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.
The US House of Representatives recently passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorisation Act 2018, which provides funding for the FAA for the next five years. The bill contains three sections which bear watching: mobile phone use; passive finance party immunity from passenger state law tort claims; and airline seat size.
The House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure reported out to the floor of the House of Representatives for the consideration of the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorisation Act. The act privatises US air traffic control, prevents the entry of 'flag of convenience carriers' into the United States and overturns the legal interpretations by the Departments of State, Justice and Transportation of the Air Transport Agreement.
In a recent case the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit vacated a rule requiring individuals who fly small drones and other model aircraft for hobby or recreational purposes to register with the Federal Aviation Administration. The case serves as a reminder that, despite rapid advancements in drone technology, the regulators – and society – are still in the early stages of figuring out how to integrate these versatile devices into US airspace.
The Supreme Court recently denied a petition for writ of certiorari, leaving open the question of whether the Federal Aviation Act pre-empts state law standards governing design defects by aircraft and engine manufacturers. When the issue was presented on interlocutory appeal to the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit, the court held that design defects were not the subject of field pre-emption. Further monitoring is necessary to determine whether other courts will find this approach persuasive.
The beginning of 2016 brought the arrival of 'Implementation Day' under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and its potential for business opportunities in Iran that had been shut off for decades. Subsequent months have shown that, even with the relaxation of US sanctions, the road to doing business with Iran is still complex and riddled with possible compliance faults.
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.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network recently issued new frequently asked questions regarding its customer due diligence (CDD) rule. The CDD rule applies to banks, among others, and includes four core elements of CDD, each of which should be included in anti-money laundering programmes.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has announced revisions to the Annual Report of Foreign Banking Organisations (FR Y-7) which will enable foreign banking organisations (FBOs) to certify their compliance with US risk committee and home country capital stress testing requirements under Regulation YY. The FR Y-7 is an annual report submitted by qualifying FBOs to provide financial, organisational, shareholder and managerial information to the board.
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently held that California's statute prohibiting credit card surcharges violated the First Amendment as applied to the proposed surcharge practices of the merchant-plaintiffs. The Ninth Circuit used the same reasoning as a recent Supreme Court case to hold that California's surcharge ban regulated speech rather than conduct, therefore posing First Amendment concerns.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released a set of consumer protection principles designed to protect consumer interests in the market for services built around consumer-approved use of financial information. The principles are targeted at so-called 'data aggregation' or 'screen scraping' services that collect customer information in order to provide financial planning or other services.
President Trump recently signed into law the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. While much of the act was designed to provide smaller financial institutions and community banks with relief from regulations implemented under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Title V includes provisions designed to encourage capital formation. Among other things, the act expands the scope of the blue sky registration exemption.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, its recent release proposing an interpretation of the standard of conduct for investment advisers is intended to "reaffirm – and in some cases clarify – certain aspects of the fiduciary duty that an investment adviser owes to its clients under section 206" of the Investment Advisers Act 1940. However, the proposed interpretation, if adopted, appears to expand the parameters of the fiduciary duty standard and could require advisers to take on additional regulatory obligations.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently issued proposed amendments to Rule 2111's quantitative suitability provisions. According to FINRA, the proposal is designed to more effectively counter the problem of 'churning' or excessive trading in customer accounts. The proposal arrives shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission's proposal of Regulation Best Interest and illustrates how these two regulators must coordinate in order to avoid inconsistent sets of rules.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has updated its guidance on its recent amendments to Rule 2232. The new requirements apply to transactions with retail customers in corporate and agency debt securities. Beginning on the effective date, FINRA will require confirmation disclosure of additional transaction-related information, including mark-ups and mark-downs. The goal of these new rules is to help retail customers to better understand and compare the costs of these transactions.
While the number of virtual-only annual meetings has increased, critics continue to contend that virtual-only meetings limit an important shareholder right, precluding shareholders from direct eye-to-eye engagement with management and the board. With this in mind, a group of interested representatives of retail and institutional investors, public companies, proxy advisers and legal counsel have developed a set of best practices designed to ensure that the needs of all constituents are satisfied.
The EY Centre for Board Matters has identified investors' top priorities for companies in 2018, based on its annual investor outreach involving interviews with institutional investors. According to EY, the top investor priorities include board composition, with a particular focus on enhanced diversity; board-level expertise that is more aligned with business goals; and enhanced attention to talent and human capital management.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued its annual inflation-adjusted thresholds for determining whether an acquisition of voting securities requires prior notification under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. If any person or entity will hold voting shares that exceed the set amount as a result of an acquisition, all parties must submit a filing and observe a mandatory waiting period before acquiring the shares. The FTC also revised the potential maximum penalty for violations of the act.
The new tax act is expected to trigger a spike in the levels of stock buybacks. Since one of the most prolific proponents of shareholder proposals recently submitted a proposal to eliminate the impact of stock buybacks in determining executive compensation, it seems likely that this type of proposal may resurface more frequently, especially if, in light of the recent tax law change, the level of stock repurchases resumes a sustained upward climb.
The National Association of Corporate Directors has released the results of its 2017-2018 Public Company Governance Survey of over 1,000 directors and executives. The survey looked at directors' outlooks for 2018 on key business trends and critical board priorities, the board's role in overseeing an organisation's culture, the state of board risk oversight – especially cybersecurity risk – and the growing challenge of hedge fund activist investors.