Exclusive Study Analyzes 2014 IPOs – Initial Public Offerings

Proskauer Rose LLP, Law Firm

Proskauer’s Global Capital Markets Group has just released its second annual IPO Study, the group’s analysis of U.S.-listed initial public offerings in 2014 and identification of year-over-year comparisons and trends. As with last year’s first edition, it yields a number of noteworthy observations and insights.

The study examines data from 119 U.S.-listed 2014 IPOs with a minimum deal size of $50 million, and also includes separate industry sections on health care; technology, media and telecommunications; energy & power; financial services; industrials; and consumer/retail. This edition expands on last year’s to include an appendix focusing on foreign private issuers, as 2014 experienced a meaningful return of IPO issuers from Europe and Asia. It also makes year-over-year comparisons of extensive data about deal structures and terms, SEC comments and timing, financial profiles, accounting disclosures, corporate governance and deal expenses.

Underlying the study is the proprietary IPO database that we created for the first edition and have subsequently expanded and enhanced, a valuable resource for sponsors and companies considering an IPO as well as for IPO market participants and their advisors.

Download Proskauer’s 2015 IPO Study

ARTICLE BY

Taking Control of Cybersecurity: A Practical Guide for Officers and Directors

Foley and Lardner LLP

Major cybersecurity attacks of increased sophistication — and calculated to maximize the reputational and financial damage caused to the corporate targets — are now commonplace. These attacks have catapulted cybersecurity to a top priority for senior executives and board members.

To help these decision makers get their arms around cybersecurity issues, Foley Partners Chanley T. Howell, Michael R. Overly, and James R. Kalyvas have published a comprehensive white paper entitled: Taking Control of Cybersecurity — A Practical Guide for Officers and Directors.

The white paper describes very practical steps that officers and directors should ensure are in place or will be in place in their organizations to prevent or respond to data security attacks, and to mitigate the resulting legal and reputational risks from a cyber-attack. The authors provide a blueprint for managing information security and complying with the evolving standard of care. Checklists for each key element of cybersecurity compliance and a successful risk management program are included.

Excerpt From Taking Control of Cybersecurity: A Practical Guide for Officers and Directors

Sony, Target, Westinghouse, Home Depot, U.S. Steel, Neiman Marcus, and the National Security Agency (NSA). The security breaches suffered by these and many other organizations, including most recently the consolidated attacks on banks around the world, combined with an 80 percent increase in attacks in just the last 12 months, have catapulted cybersecurity to the top of the list of priorities and responsibilities for senior executives and board members.

The devastating effects that a security breach can have on an enterprise, coupled with the bright global spotlight on the issue, have forever removed responsibility for data security from the sole province of the IT department and CIO. While most in leadership positions today recognize the elevated importance of data security risks in their organization, few understand what action should be taken to address these risks. This white paper explains and demystifies cybersecurity for senior management and directors by identifying the steps enterprises must take to address, mitigate, and respond to the risks associated with data security.

Officers and Directors are Under a Legal Obligation to Involve Themselves in Information Security

The corporate laws of every state impose fiduciary obligations on all officers and directors. Courts will not second-guess decisions by officers and directors made in good faith with reasonable care and inquiry. To fulfill that obligation, officers and directors must assume an active role in establishing correct governance, management, and culture for addressing security in their organizations.

Download This White Paper

ARTICLE BY

Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Litigation Heating Up

Barnes Thornburg

The past few months have been busy for courts and the SEC dealing with securities whistleblowers. The Supreme Court’s potentially landmark decision in Lawson v. FMR LLC back in March already seems like almost ancient history.  In that decision, the Supreme Court concluded that Sarbanes-Oxley’s whistleblower protection provision (18 U.S.C. §1514A) protected not simply employees of public companies but also employees of private contractors and subcontractors, like law firms, accounting firms, and the like, who worked for public companies. (And according to Justice Sotomayor’s dissent, it might even extend to housekeepers and gardeners of employees of public companies).

Since then, a lot has happened in the world of whistleblowers. Much of the activity has focused on Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower-protection provisions, rather than Sarbanes-Oxley. This may be because Dodd-Frank has greater financial incentives for plaintiffs, or because some courts have concluded that it does not require an employee to report first to an enforcement agency. The following are some interesting developments:

What is a “whistleblower” under Dodd-Frank?

This seemingly straightforward question has generated a number of opinions from courts and the SEC. The Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower-protection provision, enacted in 2010, focuses on a potentially different “whistleblower” population than Sarbanes-Oxley does. Sarbanes-Oxley’s provision focuses particularly on whistleblower disclosures regarding certain enumerated activities (securities fraud, bank fraud, mail or wire fraud, or any violation of an SEC rule or regulation), and it protects those who disclose to a person with supervisory authority over the employee, or to the SEC, or to Congress.

On the other hand, Dodd-Frank’s provision (15 U.S.C. §78u-6 or Section 21F) defines a “whistleblower” as “any individual who provides . . . information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the Commission.”  15 U.S.C. §78u-6(a)(6).  It then prohibits, and provides a private cause of action for, adverse employment actions against a whistleblower for acts done by him or her in “provid[ing] information to the Commission,” “initiat[ing], testif[ing] in, or assist[ing] in” any investigation or action of the Commission, or in making disclosures required or protected under Sarbanes-Oxley, the Exchange Act or the Commission’s rules.  15 U.S.C. §78u-6(h)(1). A textual reading of these provisions suggests that a “whistleblower” has to provide information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the SEC.  If the whistleblower does so, an employer cannot discriminate against the whistleblower for engaging in those protected actions.

However, after the passage of Dodd-Frank, the SEC promulgated rules explicating its interpretation of Section 21F. Some of these rules might require providing information to the SEC, but others could be construed more broadly to encompass those who simply report internally or report to some other entity.  Compare Rule 21F-2(a)(1), (b)(1), and (c)(3), 17 C.F.R. §240.21F-2(a)(1), (b)(1), and (c)(3). The SEC’s comments to these rules also said that they apply to “individuals who report to persons or governmental authorities other than the Commission.”

Therefore, one issue beginning to percolate up to the appellate courts is whether Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provisions consider someone who reports alleged misconduct to their employers or other entities, but not the SEC, to be a “whistleblower.” The only circuit court to have squarely addressed the issue (the Fifth Circuit in Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA) LLC) concluded that Dodd-Frank’s provision only applies to those who actually provide information to the SEC.

In doing so, the Fifth Circuit relied heavily on the “plain language and structure” of the statutory text, concluding that it unambiguously required the employee to provide information to the SEC.  Several district courts, including in Colorado, Florida and the Northern District of California, have concurred with this analysis.

More, however, have concluded that Dodd-Frank is ambiguous on this point and therefore have given Chevrondeference to the SEC’s interpretation as set forth in its own regulations. District courts, including in the Southern District of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Connecticut, have adopted this view. The SEC has also weighed in, arguing (in an amicus brief to the Second Circuit) that whistleblowers should be entitled to protection regardless of whether they disclose to their employers or the SEC.  The agency said that Asadi was wrongly decided and, under its view, employees that report internally should get the same protections that those who report to the SEC receive. The Second Circuit’s decision in that case (Liu v. Siemens AG) did not address this issue at all.

Finally, last week, the Eighth Circuit also decided not to take on this question. It opted not to hear an interlocutory appeal, in Bussing v. COR Securities Holdings Inc., in which an employee at a securities clearing firm provided information about possible FINRA violations to her employer and to FINRA, rather than the SEC, and was allegedly fired for it. The district court concluded that the fact that she failed to report to the SEC did not exclude her from the whistleblower protections under Dodd-Frank. It reasoned that Congress did not intend, in enacting Dodd-Frank, to encourage employees to circumvent internal reporting channels in order to obtain the protections of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protection.  In doing so, however, the district court did not conclude that the statute was ambiguous and rely on the SEC’s interpretation.

A related question is what must an employee report to be a “whistleblower” under Dodd-Frank. Thus far, if a whistleblower reports something other than a violation of the securities laws, that is not protected. So, for example, an alleged TILA violation or an alleged violation of certain banking laws have been found to be not protected.

These issues will take time to shake out. While more courts thus far have adopted, or ruled consistently with, the SEC’s interpretation, as the Florida district court stated, “[t]he fact that numerous courts have interpreted the same statutory language differently does not render the statute ambiguous.”

Does Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protection apply extraterritorially?

In August, the Second Circuit decided Liu. Rather than focus on who can be a whistleblower, the Court concluded that Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower-protection provisions do not apply to conduct occurring exclusively extraterritorially. In Liu, a former Siemens employee alleged that he was terminated for reporting alleged violations of the FCPA at a Siemens subsidiary in China.  The Second Circuit relied extensively on the Supreme Court’s Morrison v. Nat’l Aust. Bank case in reaching its decision. In Morrison, the Court reaffirmed the presumption that federal statutes do not apply extraterritorially absent clear direction from Congress.

The Second Circuit in Liu, despite Liu’s argument that other Dodd-Frank provisions applied extraterritorially and SEC regulations interpreting the whistleblower provisions at least suggested that the bounty provisions applied extraterritorially, disag
reed. The court concluded that it need not defer to the SEC’s interpretation of who can be a whistleblower because it believed that Section 21F was not ambiguous.  It also concluded that the anti-retaliation provisions would be more burdensome if applied outside the country than the bounty provisions, so it did not feel the need to construe the two different aspects of the whistleblower provisions identically.  And finally, the SEC , in its amicus brief, did not address either the extraterritorial reach of the provisions or Morrison, so the Second Circuit apparently felt no need to defer to the agency’s view on extraterritoriality.

Liu involved facts that occurred entirely extraterritorially. He was a foreign worker employed abroad by a foreign corporation, where the alleged wrongdoing, the alleged disclosures, and the alleged discrimination all occurred abroad. Whether adding some domestic connection changes this result remains for future courts to consider.

The SEC’s Use Of The Anti-Retaliation Provision In An Enforcement Action

In June, the SEC filed, and settled, its first Dodd-Frank anti-retaliation enforcement action. The Commission filed an action against Paradigm Capital Management, Inc., and its principal Candace Weir, asserting that they retaliated against a Paradigm employee who reported certain principal transactions, prohibited under the Investment Advisers Act, to the SEC. Notably, that alleged retaliation did not include terminating the whistleblower’s employment or diminishing his compensation; it did, however, include removing him as the firm’s head trader, reconfiguring his job responsibilities and stripping him of supervisory responsibility. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, both respondents agreed to cease and desist from committing any future Exchange Act violations, retain an independent compliance consultant, and pay $2.2 million in fines and penalties.  This matter marks the first time the Commission has asserted Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions in an enforcement action, rather than a private party doing so in civil litigation.

The SEC Announces Several Interesting Dodd-Frank Bounties

Under Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers who provide the SEC with “high-quality,” “original” information that leads to an enforcement action netting over $1 million in sanctions can receive an award of 10-30 percent of the amount collected. The SEC recently awarded bounties to whistleblowers in circumstances suggesting the agency wants to encourage a broad range of whistleblowers with credible, inside information.

In July, the agency awarded more than $400,000 to a whistleblower who appears not to have provided his information to the SEC voluntarily.  Instead, the whistleblower had attempted to encourage his employer to correct various compliance issues internally. Those efforts apparently resulted in a third-party apprising an SRO of the employer’s issues and the whistleblower’s efforts to correct them. The SEC’s subsequent follow-up on the SRO’s inquiry resulted in the enforcement action. Even though the “whistleblower” did not initiate communication with the SEC about these compliance issues, for his efforts, the agency nonetheless awarded him a bounty.

Then, just recently, the SEC announced its first whistleblower award to a company employee who performed audit and compliance functions. The agency awarded the compliance staffer more than $300,000 after the employee first reported wrongdoing internally, and then, when the company failed to take remedial action after 120 days, reported the activity to the SEC. Compliance personnel, unlike most employees, generally have a waiting period before they can report out, unless they have a reasonable basis to believe investors or the company have a substantial risk of harm.

With a statute as sprawling as Dodd-Frank, and potentially significant bounty awards at stake, opinions interpreting Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower provisions are bound to proliferate. Check back soon for further developments.

 
ARTICLE BY

 
OF 

Accepting on-site registration for 14th Annual SuperConference from InsideCounsel

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming 14th Annual Super Conference hosted by Inside Counsel. You can still register on-site!

Now offering an exclusive National Law Review discount until May 12. Register HERE.
IC Superconference 2014

When

Monday, May 12 – Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where

Chicago, IL

The annual InsideCounsel SuperConference, for the past 13 years, has offered the highest value for educational investment within a constructive learning and networking environment. Legal professionals will gain the opportunity to elevate the quality of their performance and learn ways to become a strategic partner within his/her organization. In two-and-half days attendees earn CLE credits, network with hundreds of peers and legal service providers and hear strategies to tackle corporate legal issues that are top of mind throughout this comprehensive program. SuperConference is presented by InsideCounsel magazine, published by Summit Professional Networks.

Now celebrating its 14th year, InsideCounsel’s SuperConference is an exclusive corporate legal conference attracting more than 500 senior level in-house counsels from Fortune-1000 and multi-national companies. The three-day event offers opportunities to showcase your firm’s industry knowledge and thought leadership while interacting with GC’s and other senior corporate counsel during exclusive networking and educational opportunities. The conference agenda offers the perfect blend of experts and national figure heads from some of the nation’s largest corporations, top law firms, government and regulatory leaders, and industry trailblazers. The conference agenda and educational program receives consistent high marks.

Risky Business: Target Discloses Data Breach and New Risk Factors in 8-K Filing… Kind Of

MintzLogo2010_Black

After Target Corporation’s (NYSE: TGT) net earnings dropped 46% in its fourth quarter compared to the same period last year, Target finally answered the 441 million dollar question – To 8-K, or not to 8-K?  Target filed its much anticipated Current Report on Form 8-K on February 26th, just over two months after it discovered its massive data breach.

In its 9-page filing, Target included two introductory sentences relating to disclosure of the breach under Item 8.01 – Other Events:

During the fourth quarter of 2013, we experienced a data breach in which certain payment card and other guest information was stolen through unauthorized access to our network. Throughout the Risk Factors in this report, this incident is referred to as the ‘2013 data breach’.

Target then buried three new risk factors that directly discussed the breach apparently at random within a total of 18 new risk factors that covered a variety of topics ranging from natural disasters to income taxes.  Appearing in multiple risk factors throughout the 8-K were the following:

  • The data breach we experienced in 2013 has resulted in government inquiries and private litigation, and if our efforts to protect the security of personal information about our guests and team members are unsuccessful, future issues may result in additional costly government enforcement actions and private litigation and our sales and reputation could suffer.
  • A significant disruption in our computer systems and our inability to adequately maintain and update those systems could adversely affect our operations and our ability to maintain guest confidence.
  • We experienced a significant data security breach in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 and are not yet able to determine the full extent of its impact and the impact of government investigations and private litigation on our results of operations, which could be material.

An interesting and atypically relevant part of Target’s 8-K is the “Date of earliest event reported” on its 8-K cover page.  Although Target disclosed its fourth quarter 2013 breach under Item 8.01, Target still listed February 26, 2014 as the date of the earliest event reported, which is the date of the 8-K filing and corresponding press release disclosing Target’s financial results.  One can only imagine that this usually benign date on Target’s 8-K was deliberated over for hours by expensive securities lawyers, and that using the February earnings release date instead of the December breach date was nothing short of deliberate.  Likely one more subtle way to shift the market’s focus away from the two-month old data breach and instead bury the disclosure within a standard results of operations 8-K filing and 15 non-breach related risk factors.

To Target’s credit, its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended on February 1, 2014, and Target’s fourth quarter included the entirety of the period during and after the breach through February 1.  Keeping that in mind, Target may not have had a full picture of how the breach affected its earnings in the fourth quarter until it prepared its fourth quarter and year-end financial statements this month.  Maybe the relevant “Date of earliest event” was the date on which Target was able to fully appreciate the effects of the breach, which occurred on the day that it finalized and released its earnings on February 26.  But maybe not.

Whatever the case may be, Target’s long awaited 8-K filing is likely only a short teaser of the disclosure that should be included in Target’s upcoming Form 10-K filing.

Article by:

Adam M. Veness

Of:

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

Consent Isn’t the Only Consideration: NY Comic Con Attendees Disagree that Hijacking Twitter Accounts Makes the Event “100x cooler! For realz.”

MintzLogo2010_Black

The comic book industry is no stranger to displays of heroic anger and berserker rage, but over the weekend New York Comic Con (NYCC) was on the receiving end of considerable fan fury after it began ghostwriting effusive tweets about NYCC and posting on the Twitter pages of NYCC attendees in a way that made it appear as though the attendee was the author of the tweet.

During the event registration process, NYCC attendees were given the option of linking RFID badges to their Twitter account through the event’s mobile application interface.  During the application registration process, attendees were asked to authorize NYCC to access their Twitter accounts.  At this point, attendees arguably consented to having NYCC impersonate the attendee when posting about NYCC on the attendee’s Twitter feed.

The NYCC website page explaining the ID badge technology and the site’s registration page did not mention that NYCC would be posting to attendee Twitter pages on the attendee’s behalf.  Rather, the registration process is explained as a method for giving the attendee access to enhanced social media content, while helping NYCC protect against fraudulent credentials.  The activation terms provided that NYCC could use the information collected through the badge “for internal purposes” and to contact the user about future events.  After a user registered his or her badge and elected to link a Twitter account, the user was presented with an opt-in notice (a screenshot of which can be seenhere), specifying that following authorization, the application would be able to, among other things, “post Tweets for you”.  This type of warning is not uncommon.  For example, any website that allows users to click to share news articles or stories on their Twitter pages requires this type of access.

In spite of the opt-in warning, the wide-spread surprise among attendees suggests that the opt-in language did not draw a clear distinction between posting tweets for a user and posting tweets as a user.  Moreover, the failure to mention this practice when explaining the registration process could have led attendees to conclude that even if they were agreeing to provide this type of access, NYCC would not be taking the unusual step of pretending to be the attendee when it published tweets on the user’s page.

NYCC’s initial response was a brief tweet telling attendees not to “fret” over the ghostwritten posts and informing attendees that the “opt-in feature” had been disabled.  However, after anger continued to spread, NYCC issued a longer statement apologizing for any “perceived overstep.”

This type of disconnect between online service providers and users is becoming increasingly common as advances in technology permit mobile device and social media data to be accessed and used in new ways.  Earlier this year, for example, Jay-Z and Samsung stepped into a public relations debacle when the “JAY Z Magna Carta” mobile application required that the user, in exchange for receiving a free music download, authorize the application to have extensive access to phone data and social media accounts. The response from NYCC attendees also underscores the lesson learned by Googleearlier this month, that consent provided by users who do not fully understand what they are consenting to may not be consent at all.

As your online business finds new and innovative ways to deliver products and services to your users, it is important to take a step back and consider whether additional communications in different formats, such as just-in-time notifications, are necessary to ensure that the only surprise your customers have is how great your products and services are.   Or, to put it another way, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Article By:

 of

Cyber Security Summit – October 22-23, 2013

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming Cyber Security Summit.

cyber security

When:

Where: