Monthly Archives: March 2013

Ponzi and pyramid schemes top SEC’s closed complaints list in fiscal year 2012

During fiscal year 2012, the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy closed 29,291 files relating to complaints, questions, and other issues received from investors, a decrease of 4,341 files compared to FY 2011.  Complaints related to Ponzi and pyramid schemes were up 1,328%. A footnote to the data states that “the vast majority of these complaints related to a particular highly publicized SEC enforcement action.” Complaints related to specific market events were up 565% which too had a footnote. In this case, the vast majority of the complaints related to a particular highly publicized initial public offering…

March 29th, 2013|Legislation|

Most service providers are not subject to Red Flags Rule

The Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) interim final rule which became effective February 11, 2013 confirms that most service providers are not subject to the Red Flags Rule. The rule clarifies the meaning of “creditor” ensuring that its definition is consistent with the revised definition of that term in the amended Fair Credit Reporting Act (the “FCRA”). A “creditor” must develop and implement a written identity theft prevention program premised on identifying “red flags” of identity theft only if in the ordinary course of business, the “creditor” regularly: 1) obtains or uses consumer reports in connection with a credit transaction; 2) furnishes information to consumer reporting agencies in connection with a credit transaction; or 3) advances funds to or on behalf of a person, in certain cases.

However, any entity collecting consumer data must remain vigilant in how it collects, uses and safeguards that data. The FTC may pursue enforcement actions under the FTC Act when a company does not take reasonable privacy protection measures scaled to the risk level of their business practices.

March 29th, 2013|Educational Series, Legislation|

Proposed New Jersey bills restrict use of criminal records in employment decisions

In February 2013, identical bills aimed at reducing employment discrimination against individuals with criminal histories were introduced in the New Jersey Senate (S2586) and the New Jersey Assembly (A3837). Both bills propose the adoption of the Opportunity to Compete Act (the “Act”) which would impose multiple restrictions and requirements on employers in connection with seeking and using criminal background information about job applicants. If the Act is adopted, New Jersey will join a growing list of states, cities, and localities which have passed similar anti-discrimination legislation.

Congress questions legality of “The Work Number” operated by Equifax

Seven members of Congress wrote a letter last month to Equifax asking for more information about its employment verification subsidiary, The Work Number, which according to a statement made by Jackie Speier (D-California), “appears to have operated under the radar, with little public awareness of the vast trove of

[payroll and other] sensitive data it was gathering.”  Speier asserted that “Equifax needs to explain exactly how it is using this data, and provide evidence that The Work Number does not pose a threat to the privacy of 190 million Americans.”

While companies say that they sign up with The Work Number because it gives them a convenient way to outsource employment verifications, the seven members of Congress are disturbed by the fact that “… this massive database appears to generate revenue using consumers’ sensitive personal information for profit.”

March 29th, 2013|Educational Series|

Revamped Form 1-9 makes its debut

On March 8, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (the “USCIS”) announced that its newly revised Form I-9 is to be used immediately. Notably, as indicated in the Federal Register, the USCIS granted companies until May 7, 2013 to implement the new form, which purportedly has been designed to minimize completion errors. This 60-day grace period allows employers time to adjust their human resource processes, and modify their software. The USCIS has also updated its “Handbook for Employers – Guidance for Completing the Form I-9” (3.8.13 version) to correspond to the new form, and is holding webinars to educate companies in the form’s usage.

The USCIS noted that employers do not need to complete the new form for employees for whom they already have a proper Form I–9 on file, unless re-verification applies. Unnecessary verification may violate the anti-discrimination provision of section 274B of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1324b, which is enforced by the DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices.

Final “bad actor” disqualification ruling long overdue

Over two years ago, Section 926 of the Dodd-Frank Act called for the SEC to impose “bad actor disqualification”(sometimes referred to as “bad boy disqualification”) on Rule 506 private placements. Under the proposed rule, which is long overdue, an issuer may not rely on Rule 506 exemptionfrom registration if certain individuals or entities associated with the offering have a disqualifying event in their past, such as a violation of securities law, state regulatory order or bar, or similar infraction.

Further, the JOBS Act, enacted last year, provided for the SEC to amend Rule 506 to lift the ban on general solicitation. This rulemaking is also past due, and anxious onlookers speculate that these changes to Rule 506 will get finalized at the same time. While there have been many comments to modify some of the rule’s overbroad applications, it is uncertain if the suggested changes will happen.

Notably, there is an important exception to the disqualification provisions. If an issuer exercises “reasonable care” in making a factual inquiry but is unable to uncover the disqualifying events despite having conducted the requisite due diligence, it will not necessarily lose the ability to rely on Rule 506. Although the proposed rules do not provide bright-line tests for establishing due diligence, they clearly point that the issuer has a duty to make a factual inquiry into the existence of disqualifying events. And depending on the circumstances, representations in agreements and questionnaires may not be adequate.  Searching public databases also may be required, and possibly “further steps” which have yet to be defined.

SI understands that the bad boy disqualifiers can stop an offering in its tracks immediately upon the final rule’s adoption. And no matter what the transaction, no one wants to be involved with a “bad boy.” For over a year, our proactive approach has been to include comprehensive searches of the disqualifying event elements in higher level background reports as a value-add. The very real risk that issuers could lose the Rule 506 exemption due to facts of which they are not even aware illustrates the power of effective and thorough due diligence.

March 20th, 2013|Dodd-Frank|
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