On March 25, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it is extending the filing periods covered by its previously enacted conditional reporting relief for certain public company filing obligations under the federal securities laws, and that it is also extending regulatory relief previously provided to funds and investment advisers whose operations may be affected by COVID-19. In addition, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance issued its current views regarding disclosure considerations and other securities law matters related to COVID-19.
Filing Deadline Relief for Public Companies
To address potential compliance issues, the SEC issued an order [https://www.sec.gov/rules/exorders/2020/34-88465.pdf] that, subject to certain conditions, provides public companies with a 45-day extension to file certain disclosure reports that would otherwise have been due between March 1 and July 1, 2020. This order supersedes and extends the SEC’s prior order of March 4, 2020. Among other conditions, companies must continue to convey through a current report (Form 8-K) a summary of why the relief is needed in their particular circumstances for each periodic report that is delayed. The SEC may provide extensions to the time period for the relief, with any additional conditions it deems appropriate, or provide additional relief as circumstances warrant. The SEC encouraged companies and their representatives to contact SEC staff with questions or matters of particular concern.
Relief for Funds and Investment Advisers
The SEC also issued two orders [https://www.sec.gov/rules/other/2020/ia-5469.pdf and https://www.sec.gov/rules/other/2020/ic-33824.pdf] that provide certain investment funds and investment advisers with additional time with respect to holding in-person board meetings and meeting certain filing and delivery requirements, as applicable. These orders supersede and extend the filing periods covered by the SEC’s prior orders of March 13, 2020. Among other conditions, entities must notify the SEC and/or investors, as applicable, of the intent to rely on the relief, but generally no longer need to describe why they are relying on the order or estimate a date by which the required action will occur.
Disclosure Guidance for Public Companies
Further, the Division of Corporation Finance issued Disclosure Guidance Topic No. 9 [https://www.sec.gov/corpfin/coronavirus-covid-19] (the “Guidance”), providing the staff’s current views regarding disclosure and other securities law obligations that companies should consider with respect to COVID-19 and related business and market disruptions. The Division has been monitoring how companies are reporting the effects and risks of COVID-19 on their businesses, financial condition, and results of operations and is providing the Guidance as companies prepare disclosure documents during this uncertain time. In the Guidance, the Division reminds companies that a number of existing rules or regulations require disclosure about the known or reasonably likely effects of and the types of risks presented by COVID-19. As a result, disclosure of these risks and COVID-19-related effects may be necessary or appropriate in management’s discussion and analysis, the business section, risk factors, legal proceedings, disclosure controls and procedures, internal control over financial reporting, and the financial statements. The Guidance also poses a series of questions designed to help companies assess COVID-19-related effects and consider their disclosure obligations (for example: How has COVID-19 impacted your financial condition and results of operations? In light of changing trends and the overall economic outlook, how do you expect COVID-19 to impact your future operating results and near-and-long-term financial condition? Do you expect that COVID-19 will impact future operations differently than how it affected the current period?)
The Guidance notes that companies and related persons to be mindful of their market activities, including the issuance or purchase of securities, in light of their obligations under the federal securities laws. For example, where COVID-19 has affected a company in a way that would be material to investors or where a company has become aware of a risk related to COVID-19 that would be material to investors, the company, its directors and officers, and other corporate insiders who are aware of these matters should refrain from trading in the company’s securities until such information is disclosed to the public. The Guidance also reminds companies of their obligations under Regulation FD to avoid selective disclosures.