RUSAL has been a primary or secondary supplier (and there is no clear way to avoid such engagement so long as the company seeks to be active in that jurisdiction and in need of aluminum).  Moreover, it is not just U.S. person counterparties that are likely to be affected by prohibitions on dealing with sanctioned parties.  In line with the FAQ noted above, if non-U.S. companies were to make payments to the sanctioned companies for deliveries, these could be deemed “significant transactions” and could make the non-U.S. companies, themselves, the target of OFAC designations and/or secondary sanctions.  One option—reportedly pursued by one major trading company—is to declare force majeure on contracts with Rusal. As noted above, relief contemplated by General Licenses 12 and 13 may be operationally difficult to implement.  The sanctions apply to companies 50 percent owned or controlled by blocked parties.  Companies will need to undertake, under a short time line, significant due diligence to determine whether any such companies are involved in its operations.  The wind down process may be further complicated by any Russian response to the U.S. sanctions. What Happens Next? The April 6 sanctions are likely not the end of the story.  The next steps to watch include: 1.)    Potential Russian Retaliation:  During an address to the State Duma on April 11, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, for example, that Russia should consider targeting U.S. goods or goods produced in Russia by U.S. companies when considering a possible response.[19]  Any such measures could implicate further U.S. business dealings with Russian entities, including the blocked entities. 2.)    Changing Ownership and Structure of Sanctioned Parties:  Given that the sanctioned companies were listed due to their ownership/control by sanctioned persons (pursuant to the 50 percent rule) there have already been moves to dilute their ownership and thus potentially have the companies de-listed.  While possible, it is important to note that because the companies were explicitly listed by OFAC (and now appear on the SDN list), any reduction in ownership or control will not result in an automatic de-listing.  Rather, OFAC will need to process these changes and formally de-list the entities before they can be treated as non-sanctioned.  OFAC could opt not to de-list, or could decide to list the companies on other bases.  Regardless the process will undoubtedly take some time.  We note that at least one engineering firm whose stock was held by a designated entity has already obtained a license to complete the transfer of these shares; this is helpful precedent for any company impacted but only tangentially related to the designated entities.  Sanctioned entities have also changed their board membership in response to the U.S. sanctions.  On Monday, April 11, for example, the entire board at Renova Management AG, the Swiss subsidiary of the Renova Group, was dismissed after Renova Group’s designation.[20] 3.)    European Follow On Restrictions:  The shock of many of Europe’s major powers following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in early March and the resulting mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from European capitals suggests that sanctions may be next.  Core European U.S. allies were likely notified in advance of the April 6 measures.  In the run up to sanctions in 2014, Washington and Brussels worked very closely to institute parallel measures against Moscow.  While that unity has broken down under the Trump administration, especially since CAATSA was passed in August, it would appear as though some European sanctions are liking in the offing. 4.)    OFAC FAQs/Licenses and Potentially New Measures:  Due to the complexity of the April 6 measures, we expect that OFAC will issue additional FAQs and potentially revisions to General Licenses 12 and 13 (or new General Licenses) in the near term to clear up questions and further calibrate response.  Depending upon next steps from Russia and Europe we may see additional sanctions as well.  Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo’s statement that the United States “soft” policy toward Russia is over suggests as much.[21] Unfortunately, there is no clear path towards a de-escalation in Washington-Moscow tensions.  When the U.S. first issued sanctions against Russia in response to the Crimea incursion in 2014 the sanctions “off-ramp” was very clearly defined: if Russia altered its behavior in Crimea/Ukraine there was a way that sanctions could be removed.  Since 2014, as Secretary Mnuchin noted, Russia’s activities have exacerbated in scope and territory to include support for the Bashar regime in Syria, election meddling, cyber-attacks, and the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom.  The breadth and boldness of this activity makes it even more unlikely that Russia will comply with the West’s wishes and thus even less likely that the sanctions would be removed or even reduced at any point in the near term.  For its part, bipartisan Congressional leadership expressed broad support for the Trump administration’s actions—however, Congress will likely demand more from the President in the near term.  Perhaps eager to placate Congress and dispel any notion that he is “soft” on Russia and buffeted by external circumstances ranging from any potential attack in Syria to the investigation by Robert Mueller, the President may impose still harsher measures on Moscow. [1]      Press Release, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Treasury Designates Russian Oligarchs, Officials, and Entities in Response to Worldwide Malign Activity (Apr. 6, 2018), available at https://home.treasury.gov/news/featured-stories/treasury-designates-russian-oligarchs-officials-and-entities-in-response-to. [2]      Natasha Turak, US sanctions are finally proving a ‘major game changer’ for Russia, CNBC, (Apr. 10, 2018) available at https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/10/us-moscow-sanctions-finally-proving-a-major-game-changer-for-russia.html. [3]      Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, Treasury Designates Individuals and Entities Involved in the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine (June 20, 2017), available at https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0114.aspx.  Designated persons and entities included separatists and their supporters; entities operating in and connected to the Russian annexation of Crimea; entities owned or controlled by, or which have provided support to, persons operating in the Russian arms or materiel sector; and Russian government officials. [4]      U.S. Department of the Treasury, supra, n. 1. [5]      Id. [6]      CAATSA, Title II, § 231 (a). Specifically, CAATSA Section 231(a) specified that the President shall impose five or more of the secondary sanctions described in Section 235 with respect to a person the President determines knowingly “engages in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation, including the Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation or the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.”  The measures that could be imposed under Section 231 are discretionary in nature.  The language of the legislation is somewhat misleading in this regard.  Section 231 is written as a mandatory requirement—providing that the President “shall impose” various restrictions.  However, the legislation itself—and the October 27, 2017 guidance provided by the State Department—makes clear that secondary sanctions are only imposed after the President makes a determination that a party “knowingly” engaged in “significant” transactions with a listed party.  The terms “knowingly” and “significant” have imprecise meanings, even under the State Department guidance.  OFAC Ukraine-/Russia-related Sanctions FAQs (“OFAC FAQs”), OFAQ No. 545, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_other.aspx#567. [7]      Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of State, Background Briefing on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) Section 231 (Jan. 30, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/01/277775.htm. [8]      CAATSA, Title II, § 241. [9]      See U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 241 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 Regarding Senior Foreign Political Figures and Oligarchs in the Russian Federation and Russian Parastatal Entities (Unclassified) (Jan. 29, 2018), available at https://www.scribd.com/document/370313106/2018-01-29-Treasury-Caatsa-241-Final. [10]     See, e.g., Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, Treasury Releases CAATSA Reports, Including on Senior Foreign Political Figures and Oligarchs in the Russian Federation (Jan. 29, 2018), available at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0271. [11]     The one exception is Igor Rotenberg.  Although Igor Rotenberg did not appear on the Section 241 List, his father and uncle were included.  According to the April 6 OFAC announcement, Igor Rotenberg acquired significant assets from his father, Arkady Rotenberg, after OFAC designated the latter in March 2014.  Specifically Arkady Rotenberg sold Igor Rotenberg 79 percent of the Russian oil and gas drilling company Gazprom Burenie.  Igor Rotenberg’s uncle, Boris Rotenberg, owns 16 percent of the company.  Like his brother Arkady Rotenberg, Boris Rotenberg was designated in March 2014. [12]     OFAC FAQ No. 573. [13]     CAATSA, Title II, §228. [14]     OFAC FAQ No. 546.  In its implementing guidance, OFAC confirmed that Section 228 extends to SDNs and SSI entities but clarified that it would not deem a transaction “significant” if U.S. persons could engage in the transaction without the need for a specific license from OFAC.  In other words, only transactions prohibited by OFAC—specifically, transactions with SDNs and/or transactions with SSI entities that are prohibited by the sectoral sanctions—will “count” as significant for purposes of Section 228.  OFAC also noted that even a transaction with an SSI that involves prohibited debt or equity would not automatically be deemed “significant”—it would need to also involve “deceptive practices” and OFAC would assess this criteria on a “totality of the circumstances” basis. [15]     OFAC FAQ No. 574. [16]     General License 12; OFAC FAQ No. 569. [17]     See also OFAC FAQ Nos. 567-568. [18]     See also OFAC FAQ Nos. 570-571. [19]     Russia’s Renova says board at its Swiss subsidiary dismissed due to sanctions, Reuters (Apr. 11, 2018), available at https://uk.reuters.com/article/usa-russia-sanctions-renova/russias-renova-says-board-at-its-swiss-subsidiary-dismissed-due-to-sanctions-idUKR4N1NE02P. [20]     Russia ready to prop Up Deripaska’s Rusal as US sanctions bite, Financial Times (Apr. 11, 2018), available at https://www.ft.com/content/4904f6d4-3d97-11e8-b7e0-52972418fec4. [21]     Patricia Zengerle, Lesley Wroughton, As Pompeo signals hard Russia line, lawmakers want him to stand on his own, Reuters (Apr. 12, 2018), available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-pompeo/as-pompeo-signals-hard-russia-line-lawmakers-want-him-to-stand-on-his-own-idUSKBN1HJ0HO. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Adam Smith, Judith Alison Lee, Christopher Timura, Stephanie Connor, and Courtney Brown. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  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 International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. Chung – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3729, dchung@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Kamola Kobildjanova – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5291, kkobildjanova@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Mark Handley – London (+44 (0)207 071 4277, mhandley@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Richard Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@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.

April 5, 2018 |
M&A Report – AOL and Aruba Networks Continue Trend of Delaware Courts Deferring to Deal Price in Appraisal Actions

Click for PDF Two recent decisions confirm that, in the wake of the Delaware Supreme Court’s landmark decisions in Dell and DFC, Delaware courts are taking an increasingly skeptical view of claims in appraisal actions that the “fair value” of a company’s shares exceeds the deal price.[1] However, as demonstrated by each of these recent Delaware Court of Chancery decisions—In re Appraisal of AOL Inc. and Verition Partners Master Fund Limited v. Aruba Networks, Inc.—several key issues are continuing to evolve in the Delaware courts.[2] In particular, Delaware courts are refining the criteria in appraisal actions for determining whether a transaction was “Dell-compliant.” If so, then the court will likely look to market-based indicators of fair value, though which such indicator (unaffected share price or deal price) is the best evidence of fair value remains unresolved. If not, the court will likely conduct a valuation based on discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis or an alternative method to determine fair value. The development of these issues will help determine whether M&A appraisal litigation will continue to decline in frequency and will be critical for deal practitioners.[3] DFC and “Dell-Compliant” Transactions In DFC, the Delaware Supreme Court endorsed deal price as the “best evidence of fair value” in an arm’s-length merger resulting from a robust sale process. The Court held that, in determining fair value in such transactions, the lower court must “explain” any departure from deal price based on “economic facts,” and must justify its selection of alternative valuation methodologies and its weighting of those methodologies, setting forth whether such methodologies are grounded in market-based indicators (such as unaffected share price or deal price) or in other forms of analysis (such as DCF, comparable companies analysis or comparable transactions analysis). In Dell, the Court again focused on the factual contexts in which market-based indicators of fair value should be accorded greater weight. In particular, the Court found that if the target has certain attributes—for example, “many stockholders; no controlling stockholder; highly active trading; and if information is widely available and easily disseminated to the market”—and if the target was sold in an arm’s-length transaction, then the “deal price has heavy, if not overriding, probative value.” Aruba Networks and AOL: Marking the Boundaries for “Dell-Compliant” Transactions In Aruba Networks, the Delaware Court of Chancery concluded that an efficient market existed for the target’s stock, in light of the presence of a large number of stockholders, the absence of a controlling stockholder, the deep trading volume for the target’s stock and the broad dissemination of information about the target to the market. In addition, the court found that the target’s sale process had been robust, noting that the transaction was an arm’s-length merger that did not involve a controller squeeze-out or management buyout, the target’s board was disinterested and independent, and the deal protection provisions in the merger agreement were not impermissibly restrictive. On this basis, the Court determined that the transaction was “Dell-compliant” and, as a result, market-based indicators would provide the best evidence of fair value. The Court found that both the deal price and the unaffected stock price provided probative evidence of fair value, but in light of the significant quantum of synergies that the parties expected the transaction to generate, the Court elected to rely upon the unaffected stock price, which reflected “the collective judgment of the many based on all the publicly available information . . . and the value of its shares.” The Court observed that using the deal price and subtracting synergies, which may not be counted towards fair value under the appraisal statute,[4] would necessarily involve judgment and introduce a likelihood of error in the Court’s computation. By contrast, AOL involved facts much closer to falling under the rubric of a “Dell-compliant” transaction, but the Court nonetheless determined that the transaction was not “Dell-compliant.” At the time of the transaction, the target was well-known to be “likely in play” and had communicated with many potential bidders, no major conflicts of interest were present and the merger agreement did not include a prohibitively large breakup fee. Nonetheless, the Court focused on several facts that pointed to structural defects in the sale process, including that the merger agreement contained a no-shop period with unlimited three-day matching rights for the buyer and that the target failed to conduct a robust auction once the winning bidder emerged. In addition, and importantly, the Court took issue with certain public comments of the target’s chief executive officer indicating a high degree of commitment to the deal after it had been announced, which the Court took to signal “to potential market participants that the deal was done, and that they need not bother making an offer.” On this basis, the Court declined to ascribe any weight to the deal price and instead conducted a DCF analysis, from which it arrived at a fair value below the deal price. It attributed this gap to the inclusion of synergies in the deal price that are properly excluded from fair value. Parenthetically, the Court did take note of the fact that its computation of fair value was close to the deal price, which offered a “check on fair value analysis,” even if it did not factor into the Court’s computation. Key Takeaways Aruba Networks and AOL provide useful guidelines to M&A practitioners seeking to manage appraisal risk, while also leaving several open questions with which the Delaware courts will continue to grapple: Whether market-based indicators of fair value will receive deference from the Delaware courts (and, correspondingly, diminish the incentives for would-be appraisal arbitrageurs) depends upon whether the sale process could be considered “Dell-compliant.” This includes an assessment of both the robustness of the sale process, on which M&A practitioners seeking to manage appraisal risk would be well-advised to focus early, and the efficiency of the trading market for the target’s stock, to which litigators in appraisal actions should pay close attention. For those transactions found to be “Dell-compliant,” the best evidence of fair value will be a market-based indicator of the target’s stock. Whether such evidence will be the deal price, the unaffected stock price or a different measure remains an open question dependent upon the facts of the particular case. However, for those transactions in which synergies are anticipated by the parties to be a material driver of value, Aruba Networks suggests that the unaffected share price may be viewed as a measure of fair value that is less susceptible to errors or biases in judgment. For those transactions found not to be “Dell-compliant,” DCF analyses or other similar calculated valuation methodologies are more likely to be employed by courts to determine fair value. As AOL and other recent opinions indicate, however, there is no guarantee for stockholders that the result will yield a fair value in excess of the deal price—particularly given the statutory mandate to exclude expected synergies from the computation. [1] Dell, Inc. v. Magnetar Global Event Driven Master Fund Ltd., 177 A.3d 1 (Del. 2017); DFC Global Corp. v. Muirfield Value Partners, L.P., 172 A.3d 346 (Del. 2017). See our earlier discussion of Dell and DFC here. [2] In re Appraisal of AOL Inc., C.A. No. 11204-VCG, 2018 WL 1037450 (Del. Ch. Feb. 23, 2018); Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL, 2018 WL 922139 (Del. Ch. Feb. 15, 2018). [3] It is worth noting that, after DFC and Dell, the Delaware Supreme Court summarily affirmed the decision of the Court of Chancery in Merlin Partners, LP v. SWS Grp., Inc., No. 295, 2017, 2018 WL 1037477 (Table) (Del. Feb. 23, 2018), aff’g, In re Appraisal of SWS Grp., Inc., C.A. No. 10554-VCG, 2017 WL 2334852 (Del. Ch. May 30, 2017). The Court of Chancery decided SWS Group prior to the Delaware Supreme Court’s decisions in DFC and Dell. Nonetheless, it is clear that the court would have found the transaction at issue in SWS Group not to be “Dell-compliant,” as the transaction involved the sale of the target to a buyer that was also a lender to the target and so could exercise veto rights over any transaction. Indeed, no party to the SWS Group litigation argued that the deal price provided probative evidence of fair value. See our earlier discussion of the SWS Group decision by the Delaware Court of Chancery here. [4] See 8 Del. C. § 262(h) (“[T]he Court shall determine the fair value of the shares exclusive of any element of value arising from the accomplishment or expectation of the merger or consolidation . . . .”); see also Global GT LP v. Golden Telecom, Inc., 993 A.2d 497, 507 (Del. Ch.) (“The entity must be valued as a going concern based on its business plan at the time of the merger, and any synergies or other value expected from the merger giving rise to the appraisal proceeding itself must be disregarded.” (internal citations omitted)), aff’d, 11 A.3d 214 (Del. 2010). The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update:  Barbara Becker, Jeffrey Chapman, Stephen Glover, Eduardo Gallardo, Jonathan Layne, Joshua Lipshutz, Brian Lutz, Adam Offenhartz, Aric Wu, Meryl Young, Daniel Alterbaum, Colin Davis, and Mark Mixon. 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) Eduardo Gallardo – New York (+1 212-351-3847, egallardo@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan Corsico – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3652), jcorsico@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.

March 26, 2018 |
D.C. Circuit Holds That Witnesses in PCAOB Investigations Have the Right to a Technical Expert

Click for PDF On March 23, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a unanimous opinion vacating an SEC order upholding sanctions issued by the Public Accounting Oversight Board against petitioner Mark E. Laccetti. The court held that petitioner was deprived of his right to counsel because the Board denied his request that a technical expert be present while he gave investigative testimony to the Board.  The court therefore vacated the SEC’s order and directed the Commission to vacate the sanctions.[1] In 2007, the Board required petitioner, a partner with an accounting firm, to give investigative testimony in connection with an investigation into certain audits.  Petitioner requested a technical expert to aid counsel on the complex accounting issues that would be the subject of the Board’s questioning.  The Board denied that request out of a supposed concern over “internal monitoring,” because the expert petitioner had proposed was associated with the accounting firm under investigation.  The Board did so despite using its own technical experts to question petitioner and despite allowing attorneys associated with the accounting firm to attend the testimony. The Board ultimately instituted disciplinary proceedings against petitioner, and Gibson Dunn was brought in to represent him in his administrative trial before a Board hearing officer.  Gibson Dunn secured a favorable disposition of several of the claims against petitioner, which the Board’s Division of Enforcement appealed to the Board itself.  The Board ultimately issued sanctions against petitioner, which the SEC upheld on appeal. In his challenge to the SEC’s order in the D.C. Circuit, petitioner advanced several arguments, including that the Board’s denial of his request for a technical expert violated the right to counsel in Board investigative proceedings secured by Board Rule 5109.  The D.C. Circuit agreed for three independent reasons.  First, the court held that the Board’s stated “internal monitoring” rationale made “no sense” because it allowed other individuals from the accounting firm to attend petitioner’s investigative testimony.[2]  Second, the court held that the Board’s supposed rationale could not in any event support its refusal to allow petitioner to have any technical expert present.[3]  And third, the court held that, under Rule 5109, the Board “may not bar a witness from bringing an accounting expert who could assist the witness’s counsel during an investigative interview.”[4]  On this point, the court recognized that the Administrative Procedure Act’s right to counsel (which arguably applied in SEC proceedings, but not Board proceedings) required the assistance of a technical expert.[5]  In the court’s view, there was “no meaningful distinction between the right to counsel in the APA and the right to counsel in the Board’s rules.”[6]  Finally, the court rejected the Board’s argument that the error was harmless—the agency admitted that its decision to institute proceedings may have been based on the tainted investigative testimony.[7] The D.C. Circuit’s opinion is significant because it makes clears that, under the Board’s rules, the right to counsel in investigative proceedings includes the assistance of a technical expert.  In this regard, the opinion reaffirms that the subjects of Board proceedings enjoy a right essential to procedural fairness and due process, and brings the Board’s procedures in line with those governing similar administrative proceedings under the APA.    [1]   Laccetti v. SEC, No. 16-1368, slip op. 9 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 23, 2018).    [2]   Id. at 4.    [3]   Id. at 5.    [4]   Id. at 7.    [5]   SEC v. Whitman, 613 F. Supp. 48 (D.D.C. 1985).    [6]   Slip op. 7.    [7]   Id. at 8. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update: Michael Scanlon, Douglas Cox, Lawrence Zweifach, Rajiv Mohan and Darcy Harris. 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 members of the firm’s Securities Enforcement Group Douglas R. Cox – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3531, dcox@gibsondunn.com) Michael J. Scanlon – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3668, mscanlon@gibsondunn.com) Lawrence J. Zweifach – New York (+1 212-351-2625, lzweifach@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.

March 20, 2018 |
Supreme Court Holds States May Hear Securities Fraud Class Actions Under The 1933 Act

Click for PDF Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund, No. 15-1439 Decided March 20, 2018 Today, the Supreme Court held 9-0 that class actions alleging only federal claims under the Securities Act of 1933 may be heard in state court and, if brought in state court, cannot be removed to federal court. Background: Federal and state courts have traditionally shared jurisdiction over claims under the Securities Act of 1933. After the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) tightened standards for pleading and proving federal securities fraud class actions, plaintiffs began filing those claims in state court. In response, Congress enacted the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA), which requires certain “covered class actions” alleging state law securities claims to be heard and dismissed in federal court. 15 U.S.C. § 77p(c). But courts were split over whether covered class actions filed in state court that allege only claims under the 1933 Act also must be heard in federal court. In this case, investors in Cyan, Inc. filed a class action in California state court alleging only claims under the 1933 Act. The California courts refused to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Issues: (1) Whether state courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over class actions that allege only Securities Act of 1933 claims, and (2) Whether defendants in class actions filed in state court that allege only 1933 Act claims may remove the cases to federal court. “[W]e will not revise [Congress’s] legislative choice, by reading a conforming amendment and a definition in a most improbable way, in an effort to make the world of securities litigation more consistent or pure.” Justice Kagan,writing for the Court Court’s Holding: SLUSA does not deprive state courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over class actions raising only claims under the 1933 Act and does not authorize defendants to remove such actions to federal court. What It Means: SLUSA has often been the subject of statutory-interpretation disputes. But here, the unanimous Court held that SLUSA’s “clear statutory language” does not preclude state courts from adjudicating class actions involving 1933 Act claims. SLUSA’s class-action bar and federal-court-channeling provision apply only to state law claims. Under SLUSA, covered securities class actions based on the 1934 Act must proceed in federal court. 15 U.S.C. § 78aa. But as a result of the Court’s decision today, covered class actions based only on the 1933 Act may proceed in state court. Either way, the Court emphasized, the substantive protections of the PSLRA (such as the safe harbor for forward-looking statements) apply to all claims under both the 1933 and 1934 Acts. The United States argued that SLUSA permits defendants in class actions filed in state court that raise 1933 Act claims to remove those actions to federal court. The Court disagreed. In the wake of this ruling, businesses should expect to see more securities class actions alleging violations of the 1933 Act in state court, because plaintiffs will seek to take advantage of state courts that are perceived to be friendlier to their interests. This significant loophole may prompt Congress to enact new legislation, similar to SLUSA, to ensure that plaintiffs are required to bring securities class actions in federal court. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding developments at the Supreme Court.  Please feel free to contact the following practice leaders: Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Caitlin J. Halligan +1 212.351.3909 challigan@gibsondunn.com Mark A. Perry +1 202.887.3667 mperry@gibsondunn.com Nicole A. Saharsky +1 202.887.3669 nsaharsky@gibsondunn.com Related Practice: Securities Litigation Brian M. Lutz +1 415.393.8379 blutz@gibsondunn.com Robert F. Serio +1 212.351.3917 rserio@gibsondunn.com Meryl L. Young +1 949.451.4229 myoung@gibsondunn.com Related Practice: Class Actions Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. +1 213.229.7804 tboutrous@gibsondunn.com Christopher Chorba +1 213.229.7396 cchorba@gibsondunn.com Theane Evangelis +1 213.229.7726 tevangelis@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.

March 19, 2018 |
FERC Takes Aim at Income Tax Over Recovery in Pipelines’ Regulated Rates

Click for PDF Last week, on March 15, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a number of orders aimed at addressing potential over-recovery of income tax in pipelines’ regulated rates.  First, in the wake of a loss in the D.C. Circuit, FERC reversed course on its long-standing policy of allowing master limited partnerships (MLPs) to include an income-tax allowance in their cost-of-service rates.  Second, FERC announced various initiatives to address potential over-recovery of taxes through cost-of-service rates that may result from the reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.  Although the markets initially reacted quite negatively, the actual impact will not be immediate and will vary considerably from company to company. Indeed, many companies have already announced that the FERC orders will not have a material impact on their revenue. Reversal of Income Tax Policy for MLPs[1] In the wake of the unfavorable United Airlines v. FERC[2] decision, the FERC reversed its long-standing policy of allowing MLPs to include an income-tax allowance in their cost-of-service rates.  FERC issued a policy statement that found such an allowance results in an impermissible double-recovery of costs in combination with the discounted cash flow (DCF) methodology for calculating return on equity.  FERC concluded that because the DCF methodology used to calculate the return necessary to attract capital is done on a pre-tax basis, investors’ tax liability is already reflected in calculated return on equity.  Thus, FERC concluded that any allowance for income tax with respect to an MLP would result in double-recovery of those costs. A few important points to keep in mind regarding the impact of this policy change: This only impacts FERC cost-of-service rates: Oil Pipelines: For oil pipelines, market-based rates and settlement rates will be unaffected.  With respect to indexed rates, there is no automatic immediate impact.  FERC will, however, address this issue in the next reassessment of the index in 2020. Gas Pipelines:  For interstate gas pipelines negotiated rates, market-based rates, and settlement rates are not affected.  Discount rates could be impacted, but only to the extent recourse rates are reduced below the discount-rate level as a result of the implementation of this policy. The policy statement does not actually change any pipeline’s rates. Oil Pipelines:  For oil pipelines, it announces a new policy that the pipelines may no longer include an income tax allowance in their cost of service on the annual Form 6 reporting.  Once this cost-of-service data is made publically available, it certainly could lead to FERC or shippers filing a complaint pursuant to Section 13(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act to reduce rates.  In addition, FERC intends to address the impact of the tax reduction in the five year review of the oil pipeline index in 2020.  Thus, in theory, FERC could require a reduction in rates for any pipelines whose rates are set at the ceiling by setting a negative index at that time. Gas Pipelines:  For gas pipelines, FERC is proposing a one-time reporting requirement to obtain data about the impact of this policy and the reduction in the corporate tax rate on each pipeline’s cost of service as discussed in more detail below.  Again, once this cost-of-service data is made public, FERC or shippers could initiate a proceeding to reduce rates pursuant to Section 5 of the Natural Gas Act.  This result is not automatic, however. The policy statement did not decide whether other non-pass through entities (e.g., limited partnerships, LLCs, etc.) would also no longer be permitted to recover a tax allowance in their rates.  Instead, FERC deferred those issues to consideration in future rate proceedings, but made clear that the issue of double-recovery would need to be addressed in those instances.  FERC’s Order on Remand in the United Airlines case[3] seems to leave little room for FERC to reach a contrary finding or other pass-through entities, as FERC reasoned that “MLPs and similar pass-through entities do not incur income tax at the entity level” and therefore the ROE offered under the DCF methodology must be sufficient to cover the investor’s tax liability. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Federal Income Tax Rate Reductions for Gas Pipelines[4] FERC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks require natural gas pipelines to do a one-time informational filing of an “abbreviated cost and revenue study” to provide information to allow FERC to determine whether gas pipelines are over-recovering for taxes in light of the reduction in the corporate tax rate.  FERC proposed to use the same form that FERC has attached to its orders initiating Section 5 rate investigations in recent years for this informational filing.  FERC then proposes several options to address over-recoveries, including some intended to encourage pipelines to voluntarily reduce rates: Limited Section 4 Filings:  Although FERC typically does not allow pipelines to file a limited rate case to adjust individual components of rates, FERC proposed to allow pipelines to file a limited Section 4 rate case to reduce their rates by the percentage reduction in the cost of service from the decrease in the federal corporate income tax rate and the elimination of the income tax allowance for MLPs. File a Statement Explaining Why an Adjustment is Not Necessary:  If a pipeline’s reduction in cost of service from the tax cuts and elimination of income tax allowance are offset by increases in costs elsewhere or if the pipeline is overall not recovering its cost of service despite the tax decease, a pipeline can file a statement explaining why no decrease in rates is appropriate despite the income tax reduction. Commit to File a General Section 4 Rate Case (or an Uncontested Settlement):  In lieu of a limited Section 4 rate case, pipelines can commit to file a general Section 4 rate case and indicate an approximate time-frame for making such a filing.  FERC proposes that if a pipeline commits to make such a filing by December 31, 2018, FERC will not initiate a Section 5 investigation of the pipeline’s rates prior to that time. File the Information Required and Do Nothing Else:  FERC, in a somewhat disingenuous acknowledgement that it cannot legally force pipelines to file a Section 4 rate case, notes that a pipeline may simply file the required information with FERC, take no further action, and wait to see if FERC initiates a Section 5 investigation.  FERC proposes, however, to open a rate proceeding docket for each filing and issue a public notice inviting interventions and protests on the filing.  FERC will then decide whether to initiate a Section 5 proceeding based on the public comments and protests.  In sum, these procedures are strikingly similar to requiring a Section 4 rate filing. With respect to intrastate Hinshaw and Section 311 pipelines, FERC found that its existing policies are generally sufficient to address potential over-recovery resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  However, FERC does propose to require that if a pipeline adjusts its state-jurisdictional rates as a result of the Act, then the pipeline must file a new rate election within 30 days after the reduced intrastate rate becomes effective. Notice of Inquiry Regarding the Effect of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act[5] Finally, FERC opened an inquiry to solicit comments on the impacts of other aspects of tax reform on jurisdictional rates, such as the treatment of accumulated deferred income taxes and the new 100% bonus depreciation regime which applies to oil pipelines.  In this regard, FERC is particularly interested how to treat accumulated deferred income tax going forward in light of the reduction in future tax liability.  FERC is soliciting comments on various topics related to ADIT, including: How to ensure rate base continues to be treated in a manner similar to that prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act until excess and deficient ADIT is fully settled. Whether and how adjustments should be made so that rate base may be appropriately adjusted by excess and deficient ADIT. How tax allowance or expense in cost of service will be implemented to reflect the amortization of excess and deficient plant-based ADIT. FERC is also soliciting comments on the effect of the bonus depreciation change under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which increases the bonus depreciation allowance from 50% to 100% for qualified property placed into service after September 1, 2017 and before January 1, 2023. Comments are due 60 days after publication of the notice in Federal Register.    [1]   Revised Policy Statement on Treatment of Income Taxes, 162 FERC ¶ 61,227 (2018).    [2]   827 F.3d 122 (D.C. Cir. 2016).    [3]   SFPP, L.P., 162 FERC ¶ 61,228 at P 22 (2018).    [4]   Interstate and Intrastate Natural Gas Pipelines; Rate Changes Relating to Federal Income Tax Rate, 162 FERC ¶ 61,226 (2018).    [5]   Inquiry Regarding the Effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Commission Jurisdictional Rates, 162 FERC ¶ 61,223 (2018). Gibson Dunn’s Energy, Regulation and Litigation lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the developments discussed above.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or the following: William S. Scherman – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3510, wscherman@gibsondunn.com) Ruth M. Porter – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3666, rporter@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 333 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071 Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

March 16, 2018 |
Aerospace and Related Technologies – Key Developments in 2017 and Early 2018

Click for PDF This March 2018 edition of Gibson Dunn’s Aerospace and Related Technologies Update discusses newsworthy developments, trends, and key decisions from 2017 and early 2018 that are of interest to aerospace and defense, satellite, and drone companies; and new market entrants in the commercial space and related technology sectors, including the private equity and other financial institutions that support and enable their growth. Specifically, this update covers the following areas: (1) commercial unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”), or drones; (2) government contracts litigation involving companies in the aerospace and defense industry; (3) the commercial space sector; and (4) cybersecurity and privacy issues related to the national airspace.  We discuss each of these areas in turn below. I.    COMMERCIAL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS The commercial drone industry has continued to mature through advancements in technology, government relations, and public perception.  Commercial drones are being used for various sensory data collection, building inspections, utility inspections, agriculture monitoring and treatment, railway inspections, pipeline inspections, mapping of mines, and photography.  New drone applications are being created on a regular basis.  For example, the concept of flying drone taxis was validated in Dubai in September 2017 when an uncrewed two-seater drone successfully conducted its first test flight. Around a year and a half ago, United States regulations governing non-recreational drone operations were finalized.  Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has issued over 60,000 remote pilot certificates.  The FAA has and continues to make efforts to advance its technology, and it recently released a prototype application to provide operators with automatic approval of specific airspace authorizations.  The national beta test of this system will launch in 2018, and we will be sure to report back with the results. One of the biggest boons for the industry over the past 15 months was the positive public perception stemming from Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.  In the days following the disaster, drones worked in concert with government agencies to support search and rescue missions, inspect roads and railroads, and assess water plants, oil refineries, cell towers, and power lines.  Further, major insurance companies used drones to assess claims in a safer, faster, and more efficient manner.  The aftermath of this disaster demonstrated the value of drone technology and increasingly has driven a positive public perception of the industry.  Indeed, even aside from the disaster relief efforts, media sources continue to carry positive drone stories.  For example, in January 2018, Australian lifeguards were testing a drone with the ability to release an inflatable rescue pod; during its testing, the drone was called into action, and rescued two teenagers from drowning. The future is bright, but there are still many obstacles for the industry to overcome before it fully matures, such as clarity around low altitude airspace, privacy concerns, and the risk to people, property, and other aircraft. To get you caught up on 2017 and early 2018 drone developments, we have briefly summarized below: (A) highlights of drone litigation impacting airspace, including highlights from previous years for context; (B) drone registration; (C) privacy issues related to drones; (D) the United States government’s expanded use of drones; (E) drone countermeasures; (F) drone safety studies; and (G) the UAS airspace integration pilot program. A.    Litigation Highlights Regarding Airspace Huerta v. Haughwout, No. 3:16-cv-358, Dkt. No. 30 (D. Conn. Jul. 18, 2016) The latter half of 2016 featured an important decision regarding the FAA’s authority over low-level airspace.  The 2016 decision, Huerta v. Haughwout—also known as “the flamethrower drone case,” involved two YouTube videos posted by the Haughwouts.  One video featured a drone firing an attached handgun, while a second video showed a drone using an attached flamethrower to scorch a turkey.  After the videos were publicly uploaded, the FAA served the Haughwouts with an administrative subpoena to acquire further information about the activities featured in the videos.  The Haughwouts refused to comply with the FAA’s subpoenas, asserting that their activities were not subject to investigation by the FAA.  In response, the FAA sought enforcement of the subpoenas in the District of Connecticut.[1] Judge Jeffrey Meyer found the administrative subpoenas to be valid.  Most importantly, however, his order included dicta casting doubt on the FAA’s claim to control all airspace from the ground up:  “The FAA believes it has regulatory sovereignty over every inch of outdoor air in the United States…. [T]hat ambition may be difficult to reconcile with the terms of the FAA’s statute that refer to ‘navigable airspace.'”  While this dicta addressed the question of where the FAA’s authority begins, Judge Meyer also noted that “the case does not yet require an answer to that question.”[2]  Judge Meyer further stated: Congress surely understands that state and local authorities are (usually) well positioned to regulate what people do in their own backyards.  The Constitution creates a limited national government in recognition of the traditional police power of state and local government.  No clause in the Constitution vests the federal government with a general police power over all of the air or all objects that leave the ground.  Although the Commerce Clause allows for broad federal authority over interstate and foreign commerce, it is far from clear that Congress intends–or could constitutionally intend–to regulate all that is airborne on one’s own property and that poses no plausible threat to or substantial effect on air transport or interstate commerce in general.[3] 2017 featured the resolution of another lawsuit where the plaintiff attempted to extend the significance of Haughwout in an effort to get the courts to address the question of what “navigable airspace” means in the context of drones (see discussion of Singer v. City of Newton, infra). Boggs v. Merideth, No. 3:16-cv-00006 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 4, 2016) In Boggs v. Merideth—better known as “the Drone Slayer case”—a landowner shot down an operator’s drone with a shotgun in the Western District of Kentucky.[4]  The plaintiff flew his drone roughly 200 feet above the defendant’s property, causing the defendant—the self-anointed “Drone Slayer”—to claim the drone was trespassing and invading his privacy and shoot it down.  The plaintiff believed the airspace 200 feet above the ground was federal airspace and therefore the defendant could not claim the drone was trespassing. Following a state judge’s finding that the defendant acted “within his rights,” the drone operator filed a complaint in federal court for declaratory judgment to “define clearly the rights of aircraft operators and property owners.”[5]  The case had the potential to be a key decision on the scope of federal authority over the use of airspace.  Rather than claiming defense of property, however, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds.  The plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to rely on the decision in Huerta v. Haughwout for the proposition that all cases involving the regulation of drone flight should be resolved by federal courts.  The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument, noting that Haughwout only concerned the FAA’s ability to exercise subpoena power and enforce subpoenas in federal court.  In fact, the district court noted, the court in Haughwout “expressed serious skepticism as to whether all unmanned aircrafts are subject to FAA regulation.”[6]  In his March 2017 order, Senior District Court Judge Thomas B. Russell granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of federal jurisdiction, stating that the issue of whether or not the drone was in protected airspace only arises on the presumption that the defendant would raise the defense that he was defending his property.[7]  Consequently, there was no federal question jurisdiction and the case was thrown out without ever reaching its merits. While the answer to what exactly constitutes “navigable airspace” in the drone context remained unanswered in 2017, the year did mark the beginning of federal courts addressing the overlap between conflicting state, local, and federal drone laws. Singer v. City of Newton No. 1:17-cv-10071 (D. Mass. Jan. 17, 2017) On September 21, 2017, a federal judge in the District of Massachusetts held that portions of the City of Newton, Massachusetts’s (“Newton”) ordinance attempting to regulate unmanned aircraft operations within the city were invalid.[8] The case, Singer v. City of Newton, marks the first time a federal court has struck down a local ordinance attempting to regulate drones.  The court held the following four city ordinance provisions to be unenforceable: (1) a requirement that all owners register their drones with the city; (2) a ban on all drone operations under 400 feet that are over private property unless done with express permission of the property owner; (3) a ban on all drone operations over public property, regardless of altitude, unless done with the express permission of the city; and (4) a requirement that no drone be operated beyond the visual line of sight of its operator.[9] All four of these provisions of the Newton ordinance were found to be preempted by federal regulations promulgated by the FAA. In the course of holding that the four sections of Newton’s ordinance were each preempted, the court identified the congressional objectives each section inhibited.  One relevant congressional objective is to make the FAA the exclusive regulatory authority for registration of drones.  The Newton ordinance required the registration of drones with the City of Newton, which impeded Congress’s objective; thus, the court found that section to be preempted.[10] The court also identified a congressional objective for the FAA to develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of drones into the national airspace system.  The two sections of the Newton ordinance requiring prior permission to fly above both public and private property within the city effectively eliminated any drone activity without prior permission; thus those sections were held to interfere with the federal objective and were invalidated.[11] Lastly, the court found that the Newton ordinance’s provision barring drone usage beyond the visual line of sight of the operator conflicted with a less restrictive FAA rule allowing such usage if a waiver is obtained or if a separate visual observer can see the drone throughout its flight and assist the operator.[12] The Singer ruling marked the long-anticipated beginning of federal courts addressing overlapping state, local, and federal drone laws.  While the ruling is significant for invalidating sections of a local ordinance and thus establishing a framework that federal courts may follow to invalidate state and local drone laws elsewhere, it is important not to overstate the case’s current significance.  The court in Singer declined to hold that law relating to airspace was expressly preempted or field preempted, but rather decided it was conflict preempted.  Consequently, the case does not provide support for the assertion that all state and local drone laws related to airspace will be preempted by FAA regulations.  Further, the court did not opine on the lower limits of the National Airspace and whether it goes to the ground, an issue likely to come up in future litigation. The unchallenged portions of the Newton ordinance still stand, and the closing lines in the opinion recognize that Newton is free to redraft the invalidated portions to avoid direct conflict with FAA regulations.  Thus it remains possible, even in the District of Massachusetts, for federal law to coexist with state and local laws in this field.  In order to successfully avoid invalidation in the courts, however, state and local lawmakers must draft legislation that allows for compliance with federal regulations, and which does not interfere with any federal objectives. The year 2017 left much to still be determined by the courts.  While Newton demonstrated that preemption concerns do and will continue to exist, the case did not address the boundary of the National Airspace.  Haughwout did address the boundary—though only through dicta—and suggested that, when the issue is decided, the boundary will likely not extend to the ground.  Thus, as was the case at the start of 2017, where the boundary will be drawn remains to be seen. B.    Drone Registration: From Mandatory to Optional and Back to Mandatory In December 2015, days before tens of thousands of drones were gifted for the holidays, the FAA adopted rules requiring the registration of drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds prior to operation.  This registration requirement only impacted recreational users, as commercial users are required to register under Part 107.  This rule was challenged in Taylor v. Huerta, and on May 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the rule.[13]  The FAA instituted a program to issue refunds, and recreational pilots enjoyed the freedom of flying unregistered drones for the next seven months. The Circuit Court struck down the rule because the FAA lacked statutory authority to issue such a rule for recreational pilots.  Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 states that the “Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.”[14]  The Court held that the FAA’s registration rule “directly violates that clear statutory prohibition” and vacated the rule to the extent it applied to model aircraft.[15]  The FAA responded by offering $5 registration fee refunds and the option to have one’s information removed from the federal database, but encouraging recreational operators to voluntarily register their drones. However, in a turn of events, on December 12, 2017, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, which included a provision reinstating the rule: Restoration Of Rules For Registration And Marking Of Unmanned Aircraft.—The rules adopted by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in the matter of registration and marking requirements for small unmanned aircraft (FAA-2015-7396; published on December 16, 2015) that were vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Taylor v. Huerta (No. 15-1495; decided on May 19, 2017) shall be restored to effect on the date of enactment of this Act.[16] As a result of the Act, both recreational and commercial pilots are now required to register their drones, and one can do so on the FAA’s website. C.    UAS and Privacy 1.    Voluntary Best Practices Remain Intact A 2015 Presidential Memorandum issued by then President Obama ordered the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) of the U.S. Department of Commerce to create a private-sector engagement process to help develop voluntary best practices for privacy and transparency issues regarding commercial and private drone use.[17]  Since Part 107 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“Part 107”)[18] does not address privacy, privacy advocates hoped that the NTIA would force the FAA to promulgate privacy regulations.[19]  Prior attempts to petition the FAA to consider privacy concerns in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) for Part 107 were unsuccessful.[20] The NTIA issued its voluntary best privacy practices for drones on May 19, 2016.[21]  While the final best practices found support from some privacy organizations and most of the commercial drone industry, other privacy groups raised concerns that the best practices neither established nor encouraged binding legal standards.[22]  Nonetheless, the best practices offer useful guidelines for companies testing and/or actively conducting drone operations. 2.    Litigation Regarding the FAA’s Role in Addressing Privacy As we discussed in an earlier update, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) challenged the FAA’s decision to exclude privacy regulations from Part 107 in an August 2016 petition for review.[23]  In 2012, EPIC petitioned the FAA to promulgate privacy regulations applicable to drone use, which the FAA denied in February 2014.[24]  EPIC argued that the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the FAA to consider privacy issues in its NPRM.[25]  The FAA argued that while the Act directed the FAA to develop a comprehensive plan to safely integrate drones into the national airspace system, privacy considerations went “beyond the scope” of that plan.[26]  The D.C. Circuit dismissed EPIC’s petition for review on two grounds.[27]  First, the Court deemed EPIC’s petition for review “time-barred” because EPIC filed 65 days past the time allotted under 49 U.S.C. § 46110(a).[28]  Second, the Court held that the FAA’s “conclusion that privacy is beyond the scope of the NPRM” was not a final agency determination subject to judicial review.[29] After the rule became final, EPIC filed a new petition for review asking the court to vacate Part 107 and remand it to the FAA for further proceedings.[30]  Consolidated with a related case, Taylor v. FAA, No. 16-1302 (D.C. Cir. filed August 29, 2016), EPIC argues that the FAA violated the Act by: (1) refusing to consider “privacy hazards,” and (2) refusing to “conduct comprehensive drone rulemaking,” which necessarily includes issues related to privacy.[31]  The FAA argues: (1) EPIC lacks standing, (2) the FAA reasonably decided not to address privacy concerns, and (3) even if EPIC has standing, Section 333 of the Act does not require the FAA to promulgate privacy regulations.[32]  Judge Merrick Garland, Judge David Sentelle, and Judge A. Raymond Randolph heard oral arguments in the consolidated cases on January 25, 2018.[33]  All eyes thus remain on the D.C. Circuit to determine whether the FAA must issue regulations covering privacy concerns raised by increased drone use. D.    The United States Government Expands Its Use of Drones Four years after the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) issued its 25-year “vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation, and sustainment of unmanned [aircraft] systems technology,”[34] the drone defense industry continues to experience rapid growth.  A recent market report estimated that commercial and government drone sales will surpass $12 billion by 2021.[35]  However, that estimate is likely conservative when considering that the DoD allocated almost $5.7 billion to drone acquisition and research in 2017 alone.[36]  Likewise, the DoD allocates almost $7 billion to drone technology in its 2018 fiscal year Defense Budget.[37]  Additionally, Goldman Sachs forecasted a $70 billion market opportunity for military drones by 2020.[38]  According to Goldman Sachs: “Current drone technology has already surpassed manned aircraft in endurance, range, safety and cost efficiency — but research and development is far from over.  The next generation of drones will widen the gap between manned and unmanned flight even further, adding greater stealth, sensory, payload, range, autonomous, and communications capabilities.”[39]  It should thus come as no surprise that organizations developing defense-specific drones will expect increased demand for complete systems and parts in the coming years. 1.    United States Government’s Domestic Use Drones The U.S. government mostly acquires drones for overseas military operations, a trend dating back to the deployment of the Predator drone in post-9/11 conflict territories.[40]  Domestic use of DoD-owned drones remains subject to strict governmental approval, and armed drones are prohibited on U.S. soil.[41]  In February 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued Policy Memorandum 15-002 entitled “Guidance for the Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”[42]  Under the policy, the Secretary of Defense must approve all domestic use of DoD-owned UAVs, with one exception—domestic search and rescue missions overseen by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.[43]  However, DoD personnel may use drones to surveil U.S. persons where permitted by law and where approved by the Secretary.[44]  The policy expired on February 17, 2018,[45] and it remains to be seen how the Trump administration will handle domestic use of DoD-owned drones and the integration of UAVs into day-to-day civilian operations. E.    Drone Countermeasures In response to the rapid growth of militarized consumer drones, particularly in ISIS-controlled territories,[48] 2017 saw an increased offering of anti-drone technologies in the U.S.[49]  In April 2017, the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipment Force purchased 50 of Radio Hill Technologies’ “Dronebuster” radar guns.[50]  The Dronebuster uses radio frequency technology to interrupt the control of drones by effectively jamming the control frequency or the GPS signal.[51]  The end-user can overwhelm the drone and deprive its operator of control or cause the drone to “fall out of the sky.”[52]  Handheld radar-type guns like the Dronebuster weigh about five pounds and cost an average of $30,000.[53]  The U.S. military also experimented with the Mobile High-Energy Laser-equipped Stryker vehicle.[54]  Similar to the Dronebuster, the 5 to 10kW laser overwhelms target drones’ control systems with high bursts of energy.[55]  It can shoot down drones 600 meters away, all without making a sound.[56] F.    Drone Safety Studies Making UAS operations commonplace in urban airspace will be a big step in the technological and economic advancement of the U.S.; however, there are obstacles to overcome in ensuring the safe operation of drones in urban areas.  On April 28, 2017, the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (“ASSURE”) released the results of a study that explored the severity of a UAS collision with people and property on the ground.[57]  First, ASSURE determined the most likely impact scenarios by reviewing various operating environments for UAS and determining their likely exposure to people and other manned aircraft.[58]  Then the team conducted crash tests and analyzed crash dynamics by measuring kinetic energy transfer.[59]  The results revealed that earlier measurements of the danger of collision grossly overestimate the risk of injury from a drone.[60]  ASSURE concluded that the DJI Phantom 3 drone has a 0.03% chance of causing a head injury if it falls on a person’s head.[61]  This is a very low probability considering blocks of steel or wood of the same weight have a 99% risk of causing a head injury in the same scenario.[62]  The disparity in probability of head injury is largely due to the fact that the DJI Phantom 3 drone absorbs most of the energy resulting from a collision, and therefore less energy is transferred on impact from the drone than from a block of steel or wood in the same collision.[63] In fact there are numerous steps that drone designers and manufacturers can take to reduce the likelihood of injury in the event of a collision.[64]  Projectile mass and velocity, as well as stiffness of the UAS, are the primary drivers of impact damage.[65]  As such, multi-rotor drones tend to be safer because they fall more slowly due to the drag of the rotors as the drones fall through the air.[66]  The study made clear that blade guards should be a design requirement for drones used in close proximity to people in order to minimize the lacerations that can result from a collision.[67]  Moreover, ASSURE found that the more flexible the structure of the drone, the more energy the drone retains during impact, causing less harm to the impacted object of the collision.[68] Regarding crashes with other manned aircraft, however, the study revealed that the impact of a drone can be much more severe than the impact of a bird of equivalent size and speed.[69]  As such, the structural components of a commercial aircraft that allows it to withstand bird strikes from birds up to eight pounds are not an appropriate guideline for preventing damage from a UAS strike.[70]  The study also examined the dangers associated with lithium batteries, which are used to power most drones, in collisions.[71]  The major concern is the risk of a battery fire.[72]  The study found that typical high-speed impacts cause complete destruction of the battery, eliminating any concerns about battery fires.[73]  However, the lower impact crashes, which are mainly associated with take-off and landing, left parts of the battery intact, posing a risk of battery fire.[74] While the ASSURE study is the first of its kind, it certainly marks the need for more studies that analyze the practical aspects of collisions and how to reduce risk to minimize harm.  The hazards associated with commonplace drone operation are many.[75]  Analysis of the physical impact of a collision is one aspect of minimizing UAS risks.  There is still much work to be done in order to minimize other collateral risks, such as the risk of technology failures, which range from UAS platform failures, to failures of hardware or communication links controlling the UAS.[76]  Environmental hazards, such as the effect of rain, lightning, and other types of weather remains to be studied.[77]  Ways to safeguard against human error or intentional interference is another aspect of UAS safety that has yet to be studied in detail.[78]  Data link spoofing, jamming, or hijacking poses significant safety hazards, particularly as incidents of data breaches become more and more common.[79]  Before the integration of UAS into national airspace can be fully implemented, industry stakeholders must collaborate to conduct studies that will help inform legislators about what kind of technological requirements and operational regulations are necessary. G.    UAS Airspace Integration Pilot Program In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) announced that it was launching the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.[80]  The program, which was established in response to a presidential directive, is meant to accelerate the integration of UAS into the national airspace through the creation of public-private partnerships between UAS operators, governmental entities, and other private stakeholders.[81]  The program is designed to establish greater regulatory certainty and stability regarding drone use.[82]  After reviewing the applications, DOT will select a minimum of five partnerships with the goal of collaborating with the selected industry stakeholder in order to evaluate certain advanced UAS operational concepts, such as night operations, flights beyond the pilot’s line of sight, detect-and-avoid technologies, flights over people, counter-UAS security operations, package delivery, the integrity and dependability of data links between pilot and aircraft, and cooperation between local authorities and the FAA in overseeing UAS operations.[83] One such application was made by the City of Palo Alto, in partnership with the Stanford Blood Center, Stanford hospital, and Matternet, a private drone company.[84]  The City of Palo Alto has proposed the use of drones to deliver units of blood from the Stanford Blood Center to Stanford hospital, which would involve establishing an approved flight path for drones to transfer the units of blood in urgent situations.[85]  Matternet has already tested its drones’ capacity for transporting blood and other medical samples in Switzerland.[86]  A second project proposed by the City of Palo Alto involves the use of drones in order to monitor the perimeter of the Palo Alto Airport.[87]  This project involves a partnership between the city and a company called Multirotor, a German drone company that has experience working with the German army and the Berlin Police Department to integrate UAS as tools for law enforcement activities.[88] The creation of the pilot program has given stakeholders the sense that the current administration is supportive of integrating drones into the national airspace.  The support of the government has created the potential for unprecedented growth in an industry that could bring lucrative returns to its stakeholders.  The DOT has already received over 2,800 interested party applications.[89]  The majority of these applications have come from commercial drone companies, as well as various other stakeholders including energy companies, law enforcement agencies, and insurance providers.[90]  The UAS Pilot Program is to last for three years.[91]  The projected economic benefit of integrated UAS is estimated to equal $82 billion, creating up to 100,000 jobs.[92]  Industries that could see immediate returns from the program include precision agriculture, infrastructure inspection and monitoring, photography, commerce, and crisis management.[93]  The advent of established, government-sanctioned rules for the operation of UAS will motivate industry stakeholders both in the public and private sectors to push forward with new and innovative ways to use drones. II.    GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS LITIGATION IN THE AEROSPACE AND DEFENSE INDUSTRY Gibson Dunn’s 2017 Year-End Government Contracts Litigation Update and 2017 Mid-Year Government Contracts Litigation Update cover the waterfront of the most important opinions 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 among other tribunals.  We invite you to review those publications for a full report on case law developments in the government contracts arena. In this update, we (A) summarize key court decisions related to government contracting from 2017 that involve players in the aerospace and defense industry.  The cases discussed herein, and in the Government Contracts Litigation Updates referenced above, address a wide range of issues with which government contractors in the aerospace and defense industry are likely familiar. A.    Select Decisions Related to Government Contractors in the Aerospace and Defense Industry Technology Systems, Inc., ASBCA No. 59577 (Jan. 12, 2017) TSI held four cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts with the Navy for research and development.  Several years into the contracts, the government disallowed expenses that had not been questioned in prior years.  TSI appealed to the ASBCA, arguing that it relied to its detriment on the government’s failure to challenge those same expenses in prior years. The Board (Prouty, A.J.) held that the challenged costs were “largely not allowable” and that “the principle of retroactive disallowance,” which it deemed “a theory for challenging audits whose heyday has come and gone,” did not apply because the same costs had simply not come up in the prior audits.  The theory of retroactive disallowance, first articulated in a Court of Claims case in 1971, prevents the government from challenging costs already incurred when the cost previously had been accepted following final audit of historical costs; the contractor reasonably believed that it would continue to be approved; and it detrimentally relied on the prior acceptance.  Tracing the precedent discussing the principle, the Board cited the Federal Circuit’s decision in Rumsfeld v. United Technologies Corp., 315 F.3d 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2003), which stated that “affirmative misconduct” on the part of the government would be required for the principle of retroactive disallowance to apply because it is a form of estoppel against the government.  The Board “sum[med] up: there is no way to read our recent precedent or the Federal Circuit’s except to include an affirmative misconduct requirement amongst the elements of retroactive disallowance.  Period.”  Further, the Board held that the government’s failure to challenge the same costs in prior years did not constitute a “course of conduct precluding the government from disallowing the costs in subsequent audits.” Delfasco LLC, ASBCA No. 59153 (Feb. 14, 2017) Delfasco had a contract with the Army for the manufacture and delivery of a specified number of munition suspension lugs.  The Army thereafter exercised an option to double the number of lugs required.  When Delfasco stopped making deliveries due to an inability to pay its subcontractor, the Army terminated the contract for default.  Delfasco appealed to the ASBCA, asserting that the government had waived its right to terminate for untimely performance by allegedly stringing Delfasco along even after the notice of termination. The Board (Prouty, A.J.) set out the test for waiver in a case involving termination for default due to late delivery as follows:  “(1) failure to terminate within a reasonable time after the default under circumstances indicating forbearance, and (2) reliance by the contractor on the failure to terminate and continued performance by him under the contract with the Government’s knowledge and implied or express consent.”  The Board held that Delfasco failed to satisfy the first prong because the government’s show cause letter placed Delfasco on notice that any continued performance would only be for the purpose of mitigating damages.  Moreover, Delfasco failed to satisfy the second prong because Delfasco’s payment to its subcontractor after the show cause letter would have been owed regardless, and was not paid in reliance upon the government’s failure to terminate.  Therefore, the Board found that the government had not waived its right to terminate, and denied the appeal. Raytheon Co., ASBCA Nos. 57743 et al. (Apr. 17, 2017) Raytheon appealed from three final decisions determining that an assortment of costs—including those associated with consultants, lobbyists, a corporate development database, and executive aircraft—were expressly unallowable and thus subject to penalties.  After a two-week trial, the Board (Scott, A.J.) sided largely with Raytheon in a wide-ranging decision that covers a number of important cost principles issues. First, the Board rejected the government’s argument that the consultant costs were expressly unallowable simply because the government was dissatisfied with the level of written detail of the work product submitted to support the costs.  Judge Scott noted that written work product is not a requirement to support a consultant’s services under FAR 31.205-33(f), particularly not where, as here, much of the consultants’ work was delivered orally due to the classified nature of the work performed.  The Board found that not only were the consultant costs not expressly unallowable, but indeed were allowable.  This is a significant ruling because the documentation of consultant costs is a recurring issue as government auditors frequently make demands concerning the amount of documentation required to support these costs during audits. Second, the government sought to impose penalties for costs that inadvertently were not withdrawn in accordance with an advance agreement between Raytheon and the government concerning two executive aircraft.  Raytheon agreed that the costs should have been withdrawn and agreed to withdraw them when the error was brought to its attention, but asserted that the costs were not expressly unallowable and subject to penalty.  The Board agreed, holding that the advance agreements did not themselves clearly name and state the costs to be unallowable, and further that advance agreements do not have the ability to create penalties because a cost must be named and stated to be unallowable in a cost principle (not an advance agreement) to be subject to penalties.  This ruling could have significance for future disputes arising out of advance agreements. Third, the government alleged that costs associated with the design and development of a database to support the operations of Raytheon’s Corporate Development office were expressly unallowable organizational costs under FAR 31.205-27.  The Board disagreed, validating Raytheon’s argument that a significant purpose of the Corporate Development office was allowable generalized long-range management planning under FAR 31.205-12, thus rendering the costs allowable (not expressly unallowable). The only cost for which the Board denied Raytheon’s appeals concerned the salary costs of government relations personnel engaged in lobbying activities.  Raytheon presented evidence that it had a robust process for withdrawing these costs as unallowable under FAR 31.205-22, but inadvertently missed certain costs in this instance due to, among other things, “spreadsheet errors.”  Raytheon agreed that the costs were unallowable and should be withdrawn, but disputed that the costs of employee compensation (a generally allowable cost) were expressly unallowable and further argued that the contracting officer should have waived penalties under FAR 42.709-5(c) based on expert evidence that Raytheon’s control systems for excluding unallowable costs were “best in class.”  The Board found that salary costs associated with unallowable lobbying activities are expressly unallowable and that the contracting officer did not abuse his discretion in denying the penalty waiver. L-3 Comms. Integrated Sys. L.P. v. United States, No. 16-1265C (Fed. Cl. May 31, 2017) L-3 entered an “undefinitized contractual action” (“UCA”) with the Air Force in which it agreed to provide certain training services while still negotiating the terms of the contract.  After the parties failed to reach agreement on the prices for two line items in the UCA, the Air Force issued a unilateral contract modification, setting prices for those line items and definitizing the contract.  L-3 argued that the Air Force’s price determination was unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious, and in violation of the FAR, and filed suit seeking damages.  The government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Federal Claims (Kaplan, J.) dismissed L-3’s complaint, concurring with the government that L-3 had never presented a certified claim to the contracting officer for payment “of a sum certain to cover the losses it allegedly suffered.”  The court found that the proposals L-3 had presented to the Air Force were not “claims,” but rather proposals made during contract negotiations that did not contain the requisite claim certification language. Innoventor, Inc., ASBCA No. 59903 (July 11, 2017) In 2011, the government entered into a fixed-price contract with Innoventor for the design and manufacture of a dynamic brake test stand.  As part of the contract’s purchase specifications, the new design had to undergo and pass certain testing.  After problems arose in the testing process, Innoventor submitted a proposal to modify certain design components and applied for an equitable adjustment due to “instability of expectations.”  The contracting officer denied Innoventor’s request for an equitable adjustment, stating that the government had not issued a modification directing a change that would give rise to such an adjustment.  Innoventor submitted a claim, which the contracting officer denied, and Innoventor appealed. The Board (Sweet, A.J.) held that the government was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because there was no evidence that the government changed Innoventor’s performance requirements, let alone that anyone with authority directed any constructive changes.  Here, the contract was clear that Innoventor’s design had to pass certain tests, and because it failed some of them, and did not perform pursuant to the contract terms, there was no change in the original contract terms that would give rise to a constructive change.  The Board also found that there was no evidence that any person beyond the contracting officer had authority to direct a change because the contract expressly provided that only the contracting officer has authority to change a contract.  Accordingly, the Board denied Innoventor’s appeal. L-3 Commc’ns Integrated Sys., L.P., ASBCA Nos. 60713 et al. (Sept. 27, 2017) L-3 appealed from multiple final decisions asserting government claims for the recovery of purportedly unallowable airfare costs.  Rather than audit and challenge specific airfare costs, the Defense Contract Audit Agency simply applied a 79% “decrement factor” to all of L-3’s international airfare costs over a specified dollar amount, claiming that this was justified based on prior-year audits.  After filing the appeals, L-3 moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the government had failed to provide adequate notice of its claims by failing to identify which specific airfare costs were alleged to be unallowable, as well as the basis for those allegations. The Board (D’Alessandris, A.J.) denied the motion to dismiss, holding that the contracting officer’s final decisions sufficiently stated a claim in that they set forth a sum certain and a basis for such a claim.  The Board held that L-3 had enough information to understand how the government reached its claim, and its contention that this was not a valid basis for the disallowance of costs for the year in dispute went to the merits and not the sufficiency of the final decisions. Scott v. United States, No. 17-471 (Fed. Cl. Oct. 24, 2017) Brian X. Scott brought a pro se claim in the Court of Federal Claims seeking monetary and injunctive relief for alleged harms arising from the Air Force’s handling of his unsolicited proposal for contractual work.  Scott was an Air Force employee who submitted a proposal for countering the threat of a drone strike at the base where he was stationed.  The proposal was rejected, but Scott alleged that portions of the proposal were later partially implemented.  Scott sued, claiming that the Air Force failed properly to review his proposal and that his intellectual property was being misappropriated.  Scott argued that jurisdiction was proper under the Tucker Act because an implied-in-fact contract arose that prohibited the Air Force from using any data, concept, or idea from his proposal, which was submitted to a contracting officer with a restrictive legend consistent with FAR § 15.608. The Court of Federal Claims (Lettow, J.) found that it had jurisdiction under the Tucker Act because an implied-in-fact contract was formed when the Air Force became obligated to follow the FAR’s regulatory constraints with regard to Scott’s proposal.  Nevertheless, the Court granted the government’s motion to dismiss because Scott’s factual allegations, even taken in the light most favorable to him, did not plausibly establish that the government acted unreasonably or failed to properly evaluate his unsolicited proposal by using concepts from the proposal where Scott’s proposal addressed a previously published agency requirement. III.    COMMERCIAL SPACE SECTOR A.    Overview of Private Space Launches and Significant Milestones Space exploration is always fascinating—2017 and early 2018 was no exception.  Starting off in February 2017, India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched 104 satellites, setting a record for the number of satellites launched from a single rocket.[101]  In June, NASA finally unveiled its 12 chosen candidates for its astronaut program out of a pool of over 18,000 applicants, which was a record-breaking number.[102]  A few months later, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was intentionally plunged into Saturn, ending over a decade’s worth of service.[103]  President Donald Trump also signed Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to send astronauts back to the moon, which President Trump noted would help establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars.[104] In what was widely expected to be a record year for private space launches, SpaceX and other private space companies clearly delivered.  In 2017, SpaceX, the company founded and run by Elon Musk, flew a record 18 missions utilizing the Falcon 9 rocket.[105]  Blue Origin, the company founded by Jeff Bezos, also made significant progress.  It was able to launch a new version of its New Shepard vehicle on its first flight, which Bezos hopes will lay the foundation for potential crewed missions.[106]  Then, in late December, California startup Made in Space sent a machine designed to make exotic ZBLAN optical fiber to the International Space Station.[107]  Without a doubt, 2017 played witness to many significant milestones in space exploration. Additional milestones have already been surpassed in early 2018.  February 6, 2018 was a historic date for Space technology and exploration—SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy had its maiden launch.  The Falcon Heavy can carry payloads larger than any available commercial rocket, and it has the potential to launch payloads outside of Earth’s orbit.  In fact, the Falcon Heavy did just that by launching a Tesla Roadster, driven by “Starman” into interplanetary space.  Starman will likely continue driving its orbit for millions of years.  It is only a matter of time until Starman is replaced with astronauts and the destination becomes Mars—SpaceX plans to launch such a mission in 2024. B.    Update on Outer Space Treaty and Surrounding Debate The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, otherwise known as the Outer Space Treaty, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Signed in 1967 and designed to prevent a new form of colonial competition, the Treaty was lauded for its principal framework on international space law.  Indeed, shortly after the Treaty was entered into force, the United States and the Soviet Union successfully collaborated on many space missions and exercises.[108] The Treaty is not complex.  Consisting of 17 short articles, the Treaty obligates its signatories to perform space exploration “for the benefit and interest of all countries” and to not “place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”[109]  Having been in force for over 50 years, there have recently been discussions regarding whether the Treaty is ripe for an update.  Only as far back as half a decade ago, experts met in Australia to discuss moon-mining of anything from water and fuel to rare minerals in what was then a world’s first “Off-Earth Mining Forum.”[110]  Discussion surrounded the legality of such mining under the Treaty.  Then in 2014, NASA accepted applications from companies that desired to mine rare moon minerals in a program called “Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown.”[111]  This once again sparked a debate on the legality of such actions, specifically lunar property rights. In 2017, the focus turned toward private and commercial space flight, and spurred conversation as to whether the 50-year-old treaty needed an update.  For one, the Treaty was designed, and has been entirely focused, on only individual countries.  Thus, there is an argument that the Treaty does not apply to private appropriation of celestial territory.  Second, the quaint nature of the Treaty has spawned efforts at tackling the private appropriation issues.  For instance, the United States passed the Space Act of 2015, which provides for private commercial “exploration and exploitation of space resources.”[112]  The Act has incited further debate on the various legal loopholes that inherently afflict the Treaty and its ban on countries owning celestial territory. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has continued to find methods of regulation, specifically those involving the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), among others.[113]  Now, lawmakers are purportedly discussing legislation that would provide a regulatory framework for private commercial space travel to adhere to the Treaty, as there currently does not exist a framework for the U.S. government to oversee the launch of private space stations.[114] Moreover, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been leading the charge on updating the Treaty to address issues related to modern spaceflight, where private commercial entities are playing an ever-increasing role.[115]  In May, Senator Cruz, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, convened a hearing to “examine U.S. government obligations under the [Treaty]” and to also “explore the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.”[116]  Featuring a panel of legal experts and a panel of commercial space business leaders, the hearing raised a number of different viewpoints with one apparently unifying message: the Treaty should not be amended.  One of the panel members, Peter Marquez, while acknowledging that the Treaty is not perfect, expressed concern that opening up the Treaty to modifications would leave the space industry worse off, and would be a detriment to national and international security.[117] One area of particular interest was Article VI of the Treaty, which provides that nations authorize and supervise space activities performed by non-governmental entities, such as a private commercial space company.  The CEO of Moon Express, Bob Richards, noted that while the Treaty should remain unchanged, the U.S. should adopt a streamlined regulatory procedure and process to make approvals for space activities more efficient and clear.[118]  One of the legal experts sitting on the panel, Laura Montgomery, expressed her belief that the U.S. need not further regulate new commercial space because a close reading of the Treaty would indicate that mining and other similar activities do not require such governmental approvals.[119] While the ultimate general consensus appeared to be that no change to the Treaty was necessary to accomplish the goals of private commercial space enterprises, the hearing did bring to light the issues that currently confront modern space protocols. C.    The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017, Which Seeks to Overhaul U.S. Commercial Space Licensing Regime, Passes Committee but Stalls in House On June 7, 2017, House members led by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, introduced H.R. 2809—the American Space, Commerce, and Free Enterprise Act of 2017 (“ASCFEA”).[120]  The bill, if adopted, would amend Title 51 of the United States Code to liberalize licensing requirements to conduct a variety of commercial space activities, while consolidating the licensing approval process for such activities under the authority of the U.S. Department of Commerce (“DOC”).[121] The regulation of commercial space activities historically has been distributed among a variety of agencies—with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) governing remote sensing, the FCC governing communications satellites,[122] and the FAA/AST regulating launch, reentry, and some other non-traditional activities.[123]  But with that patchwork of authority, proponents of the Act believe there exists a regulatory gap for overseeing and authorizing new and innovative space activities.[124]  A primary goal of the Act is to address this perceived uncertainty, and in so doing, resolve long-standing questions associated with the United States’ responsibility to regulate commercial space activities under the Outer Space Treaty,[125] which the bill’s text references extensively. In its current form, the bill would grant the Office of Space Commerce (within the DOC) “the authority to issue certifications to U.S. nationals and nongovernmental entities for the operation of:  (1) specified human-made objects manufactured or assembled in outer space . . . and (2) all items carried on such objects that are intended for use in outer space.”[126]  The bill further eliminates the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office of the NOAA, and vests authority to issue permits for remote sensing systems, again, in the DOC.[127]  The bill also creates a certification process for other “commercial payloads not otherwise licensed by the government,” thereby providing fallback legislation for “non-traditional applications like satellite servicing, commercial space stations and lunar landers.”[128]  The DOC hence would occupy all the regulatory authority for commercial space activities, except for the FCC and FAA/AST’s current authority, which those agencies would maintain.[129] The commercial space industry supports the bill, and in particular the bill’s apparent presumption in favor of regulatory approval.[130]  Industry also supports the bill’s overhaul of the regulation of remote sensing—for example, the bill requires the DOC to issue a certification decision within just 60 days (or else the application is granted),[131] provide an explanation for any rejections, and grant every application that seeks authorization for activities involving “the same or substantially similar capabilities, derived data, products, or services are already commercially available or reasonably expected to be made available in the next 3 years in the international or domestic marketplace.”[132] Some opponents of the bill contend that the consolidation of regulatory approval will limit interagency review, which is important because the DoD, State Department, and the intelligence community currently play some regulatory role in the review of aspects of new commercial space activities that are perceived to potentially pose a threat to national security.[133]  Others contend that the Office of Space Commerce has inadequate resources and experience to handle the regulatory approvals.  The bill seeks to ameliorate these concerns by authorizing $5 million in funding for the Office in 2018.[134]  The Department of Justice also has voiced some constitutional concerns.[135] The House referred the bill to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology,[136] which on June 8, 2017 passed three amendments by voice vote.[137]  Since being marked up in committee, the bill has seen no further action by the House.[138]  The DOC currently is seeking public input on possible changes to commercial space operations licensing more broadly.[139] D.    Industry and Government Regulators Call for Changes to NOAA’s Licensing of Remote Sensing Technology ASCFEA’s effort to strip NOAA of its authority to regulate remote sensing technology coincides with a growing number of complaints from the remote sensing industry and government regulators concerning NOAA’s ability to handle an increased number of licensing applications.[140] The Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 authorized the Secretary of Commerce to “license private sector parties to operate private remote sensing space systems.”[141]  But despite a sea change in remote sensing technology and activities since 1992, that law remains the main source of authority for remote sensing licensing, and Congress has made few modifications to the law since its inception.[142]  Given the speed of technological change, and increased industry competition, remote sensing companies are advocating for NOAA to adopt a “permissive” approach to licensing, akin to the language proposed in the ASCFEA.[143] NOAA’s issues have been exacerbated by the fact that license applications are now more varied and complex than they were previously.[144]   Representatives from NOAA describe how prior to 2011, it took an average of 51 days to review license applications, since many applications sought permission for similar concepts for satellite systems.[145]  Even though the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 calls for a 120-day approval window, in practice, applications now extend far longer than that—and further, NOAA sometimes provides little to no explanation about why it rejects particular applications.[146]  Under the ASCFEA, the DOC would be required to approve applications using the “same or substantially similar capabilities, derived data, products, or services as are already commercially available or reasonably expected to be made available in the next 3 years in the international or domestic marketplace.”[147] Another complexity is that many companies develop technology that do not solely or traditionally perform remote sensing functions, but have remote sensing capabilities.[148]  The ASCFEA addresses this problem by offering exceptions for “De Minimis” uses of remote sensing technology.[150] E.    Commercial Space Policy in the Trump Era On December 11, 2017, President Trump signed White House Space Policy Directive 1, entitled “Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program.”[151]  As the subject suggests, the Directive’s goal is to bring a renewed focus on human space flight at a time when the United States lacks an organic capability to send American astronauts into low-Earth orbit, let alone beyond.[152]  Fittingly, President Trump signed the directive on the forty-fifth anniversary of the lunar landing of Apollo 17, with Apollo 17 astronaut Senator Harrison Schmitt present at the ceremony.[153] According to the Directive, the United States will “[l]ead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system….”[154]  The directive calls for missions beyond low-Earth orbit, with the United States “lead[ing] the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.”[155] NASA is already working with several commercial entities to develop transportation to and from low-Earth orbit, as well as to the International Space Station.[156]  And a call for a return to the moon for use as a stepping-stone to other destinations is not new with President Trump; previous administrations have expressed a similar desire.[157]  What remains to be seen is how this “long-term exploration” will be funded, with a good indicator being what “will be reflected in NASA’s FISCAL Year 2019 budget request.”[158]  Until then, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”[159] F.    Updates on Space Law in Luxembourg, India, and Australia Luxembourg Continues its Push for Commercial Space Prominence The small country of Luxembourg, a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty,[160] has major commercial space ambitions.  In 2016, Luxembourg passed a law to set aside €200 million to fund commercial space mining activities, and also offered to help interested companies obtain private financing.[161]  On July 13, 2017, following the United States’ lead,[162] Luxembourg passed a law that gives qualifying companies the right to own any space resources they extract from celestial bodies including asteroids.[163]  The law further outlines a regulatory framework for “the government to authorize and supervise resource extraction and other space activities,” except for communications satellites, which a different Luxembourg agency regulates.[164]  To qualify for a space mining license, companies must be centrally administered and own a registered office in Luxembourg, and also must obtain regulatory approval.[165]  It is as of now unclear whether the Luxembourg law (as well as the U.S.’s analogous law) violate the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits companies from claiming territory on celestial bodies, but does not clarify whether that prohibition extends to materials extracted from those celestial bodies.[166] India Unveils Draft of New Commercial Space Law; Sets Satellite Launch Record In November 2017, the India Department of Space released and sought comments for the “Space Activities Act, 2017.”[167]  The stated goal of the bill is to “encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India.”[168]  The bill as currently drafted vests authority in the Indian Government to formulate a licensing scheme for any and all “Commercial Space Activity,” and states that licenses may be granted if the sought activity does not jeopardize public health or safety, and does not violate India’s international treaty obligations, such as the Outer Space Treaty, to which India is a signatory.[169] India’s space agency also made headlines this year when it sent 104 satellites into space in 18 minutes—purportedly tripling the prior record for single-day satellite launches.[170]  The New York Times reports that satellite and other orbital companies closely scrutinized the launch, since India’s space agency is cheaper to employ for satellite launches than its European and North American counterparts.[171] Australia Announced that It Will Create a Space Agency; Details Pending In September 2017, Australia’s Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science announced that Australia will create a national space agency.[172]  While details are still pending, Australia’s goal purportedly is to take advantage of the $300-$400 billion space economy, while creating Australian jobs in the process.[173] IV.    CYBERSECURITY AND PRIVACY ISSUES IN THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE A.    Cybersecurity Issues The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has lagged behind other sectors in establishing robust cybersecurity and privacy safeguards in the national airspace, although federal policy identifies the transportation sector (which includes the aviation industry) as one of the 16 “critical infrastructure” sectors that have the ability to impact significantly the nation’s security, economy, and public health and safety.[174]  The need for the FAA to establish robust safeguards is obvious, as the catastrophic impact of a cyber attack on the national airspace is not hard to imagine post-9/11.  Recently, one hacker claimed he compromised the cabin-based in-flight entertainment system to control a commercial airline engine in flight. One development of note is the reintroduction of the Cybersecurity Standards for Aircraft to Improve Resilience Act of 2017 by U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal.[175] Senator Markey first introduced legislation aimed at improving aircraft cyber security protection in April 2016, following a 2015 survey of U.S. airline CEOs to discover standard cybersecurity protocols used by the aviation industry.  If signed into law, the bill would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to work with DoD, Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the FCC to incorporate requirements relating to cybersecurity into the requirements for certification.  Additionally, the bill would establish standard protections for all “entry points” to the electronic systems of aircraft operating in the U.S.  This would include the use of isolation measures to separate critical software systems from noncritical software systems. B.    UAS Privacy Concerns UAS are equipped with highly sophisticated surveillance technology with the ability to collect personal information, including physical location.  Senator Ayotte, Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, summarized the privacy concerns drones pose as follows: “Unlimited surveillance by government or private actors is not something that our society is ready or willing or should accept.  Because [drones] can significantly lower the threshold for observation, the risk of abuse and the risk of abusive surveillance increases.”  We describe below several recent federal and state efforts to address this issue. 1.    State Legislation Addressing Privacy Concerns At least five out of the twenty-one states that either passed legislation or adopted resolutions related to UAS in 2017 specifically addressed privacy concerns.[176] Colorado HB 1070 requires the center of excellence within the department of public safety to perform a study that identifies ways to integrate UAS within local and state government functions relating to firefighting, search and rescue, accident reconstruction, crime scene documentation, emergency management, and emergencies involving significant property loss, injury or death.  The study must consider privacy concerns, in addition to costs and timeliness of deployment, for each of these uses. New Jersey SB 3370 allows UAS operation that is consistent with federal law, but also creates criminal offenses for certain UAS surveillance and privacy violations.  For example, using a UAS to conduct surveillance of a correction facility is a third degree crime.  Additionally, the law also applies the operation of UAS to limitations within restraining orders and specifies that convictions under the law are separate from other convictions such as harassment, stalking, and invasion of privacy. South Dakota SB 22 also prohibits operation of drones over the grounds of correctional and military facilities, making such operation a class 1 misdemeanor.  Further, the law modifies the crime of unlawful surveillance to include intentional use of a drone to observe, photograph or record someone in a private place with a reasonable expectation of privacy, and landing a drone on the property of an individual without that person’s consent.  Such purportedly unlawful surveillance is a class 1 misdemeanor unless the individual is operating the drone for commercial or agricultural purposes, or the individual is acting within his or her capacity as an emergency management worker. Utah HB 217 modifies criminal trespass to include drones entering and remaining unlawfully over property with specified intent.  Depending on the intent, a violation is either a class B misdemeanor, a class A misdemeanor, or an infraction, unless the person is operating a UAS for legitimate commercial or educational purposes consistent with FAA regulations.  Utah HB 217 also modifies the offense of voyeurism, a class B misdemeanor, to include the use of any type of technology, including UAS, to secretly record video of a person in certain instances. Virginia HB 2350 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use UAS to trespass upon the property of another for the purpose of secretly or furtively peeping, spying, or attempting to peep or spy into a dwelling or occupied building located on such property. 2.    UAS Identification and Tracking Report The FAA chartered an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (“ARC”) in June 2017 to provide recommendations on the technologies available for remote identification and tracking of UAS, and how remote identification may be implemented.[177]  However, the ARC’s 213 page final report, dated September 30, 2017, notes that the ARC lacked sufficient time to fully address privacy and data protection concerns, and that therefore those topics were not addressed: [T]he ARC also lacks sufficient time to perform an exhaustive analysis of all the privacy implications of remote ID, tracking, or UTM, and did not specifically engage with privacy experts, from industry or otherwise, during this ARC.  These members agree, however, that it is fundamentally important that privacy be fully considered and that appropriate privacy protections are in place before data collection and sharing by any party (either through remote ID and/or UTM) is required for operations.  A non-exhaustive list of important privacy considerations include, amongst other issues, any data collection, retention, sharing, use and access.  Privacy must be considered with regard to both PII and historical tracking information.  The privacy of all individuals (including operators and customers) should be addressed, and privacy should be a consideration during the rulemaking for remote ID and tracking. Accordingly, the ARC recognizes the fundamental importance of fully addressing privacy and data protection concerns, and we anticipate that future rulemaking will address these issues. IV.    CONCLUSION We will continue to keep you informed on these and other related issues as they develop. [1] See Huerta, No. 3:16-cv-358, Dkt. No. 30. [2] Id. [3] Id. [4] See Boggs, No. 3:16-cv-00006, Dkt. No. 1 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 4, 2016). [5] See id. [6] See Boggs, No. 3:16-cv-00006, Dkt. No. 20 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 4, 2016). [7] See id. [8] See Singer, No. 1:17-cv-10071, Dkt. N. 63 (D. Mass. Jan. 17, 2017). [9] See id. [10] See id. [11] See id. [12] See id. [13] See Taylor v. Huerta, 856 F.3d 1089 (D.C. Cir. 2017). [14] See Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 336(a), 126 Stat. 11, 77 (2012) (codified at 49 U.S.C. § 40101 note). [15] See Taylor, 856 F.3d at 1090. [16] See Pub. L. No. 115–91, § 3 1092(d), (2017). [17] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Presidential Memorandum:  Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Feb. 15, 2015, available at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/15/presidential-memorandum-promoting-economic-competitiveness-while-safegua. [18] Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42064 (June 28, 2016). [19] Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”), EPIC v. FAA: Challenging the FAA’s Failure to Establish Drone Privacy Rules, https://epic.org/privacy/litigation/apa/faa/drones/ (last visited Jan. 18, 2018). [20] See generally Electronic Privacy Information Center v. FAA (EPIC I), 821 F.3d 39, 41-42 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (noting that FAA denied EPIC’s petition for rulemaking requesting that the FAA consider privacy concerns). [21] Voluntary Best Practices for UAS Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability, NTIA-Convened Multistakeholder Process (May 18, 2016), https://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/ uas_privacy_best_practices_6-21-16.pdf. [22] EPIC, supra, note xix. [23] EPIC I, supra, note xx, at 41. [24] Id. 41-42. [25] Id. [26] Id. [27] Id. at 42-43. [28] Id. at 42. [29] Id. at 43. [30] Pet. For Review, Electronic Privacy Information Center v. FAA (EPIC II), Nos. 16-1297, 16-1302 (Filed Aug. 22, 2016), https://epic.org/privacy/litigation/apa/faa/drones/EPIC-Petition-08222016.pdf. [31] Appellant Opening Br., EPIC II, Nos. 16-1297, 16-1302 (Filed Feb. 28, 2017), https://epic.org/privacy/litigation/apa/faa/drones/1663292-EPIC-Brief.pdf. [32] Appellee Reply Br., EPIC II, Nos. 16-1297, 16-1302 (Filed April 27, 2017), https://epic.org/privacy/litigation/apa/faa/drones/1673002-FAA-Reply-Brief.pdf. [33] United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit, Oral Argument Calendar, https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/sixtyday.nsf/fullcalendar?OpenView&count=1000 (last visited Jan. 18, 2018). [34] United States Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap (2013), https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/DOD-USRM-2013.pdf. [35] Andrew Meola, Drone Marker Shows Positive Outlook with Strong Industry Growth and Trends, Business Insider, July 13, 2017, available at http://www.businessinsider.com/drone-industry-analysis-market-trends-growth-forecasts-2017-7. [36] Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request (Feb. 2016). [37] Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request (May 2017). [38] Goldman Sachs, Drones: Reporting for Work, http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/technology-driving-innovation/drones/ (last visited Jan. 18, 2017). [39] Id. [40] Chris Woods, The Story of America’s Very First Drone Strike, The Atlantic, May 30, 2016, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/05/america-first-drone-strike-afghanistan/394463/. [41] Deputy Secretary of Defense, Policy Memorandum 15-002, “Guidance for the Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems” (Feb. 17, 2015), https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Policy%20Memorandum%2015-002%20_Guidance%20for%20the%20Domestic%20Use%20of%20Unmanned%20Aircraft%20Systems_.pdf. [42] Id. [43] Id. [44] Id. [45] Id. [47] Id. [48] Eric Schmitt, Pentagon Tests Lasers and Nets to Combat Vexing Foe: ISIS Drones, N.Y. Times, Sept. 23, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/23/world/middleeast/isis-drones-pentagon-experiments.html. [49] Id. [50] Christopher Woody, The Pentagon is Getting Better at Stopping Enemy Drones—and Testing Its Own for Delivering Gear to the Battlefield, Business Insider, Apr. 24, 2017, available at https://www.businessinsider.com/military-adding-drones-and-drone-defense-to-its-arensal-2017-4. [51] Id. [52] Radio Hill Technology, Birth of the Dronebuster, http://www.radiohill.com/product/ (last visited Jan. 18, 2018). [53] Id. [54] Kyle Mizokami, The Army’s Drone-Killing Lasers are Getting a Tenfold Power Boost, Popular Mechanics, July 18, 2017, available at http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/news/a27381/us-army-drone-killing-laser-power/. [55] Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Drone Killing Laser Stars in Army Field Test, Breaking Defense, May 11, 2017, available at https://breakingdefense.com/2017/05/drone-killing-laser-stars-in-army-field-test/. [56] Mizokami, supra, note lv. [57] ASSURE, UAS Ground Collision Severity Evaluation Final Report, United States (2017), available at http://www.assureuas.org/projects/deliverables/sUASGroundCollisionReport.php?Code=230 (ASSURE Study). [58] Id. [59] Id. [60] Id. [61] DJI, DJI Welcomes FAA-Commissioned Report Analyzing Drone Safety Near People, Newsroom News, Apr. 28, 2017, available at https://www.dji.com/newsroom/news/dji-welcomes-faa-commissioned-report-analyzing-drone-safety-near-people. [62] Id. [63] Id. [64] ASSURE Study, supra note lviii. [65] Id. [66] Id. [67] Id. [68] Id. [69] ASSURE, FAA and Assure Announce Results of Air-to-Air Collision Study, ASSURE: Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, Nov. 27, 2017, available at https://pr.cirlot.com/faa-and-assure-announce-results-of-air-to-air-collision-study/. [70] Id. [71] ASSURE Study, supra note lviii. [72] Id. [73] Id. [74] Id. [75] See Pathiyil, et al., Issues of Safety and Risk management for Unmanned Aircraft Operations in Urban Airspace, 2017 Workshop on Research, Education and Development of Unmanned Aerial Systems (RED-UAS), Oct. 3, 2017, available at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=8101671. [76] Id. [77] Id. [78] Id. [79] Id. [80] Patrick C. Miller, 2,800 Interested Parties Apply for UAS Integration Pilot Program, UAS Magazine, Jan. 3, 2018, available at http://www.uasmagazine.com/articles/1801/2-800-interested-parties-apply-for-uas-integration-pilot-program. [81] Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, 82 Fed. Reg. 50,301 (Oct. 25, 2017) (Presidential directive creating the program); see also Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program—Announcement of Establishment of Program and Request for Applications, 82 Fed. Reg. 215 (Nov. 8, 2017) (Department of Transportation Notice of the UAS Pilot Program). [82] See id. [83] See id. [84] Elaine Goodman, Blood Deliveries by Drone Proposed—City Submits Unique Ideas to FAA, Daily Post, Jan. 5, 2018, available at http://padailypost.com/2018/01/05/blood-deliveries-by-drone-proposed-city-submits-unique-ideas-to-faa/. [85] Id. [86] Id. [87] Id. [88] Id. [89] Miller, supra note lxxxi. [90] Id. [91] Id. [92] Id. [93] Id. [101]   NASA Spaceflight, India’s PSLV deploys a record 104 satellites (Feb. 14, 2017), available at https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/02/indias-pslv-record-104-satellites/. [102]   NASA, NASA’s Newest Astronaut Recruits to Conduct Research off the Earth, For the Earth and Deep Space Missions (June 7, 2017), available at https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-newest-astronaut-recruits-to-conduct-research-off-the-earth-for-the-earth-and. [103]   NASA, Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn (Sept. 15, 2017), available at https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-cassini-spacecraft-ends-its-historic-exploration-of-saturn. [104]   NASA, New Space Policy Directive Calls for Human Expansion Across Solar System (Dec. 11, 2017), available at https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/new-space-policy-directive-calls-for-human-expansion-across-solar-system. [105]   TechCrunch, SpaceX caps a record year with 18th successful launch of 2017 (Dec. 22, 2017), available at https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/22/spacex-caps-a-record-year-with-18th-successful-launch-of-2017/. [106]   The Verge, After a year away from test flights, Blue Origin launches and lands its rocket again (Dec. 12, 2017), available at https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/12/16759934/blue-origin-new-shepard-test-flight-launch-landing. [107]   Space.com, SpaceX Launches (and Lands) Used Rocket on Historic NASA Cargo Mission (Dec. 15, 2017), available at https://www.space.com/39063-spacex-launches-used-rocket-dragon-spacecraft-for-nasa.html. [108]   U.S. Department of State, Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, available at https://www.state.gov/t/isn/5181.htm#treaty. [109] NTI, Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) (Feb. 1, 2017), available at http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/treaty-principles-governing-activities-states-exploration-and-use-outer-space-including-moon-and-other-celestial-bodies-outer-space-treaty/. [110] PHYS.ORG, Space likely for rare earth search, scientists say (Feb. 20, 2013), available at https://phys.org/news/2013-02-space-rare-earths-scientists.html. [111]   NASA, Lunar CATALYST (Jan. 16, 2014), available at https://www.nasa.gov/content/lunar-catalyst/#.WmLx1qinGHs. [112]   The Conversation, The Outer Space Treaty has been remarkably successful – but is it fit for the modern age? (Jan. 27, 2017), available at http://theconversation.com/the-outer-space-treaty-has-been-remarkably-successful-but-is-it-fit-for-the-modern-age-71381. [113]   The Verge, How an international treaty signed 50 years ago became the backbone for space law (Jan. 27, 2017), available at https://www.theverge.com/2017/1/27/14398492/outer-space-treaty-50-anniversary-exploration-guidelines. [114]   Id. [115]   The Space Review, Is it time to update the Outer Space Treaty? (June 5, 2017), available at http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3256/1. [116]   U.S. Senate, Reopening the American Frontier:  Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space (May 23, 2017), available at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=5A91CD95-CDA5-46F2-8E18-2D2DFCAE4355. [117]   The Space Review, supra note cxvi. [118]   Id. [119]   Id. [120] H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809.  The other primary sponsors of the bill are Brian Babin (R-TX), chairman of the space subcommittee; and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK). [121] Sandy Mazza, Space exploration regulations need overhaul, new report says, Daily Breeze (Dec. 2, 2017), https://www.dailybreeze.com/2017/12/02/space-exploration-regulations-need-overhaul-new-report-says/.  The Act’s stated purpose is to “provide greater transparency, greater efficiency, and less administrative burden for nongovernmental entities of the United States seeking to conduct space activities.”  H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809 (Section 2(c)). [122] Jeff Foust, House bill seeks to streamline oversight of commercial space activities, Space News (June 8, 2017), http://spacenews.com/house-bill-seeks-to-streamline-oversight-of-commercial-space-activities/. [123] Marcia Smith, New Commercial Space Bill Clears House Committee, Space Policy Online (June 8, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/new-commercial-space-bill-clears-house-committee/. [124] Under the Obama administration, many in government and industry presumed that the regulation of new space activities would fall to FAA/AST.  See Marcia Smith, New Commercial Space Bill Clears House Committee, Space Policy Online (June 8, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/new-commercial-space-bill-clears-house-committee/ (In fact, the agency heads of the FAA/AST, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, recommended the same). [125] Marcia Smith, Companies Agree FAA Best Agency to Regulate Non-Traditional Space Activities, Space Policy Online (Nov. 15, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/companies-agree-faa-best-agency-to-regulate-non-traditional-space-activities/. [126] H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809. [127] Id. [128] Jeff Foust, House bill seeks to streamline oversight of commercial space activities, Space News (June 8, 2017), http://spacenews.com/house-bill-seeks-to-streamline-oversight-of-commercial-space-activities/. [129] Marcia Smith, New Commercial Space Bill Clears House Committee, Space Policy Online (June 8, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/new-commercial-space-bill-clears-house-committee/. [130] Marcia Smith, New Commercial Space Bill Clears House Committee, Space Policy Online (June 8, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/new-commercial-space-bill-clears-house-committee/; Marcia Smith, Companies Agree FAA Best Agency to Regulate Non-Traditional Space Activities, Space Policy Online (Nov. 15, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/companies-agree-faa-best-agency-to-regulate-non-traditional-space-activities/.  The bill, for example, requires e the Secretary of Commerce to issue certifications or permits for commercial space activities, unless, for example, the Secretary finds by “clear and convincing evidence” that the permit would violate the Outer Space Treaty.  Bob Zimmerman, What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering, The Federalist (July 11, 2017), http://thefederalist.com/2017/07/11/need-know-space-law-congress-considering/.  Indeed, the policy section of the bill finds that “United States citizens and entities are free to explore and use space, including the utilization of outer space and resources contained therein, without conditions or limitations” and “this freedom is only to be limited when necessary to assure United States national security interests are met” or fulfill treaty obligations.  H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809. [131] Jeff Foust, House bill seeks to streamline oversight of commercial space activities, Space News (June 8, 2017), http://spacenews.com/house-bill-seeks-to-streamline-oversight-of-commercial-space-activities/. [132] Joshua Hampson, The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, Niskanen Center (June 15, 2017), https://niskanencenter.org/blog/american-space-commerce-free-enterprise-act/. [133] Jeff Foust, House bill seeks to streamline oversight of commercial space activities, Space News (June 8, 2017), http://spacenews.com/house-bill-seeks-to-streamline-oversight-of-commercial-space-activities/. [134] Jeff Foust, House bill seeks to streamline oversight of commercial space activities, Space News (June 8, 2017), http://spacenews.com/house-bill-seeks-to-streamline-oversight-of-commercial-space-activities/; Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate, Congressional Budget Office (July 7, 2017), https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/hr2809.pdf. [135] Samuel R. Ramer, Letter from the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Justice Department (July 17, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/ola/page/file/995646/download. [136] H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809/all-actions. [137] Marcia Smith, New Commercial Space Bill Clears House Committee, Space Policy Online (June 8, 2017), https://spacepolicyonline.com/news/new-commercial-space-bill-clears-house-committee/. [138] Jeffrey Hill, Congressman Babin Hints that Cybersecurity Could be Included in Larger Commercial Space Legislative Package, Satellite Today (Nov. 7, 2017), http://www.satellitetoday.com/government/2017/11/07/cybersecurity-featured-space-commerce-act/. [139] Commerce Department Now Accepting Public Inputs on Regulatory Streamlining, Space Commerce (Oct. 27, 2017), http://www.space.commerce.gov/commerce-department-now-accepting-public-inputs-on-regulatory-streamlining/; Sandy Mazza, Space exploration regulations need overhaul, new report says, Daily Breeze (Dec. 2, 2017), https://www.dailybreeze.com/2017/12/02/space-exploration-regulations-need-overhaul-new-report-says/. [140] Sean Kelly, The new national security strategy prioritizes space, The Hill (Jan. 3, 2018), http://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/367240-the-new-national-security-strategy-prioritizes-space; Jeff Foust, House panel criticizes commercial remote sensing licensing, Space News (Sept. 8, 2016), http://spacenews.com/house-panel-criticizes-commercial-remote-sensing-licensing/.  Critics argue that the NOAA’s approval pace is harming U.S. companies to the benefit of foreign competitors. Randy Showstack, Remote Sensing Regulations Come Under Congressional Scrutiny, EOS (Sept. 14, 2016), https://eos.org/articles/remote-sensing-regulations-come-under-congressional-scrutiny. [141] H.R. Rep No. 6133 (1992), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/102nd-congress/house-bill/6133. [142] Randy Showstack, Remote Sensing Regulations Come Under Congressional Scrutiny, EOS (Sept. 14, 2016), https://eos.org/articles/remote-sensing-regulations-come-under-congressional-scrutiny.  Indeed, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, signed into law in November 2016, requires the Department of Commerce to analyze possible statutory updates to the remote sensing licensing scheme.  Jeff Foust, House panel criticizes commercial remote sensing licensing, Space News (Sept. 8, 2016), http://spacenews.com/house-panel-criticizes-commercial-remote-sensing-licensing/.  The text of the ASCFEA also recognizes that since “the passage of the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing has experienced a significant increase in applications for private remote sensing space system licenses . . .”  H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809. [143] Joshua Hampson, The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, Niskanen Center (June 15, 2017), https://niskanencenter.org/blog/american-space-commerce-free-enterprise-act/.  The ASCFEA defines a Space-Based Remote Sensing System as “a space object in Earth orbit that is “(A) designed to image the Earth; or (B) capable of imaging a space object in Earth orbit operated by the Federal Government.”  H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809. [144] Jeff Foust, Commercial remote sensing companies seek streamlined regulations, Space News (Mar. 17, 2017), http://spacenews.com/commercial-remote-sensing-companies-seek-streamlined-regulations/. [145] Id. [146] Jeff Foust, House panel criticizes commercial remote sensing licensing, Space News (Sept. 8, 2016), http://spacenews.com/house-panel-criticizes-commercial-remote-sensing-licensing/. [147] H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809 (Chapter 8012 § 80202(e)(1)). [148] Jeff Foust, Commercial remote sensing companies seek streamlined regulations, Space News (Mar. 17, 2017), http://spacenews.com/commercial-remote-sensing-companies-seek-streamlined-regulations/. [150] H.R. Rep No. 2809 (2017), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2809 (Chapter 802 § 80201(d)). [151] Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program, 82 Fed. Reg. 59501 (Dec. 11, 2017) [152] Nell Greenfieldboyce, President Trump Is Sending NASA Back to the Moon (Dec. 11, 2017) available at https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/11/569936446/president-trump-is-sending-nasa-back-to-the-moon. [153] See Press Release, NASA, New Space Policy Directive Calls for Human Expansion Across Solar System (Dec. 11, 2017); see also NASA, https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo17.html (last visited Jan. 21, 2018). [154] Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program, supra note clii. [155] Id. [156] NASA, Commercial Crew Program – The Essentials, available at https://www.nasa.gov/content/commercial-crew-program-the-essentials/#.VjOJ3berRaT. [157] Michael Sheetz, Trump Orders NASA to Send American Astronauts to the Moon, Mars, CNBC (Dec. 11, 2017) available at https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/11/trump-orders-nasa-to-send-american-astronauts-to-the-moon-mars.html. [158] See New Space Policy Directive Calls for Human Expansion Across Solar System, supra note cv; see also Christian Davenport, Trump Vows Americans Will Return to the Moon.  The Question Is How?, (Dec. 11, 2017) available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/12/11/trump-vows-americans-will-return-to-the-moon-the-question-is-how/?utm_term=.4ceb20131cdf. [159] The Right Stuff (The Ladd Company 1983). [160] Laurent Thailly and Fiona Schneider, Luxembourg set to become Europe’s commercial space exploration hub with new Space law, Ogier (Jan. 8, 2017), https://www.ogier.com/news/the-luxembourg-space-law. [161] Reuters Staff, Luxembourg sets aside 200 million euros to fund space mining ventures, Reuters (June 3, 2016), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-luxembourg-space-mining/luxembourg-sets-aside-200-million-euros-to-fund-space-mining-ventures-idUSKCN0YP22H; Laurent Thailly and Fiona Schneider, Luxembourg set to become Europe’s commercial space exploration hub with new Space law, Ogier (Jan. 8, 2017), https://www.ogier.com/news/the-luxembourg-space-law.  Luxembourg invested €23 million in U.S. company Planetary Resources, and now owns a 10% share in the company.  Kenneth Chang, If no one owns the moon, can anyone make money up there?, The Independent (Dec. 4, 2017), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/if-no-one-owns-the-moon-can-anyone-make-money-up-there-space-astronomy-a8087126.html. [162] In 2015, the U.S. passed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which clarified that companies that extract materials from celestial bodies can own those materials.  Andrew Silver, Luxembourg passes first EU space mining law. One can possess the Spice, The Register (July 14, 2017), https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/07/14/luxembourg_passes_space_mining_law/. [163] Jeff Foust, Luxembourg adopts space resources law, Space News (July 17, 2017), http://spacenews.com/luxembourg-adopts-space-resources-law/. [164] Jeff Foust, Luxembourg adopts space resources law, Space News (July 17, 2017), http://spacenews.com/luxembourg-adopts-space-resources-law;  Paul Zenners, Press Release, Space Resources (July 13, 2017), http://www.spaceresources.public.lu/content/dam/spaceresources/press-release/2017/2017_07_13%20PressRelease_Law_Space_Resources_EN.pdf. [165] Laurent Thailly and Fiona Schneider, Luxembourg set to become Europe’s commercial space exploration hub with new Space law, Ogier (Jan. 8, 2017), https://www.ogier.com/news/the-luxembourg-space-law.  Reportedly, two American companies already plan to move to Luxembourg:  Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources. Vasudevan Mukunth, Fiat Luxembourg: How a Tiny European Nation is Leading the Evolution of Space Law, The Wire (July 15, 2017), https://thewire.in/157687/luxembourg-space-asteroid-mining-dsi/. [166] Andrew Silver, Luxembourg passes first EU space mining law. One can possess the Spice, The Register (July 14, 2017), https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/07/14/luxembourg_passes_space_mining_law/;  Mark Kaufman, Luxembourg’s Asteroid Mining is Legal Says Space Law Expert, inverse.com (Aug. 1, 2017), https://www.inverse.com/article/34935-luxembourg-s-asteroid-mining-is-legal-says-space-law-expert. [167] Antariksh Bhavan, Seeking comments on Draft “Space Activities Bill, 2017” from the stake holders/public-regarding, ISRO (Nov. 21, 2017), https://www.isro.gov.in/update/21-nov-2017/seeking-comments-draft-space-activities-bill-2017-stake-holders-public-regarding;  Special Correspondent, Govt. unveils draft of law to regulate space sector, The Hindu (Nov. 22, 2017), http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/govt-unveils-draft-of-law-to-regulate-space-sector/article20629386.ece;  Raghu Krishnan & T E Narasimhan, Draft space law gives private firms a grip on rocket, satellite making, Business Standard (Nov. 22, 2017), http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/draft-space-law-gives-private-firms-a-grip-on-rocket-satellite-making-117112101234_1.html. [168] Antariksh Bhavan, Seeking comments on Draft “Space Activities Bill, 2017” from the stake holders/public-regarding, ISRO (Nov. 21, 2017), https://www.isro.gov.in/update/21-nov-2017/seeking-comments-draft-space-activities-bill-2017-stake-holders-public-regarding. [169] Id. [170] Ellen Barry, India Launches 104 Satellites From a Single Rocket, Ramping Up a Space Race, The New York Times (Feb. 15, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/world/asia/india-satellites-rocket.html. [171] Id. [172] Yes, Australia will have a space agency. What does this mean? Experts respond, The Conversation (Sept. 25, 2017), http://theconversation.com/yes-australia-will-have-a-space-agency-what-does-this-mean-experts-respond-84588;  Jordan Chong, Better late than never, Australia heads (back) to space, Australian Aviation (Dec. 29, 2017), http://australianaviation.com.au/2017/12/better-late-than-never-australia-heads-back-to-space/. [173] Andrew Griffin, Australia launches brand new space agency in attempt to flee the Earth, The Independent (Sept. 25, 2017), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/australia-space-agency-nasa-earth-roscosmos-malcolm-turnbull-economy-a7966751.html;  Henry Belot, Australian space agency to employ thousands and tap $420b industry, Government says, ABC (Sept. 25, 2017), http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-25/government-to-establish-national-space-agency/8980268. [174]   White House, Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-21 (Feb. 12, 2013). [175]   Woodrow Bellamy III, Senators Reintroduce Aircraft Cyber Security Legislation, Aviation Today (Mar. 24, 2017), http://www.aviationtoday.com/2017/03/24/senators-reintroduce-aircraft-cyber-security-legislation/. [176]   The eighteen states that passed UAS legislation in 2017 were Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming. The three states that passed resolutions related to UAS were Alaska, North Dakota and Utah. [177]   Under Section 2202 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, Pub. L. 114-190, Congress directed the FAA to convene industry stakeholders to facilitate the development of consensus standards for identifying operators and UAS owners.  The final report identifies the following as the ARC’s stated objectives: The stated objectives of the ARC charter were: to identify, categorize and recommend available and emerging technology for the remote identification and tracking of UAS; to identify the requirements for meeting the security and public safety needs of the law enforcement, homeland defense, and national security communities for the remote identification and tracking of UAS; and to evaluate the feasibility and affordability of available technical solutions, and determine how well those technologies address the needs of the law enforcement and air traffic control communities. The final ARC report is available at: https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/committees/documents/media/UAS%20ID%20ARC%20Final%20Report%20with%20Appendices.pdf. 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March 1, 2018 |
Joint Venture Traps to Avoid

Houston partners Gerry Spedale and Hillary Holmes are the authors of “Joint Venture Traps to Avoid,” [PDF] published in Midstream Business in March 2018.

March 2, 2018 |
ALJs Check Their Own Work, With Unsurprising Results

San Francisco partner Marc Fagel is the author of “ALJs Check Their Own Work, With Unsurprising Results,” [PDF] published by Law360 on March 2, 2018.

March 5, 2018 |
Supreme Court Settles Circuit Split Concerning Bankruptcy Code “Safe Harbor”

Click for PDF On February 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Merit Management Group, LP v. FTI Consulting, Inc. (No. 16-784), settling a circuit split regarding the “safe harbor” provision in § 546(e) of the Bankruptcy Code.  That section bars the avoidance of certain types of securities and commodities transactions that are made by, to or for the benefit of covered entities including financial institutions, stockbrokers and securities clearing agencies. Circuits had split regarding whether the safe harbor protects a transfer that passes through a covered entity, where the entity only acts as a conduit and has no beneficial interest in the property transferred.  In Merit Management, the Court held that the safe harbor does not apply when a covered entity only acts as a conduit, and that the safe harbor only applies when the “relevant transfer” (i.e., the “overarching” transfer sought to be avoided) is by, to or for the benefit of a covered entity.  As a result, the Court held that the safe harbor did not protect a private securities transaction where neither the buyer nor the seller was a covered entity, even though the funds passed through covered entities. The Bankruptcy Code “Safe Harbor” The Bankruptcy Code permits a trustee to bring claims to “avoid” (or undo) for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate certain prepetition transfers or obligations, including claims to avoid a preference (11 U.S.C. § 547) or fraudulent transfer (11 U.S.C. § 548(a)).  Section 546(e) limits those avoidance powers by providing that, “[n]otwithstanding” the trustee’s avoidance powers, “the trustee may not avoid a transfer that is” (1) a “margin payment” or “settlement payment” “made by or to (or for the benefit of)” a covered entity, or (2) “a transfer made by or to (or for the benefit of)” a covered entity “in connection with a securities contract . . . or forward contract.”  11 U.S.C. § 546(e).  The sole exception to the safe harbor is a claim for “actual fraudulent transfer” under § 548(a)(1)(A).  Id. Background Merit Management involved the acquisition of a “racino” (a combined horse racing and casino business) by its competitor.  To consummate the transaction, the buyer’s bank wired $55 million to another bank that acted as a third-party escrow agent, which disbursed the funds to the seller’s shareholders in exchange for their stock in the seller.  The buyer subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and a litigation trust was established pursuant to the buyer’s confirmed reorganization plan.  The trustee sued one of the selling shareholders that received $16.5 million from the buyer, alleging that the transaction was a constructive fraudulent transfer under § 548(a)(1)(B) because the buyer was insolvent at the time of the purchase and “significantly overpaid” for the stock. The district court held that the safe harbor barred the fraudulent transfer claim because the transaction was a securities settlement payment involving intermediate transfers “by” and “to” covered entities (the banks).  The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the safe harbor did not apply because the banks only acted as conduits and neither the buyer nor the shareholder was a covered entity.  In so holding, the Seventh Circuit diverged from other circuits that had applied the safe harbor to transactions consummated through a covered entity acting as a conduit.[1]  Those circuits interpreted the disjunctive language in the safe harbor that protects transfers “by or to (or for the benefit of)” a covered entity to mean that a transfer “by” or “to” a covered entity is protected even if the transfer is not “for the benefit of” the covered entity.  The Supreme Court granted certiorari to settle the circuit split. The Supreme Court Holds That the Safe Harbor Does Not Protect a Transfer When a Covered Entity Only Acts as a Conduit   The Supreme Court affirmed the Seventh Circuit’s decision, holding that the safe harbor does not protect a transfer when a covered entity only acts as a conduit.  The crux of the decision is that a safe harbor analysis must focus on whether the “relevant transfer,” meaning the “overarching” or “end-to-end” transfer that the trustee seeks to avoid, was by, to or for the benefit of a covered entity.  Whether an intermediate or “component” transfer was made by or to a covered entity is “simply irrelevant to the analysis under § 546(e).”[2]  The Court reasoned that, as an express limitation on the trustee’s avoidance powers, § 546(e) must be applied in relation to the trustee’s exercise of those powers with respect to the transfer that the trustee seeks to avoid, not component transfers that the trustee does not seek to avoid.[3]  In the case before it, because the trustee sought to avoid the “end-to-end” transfer from the buyer to the shareholder, and neither was a covered entity, the safe harbor did not apply. The Court Avoids Adjudicating a Potentially Significant Defense The shareholder did not argue in the lower courts that the buyer or the shareholder was a covered entity.  In its briefing in the Supreme Court, the shareholder argued that the buyer and seller were both covered entities because they were customers of the banks that facilitated the transaction, and the definition of “financial institution” in 11 U.S.C. § 101(22)(A) includes a “customer” of a financial institution when the institution “is acting as agent or custodian for a customer.”  During oral argument, Justice Breyer indicated that he might have been receptive to that potentially dispositive argument.  However, the decision expressly avoids adjudicating the argument on the basis that the shareholder raised the point “only in footnotes and did not argue that it somehow dictates the outcome in this case.”  Id. at n. 2.  As a result, the “customer-as-financial-institution defense” will likely be litigated in the lower courts going forward. Impact of Merit Management As a result of Merit Management, parties to securities and commodities transactions should expect that, in the event of a bankruptcy filing, the safe harbor will not protect a transaction unless the transferor, transferee or beneficiary of the “overarching” transfer is a covered entity.  Routing a transfer through a covered entity will no longer protect the transaction.  Given the increased importance placed on whether a party to the overarching transfer is a covered entity, Merit Management may lead to a new wave of litigation regarding the scope of the covered entities, including the circumstances in which the customer of a financial institution constitutes a covered entity, and related planning strategies to fall within such scope.    [1]   See, e.g., In re Quebecor World (USA) Inc., 719 F. 3d 94, 99 (2d Cir. 2013); In re QSI Holdings, Inc., 571 F. 3d 545, 551 (6th Cir. 2009); Contemporary Indus. Corp. v. Frost, 564 F. 3d 981, 987 (8th Cir. 2009); In re Resorts Int’l, Inc., 181 F. 3d 505, 516 (3d Cir. 1999); In re Kaiser Steel Corp., 952 F. 2d 1230, 1240 (10th Cir. 1991).    [2]   Decision at p. 14.    [3]   See id. at pp. 11-14 (“If a trustee properly identifies an avoidable transfer . . . the court has no reason to examine the relevance of component parts when considering a limit to the avoiding power, where that limit is defined by reference to an otherwise avoidable transfer, as is the case with §546(e). . . .”). Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’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, any member of the firm’s Business Restructuring and Reorganization practice group, or the following authors: Oscar Garza – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-3849, ogarza@gibsondunn.com) Michael A. Rosenthal – New York (+1 212-351-3969, mrosenthal@gibsondunn.com) Douglas G Levin – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4196, dlevin@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact the following practice group leaders: Business Restructuring and Reorganization Group: Michael A. Rosenthal – New York (+1 212-351-3969, mrosenthal@gibsondunn.com) David M. Feldman – New York (+1 212-351-2366, dfeldman@gibsondunn.com) Jeffrey C. Krause – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7995, jkrause@gibsondunn.com) Robert A. Klyman – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7562, rklyman@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.

February 28, 2018 |
Webcast: Shareholder Engagement & Activism – Preparing for the 2018 Proxy Season

The subject of shareholder engagement and activism rightfully continues to be the focus of discussion in boardrooms and in-house legal departments across the country. With no public company “too big” to be the subject of an activist intervention, it is imperative for corporations to proactively manage the risk of a disruptive activist campaign. Our team of experienced corporate, governance and litigation attorneys will be joined by proxy solicitation and public relations experts from Innisfree and Joele Frank to discuss the steps that corporations should be taking to prepare for the 2018 proxy season. View Slides [PDF] PANELISTS: Eduardo Gallardo is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office. His practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance matters. Mr. Gallardo has extensive experience representing public and private acquirers and targets in connection with mergers, acquisitions and takeovers, both negotiated and contested. He has also represented public and private companies in connection with proxy contests, leveraged buyouts, spinoffs, divestitures, restructurings, recapitalizations, joint ventures and other complex corporate transactions. Mr. Gallardo also advises corporations, their boards of directors and special board committees in connection with corporate governance and compliance matters, shareholder activism, takeover preparedness and other corporate matters. Brian Lutz is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s San Francisco and New York offices where he is Co-Chair of the Firm’s National Securities Litigation Practice Group. Mr. Lutz has experience in a wide range of complex commercial litigation, with an emphasis on corporate control contests, securities litigation, and shareholder actions alleging breaches of fiduciary duties. He represents public companies, private equity firms, investment banks and clients across a variety of industries, including bio-pharma, tech, finance, retail, health care, energy, accounting and insurance. Mr. Lutz has twice been named a Rising Star by Law360 in the Securities category—a distinction awarded annually to five attorneys nationwide under the age of 40. He also has been named a Leading Lawyer in M&A Defense by Legal 500. Mr. Lutz was named “Litigator of the Week” by AmLaw Litigation Daily (an American Lawyer publication) for his work in securing a rare preliminary injunction that prevented a hostile takeover attempt of the pharmaceutical company Depomed, Inc. Lori Zyskowski is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office where she is a member of the Firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group. Ms. Zyskowski advises public companies and their boards of directors on a wide range of corporate law matters, including corporate governance, compliance with U.S. federal securities laws and the requirements of the major U.S. stock exchanges, and shareholder engagement and activism matters. She formerly served as Executive Counsel, Corporate, Securities & Finance at the General Electric Company, where she advised GE’s board of directors and senior management on corporate governance and securities law issues. Matthew Sherman is President, a Partner and a founding member of JOELE FRANK, a leading strategic financial communications and investor relations firm.  Mr. Sherman has more than 22 years of experience providing strategic corporate, financial and crisis communications counsel to Boards of Directors and executive leadership of public corporations and private equity firms involved in M&A, hostile takeovers, proxy contests, shareholder activism defense, spin-offs, reorganizations, financial restructurings, management changes, litigation, regulatory actions and a wide range of corporate crises. Scott Winter is a Managing Director of Innisfree M&A Incorporated. Mr. Winter advises companies and investors on all aspects of shareholder engagement focusing on hostile and friendly acquisitions, shareholder activism, contested shareholder meetings, corporate governance, and other proxy solicitation matters. Mr. Winter has been involved in most of the significant U.S. hostile takeovers in the past decade as well as activism situations involving, among others, Barington, Corvex, Elliott Management, Engaged Capital, Icahn Associates, Land & Buildings, Lone Star Value, JANA Partners, Marcato, Pershing Square, SachemHead, Sandell, Starboard Value, Third Point, Trian, and ValueAct. 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 1.00 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. 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.  

February 23, 2018 |
EPA In The Trump Era: The DOJ’s 3rd-Party Payment Policy

Washington, D.C. partner Raymond B. Ludwiszewski is the author of “EPA In The Trump Era: The DOJ’s 3rd-Party Payment Policy,” [PDF] published by Law360 on February 23, 2018.

February 21, 2018 |
Court Reevaluates Stockholder Ratification of Director Compensation for First Time in Decades

New York associates Jefferson Bell and David Coon are the authors of “Court Reevaluates Stockholder Ratification of Director Compensation for First Time in Decades,” [PDF] published by Delaware Business Court Insider on February 21, 2018.

February 21, 2018 |
Supreme Court Says Whistleblowers Must Report to the SEC Before Suing for Retaliation Under Dodd-Frank

Click for PDF Today, the Supreme Court held 9-0 that whistleblowers must report alleged misconduct to the SEC before they can sue under the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provision. Background: The Dodd-Frank Act prohibits retaliating against a “whistleblower” because that person reported misconduct to the SEC; initiated, testified in, or assisted with an SEC proceeding; or made certain required or protected disclosures. 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(h)(1)(A). The Act defines a “whistleblower” as a person who reports misconduct to the SEC. 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(a)(6). Paul Somers reported suspected misconduct to his employer but not to the SEC. After he was fired, he sued his former employer for retaliation under the Dodd-Frank Act. Issue: Whether the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provision extends to individuals who have not reported alleged misconduct to the SEC. Court’s Holding: Whistleblowers must report suspected misconduct to the SEC to be able to sue for retaliation under the Dodd-Frank Act. “Courts are not at liberty to dispense with the condition—tell the SEC—Congress imposed.”          Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court What It Means: The Court premised its decision on the statute’s text. Even though purpose-based arguments were made for extending the anti-retaliation provision to individuals who do not report to the SEC, the Court declined to take that step because the statute clearly defines a “whistleblower” as a person who reported alleged misconduct to the SEC. The Court rejected the SEC’s contrary interpretation of the statute, which was contained in a regulation. The Court also dismissed concerns that the ruling would undermine protection for “auditors, attorneys, and other employees subject to internal-reporting requirements,” explaining that they already had protection under Sarbanes-Oxley and would also be protected under Dodd-Frank once they provided the relevant information to the SEC. Recall that the Court addressed a similar issue in Lawson v. FMR LLC, 134 S. Ct. 1158 (2014). In that case, the Court held for the whistleblower, ruling that contractors and subcontractors of a public company may sue for retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. It is important to note that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act does not include a requirement that a whistleblower report to the SEC. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding developments at the Supreme Court.  Please feel free to contact the following practice leaders: Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Caitlin J. Halligan +1 212.351.3909challigan@gibsondunn.com Mark A. Perry +1 202.887.3667mperry@gibsondunn.com Nicole A. Saharsky +1 202.887.3669 nsaharsky@gibsondunn.com   Related Practices: Labor and Employment Catherine A. Conway+1 213-229-7822 cconway@gibsondunn.com Eugene Scalia+1 202-955-8206 escalia@gibsondunn.com Jason C. Schwartz+1 202-955-8242 jschwartz@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.

February 1, 2018 |
Compliance – Was ist das eigentlich?

Munich partner Mark Zimmer is the author of “Compliance – Was ist das eigentlich?,” [PDF] published in the February 2018 issue of the German publication BWV (Bundesverwehrverwaltung).  The article explains the relevance of compliance for business and governmental agencies.