There are a number of legislative proposals making their way through the House and the Senate that would affect public reporting companies and are gathering some momentum, so they bear watching. Here are a few highlights:
Diversity Disclosure Requirements: H.R. 970, which has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives, titled the “Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act,” would amend Section 13 of the Exchange Act in order to require each issuer that is required to file an annual report to disclose data on the racial, ethnic and gender composition of the board of directors and the C-level executives of the issuer. C-level executives would include the most senior executive officer, information officer, technology officer, financial officer, compliance officer, or security officer of the issuer.
Rule 10b5-1 Plans: We have previously blogged about this one, which has been in the news recently. House Financial Services Committee Chair Waters and Congressman McHenry reintroduced legislation, “The Promoting Transparent Standards for Corporate Insiders,” H.R. 624, which would require the SEC to review Rule 10b5-1 and to study gaps in coverage, consider whether to limit trading to issuer-adopted trading windows, curb the use of multiple trading plans, mandate a delay between adoption of a plan and the first trade pursuant to the plan, restrict an insider’s ability to modify or cancel a plan, require companies and insiders to make certain filings with the SEC, and mandate that boards adopt policies to monitor compliance with trading plans. The SEC would be required to issue a report on its study one year following enactment of the measure and promptly undertake necessary rulemaking. The Council of Institutional Investors has written to Waters and McHenry supporting H.R. 624.
Stock Buyback Bill(s)? Senator Sanders has indicated he plans to introduce legislation that would limit stock buybacks unless companies provide more extensive benefits to workers, such as an increased minimum wage and paid sick leave as well as satisfy certain pay ratios. The text of the legislation would appear to track bills introduced in prior sessions of Congress (see, for example, S. 3640 introduced in November 2018 in the Senate and a companion bill, H.R. 7145, introduced in the House also in November 2018) although it has not been made available. There was a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, co-authored by Senators Schumer and Sanders (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/03/opinion/chuck-schumer-bernie-sanders.html) relating to their views. In the meantime, Senator Rubio has outlined plans on share buybacks as part of a more comprehensive paper published by the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Corporate Political Disclosures: Representative Carbajal has introduced legislation, titled the Corporate Political Disclosure Act 2019 (H.R. 1053), which would mandate disclosure of a company’s political activities during the prior year in its annual report and on its Internet website, which must be accessible to shareholders and to the public.