As of May 5, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has accompanied a precipitous descent in the domestic securities markets, followed by a surprisingly sharp rebound. Such volatility may well give rise to several different types of potential liability against companies and their officers and directors, including:
Securities fraud claims under the Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”).
Claims related to offerings of securities under the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”).
Claims under the various state securities claims, i.e., the “Blue Sky” laws.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) provided conditional regulatory relief to those public companies impacted by COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) with a 45-day extension to file certain SEC filings that would have been otherwise due between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020. The SEC announced today that it was modifying that prior relief to cover certain filings due on or before July 1, 2020. The SEC acknowledged that many companies’ operations continue to be significantly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which may result in difficulties for those companies to meet their applicable SEC filing deadlines. Continue reading “COVID-19 Causes Coverage”
On March 25, 2020, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance provided disclosure guidance to public companies to assist in the evaluation of a company’s disclosure obligations with respect to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic and related business and market disruptions.
While it may be difficult for companies to assess or predict the exact impact of COVID-19 on individual companies or entire industries, the SEC explained that a company may have obligations to disclose certain risks and effects to the extent material to investment and voting decisions. Such risks and effects include the impact of COVID-19 on the current state of a company’s operations, management expectations regarding its future effects, a company’s response to the evolving pandemic and operational plans to address such uncertainties. The SEC noted that disclosure of these risks and COVID-19-related effects may be necessary or appropriate in various sections of SEC filings, including, but not limited to, management’s discussion and analysis, the business section, risk factors, legal proceedings, disclosure controls and procedures, internal control over financial reporting, and a company’s financial statements. Continue reading “SEC Sets Course on COVID-19 Disclosure”
On March 13, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) published guidance to assist public companies, investment companies, shareholders and other market participants affected by COVID-19 in connection with their upcoming shareholder meetings. The SEC explained that this guidance was designed to allow these companies to continue to hold their meetings, including through the use of technology, and engage with shareholders under social distancing circumstances, while still complying with the federal securities laws.
Shareholder Meetings – The Impact of COVID-19 and the Natural Transition to Virtual Meetings
Generally, public companies and investment companies are required to hold annual meetings of security holders, with the federal securities laws requiring the delivery of proxy materials to the voting shareholders.Over the past few years, more and more companies have been transitioning to either complete “virtual” shareholder meetings or “hybrid” meetings, which avoid the need for in-person shareholder attendance. Continue reading “Shareholder Distancing”
On April 2, 2019, the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a no-action letter to TurnKey Jet, Inc. in connection with a proposed sale of tokens in the United States. It was the first no-action letter relating to cryptocurrencies and was widely heralded as a watershed event (e.g., “SEC Issues First ‘No-Action’ Letter Clearing ICO to Sell Tokens in US”) (see here).
But what does the SEC’s no-action letter really mean? First, a no-action letter is the SEC’s staff response to a request that the SEC not take enforcement action against the requestor based on the specific facts and circumstances set forth in the request. In most cases, the staff will not permit parties other than the requester to rely on the no-action letter. As was the case here, the staff’s response often is based in part on the legal opinion rendered by the requester’s lawyer that the proposed conduct is not a violation of the federal securities laws. Continue reading “SEC Issues First Cryptocurrency No-Action Letter – Where’s the Action?”
Last week, the President said that in his discussions with the business community on ways to improve the business ecosystem, one particular idea was raised as a means to bolster business: move to a six-month financial reporting calendar from the current quarterly one.
Now, there is an argument to be made for such a move. One could say this would help deter “short-termism,” seeing as how companies would no longer need to focus on meeting analyst expectations on a quarterly basis at the expense of longer term thinking (not to mention this would save businesses time and money). In addition, some executives view quarterly reporting as one of the hindrances to going public and/or maintaining public company status and, as a result, have already been advocating for changes to be made to the current reporting schedule. Continue reading “Will Semiannual Reporting Soon Be a Reality for Public Companies?”
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is keeping an eagle eye on EB-5 projects these days, as evidenced by a dramatic increase in the number of fraud cases the agency has filed in federal courthouses across the country. EB-5 refers to the type of visa the government issues to immigrants who invest large sums in U.S. commercial projects that create or maintain a minimum of 10 jobs.
After filing only one EB-5 fraud case in 2014 and two the year before, the SEC filed five EB-5 fraud cases in 2015 and another two so far this year. MSK’s Corporate & Business Transactions attorneys, who practice in this area of law, are noticing that most of these cases accuse issuers of EB-5 offerings of defrauding foreign investors by making misrepresentations in securities offering documents.
Not only does MSK assist clients in preparing EB-5 offering documents, we also defend issuers in SEC enforcement actions. MSK attorneys are currently representing the defendant in two high-profile EB-5 fraud cases, filed in 2015 and 2016We also counsel our clients on how to best conduct their EB-5 offerings and operate their EB-5 projects to comply with the law and avoid the SEC’s heightened scrutiny. Continue reading “Steps to Take Now to Avoid the EB-5 Dragnet”