Ignorance is No Excuse: The Importance of Reg FD Training

You may remember that Martha Stewart spent time in prison.

She served five months behind bars and another five months of house confinement at her 153-acre estate in New York, wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, for selling 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems before news of the FDA’s rejection of one of ImClone’s cancer drugs was made public.

ImClone’s former CEO, Samuel Waskal, a friend of Stewart’s who presumably gave her the stock tip, served a seven-year prison term after pleading guilty to orchestrating stock trades, as well as to other corporate misdeeds.

How much insider trading is going on in U.S. stock markets based on material, non-public information? At least four times more than regulators actually catch and prosecute, according to research from the University of Technology Sydney. 

Could Reg FD training have helped either of them avoid prison sentences? 

We’d certainly like to think so. For Waskal, of course, he definitely knew better as CEO of a publicly traded company. Stewart may have never heard of Reg FD, but she should have known better as well, based on plain old common sense.

Whether you’re working at a public company for the first time, or you’re a seasoned pro, being aware of Reg FD (Regulation Fair Disclosure) and how to avoid missteps is vitally important. Many companies provide periodic formal Reg FD refresher training even for public company veterans. Not only does such training help prevent employees from disclosure pitfalls, but it also serves as a record that your company takes disclosure seriously.

Starting with the basics, Reg FD became effective more than two decades ago to help the SEC prevent selective disclosure of material, non-public information, remedying the perception of unfairness in communications throughout the investment community. One of the key principles of Reg FD is that information must be broadly distributed, not selectively disseminated. A good rule of thumb is to provide full disclosure to all … all the time.

What constitutes materiality? If there is a substantial likelihood that an investor would consider the subject important in the total mix of information when making an investment decision, and if it is reasonable to expect that the information could have an effect – up or down – on a stock’s price, it’s probably material.

Things to consider include receipt of a big contract, M&A, a stock buy-back program, a director or officer resignation, among many others. Materiality can be somewhat subjective though, so it’s important to communicate with your attorneys if there is any doubt.

There are two simple rules to follow to ensure you’re not running afoul of the SEC (and that you don’t wind up like Martha Stewart):

  • Never buy stock in your company, or encourage others to do so, when you are in possession of material, non-public information.
  • If you ever have questions about whether, and when, you, as an insider, can buy or sell your company’s stock, contact your CEO, CFO or legal counsel.

Keep in mind that while there are remedies for inadvertently disclosing material, non-public information, you should strive never to have to use those remedies. But, just in case, here are the steps to take should someone slip:

  • Let an authorized company spokesperson know as soon as possible, so that that person can work to promptly determine the nature and materiality of the selective disclosure. (Authorized spokespersons are required to determine the cause of the selective disclosure and take appropriate steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of recurrence.)
  • Within 24 hours of the inadvertent disclosure, or at the next opening of market session, a company may issue a press release or file Form 8-K with the SEC containing the material information that was deemed to be selective disclosure.

If it happened to Martha Stewart, is can happen to anyone. “It was horrifying, and no one — no one — should have to go through that kind of indignity, really, except for murderers, and there are a few other categories,” Stewart told Katie Couric during a 2017 interview on the Today Show.

Aside from providing Reg FD training to pre-IPO and newly public companies, along with refresher sessions, PondelWilkinson has been approved by the California Bar Association to provide one-hour Reg FD training sessions to attorneys for CLE credits. While we have to know the ins and outs to be effective trainers, we’d love to hear about your Reg FD experiences.

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

­10 Tips to Best Prepare for New SEC Universal Proxy Rule Change to Shareholder Voting

For boards and senior management teams of publicly traded companies, a major law change by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will soon go into effect for what some pundits believe could be a period of renewed activism ahead.

The new rule states that for annual shareholder meetings held after August 31, 2022, parties in a contested election must use universal proxy cards that include all director nominees presented for election.

Without going into all of the details, the rule gives shareholders the ability to vote by proxy for their preferred combination of board candidates, similar to voting in person. It addresses longstanding concerns that shareholders voting by proxy were not able to vote for a mix of dissident and registrant nominees in an election contest, as they could if they voted in person.  And very few shareholders, even before COVID, attend annual meetings in person.

The SEC’s new rule on shareholder voting will go into effect on August 31, 2022. Photo credit: Roger Pondel

As Gary Gensler, chairman of the SEC, said in a press release late last year, “Today’s amendments will put (all) candidates on the same ballot. They will put investors voting in person and by proxy on equal footing. This is an important aspect of shareholder democracy.”

No one knows for sure what will happen, and maybe nothing, but major law firms around the nation, proxy advisors, the National Institute of Investor Relations, and others have been talking it up big time in articles, webinars and conference panels.

On one hand, many smart minds – including our friend and long-time proxy campaign strategist Keith Gottfried, who recently addressed a PondelWilkinson staff meeting – believe that because it will be easier and less costly to run election contests, this hotly debated issue will “change the playing field dramatically” and foster greater shareholder activism. Gottfried, who just launched Washington, D.C.-based Gottfried Shareholder Advisory LLC, a boutique strategic advisory firm focused on shareholder activism preparedness and defense, said companies in the $300 million to $1 billion+ market cap range could be particularly vulnerable.

On the other hand, there is the thought that the new rule will stimulate a seismic shift in how activism is carried out. Rather than causing tumult at the annual meeting, there could even be increased engagement between issuers and activists that may foster cooperation and settlements.  

Our overview advice is for corporate boards, CEOs and CFOs to be armed with information and get ahead of the matter now to eliminate a potential sting and be prepared so there will not be an issue later. Consider the following:

  • Take a fresh look at your shareholder activist preparedness and defenses in order to react quickly, sans panic, for potential increased shareholder activism. With the help of a professional, revisit advance notice bylaws, corporate disclosure policies regarding director elections and determine whether changes are needed
  • Keep an eye on your peers. If there’s increased activism there, it may be coming your way as well.
  • Don’t get complacent in thinking that because your larger shareholders may have been quiet, they are not paying attention to your company. Periodically reach out pro-actively to them for updates.
  • Deploy best communications practices day-to-day, including transparency on quarterly conference calls and in press releases.
  • Think about conducting a Reg FD refresher training session for your senior staff and board. Having such a session “on the record” is a healthy omen that the company is sensitive to this important governance matter. 
  • Consider providing shareholders with an in-depth look at your company by hosting an investor day that showcases the operating tier of management, not just the senior-most corporate staff.
  • Know what your shareholders are thinking, even to the extent of conducting a third-party perceptions survey. The shareholders will appreciate that you are having an objective party ask candid questions. As the issuer, you may learn a thing or two and ward off a problem you may not even know existed.
  • Pay close attention to ESG matters, which are top-of-mind these days throughout the investment community in both large and small companies.
  • Be mindful of board composition, including diversity, experience and tenure.
  • Be alert, listen and do not be afraid of “well-wishing” shareholders who like to give advice on corporate growth, valuation and other board and management matters. Embrace them and pay attention to what they are saying. Often their biggest demand is for a company’s sale, not necessarily to “fix” anything or for a board seat.

It’s not only in politics, where voting rights issues are surfacing. The SEC’s new universal proxy rule is something to at least start thinking about seriously. If nothing else, it should prompt action for companies to take an inner look and be certain that best governance and communications practices are fully in place.

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

New Class-Action Lawsuits Lurking: Tips for ADA Compliance on Websites, While Doing the Right Thing

Recently, several of our California-based clients received letters from attorneys who are allegedly representing disabled persons, stating that those clients’ investor relations websites are not fully WGAC and ADA compliant.

With each communication, the attorneys specifically cite “not compliant for blind persons.” In some cases, they are requesting remediation within a certain timeframe. In other cases, however, real monetary damages were sought.

Is this ambulance chasing or a real problem?

According to the CDC, 61 million Americans live with disabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau says that almost 19 million Americans have difficulty seeing or hearing.  Many websites, including investor relations websites, do not currently make accommodations for these users.

For blind people or those with low vision, images without text equivalents, certain fonts and colors, and PDF documents can make websites difficult to navigate. A recent article from NBC News details efforts by disability advocates, including that “federal lawsuits claiming websites are not compliant with the ADA rose by 12 percent last year.” 

Companies, publicly traded or not, should do whatever they can to provide a solution, so as not to leave anyone behind, as well as to be compliant and reduce the threat of legal action.  Of course, regardless of the threat of legal action, it’s the right thing to do.

But where does one start? 

First, some basic definitions:

  • WGAC – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – Developed in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, WGAC has a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility.
  • ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – Put into law in 1990, the ADA seeks to provide equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

Second, there are several tools to determine how closely a website is to being compliant:

  • The WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool allows a company to identify accessibility and WCAG errors. Running a URL through the tool will provide summary of accessibility errors.
  • Similarly, Web Accessibility by Level Access allows a company to determine the “health” of a site. There are many others, some free and some paid. (We are not endorsing the veracity of any.)

Once a determination has been made that changes or additions are necessary to ensure WGAC and ADA compliance, here are some practical tips:

  • Take a look at the WGAC guidelines to familiarize yourself with the requirements.
  • Have your website developer (both for your corporate and IR sites) run your sites through a tool like those listed above to see exactly what changes need to be made.
  • Considering purchasing code (usually a widget) that helps makes your website more compliant. There are several, and again, we are not recommending any particular vendor. Be aware, however, that these widgets are not without issues (see the NBC News article referenced above and this one at Forbes.com) and are not a panacea.
  • Recognize that if your corporate site is accessible, but your IR site is not, you are out of compliance. Similarly, if the home page of your corporate site and IR site are accessible, but the pages beneath that are not, you are out of compliance. Even if everything looks great, but you haven’t remediated PDF documents posted to the site, you are out of compliance.
  • Remember that websites are not static.  Any time a change is made to content, links, colors, etc. you run the risk of non-compliance.
  • Work regularly with your legal team to ensure you’re on top of all current and future regulations and requirements.

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Disappearing Transparency: A Call to Action

Back in July, the SEC proposed new 13-F rules, including amending the reporting threshold for investment managers to “reflect today’s equities markets.” At first blush, the headline seems okay. When one digs deeper (actually, you don’t need to dig deep at all), the proposed rules represent a huge step backwards to a time when issuers and the investing public had very little information about stock ownership.

Source: Securities and Exchange Commision

A little bit more about the SEC’s rationale before diving into the heart of the matter. According to its July 10 press release, the proposal would increase the 13-F reporting threshold from $100 million to $3.5 billion, “reflecting proportionally the same market value of U.S. equities that $100 million represented in 1975, the time of the statutory directive.” From everything I’ve read on the subject, this rationale is misguided and imprudent.

According to IHS Markit, approximately 600 of the 5,200 investment managers that filed a Form 13-F last quarter manage over $3.5 billion in equities. Put another way, almost 90 percent of investment managers that are currently required to report their holdings, would no longer be required to do so. Further, more than 90 percent of the dollar value of the securities currently reported is held by these 600 firms. IHS Markit also noted that, on average, 55 percent of the investors on an issuer’s shareholder list would stop filing 13-F’s, 69 percent of the hedge funds on an issuer’s shareholder list would stop filing 13-F’s, and “IR Immune investors,” including index funds, quants and brokers would stop filing for 2 percent of their share value, while active investors would stop filing for 10 percent of their share value. Not good for an industry that requires more visibility, not less.

The National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI), has aggressively taken up the cause, rallying issuers, IR counselors and other prominent business associations. Last week, NIRI sent a letter to the SEC opposing the proposed rule. 237 issuers with a combined market cap of almost $3 trillion, five high-profile business associations and 26 IR counseling firms signed on in support. Additionally, NIRI reports widespread opposition from retail investors and small investment managers, who, in total, have submitted more than 1,000 comments to the SEC.

It’s not too late to take action, even if you’ve already signed on to NIRI’s letter. The deadline for submitting comments directly to the SEC is September 29. You can visit NIRI’s Advocacy Call to Action page for more information and suggestions on how you can help.

The SEC’s proposal would significantly hamper issuers’ ability to understand who owns their stock, who is selling their stock and who is buying their stock. Imagine a scenario in which an activist is slowly building a position, but you can’t see it happening and you are blindsided by a takeover attempt. Imagine how difficult it would be to keep current holders updated if you don’t know who they are. Imagine the inefficiency of having no way to prioritize incoming phone calls and meeting requests because you are in the dark about ownership status.

Perhaps Jim Cramer said it best. “If you believe Wall Street is important, if you believe business is important, if you believe the market is important, then the public deserves to know who owns what.” Use your voice to let the SEC know that you strongly oppose the proposed rule.

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Thoughts on Board Diversity

Board diversity has been in the news for quite some time, but more recently, California became the first state to mandate that publicly traded companies headquartered in the state name women to their boards. Countries outside the U.S. have enacted similar laws. 

The new law stipulates that companies with at least five directors will need to have at least one female member by the end of this year, and two or three female members, depending on the size of the board, by 2021. According to the Wall Street Journal, the mandate in California could accelerate boardroom diversification across the country. 

But does diversity really matter? 

As noted in Forbes by professor Katherine W. Phillips from the Kellogg School of Management, diversity can result in better decisions. She explained that diversity “often comes with more cognitive processing and more exchange of information and more perceptions of conflict,” which she believes can spur new idea generation and creative solutions. 

Lisa Wardell, president and chief executive officer of Adtalem Global Education, wrote in Corporate Board Member that “board composition sends a powerful signal to current and future workforces about an organization’s commitment to equality of opportunity. It also signifies a commitment to performance, since studies show clearly the benefits of a diverse workplace.  McKinsey & Company found companies with strong gender diversity among their executives were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability compared with peers.”

Mike Myatt, chairman of N2Growth, recently offered a top-10 list in favor of diversity. You can read it here

Last year, Elizabeth Warren, a current U.S. senator and 2020 presidential candidate, introduced a bill called the Accountable Capitalism Act, that, among other things, would require that workers at companies generating more than $1 billion in revenue directly elect 40 percent of a company’s board of directors. This seems, to me, a bit more controversial than the new California mandate. In fact, when conducting research for this blog, I couldn’t find much in support of her proposal. Interviewed on CNBC, professor Jeffrey Miron from Harvard University said that Warren’s proposal “will create a whole set of new rules that the federal government will enforce. Those rules will not be clean, explicit or simple.  They’ll be messy, they’ll be complicated. [It will create a] huge ability for companies to evade and avoid.”

So, what are companies doing, if anything, to increase board diversity? 

A survey conducted by the National Association of Corporate Directors late last year showed that more than half of directors who responded said that their organizations have board diversity goals. Of those, 70 percent sited the need to enhance the cognitive diversity of boards, while almost half said that board diversity is a moral imperative. Barriers to diversity mentioned by 54 percent of respondents were the lack of an open board seat, while 53 percent cited finding diverse candidates that meet the board’s skill needs.

I’m as eager as the next person to see boards diversify and become more representative of current demographics and the investors they represent. But I’m also in favor of building boards with the best talent. As Myatt noted, “You’ll never hear me recommend diversity solely for the sake of checking a box, but when diversity in the boardroom offers so many benefits to the CEO (and to the entire organization) it’s nothing short of irresponsible for chief executives not to place their board composition under the microscope.”

It remains to be seen if recent efforts around board diversity will result in increased shareholder value, but it’s absolutely worth it for companies to look at their entire organizations, from top to bottom, to ensure diversity throughout its ranks. According to Wardell, “Performance comes from finding the best talent. And diversity, at its most basic level, is about increasing the pool of available talented people from which to choose.”

Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

Class Action Litigation on the Rise: How Safe are Safe Harbor Statements?

History has a way of repeating itself. With 2017 statistics of all kinds starting to be compiled, one offered by the Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse should make public company management teams and their boards take notice: the number of securities class-action lawsuits is on the rise … in a startling way.

 

The clearinghouse reported that the number of annoying and costly public company securities class action lawsuits increased to 413 in 2017, up from 213 in 2016, and up from an average of 190 in the years 2002 through 2015.                        

                                            

classaction_law

Law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati recently issued a paper highlighting the trend, which can impact companies of all sizes, from micro- to mega-cap. The three biggest reasons for the suits are material misstatements or omissions in registration statements and prospectuses for IPOs; challenges to merger and acquisition transactions, many if not most of which defense lawyers say are boilerplate in nature and meritless; and greater scrutiny by the SEC to disclosures being made by private companies.

 

Disclosures, or lack thereof, in press releases, which are totally in management’s control, often play a role in such lawsuits. While most companies are careful about including safe harbor statements in their press releases, which offer some legal protection, many companies do not use those statements properly. Often, they fail to customize those paragraphs to include the actual forward-looking statements mentioned in the press release. Worse yet, sometimes the safe harbor paragraphs are being included as boilerplate, even when there are no forward-looking statements at all.

 

Remember the term, “You’ve been Lerached?” A couple of decades ago, class action securities lawsuits were rampant, with a San Diego-based law firm, long since shuttered its doors, leading the pack in filing them. The firm’s principal ultimately went to jail for fabricating many such suits, looking for plaintiffs to buy a few shares of a given company, allegedly based on a CEO’s statement about future performance, then at the first sign of non-performance, voila, the company was “Lerached,” with the term affectionately named after lawyer Bill Lerach. Copycats followed.

 

Many of those lawsuits were legit, and they ultimately gave birth to the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and the safe harbor statements in press releases, followed by Reg FD in 2002. But despite the safe harbor protection, a case involving guidance issued in a press release by Quality Systems last July may signal a frightening change: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which governs California, reversed the district court’s dismissal of a securities fraud suit, saying various aspects of the safe harbor were “hostile in tone and application, when compared to many prior forecasting decisions.”  

 

What does all this mean?  Maybe nothing, but today more than ever, it pays to listen carefully to your SEC lawyer and to your investor relations advisor on all corporate communications matters. It also may be a good idea to place close attention to those safe harbor statements, and be sure to stay tuned as to whether those statements turn out to be not so safe as hoped.

— Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

 

 

 

Peek-a-boo, I See You

Attention public companies: The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, affectionately known as “peek-a-boo,” is watching you ever so closely…and wants to see even more of you.

That was the underlying message delivered by PCAOB Board member Greg Jonas as he addressed the recent second annual University of California-Irvine’s Audit Committee Summit, sponsored in part by PondelWilkinson.

“Regulators’ role is to be sure that investors hear the good, the bad and the ugly,” Jonas said. “Our challenge is to be useful and not just get in the way.”

Jonas spoke about the PCAOB’s “concept” issued in July, seeking public comment on 28 potential audit quality indicators to help identify insights into how high quality audits are achieved.

Jim Schnurr, Chief Accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission, who is responsible for establishing and enforcing accounting and auditing policy and served as the event’s keynote speaker, interpreted the PCAOB’s project as a determining factor of whether additional public company disclosures should be made, particularly regarding greater oversight of management.

“The audit committee is in an excellent position to gain insight into management controls,” said Schnurr. “Avoidance of boilerplate reporting and minimizing the risk of litigation should be high on the directors’ agendas.”

Schnurr offered additional tips for audit committee members that should resonate with management:

  • Focus on effective disclosure
  • Increase the use of hyperlinks in communications
  • Periodically re-evaluate the relevance of disclosure items
  • Use solid judgment about what is not being disclosed
  • Be certain that audit committee members have the bandwidth to properly fill their roles

Two expert panel discussions followed Schnurr’s and Jonas’s addresses. Panelist Bala Iyer, audit committee chair at QLogic, offered a number of suggestions, focusing heavily on three: asking tough questions; trusting management; and taking the time to thoroughly understand the business.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which created the PCAOB, requires that auditors of U.S. public companies be subject to external, independent oversight for the first time in history. The Board has no authority over public companies, but its work can have deep implications. Here’s looking atchya.

— Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

Access, Tenure, Pay

The 2015 proxy season is underway, and following our exhaustive annual Google search for trends, it is clear that three major issues are leading the way on this year’s ballots: corporate access; board tenure/composition; and once again, executive pay.

Regarding corporate access, everyone seems to be talking about New York City Controller Scott Stringer’s filing of proxy access proposals at 75 companies, all at once, whose shares are owned by the New York City Pension Funds. Stringer’s proposals, as with most on this subject, request that companies adopt bylaws giving shareholders who own at least 3 percent of a company for three or more years the right to list their director candidates, representing up to 25 percent of the board. Some call for 5 percent ownership. There are some interesting pros and cons of letting shareholders have their way so easily, explained well in a Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/corpgov/.

On the board composition/tenure issue, just how long can a board member serve and still be an independent advocate of the shareholders? Investors are concerned that long-serving directors may not be really independent and engaged. They may have made too many friends on the board and among the management teams. Institutional Investor Services (ISS), www.issgovernance.com, the leading proxy advisory firm, says nine years should be about it. Other aspects of this subject that are gaining steam include board diversity, with the term “board refreshment” becoming quite in vogue.

Lastly, always a bugaboo, the subject of executive compensation again seems to be receiving heightened attention. Aligning pay with performance is nothing new and always good, and boards seem to be doing a pretty good job of it. Even though the votes are non-binding, “yes” or a “no” votes that do not pass by large margins can signal shareholder discontent. Many companies see major swings in their say-on-pay votes from one year to the next. Read more at www.corporatesecretary.com.

– Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com

For Public Companies, It’s Always Something

It seems like every day there is a new article or hypothesis about corporate boards and governance.  Diversity…Say on Pay…Proxy Access…Tenure.  You name it, it’s been debated.

A new Ernst and Young study takes on the topic of board member skills, or more specifically providing more disclosure to investors about the skills and experience of board members.  According to Ernst and Young, “Investors increasingly seek confirmation that boards have the skill sets and expertise needed to provide strategic counsel and oversee key risks facing the company, including environmental and social risks.”  Of the 50 institutional investors interviewed, more than three-quarters do not believe companies do enough to explain why they have the right people in the boardroom.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a thorough approach to selecting directors is more important than lower mandatory retirement ages for board members.  It only makes sense that investors be more concerned about what each director can bring to the table (pun intended) than how old that director is or how long they have been serving.  Although, these issues are also hot buttons for today’s boards.

As we tweeted earlier this week, there are more than 100 proxy access proposals thus far in 2015, up from just 17 last year, signaling that institutional investors want to be part of the process for selecting who will be guiding the companies they own.  Fourteen corporations are taking a more proactive approaching by voluntarily agreeing to give investors the ability to nominate their own directors.

It will likely be some time before corporate America turns over the board selection process, but in the meantime, we continue to believe that disclosure and transparency in governance for listed companies are the best way to build and maintain credibility and goodwill.

— Laurie Berman, lberman@pondel.com

SEC Enforces Insider Transaction Rules As Boards Authorize Buybacks at Brisk Pace

 

1903 stock certificate of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1903 stock certificate of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Insider buying or selling of shares is one of the most emotional and telltale communications messages a public company can send.

Last week, the SEhanded out charges against 28 officers, directors and major shareholders for violating federal securities laws requiring the prompt reporting of information about transactions in company stock.  In addition, six publicly traded companies were charged for contributing to filing failures by insiders or failing to report their insiders’ filing delinquencies.
 
Curiously, the SEC did not say whether or not those transactions were on the buy or sell side. But this is important stuff and a subject that many investors hold sacrosanct.
 
Some funds immediately sell if they see insiders are selling for anything other than “personal” reasons, such as sending a child to college. And other investors immediately buy when they see insiders buy, believing those insiders must know something positive about the future. The same usually holds true when companies initiate buyback programs.
 
A news release issued by the SEC September 10 said information about insider buying and selling gives investors an “opportunity to evaluate whether the holdings and transactions of company insiders could be indicative of the company’s future prospects.”
 
Granted, it is important to look at much more than insider transactions when evaluating a stock’s viability. But as Peter Lynch, who is still regarded as one of the greatest and smartest investors of all time, has said on numerous occasions: “Insiders may sell their shares for any number of reasons, but they buy for only one—they think the price will rise.”
 
So while it is not necessary in this blog to name names of those violators, as the SEC’s press release did (in case you want to know), 33 of the 34 individuals and companies cited agreed to settle the charges and pay financial penalties totaling $2.6 million.
 
“Using quantitative analytics, we identified individuals and companies with especially high rates of filing deficiencies, and we are bringing these actions together to send a clear message about the importance of these filing provisions,” said Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in the news release.
 
There are usually no such communications issues when public company boards authorize buyback programs. Making a public announcement, usually via news release, is often one of the key reasons such programs are launched—to make a statement that one’s stock is undervalued and we’re not going to take it anymore.
 
In fact, according to an analysis by Barclays PLC as reported in the Wall Street Journal September 16, companies are buying back their own shares these days at the fastest pace since the financial meltdown, and companies with the largest buyback programs have outperformed the broader market by 20 percent.
 
Barclays’ head of U.S. equities strategy, Jonathan Glionna, as reported in the same article, said that among the reasons why companies do stock buybacks, “one is that it seems to work; it makes stocks go up.”

– Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com