As mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC today adopted a rule that requires public companies to disclose the ratio of the compensation of its chief executive officer (CEO) to the median compensation of its employees. The new rule will require disclosure of the pay ratio in registration statements, proxy and information statements, and annual reports that call for executive compensation disclosure. Companies will be required to provide disclosure of their pay ratios for their first fiscal year beginning on or after January 1, 2017.
The SEC purports to address concerns about the costs of compliance by providing companies with flexibility in meeting the rule’s requirements. For example, a company will be permitted to select its methodology for identifying its median employee and that employee’s compensation, including through statistical sampling of its employee population or other reasonable methods. The rule also permits companies to make the median employee determination only once every three years and to choose a determination date within the last three months of a company’s fiscal year. In addition, the rule allows companies to exclude non-U.S. employees from countries in which data privacy laws or regulations make companies unable to comply with the rule and provides a de minimis exemption for non-U.S. employees. Companies would be required to briefly describe the methodology used to identify the median employee, and any material assumptions, adjustments (including cost-of-living adjustments), or estimates used to identify the median employee or to determine annual total compensation. If a company identifies a median employee based on a consistently applied compensation measure, it would be required to disclose the measure it used. Also, companies would be required to clearly identify any estimates used.
The rule does not apply to smaller reporting companies, emerging growth companies, foreign private issuers, MJDS filers, or registered investment companies. The rule does provide transition periods for new companies, companies engaging in business combinations or acquisitions, and companies that cease to be smaller reporting companies or emerging growth companies.
The adopting release for the rules appears here. The rules will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.