Houston partner Gerry Spedale and Dallas associate Eric Pacifici are the authors of “9 Factors To Evaluate When Considering A SPAC” [PDF] published by Law360 on March 11, 2019.
Houston partner Gerry Spedale and Dallas associate Eric Pacifici are the authors of “9 Factors To Evaluate When Considering A SPAC” [PDF] published by Law360 on March 11, 2019.
Please join members of Gibson Dunn’s Capital Markets and Oil and Gas Practice Groups as they discuss capital markets transactions that are currently popular in the oil and gas industry. They explore issues, considerations and recommendations regarding preparation, planning, structuring, disclosure and governance in connection with these transactions. Specifically, the panelists provide insights and practical guidance regarding: IPO Planning and Execution Preferred Equity and High-Yield Trends Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) Tax Considerations in These Transactions View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: Hillary H. Holmes will explain and provide guidance on the IPO process and preparation. As a Partner in the Houston office and Co-Chair of the firm’s Capital Markets practice group, Hillary represents public companies, private companies, master limited partnerships and investment banks in all forms of capital raising transactions, including IPOs, registered offerings of debt and equity securities, private placements of debt and equity securities, joint ventures, preferred equity investments, spin-offs and special purpose acquisition companies. In addition, she focuses on securities offerings and SEC and governance counseling for master limited partnerships and corporations in all sectors of the oil & gas energy industry. Hillary also advises boards of directors, conflicts committees, and financial advisors of energy companies in complex transactions. Doug Rayburn will discuss Preferred Equity and High-Yield Trends. Doug is a Partner in the Dallas and Houston offices of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and a member of the firm’s Capital Markets group. His principal areas of concentration are securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions and general corporate matters. He has represented issuers and underwriters in over 200 public offerings and private placements, including initial public offerings, high yield offerings, investment grade and convertible note offerings, offerings by master limited partnerships and offerings of preferred and hybrid securities. Additionally, Doug represents purchasers and sellers in connection with mergers and acquisitions involving both public and private companies, including private equity investments and joint ventures. Gerry Spedale will discuss SPACs – an alternative route to the public markets. He is a Partner in the Houston office and focuses on capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and corporate governance matters for companies in the energy industry, including master limited partnerships. He has extensive experience representing issuers and investment banks in both public and private debt and equity offerings, including initial public offerings, convertible note offerings and offerings of preferred securities. Gerry also has substantial experience in public and private company acquisitions and dispositions and board committee representations. James Chenoweth will provide insight into the tax implications of all three of these transactions. James is a Partner in the Houston office and a member of the firm’s Tax group. He counsels clients regarding tax-efficient structuring of partnership and corporate transactions, including transactions involving publicly traded partnerships, special purpose acquisition companies, IPOs and follow-on offerings, as well as acquisitions and dispositions, taxable sales and the formation of joint ventures. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.0 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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.
Latinvex has named Washington, D.C. partner F. Joseph Warin and New York partner Kevin Kelley on its 2019 Latin America’s Top 100 Lawyers list featuring “leading attorneys from international law firms that are involved in the legal business in Latin America.” The list was published on February 7, 2019. Named a top lawyer in the FCPA & Fraud category, Warin focuses on complex civil litigation, white collar crime, and regulatory and securities enforcement – including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, False Claims Act cases, special committee representations, compliance counseling and class action civil litigation. He has handled cases and investigations in more than 40 states and dozens of countries. Warin’s clients include corporations, officers, directors and professionals in regulatory, investigative and trials involving federal regulatory inquiries, criminal investigations and cross-border inquiries by dozens of international enforcers. Named a top lawyer in the Capital Markets category, Kelley advises on capital markets transactions, particularly those involving non-U.S. issuers engaging in U.S. public or private securities offerings and exchange and tender offers. His clients include the major U.S. investment banks as well as corporations, financial institutions and sovereign issuers throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. Kelley has significant experience representing issuers and underwriters in public and 144A offerings of debt and equity securities, compliance with U.S. securities laws, and NYSE and NASDAQ listings by foreign issuers.
Private equity continues to play a prominent role in the life of public and private U.S. companies. This presentation will explain and explore the life cycle of a PE-sponsored public company, from initial acquisition to pre-IPO planning and structuring, governance considerations, and how public companies access the capital markets through private equity. Our team of capital markets and private equity panelists will discuss market trends, legal developments and our recommendations. View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: Andrew L. Fabens will share insights based on his experience with initial public offerings of PE-sponsored companies. He is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Capital Markets Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group. Mr. Fabens advises companies on long-term and strategic capital planning, disclosure and reporting obligations under U.S. federal securities laws, corporate governance issues and stock exchange listing obligations. He represents issuers and underwriters in public and private corporate finance transactions, both in the United States and internationally. Andrew M. Herman will share the private equity firm’s perspective on participating in the U.S. capital markets. He is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and a member of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions and Private Equity Practice Groups. Mr. Herman’s practice focuses on advising private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies on leveraged buyouts, growth equity investments and other transactions. He also advises public companies on mergers and acquisitions transactions, securities law compliance and corporate governance. He is experienced in advising on the acquisition and sale of sports franchises. Hillary H. Holmes will share insights and trends regarding PE participation in the capital markets for public companies. She is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Houston office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Capital Markets practice group, and a member of the firm’s Oil and Gas, Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance, and Private Equity Practice Groups. Ms. Holmes’ practice focuses on securities law and governance counseling in the oil & gas energy industry. She represents private equity, public companies, private companies, MLPs, investment banks and management teams in all forms of capital markets transactions. She also advises boards of directors, conflicts committees, and financial advisors in complex transactions. Julia Lapitskaya will share our views regarding corporate governance of a PE-sponsored company. She is Of Counsel in Gibson Dunn’s New York office and a member of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group. Ms. Lapitskaya’s practice focuses on corporate governance, SEC and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 compliance, securities and corporate governance disclosure issues, state corporate laws, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, SEC regulations and executive compensation disclosure issues. Peter W. Wardle will share insights based on his experience with initial public offerings of PE-sponsored companies. He is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Los Angeles office and Co-Chair of the firm’s Capital Markets Practice Group. Mr. Wardle’s practice includes representation of issuers and underwriters in equity and debt offerings, including IPOs and secondary public offerings, and representation of both public and private companies in mergers and acquisitions, including private equity, cross border, leveraged buy-out, distressed and going private transactions. He also advises clients on a wide variety of disclosure and reporting obligations, stock exchange listing issues, and general corporate and securities law matters, including corporate governance issues. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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.
Click for PDF Looking back at the past year’s cacophony of voices in a world trying to negotiate a new balance of powers, it appeared that Germany was disturbingly silent, on both the global and European stage. Instead of helping shape the new global agenda that is in the making, German politics focused on sorting out the vacuum created by a Federal election result which left no clear winner other than a newly formed right wing nationalist populist party mostly comprised of so called Wutbürger (the new prong for “citizens in anger”) that managed to attract 12.6 % of the vote to become the third strongest party in the German Federal Parliament. The relaunching of the Grand-Coalition in March after months of agonizing coalition talks was followed by a bumpy start leading into another session of federal state elections in Bavaria and Hesse that created more distraction. When normal business was finally resumed in November, a year had passed by with few meaningful initiatives formed or significant business accomplished. In short, while the world was spinning, Germany allowed itself a year’s time-out from international affairs. The result is reflected in this year’s update, where the most meaningful legal developments were either triggered by European initiatives, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) (see below section 4.1) or the New Transparency Rules for Listed German Companies (see below section 1.2), or as a result of landmark rulings of German or international higher and supreme courts (see below Corporate M&A sections 1.1 and 1.4; Tax – sections 2.1 and 2.2 and Labor and Employment – section 4.2). In fairness, shortly before the winter break at least a few other legal statutes have been rushed through parliament that are also covered by this update. Of the changes that are likely to have the most profound impact on the corporate world, as well as on the individual lives of the currently more than 500 million inhabitants of the EU-28, the GDPR, in our view, walks away with the first prize. The GDPR has created a unified legal system with bold concepts and strong mechanisms to protect individual rights to one’s personal data, combined with hefty fines in case of the violation of its rules. As such, the GDPR stands out as a glowing example for the EU’s aspiration to protect the civic rights of its citizens, but also has the potential to create a major exposure for EU-based companies processing and handling data globally, as well as for non EU-based companies doing business in Europe. On a more strategic scale, the GDPR also creates a challenge for Europe in the global race for supremacy in a AI-driven world fueled by unrestricted access to data – the gold of the digital age. The German government could not resist infection with the virus called protectionism, this time around coming in the form of greater scrutiny imposed on foreign direct investments into German companies being considered as “strategic” or “sensitive” (see below section 1.3 – Germany Tightens Rules on Foreign Takeovers Even Further). Protecting sensitive industries from “unwanted” foreign investors, at first glance, sounds like a laudable cause. However, for a country like Germany that derives most of its wealth and success from exporting its ideas, products and services, a more liberal approach to foreign investments would seem to be more appropriate, and it remains to be seen how the new rules will be enforced in practice going forward. The remarkable success of the German economy over the last twenty five years had its foundation in the abandoning of protectionism, the creation of an almost global market place for German products, and an increasing global adoption of the rule of law. All these building blocks of the recent German economic success have been under severe attack in the last year. This is definitely not the time for Germany to let another year go by idly. We use this opportunity to thank you for your trust and confidence in our ability to support you in your most complicated and important business decisions and to help you form your views and strategies to deal with sophisticated German legal issues. Without our daily interaction with your real-world questions and tasks, our expertise would be missing the focus and color to draw an accurate picture of the multifaceted world we are living in. In this respect, we thank you for making us better lawyers – every day. ________________________ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. Corporate, M&A 2. Tax 3. Financing and Restructuring 4. Labor and Employment 5. Real Estate 6. Compliance 7. Antitrust and Merger Control 8. Litigation 9. IP & Technology 10. International Trade, Sanctions and Export Controls ________________________ 1. Corporate, M&A 1.1 Further Development regarding D&O Liability of the Supervisory Board in a German Stock Corporation In its famous “ARAG/Garmenbeck”-decision in 1997, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) first established the obligation of the supervisory board of a German Stock Corporation (Aktiengesellschaft) to pursue the company’s D&O liability claims in the name of the company against its own management board after having examined the existence and enforceability of such claims. Given the very limited discretion the court has granted to the supervisory board not to bring such a claim and the supervisory board’s own liability arising from inactivity, the number of claims brought by companies against their (former) management board members has risen significantly since this decision. In its recent decision dated September 18, 2018, the BGH ruled on the related follow-up question about when the statute of limitations should start to run with respect to compensation claims brought by the company against a supervisory board member who has failed to pursue the company’s D&O liability claims against the board of management within the statutory limitation period. The BGH clarified that the statute of limitation applicable to the company’s compensation claims against the inactive supervisory board member (namely ten years in case of a publicly listed company, otherwise five years) should not begin to run until the company’s compensation claims against the management board member have become time-barred themselves. With that decision, the court adopts the view that in cases of inactivity, the period of limitations should not start to run until the last chance for the filing of an underlying claim has passed. In addition, the BGH in its decision confirmed the supervisory board’s obligation to also pursue the company’s claims against the board of management in cases where the management board member’s misconduct is linked to the supervisory board’s own misconduct (e.g. through a violation of supervisory duties). Even in cases where the pursuit of claims against the board of management would force the supervisory board to disclose its own misconduct, such “self-incrimination” does not release the supervisory board from its duty to pursue the claims given the preponderance of the company’s interests in an effective supervisory board, the court reasoned. In practice, the recent decision will result in a significant extension of the D&O liability of supervisory board members. Against that backdrop, supervisory board members are well advised to examine the existence of the company’s compensation claims against the board of management in a timely fashion and to pursue the filing of such claims, if any, as soon as possible. If the board of management’s misconduct is linked to parallel misconduct of the supervisory board itself, the relevant supervisory board member – if not exceptionally released from pursuing such claim and depending on the relevant facts and circumstances – often finds her- or himself in a conflict of interest arising from such self-incrimination in connection with the pursuit of the claims. In such a situation, the supervisory board member might consider resigning from office in order to avoid a conflict of interest arising from such self-incrimination in connection with the pursuit of the claims. Back to Top 1.2 Upcoming New Transparency Rules for Listed German Companies as well as Institutional Investors, Asset Managers and Proxy Advisors In mid-October 2018, the German Federal Ministry of Justice finally presented the long-awaited draft for an act implementing the revised European Shareholders’ Rights Directive (Directive (EU) 2017/828). The Directive aims to encourage long-term shareholder engagement by facilitating the communication between shareholders and companies, in particular across borders, and will need to be implemented into German law by June 10, 2019 at the latest. The new rules primarily target listed German companies and provide some major changes with respect to the “say on pay” provisions, as well as additional approval and disclosure requirements for related party transactions, the transmission of information between a stock corporation and its shareholders and additional transparency and reporting requirements for institutional investors, asset managers and proxy advisors. “Say on pay” on directors’ remuneration: remuneration policy and remuneration report Under the current law, the shareholders determine the remuneration of the supervisory board members at a shareholder meeting, whereas the remuneration of the management board members is decided by the supervisory board. The law only provides for the possibility of an additional shareholder vote on the management board members’ remuneration if such vote is put on the agenda by the management and supervisory boards in their sole discretion. Even then, such vote has no legal effects whatsoever (“voluntary say on pay”). In the future, shareholders of German listed companies will have two options. First, the supervisory board will have to prepare a detailed remuneration policy for the management board, which must be submitted to the shareholders if there are major changes to the remuneration, and in any event at least once every four years (“mandatory say on pay”). That said, the result of the vote on the policy will continue to remain only advisory. However, if the supervisory board adopts a remuneration policy that has been rejected by the shareholders, it will then be required to submit a reviewed (not necessarily revised) remuneration policy to the shareholders at the next shareholders’ meeting. With respect to the remuneration of supervisory board members, the new rules require a shareholders vote at least once every four years. Second, at the annual shareholders’ meeting the shareholders will vote ex post on the remuneration report (which is also reviewed by the statutory auditor) which contains the remuneration granted to the present and former members of the management board and the supervisory board in the past financial year. Again, the shareholders’ vote, however, will only be advisory. Both the remuneration report including the audit report, as well as the remuneration policy will have to be made public on the company’s website for at least ten years. Related party transactions German stock corporation law already provides for various safeguard mechanisms to protect minority shareholders in cases of transactions with major shareholders or other related parties (e.g. the capital maintenance rules and the laws relating to groups of companies). In the future, in the case of listed companies, these mechanisms will be supplemented by a detailed set of approval and transparency requirements for transactions between the company and related parties. Material transactions exceeding certain thresholds will require prior supervisory board approval. A rejection by the supervisory board can be overcome by shareholder vote. Furthermore, a listed company must publicly disclose any such material related party transaction, without undue delay over media providing for a Europe-wide distribution. Identification of shareholders and facilitation of the exercise of shareholders’ rights Listed companies will have the right to request information on the identity of their shareholders, including the name and both a postal and electronic address, from depositary banks, thus allowing for a direct communication line, also with respect to bearer shares (“know-your-shareholder”). Furthermore, depositary banks and other intermediaries will be required to pass on important information from the company to the shareholders and vice versa, e.g. with respect to voting in shareholders’ meetings and the exercise of subscription rights. Where there is more than one intermediary in a chain, the intermediaries are required to pass on the respective information within the chain. In addition, companies will be required to confirm the votes cast at the request of the shareholders thus enabling them to be certain that their votes have been effectively cast, including in particular across borders. Transparency requirements for institutional investors, asset managers and proxy advisors German domestic institutional investors and asset managers with Germany as their home member state (as defined in the applicable sector-specific EU law) will be required (i) to disclose their engagement policy, including how they monitor, influence and communicate with the investee companies, exercise shareholders’ rights and manage actual and potential conflicts of interests, and (ii) to report annually on the implementation of their engagement policy and disclose how they have cast their votes in the general meetings of material investee companies. Institutional investors will further have to disclose (iii) consistency between the key elements of their investment strategy with the profile and duration of their liabilities and how they contribute to the medium to long-term performance of their assets, and, (iv) if asset managers are involved, to disclose the main aspects of their arrangement with the asset manager. The new disclosure and reporting requirements, however, only apply on a “comply or explain” basis. Thus, investors and asset managers may choose not to make the above disclosures, provided they give an explanation as to why this is the case. Proxy advisors will have to publicly disclose on an annual basis (i) whether and how they have applied their code of conduct based again on the “comply or explain” principle, and (ii) information on the essential features, methodologies and models they apply, their main information sources, the qualification of their staff, their voting policies for the different markets they operate in, their interaction with the companies and the stakeholders as well as how they manage conflicts of interests. These rules, however, do not apply to proxy advisors operating from a non-EEA state with no establishment in Germany. The present legislative draft is still under discussion and it is to be expected that there will still be some changes with respect to details before the act becomes effective in mid-2019. Due to transitional provisions, the new rules on “say on pay” will have no effect for the majority of listed companies in this year’s meeting season. Whether the new rules will actually promote a long-term engagement of shareholders and have the desired effect on the directors’ remuneration of listed companies will have to be seen. In any event, both listed companies as well as the other addressees of the new transparency rules should make sure that they are prepared for the new reporting and disclosure requirements. Back to Top 1.3 Germany Tightens Rules on Foreign Takeovers Even Further After the German government had imposed stricter rules on foreign direct investment in 2017 (see 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 1.5), it has now even further tightened its rules with respect to takeovers of German companies by foreign investors. The latest amendment of the rules under the German Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung, “AWV“) enacted in 2018 was triggered, among other things, by the German government’s first-ever veto in August 2018 regarding the proposed acquisition of Leifeld Metal Spinning, a German manufacturer of metal forming machines used in the automotive, aerospace and nuclear industries, by Yantai Taihai Corporation, a privately-owned industry group from China, on the grounds of national security. Ultimately, Yantai withdrew its bid shortly after the German government had signaled that it would block the takeover. On December 29, 2018, the latest amendment of the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance came into force. The new rules provide for greater scrutiny of foreign direct investments by lowering the threshold for review of takeovers of German companies by foreign investors from the acquisition of 25% of the voting rights down to 10% in circumstances where the target operates a critical infrastructure or in sensitive security areas (defense and IT security industry). In addition, the amendment also expands the scope of the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance to also apply to certain media companies that contribute to shaping the public opinion by way of broadcasting, teleservices or printed materials and stand out due to their special relevance and broad impact. While the lowering of the review threshold as such will lead to an expansion of the existing reporting requirements, the broader scope is also aimed at preventing German mass media from being manipulated with disinformation by foreign investors or governments. There are no specific guidelines published by the German government as it wants the relevant parties to contact, and enter into a dialog with, the authorities about these matters. While the German government used to be rather liberal when it came to foreign investments in the past, the recent veto in the case of Leifeld as well as the new rules show that in certain circumstances, it will become more cumbersome for dealmakers to get a deal done. Finally, it is likely that the rules on foreign investment control will be tightened even further going forward in light of the contemplated EU legislative framework for screening foreign direct investment on a pan-European level. Back to Top 1.4 US Landmark Decision on MAE Clauses – Consequences for German M&A Deals Fresenius wrote legal history in the US with potential consequences also for German M&A deals in which “material adverse effect” (MAE) clauses are used. In December 2018, for the first time ever, the Supreme Court of Delaware allowed a purchaser to invoke the occurrence of an MAE and to terminate the affected merger agreement. The agreement included an MAE clause, which allocated certain business risks concerning the target (Akorn) for the time period between signing and closing to Akorn. Against the resistance of Akorn, Fresenius terminated the merger agreement based on the alleged MAE, arguing that the target’s EBITDA declined by 86%. The decision includes a very detailed analysis of an MAE clause by the Delaware courts and reaffirms that under Delaware law there is a very high bar to establishing an MAE. Such bar is based both on quantitative and qualitative parameters. The effects of any material adverse event need to be substantial as well as lasting. In most German deals, the parties agree to arbitrate. For this reason, there have been no German court rulings published on MAE clauses so far. Hence, all parties to an M&A deal face uncertainty about how German courts or arbitration tribunals would define “materiality” in the context of an MAE clause. In potential M&A litigation, sellers may use this ruling to support the argument that the bar for the exercise of the MAE right is in fact very high in line with the Delaware standard. It remains to be seen whether German judges will adopt the Delaware decision to interpret MAE clauses in German deals. Purchasers, who seek more certainty, may consider defining materiality in the MAE clause more concretely (e.g., by reference to the estimated impact of the event on the EBITDA of the company or any other financial parameter). Back to Top 1.5 Equivalence of Swiss Notarizations? The question whether the notarization of various German corporate matters may only be validly performed by German notaries or whether some or all of these measures may also be notarized validly by Swiss notaries has long since been the topic of legal debate. Since the last major reform of the German Limited Liability Companies Act (Gesetz betreffend Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung – GmbHG) in 2008 the number of Swiss notarizations of German corporate measures has significantly decreased. A number of the newly introduced changes and provisions seemed to cast doubt on the equivalence and capacity of Swiss notaries to validly perform the duties of a German notary public who are not legally bound by the mandatory, non-negotiable German fee regime on notarial fees. As a consequence and a matter of prudence, German companies mostly stopped using Swiss notaries despite the potential for freely negotiated fee arrangements and the resulting significant costs savings in particular in high value matters. However, since 2008 there has been an increasing number of test cases that reach the higher German courts in which the permissibility of a Swiss notarization is the decisive issue. While the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) still has not had the opportunity to decide this question, in 2018 two such cases were decided by the Kammergericht (Higher District Court) in Berlin. In those cases, the court held that both the incorporation of a German limited liability company in the Swiss Canton of Berne (KG Berlin, 22 W 25/16 – January 24, 2018 = ZIP 2018, 323) and the notarization of a merger between two German GmbHs before a notary in the Swiss Canton of Basle (KG Berlin, 22 W 2/18 – July 26, 2018 = ZIP 2018, 1878) were valid notarizations under German law, because Swiss notaries were deemed to be generally equivalent to the qualifications and professional standards of German-based notaries. The reasons given in these decisions are reminiscent of the case law that existed prior to the 2008 corporate law reform and can be interpreted as indicative of a certain tendency by the courts to look favorably on Swiss notarizations as an alternative to German-based notarizations. Having said that and absent a determinative decision by the BGH, using German-based notaries remains the cautious default approach for German companies to take. This is definitely the case in any context where financing banks are involved (e.g. either where share pledges as loan security are concerned or in an acquisition financing context of GmbH share sales and transfers). On the other hand, in regions where such court precedents exist, the use of Swiss notaries for straightforward intercompany share transfers, mergers or conversions might be considered as an alternative on a case by case basis. Back to Top 1.6 Re-Enactment of the DCGK: Focus on Relevance, Function, Management Board’s Remuneration and Independence of Supervisory Board Members Sixteen years after it has first been enacted, the German Corporate Governance Code (Deutscher Corporate Governance Kodex, DCGK), which contains standards for good and responsible governance for German listed companies, is facing a major makeover. In November 2018, the competent German government commission published a first draft for a radically revised DCGK. While vast parts of the proposed changes are merely editorial and technical in nature, the draft contains a number of new recommendations, in particular with respect to the topics of management remuneration and independence of supervisory board members. With respect to the latter, the draft now provides a catalogue of criteria that shall act as guidance for the supervisory board as to when a shareholder representative shall no longer be regarded as independent. Furthermore, the draft also provides for more detailed specifications aiming for an increased transparency of the supervisory board’s work, including the recommendation to individually disclose the members’ attendance of meetings, and further tightens the recommendations regarding the maximum number of simultaneous mandates for supervisory board members. Moreover, in addition to the previous concept of “comply or explain”, the draft DCGK introduces a new “apply and explain” concept, recommending that listed companies also explain how they apply certain fundamental principles set forth in the DCGK as a new third category in addition to the previous two categories of recommendations and suggestions. The draft DCGK is currently under consultation and the interested public is invited to comment upon the proposed amendments until the end of January 2019. Since some of the proposed amendments provide for a rather fundamentally new approach to the current regime and would introduce additional administrative burdens, it remains to be seen whether all of the proposed amendments will actually come into force. According to the current plan, following a final consultancy of the Government Commission, the revised version of the DCGK shall be submitted for publication in April 2019 and would take effect shortly thereafter. Back to Top 2. Tax On November 23, 2018, the German Federal Council (Bundesrat) approved the German Tax Reform Act 2018 (Jahressteuergesetz 2018, the “Act”), which had passed the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) on November 8, 2018. Highlights of the Act are (i) the exemption of restructuring gains from German income tax, (ii) the partial abolition of and a restructuring exemption from the loss forfeiture rules in share transactions and (iii) the extension of the scope of taxation for non-German real estate investors investing in Germany. 2.1 Exemption of Restructuring Gains The Act puts an end to a long period of uncertainty – which has significantly impaired restructuring efforts – with respect to the tax implications resulting from debt waivers in restructuring scenarios (please see in this regard our 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 3.2). Under German tax law, the waiver of worthless creditor claims creates a balance sheet profit for the debtor in the amount of the nominal value of the payable. Such balance sheet profit is taxable and would – without any tax privileges for such profit – often outweigh the restructuring effect of the waiver. The Act now reinstates the tax exemption of debt waivers with retroactive effect for debt waivers after February 8, 2017; upon application debt waivers prior to February 8, 2017 can also be covered. Prior to this legislative change, a tax exemption of restructuring gains was based on a restructuring decree of the Federal Ministry of Finance, which has been applied by the tax authorities since 2003. In 2016, the German Federal Fiscal Court (Bundesfinanzgerichtshof) held that the restructuring decree by the Federal Ministry of Finance violates constitutional law since a tax exemption must be legislated by statute and cannot be based on an administrative decree. Legislation was then on hold pending confirmation from the EU Commission that a legislative tax exemption does not constitute illegal state aid under EU law. The EU Commission finally gave such confirmation by way of a comfort letter in August 2018. The Act is largely based on the conditions imposed by a restructuring decree issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance on the tax exemption of a restructuring gain. Under the Act, gains at the level of the debtor resulting from a full or partial debt relief are exempt from German income tax if the relief is granted to recapitalize and restructure an ailing business. The tax exemption only applies if at the time of the debt waiver (i) the business is in need of restructuring and (ii) capable of being restructured, (iii) the waiver results in a going-concern of the restructured business and (iv) the creditor waives the debt with the intention to restructure the business. The rules apply to German corporate income and trade tax and benefit individuals, partnerships and corporations alike. Any gains from the relief must first be reduced by all existing loss-offsetting potentials before the taxpayer can benefit from tax exemptions on restructuring measures. Back to Top 2.2 Partial Abolition of Loss Forfeiture Rules/Restructuring Exception Under the current Loss Forfeiture Rules, losses of a German corporation will be forfeited on a pro rata basis if within a period of five years more than 25% but not more than 50% of the shares in the German loss-making corporation are transferred (directly or indirectly) to a new shareholder or group of shareholders with aligned interests. If more than 50% are transferred, losses will be forfeited in total. There are exceptions to this rule for certain intragroup restructurings, built-in gains and business continuations, especially in the venture capital industry. On March 29, 2017, the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) ruled that the pro rata forfeiture of losses (a share transfer of more than 25% but not more than 50%) is incompatible with the constitution. The court has asked the German legislator to amend the Loss Forfeiture Rules retroactively for the period from January 1, 2008 until December 31, 2015 to bring them in line with the constitution. Somewhat surprisingly, the legislator has now decided to fully cancel the pro rata forfeiture of losses with retroactive effect and with no reference to a specific tax period. Currently pending before the German Federal Constitutional Court is the question whether the full forfeiture of losses is constitutional. A decision by the Federal Constitutional Court is expected for early 2019, which may then result in another legislative amendment of the Loss Forfeiture Rules. The Act has also reinstated a restructuring exception from the forfeiture rules – if the share transfer occurs in order to restructure the business of an ailing corporation. Similar to the exemption of restructuring gains, this legislation was on hold until the ECJ’s decision (European Court of Justice) on June 28, 2018 that the restructuring exception does not violate EU law. Existing losses will not cease to exist following a share transfer if the restructuring measures are appropriate to avoid or eliminate the illiquidity or the over-indebtedness of the corporation and to maintain its basic operational structure. The restructuring exception applies to share transfers after December 31, 2007. Back to Top 2.3 Investments in German Real Estate by Non-German Investors So far, capital gains from the disposal of shares in a non-German corporation holding German real estate were not subject to German tax. In a typical structure, in which German real estate is held via a Luxembourg or Dutch entity, a value appreciation in the asset could be realized by a share deal of the holding company without triggering German income taxes. Under the Act, the sale of shares in a non-German corporation is now taxable if, at some point within a period of one year prior to the sale of shares, 50 percent of the book value of the assets of the company consisted of German real estate and the seller held at least 1 percent of the shares within the last five years prior to the sale. The Act is now in line with many double tax treaties concluded by Germany, which allow Germany to tax capital gains in these cases. The new law applies for share transfers after December 31, 2018. Capital gains are only subject to German tax to the extent the value has been increased after December 31, 2018. Until 2018, a change in the value of assets and liabilities, which are economically connected to German real estate, was not subject to German tax. Therefore, for example, profits from a waiver of debt that was used to finance German real estate was not taxable in Germany whereas the interest paid on the debt was deductible for German tax purposes. That law has now changed and allows Germany to tax such profit from a debt waiver if the loan was used to finance German real estate. However, only the change in value that occurred after December 31, 2018 is taxable. Back to Top 3. Financing and Restructuring – Test for Liquidity Status Tightened On December 19, 2017, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) handed down an important ruling which clarifies the debt and payable items that should be taken into account when determining the “liquidity” status of companies. According to the Court, the liquidity test now requires managing directors and (executive) board members to determine whether a liquidity gap exceeding 10% can be overcome by incoming liquidity within a period of three weeks taking into account all payables which will become due in those three weeks. Prior to the ruling, managing directors had often argued successfully that only those payables that were due at the time when the test is applied needed be taken into account while expected incoming payments within a three week term could be considered. This mismatch in favor of the managing directors has now been rectified by the Court to the disadvantage of the managing directors. If, for example, on June 1 the company liquidity status shows due payables amounting to EUR 100 and plausible incoming receivables in the three weeks thereafter amounting to EUR 101, no illiquidity existed under the old test. Under the new test confirmed by the Court, payables of EUR 50 becoming due in the three week period now also have to be taken into account and the company would be considered illiquid. For companies and their managing directors following a cautious approach, the implications of this ruling are minor. Going forward, however, even those willing to take higher risks will need to follow the court determined principles. Otherwise, delayed insolvency filings could ensue. This not only involves a managing directors and executive board members’ personal liability for payments made on behalf of the company while illiquid but also potential criminal liability for a delayed insolvency filing. Managing directors are thus well advised to properly undertake and also document the required test in order to avoid liability issues. Back to Top 4. Labor and Employment 4.1 GDPR Has Tightened Workplace Privacy Rules The EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) started to apply on May 25, 2018. It has introduced a number of stricter rules for EU countries with regard to data protection which also apply to employee personal data and employment relationships. In addition to higher sanctions, the regulation provides for extensive information, notification, deletion, and documentation obligations. While many of these data privacy rules had already been part of the previous German workplace privacy regime under the German Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz – BDSG), the latter has also been amended and provides for specific rules applicable to employee data protection in Germany (e.g. in the context of internal investigations or with respect to employee co-determination). However, the most salient novelty is the enormous increase in potential sanctions under the GDPR. Fines for GDPR violations can reach up to the higher of EUR 20 million or 4% of the group’s worldwide turnover. Against this backdrop, employers are well-advised to handle employee personnel data particularly careful. This is also particularly noteworthy as the employer is under an obligation to prove compliance with the GDPR – which may result in a reversal of the burden of proof e.g. in employment-related litigation matters involving alleged GDPR violations. Back to Top 4.2 Job Adverts with Third Gender Following a landmark decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2017, employers are gradually inserting a third gender into their job advertisements. The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) decided on October 10, 2017 that citizens who do not identify as either male or female were to be registered as “diverse” in the birth register (1 BvR 2019/16). As a consequence of this court decision, many employers in Germany have broadened gender notations in job advertisements from previously “m/f” to “m/f/d”. While there is no compelling legal obligation to do so, employers tend to signal their open-mindedness by this step, but also mitigate the potential risk of liability for a discrimination claim. Currently, such liability risk does not appear alarming due to the relative rarity of persons identifying as neither male nor female and the lack of a statutory stipulation for such adverts. However, employers might be well-advised to follow this trend, particularly after Parliament confirmed the existence of a third gender option in birth registers in mid-December. Back to Top 4.3 Can Disclosure Obligation Reduce Gender Pay-Gap? In an attempt to weed out gender pay gaps, the German lawmaker has introduced the so-called Compensation Transparency Act in 2017. It obliges employers, inter alia, to disclose the median compensation of comparable colleagues of the opposite gender with comparable jobs within the company. The purpose is to give a potential claimant (usually a female employee) an impression of how much her comparable male colleagues earn in order for her to consider further steps, e.g. a claim for more money. However, the new law is widely perceived as pointless. First, the law itself and its processes are unduly complex. Second, even after making use of the law, the respective employee would still have to sue the company separately in order to achieve an increase in her compensation, bearing the burden of proof that the opposite-gender employee with higher compensation is comparable to her. Against this background, the law has hardly been used in practice and will likely have only minimal impact. Back to Top 4.4 Employers to Contribute 15% to Deferred Compensation Schemes In order to promote company pension schemes, employers are now obliged to financially support deferred compensation arrangements. So far, employer contributions to any company pension scheme had been voluntary. In the case of deferred compensation schemes, companies save money as a result of less social security charges. The flipside of this saving was a financial detriment to the employee’s statutory pension, as the latter depends on the salary actually paid to the employee (which is reduced as a result of the deferred compensation). To compensate the employee for this gap, the employer is now obliged to contribute up to 15% of the respective deferred compensation. The actual impact of this new rule should be limited, as many employers already actively support deferred compensation schemes. As such, the new obligatory contribution can be set off against existing employer contributions to the same pension scheme. Back to Top 5. Real Estate – Notarization Requirement for Amendments to Real Estate Purchase Agreements Purchase agreements concerning German real estate require notarization in order to be effective. This notarization requirement relates not only to the purchase agreement as such but to all closely related (side) agreements. The transfer of title to the purchaser additionally requires an agreement in rem between the seller and the purchaser on the transfer (conveyance) and the subsequent registration of the transfer in the land register. To avoid additional notarial fees, parties usually include the conveyance in the notarial real estate purchase agreement. Amendment agreements to real estate purchase agreements are quite common (e.g., the parties subsequently agree on a purchase price adjustment or the purchaser has special requests in a real estate development scenario). Various Higher District Courts (Oberlandesgerichte), together with the prevailing opinion in literature, have held in the past that any amendments to real estate purchase agreements also require notarization unless such an amendment is designed to remove unforeseeable difficulties with the implementation of the agreement without significantly changing the parties’ mutual obligations. Any amendment agreement that does not meet the notarization requirement may render the entire purchase agreement (and not only the amendment agreement) null and void. With its decision on September 14, 2018, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) added another exception to the notarization requirement and ruled that notarization of an amendment agreement is not required once the conveyance has become binding and the amendment does not change the existing real estate transfer obligations or create new ones. A conveyance becomes binding once it has been validly notarized. Before this new decision of the BGH, amendments to real estate purchase agreements were often notarized for the sake of precaution because it was difficult to determine whether the conditions for an exemption from the notarization requirement had been met. This new decision of the BGH gives the parties clear guidance as to when amendments to real estate purchase agreements require notarization. It should, however, be borne in mind that notarization is still required if the amendment provides for new transfer obligations concerning the real property or the conveyance has not become effective yet (e.g., because third party approval is still outstanding). Back to Top 6. Compliance 6.1 Government Plans to Introduce Corporate Criminal Liability and Internal Investigations Act Plans of the Federal Government to introduce a new statute concerning corporate criminal liability and internal investigations are taking shape. Although a draft bill had already been announced for the end of 2018, pressure to respond to recent corporate scandals seems to be rising. With regard to the role and protection of work product generated during internal investigations, the highly disputed decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG) in June 2018 (BVerfG, 2 BvR 1405/17, 2 BvR 1780/17 – June 27, 2018) (see 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 7.3) call for clearer statutory rules concerning the search of law firm premises and the seizure of documents collected in the course of an internal investigation. In its dismissal of complaints brought by Volkswagen and its lawyers from Jones Day, the Federal Constitutional Court made remarkable obiter dicta statements in which it emphasized the following: (1) the legal privilege enjoyed for the communication between the individual defendant (Beschuldigter) and its criminal defense counsel is limited to their communication only; (2) being considered a foreign corporate body, the court denied Jones Day standing in the proceedings, because the German constitution only grants rights to corporate bodies domiciled in Germany; and (3) a search of the offices of a law firm does not affect individual constitutional rights of the lawyers practicing in that office, because the office does not belong to the lawyers’ personal sphere, but only to their law firm. The decision and the additional exposure caused by it by making attorney work product created in the course of an internal investigation accessible was a major blow to German corporations’ efforts to foster internal investigations as a means to efficiently and effectively investigate serious compliance concerns. Because it does not appear likely that an entirely new statute concerning corporate criminal liability will materialize in the near future, the legal press expects the Federal Ministry of Justice to consider an approach in which the statutes dealing with questions around internal investigations and the protection of work product created in the course thereof will be clarified separately. In the meantime, the following measures are recommended to maximize the legal privilege for defense counsel (Verteidigerprivileg): (1) Establish clear instructions to an individual criminal defense lawyer setting forth the scope and purpose of the defense; (2) mark work product and communications that have been created in the course of the defense clearly as confidential correspondence with defense counsel (“Vertrauliche Verteidigerkorrespondenz”); and (3) clearly separate such correspondence from other correspondence with the same client in matters that are not clearly attributable to the criminal defense mandate. While none of these measures will guarantee that state prosecutors and courts will abstain from a search and seizure of such material, at least there are good and valid arguments to defend the legal privilege in any appeals process. However, with the guidance provided to courts by the recent constitutional decision, until new statutory provisions provide for clearer guidance, companies can expect this to become an up-hill battle. Back to Top 6.2 Update on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Proposed Cross-Border Electronic Evidence Rules Recently the European Union has started tightening its cooperation in the field of criminal procedure, which was previously viewed as a matter of national law under the sovereignty of the 28 EU member states. Two recent developments stand out that illustrate that remarkable new trend: (1) The introduction of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (“EPPO”) that was given jurisdiction to conduct EU-wide investigations for certain matters independent of the prosecution of these matters under the national laws of the member states, and (2) the proposed EU-wide framework for cross-border access to electronically stored data (“e-evidence”) which has recently been introduced to the European Parliament. As reported previously (see 2017 Year-End German Law Update under 7.4), the European Prosecutor’s Office’s task is to independently investigate and prosecute severe crimes against the EU’s financial interests such as fraud against the EU budget or crimes related to EU subsidies. Corporations receiving funds from the EU may therefore be the first to be scrutinized by this new EU body. In 2018 two additional EU member states, the Netherlands and Malta, decided to join this initiative, extending the number of participating member states to 22. The EPPO will presumably begin its work by the end of 2020, because the start date may not be earlier than three years after the regulation’s entry into force. As a further measure to leverage multi-jurisdictional enforcement activities, in April 2018 the European Commission proposed a directive and a regulation that will significantly facilitate expedited cross-border access to e-evidence such as texts, emails or messaging apps by enforcement agencies and judicial authorities. The proposed framework would allow national enforcement authorities in accordance with their domestic procedure to request e-evidence directly from a service provider located in the jurisdiction of another EU member state. That other state’s authorities would not have the right to object to or to review the decision to search and seize the e-evidence sought by the national enforcement authority of the requesting EU member state. Companies refusing delivery risk a fine of up to 2% of their worldwide annual turnover. In addition, providers from a third country which operate in the EU are obliged to appoint a legal representative in the EU. The proposal has reached a majority vote in the Council of the EU and will now be negotiated in the European Parliament. Further controversial discussions between the European Parliament and the Commission took place on December 10, 2018. The Council of the EU aims at reaching an agreement between the three institutions by the end of term of the European Parliament in May 2019. Back to Top 7. Antitrust and Merger Control 7.1 Antitrust and Merger Control Overview 2018 In 2018, Germany celebrated the 60th anniversary of both the German Act against Restraints of Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen -GWB) as well as the German federal cartel office (Bundeskartellamt) which were both established in 1958 and have since played a leading role in competition enforcement worldwide. The celebrations notwithstanding, the German antitrust watchdog has had a very active year in substantially all of its areas of competence. On the enforcement side, the Bundeskartellamt concluded a number of important cartel investigations. According to its annual review, the Bundeskartellamt carried out dawn raids at 51 companies and imposed fines totaling EUR 376 million against 22 companies or associations and 20 individuals from various industries including the steel, potato manufacturing, newspapers and rolled asphalt industries. Leniency applications remained an important source for the Bundeskartellamt‘s antitrust enforcement activities with a total of 21 leniency applications received in 2018 filling the pipeline for the next few months and years. On the merger control side, the Bundeskartellamt reviewed approximately 1,300 merger cases in 2018 – only 1% of which (i.e. 13 merger filings) required an in-depth phase 2 review. No mergers were prohibited but in one case only conditional clearance was granted and three filings were withdrawn in phase 2. In addition, the Bundeskartellamt had its first full year of additional responsibilities in the area of consumer protection, concluded a sector inquiry into internet comparison portals, and started a sector inquiry into the online marketing business as well as a joint project with the French competition authority CNIL regarding algorithms in the digital economy and their competitive effects. Back to Top 7.2 Cartel Damages Over the past few years, antitrust damages law has advanced in Germany and the European Union. One major legislative development was the EU Directive on actions for damages for infringements of competition law, which was implemented in Germany as part of the 9th amendment to the German Act against Restraints of Competition (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen -GWB). In addition, there has also been some noteworthy case law concerning antitrust damages. To begin with, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) strengthened the position of plaintiffs suing for antitrust damages in its decision Grauzementkartell II in 2018. The decision brought to an end an ongoing dispute between several Higher District Courts and District Courts, which had disagreed over whether a recently added provision of the GWB that suspends the statute of limitations in cases where antitrust authorities initiate investigations would also apply to claims that arose before the amendment entered into force (July 1, 2015). The Federal Supreme Court affirmed the suspension of the statute of limitations, basing its ruling on a well-established principle of German law regarding the intertemporal application of statutes of limitation. The decision concerns numerous antitrust damage suits, including several pending cases concerning trucks, rails tracks, and sugar cartels. Furthermore, recent case law shows that European domestic courts interpret arbitration agreements very broadly and also enforce them in cases involving antitrust damages. In 2017, the England and Wales High Court and the District Court Dortmund (Landgericht Dortmund) were presented with two antitrust disputes where the parties had agreed on an arbitration clause. Both courts denied jurisdiction because the antitrust damage claims were also covered by the arbitration agreements. They argued that the parties could have asserted claims for contractual damages instead, which would have been covered by the arbitration agreement. In the courts’ view, it would be unreasonable, however, if the choice between asserting a contractual or an antitrust claim would give the parties the opportunity to influence the jurisdiction of a court. As a consequence, the use of arbitration clauses (in particular if inconsistently used by suppliers or purchasers) may add significant complexity to antitrust damages litigation going forward. Thus, companies are well advised to examine their international supply agreements to determine whether included arbitration agreements will also apply to disputes about antitrust damages. Back to Top 7.3 Appeals against Fines Risky? In German antitrust proceedings, there is increasing pressure for enterprises to settle. Earlier this year, Radeberger, a producer of lager beer, withdrew its appeal against a significant fine of EUR 338 million, which the Bundeskartellamt had imposed on the company for its alleged participation in the so-called “beer cartel”. With this dramatic step, Radeberger paid heed to a worrisome development in German competition law. Repeatedly, enterprises have seen their cartel fines increased by staggering amounts on appeal (despite such appeals sometimes succeeding on some substantive legal issues). The reason for these “appeals for the worse” – as seen in the liquefied gas cartel (increase of fine from EUR 180 million to EUR 244 million), the sweets cartel (average increase of approx. 50%) and the wallpaper cartel (average increase of approx. 35%) – is the different approach taken by the Bundeskartellamt and the courts to calculating fines. As courts are not bound by the administrative practice of the Bundeskartellamt, many practitioners are calling for the legislator to step in and address the issue. Back to Top 7.4 Luxury Products on Amazon – The Coty Case In July 2018, the Frankfurt Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht Frankfurt) delivered its judgement in the case Coty / Parfümerie Akzente, ruling that Coty, a luxury perfume producer, did not violate competition rules by imposing an obligation on its selected distributors to not sell on third-party platforms such as Amazon. The judgment followed an earlier decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) of December 2017, by which the ECJ had replied to the Frankfurt court’s referral. The ECJ had held that a vertical distribution agreement (such as the one in place between Coty and its distributor Parfümerie Akzente) did not as such violate Art. 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as long as the so-called Metro criteria were fulfilled. These criteria stipulate that distributors must be chosen on the basis of objective and qualitative criteria that are applied in a non-discriminatory fashion; that the characteristics of the product necessitate the use of a selective distribution network in order to preserve their quality; and, finally, that the criteria laid down do not go beyond what is necessary. Regarding the platform ban in question, the ECJ held that it was not disproportionate. Based on the ECJ’s interpretation of the law, the Frankfurt Higher District Court confirmed that the character of certain products may indeed necessitate a selective distribution system in order to preserve their prestigious reputation, which allowed consumers to distinguish them from similar goods, and that gaps in a selective distribution system (e.g. when products are sold by non-selected distributors) did not per se make the distribution system discriminatory. The Higher District Court also concluded that the platform ban in question was proportional. However, interestingly, it did not do so based on its own reasoning but based on the fact that the ECJ’s detailed analysis did not leave any scope for its own interpretation and, hence, precluded the Higher District Court from applying its own reasoning. Pointing to the European Commission’s E-Commerce Sector Inquiry, according to which sales platforms play a more important role in Germany than in other EU Member States, the Higher District Court, in fact, voiced doubts whether Coty’s sales ban could not have been imposed in a less interfering manner. Back to Top 8. Litigation 8.1 The New German “Class Action” On November 1, 2018, a long anticipated amendment to the German Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung, ZPO) entered into force, introducing a new procedural remedy for consumers to enforce their rights in German courts: a collective action for declaratory relief. Although sometimes referred to as the new German “class action,” this new German action reveals distinct differences to the U.S.-American remedy. Foremost, the right to bring the collective action is limited to consumer protection organizations or other “qualified institutions” (qualifizierte Einrichtung) who can only represent “consumers” within the meaning of the German Code of Civil Procedure. In addition, affected consumers are not automatically included in the action as part of a class but must actively opt-in by registering their claims in a “claim index” (Klageregister). Furthermore, the collective action for declaratory relief does not grant any monetary relief to the plaintiffs which means that each consumer still has to enforce its claim in an individual suit to receive compensation from the defendant. Despite these differences, the essential and comparable element of the new legal remedy is its binding effect. Any other court which has to decide an individual dispute between the defendant and a registered consumer that is based on the same facts as the collective action is bound by the declaratory decision of the initial court. At the same time, any settlement reached by the parties has a binding effect on all registered consumers who did not decide to specifically opt-out. As a result, companies must be aware of the increased litigation risks arising from the introduction of the new collective action for declaratory relief. Even though its reach is not as extensive as the American class action, consumer protection organizations have already filed two proceedings against companies from the automotive and financial industry since the amendment has entered into force in November 2018, and will most likely continue to make comprehensive use of the new remedy in the future. Back to Top 8.2 The New 2018 DIS Arbitration Rules On March 1, 2018, the new 2018 DIS Arbitration Rules of the German Arbitration Institute (DIS) entered into force. The update aims to make Germany more attractive as a place for arbitration by adjusting the rules to international standards, promoting efficiency and thereby ensuring higher quality for arbitration proceedings. The majority of the updated provisions and rules are designed to accelerate the proceedings and thereby make arbitration more attractive and cost-effective for the parties. There are several new rules on time limitations and measures to enhance procedural efficiency, i.e. the possibility of expedited proceedings or the introduction of case management conferences. Furthermore, the rules now also allow for consolidation of several arbitrations and cover multi-party and multi-contract arbitration. Another major change is the introduction of the DIS Arbitration Council which, similar to the Arbitration Council of the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), may decide upon challenges of an arbitrator and review arbitral awards for formal defects. This amendment shows that the influence of DIS on their arbitration proceedings has grown significantly. All in all, the modernized 2018 DIS Arbitration Rules resolve the deficiencies of their predecessor and strengthen the position of the German Institution of Arbitration among competing arbitration institutions. Back to Top 9. IP & Technology – Draft Bill of German Trade Secret Act The EU Trade Secrets Directive (2016/943/EU) on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure has already been in effect since July 5, 2016. Even though it was supposed to be implemented into national law by June 9, 2018 to harmonize the protection of trade secrets in the EU, the German legislator has so far only prepared and published a draft of the proposed German Trade Secret Act. Arguably, the most important change in the draft bill to the existing rules on trade secrets in Germany will be a new and EU-wide definition of trade secrets. This proposed definition requires the holder of a trade secret to take reasonable measures to keep a trade secret confidential in order to benefit from its protection – e.g. by implementing technical, contractual and organizational measures that ensure secrecy. This requirement goes beyond the current standard pursuant to which a manifest interest in keeping an information secret may be sufficient. Furthermore, the draft bill provides for additional protection of trade secrets in litigation matters. Last but not least, the draft bill also provides for increased protection of whistleblowers by reducing the barriers for the disclosure of trade secrets in the public interest and to the media. As a consequence, companies would be advised to review their internal procedures and policies regarding the protection of trade secrets at this stage, and may want to adapt their existing whistleblowing and compliance-management-systems as appropriate. Back to Top 10. International Trade, Sanctions and Export Controls – The Conflict between Complying with the Re-Imposed U.S. Iran Sanctions and the EU Blocking Statute On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and re-impose U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. Under the JCPOA, General License H had permitted U.S.-owned or -controlled non-U.S. entities to engage in business with Iran. But with the end of the wind-down periods provided for in President Trump’s decision on November 5, 2018, such non-U.S. entities are now no longer broadly permitted to provide goods, services, or financing to Iranian counterparties, not even under agreements executed before the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. In response to the May 8, 2018 decision, the EU amended the EU Blocking Statute on August 6, 2018. The effect of the amended EU Blocking Statute is to prohibit compliance by so-called EU operators with the re-imposed U.S. sanctions on Iran. Comparable and more generally drafted anti-blocking statutes had already existed in the EU and several of its member states which prohibited EU domiciled companies to commit to compliance with foreign boycott regulations. These competing obligations under EU and U.S. laws are a concern for U.S. companies that own or seek to acquire German companies that have a history of engagement with Iran – as well as for the German company itself and its management and the employees. But what does the EU prohibition against compliance with the re-imposed U.S. sanctions on Iran mean in practice? Most importantly, it must be noted that the EU Blocking Statute does not oblige EU operators to start or continue Iran related business. If, for example, an EU operator voluntarily decides, e.g. due to lack of profitability, to cease business operations in Iran and not to demonstrate compliance with the U.S. sanctions, the EU Blocking Statute does not apply. Obviously, such voluntary decision must be properly documented. Procedural aspects also remain challenging for companies: In the event a Germany subsidiary of a U.S. company were to decide to start or continue business with Iran, it would usually be required to reach out to the U.S. authorities to request a specific license for a particular transaction with Iran. Before doing so, however, EU operators must first contact the EU Commission directly (not the EU member state authorities) to request authorization to apply for such a U.S. special license. Likewise, if a Germany subsidiary were to decide not to start or to cease business with Iran for the sole reason of being compliant with the re-imposed U.S. Iran sanctions, it would have to apply for an exception from the EU Blocking Statute and would have to provide sufficient evidence that non-compliance would cause serious damage to at least one protected interest. The hurdles for an exception are high and difficult to predict. The EU Commission will e.g. consider, “(…) whether the applicant would face significant economic losses, which could for example threaten its viability or pose a serious risk of bankruptcy, or the security of supply of strategic goods or services within or to the Union or a Member State and the impact of any shortage or disruption therein.” As such, any company caught up in this conflict of interests between the re-imposed U.S. sanctions and the EU Blocking Statute should be aware of a heightened risk of litigation. Third parties, such as Iranian counterparties, might successfully sue for breach of contract with the support of the EU Blocking Regulation in cases of non-performance of contracts as a result of the re-imposed U.S. nuclear sanctions. Finally, EU operators are required to inform the EU Commission within 30 days from the date on which information is obtained that the economic and/or financial interests of the EU operator are affected, directly or indirectly, by the re-imposed U.S. Iran sanctions. If the EU operator is a legal person, this obligation is incumbent on its directors, managers and other persons with management responsibilities of such legal person. Back to Top The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Birgit Friedl, Marcus Geiss, Silke Beiter, Lutz Englisch, Daniel Gebauer, Kai Gesing, Maximilian Hoffmann, Philipp Mangini-Guidano, Jens-Olrik Murach, Markus Nauheim, Dirk Oberbracht, Richard Roeder, Martin Schmid, Annekatrin Schmoll, Jan Schubert, Benno Schwarz, Balthasar Strunz, Michael Walther, Finn Zeidler, Mark Zimmer, Stefanie Zirkel and Caroline Ziser Smith. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the issues discussed in this update. The two German offices of Gibson Dunn in Munich and Frankfurt bring together lawyers with extensive knowledge of corporate, tax, labor, real estate, antitrust, intellectual property law and extensive compliance / white collar crime experience. The German offices are comprised of seasoned lawyers with a breadth of experience who have assisted clients in various industries and in jurisdictions around the world. Our German lawyers work closely with the firm’s practice groups in other jurisdictions to provide cutting-edge legal advice and guidance in the most complex transactions and legal matters. For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you work or any of the following members of the German offices: General Corporate, Corporate Transactions and Capital Markets Lutz Englisch (+49 89 189 33 150), firstname.lastname@example.org) Markus Nauheim (+49 89 189 33 122, email@example.com) Ferdinand Fromholzer (+49 89 189 33 121, firstname.lastname@example.org) Dirk Oberbracht (+49 69 247 411 510, email@example.com) Wilhelm Reinhardt (+49 69 247 411 520, firstname.lastname@example.org) Birgit Friedl (+49 89 189 33 180, email@example.com) Silke Beiter (+49 89 189 33 121, firstname.lastname@example.org) Marcus Geiss (+49 89 189 33 122, email@example.com) Annekatrin Pelster (+49 69 247 411 521, firstname.lastname@example.org Finance, Restructuring and Insolvency Sebastian Schoon (+49 89 189 33 160, email@example.com) Birgit Friedl (+49 89 189 33 180, firstname.lastname@example.org) Alexander Klein (+49 69 247 411 518, email@example.com) Marcus Geiss (+49 89 189 33 122, firstname.lastname@example.org) Tax Hans Martin Schmid (+49 89 189 33 110, email@example.com) Labor Law Mark Zimmer (+49 89 189 33 130, firstname.lastname@example.org) Real Estate Peter Decker (+49 89 189 33 115, email@example.com) Daniel Gebauer (+49 89 189 33 115, firstname.lastname@example.org) Technology Transactions / Intellectual Property / Data Privacy Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, email@example.com) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, firstname.lastname@example.org) Corporate Compliance / White Collar Matters Benno Schwarz (+49 89 189 33 110, email@example.com) Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, firstname.lastname@example.org) Mark Zimmer (+49 89 189 33 130, email@example.com) Finn Zeidler (+49 69 247 411 530, firstname.lastname@example.org) Antitrust Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, email@example.com) Jens-Olrik Murach (+32 2 554 7240, firstname.lastname@example.org) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, email@example.com) Litigation Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, firstname.lastname@example.org) Mark Zimmer (+49 89 189 33 130, email@example.com) Finn Zeidler (+49 69 247 411 530, firstname.lastname@example.org) Kai Gesing (+49 89 189 33 180, email@example.com) International Trade, Sanctions and Export Control Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33 180, firstname.lastname@example.org) Richard Roeder (+49 89 189 33 218, email@example.com) © 2019 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.
The UK Legal 500 2019 ranked Gibson Dunn in 13 practice areas and named six partners as Leading Lawyers. The firm was recognized in the following categories: Corporate and Commercial: Equity Capital Markets Corporate and Commercial: M&A – Upper Mid-Market and Premium Deals, £250m+ Corporate and Commercial: Private Equity – High-value Deals Dispute Resolution: Commercial Litigation Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration Finance: Acquisition Finance Finance: Bank Lending: Investment Grade Debt and Syndicated Loans Human Resources: Employment – Employers Public Sector: Administrative and Public Law Real Estate: Commercial Property – Hotels and Leisure Real Estate: Commercial Property – Investment Real Estate: Property Finance Risk Advisory: Regulatory Investigations and Corporate Crime The partners named as Leading Lawyers are Sandy Bhogal – Corporate and Commercial: Corporate Tax; Steve Thierbach – Corporate and Commercial: Equity Capital Markets; Philip Rocher – Dispute Resolution: Commercial Litigation; Cyrus Benson – Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration; Jeffrey Sullivan – Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration; and Alan Samson – Real Estate: Commercial Property and Real Estate: Property Finance. Claibourne Harrison has also been named as a Next Generation Lawyer for Real Estate: Commercial Property.
Click for PDF On October 24, 2018, Glass Lewis released its updated U.S. proxy voting policy guidelines for 2019, including guidelines for shareholder proposals. The updated U.S. guidelines are available here, and the guidelines on shareholder proposals are available here. The most significant updates to the guidelines are summarized below. The updated U.S. proxy voting guidelines include discussion of two previously announced policy changes that will take effect for meetings held after January 1, 2019, relating to board gender diversity and virtual-only annual meetings. Board Gender Diversity As previously announced, for a company that has no female directors, Glass Lewis generally will begin recommending votes “against” the nominating/governance committee chair, and may also recommend votes “against” other committee members depending on factors such as the company’s size, industry, state of headquarters, and governance profile. Glass Lewis will “carefully review a company’s disclosure of its diversity considerations” and may not recommend votes “against” directors when the board has provided a “sufficient rationale” for the absence of any female board members. Such rationale may include any notable restrictions on the board’s composition (e.g., the existence of director nomination agreements with significant investors) or disclosure of a timetable for addressing the board’s lack of diversity. In light of California’s recently enacted legislation requiring a minimum number of women on public company boards (discussed here), which includes having at least one woman by the end of 2019, Glass Lewis will recommend votes “against” the nominating/governance committee chair at companies headquartered in California that do not have at least one woman on the board and do not disclose a “clear plan” for addressing this issue before the end of 2019. Conflicting Shareholder Proposals Glass Lewis updated its policy on conflicting shareholder proposals to address special meeting proposals specifically. These updates respond to developments during the 2018 proxy season, when the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) staff permitted companies to exclude “conflicting” special meeting shareholder proposals when seeking shareholder ratification of an existing special meeting right with a higher ownership threshold. The updated policy states that Glass Lewis generally favors a 10%-15% special meeting right and will generally recommend votes “for” shareholder and company proposals within this range. When companies exclude a special meeting shareholder proposal by seeking ratification of an existing special meeting right, Glass Lewis will recommend votes “against” both the company’s ratification proposal and the members of the nominating/governance committee. When the proxy statement includes both shareholder and company proposals on special meetings: Where the proposals have different thresholds for requesting a special meeting, Glass Lewis will generally recommend voting “for” the lower threshold (typically the shareholder proposal); and Where the company does not currently have a special meeting right, Glass Lewis may recommend that shareholders vote “for” the shareholder proposal and abstain from the company proposal seeking to establish a special meeting right. Glass Lewis views the practice of abstaining as a means for shareholders to signal their preference for an appropriate special meeting threshold while not directly opposing establishment of a special meeting right. While it appears that the special meeting threshold will be the primary focus of Glass Lewis’s analysis, Glass Lewis also will consider the company’s overall governance profile, including its responsiveness to and engagement with shareholders. Director Voting Recommendations Based on Excluded Shareholder Proposals With respect to the exclusion of shareholder proposals more generally, Glass Lewis states in the updated policy that “it generally believe[s] that companies should not limit investors’ ability to vote on shareholder proposals that advance certain rights or promote beneficial disclosure.” In light of this, Glass Lewis will make note of instances where a company has successfully petitioned the SEC to exclude shareholder proposals and, “in certain very limited circumstances,” may recommend votes “against” the members of the nominating/governance committee if it believes exclusion of a shareholder proposal was “detrimental to shareholders.” Environmental and Social Risk Oversight Glass Lewis believes that companies should have “appropriate board-level oversight of material risks” to their operations, including those that are environmental and social in nature. For large cap companies or companies where Glass Lewis identifies “material oversight issues,” Glass Lewis will seek to identify the directors or committees charged with oversight of environmental and social issues, and will note instances where companies have not clearly defined this oversight in their governance documents. Where Glass Lewis believes that a company has not properly managed or mitigated environmental or social risks “to the detriment of shareholder value,” Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” directors who are responsible for oversight of environmental and social risks. If there is no explicit board oversight of environmental and social issues, Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” members of the audit committee. Ratification of Auditor: Additional Considerations Glass Lewis’s policies list situations in which it may recommend votes “against” ratification of the outside auditor. Under the 2019 policy updates, Glass Lewis will consider factors that may call into question an auditor’s effectiveness, including auditor tenure, any pattern of inaccurate audits, and any ongoing litigation or controversies. In “limited cases,” these factors may lead to a recommendation “against” auditor ratification. Virtual-Only Shareholder Meetings As previously announced, Glass Lewis’s new policy on virtual-only shareholder meetings will take effect January 1, 2019. Under this policy, for a company that chooses to hold a virtual-only meeting, Glass Lewis will analyze the company’s disclosure of its virtual meeting procedures and may recommend votes “against” the members of the nominating/governance committee if the company does not provide “effective” disclosure assuring that shareholders will have the same opportunities to participate at the virtual meeting as they would at in-person meetings. Examples of effective disclosure include descriptions of how shareholders can ask questions during the meeting, the company’s guidelines on how questions and comments will be recognized and disclosed to meeting participants, procedures for posting questions and answers on the company’s website as soon as practical after the meeting, and how the company will deal with any potential technical issues regarding accessing the virtual meeting including providing technical support. Director Recommendations Based on Company Performance Glass Lewis typically recommends that shareholders vote against directors who have served on boards or as executives at companies with “indicators of mismanagement or actions against the interests of shareholders.” One instance where Glass Lewis may issue an “against” recommendation is where a company’s performance for the past three years has been in the bottom quartile of the sector and the board has not taken reasonable steps to address the poor performance. For 2019, Glass Lewis has clarified that rather than looking solely at stock price performance, it will also consider the company’s overall corporate governance, pay-for-performance alignment, and board responsiveness to shareholders, in order to assess whether “the company performed significantly worse than its peers.” Directors Who Provide Consulting Services Under its voting policies on conflicts of interest, Glass Lewis recommends that shareholders vote “against” directors who provide, or whose immediate family members provide, material professional services to the company, including legal, consulting or financial services. Beginning in 2019, Glass Lewis will generally refrain from voting against directors who provide consulting services if they do not serve on the audit, compensation or nominating/governance committees and Glass Lewis has not identified “significant governance concerns” at the company. Executive Compensation Glass Lewis clarified or amended several executive compensation policies: Say-on-pay voting recommendations. Glass Lewis has provided additional guidance on how it evaluates executive compensation programs in making recommendations on say-on-pay proposals. In particular, Glass Lewis evaluates both the structure of a company’s program and the company’s disclosures, in each case using a rating scale of “Good,” “Fair” and “Poor.” According to Glass Lewis, most companies receive a “Fair” rating for both structure and disclosure, and the other two ratings primarily highlight companies that are outliers. Peer group and other practices. Glass Lewis’s say-on-pay policy identifies practices that may lead to an “against” recommendation for say-on-pay proposals. The 2019 updates clarify that these practices may also influence Glass Lewis’s evaluation of the structure of a company’s compensation program. The updates also provide more detail on the peer group practices that Glass Lewis views as problematic. These practices now will include the use of outsized peer groups and compensation targets set well above peers. Pay-for-performance assessment. Glass Lewis uses a grading system of “A” through “F” to benchmark executive pay and company performance against a peer group. The updated voting policies clarify that the grades represent the relationship between a company’s percentile rank for pay and its percentile rank for performance. In other words, a grade of “A” reflects that a company’s percentile rank for pay is significantly less than its percentile rank for performance, while a grade of “F” reflects that the pay ranking is significantly higher than the performance ranking. Separately, the analysis in Glass Lewis’s proxy papers reflects a comparison between a company and its peer group, with respect to both pay levels and performance. Added excise tax gross-ups. Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” all members of the compensation committee if executive employment agreements contain new excise tax gross-up provisions, particularly if the company had previously committed not to provide gross-ups. New gross-up provisions related to excise taxes on excess parachute payments also may lead to votes “against” a company’s say-on-pay proposal. Sign-on and severance arrangements. Glass Lewis has clarified the terms of sign-on and severance arrangements that may contribute to negative voting recommendations on say-on-pay proposals. Glass Lewis will consider the size and design of any contractual payments, as well as U.S. market practice. Excessive sign-on awards may support or drive a negative voting recommendation, and multi-year guaranteed bonuses may drive “against” recommendations on their own. In addition to the size of contractual payments, Glass Lewis will consider their terms. Key man clauses, board continuity conditions, or excessively broad change in control triggers may help drive a negative voting recommendation. In general, Glass Lewis will be wary of terms that are “excessively restrictive” in favor of an executive or could incentive behaviors that are not in a company’s best interests. Glass Lewis believes companies should abide by pre-determined severance amounts in most circumstances, and will consider severance amounts actually paid and in “special cases,” their appropriateness given the circumstances of the executive’s departure. Grants of front-loaded awards. Glass Lewis has added a new discussion of “front-loading,” or providing large grants intended to serve as compensation for multiple years. In making recommendations on say-on-pay proposals, Glass Lewis will apply particular scrutiny to front-loaded awards. It will consider a company’s rationale for front-loaded awards and expects companies to include a firm commitment not to grant additional awards for a defined period. If a company breaks this commitment, Glass Lewis may recommend “against” the company’s say-on-pay proposal unless the company provides a “convincing” rationale. Clawbacks. Glass Lewis will begin looking beyond the minimum legal requirements for clawbacks and considering the specific terms of companies’ clawback policies. According to the updated voting policies, Glass Lewis believes that clawbacks “should be triggered, at a minimum, in the event of a restatement of financial results or similar revision of performance indicators upon which bonuses were based.” Clawback policies that simply track minimum legal requirements “may inform” Glass Lewis’s overall view of a company’s compensation program. Discretionary short-term incentives. Glass Lewis will not recommend votes “against” a say-on-pay proposal solely based on a company’s use of discretionary short-term bonuses if there is meaningful disclosure of the rationale behind the use of a discretionary mechanism and the bonus amount determinations. However, other “significant” issues, such as a disconnect between pay and performance, may help drive a negative voting recommendation. Equity plans that cover directors. Glass Lewis continues to believe that equity grants to directors should not be performance-based. Where an equity plan covers non-management directors exclusively or primarily, the updated voting policies state that the plan should not provide for any performance-based awards. Where non-management director grants are made under a broad-based equity plan, Glass Lewis will continue to use its proprietary model to guide its voting recommendations. However, beginning in 2019, if a broad-based plan allows or explicitly provides for performance-based awards to directors, Glass Lewis may recommend “against” the plan on this basis, particularly if the company has granted performance-based awards to directors in the past. Reduced executive compensation disclosure for smaller reporting companies. Glass Lewis may recommend votes “against” all compensation committee members when the board has “materially decreased” proxy disclosure about executive compensation practices in a manner that “substantially impacts” shareholders’ ability to make an informed assessment of a company’s executive compensation practices. In its summary of the 2019 policy updates, Glass Lewis indicates that this new policy applies to smaller reporting companies, in light of recent SEC rule changes to the definition of “smaller reporting company” that expand the number of registrants qualifying for scaled disclosure accommodations in their SEC filings, including in the area of executive compensation. Shareholder Proposals In addition to special meeting shareholder proposals (discussed above), Glass Lewis has also updated its policies on other shareholder proposals in several respects: Environmental and social proposals. Glass Lewis has formalized the role that financial materiality will play in its consideration of environmental and social proposals. In the discussion of its “Overall Approach” to these proposals, Glass Lewis states that it will evaluate shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues “in the context of the financial materiality of the issue to the company’s operations” and will “place a significant emphasis on the financial implications of a company adopting, or not adopting” a proposal. Glass Lewis believes that all companies face risks associated with environmental and social issues, but that these risks manifest themselves differently at different companies, based on factors including a company’s operations, workforce, structure and geography. Glass Lewis plans to use the standards developed by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”) to assist it in determining financial materiality. Written consent proposals. If a company has adopted a special meeting right of 15% or lower and reasonable proxy access provisions, Glass Lewis will generally recommend that shareholders vote “against” a shareholder proposal seeking the right for shareholders to act by written consent. Workforce diversity. Glass Lewis has adopted a formal policy on shareholder proposals asking companies to provide disclosure about workforce diversity or efforts to promote diversity within the workforce. In making voting recommendations, Glass Lewis will consider a company’s industry and the nature of its operations, the company’s current disclosures on issues involving workforce diversity, the level of disclosure at peer companies, and any lawsuits or accusations of discrimination within the company. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have about these developments. To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following lawyers in the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits practice groups: Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, firstname.lastname@example.org) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, email@example.com) Ronald O. Mueller – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8671, firstname.lastname@example.org) Gillian McPhee – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8201, email@example.com) Aaron Briggs – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8297, firstname.lastname@example.org) Maia Gez – New York (+1 212-351-2612, email@example.com) Julia Lapitskaya – New York (+1 212-351-2354, firstname.lastname@example.org) Michael Titera – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4365, email@example.com) Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Group Sean C. Feller – Los Angeles (+1 310-551-8746, firstname.lastname@example.org) Michael J. Collins – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3551, email@example.com) Krista Hanvey – Dallas (+1 214-698-3425; firstname.lastname@example.org) © 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.
In the current strong market environment, spin-off deals have become a regular feature of the M&A landscape as strategic companies look for ways to maximize the value of various assets. Although the announcements have become routine, planning for and completing these transactions is a significant and multi-disciplinary undertaking. By its nature, a spin-off is at least a 3-in-1 transaction starting with the reorganization and carveout of the assets to be separated, followed by the negotiation of separation-related documents and finally the offering of the securities—and that does not even account for the significant tax, corporate governance, finance, IP and employee benefits aspects of the transaction. In this program, a panel of lawyers from a number of these key practice areas provided insights based on their recent experience structuring and executing spin-off transactions. They walked through the hot topics, common issues and potential work-arounds. View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: Daniel Angel is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Technology Transactions Practice Group and a member of its Strategic Sourcing and Commercial Transactions Practice Group. He is a transactional attorney who has represented clients on technology-related transactions since 2003. Mr. Angel has worked with a broad variety of clients ranging from market leaders to start-ups in a wide range of industries including financial services, private equity funds, life sciences, specialty chemicals, insurance, energy and telecommunications. Michael J. Collins is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and Co-Chair of the Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Practice Group. His practice focuses on all aspects of employee benefits and executive compensation. He represents buyers and sellers in corporate transactions and companies in drafting and negotiating employment and equity compensation arrangements. Andrew L. Fabens is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Capital Markets Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group. Mr. Fabens advises companies on long-term and strategic capital planning, disclosure and reporting obligations under U.S. federal securities laws, corporate governance issues and stock exchange listing obligations. He represents issuers and underwriters in public and private corporate finance transactions, both in the United States and internationally. Stephen I. Glover is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and Co-Chair of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group. Mr. Glover has an extensive practice representing public and private companies in complex mergers and acquisitions, including spin-offs and related transactions, as well as other corporate matters. Mr. Glover’s clients include large public corporations, emerging growth companies and middle market companies in a wide range of industries. He also advises private equity firms, individual investors and others. Elizabeth A. Ising is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office, Co-Chair of the firm’s Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group and a member of the firm’s Hostile M&A and Shareholder Activism team and Financial Institutions Practice Group. She advises clients, including public companies and their boards of directors, on corporate governance, securities law and regulatory matters and executive compensation best practices and disclosures. Saee Muzumdar is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office and a member of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group. Ms. Muzumdar is a corporate transactional lawyer whose practice includes representing both strategic companies and private equity clients (including their portfolio companies) in connection with all aspects of their domestic and cross-border M&A activities and general corporate counseling. Daniel A. Zygielbaum is an associate in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and a member of the firm’s Tax and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) Practice Groups. Mr. Zygielbaum’s practice focuses on international and domestic taxation of corporations, partnerships (including private equity funds), limited liability companies, REITs and their debt and equity investors. He advises clients on tax planning for fund formations and corporate and real estate acquisitions, dispositions, reorganizations and joint ventures. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hours may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or email@example.com to request the MCLE form. This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the Texas State Bar for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hour may be applied toward the area of accredited general requirement. Attorneys seeking Texas credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Click for PDF Our discussions with politicians, civil servants, journalists and other commentators lead us to believe that the most likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations is that a deal will be agreed at the “softer” end of the spectrum, that the Conservative Government will survive and that Theresa May will remain as Prime Minister at least until a Brexit deal is agreed (although perhaps not thereafter). There is certainly a risk of a chaotic or “hard” Brexit. On the EU side, September’s summit in Salzburg demonstrated the possibility of unexpected outcomes. And in the UK, the splits in the ruling Conservative Party and the support it relies upon from the DUP (the Northern Irish party that supports the Government) could in theory result in the ousting of Prime Minister May, which would likely lead to an extension of the Brexit deadline of 29 March 2019. However, for the reasons set out below we believe a hard or chaotic Brexit is now less likely than more likely. Some background to the negotiations can be found here. It should be noted that any legally binding deal will be limited to the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU (“the Withdrawal Agreement”) and will not cover the future trading relationship. But there will be a political statement of intent on the future trading relationship (“the Future Framework”) that will then be subject to further detailed negotiation. There is a European Council meeting on 17/18 October although it is not expected that a final agreement will be reached by then. However, the current expectation is that a special meeting of the European Council will take place in November (probably over a weekend) to finalise both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Framework. Whatever deal Theresa May finally agrees with the EU needs to be approved by the UK Parliament. A debate and vote will likely take place within two or three weeks of a deal being agreed – so late November or early December. If Parliament rejects the deal the perceived wisdom is that the ensuing political crisis could only be resolved either by another referendum or a general election. However: the strongest Brexiteers do not want to risk a second referendum in case they lose; the ruling Conservative Party do not want to risk a general election which may result in it losing power and Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister; and Parliament is unlikely to allow the UK to leave without a deal. As a result we believe that Prime Minister May has more flexibility to compromise with the EU than the political noise would suggest and that, however much they dislike the eventual deal, ardent Brexiteers will likely support it in Parliament. This is because it will mean the UK has formally left the EU and the Brexiteers live to fight another day. The UK’s current proposal (the so-called “Chequers Proposal”) is likely to be diluted further in favour of the EU, but as long as the final deal results in a formal departure of the UK from the EU in March 2019, we believe Parliament is more likely than not to support it, however unsatisfactory it is to the Brexiteers. The key battleground is whether the UK should remain in a Customs Union beyond a long stop date for a transitional period. The UK Government proposes a free trade agreement in goods but not services, with restrictions on free movement and the ability for the UK to strike its own free trade deals. This has been rejected by the EU on the grounds that it seeks to separate services from goods which is inconsistent with the single market and breaches one of the fundamental EU principles of free movement of people. The Chequers Proposal is unlikely to survive in its current form but the EU has acknowledged that it creates the basis for the start of a negotiation. There has also been discussion of a “Canada style” free-trade agreement, which is supported by the ardent Brexiteers but rejected by the UK Government because it would require checks on goods travelling across borders. This would create a “hard border” in Northern Ireland which breaches the Good Friday Agreement and would not be accepted by any of the major UK political parties or the EU. The consequential friction at the borders is also unattractive to businesses that operate on a “just in time” basis – particularly the car manufacturers. The EU has suggested there could instead be regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the EU, but this has been accepted as unworkable because it would create a split within the UK and is unacceptable to the DUP, the Northern Ireland party whose support of the Conservatives in Parliament is critical to their survival. This is the area of greatest risk but it remains the case that a “no deal” scenario would guarantee a hard border in Ireland. If no deal is reached by 21 January 2019 the Prime Minister is required to make a statement to MPs. The Government would then have 14 days to decide how to proceed, and the House of Commons would be given the opportunity to vote on these alternate plans. Although any motion to reject the Government’s proposal would not be legally binding, it would very likely catalyse the opposition and lead to an early general election or a second referendum. In any of those circumstances, the EU has already signalled that it would be prepared to grant an extension to the Article 50 period. This client alert was prepared by London partners Charlie Geffen and Nicholas Aleksander and of counsel Anne MacPherson. We have a working group in London (led by Nicholas Aleksander, Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues. Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Nicholas Aleksander – Tax NAleksander@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4232 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4236 © 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.
Click for PDF This client alert provides an overview of changes to existing disclosure requirements recently adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”). On August 17, 2018, the Commission adopted several dozen amendments (available here) to existing disclosure requirements to “simplify compliance without significantly altering the total mix of information” (the “Final Rules”). In Release No. 33-10532, the Commission characterized the amended requirements as redundant, duplicative, overlapping, outdated or superseded, in light of subsequent changes to Commission disclosure requirements, U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”), International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) and technology developments. The Final Rules are largely consistent with the changes outlined in the Commission’s July 13, 2016 proposing release, available here (the “Proposed Rules”). They form part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts in connection with the Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative relating to Regulations S-K and S-X and the Commission’s mandate under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (“FAST”) Act to eliminate provisions of Regulation S-K that are duplicative, overlapping, outdated, or unnecessary. The Commission adopted the amendments addressed in the Proposed Rules with few exceptions. The Final Rules will become effective 30 days from publication in the Federal Register. In the short term, issuers and registrants will need to revise their disclosure practices and compliance checklists in light of the amendments before filing a registration statement or periodic report following effectiveness of the Final Rules. I. Summary of Adopted Changes For certain disclosure requirements that are related to, but not the same as, U.S. GAAP, IFRS, or other Commission disclosure requirements, the Commission: (i) deleted those disclosure requirements that convey reasonably similar information to or are encompassed by the disclosures that result from compliance with overlapping U.S. GAAP, IFRS, or Commission disclosure requirements; and (ii) integrated those disclosure requirements that overlapped, but required information that was incremental to, other Commission disclosure requirements. A. Deletions of Requirements Covered Otherwise The Commission eliminated the following disclosure requirements, as proposed: Amount Spent on R&D. The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose amounts spent on research and development activities for all years presented (Item 101(c)(1)(xi) of Regulation S-K) because it is already covered by U.S. GAAP. Financial Information by Segment. The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose financial information (specifically, revenues from external customers, a measure of profit or loss and total assets) about segments for the last three years (Item 101(b) of Regulation S-K), because it is already covered by U.S. GAAP. Financial Information by Geographic Area. The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose financial information by geographic area (Item 101(d)(2) of Regulation S-K) and risks associated with an issuer’s foreign operations and any segment’s dependence on foreign operations (Item 101(d)(3) of Regulation S-K), because it is already covered by U.S. GAAP. Dividend History. The Commission deleted the requirement to disclose the frequency and amount of cash dividends declared (Item 201(c)(1) of Regulation S-K), because this information is already covered by amended Rule 3-04 of Regulation S-X. Ratio of Earnings to Fixed Charges. The Commission deleted the requirement to provide a ratio of earnings to fixed charges (Items 503(d) and 601(b)(12) of Regulation S-K; Instruction 7 to Exhibits of Form 20-F), because U.S. GAAP already provides the disclosure of the components commonly used to calculate these ratios. Issuers no longer need to include this information in an exhibit to their 10-K or in their registration statements. B. Integrations of Duplicative Requirements The Commission integrated the following duplicative disclosure requirements, as proposed: Restrictions on Dividends. The Commission consolidated several disclosure requirements related to the restriction of dividends and related items. Where formerly the disclosure requirements were located in parts of both Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X, the Commission consolidated such disclosure requirements for domestic issuers under a single requirement in revised Rule 4-08(e)(3) of Regulation S-X. The disclosure will now only appear in the notes to the financial statements. Discussion of Geographic Areas. The Commission integrated the requirement to discuss facts indicating why performance in certain geographic areas may not be indicative of current or future operations by eliminating the requirement from Item 101(d)(4) of Regulation S-K and revising Item 303 of Regulation S-K (which currently requires a discussion regarding elements of income that are not indicative of the issuer’s ongoing business), to add an explicit reference to “geographic areas.” In addition, the Commission adopted the following clarification as suggested by the commenters: the discussion of income from certain geographic areas under revised Item 303 of Regulation S-K is not required in all circumstances, but only when management believes such discussion would be appropriate to an understanding of the business. C. Deletions of Outdated Disclosure Requirements The Commission also eliminated provisions that have become outdated as a result of the passage of time or changes in the regulatory, business, or technological environment (such as stale transition dates and moot income tax instructions), including the following: Available Information. The Commission deleted the requirement (contained in Item 101(e)(2) and Item 101(h)(5)(iii) of Regulation S-K, Forms S-1, S-3, S-4, S-11, F-1, F-3, and F-4, Item 1118(b) of Regulation AB, and Forms SF-1, SF-3, N-1A, N-2, N-3, N-5, N6, and N-8B-2) to identify the Public Reference Room and disclose its physical address and phone number. The Commission retained the requirement (contained in Item 101(e)(2) of Regulation S-K, and Forms S-1, S-3, S-4, S-11, F-3, F-4, SF-1, SF-3, and N-4) to disclose the Commission’s Internet address and a statement that electronic SEC filings are available there and expanded this requirement to Forms 20-F and F-1. The Commission added a requirement to Items 101(e) and 101(h)(5) of Regulation S-K, and Forms S-3, S-4, F-1, F-3, F-4, 20-F, SF-1, and SF-3 that all issuers disclose their Internet addresses (or, in the case of asset-backed issuers, the address of the specified transaction party). Exchange Rate Data. The Commission deleted the requirement in Item 3.A.3 of Form 20-F that foreign private issuers provide exchange rate data when financial statements are prepared in a currency other than the U.S. dollar insofar as this data is widely available on the internet. Age of Financial Statements. The Commission added language clarifying the facts and circumstances when foreign private issuers may comply with the aging requirement to include audited financial statements in an initial public offering that are not older than 15 months compared to the 12 months aging requirement. They also deleted the reference to a waiver in Instruction 2 to Item 8.A.4 of Form 20-F. Market Price. The Commission eliminated the detailed disclosure requirement under Item 201(a)(1) of Regulation S-K related to historical high and low sale prices in light of the fact that the daily market price of most publicly traded securities are easily accessible free of charge on numerous websites that provide more information than is required under Regulation S-K. Such requirements remain in place for issuers with no class of common equity traded in an established trading market; however, for issuers with established trading markets, the Final Rules require the disclosure of the trading symbols used for each class of common equity and the principal foreign public trading market in the case of foreign issuers. In addition, issuers with common equity that is not traded on an exchange are required to indicate, as applicable, that any over-the-counter quotations reflect inter-dealer prices and may not necessarily represent actual transactions. The Final Rules also amended Item 9.A.4 of Form 20-F to be consistent with the adopted amendments to Item 201(a). D. Amendments to Superseded Disclosure Requirements The Commission amended disclosure requirements that were inconsistent with recent legislation and more recently updated U.S. GAAP and Commission disclosure requirements. In addition to updating references to auditing standards in numerous rules and Commission forms and eliminating non-existent or incorrect references and typographical errors, the Final Rules include several substantive changes with both generally applicable and industry-specific effects in light of changes to U.S. GAAP requirements, including the following: Sale of REIT Property. The Commission eliminated the requirement that REITs present separately all gains and losses on the sale of properties outside of continuing operations (Rule 3-15(a)(1) of Regulation S-X), insofar as U.S. GAAP rules require only the presentation of gains and losses on the disposal of “discontinued operations.” Insurance Companies. The Final Rules include changes applicable to Insurance Company issuers. The Commission removed elements of disclosure requirements regarding reinsurance recoverable on paid losses and the reporting of separate account assets (Rules 7-03(a)(6) and 7-03(a)(11) of Regulation S-X) that conflict with U.S. GAAP. Consolidated and Combined Financial Statements. The Final Rules include several changes to Regulation S-X related to the presentation of consolidated and combined financial statements in order to reflect changes to U.S. GAAP. Specifically, the Commission corrected for numerous inconsistencies with respect to Differences in Fiscal Periods (Rule 3A-02 of Regulation S-X), the Bank Holding Act of 1956 (Rule 3A-02 of Regulation S-X), Intercompany Transactions (Rules 3A-04 and 4-08 of Regulation S-X) and Dividends Per Share in Interim Financial Statements (Rules 3-04, 8-03, and 10-01 of Regulation S-X). E. Deletion of Redundant or Duplicative Requirements The Commission deleted all duplicative requirements identified in the Proposed Rules, primarily under Regulation S-X, that require substantially similar disclosure as required under U.S. GAAP, IFRS, or other Commission requirements (with the exception of the requirements in Rule 3-20 of Regulation S-X related to the foreign currency disclosure in the financial statements of foreign private issuers). These minor amendments deleted duplicative language covering a wide variety of disclosure topics, including the following: Consolidation. The Commission deleted Rule 4-08(a) of Regulation S-X requiring compliance with Article 3A (duplicative of Article 3A), Rule 3A-01 of Regulation S-X stating the subject matter of Article 3A (duplicative of Article 3A), language in Rule 3A-02(b)(1) of Regulation S-X permitting consolidation of an entity’s financial statements for its fiscal period if the period does not differ from that of the issuer by more than 93 days (duplicative of ASC 810-10-45-12), language in Rule 3A-02(d) of Regulation S-X requiring consideration of the propriety of consolidation under certain restrictions (duplicative of ASC 810-10-15-10), language in Rule 3A-02 and 3A-03(a) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the accounting policies followed in consolidation or combination (duplicative of ASC 235-10-50-1 and ASC 810-10-50), and language in Rule 3A-04 of Regulation S-X requiring the elimination of intercompany transactions (duplicative of ASC 323-10-35-5a and ASC 810-10-45). Income Tax Disclosure. The Commission deleted language in Rule 4-08(f) of Regulation S-X requiring income tax rate reconciliation (duplicative of ASC 740-10-50-12) and language in Rule 4-08(h)(2) of Regulation S-X permitting income tax rate reconciliation to be presented in either percentages or dollars (duplicative of ASC 740-10-50-12). Earnings Per Share. The Commission deleted language in Rule 10-01(b)(2) of Regulation S-X requiring presentation of earnings per share on interim income statement (duplicative of ASC 270-10-50-1b) and Item 601(b)(11) of Regulation S-K and Instruction 6 to “Instructions as to Exhibits” of Form 20-F requiring disclosure of the computation of earnings per share in annual filings (duplicative of ASC 260-10-50-1a, Rule 10-01(b)(2) of Regulation S-X, and IAS 33, paragraph 70). Interim Financial Statements. The Commission deleted Rule 10-01(b)(5) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the effect of discontinued operations on interim revenues, net income, and earnings per share for all periods presented (duplicative of ASC 205-20-50-5B, ASC 205-20-50-5C, ASC 260-10- 45-3, and ASC 270-10-50-7) and language in Rule 10-01(b)(3) of Regulation SX requiring that common control transactions be reflected in current and prior comparative periods’ interim financial statements (duplicative of ASC 805-50-45-1 to 5). Bank Holding Companies. The Commission deleted Rule 9-03.6(a) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the carrying and market values of securities of the U.S. Treasury and other U.S. Government agencies and corporations, securities of states of the U.S. and political subdivisions, and other securities (duplicative of ASC 320-10-50-1B, ASC 320-10-50-2, ASC 320-10-50-5, and ASC 942-320-50-2), Rule 9-03.7(d) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of changes in the allowance for loan losses (duplicative of ASC 310-10-50-11B(c)), and language in Rule 9-04.13(h) of Regulation S-X requiring disclosure of the method followed in determining the cost of investment securities sold (duplicative of ASC 235-10-50-1 and ASC 320-10-50-9b). II. Summary of Proposed Rules Not Adopted A. Retained Requirements The Commission originally proposed to delete the following overlapping disclosure requirements, but instead chose to retain the requirements without amendment: Pro-Forma Dispositions. The Commission retained the requirement under Rule 8-03(b)(4) of Regulation S-X to present pro forma financial information regarding business dispositions. This decision was in response to commenter concerns that the disclosure would not be sufficiently substituted by Regulation S-K, because Item 9.01 of Form 8-K only references significant acquisitions rather than dispositions. The Commission determined that the issue warranted additional analysis and consideration and opted not to amend the requirement. Seasonality. The requirement to discuss seasonality under Item 101(c)(1)(v) of Regulation S-K was retained without amendment. This decision was in response to concerns about the potential loss of information in the fourth quarter about the extent to which an issuer’s business is seasonal because U.S. GAAP may not elicit this disclosure. Legal Proceedings. The Commission declined to adopt amendments to the legal proceedings disclosure required under Item 103 of Regulation S-K or to refer the disclosure requirements under Item 103 to the FASB for potential incorporation into U.S. GAAP. The Commission cited several differences between the Regulation S-K requirement and its parallel requirement under U.S. GAAP, and emphasized that integration could have broad implications such as expanding costly audit reviews and increasing the disclosure of immaterial items. Mutual Life Insurance Companies. The Commission did not adopt the proposed change to Rule 7-02(b) of Regulation S-X, which would have eliminated the ability of mutual life insurance companies to prepare financial statements in accordance with statutory accounting requirements. B. Potential Changes Referred to FASB For Prompt Review The Commission originally proposed to delete the following overlapping disclosure requirements, but instead opted to retain these requirements and refer them to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”), with a request that FASB complete its review within 18 months of the publication of the Final Rules in the Federal Register: Repurchase and Reverse Repurchase Agreements. The Commission retained the Regulation S-X disclosure requirements related to repurchase and reverse repurchase agreements (such as the separate presentation of repurchase liabilities on the balance sheet). The Commission emphasized that several commenters had expressed concern that deletion of this requirement would eliminate disclosures that are material and not otherwise available to investors in the repo market. Equity Compensation Plans. The Commission also retained the requirement under Item 201(d) of Regulation S-K to discuss securities authorized under equity compensation plans in an information table, noting commenter concerns that U.S. GAAP does not require certain information, such as the number of securities available for issuance under an equity compensation plan, which may be material to investors. C. Retained Requirements Referred to FASB for Potential Review For disclosure requirements that overlapped with, but required information incremental to, U.S. GAAP, the Commission elected to solicit further comment before determining whether to retain, modify, eliminate, or refer them to FASB for potential incorporation into U.S. GAAP. In the Final Rules, the Commission generally retained and referred such requirements to FASB to be considered in its normal standard-setting process. For example: Major Customers. The Commission retained the requirement to discuss major customers under Item 101(c)(1)(vii) of Regulation S-K despite it being substantially similar to U.S. GAAP requirements, because Regulation S-K (unlike U.S. GAAP) contains an incremental requirement to disclose the name of a major customer in certain instances. The Commission referred this particular requirement to FASB because it continues to believe the identity of major customers represents material information to investors and allows investors to better assess the risks associated with a particular customer. Revenue from Products and Services. While Regulation S-K and U.S. GAAP both require the disclosure of the amount of revenue from products and services, Item 101(c)(1)(i) of Regulation S-K only requires this information if a certain threshold is met, while U.S. GAAP includes a “practicability” exception. Accordingly, the Commission retained and referred the Regulation S-K requirement to FASB for potential incorporation into U.S. GAAP. Conclusion The amendments contained in the Final Rules are highly technical and are explicitly intended to avoid any substantive changes to the “total mix of information provided to investors.” Nonetheless, these changes should reduce the cost and time of issuer compliance both by eliminating specific outdated and superfluous disclosure requirements and by reducing the overall number of rules to consider. In the short term, issuers and registrants will need to revise their disclosure practices and compliance checklists in light of the amendments before filing a registration statement or periodic report following effectiveness of the Final Rules. Furthermore, issuers should expect additional changes in the future as part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts to clean up and modernize disclosure requirements in connection with its Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative.  For a complete discussion on final adoptions for overlapping disclosure requirements proposed to be deleted, see page 37 of the Final Rules.  Additionally, the Commission eliminated Rule 3-03(e) of Regulation S-X as suggested by a commenter (which was not in the Proposed Rules), because it is likewise redundant with U.S. GAAP (see page 71 of the Final Rules).  A complete discussion of adopted amendments for outdated disclosure requirements begins on page 100 of the Final Rules.  A complete discussion of adopted amendments for superseded disclosure requirements begins on page 108 of the Final Rules.  A complete discussion of adopted amendments for redundant or duplicative disclosure requirements begins on page 28 of the Final Rules.  For a complete discussion on overlapping disclosure requirements where the Commission solicited comments see page 83 of the Final Rules. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Capital Markets or Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice groups, or the authors: Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, email@example.com) Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, firstname.lastname@example.org) James J. Moloney – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4343, email@example.com) Michael Titera – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4365, firstname.lastname@example.org) Michael A. Mencher – New York (+1 212-351-5309, email@example.com) Maya J. Hoard – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4046, firstname.lastname@example.org) Please also feel free to contact any of the following practice leaders: Capital Markets Group: Stewart L. McDowell – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8322, email@example.com) Peter W. Wardle – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7242, firstname.lastname@example.org) Andrew L. Fabens – New York (+1 212-351-4034, email@example.com) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, firstname.lastname@example.org) J. Alan Bannister – New York (+1 212-351-2310, email@example.com) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: Elizabeth Ising – Co-Chair, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, firstname.lastname@example.org) James J. 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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” 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 email@example.com (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.  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, firstname.lastname@example.org) Andrew L. Fabens – New York (+1 212-351-4034, email@example.com) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, firstname.lastname@example.org) Alina E. Iarve – New York (+1 212-351-2406, email@example.com) Michael J. Scanlon – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3668, firstname.lastname@example.org) Peter W. Wardle – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7242, email@example.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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org) Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, email@example.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, firstname.lastname@example.org) Gillian McPhee – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8201, email@example.com) Maia Gez – New York (+1 212-351-2612, firstname.lastname@example.org) Aaron Briggs – San Francisco (415-393-8297, email@example.com) Julia Lapitskaya – New York (+1 212-351-2354, firstname.lastname@example.org) Michael Titera – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4365, email@example.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.
Click for PDF Following the widely reported Cabinet meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence, on Friday 6 June 2018, the UK Government has now published its “White Paper” setting out its negotiating position with the EU. A copy of the White Paper can be found here. The long-delayed White Paper centres around a free trade area for goods, based on a common rulebook. The ancillary customs arrangement plan, in which the UK would collects tariffs on behalf of the EU, would then “enable the UK to control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world”. However, the Government’s previous “mutual recognition plan” for financial services has been abandoned; instead the White Paper proposes a looser partnership under the framework of the EU’s existing equivalence regime. The responses to the White Paper encapsulate the difficulties of this process. Eurosceptics remain unhappy that the Government’s position is far too close to a “Soft Brexit” and have threatened to rebel against the proposed customs scheme; Remainers are upset that services (which represent 79% of the UK’s GDP) are excluded. The full detail of the 98-page White Paper is less important at this stage than the negotiating dynamics. Assuming both the UK and the EU want a deal, which is likely to be the case, M&A practitioners will be familiar with the concept that the stronger party, here the EU, will want to push the weaker party, the UK, as close to the edge as possible without tipping them over. In that sense the UK has, perhaps inadvertently, somewhat strengthened its negotiating position – albeit in a fragile way. The rules of the UK political game In the UK the principle of separation of powers is strong as far as the independence of the judiciary is concerned. In January 2017 the UK Supreme Court decided that the Prime Minister could not trigger the Brexit process without the authority of an express Act of Parliament. However, unlike the United States and other presidential systems, there is virtually no separation of powers between legislature and executive. Government ministers are always also members of Parliament (both upper and lower houses). The government of the day is dependent on maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons – and will normally be drawn from the political party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister will be the person who is the leader of that party. The governing Conservative Party today holds the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, but does not have an overall majority. The Conservative Government is reliant on a “confidence and supply” agreement with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (“DUP”) to give it a working majority. Maintaining an open land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is crucial to maintaining the Good Friday Agreement – which underpins the Irish peace process. Maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is of fundamental importance to the unionist parties in Northern Ireland – not least the DUP. Thus, the management of the flow of goods and people across the Irish land border, and between Northern Ireland and the UK, have become critical issues in the Brexit debate and negotiations. The White Paper’s proposed free trade area for goods would avoid friction at the border. Parliament will have a vote on the final Brexit deal, but if the Government loses that vote then it will almost certainly fall and a General Election will follow – more on this below. In addition, if the Prime Minister does not continue to have the support of her party, she would cease to be leader and be replaced. Providing the Conservative Party continued to maintain its effective majority in the House of Commons, there would not necessarily be a general election on a change in prime minister (as happened when Margaret Thatcher was replaced by John Major in 1990) The position of the UK Government The UK Cabinet had four prominent campaigners for Brexit: David Davis (Secretary for Exiting the EU), Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary), Michael Gove (Environment and Agriculture Secretary) and Liam Fox (Secretary for International Trade). David Davis and Boris Johnson have both resigned in protest after the Chequers meeting but, so far, Michael Gove and Liam Fox have stayed in the Cabinet. To that extent, at least for the moment, the Brexit camp has been split and although the Leave activists are unhappy, they are now weaker and more divided for the reasons described below. The Prime Minister can face a personal vote of confidence if 48 Conservative MPs demand such a vote. However, she can only be removed if at least 159 of the 316 Conservative MPs then vote against her. It is currently unlikely that this will happen (although the balance may well change once Brexit has happened – and in the lead up to a general election). Although more than 48 Conservative MPs would in principle be willing to call a vote of confidence, it is believed that they would not win the subsequent vote to remove her. If by chance that did happen, then Conservative MPs would select two of their members, who would be put to a vote of Conservative activists. It is likely that at least one of them would be a strong Leaver, and would win the activists’ vote. The position in Parliament The current view on the maths is as follows: The Conservatives and DUP have 326 MPs out of a total of 650. It is thought that somewhere between 60 and 80 Conservative MPs might vote against a “Soft Brexit” as currently proposed – and one has to assume it will become softer as negotiations with the EU continue. The opposition Labour party is equally split. The Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are likely to vote against any Brexit deal in order to bring the Government down, irrespective of whether that would lead to the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal. However it is thought that sufficient opposition MPs would side with the Government in order to vote a “Soft Brexit” through the House of Commons. Once the final position is resolved, whether a “Soft Brexit” or no deal, it is likely that there will be a leadership challenge against Mrs May from within the Conservative Party. The position of the EU So far the EU have been relatively restrained in their public comments, on the basis that they have been waiting to see the detail of the White Paper. The EU has stated on many occasions that the UK cannot “pick and choose” between those parts of the EU Single Market that it likes, and those it does not. For this reason, the proposals in the White Paper (which do not embrace all of the requirements of the Single Market), are unlikely to be welcomed by the EU. It is highly likely that the EU will push back on the UK position to some degree, but it is a dangerous game for all sides to risk a “no deal” outcome. Absent agreement on an extension the UK will leave the EU at 11 pm on 29 March 2019, but any deal will need to be agreed by late autumn 2018 so national parliaments in the EU and UK have time to vote on it. Finally Whatever happens with the EU the further political risk is the possibility that the Conservatives will be punished in any future General Election – allowing the left wing Jeremy Corbyn into power. It is very hard to quantify this risk. In a recent poll Jeremy Corbyn edged slightly ahead of Theresa May as a preferred Prime Minister, although “Don’t Knows” had a clear majority. This client alert was prepared by London partners Charlie Geffen and Nicholas Aleksander and of counsel Anne MacPherson. We have a working group in London (led by Nicholas Aleksander, Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues. Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Nicholas Aleksander – Tax NAleksander@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4232 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4236 © 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.
New York of counsel Nicolas H.R. Dumont is the author of “Toward T+0: Preparing For Faster Securities Settlements” [PDF] published in Law360 on June 26, 2018.
Click for PDF On April 26, 2018, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo and the CFTC’s Chief Economist Bruce Tuckman released a co-authored white paper titled Swaps Regulation Version 2.0: An Assessment of the Current Implementation of Reform and Proposals for Next Steps (“White Paper”), which analyzes and assesses the CFTC’s current implementation of the swaps reforms promulgated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). The White Paper focuses on the following five specific areas of Dodd-Frank swaps reform: clearing and central counterparties (“CCPs”); swaps data reporting; swaps execution rules; swap dealer capital requirements; and the end-user exception. The paper’s title is intended to draw an analogy between the need to further refine the CFTC’s swaps regulatory reform under Dodd-Frank and the process undertaken by technology companies when updating or upgrading their software applications. Indeed, the authors suggest that the CFTC—like a technology company—needs to assess where its Dodd-Frank swaps regulations are working, where those regulations require “updates” and where they require an upgrade or a complete overhaul. As part of its analysis and assessment, the White Paper primarily cites to academic research and market activity in reaching certain conclusions regarding the progress made to date and areas for improvement in the CFTC’s implementation of Dodd-Frank swaps reform. The authors also cite to the CFTC’s four years of regulatory experience in implementing Dodd-Frank swaps reform in the United States as the basis upon which they make certain recommendations “to recognize success, address flaws, recalibrate imprecision and optimize measures. . . .” Although the White Paper is comprehensive in its scope, it is noteworthy what the paper does not cover. For instance, while the White Paper includes the authors’ recommendations for further changes to the CFTC’s swaps regulations and guidance, the paper does not propose detailed or prescriptive modifications to specific CFTC rules. Thus, the paper describes at a high level what the authors envision would result in regulations that are more “economy-focused” and “what’s in the best interest of the markets.” Additionally, the authors make clear that the White Paper does not express the views of the full commission. Interestingly, however, the White Paper does include significant input from CFTC senior staff across all operating divisions (i.e., the directors of the CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight, the Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight, and the Division of Clearing and Risk). Further, the White Paper does not discuss other important Dodd-Frank swaps reform topics such as position limits, the CFTC’s swap dealer de minimis threshold, the bounds of the CFTC’s cross border authority or how best to harmonize the CFTC’s swaps ruleset with the security-based swaps ruleset of its sister agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission. Lastly, the White Paper does not outline the timetable for any proposed changes to the CFTC’s swaps regulations. In unveiling the White Paper at an industry conference, Chairman Giancarlo noted that the CFTC will likely begin issuing proposals in the areas of trading and swaps data reporting in the early part of the summer of 2018. Chairman Giancarlo further noted with respect to timing that, “We’re not in the wake of a crisis right now — we need to take the time to get this right. We have an ambitious timetable, and we will get this done, but we will do this right.” In this client alert, we have summarized below some of the key takeaways from each of the five topical areas covered in the White Paper. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding the White Paper or the CFTC’s widely anticipated reforms to its swaps regulations. Clearing and CCPs The White Paper notes that swaps clearing is probably the most far-reaching and consequential of the swaps reforms adopted under Title VII of Dodd-Frank. The authors cite data collected by the CFTC in finding that the CFTC’s implementation of Dodd-Frank’s clearing mandate was highly successful based on the increasing volumes of cleared swaps when compared to before the enactment of Dodd-Frank. This section of the White Paper then focuses on the topics of CCP resources to maintain viability under extreme but plausible conditions, CCP recovery when those resources prove insufficient and CCP resolution in the highly unlikely event that a CCP fails. In short, the authors applaud the substantial progress that CCPs and the CFTC have made in order to ensure that CCPs are safe and sound under extreme but plausible scenarios and the work that CCPs have undertaken to develop credible recovery plans to remain viable without government assistance. In terms of their recommendations to address continuing challenges in this space, the authors assert—without picking winners or losers as between CCPs and their clearing members—that further market-wide discussions are necessary regarding: (1) the development of potential solutions to ensure the liquidity of prefunded resources; (2) the network and systemic effects of defaults; (3) the liquidation costs of defaulted positions; and (4) improving transparency and predictability of CCP recovery plans. Lastly, the authors note that the CFTC must continue to coordinate with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”) in formulating resolution plans, which would guide the authority vested in the FDIC under Dodd-Frank to intervene upon the highly unlikely event that a CCP fails. Swaps Data Reporting In the section of the White Paper covering swaps data reporting, the authors note that, while the state of data reporting has improved considerably, the CFTC’s current swaps reporting regime is “suboptimal” and “imperfect.” They cite the lack of uniform data standards and nomenclature as the biggest problems with the regime. Another cited problem is the fact that the CFTC has not provided sufficient technical specifications to swap data repositories (“SDRs”) in collecting data from reporting parties. The authors then discuss a number of steps that the CFTC has taken within the last few years to improve the effectiveness of its swaps reporting regime, including the CFTC’s cooperation with the global regulatory community, SDRs and reporting counterparties to harmonize uniform data standards, nomenclature and technical guidance. The paper also mentions the work that CFTC staff has begun as outlined in the CFTC’s 2017 Roadmap to Achieve High Quality Swaps Data (“Roadmap”). Through the Roadmap consultation process, CFTC staff has heard from a wide range of market participants and interested parties. Under consideration in the Roadmap are changes to the CFTC’s reporting rules with the goal of making available to the CFTC and to the public more complete, more accurate and higher quality data. Finally, in this section, the authors urge the CFTC to ensure that its swaps reporting reforms will remain technologically neutral in order to allow for technological advancement (e.g., through the use of distributed ledger technology) to make reporting systems more reliable, more automated and less expensive. They also urge CFTC staff and market participants to continue to collaborate in order to recalibrate the trade data reporting regime so that it is specific, accurate, and useful enough to: (1) capture systemic risk, market abuse and market manipulation; (2) harmonize with globally accepted risk data fields; and (3) achieve transparency while promoting healthy trading liquidity. Swaps Execution Rules In the section covering swaps execution, the authors repeat many of the same concerns and arguments made by Chairman Giancarlo in his 2015 White Paper on swap trading reforms, which was titled Pro-Reform Reconsideration of the CFTC Swaps Trading Rules: Return to Dodd-Frank, White Paper. Essentially, they assert that Congress did not mandate that swap execution facilities (“SEFs”) utilize any particular method of trading and execution. In its final swaps execution rules, however, the CFTC determined that swaps which are “made available to trade” should be subject to the CFTC’s mandatory trade execution requirement and must be traded through specified execution protocols (i.e., an order book or a request-for-quote system to three). The authors cite to comprehensive industry research in noting that the CFTC’s current swaps execution requirements have stunted swaps trading in the United States, fragmented global trading liquidity, increased market liquidity risk, restricted technological innovation and incentivized a significant amount of price discovery and liquidity to take place off-exchange. To correct these ills, the authors recommend that the CFTC eliminate the requirement that SEFs maintain an order book and permit SEFs to offer any means of interstate commerce for the trading or execution of swaps subject to the CFTC’s mandatory trade execution requirement. Additionally, they argue that the CFTC also should expand the category of swaps subject to the trading mandate to include all swaps that are subject to the CFTC’s clearing mandate, unless no SEF or designated contract market lists the swap for trading. Finally, they suggest that the CFTC’s regulatory focus should be on enhancing the professional conduct of swaps execution through licensure, testing and the adoption of professional conduct principles. Swap Dealer Capital In the section covering swap dealer capital, the authors note that while current bank capital rules are extremely relevant to the swaps dealing business and the efficiency of swap markets, there are aspects of the current regime that result in an unintended bias against risk taken through swaps markets. To correct this bias, the White Paper argues that bank capital rules need to allow firms to rely on internal models instead of a standardized approach. The paper also argues that the current standardized approach and industry-developed models inappropriately rely on swap notional amounts to measure risk. The authors do not offer one specific recommended approach to correct these concerns. Instead, the paper offers a couple of remedial approaches. One approach suggested by the authors to correct these concerns is for regulators to continue to refine—and by necessity complicate—the standardized models imposed on market participants. Another suggested approach is for regulators to improve their capabilities with respect to approving and monitoring the use of bank internal models. End-User Exception In the last section of the White Paper, the authors assert that Congress intended a robust end-user exception from Dodd-Frank clearing and margin requirements for entities that are unlikely sources of systemic risk. They further assert that there are a number of entities that currently fall within the Dodd-Frank definition of “financial entity” (and thus are ineligible to elect an exception from those requirements) but should not be captured under the definition because those entities are not sources of systemic risk. Specifically, the paper identifies bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies and certain relatively small financial institutions as being broadly and unnecessarily captured under the definition. To reduce the burdens on these categories of end-users, the authors offer a few recommendations. First, the authors recommend that the CFTC codify into regulation relief for bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies that is currently provided in CFTC staff no-action relief. Second, the authors recommend that the CFTC exempt certain small financial institutions including pension funds and small insurance companies from clearing and margin requirements through a “material swaps exposure” test, which is similar to the test set forth in the CFTC’s final uncleared margin rules. Related to their second recommendation, the authors further assert that the CFTC and prudential regulators should consider exempting small financial end-users from uncleared margin requirements by tweaking the material swaps exposure thresholds to address real risk as opposed to risk based on swap notional amounts. Interestingly, the authors cite to studies suggesting that pension funds and insurance companies should not broadly be excluded from the definition because larger entities might still pose significant risks. Finally, the authors argue that the CFTC should amend the calculation of initial margin for uncleared swaps in the CFTC’s uncleared margin rules so that those rules do not promote a bias against the trading of uncleared swaps. On this point, the authors argue that Congress did not intend for the CFTC’s and prudential regulators’ uncleared margin rules to favor cleared products.  J. Christopher Giancarlo and Bruce Tuckman, Swaps Regulation Version 2.0: An Assessment of the Current Implementation of Reform and Proposals for Next Steps (Apr. 26, 2018), available at https://www.cftc.gov/sites/default/files/2018-04/oce_chairman_swapregversion2whitepaper_042618.pdf.  Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 124 Stat. 1376, Pub. Law 111-203 (July 21, 2010), as amended.  White Paper at p.i.  CFTC Press Release, No. 7719-18, CFTC Chairman Unveils Reg Reform 2.0 Agenda (Apr. 26, 2018), available at https://www.cftc.gov/PressRoom/PressReleases/7719-18.  Id.  See White Paper, p.7 (“According to data collected by the CFTC on U.S. reporting entities, about 85% of both new interest rate swaps and new credit default swaps were cleared in 2017. Precise data as far back as 2010 are not available, but the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) estimated minimum global clearing rates at that time of about 40% for interest rate swaps and 8% for credit default swaps.”).  Staff Advisory, Division of Market Oversight, Roadmap to Achieve High Quality Swaps Data, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, July 10, 2017, available at http://www.cftc.gov/idc/groups/public/@newsroom /documents/file/dmo_swapdataplan071017.pdf.  J. Christopher Giancarlo, Pro-Reform Reconsideration of the CFTC Swaps Trading Rules: Return to Dodd-Frank, Jan. 29, 2015, available at https://www.cftc.gov/sites/default/files/idc/groups/public/@newsroom /documents/file/sefwhitepaper012915.pdf.  The CFTC’s Chief Economist and others have published a paper proposing an alternative approach to measuring swaps risk. See Richard Haynes, John Roberts, Rajiv Sharma and Bruce Tuckman, Introducing ENNs: A Measure of the Size of Interest Rate Swap Markets (Jan. 2018), available at https://www.cftc.gov/ sites/default/files/idc/groups/public/@economicanalysis/documents/file/oce_enns0118.pdf.  See CFTC Letter 16-01 (Jan. 8, 2016). The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Carl Kennedy and Jeffrey Steiner. 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 any of the following: Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, firstname.lastname@example.org) Michael D. Bopp – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8256, email@example.com) Carl E. Kennedy – New York (+1 212-351-3951, firstname.lastname@example.org) Jeffrey L. Steiner – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3632, email@example.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.
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”). 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. 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”) 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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, 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.  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.  Id.  Under the JOBS Act, EGCs are defined as companies with less than $1.07 billion of annual revenue.  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/  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/  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  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  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/  See, e.g., “SEC to Tailor Disclosure Regime Under New Chair Clayton” (July 12, 2017), which is available at the following link: https://www.bna.com/sec-tailor-disclosure-n73014461648/ Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments. Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Capital Markets or Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice groups, or the authors: Glenn R. Pollner – New York (+1 212-351-2333, firstname.lastname@example.org) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, email@example.com) Jessica Annis – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8234, firstname.lastname@example.org) Nicolas H.R. Dumont – New York (+1 212-351-3837, email@example.com) Sean Sullivan – San Francisco (+1 415–393–8275, firstname.lastname@example.org) Victor Twu – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-3870, email@example.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the following practice leaders: Capital Markets Group: Stewart L. McDowell – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8322, firstname.lastname@example.org) Peter W. Wardle – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7242, email@example.com) Andrew L. Fabens – New York (+1 212-351-4034, firstname.lastname@example.org) Hillary H. Holmes – Houston (+1 346-718-6602, email@example.com) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: Elizabeth Ising – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8287, firstname.lastname@example.org) James J. Moloney – Orange County, CA (+1 949-451-4343, email@example.com) Lori Zyskowski – New York (+1 212-351-2309, firstname.lastname@example.org) © 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.
Dallas partner Robert Little and Dallas associate Eric Pacifici are the authors of “Important Lessons From ‘In re Oxbow Carbon’ for Drafting Joint Venture Exit Provisions,” [PDF] published in Delaware Business Court Insider on March 14, 2018.
Click for PDF In our client alert of 8 December 2017 we summarised the political deal relating to the terms of withdrawal of the UK from the EU with a two year transition. It is important to remember that this “Phase 1” deal only relates to the separation terms and not to the future relationship between the UK and the EU post Brexit. In her Mansion House speech on 2 March 2018 UK Prime Minister Theresa May set out Britain’s vision for a future relationship. The full text of her speech can be found here. It continues to make it clear that the UK will remain outside the Single Market and Customs Union. On the critical issue of the Irish border, the UK Government’s position remains that a technological solution is available to ensure that there is neither a hard border within Ireland nor a border in the Irish Sea which would divide the UK. Neither the EU nor Ireland itself accept that a technological solution is workable, and there remain doubts whether such a solution is possible if the UK is outside the EU Customs Union (or something equivalent to a customs union). The terms of the political deal in December make it clear that, in the absence of an agreed solution on this issue, the UK will maintain full alignment with the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union. The UK’s main opposition party, The Labour Party, has now shifted its position to support the UK remaining in a customs union. The Government is proposing a “customs partnership” which would mirror the EU’s requirements for imports and rules of origin. Theresa May has acknowledged both that access to the markets of the UK and EU will be less than it is today and that the decisions of the CJEU will continue to affect the UK after Brexit. On a future trade agreement, the UK’s position is that it will not accept the rights of Canada and the obligations of Norway and that a “bespoke model” is not the only solution. There is, however, an acknowledgement that, if the UK wants access to the EU’s market, it will need to commit to some areas of regulation such as state aid and anti-trust. Prime Minister May has confirmed that the UK will not engage in a “race to the bottom” in its standards in areas such as worker’s rights and environmental protections, and that there should be a comprehensive system of mutual recognition of regulatory standards. She has also said that there will need to be an independent arbitration mechanism to deal with any disagreements in relation to any future trade agreement. Theresa May has also said that financial services should be part of a deep and comprehensive partnership. The UK will also pay to remain in the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency but will not remain part of the EU’s Digital Single Market. Donald Tusk, the European Council President, has rejected much of the substance of the UK’s position, stating that the only possible arrangement is a free trade agreement excluding the mutual recognition model at the heart of the UK’s proposals. Crucially, however, he has said that there would be more room for negotiation should the UK’s red lines on the Customs Union and Single Market “evolve”. It is clear that this is an opening position for the two sides in the negotiations and that there is a long history of EU negotiations being settled at the very last minute. The current timetable envisages clarity on the final terms of the transition and the “end state” by the European Council meeting on 18/19 October 2018. This client alert was prepared by London partners Charlie Geffen and Nicholas Aleksander and of counsel Anne MacPherson. We have a working group in London (led by Nicholas Aleksander, Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) that has been considering these issues for many months. Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Nicholas Aleksander – Tax NAleksander@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4232 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4236 © 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.
Houston partners Gerry Spedale and Hillary Holmes are the authors of “Joint Venture Traps to Avoid,” [PDF] published in Midstream Business in March 2018.
Oil and gas prices are recovering and there is a friendlier regulatory climate in Washington for capital raising. Times may never be better for considering an initial public offering for your company. There are many advantages and challenges to becoming a public company. This panel identifies the issues and opportunities for companies in the oil and gas sector to consider in deciding whether to become a public company. View Slides [PDF] PANELISTS: Hillary Holmes focuses on securities offerings and SEC and governance counseling for master limited partnerships (MLPs) and corporations in all sectors of the oil & gas energy industry. She represents public companies, private companies, MLPs and investment banks in all forms of capital raising transactions, including IPOs, registered offerings of debt and equity securities, private placements of debt and equity securities, and spin-offs. She also advises boards of directors, conflicts committees, and financial advisors of energy companies in complex transactions. Gerry Spedale focuses on capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and corporate governance matters for companies in the energy industry, including MLPs. He has extensive experience representing issuers and investment banks in both public and private debt and equity offerings, including initial public offerings, convertible note offerings and offerings of preferred securities. He also has substantial experience in public and private company acquisitions and dispositions and board committee representations. James Chenoweth counsels clients regarding tax-efficient structuring of energy transactions, including MLPs, IPOs and follow-on offerings, as well as acquisitions and dispositions, taxable sales and the formation of joint ventures, particularly in the oil and gas upstream and midstream sectors. James represents clients regarding the funding, formation, transfer and acquisition of upstream drilling joint ventures in cash and carry transactions and similar arrangements forming tax partnerships in various shale plays, including the Eagle Ford, Utica, Three Forks, Marcellus and Niobrara. Brian Lane counsels companies on the most sophisticated corporate governance and regulatory issues under the federal securities laws. He is nationally recognized in his field as an author, media commentator, and conference speaker. Brian ended a 16 year career with the Securities and Exchange Commission as the Director of the Division of Corporation Finance where he supervised over 300 attorneys and accountants in all matters related to disclosure and accounting by public companies (e.g. M&A, capital raising, disclosure in periodic reports and proxy statements). In his practice, Brian has advised on dozens of IPOs. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.0 credit hour, of which 1.00 credit hour may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or email@example.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.