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Securities Law Aspects of Employee Benefit Plans

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SEC Guidance on Registration of 401(k) Plan Interests when Brokerage Windows are Offered

November 17, 2016

Authors

Brian Berglund and Tim Hanson

SEC Guidance on Registration of 401(k) Plan Interests when Brokerage Windows are Offered

November 17, 2016

by: Brian Berglund and Tim Hanson

secThe Securities Act of 1933 prohibits the offer or sale of securities unless either a registration statement has been filed with the SEC or an exemption from registration is applicable. Although most qualified plan interests qualify for an exemption from the registration requirement, offers or sales of employer securities as part of a 401(k) plan generally will not qualify for such an exemption.  Accordingly, 401(k) plans with a company stock investment option typically register the shares offered as an investment option under the plan using Form S-8.

On September 22, 2016, the SEC released a Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation addressing the application of the registration requirements to offers and sales of employer securities under 401(k) plans that (i) do not include a company securities fund but (ii) do allow participants to select

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SCOTUS Meant What It Said & Said What It Meant: Dudenhoeffer Imposes Higher Pleading Standards

January 27, 2016

Authors

Jeffrey Russell and Katharine Finley

SCOTUS Meant What It Said & Said What It Meant: Dudenhoeffer Imposes Higher Pleading Standards

January 27, 2016

by: Jeffrey Russell and Katharine Finley

Stock DropIn a rebuke to the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court granted the Amgen defendants’ petition for certiorari, reversed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion in the district court. The unanimous per curiam opinion was issued without further briefing and oral argument, an unusual step in civil cases. The substance of the opinion and its handling by summary disposition sends a clear message: the Court meant what it said in Dudenhoeffer when it stressed the role of motions to dismiss in “divid[ing] the plausible sheep from the meritless goats” and crafted new liability requirements that plaintiffs must plausibly allege are met in order to state a claim. Admittedly, we steal liberally from Judge Kozinski’s dissent in Amgen in characterizing the

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Dodd-Frank SEC Guidance Executive Compensation – Status

November 2, 2015

Authors

benefitsbclp

Dodd-Frank SEC Guidance Executive Compensation – Status

November 2, 2015

by: benefitsbclp

With all the rulemaking required under the Dodd-Frank Act, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with the status of the various rules.  Below is a handy chart that details the current status of the various executive compensation rulemakings.  We plan to update this periodically for additional rulemakings, so be sure to come back and visit from time to time.

Last Updated: November 2, 2015

Provision Summary Status of SEC Rulemaking Say on Pay; Say on Golden Parachutes § 951 Requires advisory vote of shareholders on executive compensation and golden parachutes; advisory vote on frequency of say on pay

  • Final rule: adopted January 25, 2011; SEC Rel. No. 33-9178

Compensation Committee Independence § 952(includes comp consultant conflicts) Requires stock exchanges to adopt listing standards that require:

  • compensation committee members to be “independent;”
  • each committee must   have the authority to engage
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Proposed Rule Would Make No-Fault Clawbacks Mandatory for Public Companies

July 9, 2015

Authors

Serena Yee and Lisa Van Fleet

Proposed Rule Would Make No-Fault Clawbacks Mandatory for Public Companies

July 9, 2015

by: Serena Yee and Lisa Van Fleet

Guy GrabbingLast week the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a new Rule 10D-1 that would direct national securities exchanges and associations to establish listing standards requiring companies to adopt, enforce and disclose policies to clawback excess incentive-based compensation from executive officers.

  • Covered Securities Issuers. With limited exceptions for issuers of certain securities and unit investment trusts (UITs), the Proposed Rule 10D-1 would apply to all listed companies, including emerging growth companies, smaller reporting companies, foreign private issuers and controlled companies. Registered management investment companies would be subject to the requirements of the Proposed Rule only to the extent they had awarded incentive-based compensation to executive officers in any of the last three fiscal years.
  • Covered Officers.   The Proposed Rule would apply to current and former Section 16 officers, which
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Upcoming Equity Plan Proposal? ISS Invites U.S. Companies to Verify Equity Plan Data

August 21, 2014

Authors

benefitsbclp

Upcoming Equity Plan Proposal? ISS Invites U.S. Companies to Verify Equity Plan Data

August 21, 2014

by: benefitsbclp

Institutional Shareholder Services, or ISS, invites U.S. companies to verify the data it uses to evaluate proxy statement equity plan proposals.  ISS previously announced a move to a “balanced scorecard” approach for its evaluation of equity plan proposals.  Data verification is included as a key feature of this approach.

Data verification allows companies to preview, and if necessary update, the data used by ISS in its vote recommendation.  Some companies have been frustrated when reviewing ISS vote recommendations that include inaccurate or misconstrued data.  This program is designed to improve the quality of information used by ISS.  See “FAQs:  Equity Plan Data Verification” for details about the program.  Below is a summary of some key features:

How to Participate

  • The data verification program is optional.
  • It is open to U.S. companies who have filed definitive proxy materials after September 8th, 2014 with an equity plan proposal (new
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The Moench Presumption is Dead – Long Live the Dudenhoeffer Presumption

July 17, 2014

Authors

Brian Berglund and Jeffrey Russell

The Moench Presumption is Dead – Long Live the Dudenhoeffer Presumption

July 17, 2014

by: Brian Berglund and Jeffrey Russell

On June 25, 2014, a unanimous United States Supreme Court weighed in on the legal standards applicable in stock drop cases in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer.

Facts. Beginning in 2007, Fifth Third Bank began experiencing a large number of mishaps, most of them associated with borrowers not repaying their loans when due. As a result, Fifth Third’s stock price suffered the same phenomenon as that of virtually every other publicly traded financial institution in the world during the great recession: it dropped precipitously, falling 74% from July 2007 to September 2009. With the benefit of hindsight, plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the fiduciaries of the Fifth Third 401(k) Plan, alleging that all of this should have been patently obvious based on public and nonpublic information allegedly possessed by the fiduciaries. The plaintiffs asserted that the fiduciaries should have taken one or more of

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SEC Releases Letter Clarifying Application of Section 402 of Sarbanes-Oxley Act

April 10, 2013

Authors

Richard Arenburg

SEC Releases Letter Clarifying Application of Section 402 of Sarbanes-Oxley Act

April 10, 2013

by: Richard Arenburg

Last month the SEC issued a no-action letter to a financial services firm that sheds light on the scope of the prohibition under Section 402 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 which makes it unlawful for an issuer to “extend or maintain credit, to arrange for the extension of credit, or to renew an extension of credit, in the form of a personal loan to or for any director or any executive officer . . . of that issuer.” 

Historically, the SEC appears to have been reluctant to issue formal guidance respecting the parameters of the loan prohibition under Section 402.  Common arrangements left in limbo by this lack of regulatory guidance extend to personal use of company credit cards, personal use of company cars, travel-related advances, and broker-assisted option exercises. 

The SEC’s no-action letter was issued to RingsEnd Partners, a financial services firm.  The letter addresses a program established

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Executive Compensation – 2012 Year-End Compliance and 2013 Planning

November 8, 2012

Authors

benefitsbclp

Executive Compensation – 2012 Year-End Compliance and 2013 Planning

November 8, 2012

by: benefitsbclp

It’s that time of year again!  Time to ensure year-end executive compensation deadlines are satisfied and time to plan ahead for 2013.  Below is a checklist of selected executive compensation topics designed to help employers with this process.

I.       2012 Year-End Compliance and Deadlines

□      Section 409A – Amendment Deadline for Payments Triggered by Date Employee Signs a Release

It is fairly common for an employer to condition eligibility for severance pay on the release of all employment claims by the employee.  Many of these arrangements include impermissible employee discretion in violation of Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code because the employee can accelerate or delay the receipt of severance pay by deciding when to sign and submit the release.  IRS Notice 2010-6 (as modified by IRS Notice 2010-80), includes transition relief until December 31, 2012 to make corrective amendments to

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Proposed Changes to ISS Proxy Voting Policies

October 30, 2012

Authors

Serena Yee and Brian Berglund

Proposed Changes to ISS Proxy Voting Policies

October 30, 2012

by: Serena Yee and Brian Berglund

On October 16, 2012, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) issued for comment several proposed proxy voting policy changes.  The following would affect U.S. public companies:

Board Matters

Current Policy: Recommend vote against or withhold votes from the entire board (except new nominees, who are considered case-by-case) if the board failed to act on a shareholder proposal that received the support of either (i) a majority of shares outstanding in the previous year; or (ii) a majority of shares cast in the last year and one of the two previous years.

Proposed Policy: Recommend votes against or withhold votes from the entire board (with new nominees considered case-by-case) if it fails to act on any proposal that received the support of a majority of shares cast in the previous year.

The proposed change is intended to increase board accountability. ISS is specifically seeking feedback as to whether there are specific circumstances where

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Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS ACT) Contains Executive Compensation Provisions

April 5, 2012

Authors

benefitsbclp

Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS ACT) Contains Executive Compensation Provisions

April 5, 2012

by: benefitsbclp

Update (2:45 PM): As expected, President Obama has signed the JOBS Act into law.

The JOBS Act is expected to be signed by President Obama today. According to the Act, it is intended:

To increase American job creation and economic growth by improving access to the public capital markets for emerging growth companies.

The Act includes provisions relating to crowdfunding, access to capital markets, exemptions to encourage small company capital formation, increased private company shareholder threshold for registration, and reduced public company compliance and disclosure burdens for “emerging growth companies.”

In addition, Title I of the Act “ Reopening American Capital Markets to Emerging Growth Companies,” includes changes to executive compensation disclosure requirements for emerging growth companies.

Emerging Growth Company. An emerging growth company means a company with total annual gross revenues of less than $1 billion (indexed for inflation). Only companies with an IPO after

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