USA updates

Arbitration & ADR

Contributed by Norton Rose Fulbright
New York Appellate Division confirms narrow scope of manifest disregard doctrine
  • USA
  • 30 May 2019

The New York Appellate Division has reaffirmed that the manifest disregard doctrine is a "severely limited… doctrine of last resort" that requires more than a mere error of law to warrant vacating an arbitral award. This case involved the acquisition contracts between Daesang and NutraSweet, under which NutraSweet could rescind the deal if it was sued for antitrust law violations. After NutraSweet exercised this right, Daesang commenced an arbitration proceeding for breach of contract.

Disclosure in international arbitration: using US courts to obtain discovery for non-US proceedings
  • USA
  • 23 May 2019

Unbeknown to many, Section 1782 of Title 28 of the US Code permits parties to obtain discovery in the United States in aid of non-US legal proceedings, including – in some instances – international arbitrations. Such discovery can include documents and sworn testimony (eg, depositions). In conducting an arbitration seated outside the United States (or other non-US legal proceedings), it is useful to understand the mechanics, requirements and key issues of Section 1782 discovery.

California loosens restrictions on counsel in international arbitrations
  • USA
  • 23 August 2018

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 766, Representation by Foreign and Out-of-State Attorneys. The bill, which was passed 69-to-zero by the legislature, clarifies that foreign (ie, not licensed in the United States) and out-of-state (ie, licensed in a US jurisdiction, but not in California) attorneys can represent parties in international arbitrations in California, subject to certain conditions. SB 766 will take effect on 1 January 2019.


Aviation

Contributed by Cozen O'Connor
OFAC issues Iran-Related Civil Aviation Industry Advisory
  • USA
  • 14 August 2019

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently issued its Iran-Related Civil Aviation Industry Advisory. The advisory seeks to inform the civil aviation industry of potential exposure to US enforcement actions and economic sanctions for engaging in or supporting unauthorised exports to Iran or designated Iranian airlines. While no new restrictions have been announced, the advisory's publication could signal that the OFAC is taking a greater interest in the Iranian aviation sector.

No fun in the sun: Trump administration further restricts aviation traffic to Cuba
  • USA
  • 10 July 2019

The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security recently announced rules designed to further restrict travel to Cuba, including eliminating a sub-category of authorised travel to Cuba entitled 'people-to-people educational travel'. These changes significantly restrict non-commercial aviation traffic to Cuba going forward for all persons subject to the OFAC's jurisdiction.

Reflections on Boeing's exposure following 737 MAX crashes
  • USA
  • 08 May 2019

A software issue is suggested to have played a role in the two horrific crashes involving the new Boeing 737 MAX. With this in mind, what potential theories of civil liability could Boeing be subject to by passengers and airlines that have suffered significant losses as a result of what appears to be a design flaw in this software? Further, what theories allow for criminal liability?

DOT denies petitions to initiate consumer protection rulemakings
  • USA
  • 03 April 2019

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently denied three petitions to initiate rulemakings on various consumer protection issues proposed by FlyersRights, a consumer advocacy group. The DOT's decision to refuse to propose new regulations is consistent with the Trump administration's efforts to reduce regulatory burdens on industry. Nonetheless, the DOT appeared to be sympathetic to consumer protection concerns raised by FlyersRights.

California federal court declares drones are aircraft
  • USA
  • 06 February 2019

A recent decision from the Central District of California in Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company v Hollycal Production, Inc is somewhat groundbreaking in its significance, primarily because it is the first to address in a precedential context the long-held assumption that drones are, in fact, aircraft.


Banking

Contributed by Sidley Austin LLP
Court permits New York DFS suit against OCC regarding fintech charter
  • USA
  • 24 May 2019

A federal district judge recently denied a motion to dismiss filed by the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in a lawsuit brought by the New York State Department of Financial Services, which challenged the OCC's decision to begin accepting applications from fintech companies for special purpose national bank charters.

Volcker Rule: agencies propose to implement community bank exemption and revise name-sharing rule
  • USA
  • 18 January 2019

The five US federal agencies responsible for implementing the Volcker Rule have individually released a related notice of proposed rulemaking. The notice proposes amendments to the Volcker Rule regulations that would implement two statutory changes required by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. Comments in response to the notice must be received by the agencies within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register.

US election results: five key matters for financial services industry
  • USA
  • 07 December 2018

In the recent election, the Democrats captured a majority in the House of Representatives and Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif) is now in line to lead the House Financial Services Committee. As such, it is expected that a significant shift in legislative efforts relating to the financial services industry will occur. During the first Financial Services Committee hearing since the election, Waters announced that deregulation efforts are finished.

New York State Department of Financial Services challenges OCC authority on fintech charters
  • USA
  • 12 October 2018

In July 2018 the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced its decision to begin accepting applications from fintech companies for special purpose national bank charters (the Fintech Charter Decision). The New York State Department of Financial Services recently filed a federal court complaint seeking to enjoin further actions by the OCC to implement the Fintech Charter Decision and related actions, arguing that such acts are lawless, ill-conceived and destabilising for financial markets.

OCC to issue fintech charters
  • USA
  • 24 August 2018

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) recently announced – to much anticipation – that it will begin accepting applications from fintech companies for special purpose national bank charters (commonly referred to as 'fintech charters'). However, state banking regulators are likely to once again challenge the OCC's authority to grant fintech charters, which could create some uncertainty for early applicants.


Capital Markets

Contributed by Morrison & Foerster LLP
First token offering qualified by SEC under Regulation A
  • USA
  • 30 July 2019

Blockstack Token LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delaware public benefit corporation Blockstack PBC, recently became the first company to have an offering of digital assets qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission under Regulation A. Although Blockstack's is the first Regulation A token offering to be qualified, it demonstrates the potential for other blockchain-based companies to use Regulation A as a viable capital-raising tool.

SEC requests comment on securities offering exemptions
  • USA
  • 23 July 2019

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently requested public comment on ways to simplify, harmonise and improve the registration exemptions under the Securities Act. In its concept release, the SEC identified numerous topics to be addressed, such as evaluating the framework and coverage of existing registration exemptions. Any developments in this area will be of interest to the structured products industry.

SEC clarifies investment adviser standard of conduct
  • USA
  • 16 July 2019

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently issued an interpretive release designed to reaffirm, and in some cases clarify, the standard of conduct that investment advisers owe to their clients. While the interpretive release includes no new regulation, it clarifies the type of disclosure, policies and procedures that advisers should adopt to ensure that they continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with their fiduciary obligations.

SEC proposes changes to 'accelerated filer' and 'large accelerated filer' definitions
  • USA
  • 11 June 2019

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently proposed amendments to the 'accelerated filer' and 'large accelerated filer' definitions adopted under the Securities Exchange Act 1934. The SEC believes that it can promote capital formation for smaller reporting issuers by more appropriately tailoring the types of issuer that are included and revising the transition thresholds for accelerated and large accelerated filers.

SEC adopts FAST Act amendments to streamline disclosure requirements
  • USA
  • 30 April 2019

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently adopted rule amendments to modernise and simplify certain disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K and related rules and forms. These amendments were adopted pursuant to a 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) directive and are based in part on the SEC's report to congress under the FAST Act. The amendments will require issuers' immediate attention as they prepare for upcoming filings.


Company & Commercial

Contributed by Cooley LLP
Board gender diversity reaches new milestone
  • USA
  • 26 August 2019

A new milestone has finally been reached for board gender diversity: there are no longer any companies in the S&P 500 with all-male boards. According to a publication on US Board Diversity Trends in 2019, 45% of new board positions among the Russell 3000 were filled by women in 2019. This is up from 34% in 2018 and a substantial improvement compared with only 12% in 2008. Under the new law, public companies will be required to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019.

FASB tentatively decides on new staggered approach to effective dates for major standards
  • USA
  • 19 August 2019

The Financial Accounting Standards Board recently signalled its intent to adopt a new two-bucket approach to stagger the effective dates for new major accounting standards. Under the new approach, the new standards' effective dates would be delayed for entities in bucket two (ie, smaller reporting and private companies, employee benefit plans and not-for-profit organisations) for at least two years after the effective dates for entities in bucket one (ie, other Securities and Exchange Commission filers).

Delaware Supreme Court allows Caremark duty of loyalty claims against directors to survive dismissal motion
  • USA
  • 12 August 2019

What does it take to plead a Caremark case that can survive a motion to dismiss? A recent case illustrates that a board can help establish one if it simply leaves compliance and risk oversight entirely to the prerogatives of management. However, the case is also a warning that directors should be proactive in conducting risk oversight and could face liability if they fail to make a good-faith effort to implement an oversight system and then monitor it.

FASB to consider delaying required adoption dates of new standards for some companies
  • USA
  • 29 July 2019

The Financial Accounting Standards Board will consider whether the adoption dates for new accounting standards should be delayed for small public companies and privately held businesses. Small business finance professionals at a recent Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council meeting indicated that, while they may be comfortable following the same rules, smaller companies do not have the same resources as large public companies and need extra time to implement significant new accounting rules.

Spot survey shows use of ESG metrics in incentive compensation plans
  • USA
  • 22 July 2019

A compensation consultant recently conducted a spot survey of 135 companies which looked at the prevalence and type of environment, social and governance (ESG) metrics used in incentive compensation plans, including metrics relating to the environment, employee engagement and culture and diversity and inclusion. Efforts to link ESG factors to executive compensation have been a common thread in numerous shareholder proposals.