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

On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $507,375 settlement with BitPay, Inc. (BitPay), a payment processor for merchants accepting digital currency as payment for goods and services, for 2,102 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs between 2013 and 2018.[1] The settlement highlights that financial service providers facilitating digital currency transactions must not only establish sanctions compliance programs to screen their own customers but also must monitor third-party non-customer transaction information.
Continue Reading OFAC Settles with Digital Currency Payment Processor for Sanctions Violations

In recent years, the international tax system has experienced significant change as tax authorities across the globe have adopted and implemented new rules and procedures to respond to the new economy and perceptions of taxpayers arbitraging differences among jurisdictions.
Continue Reading Taxes: The Rules Continue to Change and Tax Authorities Focus on Enforcement

On the eve of the U.S. presidential election last week, the SEC Enforcement Division released its annual report for fiscal year 2020 (the “Report”), providing an overview of the Division’s enforcement figures, developments, and areas of focus in what Director Stephanie Avakian described as “the most challenging year in recent memory.”[1]  This past year has marked, together with the longest shutdown in government history the year prior, a challenging but reasonably productive time for the SEC’s enforcement program.  Just as last year’s report highlighted the Division’s struggles during the fiscal shutdown, the final annual report of the Clayton-led SEC focuses on the significant disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused to the Division’s operations, investigations, and priorities, including the suspension of testimony for several months, establishment of a Coronavirus Steering Committee, and redirection of resources toward COVID-related fraud.  This time around, however, the Division could not avoid a drop-off in the number of enforcement cases, which seems attributable at least in part to the pandemic and its profound impact on the SEC’s operations.
Continue Reading From Government Shutdown to COVID-19: SEC Enforcement Division Releases Final Chapter of Jay Clayton-led SEC

On September 17, 2020, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce gave a speech that focused on potential issues raised by investment advisers that—while purporting to follow environmental, social and governance (“ESG”)-labeled investment strategies—did not, in Commissioner Peirce’s words, “walk the ESG walk.”[1]  Her comments are the latest reminder that, while the SEC has continued to struggle with whether to mandate specific ESG disclosures, there seems to be consensus behind the SEC’s focus on determining whether advisers’ disclosures concerning ESG are sufficiently accurate and understandable.  Thus, asset managers would be well served to review and, where warranted, enhance their ESG-related disclosures and compliance policies in an area where the SEC’s Enforcement Division may well be looking to bring cases.
Continue Reading Despite Disagreements, SEC Commissioners Emphasize Need for Clear Disclosure by ESG Funds

On April 3, 2020, the SEC’s Chief Accountant, Sagar Teotia, issued a Statement on the Importance of High-Quality Financial Reporting in Light of the Significant Impacts of COVID-19 (the “OCA Statement”).  The OCA Statement emphasizes that while the SEC Office of the Chief Accountant (“OCA”) appreciates the challenging environment that companies and their auditors face in attempting to comply with their financial reporting obligations due to COVID-19[1], and will not second-guess their reasonable judgments, OCA expects financial reporting to continue to “provide investors with high-quality financial information.”  The OCA Statement also reaffirms OCA’s views on the importance of gatekeepers by pointing out the critical need for auditor independence in this uncertain economic environment.  In addition to this general theme, the OCA Statement contains several notable points that will have implications for companies in the current situation, both in preparing their financial statements, and in taking steps to mitigate litigation and enforcement risk.
Continue Reading SEC Chief Accountant Weighs in on Accounting Issues During the COVID-19 Outbreak