Monthly Archives: May 2011

Dodd-Frank rule disqualifies felons and bad actors from securities offerings

On May 25, 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a rule to deny certain securities offerings from qualifying for exemption from registration if they involve “felons and other bad actors.”

When an individual or a company offers or sells a security such as a stock or bond, generally the offering must be registered with the SEC. However, the SEC’s Regulation D provides three exemptions that can used to avoid such registration.  The most widely used exemption is Rule 506, which accounts for more than 90% of the offerings made, as well as the majority of capital raised. If an offering qualifies for the Rule 506 exemption, an issuer can raise unlimited capital from an unlimited number of “accredited investors” and from up to 35 non-accredited investors.

Section 926 of the Dodd-Frank Act requires the SEC to adopt rules that would deny this exemption to any securities offering in which certain “felons and other bad actors” are involved. This new rule is substantially similar to the bad actor disqualification provisions of another limited offering exemptive rule – Rule 262 of Regulation A – which provides for an exemption from registration for certain small offerings.

Under the proposed rule, an offering cannot rely on the Rule 506 exemption if the issuer or any other person covered by the rule (including the issuer’s predecessors and affiliated issuers, directors, officers, general partners and managing members of the issuer, 10% beneficial owners and promoters of the issuer, persons compensated for soliciting investors, and the general partners, directors, officers and managing members of any compensated solicitor) has had a “disqualifying event” identified as follows:

  • Criminal conviction in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, making of a false filing with the SEC or arising out of the conduct of certain types of financial intermediaries. The criminal conviction would have to have occurred within 10 years of the proposed sale of securities (or five years, in the case of the issuer and its predecessors and affiliated issuers).

  • Court injunction and restraining order in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, making of a false filing with the SEC or arising out of the conduct of certain types of financial intermediaries. The injunction or restraining order would have to have occurred within five years of the proposed sale of securities.

  • Final order from state securities, insurance, banking, savings association or credit union regulators, federal banking agencies or the National Credit Union Administration that bar the issuer from: 1) associating with a regulated entity; 2) engaging in the business of securities, insurance or banking; 3) engaging in savings association or credit union activities, or 4) orders that are based on fraudulent, manipulative or deceptive conduct and are issued within 10 years before the proposed sale of securities.

  • Certain commission disciplinary order relating to brokers, dealers, municipal securities dealers, investment companies and investment advisers and their associated persons, which would be disqualifying for as long as the order is in effect.

  • Suspension or expulsion from membership in a “self-regulatory organization” or from association with an SRO member, which would be disqualifying for the period of suspension or expulsion.

  • Commission stop order and order suspending the Regulation A exemption issued within five years before the proposed sale of securities; and

  • U.S. Postal Service false representation order issued within five years before the proposed sale of securities.

The proposed rule would provide an exception from disqualification when the issuer can show it did not know and, in the exercise of reasonable care, could not have known that a disqualification existed. Any pre-existing convictions, suspensions, injunctions and orders would be disqualifying. For further information, see







Spotlight on insider trading

Many people associate the term “insider trading” with illegal conduct. But the term refers to both legal and illegal activities. The SEC’s legal version is that corporate insiders, i.e., officers, directors, employees, or anyone with at least a 10% stake in a company, can buy and sell stock in the company providing they abide by the SEC’s restrictions and transactional requirements.

In 2002, the SEC tightened its rules by adopting the Regulation Fair Disclosure to curb the practice of company executives giving securities analysts an inside track; the rules mandate that anything disclosed to an outsider must be revealed to the general public. The SEC also includes in its definition of insiders those who have “temporary” or “constructive” access to the material information, such as business associates, friends, family members, brokers, attorneys and “other tipees.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that any individual, with or without ties to the particular company, who is in possession of material information, even if the information was stolen, is an insider.

Illegal insider trading, according to the SEC, refers to the buying or selling of a security in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information. Insider trading violations include “tipping” such information, trading in securities by the person “tipped” and trading by those who misappropriate the information.

The SEC considers the prosecution of insider trading violations a top priority. The exhaustive publicity of illegal insider trading cases sends a strong message that no one is outside its radar. A spokesperson for the Division of Enforcement said that the SEC is aggressively rooting out and identifying hard-to-detect insider trading by connecting patterns of trading to sources of material nonpublic information, whether those sources are law firms, banks or others with a duty to keep the information confidential. Prosecutors add that illegal trading is now easier to prove as direct evidence of fraudulent intent can be obtained through wiretaps, e-mails, text messages, social media contacts, etc. And that evidence also is useful to convince co-conspirators to turn on each other and provide even more substantial proof of fraud. Going after the violators is critical because their actions hurt individual investors and undermine public confidence that allows firms to raise money in the capital markets.

Individuals who are convicted of criminal insider trading face prison terms (the Sarbanes-Oxley Act extended the maximum length of sentences) and fines in addition to civil penalties, which can be triple the realized profit or the loss avoided. Violators also may be charged with mail and wire frauds and possibly with tax evasion and obstruction of justice. Further consequences include being barred from serving as executives or directors of public companies and being named as defendants in multi-million dollar lawsuits. Corporations are subject to penalties for failure to establish compliance programs and for failure to ensure reasonable efforts to prevent violations under the theory of “controlling person” liability. Even if an insider trading investigation does not result in formal charges, the company’s reputation may suffer from the stigma and adverse publicity.

May 24th, 2011|Educational Series|

FCPA enforcement milestone: corporate conviction handed down by jury

The Department of Justice announced on May 11, 2011 that Lindsey Manufacturing Company, a privately-held Azusa, CA emergency systems manufacturer, its executives Keith Lindsey and Steve Lee, and a Mexican intermediary were convicted by a federal jury on all counts for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to Mexican government officials at the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), a state-owned utility, to win $19 million in contracts.

According to court documents, between February 2002 and March 2009, Lindsey Manufacturing, Keith Lindsey, Steve Lee and others used the company’s Mexican agent, Enrique Aguilar, to funnel bribe payments to officials of the CFE. (See for further details about the case.)

Although individuals have gone to trial and been convicted of violating the FCPA, this is a first such conviction for a company, as companies previously have opted to settle or plead guilty. The FCPA is expected to be an important enforcement tool under the new Dodd-Frank law as similar cases are likely to end up in court.

May 13th, 2011|Criminal Activity|

U.K. Bribery Act now slated to take effect July 1, 2011

After receiving widespread criticism for the lack of guidance and compliance clarification, the U.K. Bribery Act of 2010 (Bribery Act) originally scheduled for implementation in April 2011, is now set to take effect July 1, 2011. The act’s jurisdiction extends to commercial organizations incorporated or formed in the U.K. or “which carr

[y] on a business or a part of a business in the U.K. irrespective of the place of incorporation or formation.” Determination of such existence will be made by the U.K. courts and will require “a demonstrable business presence.” The official guide states that an organization will not be deemed to be carrying on a business in the U.K. merely by virtue of having its securities listed on the London Stock Exchange or by having a U.K. subsidiary.

Unlike the anti-bribery provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which focus primarily on corruption involving non-U.S. government officials, the Bribery Act  widens its scope to prohibit domestic and international bribery across both private and public sectors. And while the FCPA allows exceptions for facilitation payments (generally small payments to lower-level officials for “routine government actions,”) the Bribery Act does not. These payments were illegal under the previous legislation and the common law, but the difference under the Bribery Act is that non-U.K. organizations are broadly subjected to these restrictions for the first time.

The Bribery Act specifically criminalizes the offering, promising or giving a bribe (active bribery) and the requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe (passive bribery) to obtain or retain business or secure a financial or other advantage. It also contains a provision whereby an organization that fails to prevent bribery by anyone associated with the organization can be charged under the Bribery Act unless it can establish the defense of having implemented preventive “adequate procedures.” The official guide recommends the following six principles as foundation for developing “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery:

  • Proportionality – Actions should be proportionate to the risk, nature, size and complexity of the organization.
  • Top-level Commitment – Board of directors, owners, officers or equivalent top level- management should establish and promote a culture where bribery is never acceptable and be committed to preventing bribery, both within the organization and with anyone associated with the organization externally.
  • Risk Assessment – Various risk exposures, both internal and external, such as country of operation, business sector, types of transaction, new markets, and business partnerships should be evaluated and documented on an ongoing basis.
  • Due Diligence – Proportionate, risk-based approach to due diligence procedures assessing existing and proposed relationships should be taken to ensure trustworthy associations and mitigate identified bribery risks.
  • Communication – Appropriate channels of communication, awareness and training, both internal and external, on anti-bribery policies and procedures should be implemented and evaluated on a regular basis.
  • Monitoring and Review – Anti-bribery policies and procedures should be monitored on an ongoing basis and amended as quickly as possible when activities and risks change.

The penalties for violating the Bribery Act are severe, with individuals facing up to 10 years in prison and organizations facing unlimited fines. Violations also may result in damaging collateral consequences such as director disqualification, ineligibility for public contracts, and asset confiscation.


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