On October 8, 2023, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 54 (the “VC Diversity Law”) requiring “venture capital companies” with business ties to California to file annual reports detailing (1) specified demographic data for the founding teams of all portfolio companies invested in during the prior year and (2) the aggregate amounts of investments made by the venture capital company during the prior year and investments in specified categories of portfolio companies. Demographic data must be obtained through voluntary surveys sent to each founding team member of a portfolio company that receives funding from the venture capital company. The data, in anonymized form, will be publicly available – and searchable and downloadable – on the California Civil Rights Department’s website. The VC Diversity Law is stunning both in its scope and its plain objective to impose State-level requirements that go beyond Federal requirements. And this at a time when the Securities and Exchange Commission has exponentially increased those Federal requirements.Continue Reading California Adds To Private Fund Adviser Woes; Adopts New Diversity Reporting for Venture Capital Funds
On September 25, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced settled cease-and-desist charges against GTT Communications, Inc. (“GTT”), a formerly publicly-traded multinational telecommunications and internet service provider company. The SEC charged GTT with failing to disclose material information regarding unsupported accounting adjustments, which caused the company’s statements to be misleading with respect to its cost of revenue. Continue Reading SEC No-Penalty Settlement Signals Heightened Focus on Self-Reporting and Cooperation
On July 26, 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC” or “Commission”) adopted rules to enhance and standardize disclosure requirements related to cybersecurity incident reporting and cybersecurity risk management, strategy, and governance.Continue Reading New SEC Disclosure Rules for Cybersecurity Incidents and Governance and Key Takeaways
On July 26, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control jointly issued a compliance note summarizing voluntary self-disclosure policies applicable to U.S. sanctions, export controls, and other national security laws.
On June 8th, the SEC Division of Examinations (the “Division”) published a risk alert expanding the areas of focus for its ongoing examination sweep of compliance with Rule 206(4)-1 (the “Marketing Rule”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”). The Division announced its initial focus areas in a September 2022 risk alert, covering (1) policies and procedures, (2) substantiation, (3) performance advertising and (4) books and records. It has not yet released any observations from the sweep, nor has there been guidance on the Marketing Rule’s requirements from the Division of Investment Management. This risk alert’s addition of the “general prohibitions” to the sweep’s focus areas could signal the staff’s intent to issue deficiencies for violations of the broad and undefined “fair and balanced” and “materially misleading” standards. The risk alert also adds, as expected, endorsements and testimonials to the areas of focus, which is likely an unwelcome addition for advisers having difficult negotiations with placement agents over those requirements.Continue Reading SEC Expands the Scope of Its Marketing Rule Examination Sweep – But Still No Guidance
On February 22, 2023, the Department of Justice announced a new corporate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Policy for U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide (the “USAO Policy”).Continue Reading U.S. Attorney’s Offices Issue Nationwide Corporate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Policy
On June 13, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged three Charles Schwab investment adviser subsidiaries—Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Charles Schwab Investment Advisory, Inc. (“CSIA”); and Schwab Wealth Investment Advisory, Inc. (“SWIA,” and together with Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. and CSIA, “Charles Schwab”)—with violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 for alleged misconduct associated with its robo-advisor, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios (“SIP”). Unlike most other robo-advisers, Charles Schwab did not charge an advisory fee for the SIP service. However, Charles Schwab required its SIP clients to hold pre-set amounts of cash—rather than investing in equities under market conditions where equities were outperforming cash—that was then loaned out by Charles Schwab Bank at higher interest rates than it paid to the SIP clients, resulting in a profitable spread for Charles Schwab and the equivalent of a hidden fee for its clients, since holding cash lowered their returns. Charles Schwab was ordered to pay almost $46 million in disgorgement, more than $5 million in prejudgment interest, and $135 million as a civil penalty. The $187 million in total sanctions will be returned to investors. Charles Schwab also agreed to an independent consultant to conduct a “comprehensive review” of its compliance policies, and agreed to provide ongoing cooperation to the SEC in an unusual provision—a sign that there may be additional charges yet to come.
Continue Reading SEC Brings Robo-Adviser Case Against Charles Schwab for Misleading Clients About Hidden Costs
On January 24, 2022, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler gave a speech at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Annual Securities Regulation Institute signaling the SEC’s intention to step up its cyber-related regulatory and enforcement efforts. Gensler described the continued rise in cybersecurity incidents targeting the financial sector as a serious threat to the nation’s economy and critical infrastructure, with costs potentially in the trillions of dollars.
Continue Reading SEC Chair Previews Ramp Up in Regulation and Enforcement in the Cybersecurity Context
On April 29, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced settled charges against eight public companies that filed notifications of late filings on Form 12b-25 (more commonly known as “Form NT”) without disclosing in those filings a pending restatement or correction of financial statements.
These settlements are a reminder that filing a Form…
Last week, John Coates, the Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp Fin”), released a statement discussing liability risks in de-SPAC transactions.
The statement focused in particular on the concern that companies may be providing overly optimistic projections in their de-SPAC disclosures, in part based on the assumption that such disclosures are protected by a statutory safe harbor for forward-looking statements (which is not available for traditional IPOs). Director Coates’s statement questions whether that assumption is correct, arguing that de-SPAC transactions may be considered IPOs for the purposes of the statute (and thus fall outside the protection offered by the statutory safe harbor). He therefore encourages SPACs to exercise caution in disclosing projections, including by not withholding unfavorable projections while disclosing more favorable projections.
Continue Reading Acting Director of SEC’s Corp Fin Issues Statement on Disclosure Risks Arising from De-SPAC Transactions