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SEC Issues "Sample" Climate Change Disclosure Comment Letter

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on September 23, 2021 at 10:19 AM

As part of the SEC Division of Corporation Finance’s focus on climate-related disclosure in public company filings, and as a follow up to guidance on this topic issued in 2010, the Division posted an illustrative letter containing sample comments that the Division may issue to companies regarding their climate-related disclosure or the absence of such disclosure. These sample comments impact several sections of company filings, including most significantly management’s discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations (MD&A):

General

  1. We note that you provided more expansive disclosure in your corporate social responsibility report (CSR report) than you provided in your SEC filings.  Please advise us what consideration you gave to providing the same type of climate-related disclosure in your SEC filings as you provided in your CSR report.

Risk Factors

  1. Disclose the material effects of transition risks related to climate change that may affect your business, financial condition, and results of operations, such as policy and regulatory changes that could impose operational and compliance burdens, market trends that may alter business opportunities, credit risks, or technological changes.
  2. Disclose any material litigation risks related to climate change and explain the potential impact to the company.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

  1. There have been significant developments in federal and state legislation and regulation and international accords regarding climate change that you have not discussed in your filing. Please revise your disclosure to identify material pending or existing climate change-related legislation, regulations, and international accords and describe any material effect on your business, financial condition, and results of operations.
  2. Revise your disclosure to identify any material past and/or future capital expenditures for climate-related projects. If material, please quantify these expenditures.
  3. To the extent material, discuss the indirect consequences of climate-related regulation or business trends, such as the following:
    • decreased demand for goods or services that produce significant greenhouse gas emissions or are related to carbon-based energy sources;
    • increased demand for goods that result in lower emissions than competing products;
    • increased competition to develop innovative new products that result in lower emissions;
    • increased demand for generation and transmission of energy from alternative energy sources; and
    • any anticipated reputational risks resulting from operations or products that produce material greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. If material, discuss the physical effects of climate change on your operations and results. This disclosure may include the following:
    • severity of weather, such as floods, hurricanes, sea levels, arability of farmland, extreme fires, and water availability and quality;
    • quantification of material weather-related damages to your property or operations;
    • potential for indirect weather-related impacts that have affected or may affect your major customers or suppliers;
    • decreased agricultural production capacity in areas affected by drought or other weather-related changes; and
    • any weather-related impacts on the cost or availability of insurance.
  5. Quantify any material increased compliance costs related to climate change.
  6. If material, provide disclosure about your purchase or sale of carbon credits or offsets and any material effects on your business, financial condition, and results of operations.

The full letter may be found here.

Topics: public companies, Climate change, Securities and Exchange Commission, Climate-related financial risk, corporate social responsibility

SEC fees to decrease on October 1st

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on August 24, 2021 at 9:01 AM

Yesterday, the SEC announced that, effective October 1, 2021, the fees that public companies and other issuers pay to register their securities with the Commission will be set at $92.70 per million dollars. This is a decrease from the current rate of $109.10/million.

Topics: Securities and Exchange Commission

Climate change disclosures

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on February 25, 2021 at 9:06 AM

It looks like we can expect more SEC comments on climate change disclosures and likely new guidance or new rules in the not too distant future: https://www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/lee-statement-review-climate-related-disclosure.

Topics: Climate change, Securities and Exchange Commission

SEC Publishes Sample Comments re: Stock Price Volatility

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on February 9, 2021 at 10:22 AM

The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance published an "illustrative letter" with sample comments that it may issue to companies seeking to raise capital in securities offerings amid market and price volatility. These will most often apply to companies with (1) recent stock run-ups or recent divergences in valuation ratios relative to those seen during traditional markets, (2) high short interest or reported short squeezes, and (3) reports of strong and atypical retail investor interest (whether on social media or otherwise). However, all companies should review this new guidance as part of their preparations for any upcoming capital raising.

https://www.sec.gov/corpfin/sample-letter-securities-offerings-during-extreme-price-volatility

The sample comments generally call for increased disclosures about:

  • recent price volatility and any known risks of investing in the stock under these circumstances.
  • the market price of the stock prior to the recent price volatility.
  • any recent change in financial condition or results of operations, such as in earnings, revenues or other measure of company value that is consistent with the recent change in stock price. 
  • risk factors addressing the recent extreme volatility in stock price, the effects of a potential "short squeeze" due to a sudden increase in demand for the stock, the impact that the offering could have on the stock price and on investors where there is a significant number of shares being offered relative to the number currently outstanding and, to the extent the company expects to conduct additional offerings in the future to fund its operations or provide liquidity, the dilutive impact of those offerings on investors that purchase shares in the offering at a significantly higher price.
  • various impacts of the sales price on the use of proceeds.

Topics: Securities and Exchange Commission, Stock price volatility

SEC proposed changes to Form 144 and other aspects of Rule 144

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on December 23, 2020 at 10:15 AM

The SEC has proposed amendments that would mandate electronic filing of Form 144 (currently it may be filed either by mail or electronically), eliminate the requirement to file a Form 144 with respect to sales of securities issued by companies that are not subject to reporting under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and amend the Form 144 filing deadline to coincide with the Form 4 filing deadline (currently it is required to be filed concurrently with placing a sell order). If adopted, the SEC would make an online fillable Form 144 available to simplify the process and streamline the filing of Forms 4 and 144 where the seller is required to file both forms.

The amendments would also amend Forms 4 and 5 to add an optional check box to indicate that a reported transaction was intended to satisfy Rule 10b5-1(c), which provides an affirmative defense for trading on the basis of material non-public information in insider trading cases (so-called “10b5-1 plans”).

The SEC also proposed an amendment to Rule 144 to revise the holding period determination for securities acquired upon the conversion or exchange of certain "market-adjustable securities." Currently, Rule 144 deems securities acquired solely in exchange for other securities of the same issuer to have been acquired at the same time as the securities surrendered for conversion or exchange. Under the amendments, the holding period for the underlying securities acquired upon conversion or exchange of "market-adjustable securities" would not begin until conversion or exchange, meaning that a purchaser would need to hold the underlying securities for the applicable Rule 144 holding period before reselling them under Rule 144. The proposed amendment is intended to reduce the risk of unregistered distributions in connection with sales of those securities.

The proposed amendment would not affect the use of Rule 144 for most convertible or variable-rate securities transactions. It would apply only to market-adjustable securities transactions in which:

  • The newly acquired securities were acquired from an issuer that, at the time of the conversion or exchange, does not have a class of securities listed, or approved for listing, on a national securities exchange registered pursuant to Section 6 of the Exchange Act; and
  • The convertible or exchangeable security contains terms, such as conversion rate or price adjustments, that offset, in whole or in part, declines in the market value of the underlying securities occurring prior to conversion or exchange, other than terms that adjust for stock splits, dividends, or other issuer-initiated changes in its capitalization.

The public comment period will remain open for 60 days following publication of the proposing release in the Federal Register.

Topics: Form 144, Rule 144, Rule 10b5-1(c)

MD&A and Related Amendments

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on November 23, 2020 at 4:06 PM

The SEC has adopted amendments to Regulation S-K to revise the rules for MD&A and eliminate the requirement for selected financial data in SEC filings. According to the SEC, "The amendments are intended to enhance the focus of financial disclosures on material information for the benefit of investors, while simplifying compliance efforts for registrants."

The amendments will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register. However, companies are not required to comply with the amended rules until the first fiscal year ending on or after the date that is 210 days after publication in the Federal Register, which means for calendar year fiscal year end companies, these rules will not be mandatory for their 2020 annual reports on 10-K or 20-F. Companies will be required to apply the amended rules in a registration statement and prospectus that on its initial filing date is required to contain financial statements for a period on or after that initial compliance date. Although companies will not be required to apply the amended rules until their mandatory compliance date, they may comply with the final amendments any time after the effective date, so long as they provide disclosure responsive to an amended item in its entirety.

The changes to Items 301, 302, and 303 of Regulation S-K:

  • Eliminate Item 301 (Selected Financial Data); and
  • Modernizing, simplifying and streamlining Item 302(a) (Supplementary Financial Information) and Item 303 (MD&A) to:
    • Revise Item 302(a) to replace the current requirement for quarterly tabular disclosure with a principles-based requirement for material retrospective changes;
    • Add a new Item 303(a), Objective, to state the principal objectives of MD&A;
    • Amend current Item 303(a)(1) and (2) (amended Item 303(b)(1)) to modernize, enhance and clarify disclosure requirements for liquidity and capital resources;
    • Amend current Item 303(a)(3) (amended Item 303(b)(2)) to clarify, modernize and streamline disclosure requirements for results of operations;
    • Add a new Item 303(b)(3), Critical accounting estimates, to clarify and codify Commission guidance on critical accounting estimates;
    • Replace current Item 303(a)(4), Off-balance sheet arrangements, with an instruction to discuss such obligations in the broader context of MD&A;
    • Eliminate current Item 303(a)(5), Tabular disclosure of contractual obligations, in light of the amended disclosure requirements for liquidity and capital resources and certain overlap with information required in the financial statements; and
    • Amend current Item 303(b), Interim periods (amended Item 303(c)) to modernize, clarify and streamline the item and allow for flexibility in the comparison of interim periods to help registrants provide a more tailored and meaningful analysis relevant to their business cycles.

In addition, the SEC adopted certain parallel amendments to the financial disclosure requirements applicable to foreign private issuers, including to Forms 20-F and 40-F, as well as other conforming amendments to the Commission's rules and forms, as appropriate.

Topics: Form 10-K, Securities and Exchange Commission, Regulation S-K

Are COVID Accommodations Perks for SEC Purposes?

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on September 24, 2020 at 9:10 AM

To the extent you are working on executive compensation disclosure in a proxy statement or registration statement, the SEC just released this interpretation related to benefits provided to executives during the pandemic:

219.05 In reporting compensation for periods affected by COVID-19, questions may arise whether benefits provided to executive officers because of the COVID-19 pandemic constitute perquisites or personal benefits for purposes of the disclosure required by Item 402(c)(2)(ix)(A) and determining which executive officers are “named executive officers” under Item 402(a)(3)(iii) and (iv). The two-step analysis articulated by the Commission in Release 33-8732A continues to apply when determining whether an item provided because of the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a perquisite or personal benefit:

  • An item is not a perquisite or personal benefit if it is integrally and directly related to the performance of the executive’s duties.
  • Otherwise, an item that confers a direct or indirect benefit and that has a personal aspect, without regard to whether it may be provided for some business reason or for the convenience of the company, is a perquisite or personal benefit unless it is generally available on a non-discriminatory basis to all employees.

Whether an item is "integrally and directly related to the performance of the executive’s duties" depends on the particular facts. In some cases, an item considered a perquisite or personal benefit when provided in the past may not be considered as such when provided as a result of COVID-19. For example, enhanced technology needed to make the NEO’s home his or her primary workplace upon imposition of local stay-at-home orders would generally not be a perquisite or personal benefit because of the integral and direct relationship to the performance of the executive’s duties. On the other hand, items such as new health-related or personal transportation benefits provided to address new risks arising because of COVID-19, if they are not integrally and directly related to the performance of the executive’s duties, may be perquisites or personal benefits even if the company would not have provided the benefit but for the COVID-19 pandemic, unless they are generally available to all employees.

Topics: executive compensation, Securities and Exchange Commission

Amendments to Shareholder Proposal Rule 14a-8

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on September 23, 2020 at 2:24 PM

The SEC adopted amendments to modernize its shareholder proposal rule, which governs the process for a shareholder to have its proposal included in a company’s proxy statement for consideration by all of the company’s shareholders. The main changes were:

  • amend Rule 14a-8(b) by:
    • replacing the current ownership threshold, which requires holding at least $2,000 or 1% of a company’s securities for at least one year, with three alternative thresholds that will require a shareholder to demonstrate continuous ownership of at least:
      • $2,000 of the company’s securities for at least three years;
      • $15,000 of the company’s securities for at least two years; or
      • $25,000 of the company’s securities for at least one year.
    • prohibiting the aggregation of holdings for purposes of satisfying the amended ownership thresholds;
    • requiring that a shareholder who elects to use a representative for the purpose of submitting a shareholder proposal provide documentation to make clear that the representative is authorized to act on the shareholder’s behalf and to provide a meaningful degree of assurance as to the shareholder’s identity, role and interest in a proposal that is submitted for inclusion in a company’s proxy statement; and
    • requiring that each shareholder state that he or she is able to meet with the company, either in person or via teleconference, no less than 10 calendar days, nor more than 30 calendar days, after submission of the shareholder proposal, and provide contact information as well as specific business days and times that the shareholder is available to discuss the proposal with the company.
  • amend Rule 14a-8(c) by:
    • applying the one-proposal rule to "each person" rather than "each shareholder" who submits a proposal, such that a shareholder-proponent will not be permitted to submit one proposal in his or her own name and simultaneously serve as a representative to submit a different proposal on another shareholder’s behalf for consideration at the same meeting. Likewise, a representative will not be permitted to submit more than one proposal to be considered at the same meeting, even if the representative were to submit each proposal on behalf of different shareholders.
  • amend Rule 14a-8(i)(12) by:
    • revising the levels of shareholder support a proposal must receive to be eligible for resubmission at the same company’s future shareholder meetings from 3%, 6% and 10% for matters previously voted on once, twice or three or more times in the last five years, respectively, with thresholds of 5%, 15% and 25%, respectively. For example, a proposal would need to achieve support by at least 5% of the voting shareholders in its first submission in order to be eligible for resubmission in the following three years. Proposals submitted two and three times in the prior five years would need to achieve 15% and 25% support, respectively, in order to be eligible for resubmission in the following three years.

The amendments will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, and the final amendments will apply to any proposal submitted for an annual or special meeting to be held on or after January 1, 2022. The final rules also provide for a transition period with respect to the ownership thresholds that will allow shareholders meeting specified conditions to rely on the $2,000/one-year ownership threshold for proposals submitted for an annual or special meeting to be held prior to January 1, 2023.

In his remarks, the SEC Chair noted that he believes that additional changes to the proxy process still need attention such as the rules around counting of votes and so-called proxy plumbing – stay tuned!

Topics: Securities and Exchange Commission, shareholder

SEC Registration Fee Set to Decrease 10/1

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on August 28, 2020 at 9:11 AM

Effective October 1st, the SEC registration fee will decrease to $109.10 per million dollars registered from the current rate of $129.80 per million dollars.

Topics: Registration Fees, Securities and Exchange Commission

SEC Proposes Increase for 13F Threshold

Posted by Howard Berkenblit on July 13, 2020 at 10:17 AM

The SEC has proposed to amend Form 13F to update the reporting threshold for institutional investment managers from $100 million to $3.5 billion. The threshold has not been adjusted in over 40 years. Section 13(f) of the Exchange Act requires an investment manager to file a report with the SEC if the manager exercises investment discretion with respect to accounts holding certain equity securities having an aggregate fair market value on the last trading day of any month of any calendar year of at least $100 million. If the amendments are approved, that threshold would be raised substantially. The proposal would also require SEC review of the Form 13F reporting threshold every five years and would eliminate the ability of managers to omit certain small positions.

Topics: SEC Filings, Securities and Exchange Commission, Form 13F

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About the Blog


The SEC Pulse provides updates and commentary from our Capital Markets Group on issues affecting publicly traded and privately owned businesses, investment banks and foreign companies who trade or raise capital in the United States, and boards of directors and company officers in securities transactions and corporate governance matters.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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