Corporate & Securities Law Blog

Up-to-date Information on Corporate & Securities Law

On November 19, 2020, Peter Driscoll, director of the Office of Compliance Inspection and Examination (“OCIE”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), gave a speech urging advisory firms to empower their Chief Compliance Officers (“CCOs”).  The speech, made at the SEC’s annual compliance outreach conference, accompanied OCIE’s Risk Alert, issued the same day, identifying notable deficiencies and weaknesses regarding Registered Investment Advisors (“RIAs”) CCOs and compliance departments.  Driscoll’s speech complemented the Risk Alert by outlining the fundamental requirements for CCOs:  “empowered, senior and with authority.”…
A Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) plan to create a registration exemption for certain finders has generated a mixed response.  The nearly 90 comments received by the SEC by the November 12, 2020 close of the comment period reflect a clear divide along predictable lines.  Broker-dealers, issuers, and some practitioners lauded the proposal for bringing regulatory clarity to what has long been a cloudy issue while regulatory groups and investor advocates criticized the plan for allowing unregistered finders to conduct brokerage activities without sufficient investor protection mechanisms.…
On November 2, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted amendments intended to ease the rules for certain exempt offerings. These changes include increasing the annual cap on equity crowdfunding from $1.07 million to $5 million, raising the annual cap on Reg A+ offerings from $50% million to $75 million, raising the maximum offering amount for Rule 504 of Regulation D from $5 million to $10 million, and expanding the “test-the-waters” accommodation to Regulation Crowdfunding issuers.…
On October 2, 2020, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) released a Procedural Notice providing guidance addressed to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders and SBA employees as to the circumstances under which prior SBA approval is required before a borrower of a PPP loan undergoes a change of ownership.[1]  In particular, the October 2, 2020 Procedural Notice includes instructions to PPP lenders on how they may address equity or asset M&A transactions, ownership restructurings, or transfers of ownership interests involving their PPP borrowers.  Importantly, the October 2, 2020 Procedural Notice does not clearly address the circumstance of a…
On September 17, 2020, Stephanie Avakian, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, spoke at the Institute for Law and Economics, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Virtual Program.  Ms. Avakian used her time to highlight the Division’s enforcement priorities, operations, and challenges in the years since Jay Clayton became the director of the SEC in May 2017.…
On September 10, 2020, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued the latest in a series of circulars regarding corporate compliance released this summer by government agencies. In June, the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued updated guidance regarding its evaluation of corporate compliance programs (see our prior blog here). In July, DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jointly issued an updated Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which includes a 12-part section covering the “hallmarks” of effective corporate compliance programs. The instant CFTC guidance is the first issued by…
In In re WeWork Litigation, 2020 Del. Ch. LEXIS 270 (Del. Ch. Aug. 21, 2020) (Bouchard, C.), the Delaware Court of Chancery considered an issue of first impression:  Does the management of a Delaware corporation have the unilateral authority to preclude a director from obtaining the corporation’s privileged information?  The Court held it cannot.  The directors of Delaware corporations are entitled to share in legal advice the corporation receives and, subject to limited exceptions not at issue in WeWork, cannot be prevented from accessing the corporation’s privileged information.…
In Heinze v. Tesco Corp., No. 19-20298, 2020 WL 4814094 (5th Cir. Aug. 19, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action suit under Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78(b) alleging that defendant Tesco Corporation (“Tesco”), former members of Tesco’s board of directors and Nabors Industries, Ltd. (“Nabors”) omitted material information from a proxy statement issued in connection with Nabors’ acquisition of Tesco in 2017.  Applying the heightened pleading standard of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PSLRA”),…
For the first time outside of the originating case itself, a federal appeals court was called upon to apply the principles governing disgorgement in SEC enforcement actions established by the United States Supreme Court’s high-profile decision in Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, No. 18-1501, 2020 WL 3405845 (U.S. June 22, 2020) (blog article here).  In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Yang, No. 19-55289, 2020 WL 4530630 (9th Cir. Aug. 6, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed a district court order, issued some eighteen months before the Supreme Court spoke…
In Juul Labs, Inc. v. Grove, 2020 Del. Ch. LEXIS 264 (Del. Ch. Aug. 13, 2020) (Laster, V.C.), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that the “internal affairs doctrine” bars a stockholder of a Delaware corporation headquartered in a foreign jurisdiction from seeking to inspect corporate books and records pursuant to the statutory law of that foreign jurisdiction.  The stockholder is limited instead to the inspection rights and remedies under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, 8 Del. C. § 220.  This decision has the potential to provide greater certainty to Delaware corporations headquartered in other states…
A recent enforcement action offers a glimpse of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (“FINRA”) expectations for firms conducting anti-money laundering (“AML”) due diligence and transaction monitoring.  On July 27, 2020, FINRA settled with broker-dealer JKR & Company (“JKR”) over allegations that the firm failed to detect, investigate, and report suspicious activity in four customer accounts in violation of FINRA Rules 3310(a) and 2010.  JKR agreed to a $50,000 fine and a censure to resolve the matter.  The settlement is notable in that FINRA applied transaction monitoring and due diligence expectations common in the banking industry to a broker-dealer.  It also…
November is approaching and in an election year, that means candidates are making plans and promises.  These promises and plans inevitably include something about taxes; and when it comes to taxes, it pays to be prepared.  While we take no position on the candidates or proposals, in the event you are considering the timing of your tax decisions for the balance of the year and 2021, it is important to consider the potential impact of the election.  The following items explain the current status of various tax proposals that might impact your planning.…
IN RE DELL TECHNOLOGIES INC. CLASS V STOCKHOLDERS LITIGATION There has been a growing deference in Delaware courts for transactions approved by independent special committees and minority stockholders. In the context of a company with a controlling stockholder, the Delaware Supreme Court has provided guidance in Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp.[1] (“MFW”) on how boards can structure special committees and minority stockholder votes to have board decisions adjudicated under the highly deferential protection of the business judgment rule.[2] However, the Delaware Court of Chancery recently found in In re Dell Technologies Inc. Class V Stockholders Litigation[3] (“Dell”)…
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption, distress and uncertainty for companies across almost every industry. While this initially resulted in a substantial slow-down in the M&A market, transactional activity is expected to accelerate in certain areas as the economy begins to recover; for example, we expect to see more carveouts by companies that seek to divest non-core assets, acquisitions of distressed companies, financings of independent companies that may have liquidity issues, and divestitures or joint ventures by private equity funds that seek to exit investments or bring in new partners. Prospective sellers and buyers alike should have an increased…
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption, distress and uncertainty for companies across almost every industry. While this initially resulted in a substantial slow-down in the M&A market, transactional activity is expected to accelerate in certain areas as the economy begins to recover; for example, we expect to see more carveouts by companies that seek to divest non-core assets, acquisitions of distressed companies, financings of independent companies that may have liquidity issues, and divestitures or joint ventures by private equity funds that seek to exit investments or bring in new partners. Prospective sellers and buyers alike should have an increased…
In Fir Tree Value Master Fund, LP v. Jarden Corp., No. 454-2019, 2020 WL 3885166 (Del. July 9, 2020), the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a Delaware Court of Chancery (Slights, V.C.) appraisal decision that adopted the respondent corporation’s unaffected market price as fair value, squarely rejecting petitioners’ argument that, as a matter of Delaware law, a corporation’s unaffected stock price can never equate to fair value.  Under the appraisal statute, when determining the fair value of the shares on the closing date of the merger, the trial judge shall take into account “all relevant factors.”  The Delaware Supreme Court’s…