Changes on Horizon for Equity Compensation Plans as ISS Issues New Draft Policy

Recent announcements by Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”), a proxy voting advisor, indicate that publicly held U.S. companies may need to consider implementing certain modifications to their equity compensation plans and grant practices.  Among other things, ISS provides its institutional investor clients with recommendations on how to vote on issuer proposals (such as the adoption of (or amendment to) equity compensation plans) that are submitted to the issuer’s shareholders for their approval.  So, the views of ISS typically are of relevance to most issuers.  Recently, ISS issued a couple of news releases that address various corporate governance topics but we focus in this article on compensation related items that were covered in the ISS releases.

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Reminder to Perform Annual ISO/ESPP Reporting in January 2014

As discussed in our December 16, 2010 blog article, the IRS issued final regulations in 2009 under Section 6039 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) that require Employers to annually furnish each employee who exercised incentive stock options (“ISOs”) or sold or otherwise transferred shares acquired under an employee stock purchase plan (“ESPP”) during a year with a detailed information statement by January 31 of the following year. In addition, Employers must file an information return with the IRS by February 28 of the following year, or by March 31 for Employers filing electronically.

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At Long Last: SEC Proposes New Rules to Compel Disclosure of CEO Pay as Ratio to Median Employee Pay

On September 18, 2013, in accordance with Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Reform Act”), the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) issued a press release and published proposed rules (Release Nos. 33-9452; 34-70443) (the “Proposed Rules”) to require certain publicly-held companies to disclose the median annual total compensation of all employees and the ratio of that median to the annual total compensation of the company’s chief executive officer.

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Changes in the Wind for Rule 10b5-1 Trading Plans?

On December 28, 2012, the Council of Institutional Investors (CII) submitted a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requesting that the SEC implement rulemaking to impose new requirements with respect to Rule 10b5-1 trading plans.

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Reminder to Perform Annual ISO/ESPP Reporting in January 2013

As discussed in our December 16, 2010 blog article, the IRS issued final regulations in 2009 under Section 6039 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) that require Employers to annually furnish each employee who exercised incentive stock options (“ISOs”) or sold or otherwise transferred shares acquired under an employee stock purchase plan (“ESPP”) during a year with a detailed information statement by January 31 of the following year.  In addition, Employers must file an information return with the IRS by February 28 of the following year, or by March 31 for Employers filing electronically.

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Public Companies Should Immediately Review Their Peer Groups Used in Executive Compensation Decisions Based on ISS’s New Peer Group Selection Guidance and Notify ISS of Any Changes by December 21

Public companies should immediately review their peer group and Global Industry Classification Standard (“GICS”) codes, for purposes of executive compensation in light of the new Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) guidance. If the peer group your company plans to use in the upcoming proxy for assessing and determining executive compensation is different than the peer group used in your company’s last proxy, you should contact ISS before December 21 with your new peer group list.

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Emerging Growth Company IPO Filings Initially Embrace JOBS Act’s Reduced Executive Compensation Disclosure Requirements

On April 5, 2012, the President signed into law the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act” (JOBS Act).  The JOBS Act also allows small businesses to harness “crowdfunding,” expands “mini-public offerings,” and streamlines the process for going public for “emerging growth companies”.   For a discussion of general provisions in the JOBS Act, please see our April 5, 2012 blog entitled “President Obama Signs JOBS Act: Landmark Reform for Small and Emerging Growth Companies Now Law”.

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SEC Adopts New Rules Calling For Greater Independence Standards For Compensation Committees And Their Advisers

In accordance with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Reform Act”) for adopting regulations required by section 952 of the Reform Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) on June 20, 2012 issued a press release and published final rules (Release No. 33-9330) (the “Final Rules”) for compensation committee and compensation adviser independence requirements.

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Spotlight on Pay For Performance Intensifies as ISS Releases New Evaluation Methodology for 2012 Proxy Season

The arrival of a new year means that another proxy season is not that far off.  A highlight of the 2011 proxy season was that it marked the first year in which shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation (“Say on Pay”) were conducted in accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act.

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Reminder to Prepare for Annual ISO/ESPP Reporting in January 2012

Summary

As discussed in our December 16, 2010 blog article, the IRS issued final regulations in 2009 under Section 6039 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) that require Employers to annually furnish each employee who exercised incentive stock options (“ISOs”) or sold or otherwise transferred shares acquired under an employee stock purchase plan (“ESPP”) during a year with a detailed information statement by January 31 of the following year. In addition, Employers must generally file an information return with the IRS by February 28 of the following year, or by March 31 for Employers filing electronically.

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