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August 10, 2018 |
Private Funds and the Clayton SEC: Out From Under the Microscope?

San Francisco partner Marc Fagel is the co-author of “Private Funds and the Clayton SEC: Out From Under the Microscope?” [PDF] published in the July/August 2018 issue of Practical Compliance & Risk Management For the Securities Industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for PDF In this mid-year analysis of government contracts litigation, Gibson Dunn examines trends and summarizes key decisions of interest to government contractors from the first half of 2018.  This publication covers the waterfront of the opinions most important to this audience issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”), and Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”). The first six months of 2018 yielded 4 government contracts-related opinions of note from the Federal Circuit, excluding decisions related to bid protests.  From January 1 through July 30, 2018, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued 7 notable non-bid protest government contracts-related decisions (and one bid-protest decision with wider-reaching implications we address here), and the ASBCA and CBCA published 54 and 64 substantive government contracts decisions, respectively.  As discussed herein, these cases address a wide range of issues with which government contractors should be familiar, including matters of cost allowability, jurisdictional requirements, terminations, contract interpretation, remedies, and the various topics of federal common law that have developed in the government contracts arena.  For background on the tribunals that adjudicate government contracts disputes, please see our 2017 Year-End Update. Of 1,502 cases pending before the Federal Circuit as of June 30, 2018, 12 were appeals from the boards of contract appeals and 132 were appeals from the Court of Federal Claims (“COFC”)—cumulatively comprising just under 10% of the appellate court’s docket. Only 4% of the appeals filed at the Federal Circuit in FY 2017 were governments contracts cases, which is consistent with previous years. On May 13, 2018, Judge Lis B. Young was appointed to the ASBCA after over 25 years of public service with the Federal Government, holding various positions with the former General Services Board of Contract Appeals and  the Department of the Navy, including most recently as Associate Counsel, Navy Acquisition Integrity Office, where she worked on suspension and debarment actions. On March 28, 2018, the CBCA proposed to amend its rules of procedure for cases arising under the CDA. The Board’s current rules were issued in 2008, and were last amended in 2011. The proposed revisions establish a preference for electronic filing, are designed to “increase[e] conformity” between the Board’s rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by cross-referencing and incorporating the FRCP standards, and streamlines and clarifies the Board’s current rules and practices. Notably, a proposed change to CBCA Rule 6, which governs pleadings, would require the opposing party’s consent to amend a pleading once without permission of the Board. Comments on the Proposed Rule were due on May 29, 2018. I.    COST ALLOWABILITY & COST ACCOUNTING STANDARDS The Court of Federal Claims issued one decision during the first half of 2018 addressing the merits of cost allowability issues under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”).  Pursuant to FAR 31.201-2, a cost is allowable only if it (1) is reasonable; (2) is allocable; (3) complies with any applicable Cost Accounting Standards, or otherwise with generally accepted accounting principles appropriate in the circumstances; (4) complies with the terms of the contract; and (5) complies with any limitations in FAR subpart 31.2. Bechtel Nat’l, Inc. v. United States, No. 17-757C (Fed. Cl. Apr. 3, 2018) In Bechtel, the Court of Federal Claims considered whether the Department of Energy’s disallowance of litigation costs breached Bechtel’s contract. Two former employees of Bechtel sued Bechtel for sexual and racial harassment and discrimination. Bechtel ultimately settled both suits and sought reimbursement of litigation costs from the government for each suit, which the contracting officer denied in a final decision. In disallowing the costs, the contracting officer relied in part on the Federal Circuit’s decision in Geren v. Tecom, Inc., 566 F.3d 1037 (Fed. Cir. 2009), which held that costs incurred in the defense of an employment discrimination suit settled before trial are unallowable unless the contracting officer determines that the plaintiff had “very little likelihood of success on the merits.” Bechtel argued that Tecom had no bearing on the allowability of its litigation costs because, unlike in Tecom, the contract here included a Department of Energy Acquisition Regulation (“DEAR”) clause that “explicitly allocat[ed] the risk of third party claims to the Government.” The Court (Kaplan, J.) rejected this argument, finding that an exception in the DEAR clause prohibiting reimbursement of liabilities “otherwise unallowable by law or the visions of this contract” applied. Employing the principles in Tecom, the COFC found the “provisions of the contract,” including the contract’s anti-discrimination provision, rendered Bechtel’s costs of defending against and settling the discrimination complaints unallowable. However, the COFC stated that the holding in Tecom “was a limited one” that did not necessarily extend to breaches of contractual obligations other than anti-discrimination provisions. Bechtel’s appeal to the Federal Circuit is pending. ___________________ The COFC also considered two questions relating to the allocation of pension assets and liabilities for the purpose of a segment closing under Cost Accounting Standard (“CAS”) 413. United States Enrichment Corp. v. United States, No. 15-68C (Fed. Cl. Jan. 16, 2018) United States Enrichment Corporation (“USEC”) became a private entity in 1998 pursuant to the 1996 USEC Privatization Act.  Post-privatization, USEC continued to operate uranium enrichment facilities for the government at Portsmouth, Ohio and Paducah, Kentucky.  In 2010, DOE wound down all enrichment work at USEC’s Portsmouth facility, and on January 1, 2011, USEC divided what had been a single cost accounting segment for Paducah and Portsmouth into two separate segments. USEC announced it would close the Portsmouth segment on September 30, 2011, which triggered its obligation to perform a segment closing adjustment under CAS 413-50(c)(12). First, rejecting USEC’s argument that CAS 413-50(c)(5) requires the use of historical “data of the segment,” the COFC (Firestone, J.) determined that USEC had applied CAS 413 incorrectly when it failed to use data from the earliest date that USEC had data for employees associated with Portsmouth to allocate pension assets and liabilities to the new segment.   Instead, the Court agreed with the Government’s argument that the allocation must be based on historic data for the workers employed at the closed segment from the earliest period when that data is available and readily determinable – including the period before USEC became a private enterprise. Second, the COFC considered whether USEC could recover any deficit for under-funded post-retirement benefit obligations (“PRB”) from the Government in the CAS 413 segment closing adjustment, or whether the PRB obligations at issue should be excluded from the closing adjustment. Applying the holding from Raytheon Co. v. United States, 92 Fed. Cl. 549 (2012), the COFC found that while some of the PRBs at issue were not vested or integral because USEC’s Plan provided that USEC could terminate or modify its obligation to pay PRBs, others were protected by the Privatization Act such that they should be factored into the segment closing adjustment, and granted-in-part and denied-in-part both parties’ cross motions for summary judgment on the issue. II.  JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES As is frequently the case, jurisdictional issues dominated the landscape of key government contracts decisions during the first half of 2018. A.  Requirement for a Valid Contract In order for there to be Contract Disputes Act jurisdiction over a claim, there must be a contract from which that claim arises.  See FAR 33.201 (defining a “claim” as “a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking . . . relief arising under or relating to this contract“).  The CDA applies to contracts made by an executive agency for: (1) the procurement of property, other than real property in being; (2) the procurement of services; (3) the procurement of construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance of real property; and (4) the disposal of personal property.  41 U.S.C. § 7102(a)(1)-(4). Additionally, claims under the Contract Disputes Act must be brought by a contractor in privity of contract with the government. The Federal Circuit and the ASBCA addressed these issues in the first half of 2018. Agility Logistics Servs. Co. KSC v. Mattis, No. 2015-1555 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 16, 2018) In Agility, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals’ dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of Agility’s claim arising from a contract originally awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority (“CPA”) in Iraq. The COFC (Prost, C.J.) found that the CPA did not constitute an “executive agency” so as to invoke jurisdiction under the Contracts Disputes Act. The court relied primarily on the plain language of the agreement, which made clear that the CPA, which was not an executive agency, awarded the contract.  The COFC also rejected Agility’s argument that the government became the contracting party after the CPA dissolved because the Iraqi Interim Government’s Minister of Finance had properly taken responsibility for the contract after the dissolution of the CPA.  The COFC also rejected Agility’s argument that each individual task order issued was a discrete contract, finding that “even if an executive agency issued the Task Orders, it did so as a contract administrator and not as a contracting party.”  The COFC additionally found that it had no jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision regarding jurisdiction under the Board’s charter. Cooper/Ports America, LLC, ASBCA No. 61461 (May 2, 2018) After Cooper/Ports America LLC (“CPA”) entered into a novation agreement with the government and the original contractor, Shippers, CPA filed a claim for unilateral mistake based, in part, on the fact that Shippers’ bid was 63% below that of the next lowest bidder and contained mistakes that should have been apparent to the government. The government moved to dismiss, claiming that CPA lacked the required privity of contract to qualify as a “contractor” with standing to pursue a claim that accrued when it was not a party to the contract (i.e., pre-novation). More specifically, the government asserted that there must have been an express assignment of that claim to which the government consented in order for the Board to find a valid government waiver of the statutory prohibition against assignment of claims. The ASBCA (O’Sullivan, A.J.) denied the government’s motion to dismiss because the government expressly recognized CPA as the “contractor” in the novation agreement. Moreover, the novation agreement recognized CPA as “entitled to all rights, titles and interests of the Transferor in and to the contracts as if the Transferee were the original party to the contracts,” and the Board found that a narrow interpretation of the novation would fly in the face of the plain language of the agreement. B.  Adequacy of the Claim Another common issue arising before the tribunals that hear government contracts disputes is whether the contractor appealed a valid CDA claim.  FAR 33.201 defines a “claim” as “a written demand or written assertion by one of the contracting parties seeking, as a matter of right, the payment of money in a sum certain, the adjustment or interpretation of contract terms, or other relief arising under or relating to this contract.”  Under the CDA, a claim for more than $100,000 must be certified.  In the first half of 2018, the boards considered the elements of an adequate claim under the CDA. Meridian Eng’g Co. v. United States, 2017-1584 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 20, 2018) Meridian Engineering Company appealed the Court of Federal Claims’ dismissal of its claims arising from its 2007 contract to build flood control structures.  Meridian’s initial suit in the COFC alleged breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of the CDA as an independent claim. Meridian argued that the COFC erred when it “reasoned that only Meridian’s breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing claims presented a viable cause of action” because its claims should have been “analyzed under the framework contemplated by the CDA, and not under the rubric of a ‘breach’ claim.” The Federal Circuit (Wallach, J.) affirmed the dismissal, finding that Meridian had not submitted a valid claim because the CDA did not itself provide a cause of action. Rather, “it is the claim asserted pursuant to the CDA that is the source of potential damages and review by the trier of fact.”  The court concluded that the COFC had not erred in finding jurisdiction under the CDA to evaluate the breach of contract claims, but found that the COFC had erred with respect to the substantive merits of certain claims. 1.  Claim Accrual Under the CDA, a claim must be submitted within six years after the claim accrues. FAR 33.201 defines accrual of a claim as the date when all events that fix alleged liability and permit assertion of the claim are known or should be known. Green Valley Co., ASBCA No. 61275 (Feb. 13, 2018) Green Valley held a blanket purchase agreement to supply life support services to the Army.  In 2006, Green Valley began invoicing the government for services it performed under the BPA, but it did not submit a certified claim for those unpaid invoices until 2017.  The contracting officer denied the claim, and Green Valley appealed.  The government sought to dismiss the claim because it had not been submitted within six years of accrual of the claim, as required by the CDA’s statute of limitations. The ASBCA (Melnick, A.J.) found that Green Valley’s claim accrued in 2006 after it submitted its invoices for payment, and that the ten-year delay in submitting the claim rendered it time-barred.  The Board explained that while an invoice is not necessarily a claim, it can be converted into one within a reasonable time if it is not acted upon or paid.  The Board considered Green Valley’s argument that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled, noting that tolling might be appropriate if a litigant has been pursuing its rights diligently, and some extraordinary circumstance stood in its way and prevented the timely filing of the claim.  However, the Board found that Green Valley had not proven such circumstances, and dismissed the appeal as untimely. 2.  Sum Certain Fluor Fed. Sols., LLC, ASBCA No. 61353 (May 30, 2018) Fluor submitted a certified claim to the Navy for the estimated additional cost of performing work  under a unilateral modification to the contract.  The Navy argued that the claim was complex and, thus, refused to issue a final decision until it received an audit report from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (“DCAA”).  Fluor notified the Navy that it would treat the claim as a deemed denial and subsequently appealed to the ASBCA on this basis.  The Board asked the parties to respond whether the claimed amount qualified as a sum certain since it was based on estimated costs. Both parties agreed that Fluor’s claim satisfied the sum certain requirement.  The Navy argued, however, that the claim was complex and required a DCAA audit before the CO could issue a final decision. Without a final decision, the Navy argued, the claim was premature and the Board lacked jurisdiction. The Board (Clarke, A.J.) denied the Navy’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the desired DCAA audit does not change the status of a contractor’s claim because it is not needed to assess entitlement, only quantum. The Board affirmed previous decisions that the use of estimated or approximate costs in determining the value of a claim is permissible so long as the total overall demand is for a sum certain. 3.  Claim Certification Horton Constr. Co., Inc., ASBCA No. 61085 (Feb. 14, 2018) Horton requested an equitable adjustment to its contract for the crushing of a concrete stockpile because the amount of concrete stockpile was smaller than originally anticipated. When Horton appealed from the contracting officer’s denial of its equitable adjustment claim, the government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, claiming Horton had not shown that it possessed the legal capacity to initiate or continue the appeal because the company’s status had been administratively terminated by the state of Louisiana, and that any attempt to ratify the appeal was too late. The ASBCA (Osterhout, A.J.) rejected the government’s first argument that Horton did not have the capacity to continue the appeal because Louisiana had subsequently reinstated the company.  The Board also rejected the government’s argument that the signatory to the claim was not authorized to certify the claim.  The CDA requires that a certified claim be executed by an individual authorized to bind the contractor with respect to the claim.  The test is one of authorization, and the signatory here was appointed as executrix to the estate of Mr. Horton Sr., who owned the company, and thus had power to bind the company. Moreover, the Board held, even if the executrix had not been authorized to bind the company, a defective certification under the CDA may be corrected prior to the entry of final judgment by the Board.  Accordingly, because the appeal was timely filed and the claim was properly certified and prosecuted, the Board denied the government’s motion to dismiss. Mayberry Enters., LLC v. Department of Energy, CBCA No. 5961 (Mar. 13, 2018) The Western Area Power Administration (“WAPA”), acting through the Department of Energy, filed a motion to dismiss Mayberry’s appeal from a contracting officer’s decision denying its monetary claims because Mayberry’s claim letter was uncertified. Under the CDA, while a defective certification can be corrected, a complete failure to certify may not and the Board must dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. In light of the Federal Circuit’s caution that tribunals should be wary of automatically applying claim certification to a single claim letter containing multiple claims that do not arise out of the same operative facts, Placeway Construction v. United States, 920 F.2d 903 (Fed. Cir. 1990), the CBCA reviewed the letter to determine whether the “claims” should be interpreted as a single claim or multiple claims. Because the Board (Lester, A.J.)found that each claim arose from different and unrelated problems during contract performance, each claim was analyzed for certification independently. The Board dismissed one of the three claims for lack of jurisdiction because it was in excess of $100,000 and had not been certified. Areyana Grp. of Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 60648 (May 11, 2018) Areyana Group of Construction Co. (“AGCC”) timely appealed a CO’s final decision denying a request for a time extension and the return of liquidated damages withheld by the government. The government filed a motion to dismiss, contending that AGCC failed to certify its request and that, accordingly, the ASBCA lacked jurisdiction to review its allegations. The Board (Paul, A.J.) agreed with the government and dismissed the AGCC’s claim, affirming prior holdings that absence of a certification bars the Board’s exercise of jurisdiction and is not considered a “defect.” Additionally, the Board noted that the CO’s purported issuance of a final decision does not remedy this problem. C.  Requirement for a Contracting Officer’s Final Decision A number of decisions from the tribunals that hear government contracts disputes dealt with the CDA’s requirement that a claim have been “the subject of a contracting officer’s final decision.” Hejran Hejrat Co., ASBCA No. 61234 (Apr. 23, 2018) After HHL’s contract was suspended pending a bid protest, HHL informed the contracting officer that it incurred additional costs due to the time necessary for the government’s corrective action and delay in the issuance of the notice to proceed. There was no evidence that the government considered HHL’s concerns regarding additional costs. Instead, the government issued a unilateral modification that lifted the prior award suspension; decreased the contract price; revised the performance work statement to reflect delays in government furnished equipment; and declared that an equitable adjustment due to the suspension was not required and the government was absolved of any claims due to that suspension. The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.) dismissed HHL’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction because HHL’s purported claim was not certified and failed to request a final decision from the contracting officer.  The Board noted that the CO’s statements promising to send a final decision and, in fact, sending a document labeled final decision did not cure HHL’s failure to request a final decision.  The Board stated: “There can be no contracting officer’s final decision on a claim if the contractor has not requested that decision from the contracting officer.” H2Ll-CSC, JV, ASBCA No. 61404 (June 14, 2018) H2Ll-CSC, JV (“HCJ”) appealed a CO’s decision denying HCJ’s claim arising from an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity type contract with firm-fixed-price task orders for design/build construction, and incidental service projects. The ASBCA sua sponte directed the parties to brief the issue of the Board’s jurisdiction. Specifically, the Board noted that HCJ had requested telephonically, but not in writing, that its request for an equitable adjustment be treated as a claim under the CDA. The Board (Paul, A.J.) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that a request for a final decision, like the totality of a claim submission, must be in writing and the CO cannot waive this requirement by issuing a final decision. OCCI, Inc., ASBCA No. 61279 (May 29, 2018) OCCI sought remission of liquidated damages that the government claimed for late completion of contract work, arguing that it was entitled to time extensions for government-caused and/or concurrent delay and that its failure to timely complete work under the contract was excusable. The ASBCA (Shackleford, A.J.) dismissed the appeal, holding that OCCI was precluded from raising the issue that its delay was excusable and that it was entitled to time extensions because OCCI never filed a proper CDA claim asserting entitlement to the time extensions as required by M. Maropakis Carpentry, Inc. v. United States, 609 F.3d 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2010), which held that “a contractor seeking an adjustment of contract terms [such as an extension of time] must meet the jurisdictional requirements and procedural prerequisites of the CDA, whether asserting the claim against the government as an affirmative claim or as a defense to a government action” (emphasis added). Walker Dev. & Trading Grp., Inc., CBCA No. 5907 (June 6, 2018) The Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) moved to strike certain counts of Walker Development & Trading Group Inc.’s complaint, asserting that the CBCA lacks jurisdiction to decide those portions of the complaint because they were not included in its claims submitted to the contracting officer. The Board (Beardsley, A.J.) observed that, while it may not consider new claims that a contractor failed to present to the contracting officer, a claim before the Board is not required to rigidly adhere to the exact language or structure of the original administrative CDA claim presented to the contracting officer.  The Board denied the motion to dismiss, finding that “the allegations in the complaint arise from the same operative facts and are not materially different.” D.  Filing Deadlines The boards of contract appeals heard cases concerning two different types of timing deadlines – the CDA’s six-year statute of limitations, and the requirement that a claim for equitable adjustment be filed before final payment is made on the contract. Khenj Logistics Grp., ASBCA No. 61178 (Feb. 15, 2018) In 2009, the government awarded KLG a contract to construct a facility in Afghanistan.  After commencing work on the contract, the government issued a stop-work order.  Shortly thereafter, the parties executed a bilateral contract modification which terminated the contract for convenience, and the government agreed to reimburse KLG for the cost of maintaining insurance, while KLG in turn released further claims against the government.  KLG finally submitted a termination claim in 2017. After KLG appealed, the government filed a motion for summary judgment based on KLG’s release and on the basis that KLG’s claim was untimely.  The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.) held that KLG’s claim was time-barred due to the six-year CDA statute of limitations, concluding that KLG should have known that the government’s payment would not be forthcoming when the government failed to make a last payment in accordance with promises made by the contracting officer.  The Board also found there was no basis for equitable tolling because KLG had not diligently pursued its rights and there were no extraordinary circumstances that would have prevented the timely filing of the claim. Merrick Constr., LLC, ASBCA No. 60906 (Mar. 22, 2018) Merrick appealed a contracting officer’s decision denying its claim for rental costs on a bypass pumping system installed pursuant to a government change order.  The government moved for summary judgment, arguing that Merrick’s claim was precluded by the general release, and that there was an accord and satisfaction based upon a modification to the contract. The ASBCA (D’Alessandris, A.J.) explained that a release is a type of contract that grants the release of any claim or right that could be asserted against the other.  After interpreting the plain language of the release, the Board found that as a rule, a general release which is not qualified on its face bars any claims based upon events occurring before the execution of the release, and thus the government had met its burden of establishing that the general release applied.  The Board went on to note that there can be exceptions to a release, such as fraud, mutual mistake, economic duress, or consideration of a claim after release.  In this instance, the Board found that there was no mistake because Merrick’s argument was entirely speculative and no evidence was presented that would have shown that there was mistake.  The Board also held that Merrick’s claim was barred because it was submitted after final payment.  Pursuant to the Changes clause, FAR 52.243-4(f), no proposal by a contractor for an equitable adjustment can be allowed if asserted after final payment under the contract.  Because Merrick could not establish that the contracting officer knew or should have known of Merrick’s claim prior to the final payment, the Board held that Merrick’s claim was barred by final payment.  Accordingly, the Board granted the government summary judgment. Michaelson, Connor & Boul, CBCA 6021 (May 29, 2018) In February 2010, HUD awarded MCB a contract to serve as HUD’s mortgagee compliance manager to ensure lender compliance with the property conveyance requirements of HUD’s real-estate portfolio.  After the contract ended, MCB submitted a claim to the contracting officer requesting payment in the amount of $661,312.81, which MCB stated was incurred “in connection to” “extra-contractual work” allegedly requested by HUD.  The contracting officer denied MCB’s claim and MCB timely appealed to the CBCA.  HUD challenged the Board’s jurisdiction over the claim, alleging that because MCB’s claim arose after the contract ended, it did not arise out of the same operating facts as the contract and thus precluded the Board’s jurisdiction over the matter. The Board (Russell, A.J.) raised concerns about whether the claim presented to the contracting officer is the same claim that MCB presented on appeal, and ordered MCB to clarify whether it was seeking relief (1) under the contract identified in the notice of appeal, (2) under no contract, or (3) under a different contract. The Board held that it did have jurisdiction to hear MCB’s appeal because MCB’s appeal filings were “fundamentally the same” as those asserted in its claim to the contracting officer. Judge Chadwick dissented, noting that while the case presented the “closest ‘same claim/new claim’ issue” he had come across, the controlling question is whether MCB intends to litigate the operative facts of its certified claim, which according to Judge Chadwick MCB had abandoned because while the appeal sounded in contract, the certified claim was not based on any “provision, clause, or even a single word of the written contract.” E.  Amending the Complaint John C. Grimberg Co., Inc., ASBCA No. 60371 (Feb. 15, 2018) Grimberg held a contract to construct an advanced analytical chemistry wing for work with toxic agents.  After a dispute arose regarding contract terms, Grimberg filed a claim and an appeal of the contracting officer’s deemed denial when a year passed without a final decision on the claim.  Three weeks prior to the scheduled hearing date, Grimberg filed an amended complaint adding a new count based on the government’s failure to disclose superior knowledge of contract requirements.  The hearing was subsequently rescheduled by the Board to a date several months after the original hearing date.  Grimberg filed a motion for reconsideration after the Board rejected the amended complaint due to the absence of a motion for leave to amend. The ASBCA (Woodrow, A.J.) held that it had jurisdiction to hear the new count in the amended complaint because a new legal theory of recovery asserted in an amended complaint does not constitute a new claim if based upon the same operative facts as the original claim, and the new count would require review of the same evidence as the original counts.  Therefore, the Board concluded that it possessed jurisdiction to hear the new count.  The Board then determined that the proposed amendment to the complaint would be fair to both parties, as required by Board Rule 6, because the rescheduling of the hearing allowed the government additional time to address concerns raised by the new count.  Thus, the Board granted Grimberg leave to file its amended complaint. F.  Availability of Declaratory Relief The Federal Circuit and boards of contract appeals considered the availability of declaratory relief in an action brought pursuit to the CDA. Securiforce Int’l Am., LLC v. United States, Nos. 2016-2589, 2016-2633 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 17, 2018) Securiforce International America, LLC (“Securiforce”) supplied fuel to eight locations in Iraq under a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”). DLA partially terminated the contract for convenience with respect to two of the sites, but subsequently placed oral orders for small deliveries to those sites.  When Securiforce’s deliveries to the remaining sites were late, the government sent a show cause notice, in response to which Securiforce claimed the delays were due in part to the allegedly improper termination for convenience. The government terminated the remainder of the contract for default.  In 2012, Securiforce filed a complaint in the COFC claiming that the termination for default was improper, and then requested a final decision from the contracting officer (“CO”) that the termination for convenience had been improper. After the CO denied the request for final decision, Securiforce amended its COFC complaint to include a request for declaratory judgment that the government’s termination for convenience had been improper.  The COFC found jurisdiction over both claims and held that the partial termination for convenience of the contract had been an abuse of discretion and thus a breach of the contract, but found the termination for default proper and rejected Securiforce’s claim that its nonperformance was excused by the improper termination for convenience. On appeal, the Federal Circuit (Dyk, J.) found that the COFC lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the declaratory relief claim regarding the validity of the government’s termination for convenience.  While contractors may seek declaratory relief in some cases, the Federal Circuit stated they may not “circumvent the general rule requiring a sum certain by reframing monetary claims as nonmonetary.”  The Federal Circuit characterized Securiforce’s declaratory relief claim as a claim for monetary relief because the default remedy for a breach of contract would be damages, and that Securiforce had failed to state a sum certain as required by the CDA.  The court further held that there would have been no jurisdictional impediment to Securiforce invoking the improper termination for convenience as an affirmative defense for its default without presenting the defense to the CO because Securiforce was neither seeking the payment of money nor attempting to change the terms of the contract.  However, under the facts at hand, the Federal Circuit concluded that the termination for convenience did not, in fact, amount to an abuse of discretion or breach of the contract.  Duke University, CBCA No. 5992 (Apr. 6, 2018) Duke University appealed a contracting officer’s final decision on what Duke referred to as a “non-monetary claim” that it had submitted to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (“NIAID”).  Duke did not specify a sum of monetary payment in its claim, instead seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract.  Applying the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Securiforce, and upon a joint motion by the parties to dismiss the appeal without prejudice, the CBCA (Lester, A.J.) dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that Duke’s claim was one contemplated by Securiforce, requiring Duke to state a sum certain. Mare Solutions, Inc., CBCA Nos. 5540, 5541, 6037 (May 16, 2018) Mare Solutions, Inc. (“Mare”) was awarded a contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) for the construction of a two-story parking garage at the VA Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.  When the project was nearly complete, two disputes arose – one involving bucked metal conduit on the first floor ceiling of the garage and the other regarding which party was responsible for purchasing “head-end” equipment for the video surveillance system.  Mare appealed the contracting officer’s final decisions and sought declaratory relief absolving it of liability for the buckled conduit and for the purchase of head-end equipment. At the time the appeals were filed, the ASBCA found its jurisdiction was proper because both appeals involved live performance disputes that could be resolved by declaration of the Board. At the hearing, however, the Board learned that, in addition to seeking declaratory relief, Mare had procured and installed the head-end equipment and was seeking reimbursement for those costs. Accordingly, Mare submitted a related monetary claim to the CO, which was also denied and which Mare appealed.  While there were no jurisdictional issues with the first appeal for declaratory relief relating to the metal conduit, the ASBCA (O’Rourke, A.J.) found that it no longer had jurisdiction over the head-end equipment claim for declaratory relief because the issues had been subsumed within the monetary claim.  Thus, the Board’s jurisdiction to issue declaratory relief can be obviated by the filing of a related monetary claim. Based on its interpretation of the contract, the Board ruled that Mare was not liable for the buckled conduit, but denied Mare’s monetary claim. G.  Election Doctrine A decision from the COFC highlights the issues that can arise from bringing proceedings before more than one tribunal that hear government contracts disputes. ACI-SCC JV et al v. United States, No. 17-1749C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 12, 2018) In what it described as a “conundrum of a case,” the COFC dismissed a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers brought by Plaintiff Arwand Road and Construction Company (“Arwand”), acting as Trustee for Plaintiff-Intervenors ACI-SCC JV, ACI-SCC JV LLC (together, “the JV”), and Plaintiff Advance Constructors International LLC (“ACI”). Arwand was a subcontractor to the JV, which held a number of construction contracts in Afghanistan. However, the JV did not pay Arwand on time for its work, claiming it had not yet been paid by the government. The contracting officer terminated the government’s contracts with the JV, and the JV and ACI appealed the terminations separately to the ASBCA. Both parties settled their claims and the ASBCA dismissed their appeals with prejudice. Arwand sued both the JV and ACI in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware for damages due under its subcontract with the JV, and the court awarded judgment in Arwand’s favor later that year. Arwand then filed a “petition” before the ASBCA asserting breach of contract claims against the government, which Arwand later voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. After the Delaware Court of Chancery appointed Arwand as trustee for the JV and ACI, Arwand filed suit against the Corps before the COFC in its capacity as trustee to recover unpaid fees on the JV’s contracts. The JV intervened and filed a motion to dismiss. The COFC (Wheeler, J.) dismissed the case as moot as a result of the settled ASBCA cases that had been dismissed with prejudice, at which time Arwand was merely a subcontractor with no rights, privity, or standing to sue the Government over the prime contract. Second, the COFC also held that by first filing suit at the ASBCA, Arwand lost its right to file in the COFC because courts have interpreted the CDA to impose an “either-or choice” of forum, meaning that a contractor is barred from filing in one forum if it chooses to file in the other forum first. Even though Arwand may not have had standing to file a “petition” before the ASBCA and  voluntarily dismissed the suit, he was precluded from litigating the same claim in the COFC under the CDA. III.  TERMINATIONS In two noteworthy decisions during the first half of 2018 arising from contract terminations, the ASBCA strictly construed the one-year time limit to submit a termination settlement proposal in accordance with the FAR’s termination for convenience clause. Am. Boys Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 61163 (Jan. 9, 2018) In 2013, the government awarded a contract for the construction of a prime power overhead cover to American Boys Construction Company (“American Boys”).  More than three and a half years after receiving notice of the government’s termination of the contract for convenience, American Boys submitted a termination settlement agreement proposal as a certified claim to the contracting officer.  The contracting officer denied the claim because American Boys did not file a settlement proposal within one year of the termination.  American Boys timely appealed the CO’s final decision and the government filed a motion for summary judgment requesting that the Board deny the appeal. The Board (Osterhout, A.J.) granted the government’s motion and denied the appeal because American Boys did not file its termination settlement claim until 2017 – nearly four years after the contract termination – in violation of FAR 52.249-2. Abdul Khabir Constr. Co., ASBCA No. 61155 (Apr. 6, 2018) Abdul Khabir Construction Co. appealed a contracting officer’s denial of a claim seeking settlement costs resulting from the government’s termination for convenience of its construction contract.  The government filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Abdul failed to submit its termination settlement proposal within a year of the effective date of termination, and did not submit its certified claim until more than seven years after termination. Abdul countered that the government never asked for a settlement proposal, and never told it where to file a claim. The Board (Osterhout, A.J.) found no evidence that the contracting officer extended the FAR’s one-year time period to file a termination claim.  Because no extension was granted and the parties did not dispute that Abdul Khabir did not submit a proposal or contact the government until over 18 months after the due date, the Board found the claim untimely and denied the appeal. IV.  CONTRACT INTERPRETATION A number of noteworthy decisions from the first half of 2018 articulate broadly applicable contract interpretation principles that should be considered by government contractors. CB&I AREVA MOX Servs., LLC v. United States, No. 16-950C, 17-2017C, 18-80C, 18-522C, 18-677C, 18-691C, 18-701C (Fed. Cl. June 11, 2018) In 1999, the Department of Energy awarded a cost reimbursement contract to the predecessor in interest of CB&I AREVA MOX Services, LLC (“MOX Services”) to construct a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (“MFFF”) at a site in South Carolina. The original target completion date was in 2016, but was extended until 2029 and the estimated cost more than doubled. Under the contract, MOX Services was eligible to receive quarterly incentive fees pursuant to a vesting schedule for making progress towards completion of the construction of the MFFF beginning in 2008. Although the entire fee was provisional for at least the first year after it was invoiced, the incentive fee became 50% vested if MOX Services’ performance remained within the schedule and cost parameters for the subsequent four quarters. The government paid MOX incentive fees, of which a portion was provisional. The government suspended further incentive fee payments in 2011 when it determined that MOX Services was no longer performing within the applicable cost and schedule parameters. In 2016, MOX Services submitted a certified claim to the government for the suspended incentive fees that the company did not receive from 2011 through 2015. In response, the contracting officer not only denied the certified claim suspended payments, but also demanded that MOX Services refund the provisional incentive fee payments already made. The government argued that MOX Services has no hope of meeting the project’s parameters on cost and schedule and thus will not be entitled to retain any incentive fees at project completion. The Court of Federal Claims (Wheeler, J.) rejected this position, noting that “the contract provisions taken together unambiguously provide that the incentive fee [paid] to MOX Services is to remain in the custody of MOX Services until the MFFF construction is completed.” The court also criticized the CO’s demand for a refund of $21.6 million “as a way to gain leverage over MOX Services through baseless retaliation.” The court granted plaintiff’s partial motion for summary judgment, effectively requiring the government to return the provisional incentive fees to MOX Services until the project is completed. ABB Enter. Software, Inc., f/k/a/ Ventyx, ASBCA No. 60314 (Jan. 9, 2018) Tech-Assist, the corporate predecessor to ABB Enterprise Software, Inc., provided software and licenses to support naval maintenance requirements.  Pursuant to a master license agreement, the Navy was only allowed to install one copy of ABB’s software on ships and Navy bases, but ABB alleged that the Navy breached its licensing agreement by allowing two copies of the software to be installed on certain aircraft carriers.  After the Board granted the Navy’s motion to amend its answer to include an affirmative defense for equitable estoppel, ABB moved for summary judgment on its claim for entitlement based on its contention that the licensing agreement’s plain language only allowed for one copy of the software to be installed. The ASBCA (Kinner, A.J.) determined that the plain language of the licensing agreement controlled, and was explicitly clear that only one installation of software for each location would be allowed.  The Board also found that the Navy had not shouldered its burden to establish equitable estoppel by demonstrating that (1) the party to be stopped knew the facts; (2) the government intended that the conduct alleged to have induced continued performance will be acted on, or the contract must have a right to believe the conduct in question was intended to induce continued performance; (3) the contract must not be aware of the true facts; and (4) the contractor must rely on the government’s conduct to its detriment.  Thus, the Board granted ABB’s motion for summary judgment. Name Redacted, ASBCA No. 60783 (Feb. 8, 2018) In 2016, the government awarded a firm-fixed-price contract to Appellant for enhanced force protection and facility upgrades in Afghanistan.  The contract provided for a certain exchange rate between Afghani currency and U.S. dollars.  Following the contract’s termination for default, the contractor submitted a certified claim for additional costs, which the CO denied and the contractor appealed. In a subsequent modification converting the termination to one for convenience, the government agreed to pay over $93,000 to settle the pending appeal at the agreed upon exchange rate.  After some delay, the government paid Appellant, but Appellant countered that due to the delay there had been a change in the exchange rate, and that it was entitled to an additional $4,300.  The government moved to dismiss on the ground that the claim had been settled and Appellant had agreed to its dismissal. The Board (Melnick, A.J.) found that Appellant was not entitled to any additional costs because nothing in the modification allowed for additional compensation if the exchange rate fluctuated, and Appellant had released its claim when it agreed to the modification. Accordingly, the Board dismissed the appeal. UNIT Co., ASBCA No. 60581 (Feb. 12, 2018) The government awarded a contract for the construction of a battle command training center to UNIT.  During the course of the contract, UNIT subcontracted with other companies to perform certain mechanical work.  Due to various interpretations of design requirements, one of the subcontractors, Klebs Mechanical (“Klebs”) submitted “request for information” (“RFI”) forms to UNIT to pose questions to the government.  After some disagreement, UNIT submitted a claim for damages and costs for defective specifications, which the contracting officer denied.  The CO found that UNIT did not provide contractually required notice of the defective specifications and that its recovery was therefore barred. UNIT appealed the CO’s final decision and the government moved for summary judgment. The ASBCA (Newsom, A.J.) relied on FAR 52.236-21(a), Specifications and Drawings for Construction (Feb 1997) to find that UNIT had provided sufficient notice to the government in its RFI forms, or at the very least, that UNIT had created a disputed issue of material fact on whether or not sufficient notice was provided, and the Board accordingly denied summary judgment. MW Builders, Inc. v. United States, No. 13-1023C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 5, 2018) In our 2017 Year-End Update, we covered the Court of Federal Claims’ grant of partial judgment in favor of MW Builders, Inc. (“MW Builders”) on its claims that the Army Corps of Engineers breached its contract for electrical utility services and violated the duty of good faith and fair dealing. In a portion of the decision not covered in our Year-End Update, the COFC (Braden, C.J.) also determined that the claims of MW Builders’ subcontractor, Bergelectric, were waived as the result of a lien waiver in its subcontract providing that Bergelectric waived “any other claim whatsoever in connection with this Contract…” MW Builders moved for reconsideration of Bergelectric’s pass-through claims, arguing  that the precedent relied upon in the initial decision was inapplicable because that case was about a settlement dispute, whereas Bergelectric and MW agree that the contract does not evidence their intent. In the alternative, MW Builders claimed that the court should reform the release language. The court rejected both arguments. First, it held that the terms of the contractual release were unambiguous and that the court was therefore precluded from considering the extrinsic evidence regarding the parties’ intent even though the scope of the release included in the contract was unintentionally broad. Second, the COFC held that it does not have jurisdiction to reform an agreement between a contractor and its subcontractor, citing the Severin doctrine. Accordingly, the court denied the motion for reconsideration. V.  DAMAGES John Shaw LLC d/b/a/ Shaw Bldg. Maint., ASBCA No. 61379 (Mar. 8, 2018) In 2010, John Shaw LLC was awarded a contract to provide janitorial services at an Air Force base.  After the contract expired, Shaw presented a claim for “punitive damages” to the contracting officer, which was denied. Shaw appealed, and requested punitive damages and “missed opportunities” damages stemming from contracts allegedly not obtained due to the government’s handling of its contract.  The government moved to dismiss the claims for punitive and “missed opportunities” damages. The ASBCA (McIlmail, A.J.) dismissed Shaw’s damages claims, finding the connection between the government’s administration of the contract and the allegedly lost contracts with third parties was a claim for consequential damages, which were too remote and speculative to be recovered.  The Board further noted that it has no authority to award punitive damages, and dismissed both claims. Green Bay Logistic Servs. Co.,  ASBCA No. 61063 (Apr. 12, 2018) Green Bay appealed the Defense Contract Management Agency (“DCMA”)’s termination for convenience of its lease of two stakebed or flatbed trucks. Green Bay argued that it was owed twice the value of the contract because it attempted to deliver the vehicles twice. The ASBCA (Osterhout, A.J.) denied Green Bay’s appeal, finding that Green Bay failed to prove that it was entitled to any amount it presented to the government in its termination settlement proposal. Upon a termination for convenience of a commercial item contract, FAR 52.212-4(1) directs the government to pay the contractor: (1) a percentage of the contract price reflecting the percentage of the work performed prior to the notice of termination; and (2) reasonable charges the contractor can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the government using its standard record keeping system, have resulted from the termination. The Board concluded that because Green Bay delivered non-compliant vehicles, it did not complete any percentage of the contract, and that Green Bay did not present any reasonable charges that imposed upon the government a requirement to pay. Entergy Nuclear Generation Co. v. United States, No. 14-1248C (Fed. Cl. June 19, 2018) Entergy Nuclear Generation Company (“Entergy”) operates a nuclear power station. In 1983, Entergy’s predecessor, Boston Edison Company entered into a contract authorized by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel generated at the station to begin by January 31, 1998, but the Department of Energy (“DOE”) breached the contract and did not dispose of the spent fuel. In 2012, Entergy was awarded damages for the additional costs incurred in operating the plant due to the breach through December 31, 2008. In this second lawsuit, Entergy sought to recover damages allegedly incurred between December 31, 2008 and June 30, 2015 because Entergy could not recover future damages in the first suit. Because the government did not contest two-thirds of the damages sought by Entergy, Entergy sought partial summary judgment on liability and entry of partial final judgment on the uncontested amount. The court granted Entergy’s motion for partial summary judgment on liability for the uncontested amount, but found that the entry of partial final judgment as to the uncontested amount was improper under COFC Rule 54(b), which allows the court to direct final judgment “as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims” in an action. Here, where the COFC determined that Entergy is only alleging one “claim”—partial breach of contract—granting partial final judgment on some but not all of the harms arising out of a single claim “would be to enter judgment on less than one claim, violating Rule 54(b).” The government cross-moved for summary judgment as to Entergy’s claim for storage fees paid to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”). The court rejected the government’s argument that Entergy was foreclosed from proving causation between the breach and the increased fees because it had already presented such evidence, and the government’s argument had been rejected in a prior Federal Circuit case. The COFC denied the Government’s motion, finding that Entergy’s intent to present substantially different evidence from that considered in the prior Federal Circuit case created genuine dispute as to causation. Although not briefed by the parties, the court also found that because the COFC determined in a prior suit for damages brought by the Boston Edison Company that DOE’s breach was a but-for cause of the NRC fee change at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, and the causation issue was not raised on appeal, issue preclusion may have provided an alternate basis to deny the Government’s motion. But the COFC had an opportunity to prohibit re-litigation of this same issue based on collateral estoppel in another case, discussed infra in Section VI(C). VI.  COMMON LAW PRINCIPLES The boards of contract appeals and COFC addressed a number of issues during the first half of 2018 arising out of the body of federal common law that has developed in the context of government contracts. A.  Application of Common Law in Government Contracts Cases Assessment and Training Solutions Consulting Corp., ASBCA No. 61047 (Mar. 6, 2018) ATSCC sought reconsideration of the ASBCA’s earlier decision sustaining ATSCC’s appeal, arguing that the Board erroneously applied a common law of bailment presumption of negligence and that the written contract should be enforced over the common law.  The Board (Clarke, A.J.) explained that the common law of bailment imposes upon the bailee the duty to protect property by exercising ordinary care and to return said property in substantially the same condition.  Thus, when the government receives property in good condition and returns it in damaged condition, there is a presumption that the cause of the damage was due to the government’s failure to exercise ordinary care.  The government argued that the presumption did not apply, and that where there was a written bailment contract, the contract should apply, not common law.  However, the Board noted that this was only true if the written contract and the common law differed.  Because the written contract and common law were the same in this instance, the Board concluded that the common law bailment presumption would apply.  Accordingly, the Board held, the prior decision’s reliance on the common law presumption was not legal error. B.  Fraud We have been following in our recent publications developments in the law of whether and to what extent the boards of contract appeals may exercise jurisdiction over claims and defenses sounding in fraud when the alleged fraud affects the administration of government contracts.  For example, in our 2016 Year-End Government Contracts Litigation Update, we covered the Federal Circuit’s decision in Laguna Construction Company, Inc. v. Carter, 828 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2016), which held that as long as the ASBCA can rely upon prior factual determinations from other tribunals (such as through a guilty plea), the Board has jurisdiction to adjudicate legal defenses based upon those prior determinations of fraud.  In the first half of 2018, the ASBCA considered one case addressing the impact of Laguna on its jurisdiction, and another that evaluated the validity of a contracting officer’s final decision based partially on a decision of fraud. Int’l Oil Trading Co., ASBCA Nos. 57491, 57492, 57493 (Jan. 12, 2018) IOTC sought partial judgment on the pleadings or, alternatively, renewed its motion to strike the Government’s affirmative defense that IOTC obtained its contracts for fuel delivery to the government in Iraq through fraud or bribery, claiming that the Federal Circuit’s decision in Laguna abrogated the Board’s previous ruling denying IOTC’s initial motion to strike by preventing the Board from hearing the fraud-based affirmative defense. Citing ABS Development Corp., which we discussed in our 2017 Year-End Government Contracts Litigation Update, the ASBCA (Melnick, A.J.) held that Laguna did not impact its prior ruling that it was not precluded from considering fraud related claims based because the CDA’s statutory bar did not apply to an affirmative defense that a contract is void under the common law for fraud or bribery in its formation. The Board noted that the Federal Circuit’s decision did not restrict the Board’s power to determine the validity of a contract when the government has lodged an affirmative defense that the contract is void  ab initio due to fraud or bribery, as opposed to when the government is asserting a fraud claim (such as a claim under the False Claims Act) that the Board does not have jurisdiction to entertain. Accordingly, the Board denied IOTC’s motion. PROTEC GmbH, ASBCA Nos. 61161, 61162, 61185 (Mar. 20, 2018) The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction PROTEC’s appeals from the Army’s denials of its claims for unpaid invoices, arguing that the contracting officers’ final decisions were invalid because denials were based on  suspicion of fraud. None of the final decisions mentioned any suspicion of fraud; however, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command was conducting an investigation into allegations of fraud at the time the final decisions were issued and at the time of the appeal. Under the FAR, a contracting officer’s authority to decide or resolve claims does not extend to settlement, compromise, payment, or adjustment of any claim involving fraud.  The COFC and CBCA have held that a final decision is therefore invalid if it is based upon a suspicion of fraud.  However, the Federal Circuit has clarified that a final decision is invalid only if the decision rests solely upon a suspicion of fraud.  Because the decisions issued to PROTEC were not based upon a suspicion of fraud and the decisions also relied upon other rationales,  it did not matter for jurisdictional purposes  that there was an ongoing criminal investigation into fraud allegations.  The Board (Sweet, A.J.) therefore denied the motion to dismiss. C.  Good Faith & Fair Dealing Ala. Power Co. v. United States, No. 17-1480, Ga. Power Co. v. United States, Nos.  17-1492C, 17-1481C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 26, 2018) In a pair of cases arising from ongoing litigation regarding the government’s failure to collect spent nuclear fuel (“SNF”) from the plaintiffs’ facilities pursuant to its contracts, the Government  sought to dismiss two claims—the first relating to the recovery of certain fees levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”), and the second to plaintiffs’ claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In 2004, the COFC granted summary judgment in plaintiffs’ favor on their initial breach of contract suit. The plaintiffs sued again in 2010 to recover the damages accrued from the government’s continued breach by failing to remove the material between 2005 and 2010, including fees collected by the NRC. During that second phase of litigation, the COFC held that although the plaintiffs were entitled to recovery, they could not recover the additional NRC fees because they did not sufficiently prove the breach of contract caused the increase in the fees. The plaintiffs sued a third time to recover all costs incurred after 2011, at which point the COFC granted partial summary judgment for the government on the issue of the NRC fees as barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel. This fourth case, based upon nearly identical facts, is framed as both a breach of contract claim and a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Government moved dismiss the breach claims related to the recovery of the NRC fees based on collateral estoppel and to dismiss the good faith and fair dealing claim as duplicative of the breach of contract claim for which liability had been established in the 1998 case. The COFC (Campbell-Smith, J.) granted the motion to dismiss the NRC fees because the allegations in the complaint were virtually identical to those in the previous complaint and there had been no change in the law between the two suits. The COFC also found that the good faith and fair dealing claim was duplicative of the breach of contract claim. To state a separate claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,  a plaintiff must allege some kind of subterfuge—evasion that goes against the spirit of the bargain, lack of diligence, willful rendering of imperfect performance, abuse of power, or interference with performance—founded upon different allegations than the breach of contract claim. The COFC found no alleged facts that even arguably support plaintiff’s conclusion that defendant was attempting to avoid its obligations, and therefore granted the motion to dismiss. Raytheon Co., ASBCA Nos. 60448, 60785 (Apr. 9, 2018) Raytheon appealed from the CO’s denial of two claims relating to additional services rendered under its “Lot 27” contract with the Air Force. About two months before the hearing, the government moved to amend its answer to add an additional “unclean hands” affirmative defense based on the latest round of government depositions of Raytheon personnel, which the government claimed revealed that Raytheon had an undisclosed pre-award plan to complete the Lot 27 contract work with future appropriated funds siphoned away from future missile production contracts that Raytheon hoped to obtain on an annual basis. Raytheon moved to dismiss the additional defense, arguing the ASBCA did not have jurisdiction to entertain the defense because it had not been submitted as  claim to the CO, and that the government did not justify the defense or the delay in raising it. The ASBCA (Scott, A.J.) granted the government’s motion to amend its answer. Although the Board recognized that the government’s amendment was filed only shortly before the hearing, there was insufficient information for the Board to conclude that the government delayed unduly in raising the defense. The Board also concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish bad faith on the part of the government or for the Board to decide the futility of the amendment. The ASBCA did, however, allow Raytheon additional discovery and/or submissions both before and after the scheduled hearing. VII.  CASES TO WATCH While the Government Contracts Litigation Update does not typically analyze bid protest cases from the GAO or the Court of Federal Claims, two recent cases—a decision from the Court of Federal Claims, and a case still pending before the Federal Circuit— have wide-reaching implications of which government contractors should be aware. A.  Trade Agreements Act Acetris Health, LLC v. United States, No. 18-433C (Fed. Cl. May 8, 2018) The Court of Federal Claims considered Acetris Health, LLC’s challenge to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ reliance on a determination by Customs and Border Patrol that the pharmaceuticals Acetris provided under contract to the VA and the Department of Defense were considered a product of India because the active ingredient in the drug was not “substantially transformed” in the United States. The VA determined that Acetris was required to supply “only U.S.-made or designated country end products” under the contract because it was subject to the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (“TAA”). Acetris claimed that the pharmaceuticals it provide were TAA compliant because the foreign ingredients were processed into the final product in the U.S. Acetris challenged CBP’s country of origin determination at the Court of International Trade (“CIT”) in March 2018. Before the COFC, Acetris lodged a pre-award bid protest challenge to the VA’s reliance on CBP’s determination in interpreting its solicitation. After receiving the CBP determination, the VA notified Acetris that it could no longer fulfill the relevant contract using the existing pharmaceutical supply, and solicited new proposals to supply a TAA-compliant version of the product. Acetris submitted a proposal that was rejected by the VA. The VA expressed its intention to “rely entirely” on the findings of CBP for the purpose of country of origin determinations for TAA compliance. Acetris challenged both the VA’s substantive interpretation of the TAA and its reliance on CBP to make the country of origin determination. The COFC (Sweeney, J.) denied the government’s motion to dismiss, finding that  “all of plaintiff’s claims are aimed at the actions (or inaction) of the VA” and thus are “properly the subject of a preaward bid protest.” The COFC also determined that 28 U.S.C. §1500 does not divest the COFC of jurisdiction because the court determined that the challenge to CBP’s country-of-origin determination pending before the CIT was not based on substantially the same operative facts, and that Acetris’ claims were ripe for review and stated claims upon which relief could be granted. After oral argument earlier this month, the COFC granted declaratory judgment in favor of Acetris. The COFC found that the VA misconstrued the Trade Agreements clause included in the solicitation as preventing the purchase of products that qualify as domestic end products under relevant FAR provisions. The COFC also held that the VA’s reliance on CBP’s country of origin determination, rather than independently assessing TAA compliance, was arbitrary and capricious. B.  Commercial Item Contracting Palantir USG Inc. v. United States, No. 17-1465 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 8, 2018) In February, Gibson Dunn argued before the Federal Circuit on behalf of its client Palantir Technologies to uphold a 2016 Court of Federal Claims ruling (Horn, J.) that the Army violated the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (“FASA”) when it decided to develop a new data-management platform from scratch without undertaking market research to determine whether its needs could be met by a commercially available product. The COFC found that Palantir was wrongly excluded from a $206 million intelligence software procurement when the Army refused to consider procuring its platform on a firm fixed price, commercial item basis, and instead issued a solicitation calling for developmental solutions on a cost-plus basis. On appeal, the Government argued that the COFC erroneously added a requirement to FASA that government market research must “fully investigate” whether commercial items could meet all or part of the agency’s requirements, and that the COFC wrongly substituted its judgment in determining that the Army’s market research was inadequate. Palantir argued that reversal of the COFC decision would “flout” the FASA procedures requiring that agencies acquire commercial items “to the maximum extent possible,” which were designed to prevent federal agencies from “wasting taxpayer funds by developing products that are already available in the commercial marketplace.” The Federal Circuit’s impending decision in this case will have wide reaching impacts on the procurement community and the deference afforded the Government’s market research in developing its solicitation requirements. VIII.  CONCLUSION We will continue to keep you informed on these and other related issues as they develop. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Karen L. Manos, Lindsay M. Paulin, Melinda Biancuzzo, Jessica Altman, Sydney Sherman, and Casper J. Yen. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed above.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following: Washington, D.C. Karen L. Manos (+1 202-955-8536, kmanos@gibsondunn.com) Joseph D. West (+1 202-955-8658, jwest@gibsondunn.com) John W.F. Chesley (+1 202-887-3788, jchesley@gibsondunn.com) David P. Burns (+1 202-887-3786, dburns@gibsondunn.com) Michael Diamant (+1 202-887-3604, mdiamant@gibsondunn.com) Michael K. Murphy(+1 202-995-8238, mmurphy@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan M. Phillips (+1 202-887-3546, jphillips@gibsondunn.com) Melinda R. Biancuzzo (+1 202-887-3724, mbiancuzzo@gibsondunn.com) Ella Alves Capone (+1 202-887-3511, ecapone@gibsondunn.com) Michael R. Dziuban (+1 202-887-8252, mdziuban@gibsondunn.com) Melissa L. Farrar (+1 202-887-3579, mfarrar@gibsondunn.com) Lindsay M. Paulin (+1 202-887-3701, lpaulin@gibsondunn.com) Laura J. Plack (+1 202-887-3678, lplack@gibsondunn.com) Erin N. Rankin (+1 202-955-8246, erankin@gibsondunn.com) Jeffrey S. Rosenberg (+1 202-955-8297, jrosenberg@gibsondunn.com) Denver Robert C. Blume (+1 303-298-5758, rblume@gibsondunn.com) Jeremy S. Ochsenbein (+1 303-298-5773, jochsenbein@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Marcellus McRae (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Maurice M. Suh (+1 213-229-7260, msuh@gibsondunn.com) James L. Zelenay, Jr. (+1 213-229-7449, jzelenay@gibsondunn.com) Dhananjay S. Manthripragada (+1 213-229-7366, dmanthripragada@gibsondunn.com) Sean S. Twomey (+1 213-229-7284, stwomey@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 26, 2018 |
2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update

Click for PDF The continued explosion in the number of securities class action filings is once again the big headline in our half yearly update.  The now-sustained increase in both the number of filings and average and median settlement amounts—including a five-fold increase in average settlement amounts in the first half of 2018 to $124 million from $25 million in 2017—is causing significant alarm in the securities defense bar, prompting insurance carriers and others to seek regulatory reform and explore other alternatives to reverse these trends.  The trends and critical case law updates are explored in detail below. I.    Filing and Settlement Trends In the first half of 2018, new securities class actions filings are on pace to repeat the 2017 results of significantly exceeding annual filing rates in previous years.  According to a newly-released NERA Economic Consulting study (“NERA”),[1] 217 cases were filed in the first half of this year.  While this lags slightly behind the first half of 2017, which saw 246 new filings, the 2018 rate nonetheless substantially outpaces the average number of 235 cases filed annually over the five years from 2012-2016.  At the current pace, filings for 2018 are projected to reach 434 total cases—compared with 428 total cases filed in 2017.  So-called “merger objection” cases, which more than doubled each year from 2015 to 2017, remain a driving force although the rate of increase in the number of such cases filed has greatly slowed.  NERA projects that the number of merger objection cases filed in federal court in 2018 will be slightly greater than 2017, representing 218 projected filings of the 434 total projected federal filings for 2018 compared to 203 merger objection filings in 2017. While the total number of such federal filings is not projected to increase drastically over the number of filings in 2017, both average and median settlement amounts are up significantly in the first half of 2018. Notably, median settlement amounts as a percentage of alleged investor losses also increased significantly, and have broken a pattern that has persisted for decades.  In the last fifteen years, median settlement amounts have never exceeded 3% of total alleged investor losses.  In the first half of 2018, that percentage is 3.9%, up sharply from 2.6% in 2017. The industry sectors most frequently sued in 2018 continue to be healthcare (25% of all cases filed), tech (23%), and finance (16%).  Cases filed against healthcare companies in the first half of 2018 are showing the continuation of a downward trend from a spike in 2016.  Cases filed against tech and finance companies are both on pace for increases from 2017.  The tech sector’s share of filings is showing a near-doubling from 2017, with the first-half 2018 numbers indicating 23% of cases filed in this sector—up from 12% in 2017. A.    Filing Trends Figure 1 below reflects filing rates for the first half of 2018 (all charts courtesy of NERA).  Two hundred and seventeen cases have been filed so far this year, annualizing to 434 cases. This figure does not include the many class suits filed in state courts or the rising number of state court derivative suits, including many such suits filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery. B.    Mix of Cases Filed in First Half of 2018 1.    Filings by Industry Sector New filings for the first half of 2018 show a marked increase in cases targeting defendants in the tech industry, reversing a downward trend from 2016 and 2017.  Tech sector filings have spiked significantly, from 12% of the total in 2017 to 23% of the total for the first half of 2018.  Healthcare still owns the dubious honor as the top industry in the category of new filings, at 25% of total filings, but the industry is showing a continued downward trend from a high of 34% in 2016.  Among the top five industries by number of new cases filed so far in 2018, healthcare is the only sector on pace for fewer filings than in 2017.  Tech, finance, consumer and distribution services, and producer/manufacturing sectors each are on pace for increases from 2017.  Outside of the top-five industry sectors for new filings, all other measured industry sectors show a decline in their respective 2017 shares of new cases filed.  Of these sectors, the two reflecting the largest decline are consumer durables and non-durables (at 5%, down from 10% in 2017) and energy and non-energy minerals (at 2%, down from 7% in 2017). 2.    Merger Cases As shown in Figure 3, 109 “merger objection” cases have been filed in federal court in the first half of 2018 alone—continuing a high rate of such filings from 2017, which saw a drastic increase in the number of such cases over previous years.  If the 2018 pace continues, this year will see an increase both in the total number of these cases filed in federal court and in the percentage of federal filings that are merger objection filings. C.    Settlement Trends As Figure 4 shows below, after a significant decrease year-over-year from 2016 to 2017, average settlements jumped from $25 million in 2017 to an eye-popping $124 million in the first half of 2018.  As we have noted in previous updates, in any given year the statistics can mask a number of important factors that contribute to any particular settlement value.  Average and median settlement statistics also can be influenced by the timing of large settlements.  In 2017, there were no settlements at $1 billion or greater; while in the first half of 2018, $3.0 billion of a total $3.8 billion of aggregate settlement value is accounted for by settlements of $1 billion or more.    Removing settlements over $1 billion shows a much smaller increase in the average settlement—from $25 million in 2017 to $28 million in the first half of 2018.  However, as Figure 5 shows, the median settlement value, even when excluding settlements over $1 billion, still shows a significant increase from $6 million in 2017 to $16 million in the first half of 2018.  In the first half of 2018, the percentage of settlements above $100 million shows a continuation of a downward trend—from 15% in 2016 to 8% in 2017 to 6% in the first half of 2018.  The percentage of settlements below $10 million decreased substantially from 61% in 2017 to 39% in the first half of 2018, while over the same period settlements valued between $20 million and $49.9 million increased substantially from 14% to 32%. Mid-Year 2018 Securities Litigation Update: What to Watch for in the Supreme Court A.    Making Sense of “Gibberish”—Cyan and the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act As readers may recall, on November 28, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund, No. 15-1439.  The fundamental issue in Cyan was whether Congress intended to preclude state court jurisdiction over “covered class actions” under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “1933 Act”) when it enacted the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act (“SLUSA”) in 1998.  As amended by SLUSA, the 1933 Act provides for concurrent state and federal court jurisdiction “except as provided in section 77p of this title with respect to covered class actions.”  15 U.S.C. § 77v(a).  The Court also considered a secondary question raised by the U.S. government as amicus curiae:  whether SLUSA granted defendants the ability to remove a 1933 Act class action from state to federal court. As we reported in our 2017 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, at oral argument, several Justices referred to SLUSA’s jurisdictional limitation as “obtuse” at best and “gibberish” at worst and seemed frustrated by the statute’s confusing language.  See, e.g., Transcript of Oral Argument at 11, 47.  Those concerns were not reflected, however, in the Court’s decision:  In an opinion authored by Justice Kagan and joined by all other Justices, the Court concluded on March 20, 2018 that SLUSA did not preclude state court jurisdiction over 1933 Act suits.  Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver Cty. Employees Ret. Fund, 138 S. Ct. 1061, 1069 (2018). Parsing the statutory text, the Court explained that the “except clause” in § 77v(a) only precluded concurrent jurisdiction over class actions based on state law.  Id.  Consequently, “as a corollary of that prohibition,” SLUSA allowed state courts the ability to remove state law-based suits to federal courts for dismissal.  Id.  The Court also noted that the statute was silent with respect to class actions based on federal law, and interpreted this silence to suggest that Congress did not intend to deprive state courts of the ability to hear those cases.  Id. The Court declined to accept Cyan’s textual argument that the definition of “covered class actions,” located in § 77p(f)(2), which denotes individual lawsuits seeking damages on behalf of more than 50 people or in which at least one named party seeks “to recover damages on a representative basis,” as well as groups of lawsuits seeking damages on behalf of more than 50 people or which have been “joined, consolidated, or otherwise proceed as a single action,” exempted all sizable class actions from state court jurisdiction, explaining that a “definition does not provide an exception, but instead gives meaning to a term.”  Id. at 1070.  The Court elaborated that Cyan’s interpretation of the definition “fits poorly with the remainder of the statutory scheme” because it would prohibit state courts from hearing any 1933 Act class actions made up of more than 50 class members regardless of whether or not they were “covered class actions” under § 77p.  Id. at 1071. The Court similarly rejected Cyan’s legislative intent arguments, noting that SLUSA was initially created in order “[t]o prevent plaintiffs from circumventing” the requirements of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (“PSLRA”).  Id. at 1067.  The Court thus reasoned that “stripping state courts of jurisdiction over 1933 Act class suits” was simply not something Congress needed or intended to do in order to effect that goal.  Id. at 1072–73.  Cyan also argued that SLUSA’s legislative reports demonstrated Congress’s intent to keep securities class actions solely in federal court.  Id. at 1072.  In response, the Court explained that SLUSA already ensured that most securities class action cases would be brought in federal court by amending the Securities Act of 1934 to provide for exclusive jurisdiction in federal court.  Id. at 1073.  Ultimately, the Court summarized its decision by stating that “we have no sound basis for giving the except clause a broader reading than its language can bear.”  Id. at 1075. The Court similarly rejected the Solicitor General’s argument that § 77p(c) permits the removal of 1933 Act cases to federal court if they allege the types of misconduct listed in § 77p(b), including “false statements or deceptive devices in connection with a covered security’s purchase or sale.”  Id.  Instead, the Court held that in light of its determination that § 77p(b) only prohibited claims based on state law, the state law claims were removable, and therefore subject to dismissal in federal court.  Id.  However, federal law suits—like Cyan—which alleged 1933 Act violations are not “covered class actions,” and therefore, they “remain subject to the 1933 Act’s removal ban.”  Id. B.    China Agritech and the Limits of American Pipe Tolling As discussed in our 2017 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, on December 8, 2017, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, No. 17-432.  The principal issue raised by China Agritech was whether a statute of limitations is tolled for absent class members who bring successive class actions outside the applicable limitations period, rather than just individual claims. By way of background, as readers will know, the Supreme Court held in American Pipe and Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), that the statute of limitations is tolled by “the commencement of the original class suit” “for all purported members of the class who make timely motions to intervene after the court has found the suit inappropriate for class action status.”  Id. at 553.  The Court then extended this holding in Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983), to include “class members . . . choos[ing] to file their own suits,” effectively allowing the statute of limitations to remain tolled for individual suits by any “members of the putative class until class certification is denied.”  Id. at 354.  Crown went on to hold that in the event class certification is denied, “class members may [then] choose to file their own suits or to intervene as plaintiffs in the pending action.”  Id.  In Smith v. Bayer, 564 U.S. 299, 314 n.10 (2011), the Court summarized the rule of American Pipe and Crown thusly:  “[A] putative member of an uncertified class may wait until after the court rules on the certification motion to file an individual claim or move to intervene in the suit.” At oral argument on March 26, 2018, China Agritech argued that American Pipe should not be expanded to toll the claims of “absent class members who have not shown diligence . . . by not filing their own claims when class certification was denied” and that the Court should “require that anyone who wants to file a class action come to court early and in no event later than the running of the statute of limitations.”  Transcript of Oral Argument at 3.  Several of the Justices questioned China Agritech’s push to force additional actions to file while other actions may still be pending.  Justice Sotomayor, for example, observed that “if my financial interest is moderately sized or small sized, there’s no inducement for me to do anything other than what American [Pipe] tells me to do, which is to wait until the class issues are resolved before stepping forward. . . . [Y]our regime is encouraging the very thing that American Pipe was trying to avoid, which is having a multiplicity of suits being filed and encouraging every class member to come forth and file their own suit.”  Id. at 8–9. On the other hand, Justice Gorsuch commented that extending American Pipe could lead plaintiffs to “stack [cases] forever, so that try, try again, [] the statute of limitations never really has any force in these cases[.]”  Id. at 39.  Chief Justice Roberts echoed this concern, noting that American Pipe’s holding applied only to plaintiffs who sought to bring individual claims past the statute of limitations period and that “if you allow [plaintiffs to bring class actions after the statute of limitations have run every time class certification is denied], you’ve got to allow the third and then the fourth and the fifth.  And there’s no end in sight.”  Id. at 46. Ultimately, these concerns about a never-ending succession of class actions prevailed, and on June 11, 2018, the Court issued an 8-1 opinion declining to extend American Pipe to successive class actions.  Specifically, the Court held that after the denial of class certification, a putative class member may not commence a new class action beyond the time allowed by the statute of limitations.  China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 138 S. Ct. 1800, 1804 (2018). The Court dismissed Resh’s concerns that such a holding would result in a “needless multiplicity” of protective class action filings, pointing to the Second and Fifth Circuits—both of which had long ago declined to extend American Pipe in this context—and neither of which has faced excessive filings as a result.  Id. at 1810.  The Court went on to explain that its decision would not harm prospective plaintiffs or require them to file a protective, duplicative class action simply to protect against possible statute of limitations issues because “[a]ny plaintiff whose individual claim is worth litigating on its own rests secure in the knowledge that she can avail herself of American Pipe tolling if certification is denied to a first putative class.”  Id. (emphasis added).  Furthermore, even if courts faced an influx of multiple pre-emptive class actions, district courts have sufficient tools, “including the ability to stay, consolidate, or transfer proceedings” to deal with such an increase in an efficient way.  Id. at 1811. Justice Sotomayor concurred in the decision, stating that although she agreed with the majority that plaintiffs in the instant case should not be permitted to bring successive class actions under the American Pipe tolling provision, she believes that this bar should apply only to class actions brought under the PSLRA.  Id. (Sotomayor, J., concurring). Gibson Dunn represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Retail Litigation Center, and American Tort Reform Association as amici curie supporting China Agritech in this case. C.    Lorenzo: Can Misstatement Claims Be Repackaged as Fraudulent Scheme Claims Post-Janus? On June 18, 2018, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission, No. 17-1077, which raises the question of whether a securities fraud claim premised on a misstatement that does not meet the elements set forth in the Court’s decision in Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders for a Rule 10b-5(b) claim can instead be pursued as a “fraudulent scheme” claim under Rule 10b-5(a) and 10b-5(c).  See Petition for Writ of Certiorari at i.  The decision could limit the scope of Rule 10b-5 and significantly affect how the SEC chooses to pursue fraud claims against defendants who are alleged to have made false statements to investors. We expect that, in Lorenzo, the Court will further explicate its holding in Janus that only the “maker” of a fraudulent statement could be held liable for that misstatement under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5(b).  564 U.S. 135, 142 (2011).  In Lorenzo, the SEC accused brokerage firm director Francis Lorenzo of violating Rule 10b-5 by providing false information about a debenture offering to two potential investors.  Lorenzo claimed that he did not intentionally convey any false information and that he had merely copied and pasted information from an email he received from his boss without checking to see if it was accurate.  In the Matter of Francis V. Lorenzo, File No. 3-15211, at 15–16 (Dec. 31, 2013). Nevertheless, an SEC Administrative Law Judge found that Lorenzo had violated all three parts of Rule 10b-5: (a) employing a “device, scheme or artifice to defraud;” (b) making a false statement or omitting information that misleads investors; and (c) engaging in conduct that “would operate as a fraud or deceit.”  Id. at 8–17.  This decision was affirmed by the Commission.  Id. at 17.  Lorenzo was barred from associating with other advisers, brokers, or dealers in the industry and from participating in penny stock offerings and ordered to pay a $15,000 penalty and to cease and desist from further violations.  Id. at 1. Lorenzo appealed to the D.C. Circuit, arguing that under Janus, he could not be liable for a violation of Rule 10b-5(b) because he had not intended to convey false information to the investors and had merely transmitted information he received from his firm.  The D.C. Circuit agreed, finding that Lorenzo was not “the ‘maker’ of the false statements” and therefore could not be liable for a 10b-5(b) violation.  Lorenzo v. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, 872 F.3d 578, 580 (D.C. Cir. 2017).  Nevertheless, the D.C. Circuit upheld the SEC’s findings that Lorenzo violated Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) and remanded back to the SEC to redetermine the appropriate sanctions.  Id. at 595.  Judge Kavanaugh dissented, arguing that the majority’s decision “create[d] a circuit split by holding that mere misstatements, standing alone, may constitute the basis for so-called scheme liability under [Rules 10b-5(a) and (c)]—that is, willful participation in a scheme to defraud—even if the defendant did not make the misstatements.”  Id. at 600 (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting). Lorenzo filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on January 26, 2018.  The petition contended that the D.C. Circuit’s holding “allows the SEC and private plaintiffs to sidestep Janus’ carefully drawn out elements of a fraudulent statement claim merely by relabeling the claim—with nothing more—as a fraudulent scheme claim.”  Petition for Writ of Certiorari at 5.  Lorenzo identified a 3-2 circuit split on the issue, noting that Second, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits have all held that a fraudulent scheme claim cannot be premised on misstatements alone, id. at 17–20, while the Eleventh and D.C. Circuits opine that a person can be liable for violations of Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) even where they are not the “maker” of an untrue statement, id. at 20–21.  The Petition further argued that the D.C. Circuit’s opinion “erases the important distinction between primary and secondary violators of the securities laws and opens up large numbers of defendants who are secondary actors at best to claims for securities fraud—claims that would otherwise be barred in private litigation.”  Id.  The SEC filed its opposition brief on May 2, 2018, arguing that the Second, Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuit’s “inconsistent” rulings on Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) violations are distinguishable because they “have involved different conduct by the defendants, and they arose out of suits brought by private plaintiffs, rather than (as in this case) an administrative enforcement action brought by the SEC.”  Respondent’s Opposition to Writ of Certiorari at 8.  Respondent further contended that “petitioner does not identify any conflict over the scope of liability under Section 17(a)(1),” which uses the same language as Rule 10b-5(a) and makes it unlawful “to employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud.”  Id. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on June 18, 2018.  We expect that the parties will submit their briefs to the Supreme Court in the Fall of 2018, with oral argument to follow in the coming months.  We will continue to monitor this matter and provide an update in our 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update. D.    Securities Enforcement Updates In our 2017 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, we noted that the Court granted certiorari in two major SEC enforcement actions:  Lucia v. SEC, No. 17-130 and Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, No. 16-1276.  For further analysis of Lucia and Digital Realty, please see our 2018 Mid-Year Securities Enforcement Update. II.    Delaware Developments A.    Transactions Involving A Potentially Controlling Stockholder Four recent decisions involved transactions with a potentially controlling stockholder.  In one, the Court of Chancery extended the MFW standard of review-shifting framework to all transactions in which a controlling stockholder receives a “non-ratable” benefit.  In another, the court concluded a company’s visionary founder was a controlling stockholder in part due to longstanding public acknowledgement of his influence.  In a similar case, the Court of Chancery held demand was excused because a majority of a board was not independent of its visionary founder, but stopped short of deciding whether that founder was a controlling stockholder.  Last, the Court of Chancery declined to enjoin a controlling stockholder from interfering with a special committee’s plan to dilute its voting control from around 80% to 17%. 1.    Controlling stockholder transactions satisfying the requirements of MFW will be reviewed under the business judgment rule. In Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp., the Delaware Supreme Court held that the business judgment rule applies to a merger between a controlling stockholder and its subsidiary where the merger is conditioned on “both the approval of an independent, adequately-empowered Special Committee that fulfills its duty of care; and the uncoerced, informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders.”  88 A.3d 635, 644 (Del. 2014).  Late last year, the Court of Chancery extended MFW to stock reclassifications.  IRA Tr. FBO Bobbie Ahmed v. Crane, 2017 WL 7053964, at *9 (Del. Ch. Dec. 11, 2017).  In Crane, NRG Yield, Inc. was dominated by a controlling stockholder, NRG Energy, Inc. (“NRG”), as part of a “yieldco” ownership structure.  When stock issuances threatened NRG’s control, the NRG-dominated board sought to eliminate or reduce the voting rights of the publicly-traded stock class through reclassification.  The independent Conflicts Committee negotiated an agreement with NRG whereby both NRG and minority stockholders were issued new classes of stock with 1/100 of a voting share each, substantially slowing down NRG’s vote dilution, and conditioned the deal on the approval of a majority of minority stockholders.  The measure passed, and a minority stockholder challenged the transaction.  As a matter of first impression, the Court of Chancery held that the reclassification’s compliance with MFW shifted the standard of review from entire fairness to the business judgment rule because “[t]he animating principle of the MFW framework is that . . . the controlled company replicates an arms-length bargaining process in negotiating and executing a transaction.”  Id. at *11.  Importantly, however, the Court of Chancery expressly extended its holding beyond reclassifications, reasoning that there is “no principled basis on which to conclude that the dual protections in the MFW framework should apply to squeeze-out mergers but not to other forms of controller transactions.”  Id. 2.    Elon Musk is Tesla’s controlling stockholder. In In re Tesla Motors Inc. Stockholder Litigation, the Court of Chancery denied defendants’ motion to dismiss and found, “in a close call,” that the complaint sufficiently alleged that Tesla’s CEO and Chairman Elon Musk is its controlling stockholder for purposes of its 2016 acquisition of SolarCity, a Musk-related entity.  2018 WL 1560293 (Del. Ch. Mar. 28, 2018).  According to the court, Musk’s ownership of 22% of Tesla’s outstanding stock and a combination of “other factors” made him a controlling stockholder for purposes of the SolarCity acquisition.  First, Musk pitched the proposed transaction to the board on three separate occasions, and the board did not consider any other solar power companies or form an independent committee to consider the proposal.  Second, a majority of the five directors who approved the acquisition “were interested in the Acquisition or not independent of Musk.”  Id. at *17.  Third, the court relied on Musk’s and the board’s public statements acknowledging Musk’s influence on Tesla, such as Musk’s role in shaping the company’s vision, hiring executives and engineers, and raising capital.  The court concluded that the combination of Musk’s control over the board, board level conflicts, and the public acknowledgment of Musk’s influence allowed a reasonable inference that Musk enjoyed “the equivalent of majority voting control” in the transaction.  Id. at *15. 3.    A majority of Oracle’s board of directors is not independent of Larry Ellison. In a similar vein, the Court of Chancery found that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged demand futility against the board of Oracle Corporation because the majority of the board was not independent of Larry Ellison, Oracle’s co-founder and Chairman, for purposes of the acquisition of NetSuite, Inc., another Ellison-founded company.  In re Oracle Corp. Derivative Litig., 2018 WL 1381331 (Del. Ch. Mar. 19, 2018).  Because a breach of loyalty claim belongs to the company, in the normal course a plaintiff must demand that the board take a particular action before bringing a lawsuit.  In lieu making a demand on the board, however, a plaintiff may plead that demand is excused because a majority of the directors were not independent or disinterested.  At the time of the challenged acquisition, Ellison owned roughly 28% of Oracle and about 45% of NetSuite.  After concluding that Ellison and the four manager directors were not independent due to Ellison’s outsized impact on the company’s day-to-day operations, the court went on to find that three other directors, including two of the three directors on the Special Committee that approved the NetSuite acquisition, had sufficient entanglements with Ellison to call into question their independence with respect to the acquisition of the Ellison-controlled NetSuite.  Specifically, those directors had substantial business ties with Ellison, and two of the three directly owed their director positions to Ellison because a majority of non-Ellison stockholders disapproved of their performance on the Compensation Committee.  Without deciding whether Ellison “qualif[ies] as a controller,” the court held that the “constellation of facts” were sufficient, “taken together, [to] create reasonable doubt” about the ability of the directors to “objectively consider a demand.”  Id. at *16, *18. 4.    Equity favors a controller’s right to protect its control preemptively. In CBS Corp. v. National Amusements, Inc., CBS and a special committee of five independent directors sought to enjoin CBS’s controlling stockholder from interfering with their plan to dilute its voting power from around 80% to 17%.  2018 WL 2263385, at *1 (Del. Ch. May 17, 2018).  Through her control of National Amusements, Inc. (“NAI”), Shari Redstone controls 79.6% of CBS’s voting power, even though NAI owns only 10.3% of CBS’s economic stake.  Id.  According to the plaintiffs, dilution was justified by Ms. Redstone’s efforts to combine CBS with Viacom, which she also controls, and various actions she took over two years that “present[ed] a significant threat of irreparable and irreversible harm to [CBS]” and “the interests of the stockholders who hold approximately 90% of [its] economic stake.”  Id. at *1, *4.  The Court of Chancery agreed that the plaintiffs allegations were “sufficient to state a colorable claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Ms. Redstone and NAI as CBS’s controlling stockholder,” id. at *4.  Nonetheless, the court declined to issue the unprecedented temporary restraining order because case law “expressly endorsed a controller’s right to make the first move preemptively to protect its control interest” and subjected exercise of that right to further judicial review.  Id. This dispute is ongoing, and an expedited trial is scheduled for the fall. B.    Bad Faith, Waste, And The Business Judgment Rule Delaware’s default standard of review, the business judgment rule presumes that a company’s directors make business decisions in good faith, on an informed basis, and in the honest belief that the decisions are in the best interest of the company.  In general, unless a plaintiff rebuts this presumption, its claims will not survive a motion to dismiss.  In the first half of 2018, plaintiffs survived a motion to dismiss in three notable cases. 1.    Directors who knowingly cause a corporation to violate the law act in bad faith. A plaintiff’s breach of loyalty claim survived a motion to dismiss where the complaint adequately alleged that “the directors knowingly permitted [the company] to continue with marketing campaigns containing false representations in violation of law.”  City of Hialeah Emps.’ Ret. Sys. v. Begley, 2018 WL 1912840, at *4 (Del. Ch. Apr. 20, 2018).  The defendants in Begley were directors of a company that operated DeVry University.  Id. at *1.  According to the complaint, the defendants authorized marketing campaigns that misrepresented DeVry graduates’ employment rates and income despite knowing the information was wrong and the campaigns violated federal law, resulting in the company paying over $100 million to settle various government lawsuits and investigations.  Id.  The Court of Chancery denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that specific facts alleged in the complaint supported a reasonable inference that “the defendants chose to maintain DeVry’s marketing campaign and operate DeVry in violation of law because that was the route to maximizing DeVry’s profits.”  Id. at *3.  Operating a company in violation of law to maximize profits “expose[s] [directors] to liability for acting in bad faith, which is a breach of the duty of loyalty.”  Id. at *3. 2.    A board commits waste when it fails to consider terminating an incapacitated employee earning millions of dollars. In an “extreme factual scenario,” the Court of Chancery found that plaintiffs successfully pleaded demand futility and stated a claim for corporate waste with respect to payments made to CBS’s controlling stockholder, Sumner Redstone, during his twenty-month incapacitation beginning in 2014.  Feuer on behalf of CBS Corp. v. Redstone, 2018 WL 1870074 (Del. Ch. Apr. 19, 2018), judgment entered sub nom. Feuer v. Redstone, 2018 WL 2006677 (Del. Ch. 2018).  Despite having the inherent ability to terminate his employment agreement, CBS continued making payments to Redstone after he fell critically ill.  Id. at *12.  Because the board “made no effort to reckon with the financial consequences of Redstone’s severe incapacity,” id. at *14, however, and Redstone’s contributions during that time “were so negligible and inadequate in value that no person of ordinary, sound business judgment would deem them worth the millions of dollars in salary that the Company was paying him,” the court held that the board faced “a substantial threat of liability for non-exculpated claims for waste and/or bad faith,” id. at *13, and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. 3.    A transaction negotiated by an allegedly conflicted CEO is not protected by the business judgment rule. In In re Xerox Corp. Consolidated Shareholder Litigation, the New York Supreme Court recently enjoined a multi-billion dollar merger of Xerox Corp. and Fujifilm Holdings Corp. (“Fuji”), concluding the plaintiffs adequately rebutted the business judgment rule and showed a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the merger was not entirely fair.  2018 WL 2054280, at *8 (N.Y. Sup. Apr. 27, 2018).  The merger arose from a decades-long joint venture between Xerox and Fuji whose governing documents made it difficult for Xerox to do a deal with anyone else.  Id. at *2.  The transaction was structured so that Fuji would transfer its 75% stake in the joint venture without additional consideration to Xerox and be issued enough new Xerox shares to become its 50.1% stockholder; simultaneously, Xerox would borrow $2.5 billion to pay its non-Fuji stockholders a special dividend in the same amount.  Id. at *1.  The Supreme Court enjoined the deal, however, because Xerox’s CEO, who negotiated the deal, was “massively conflicted” and a majority of Xerox’s board lacked independence.  Id. at *7.  According to the court, the CEO was conflicted because after Carl Icahn, Xerox’s largest stockholder, stated his preference for an all-cash deal and convinced the board to fire the CEO, the CEO negotiated a non-cash deal in which he would remain as the CEO of the combined entity.  Id.  The court also concluded that Xerox’s board lacked independence from the CEO because he recommended by name a majority of Xerox’s directors to continue as directors after the merger.  Id. This decision is on appeal to the First Department. B.    Delaware Continues to Restrict Appraisal Awards In our 2017 Year-End Update, we reported on the significant shift in Delaware appraisal law in Dell, Inc. v. Magnetar Global Event Driven Master Fund Ltd., 177 A.3d 1 (Del. 2017).  In Dell, the Delaware Supreme Court held that “[t]here is no requirement that a company prove that the sale process is the most reliable evidence of its going concern value in order for the resulting deal price to be granted any weight,” id. at 35, and reversed “the trial court’s decision to give no weight to any market-based measure of fair value.”  Id. at 19. The Court of Chancery began interpreting the high court’s directives in the first half of 2018.  In Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., for example, the Court of Chancery interpreted Dell as (i) endorsing a company’s unaffected market price and deal price as reliable indicators of value when, respectively, the market for the company’s stock is efficient or a third-party merger is negotiated at arm’s length; and (ii) cautioning against relying on discounted cash flow analyses when such reliable market indicators are available.  2018 WL 2315934, at *1 (Del. Ch. May 21, 2018) (awarding $17.13 per share—the unaffected market price and significantly below the $24.67 deal price—as the only reliable indicator of value).  And in In re AOL, Inc., the Court of Chancery found the deal was not “Dell-compliant” based both on provisions in the merger agreement and on the CEO’s public statements that the deal was “done.”  2018 WL 1037450, at *1 (Del. Ch. Feb. 23, 2018) (conducting its own discounted cash flow analysis where the deal price was unreliable, but awarding a price close to it).  These two cases suggest that while there may continue to be some uncertainty as to when and how the Delaware Court of Chancery will choose among market indicators of a company’s value, the Court will continue to enforce the Supreme Court’s directive to use market factors to determine the fair value of a company’s stock, which should continue to keep appraisal awards in check. III.    Loss Causation Developments The first half of 2018 saw several notable circuit court opinions addressing loss causation, including continued developments relating to Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2398 (2014), discussed below in Section VI. Leading the way, on January 31, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion resolving a perceived ambiguity in prior precedent regarding the correct test for loss causation under the Exchange Act.  See Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme v. First Solar Inc., 881 F.3d 750 (9th Cir. 2018).  The First Solar court held that “to prove loss causation, plaintiffs need only show a causal connection between the fraud and the loss . . . by tracing the loss back to the very facts about which the defendant lied.”  Id. at 753 (internal citations and quotation marks removed).  This test does not require loss causation to rest on a revelation of fraud to the marketplace.  Instead, “[a] plaintiff may also prove loss causation by showing that the stock price fell upon the revelation of an earnings miss, even if the market was unaware at the time that fraud had concealed the miss.”  Id. at 754.  In so holding, the Ninth Circuit rejected a more “restrictive view,” in which “[s]ecurities fraud plaintiffs can recover only if the market learns of the defendants’ fraudulent practices” before the claimed loss.  Id. at 752.  As long as the revelation that caused the decline in a company’s stock price is related to the facts allegedly concealed, a plaintiff has adequately plead loss causation for the purposes of stating a claim under the Exchange Act.  At least one district court has relied upon First Solar to deny a defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of loss causation.  See Mauss v. NuVasive, Inc., No. 13CV2005 JM (JLB), 2018 WL 656036, at *5 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 1, 2018) (rejecting defendants’ argument that plaintiffs failed to show that the market learned of the actual fraud, because “the Ninth Circuit does not require that fraud be affirmatively revealed to the market to prove loss causation”). Over in the Fourth Circuit, a split panel issued a decision on February 22, 2018 holding that a plaintiff can plead loss causation based on “an amalgam” of two theories: corrective disclosure and the materialization of a concealed risk.  Singer v. Reali, 883 F.3d 425 (4th Cir. Feb. 22, 2018).  The complaint in Singer alleged that TranS1, Inc., a medical device company, and its officers made misrepresentations and omissions in public filings by failing to disclose that a large portion of TranS1’s revenues were generated by a purportedly fraudulent reimbursement scheme.  In vacating the lower court opinion dismissing the complaint, the majority concluded that two disclosures highlighted in the complaint—a Form 8-K reporting that TranS1 had received a subpoena from the Department of Health and Human Services and an analyst report revealing that the subpoena sought communications relating to certain reimbursements—sufficiently revealed information for investors to recognize that defendants had perpetrated a fraud on the market.  Id. at 447.  Moreover, the allegation that the disclosures resulted in a 40% stock price drop was sufficient to plead that the revelation of the purported fraud was at least “one substantial cause” of the drop.  Id.  The decision in Singer adds to the debate about the extent to which the disclosure of a government investigation, without a later disclosure of wrongdoing, is sufficient to establish loss causation.  See, e.g., Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi v. Amedisys, Inc., 769 F.3d 313, 323-24 (5th Cir. 2014) (“commencement of government investigations . . . do not, standing alone, amount to a corrective disclosure,” but can support a finding of loss causation when coupled with other disclosures); Meyer v. Greene, 710 F.3d 1189, 1201 (11th Cir. 2013) (company disclosure of SEC investigations were not “corrective disclosures” for the purposes of loss causation); SEC investigation was insufficient to plead loss causation). 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update: Falsity of Opinions Under Omnicare As we have reported in our past several updates, courts continue to grapple with the reach of Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers Dist. Council Const. Indus. Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015).  The Supreme Court’s Omnicare decision addressed the scope of liability for false opinion statements under Section 11 of the Securities Act.  The Court held that “a sincere statement of pure opinion is not an ‘untrue statement of material fact,’ regardless whether an investor can ultimately prove the belief wrong.”  Id. at 1327.  An opinion statement can give rise to liability only when the speaker does not “actually hold[] the stated belief,” or when the opinion statements contains “embedded statements of fact” that are untrue.  Id. at 1326–27.  In addition, the Court held that a factual omission from a statement of opinion gives rise to liability only when the omitted facts “conflict with what a reasonable investor would take from the statement itself.”  Id. at 1329. In the first half of 2018, two courts issued notable opinions about how Omnicare applies to disclosure of financial information.  The United States District Court for the Central District of California denied a motion to dismiss when plaintiffs alleged that defendants issued false opinions about the company’s financial health by recognizing revenue in violation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.  In re Capstone Turbine Corp. Sec. Litig., No. CV 15-8914, 2018 WL 836274, at *7–8 (C.D. Cal. 2018).  The parties disputed whether the amount of revenue recognized in a particular period is an opinion or a statement of fact, and the court held that “revenue is an opinion with an embedded fact,” clarifying that “[t]he fact is the actual quantity of the sales and the opinion is that collectability on these sales is reasonably assured.”  Id. at *6.  The court further concluded that the falsity of the opinion portions of the statements regarding revenue recognition were sufficiently pled under Omnicare because the complaint alleged facts showing that defendants knew collectability was not reasonably assured.  Id. at *7.  In the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, plaintiffs brought a suit under Massachusetts security law, which closely mirrors federal securities law, alleging that an auditor’s statement of compliance with PCAOB standards was false.  Miller Inv. Trust v. Morgan Stanley & Co., No. 11-12126, 2018 WL 1567599 (D. Mass. Mar. 30, 2018) appeal docketed No. 18-1460 (1st Cir. May 17, 2018).  Acknowledging that courts have reached contradictory conclusions as to whether an auditor’s statements of compliance are statements of fact or statements of opinion, the court ultimately reasoned that “statements by auditors of their own compliance with [standards] are statements of fact” even though “one auditor may apply the standards differently from another.”  Id. at *11–12. Omnicare continued to act as a pleading barrier to securities fraud claims in the first half of this year, with courts paying close attention to the role of context in determining whether an opinion could be allegedly false.  For example, in Martin v. Quartermain, investors alleged that a mining company’s opinion statements expressing continued optimism in its mining operations were false when the company failed to disclose that one of its experts had expressed doubt.  No. 17-2135, 2018 WL 2024719 (2d Cir. May 1, 2018).  Investors alleged that the opinion was false on two theories:  first, that company did not actually believe its statement of continued optimism given that one of its experts had expressed concern with the mine’s projected viability; and, second, that the company’s failure to disclose this concern was an omission that made the opinion statement misleading to a reasonable investor.  Id. at 2.  As to the first theory, the court held that the plaintiffs failed to show that the company believed the concerned expert instead of the optimistic projection, so plaintiffs failed to show that the company did not hold the stated belief.  As for the second theory, the Second Circuit concluded that omitting the concerned expert’s views did not render the opinion misleading when viewed in context, even if the company knew “but fail[ed] to disclose some fact cutting the other way.”  Id. at *3 (citing Omnicare, 135 S. Ct. at 1329).  The court reasoned that the risk that a mine will not be successful is part of the “broader frame” of the industry that a reasonable investor would understand as part of the “weighing of competing facts.”  Id. (citing Omnicare, 135 S. Ct. 1329). Similarly, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected allegations that a company’s guardedly optimistic assessments about the implementation of a new software program were false because they did not include disclosure of implementation challenges the company was facing.  Oklahoma v. Firefighters Pension and Ret. Sys. v. Xerox Corp., 300 F. Supp. 3d 551, 575 (S.D.N.Y. 2018), appeal docketed No. 18-1165 (2d Cir. April 20, 2018).  The court reasoned that these “quintessential statements of opinion” were not false even though the defendant only disclosed in general terms the challenges it was facing because a reasonable investor “does not expect that every fact known to an issuer supports its opinion statement.”  Id. at 577 (citing Omnicare, 135 S. Ct. 1329).  Another court in the Southern District of New York permitted an omission claim to proceed, but this case may simply highlight how difficult it is to overcome Omnicare.  Plaintiffs alleged that Blackberry’s optimistic sales projections were contradicted by omitted data Blackberry had about its sales numbers.  Pearlstein v. Blackberry Ltd., No. 13-CV-7060, 2018 WL 1444401 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2018).  In their second amended complaint, plaintiffs supplemented these allegations with evidence that came to light in a related criminal trial that revealed that Blackberry had adverse sales data when it issued its optimistic projections.  The court concluded that Blackberry’s failure to disclose adverse sales data could plausibly be misleading to a reasonable investor.  Id. at *3–4.  Most plaintiffs, of course, do not have the benefit of evidence unearthed in a related criminal proceedings to demonstrate that an opinion is false. Further highlighting the barriers imposed by Omnicare, two courts in the first half of this year also rejected claims alleging that pharmaceutical companies made false statements about their clinical trials.  One court held that plaintiff’s allegations that defendants issued a false opinion when they opined on a drug’s efficacy but failed to disclose an allegedly flawed clinical methodology did not support a Section 10(b) claim because plaintiff’s claims amounted to nothing more than an attack on the trial’s methodology.  Hoey v.  Insmed Inc., No. 16-4323, 2018 WL 902266, at *9, 14 (D.N.J. Feb. 15, 2018).  The court noted that the failure to reveal that the results of a study were inaccurately reported or that a study was manipulated to conceal data may support allegations that an omission made a statement of opinion misleading, but that disagreements over the proper methodology will not support such an allegation.  Likewise, a company’s failure to disclose the recurrence of a known side effect did not render opinions that the clinical trial was “predictable and manageable” and that the company was seeing “favorable clinical data” false or misleading since a reasonable investor would expect the recurrence of a known side effect.  In re Stemline Therapeutics, Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 17 CV 832, 2018 WL 1353284, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 15, 2018) appeal docketed No. 18-1044 (2d Cir. Apr. 12, 2018). Courts in the first half of 2018 also provided guidance for companies making opinion statements about legal and compliance risks.  The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas rejected allegations that a company’s opinion that it was in “substantial compliance” with regulations was false on the ground that a regulatory agency had sent informal communications and had issued two infraction notices about recordkeeping practices on a different and small part of the company’s large-scale and pipeline operations.  In re Plains All Am. Pipeline, L.P. Sec. Litig., No. H:15-02404 2018 WL 1586349, at * 38–39 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 30, 2018) appeal docketed No. 18-20286 (5th Cir. May 7, 2018).  The court reasoned that the opinion that the company was in “substantial compliance,” when combined with other hedges and qualifications, would inform a reasonable investor that the company was operating in substantial, but not perfect, compliance with relevant laws.  Id. at *39.  On the other hand, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia permitted a claim to proceed where the defendant opined that it had been in material compliance with the laws and that pending lawsuits had no merit because plaintiffs’ complaint sufficiently alleged that defendant had been informed by legal counsel that its model was not in compliance with applicable laws.  In re Flowers Foods, Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 7:16-CV-222, 2018 WL 1558558, at *7–8 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 23, 2018). IV.    Halliburton II Market Efficiency and “Price Impact” Cases Courts across the country continue to grapple with implementing the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2398 (2014) (“Halliburton II“), and the first half of 2018 did not bring any new decisions from the federal circuit courts of appeal.  In Halliburton II, the Supreme Court preserved the “fraud-on-the-market” presumption—a presumption enabling plaintiffs to maintain the common proof of reliance that is essential to class certification in a Rule 10b-5 case—but made room for defendants to rebut that presumption at the class certification stage with evidence that the alleged misrepresentation had no impact on the price of the issuer’s stock.  Two key questions continue to recur: first, how should courts reconcile the Supreme Court’s explicit ruling in Halliburton II that direct and indirect evidence of price impact must be considered at the class certification stage, Halliburton II, 123 S. Ct. at 2417, with its previous decisions holding that plaintiffs need not prove loss causation or materiality until the merits stage, see Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co., 563 U.S. 804 (2011) (“Halliburton I“); Amgen Inc. v. Conn. Ret. Plans & Trust Funds, 568 U.S. 455 (2013).  And second, what standard of proof must defendants meet to rebut the presumption with evidence of no price impact of Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224, 237 (1988)? As we reported in our 2017 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, the Second Circuit recently addressed both of these key questions in Waggoner v. Barclays PLC, 875 F.3d 79 (2d Cir. 2017) (“Barclays“) and Ark. Teachers Ret. Sys. v. Goldman Sachs, 879 F.3d 474 (2d Cir. 2018) (“Goldman Sachs“).  Those decisions remain the most substantive interpretations of Halliburton II.  Barclays addressed the standard of proof necessary to rebut the presumption of reliance and held that after a plaintiff establishes the presumption of reliance applies, defendant bears the burden of persuasion to rebut the presumption by a preponderance of the evidence.  As we have previously noted, this puts the Second Circuit at odds with the Eighth Circuit, which cited Rule 301 of the Federal Rules of Evidence when reversing a trial court’s certification order on price impact grounds, see IBEW Local 98 Pension Fund v. Best Buy Co., 818 F.3d 775, 782 (8th Cir. 2016), because Rule 301 assigns only the burden of production—i.e., producing some evidence—to the party seeking to rebut a presumption, but “does not shift the burden of persuasion, which remains on the party who had it originally.”   In Goldman Sachs, the Second Circuit directed that price impact evidence must be analyzed prior to certifying a class, even if price impact “touches” on the issue of materiality.  Goldman Sachs, 879 F.3d at 486.  In April, the Supreme Court declined to take up the Barclays case, Waggoner v. Barclays PLC, 875 F.3d 79 (2d Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 1702 (2018), and Goldman Sachs remains pending before the Southern District of New York on remand, where an evidentiary hearing and oral argument on class certification was held on July 25, 2018. The Third Circuit is poised to be the next to substantively address the issue, as the court recently agreed to review Li v. Aeterna Zentaris Inc., 324 F.R.D. 331 (D.N.J. 2018) (“Aeterna“).  See Order, Vizirgianakis v. Aeterna Zentaris, Inc., No. 18-8021 (3d Cir. Mar. 30, 2018).  That ruling is likely to address the nature of the evidence a defendant must put forward to defeat plaintiff’s presumption of reliance.  Before the district court, defendants sought to rebut plaintiffs’ presumption of reliance by challenging plaintiffs’ expert’s event study for failing to demonstrate price impact to the industry’s standard level of confidence.  Aeterna, 324 F.R.D. at 344-45.  The argument failed to convince the court, which noted that (1) plaintiffs’ report had been prepared to show an efficient market, not to demonstrate price impact, (2) the report’s failure to find a movement with 95% confidence did not prove the “lack of price impact with scientific certainty,” and (3) defendants did not present any competent evidence of their own to demonstrate price impact.  Id. at 345 (citation omitted).  Defendants’ 23(f) petitions requesting review of class certification on price impact grounds are pending in several other circuit courts of appeal. We will continue to monitor developments in these and other cases. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update: Monica Loseman, Matt Kahn, Brian Lutz, Laura O’Boyle, Mark Perry, Lissa Percopo, Lauren Assaf, Jefferson Bell, Michael Eggenberger, Kim Lindsay Friedman, Leesa Haspel, Mark Mixon, Emily Riff, and Zachary Wood. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following members of the Securities Litigation Practice Group Steering Committee: Brian M. Lutz – Co-Chair, San Francisco/New York (+1 415-393-8379/+1 212-351-3881, blutz@gibsondunn.com) Robert F. Serio – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-3917, rserio@gibsondunn.com) Meryl L. Young – Co-Chair, Orange County (+1 949-451-4229, myoung@gibsondunn.com) Thad A. Davis – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8251, tadavis@gibsondunn.com) Jennifer L. Conn – New York (+1 212-351-4086, jconn@gibsondunn.com) Ethan Dettmer – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8292, edettmer@gibsondunn.com) Barry R. Goldsmith – New York (+1 212-351-2440, bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com) Mark A. Kirsch – New York (+1 212-351-2662, mkirsch@gibsondunn.com) Gabrielle Levin – New York (+1 212-351-3901, glevin@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman – Denver (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) Jason J. Mendro – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3726, jmendro@gibsondunn.com) Alex Mircheff – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7307, amircheff@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters – Dallas (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Aric H. Wu – New York (+1 212-351-3820, awu@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 12, 2018 |
Shareholder Proposal Developments During the 2018 Proxy Season

Click for PDF This client alert provides an overview of shareholder proposals submitted to public companies during the 2018 proxy season, including statistics and notable decisions from the staff (the “Staff”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on no-action requests. Top Shareholder Proposal Takeaways From the 2018 Proxy Season As discussed in further detail below, based on the results of the 2018 proxy season, there are several key takeaways to consider for the coming year: Shareholder proposals continue to be used by certain shareholders and to demand significant time and attention.  Although the overall number of shareholder proposals submitted decreased 5% to 788, the average support for proposals voted on increased by almost 4 percentage points to 32.7%, suggesting increased traction among institutional investors.  In addition, the percentage of proposals that were withdrawn increased by 6 percentage points to 15%, and the number of proponents submitting proposals increased by 20%.  However, there are also some interesting ongoing developments with respect to the potential reform of the shareholder proposal rules (including the possibility of increased resubmission thresholds). It is generally becoming more challenging to exclude proposals, but the Staff has applied a more nuanced analysis in certain areas.  Success rates on no-action requests decreased by 12 percentage points to 64%, the lowest level since 2015.  This is one reason (among several) why companies may want to consider potential engagement and negotiation opportunities with proponents as a key strategic option for dealing with certain proposals and proponents.  However, it does not have to be one or the other—20% of no-action requests submitted during the 2018 proxy season were withdrawn (up from 14% in 2017), suggesting that the dialogue with proponents can (and should) continue after filing a no-action request.  In addition, companies are continuing to experience high levels of success across several exclusion grounds, including substantial implementation arguments and micromanagement-focused ordinary business arguments.  Initial attempts at applying the Staff’s board analysis guidance from last November generally were unsuccessful, but they laid a foundation that may help develop successful arguments going forward.  The Staff’s announcement that it will consider, in some cases, a board’s analysis in ordinary business and economic relevance exclusion requests provided companies with a new opportunity to exclude proposals on these bases.  Among other things, under the new guidance, the Staff will consider a board’s analysis that a policy issue is not sufficiently significant to the company’s business operations and therefore the proposal is appropriately excludable as ordinary business.  In practice, none of the ordinary business no‑action requests that included a board analysis were successful in persuading the Staff that the proposal was not significant to the company (although one request based on economic relevance was successful).  Nevertheless, the additional guidance the Staff provided through its no-action request decisions should help provide a roadmap for successful requests next year, and, therefore, we believe that companies should not give up on trying to apply this guidance.  It will be important for companies to make a determination early on as to whether they will seek to include the board’s analysis in a particular no-action request so that they have the necessary time to create a robust process to allow the board to produce a thoughtful and well-reasoned analysis. Social and environmental proposals continue to be significant focus areas for proponents, representing 43% of all proposals submitted.  Climate change, the largest category of these proposals, continued to do well with average support of 32.8% and a few proposals garnering majority support.  We expect these proposals will continue to be popular going into next year.  Board diversity is another proposal topic with continuing momentum, with many companies strengthening their board diversity commitments and policies to negotiate the withdrawal of these proposals.  In addition, large asset managers are increasingly articulating their support for greater board diversity. Don’t forget to monitor your EDGAR page for shareholder-submitted PX14A6G filings.  Over the past two years, there has been a significant increase in the number of exempt solicitation filings, with filings for 2018 up 43% versus 2016.  With John Chevedden recently starting to submit these filings, we expect this trend to continue into next year.  At the same time, these filings are prone to abuse because they have, to date, escaped regulatory scrutiny. Click here to READ MORE. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have about these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following lawyers in the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group: Ronald O. Mueller – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8671, rmueller@gibsondunn.com) Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, lzyskowski@gibsondunn.com) Gillian McPhee – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8201, gmcphee@gibsondunn.com) Maia Gez – New York (+1 212-351-2612, mgez@gibsondunn.com) Aaron Briggs – San Francisco (415-393-8297, abriggs@gibsondunn.com) Julia Lapitskaya – New York (+1 212-351-2354, jlapitskaya@gibsondunn.com) Michael Titera – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4365, mtitera@gibsondunn.com) © 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.

July 12, 2018 |
California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018

Click for PDF On June 28, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”), which has been described as a landmark privacy bill that aims to give California consumers increased transparency and control over how companies use and share their personal information.  The law will be enacted as several new sections of the California Civil Code (sections 1798.100 to 1798.198).  While lawmakers and others are already discussing amending the law prior to its January 1, 2020 effective date, as passed the law would require businesses collecting information about California consumers to: disclose what personal information is collected about a consumer and the purposes for which that personal information is used; delete a consumer’s personal information if requested to do so, unless it is necessary for the business to maintain that information for certain purposes; disclose what personal information is sold or shared for a business purpose, and to whom; stop selling a consumer’s information if requested to do so (the “right to opt out”), unless the consumer is under 16 years of age, in which case the business is required to obtain affirmative authorization to sell the consumer’s data (the “right to opt in”); and not discriminate against a consumer for exercising any of the aforementioned rights, including by denying goods or services, charging different prices, or providing a different level or quality of goods or services, subject to certain exceptions. The CCPA also empowers the California Attorney General to adopt regulations to further the statute’s purposes, and to solicit “broad public participation” before the law goes into effect.[1]  In addition, the law permits businesses to seek the opinion of the Attorney General for guidance on how to comply with its provisions. The CCPA does not appear to create any private rights of action, with one notable exception:  the CCPA expands California’s data security laws by providing, in certain cases, a private right of action to consumers “whose nonencrypted or nonredacted personal information” is subject to a breach “as a result of the business’ violation of the duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures,” which permits consumers to seek statutory damages of $100 to $750 per incident.[2]  The other rights embodied in the CCPA may be enforced only by the Attorney General—who may seek civil penalties up to $7,500 per violation. In the eighteen months ahead, businesses that collect personal information about California consumers will need to carefully assess their data privacy and disclosure practices and procedures to ensure they are in compliance when the law goes into effect on January 1, 2020.  Businesses may also want to consider whether to submit information to the Attorney General regarding the development of implementing regulations prior to the effective date. I.     Background and Context The CCPA was passed quickly in order to block a similar privacy initiative from appearing on election ballots in November.  The ballot initiative had obtained enough signatures to be presented to voters, but its backers agreed to abandon it if lawmakers passed a comparable bill.  The ballot initiative, if enacted, could not easily be amended by the legislature,[3] so legislators quickly drafted and unanimously passed AB 375 before the June 28 deadline to withdraw items from the ballot.  While not as strict as the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the CCPA is more stringent than most existing privacy laws in the United States. II.     Who Must Comply With The CCPA? The CCPA applies to any “business,” including any for-profit entity that collects consumers’ personal information, which does business in California, and which satisfies one or more of the following thresholds: has annual gross revenues in excess of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000); possesses the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers, households, or devices; or earns more than half of its annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information.[4] The CCPA also applies to any entity that controls or is controlled by such a business and shares common branding with the business.[5] The definition of “Personal Information” under the CCPA is extremely broad and includes things not considered “Personal Information” under other U.S. privacy laws, like location data, purchasing or consuming histories, browsing history, and inferences drawn from any of the consumer information.[6]  As a result of the breadth of these definitions, the CCPA likely will apply to hundreds of thousands of companies, both inside and outside of California. III.     CCPA’s Key Rights And Provisions The stated goal of the CCPA is to ensure the following rights of Californians: (1) to know what personal information is being collected about them; (2) to know whether their personal information is sold or disclosed and to whom; (3) to say no to the sale of personal information; (4) to access their personal information; and (5) to equal service and price, even if they exercise their privacy rights.[7]  The CCPA purports to enforce these rights by imposing several obligations on covered businesses, as discussed in more detail below.            A.     Transparency In The Collection Of Personal Information The CCPA requires disclosure of information about how a business collects and uses personal information, and also gives consumers the right to request certain additional information about what data is collected about them.[8]  Specifically, a consumer has the right to request that a business disclose: the categories of personal information it has collected about that consumer; the categories of sources from which the personal information is collected; the business or commercial purpose for collecting or selling personal information; the categories of third parties with whom the business shares personal information; and the specific pieces of personal information it has collected about that consumer.[9] While categories (1)-(4) are fairly general, category (5) requires very detailed information about a consumer, and businesses will need to develop a mechanism for providing this type of information. Under the CCPA, businesses also must affirmatively disclose certain information “at or before the point of collection,” and cannot collect additional categories of personal information or use personal information collected for additional purposes without providing the consumer with notice.[10]  Specifically, businesses must disclose in their online privacy policies and in any California-specific description of a consumer’s rights a list of the categories of personal information they have collected about consumers in the preceding 12 months by reference to the enumerated categories (1)-(5), above.[11] Businesses must provide consumers with at least two methods for submitting requests for information, including, at a minimum, a toll-free telephone number, and if the business maintains an Internet Web site, a Web site address.[12]            B.     Deletion Of Personal Information The CCPA also gives consumers a right to request that businesses delete personal information about them.  Upon receipt of a “verifiable request” from a consumer, a business must delete the consumer’s personal information and direct any service providers to do the same.  There are exceptions to this deletion rule when “it is necessary for the business or service provider to maintain the consumer’s personal information” for one of nine enumerated reasons: Complete the transaction for which the personal information was collected, provide a good or service requested by the consumer, or reasonably anticipated within the context of a business’s ongoing business relationship with the consumer, or otherwise perform a contract between the business and the consumer. Detect security incidents, protect against malicious, deceptive, fraudulent, or illegal activity; or prosecute those responsible for that activity. Debug to identify and repair errors that impair existing intended functionality. Exercise free speech, ensure the right of another consumer to exercise his or her right of free speech, or exercise another right provided for by law. Comply with the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act pursuant to Chapter 3.6 (commencing with Section 1546) of Title 12 of Part 2 of the Penal Code. Engage in public or peer-reviewed scientific, historical, or statistical research in the public interest that adheres to all other applicable ethics and privacy laws, when the businesses’ deletion of the information is likely to render impossible or seriously impair the achievement of such research, if the consumer has provided informed consent. To enable solely internal uses that are reasonably aligned with the expectations of the consumer based on the consumer’s relationship with the business. Comply with a legal obligation. Otherwise use the consumer’s personal information, internally, in a lawful manner that is compatible with the context in which the consumer provided the information.[13] Because these exceptions are so broad, especially given the catch-all provision in category (9), it is unclear whether the CCPA’s right to deletion will substantially alter a business’s obligations as a practical matter.            C.     Disclosure Of Personal Information Sold Or Shared For A Business Purpose The CCPA also requires businesses to disclose what personal information is sold or disclosed for a business purpose, and to whom.[14]  The disclosure of certain information is only required upon receipt of a “verifiable consumer request.”[15]  Specifically, a consumer has the right to request that a business disclose: The categories of personal information that the business collected about the consumer; The categories of personal information that the business sold about the consumer and the categories of third parties to whom the personal information was sold, by category or categories of personal information for each third party to whom the personal information was sold; and The categories of personal information that the business disclosed about the consumer for a business purpose.[16] A business must also affirmatively disclose (including in its online privacy policy and in any California-specific description of consumer’s rights): The category or categories of consumers’ personal information it has sold, or if the business has not sold consumers’ personal information, it shall disclose that fact; and The category or categories of consumers’ personal information it has disclosed for a business purpose, or if the business has not disclosed the consumers’ personal information for a business purpose, it shall disclose that fact.[17] This information must be disclosed in two separate lists, each listing the categories of personal information it has sold about consumers in the preceding 12 months that fall into categories (1) and (2), above.[18]            D.     Right To Opt-Out Of Sale Of Personal Information The CCPA also requires businesses to stop selling a consumer’s personal information if requested to do so by the consumer (“opt-out”).  In addition, consumers under the age of 16 must affirmatively opt-in to allow selling of personal information, and parental consent is required for consumers under the age of 13.[19]  Businesses must provide notice to consumers that their information may be sold and that consumers have the right to opt out of the sale.  In order to comply with the notice requirement, businesses must include a link titled “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” on their homepage and in their privacy policy.[20]            E.     Prohibition Against Discrimination For Exercising Rights The CCPA prohibits a business from discriminating against a consumer for exercising any of their rights in the CCPA, including by denying goods or services, charging different prices, or providing a different level or quality of goods or services.  There are exceptions, however, if the difference in price or level or quality of goods or services “is reasonably related to the value provided to the consumer by the consumer’s data.”  For example, while the language of the statute is not entirely clear, a business may be allowed to charge those users who do not allow the sale of their data while providing the service for free to users who do allow the sale of their data—as long as the amount charged is reasonably related to the value to the business of that consumer’s data.  A business may also offer financial incentives for the collection of personal information, as long as the incentives are not “unjust, unreasonable, coercive, or usurious” and the business notifies the consumer of the incentives and the consumer gives prior opt-in consent.            F.     Data Breach Provisions The CCPA provides a private right of action to consumers “whose nonencrypted or nonredacted personal information” is subject to a breach “as a result of the business’ violation of the duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures.”[21]  Under the CCPA, a consumer may seek statutory damages of $100 to $750 per incident or actual damages, whichever is greater.[22]  Notably, the meaning of “personal information” under this provision is the same as it is in California’s existing data breach law, rather than the broad definition used in the remainder of the CCPA.[23]  Consumers bringing a private action under this section must first provide written notice to the business of the alleged violations (and allow the business an opportunity to cure the violations), and must notify the Attorney General and give the Attorney General an opportunity to prosecute.[24]  Notice is not required for an “action solely for actual pecuniary damages suffered as a result of the alleged violations.”[25] IV.     Potential Liability Section 1798.150, regarding liability for data breaches, is the only provision in the CCPA expressly allowing a private right of action.  The damages available for such a civil suit are limited to the greater of (1) between $100 and $750 per consumer per incident, or (2) actual damages.  Individual consumers’ claims also can potentially be aggregated in a class action. The other rights embodied in the CCPA may be enforced only by the Attorney General—who may seek civil penalties not to exceed $2,500 for each violation, unless the violation was intentional, in which case the Attorney General can seek up to $7,500 per violation.[26] [1]   To be codified at Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.185(a) [2]      Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150. [3]      By its own terms, the ballot initiative could be amended upon a statute passed by 70% of each house of the Legislature if the amendment furthered the purposes of the act, or by a majority for certain provisions to impose additional privacy restrictions.  See The Consumer Right to Privacy Act of 2018 No. 17-0039, Section 5. Otherwise, approved ballot initiatives in California can only be amended with voter approval. California Constitution, Article II, Section 10. [4]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.140(c)(1). [5]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.140(c)(2). [6]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.140(o). The definition of “personal information” does not include publicly available information, and the CCPA also does not generally restrict a business’s ability to collect or use deidentified aggregate consumer information. Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.145(a)(5). [7]   Assemb. Bill 375, 2017-2018 Reg. Sess., Ch. 55, Sec. 2 (Cal. 2018) [8]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.100 and 1798.110. [9]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.110(a). [10]     Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1798.100(b); 1798.110(c). [11]     Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1798.110(c); 1798.130(a)(5)(B). [12]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.130(a)(1). [13]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.105(d). [14]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.115. [15]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.115(a)-(b). [16]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.115(a). [17]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.115(c). [18]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.130(a)(5)(C). [19]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.120(d). [20]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.135. [21]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150. [22]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150. [23]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.81.5(d)(1)(A) [24]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150(b). [25]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150 (b)(1). [26]   Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.155. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client alert: Joshua A. Jessen, Benjamin B. Wagner, Christina Chandler Kogan, Abbey A. Barrera, and Alison Watkins. 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 or the following leaders and members of the firm’s Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection practice group: United States Alexander H. Southwell – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) M. Sean Royall – Dallas (+1 214-698-3256, sroyall@gibsondunn.com) Debra Wong Yang – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7472, dwongyang@gibsondunn.com) Christopher Chorba – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7396, cchorba@gibsondunn.com) Richard H. Cunningham – Denver (+1 303-298-5752, rhcunningham@gibsondunn.com) Howard S. Hogan – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3640, hhogan@gibsondunn.com) Joshua A. Jessen – Orange County/Palo Alto (+1 949-451-4114/+1 650-849-5375, jjessen@gibsondunn.com) Kristin A. Linsley – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8395, klinsley@gibsondunn.com) H. Mark Lyon – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5307, mlyon@gibsondunn.com) Shaalu Mehra – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5282, smehra@gibsondunn.com) Karl G. Nelson – Dallas (+1 214-698-3203, knelson@gibsondunn.com) Eric D. Vandevelde – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7186, evandevelde@gibsondunn.com) Benjamin B. Wagner – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) Michael Li-Ming Wong – San Francisco/Palo Alto (+1 415-393-8333/+1 650-849-5393, mwong@gibsondunn.com) Ryan T. Bergsieker – Denver (+1 303-298-5774, rbergsieker@gibsondunn.com) Europe Ahmed Baladi – Co-Chair, Paris (+33 (0)1 56 43 13 00, abaladi@gibsondunn.com) James A. Cox – London (+44 (0)207071 4250, jacox@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Bernard Grinspan – Paris (+33 (0)1 56 43 13 00, bgrinspan@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Jean-Philippe Robé – Paris (+33 (0)1 56 43 13 00, jrobe@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Nicolas Autet – Paris (+33 (0)1 56 43 13 00, nautet@gibsondunn.com) Kai Gesing – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, kgesing@gibsondunn.com) Sarah Wazen – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4203, swazen@gibsondunn.com) Alejandro Guerrero Perez – Brussels (+32 2 554 7218, aguerreroperez@gibsondunn.com) Asia Kelly Austin – Hong Kong (+852 2214 3788, kaustin@gibsondunn.com) Jai S. Pathak – Singapore (+65 6507 3683, jpathak@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.

July 9, 2018 |
Who’s Who Legal Recognizes 24 Gibson Dunn Attorneys

24 Gibson Dunn attorneys were recognized by Who’s Who Legal in their respective fields. In Who’s Who Legal Competition 2018, 20 attorneys were recognized for their work. The list includes Brussels attorneys Peter Alexiadis, Attila Borsos, Jens-Olrik Murach, Elsa Sependa and David Wood; Dallas partners Sean Royall and Robert Walters; Hong Kong partner Sébastien J Evrard; London partner Ali Nikpay; Los Angeles partner Daniel Swanson; New York partner Eric Stock; San Francisco partners Rachel Brass, Trey Nicoud and Gary Spratling; and Washington, D.C. partners Jarrett Arp, Adam Di Vincenzo, Scott Hammond, Joseph Kattan, Richard Parker and Cynthia Richman. In the 2018 Who’s Who Legal M&A and Governance guide, four partners were recognized: Century City partner Jonathan Layne, New York partner Dennis Friedman and Washington, D.C. partners Howard Adler and John Olson. The guides were published on July 9, 2018 and June 8, 2018.

July 6, 2018 |
Update on California Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450)

Click for PDF On July 5, 2018, Judge John A. Mendez of the Eastern District of California issued an important ruling involving California employers’ legal obligations during federal immigration enforcement actions at the workplace.  In the lawsuit at issue, the federal government seeks to invalidate a series of recent California “sanctuary” statutes, including AB 450, which imposes various restrictions and requirements on California employers, including that employers are not permitted to voluntarily consent to a federal agent’s request to access the worksite and employee records without a warrant.  In his 60-page order yesterday, Judge Mendez granted in part and denied in part the federal government’s motion for preliminary injunction and forbade California and its officials from enforcing several portions of AB 450 during the pendency of the litigation. While private California employers will not be subject to many of AB 450’s requirements for the time being, the fight over AB 450 is likely to proceed, including at the appellate level.  In the meantime, employers should make sure that they are knowledgeable about their obligations (and potential future obligations) under federal immigration law and AB 450 and seek counsel regarding how best to prepare for and ensure compliance with those obligations. Background California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (also known as “Assembly Bill 450” or AB 450) into law on October 5, 2017.  AB 450 became effective on January 1, 2018, and applies to both public and private employers.  The statute prohibits employers from consenting to immigration enforcement agents’ access to the workplace or to employee records (unless permitted by judicial warrant) and also requires that employers provide prompt notice to employees of any impending inspection.  Violations of these requirements may result in penalties of between $2,000 and $5,000 for the first offense, and up to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.  The law does not provide for a private right of action; rather it is enforced exclusively through civil action by California’s Labor Commissioner or Attorney General, who recovers the penalties. AB 450 Requirements, The Specifics AB 450 sets forth several obligations (each of which is limited by the phrase, “except as otherwise required by federal law”) on employers that can be grouped into three main categories detailed below.  The California Labor Commissioner and Attorney General also provided joint guidance that sheds additional light on the application of AB 450 available here:  https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/AB_450_QA.pdf. Deny Access To Premises/Employee Records.  Under the new law, employers are prohibited from “provid[ing] voluntary consent to an immigration enforcement agent’s [attempt] to enter any nonpublic areas of a place of labor.”  Employers may only permit access when the agent provides a judicial warrant.[1]  A judicial warrant must be issued by a court and signed by a judge.[2]Similarly, employers may not “provide voluntary consent to an immigration enforcement agent to access, review, or obtain the employer’s employee records.”  Again, the employer may permit access when the agent provides a judicial warrant or subpoena or when the employer is providing access to I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other documents for which a Notice of Inspection (“NOI”) has been provided to the employer.[3]The state-provided guidance makes clear that “whether or not voluntary consent was given by the employer is a factual, case-by-case determination that will be made based on the totality of the circumstances in each specific situation,” but, at minimum, the new law “does not require physically blocking or physically interfering with an immigration enforcement agent in order to show that voluntary consent was not provided.” Provide Employees Notice.  AB 450 requires employers to provide each current employee notice of any upcoming inspections of I-9 records or other employment records within 72 hours of receiving an NOI.[4]  Notice must be posted in the language the employer normally communicates with its employees and contain (at minimum): (i) the name of the immigration agency conducting the inspection; (ii) the date the employer received the NOI; (iii) the nature of the inspection; and (iv) a copy of the NOI.After an inspection has been completed, employers must provide any affected employees (employees identified by the agency as potentially lacking work authorization or having deficiencies in their authorization documents) with notice of that information.[5]  Specifically, the affected employee (and his/her authorized representative) must receive a copy of the agency’s notice providing the results of the inspection and written notice of the employer’s and employee’s obligations resulting from the inspection within 72 hours of its receipt.  Employers must provide this notice by hand at work, if possible, or otherwise via both mail and email. Limit Reverification Of Current Employees.  Finally, the law penalizes employers for the reverification of the employment eligibility of a current employee “at a time or in a manner not required by [federal law.]”[6] Federal Government Response Within weeks of AB 450 becoming law, ICE’s Acting Director Thomas Homan responded by announcing that the agency planned to increase significantly the number of worksite-related investigations it initiated nationwide during 2018.  Homan later called AB 450 and Senate Bill 54, a related statute enacted at the same time as AB 450 that seeks to limits permissible cooperation between California agencies and federal immigration authorities, “terrible.”  And he stated that Californians “better hold on tight.” On March 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice filed legal action against the state of California, Governor Jerry Brown, and Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra in federal court, requesting that the Court invalidate AB 450 and other so-called sanctuary laws on the ground, in part, that they are preempted by federal immigration law and are therefore unconstitutional.[7] The federal government also moved for a preliminary injunction forbidding enforcement of AB  450 during the pendency of the lawsuit.[8]  In short, the federal government contends that the laws intentionally obstruct federal law and impermissibly interfere with federal immigration authorities’ ability to carry out their lawful duties and, thereby violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The lawsuit generated significant interest, including no fewer than sixteen amici curiae briefs in support of both sides and multiple (unsuccessful) motions to intervene.  The California defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, filed on May 4, 2018, is pending before the Court. The district court heard argument on the federal government’s preliminary injunction motion on June 20, 2018, in Sacramento, California.  Yesterday, the Court found in the federal government’s favor (in part), enjoining California and its officials from enforcing all provisions of AB 450 except for the provisions relating to employee notice.[9] The Court noted that the lawsuit involves several “unique and novel constitutional issues,” including “whether state sovereignty includes the power to forbid state agents and private citizens from voluntarily complying with a federal program.”  In a detailed legal analysis, noting that it “expresse[d] no views on the soundness of the policies or statutes involved,” the Court found: That the federal government is likely to prevail in its arguments against the provisions of AB 450 that impose penalties on private employers who “voluntarily consent to federal immigration enforcement’s entry into nonpublic areas of their place of business or access to their employment records” because they “impermissibly discriminate[] against those who choose to deal with the Federal Government;” That the federal government is likely to prevail in its arguments against AB 450’s prohibition on reverification of employee eligibility, albeit “with the caveat that a more complete evidentiary record could impact the Court’s analysis at a later stage of th[e] litigation;” and That the federal government is not likely to prevail in its arguments against AB 450’s notice requirements adopted in Cal. Labor Code section 90.2.  The Court explained that “notice provides employees with an opportunity to cure any deficiency in their paperwork or employment eligibility” and does not impermissibly impede the federal government’s interests. As a result, the Court enjoined California from enforcing all provisions of AB 450 as applied to private employers except those regarding employee notice.  Private employers therefore only need to ensure compliance with those notice requirements for the time being.  As the Court itself noted, however, its ruling was only as to the likelihood of success at this early stage of the litigation and is subject to further review and a final determination on the merits after additional evidence is presented, as well as to further potential review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Practical Considerations & Best Practices While yesterday’s ruling enjoins enforcement of most of the obligations imposed by AB 450, the ruling is only temporary and employers should seek counsel from immigration and/or employment counsel and should determine in advance how they will comply with these obligations, should AB 450 go into full effect.  Among other measures, employers should consider: Preparing facility managers and other employees most likely to encounter an immigration enforcement agent seeking access to the worksite or records on the proper procedures for handling an inspection, including how to determine whether the agent has a valid judicial warrant (as opposed, for example, to an administrative subpoena) and to consult immediately with counsel; Implementing procedures for handling notice to employees on an expedited basis, including a template to ensure all necessary information is provided (the state Labor Commissioner has provided a form template available here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DLSE/LC_90.2_EE_Notice.pdf); and Ensuring any reverification of employment eligibility complies with federal legal obligations and conducting training on the verification and reverification process.    [1]   Cal. Gov. Code § 7285.1(a), (e).    [2]   Guidance No. 11, available at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/AB_450_QA.pdf.    [3]   Cal. Gov. Code § 7285.2(a)(1), (a)(2).    [4]   Cal. Labor Code § 90.2(a).    [5]   Cal. Labor Code § 90.2(b).    [6]   Cal. Labor Code § 1019.2(a).    [7]   U.S. v. State of California, Case No. 1:18-cv-00490-JAM-KJN, Dkt. No. 1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2018), available at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1041431/download.    [8]   Id. at Dkt. No. 2, available at https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1041436/download.    [9]   Id. at Dkt. No. 193 (E.D.Cal. July 5, 2018). The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Jesse Cripps and Ryan Stewart. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed above. Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following in the firm’s Labor and Employment practice group: Catherine A. Conway – Co-Chair, Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7822, cconway@gibsondunn.com) Jason C. Schwartz – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8242, jschwartz@gibsondunn.com) Rachel S. Brass – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8293, rbrass@gibsondunn.com) Jesse A. Cripps – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7792, jcripps@gibsondunn.com) Michele L. Maryott – Orange County (+1 949-451-3945, mmaryott@gibsondunn.com) Katherine V.A. Smith – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7107, ksmith@gibsondunn.com)

June 27, 2018 |
Webcast: Developments in Virtual Currency Law and Regulation

The past year has seen an explosion in virtual currency offerings, as well as significant legal and regulatory developments as U.S. regulators have tried to keep pace with the industry. It is therefore timely for an analysis of these developments under a multi-disciplinary approach. Our team of experienced virtual currency practitioners analyze relevant issues from the perspective of U.S. securities regulation and enforcement, U.S. commodities regulation and enforcement, U.S. banking and licensed financial services law, and the U.S. anti-money laundering statutes and regulations. View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: J. Alan Bannister is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office and a member of the Firm’s Capital Markets, Global Finance and Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Groups. Mr. Bannister concentrates his practice on securities and other corporate transactions, acting for underwriters and issuers (including foreign private issuers), as well as strategic or other investors, in high yield, equity (including ADRs and GDRs), and other securities offerings, including U.S. public offerings, Rule 144A offerings, other private placements and Regulation S offerings, as well as re-capitalizations, NYSE and NASDAQ listings, shareholder rights offerings, spin-offs, PIPEs, exchange offers, other general corporate transactions and other advice regarding compliance with U.S. securities laws, as well as general corporate advice. Mr. Bannister also advises issuers and underwriters on dual listings in the U.S. and on various exchanges across Europe, Latin America and Asia. He has closely followed developments on Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Michael D. Bopp is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and Chair of the firm’s Public Policy group and its Financial Services Crisis Team, a multi-disciplinary group formed to address client concerns stemming from the credit and capital markets crisis.  Mr. Bopp engages in high-level, strategic policy and related regulatory work on a variety of issues but focuses on financial regulatory issues. He works with Congress and the Executive Branch on regulatory reform legislation and helping to shape new regulatory requirements promulgated as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act.  Mr. Bopp also has counseled numerous companies in complying with Dodd-Frank Act requirements.  From 2006-2008, Mr. Bopp served as Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House, and was responsible for overseeing budgets and coordinating regulatory, legislative, and other policy for approximately $150 billion worth of spending for various government agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Homeland Security, Transportation, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce, the General Services Administration, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  As a result of his work on financial regulatory and policy issues, Mr. Bopp has been named one of the 100 most influential people in finance by Treasury and Risk magazine. M. Kendall Day is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and a member of the White Collar Defense and Investigations and the Financial Institutions Practice Groups. His practice focuses on internal investigations, regulatory enforcement defense, white-collar criminal defense, and compliance counseling for financial institutions, multi-national companies, and individuals. Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, Mr. Day spent 15 years as a white-collar prosecutor, serving most recently as an Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. In that role, Mr. Day supervised more than 200 Criminal Division prosecutors and professionals tasked with investigating and prosecuting many of the country’s most significant and high-profile cases involving corporate and financial misconduct. He also had supervisory authority over every Bank Secrecy Act and money-laundering charge, deferred prosecution agreement and non-prosecution agreement involving every type of financial institution. Arthur S. Long is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, Co-Chair of Gibson Dunn’s Financial Institutions Practice Group and a member of the Securities Regulation Practice Group. Mr. Long focuses his practice on financial institutions regulation, advising on the regulatory aspects of M&A transactions; bank regulatory compliance issues; Dodd-Frank issues, including the regulation of systemically significant financial institutions (SIFIs) and related heightened capital and liquidity requirements; resolution planning; and Volcker Rule issues with respect to bank proprietary trading and private equity and hedge fund operations. Mr. Long has concentrated on the issues raised under U.S. state and federal banking law and state money transmission law by virtual currencies. Carl E. Kennedy is Of Counsel in Gibson Dunn’s New York office and a member of the firm’s Financial Institutions, Energy, Regulation and Litigation, and Public Policy Practice Groups. Mr. Kennedy applies his prior financial services and government experience to assisting clients with myriad regulatory, legislative, compliance, investigative and litigation issues relating to the commodities and derivatives markets. Mr. Kennedy served as Special Counsel and Policy Advisor to Commissioner Scott O’Malia at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) where he advised the commissioner on a full range of legal, regulatory and policy matters before the CFTC. While also at the CFTC, Mr. Kennedy was Legal Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel where he played a key role in the commission’s adoption of several rulemakings and guidance implementing the Dodd-Frank Act. Jeffrey L. Steiner is Counsel in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and is a member of the firm’s Financial Institutions, Energy, Regulation and Litigation, Investment Funds and Public Policy Practice Groups. Mr. Steiner co-leads the firm’s Derivatives team, as well as the firm’s Digital Currencies and Blockchain Technology team. Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, Mr. Steiner was special counsel in the Division of Market Oversight at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) where he drafted rules that became the current regulatory framework for over-the-counter derivatives. He advises commercial end-users, financial institutions, dealers, hedge funds, private equity funds, clearinghouses, industry groups and trade associations on regulatory, legislative and transactional matters related to OTC and listed derivatives, commodities and securities, including those relating to the Dodd-Frank Act, the rules of the CFTC, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Futures Association and the prudential banking regulators. Mr. Steiner also advises a range of clients on issues related to digital currencies and distributed ledger technology, including analyzing regulatory and enforcement matters relating to their implementation and use. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hours may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement.  This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast.  Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.50 hours. California attorneys may claim “self-study” credit for viewing the archived version of this webcast.  No certificate of attendance is required for California “self-study” credit.

May 1, 2017 |
Key Developments in Latin American Anti-Corruption Enforcement

Washington, D.C. partner F. Joseph Warin; Los Angeles partner Michael Farhang and associates Michael Galas, Abiel Garcia, and John Sandoval; São Paulo partner Lisa Alfaro; Denver associate Tafari Lumumba; and Orange County associate Sydney Sherman are the authors of “Key 2017 Developments in Latin American Anti-Corruption Enforcement,” [PDF] published in Trade Security Journal on May 2017.

June 25, 2018 |
Legal Risks and ESG Disclosures: What Corporate Secretaries Should Know

Washington, D.C. partners Beth Ising and Avi Garbow, of counsels Jason Meltzer and Gillian McPhee, associate Christopher White; and Orange County associate Lauren Assaf are the co-authors of “Legal Risks and ESG Disclosures: What Corporate Secretaries Should Know,” [PDF] published in June 2018 in conjunction with the Society for Corporate Governance.

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 Enforcement Marc J. Fagel +1 415.393.8332 mfagel@gibsondunn.com Barry R. Goldsmith +1 212.351.2440 bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com Richard W. Grime +1 202.955.8219 rgrime@gibsondunn.com Mark K. Schonfeld +1 212.351.2433 mschonfeld@gibsondunn.com   © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

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 30, 2018 |
Where Have All The Public Company Frauds Gone?

San Francisco partner Marc Fagel is the author of “Where Have All The Public Company Frauds Gone?” [PDF] published by Law360 on May 30, 2018.

May 25, 2018 |
Gibson Dunn Receives Chambers USA Excellence Award

At its annual USA Excellence Awards, Chambers and Partners named Gibson Dunn the winner in the Corporate Crime & Government Investigations category. The awards “reflect notable achievements over the past 12 months, including outstanding work, impressive strategic growth and excellence in client service.” This year the firm was also shortlisted in nine other categories: Antitrust, Energy/Projects: Oil & Gas, Energy/Projects: Power (including Renewables), Intellectual Property (including Patent, Copyright & Trademark), Labor & Employment, Real Estate, Securities and Financial Services Regulation and Tax team categories. Debra Wong Yang was also shortlisted in the individual category of Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations. The awards were presented on May 24, 2018.  

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. 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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.