Financial Regulatory Forum

New U.S. court rulings may add to costs, risks of finance industry regulatory enforcement

By Stuart Gittleman

NEW YORK, June 26 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Two court rulings last week may raise the enforcement burden for the financial services industry and its regulators.

A Brooklyn federal judge suggested that for regulatory targets of the Securities and Exchange Commission, forcing the agency to take them to court could end up costing less than settling before litigation is begun, depending on legal fees and other considerations, because its ability to seek compensation in court is limited. (more…)

Offshore U.S. oversight of derivatives may bolster defenses against JPMorgan-type losses

By Nick Paraskeva

NEW YORK, May 29 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – U.S. regulators are looking to use new their oversight authority over foreign derivatives trades to reduce the chances of new shocks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co’s trading loss of at least $2 billion.

Pointing out that JPMorgan’s money-losing trades on a credit default swap index were conducted in a London unit, similar to recent failures at AIG and Lehman Brothers, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said implementation of Dodd-Frank regulatory reform rules would improve supervision of such activity in the future by expanding cross-border oversight. (more…)

Corporate investigations are getting riskier and more difficult, experts say

By Stuart Gittleman

NEW YORK, May 29 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - U.S. corporate officers and directors are increasingly concerned over the business and legal challenges their entities face from potential securities enforcement and criminal probes, lawyers and corporate officers are saying.

A program last week analyzed how directors, executives and corporate counsel can appropriately manage the business and legal risks of an enforcement proceeding arising from earnings misstatements or employee misconduct at both low and high levels.  (more…)

Road shows, analysts and jumping the gun: the Facebook IPO

By Helen Parry, additional reporting by Julie Dimauro

LONDON/NEW YORK, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Facebook’s chaotic initial public offering has sparked much speculation and legal action based on the idea that securities laws and regulations over disclosure may have been breached, which would leave Facebook and others involved in the offering process liable to potential regulatory enforcement or civil liability for losses caused to investors.

An analyst at lead underwriter Morgan Stanley cut his revenue forecasts for Facebook in the days before the offering, information that may not have reached many investors before the stock was listed, Reuters has reported. (more…)

IA brief: State regulator’s deficiency letter offers clues for social-media policies

By Jason Wallace

NEW YORK, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – A state regulator’s letter to an investment advisory firm outlining shortcomings in the firm’s use of social media also gives an early clue to how regulators will scrutinize the financial industry’s growing use of services like Facebook and LinkedIn.

The “exam deficiency” letter was provided by a source familiar with the case to Thomson Reuters on the grounds that neither the source nor the target of the letter be identified. Such letters, which specify areas in which a firm’s regulatory compliance falls short, are issued by a regulator after an examination of a firm. (more…)

Client funds, net capital among hot topics for SEC 2012 exam program

By Nick Paraskeva, Thomson Reuters Accelus contributing author

NEW YORK, May 18 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) –  The SEC has new priorities in its 2012 exam program, including verifying firms’ holding of client funds and their net capital calculations.

The changes follow the collapse of MF Global, which revealed that client funds were missing despite regulations requiring that they be segregated. The revisions also reflect top findings found during the 2011 exam program, and follow major reforms to the SEC’s exam office. (more…)

Foreign bribery fines and settlements: who should get the money?

By Luke Balleny

NEW YORK, May 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – ‘Share and share alike,’ some parents love to tell their offspring. But when it comes to fines or settlements from foreign bribery cases, the issue of sharing is a contentious one.

The U.S. government receives all proceeds from fines or settlements that companies pay it in connection with violations, or alleged violations, of U.S. anti-bribery laws. (more…)

Negligence charges gain clout in SEC enforcement arsenal

By Julie DiMauro

BOSTON/NEW YORK, May 9 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Financial services firms may face more negligence cases brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, reflecting a greater willingness by the commission to base charges on negligence findings, industry professionals were told at a Thomson Reuters forum.

“What we are seeing is a willingness to actively go out and charge negligence,” Ian Roffman, a partner at Nutter, McClennen & Fish LLP, told compliance officers and others in a panel discussion on SEC enforcement hosted by the Thomson Reuters Governance, Compliance and Risk division.  (more…)

U.S. compliance officers need clarity on status as ‘supervisors,’ industry professionals say

By Stuart Gittleman

NEW YORK, May 8 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s dismissal of failure-to-supervise proceedings against a broker-dealer’s general counsel did little to ease compliance officers’ concerns over their potential for acting in a supervisory capacity, according to leading industry professionals.

In January the SEC in a one-one split dismissed charges against the lawyer, Theodore Urban, for failing to prevent, detect and stop a stock fraud conducted by a registered representative at the broker, Ferris Baker Watts, and a customer of the firm. (more…)

The U.S. JOBS Act and non-U.S. companies: changes to the offering process and compliance challenges

By Robert Evans, Thomson Reuters Accelus contributing author

NEW YORK, May 8 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – In April 2012, the U.S. securities laws changed significantly with the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, also known as the JOBS Act. The JOBS Act is deregulatory, easing some of the rules for companies seeking to access the U.S. capital markets. The offering process for SEC-registered IPOs is changing as a result and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission staff is working on further rule changes. Publicity restrictions will be eased for private placements and Rule 144A offerings. Offerings of up to $50 million will be exempted from registration. These changes pose interesting compliance challenges.

NON-U.S. COMPANIES ACCESSING U.S. CAPITAL MARKETS

Non-U.S. companies accessing the public U.S. equity capital markets for the first time after December 8, 2011 may benefit from the JOBS Act changes. To qualify, a company must have annual revenues of less than $1 billion. Issuers in this new category are called emerging growth companies (EGCs). The most significant changes to the securities offering process for EGCs include:

    Communications: A company making a public offering in the United States and its underwriters are strictly limited by the U.S. Securities Act of 1933 in their ability to communicate about the offering. No offers, written or oral, are permitted before a registration statement is filed with the SEC. Only oral offers, or offers made with a compliant prospectus, are permitted after filing but before the registration statement is declared effective. Under the JOBS Act, EGCs, directly or through representatives they authorize, may now test the waters with qualified institutional buyers (QIBs) and institutional accredited investors (IAIs). That is, without violating the pre-filing and waiting period restrictions, they may communicate with those potential investors to gauge whether they might be interested in an SEC-registered securities offering. EGCs and underwriters that test the waters remain subject to potential securities law liability for those communications, including for any material misstatement or omission. As a result, issuers and investment banks are likely to be cautious in testing the waters. Communications will be oral (which can include use of slides or flip books that are not left with investors). If written materials are used, they will likely be limited to information from the registration statement. Because the JOBS Act creates a limited carve-out to the Securities Act restrictions on communication, there will be compliance challenges. For example, market participants will need to ensure that testing the waters communications are limited to QIBs and IAIs and only used in offerings by EGCs. Also, investors may have to agree to treat information confidentially to avoid market abuse and selective disclosure concerns. Confidential submission of registration statements: In December 2011, the SEC staff severely limited access to confidential submission of registration statements, which had been available to all first time non-U.S. issuers that qualified as foreign private issuers. The JOBS Act gives that access back to issuers that qualify as EGCs prior to pricing of their first SEC-registered sale of equity securities. EGCs are required to include the initial confidential submission and all confidentially submitted amendments as exhibits to a publicly filed registration statement no later than 21 days before the road show. The December 2011 SEC staff policy still allows some non-U.S. issuers to confidentially submit draft registration statements if they meet the conditions outlined in the policy and either are not EGCs or do not take advantage of any benefit available to EGCs. Draft registration statements submitted confidentially must be substantially complete at the time of initial submission, including exhibits and a signed audit report covering the fiscal years presented in the registration statement. Financial statements and selected financial data: An EGC need only provide two years of audited financial statements in its initial public offering of common equity securities registered with the SEC, rather than the three years that are generally required. Instead of five years of selected financial data, an EGC need only present selected financial data for periods beginning with the earliest audited period presented in its IPO registration statement. Although the JOBS Act only refers to the disclosure rules for U.S. domestic issuers, EGC foreign private issuers may follow these reduced disclosure requirements. Research reports: The JOBS Act makes it easier for investment banks to write research reports about EGCs. Pre- JOBS Act and under the current rules for non-EGCs, underwriters in an IPO cannot publish research in advance of the IPO or during a 40-day quiet period after pricing and may not publish research for 15 days before and after the release or expiration of any lock-up agreement. There are also restrictions limiting contact between bankers and research analysts designed to separate investment banking from research in investment banks.

The JOBS Act:

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