SEC Proposes Rules Requiring Companies to Adopt Clawback Policies on Executive Compensation
Proposed Rules Designed to Improve Quality of Financial Reporting and Enhance Accountability Benefiting Investors
The Securities and Exchange Commission today proposed rules directing national securities exchanges and associations to establish listing standards requiring companies to adopt policies that require executive officers to pay back incentive-based compensation that they were awarded erroneously. With this proposal, the Commission has completed proposals on all executive compensation rules required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Under the proposed new Rule 10D-1, listed companies would be required to develop and enforce recovery policies that in the event of an accounting restatement, “claw back” from current and former executive officers incentive-based compensation they would not have received based on the restatement. Recovery would be required without regard to fault. The proposed rules would also require disclosure of listed companies’ recovery policies, and their actions under those policies.
“These listing standards will require executive officers to return incentive-based compensation that was not earned,” said SEC Chair Mary Jo White. “The proposed rules would result in increased accountability and greater focus on the quality of financial reporting, which will benefit investors and the markets.”
Under the proposed rules, the listing standards would apply to incentive-based compensation that is tied to accounting-related metrics, stock price or total shareholder return. Recovery would apply to excess incentive-based compensation received by executive officers in the three fiscal years preceding the date a listed company is required to prepare an accounting restatement.
Each listed company would be required to file its recovery policy as an exhibit to its annual report under the Securities Exchange Act. In addition, a listed company would be required to disclose its actions to recover in its annual reports and any proxy statement that requires executive compensation disclosure if, during its last fiscal year, a restatement requiring recovery of excess incentive-based compensation was completed, or there was an outstanding balance of excess incentive-based compensation from a prior restatement.
The comment period for the proposed rules will be 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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Listing Standards for Clawing Back Erroneously Awarded Executive Compensation
SEC Open Meeting
July 1, 2015
The Commission will consider whether to propose rules directing national securities exchanges and associations to establish listing standards requiring companies to develop and implement policies to claw back incentive-based executive compensation that later is shown to have been awarded in error. The proposed rules are designed to improve the quality of financial reporting and benefit investors by providing enhanced accountability. The proposed new rules required by Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act would be the last of the executive compensation rules to be proposed.
Highlights of the Proposed Rules
Listing Standards – Proposed Rule 10D-1 under the Securities Exchange Act
- The proposed rules would require national securities exchanges and associations to establish listing standards that would require listed companies to adopt and comply with a compensation recovery policy in which:
- Recovery would be required from current and former executive officers who received incentive-based compensation during the three fiscal years preceding the date on which the company is required to prepare an accounting restatement to correct a material error. The recovery would be required on a “no fault” basis, without regard to whether any misconduct occurred or an executive officer’s responsibility for the erroneous financial statements.
- Companies would be required to recover the amount of incentive-based compensation received by an executive officer that exceeds the amount the executive officer would have received had the incentive-based compensation been determined based on the accounting restatement. For incentive-based compensation based on stock price or total shareholder return, companies could use a reasonable estimate of the effect of the restatement on the applicable measure to determine the amount to be recovered.
- Companies would have discretion not to recover the excess incentive-based compensation received by executive officers if the direct expense of enforcing recovery would exceed the amount to be recovered or, for foreign private issuers, in specified circumstances where recovery would violate home country law.
- Under the proposed rules, a company would be subject to delisting if it does not adopt a compensation recovery policy that complies with the applicable listing standard, disclose the policy in accordance with Commission rules or comply with the policy’s recovery provisions.
Definition of Executive Officers
The proposed rules would include a definition of an “executive officer” that is modeled on the definition of “officer” under Section 16 under the Exchange Act. The definition includes the company’s president, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer, any vice-president in charge of a principal business unit, division or function, and any other person who performs policy-making functions for the company.
Incentive-Based Compensation Subject to Recovery
Under the proposal, incentive-based compensation that is granted, earned or vested based wholly or in part on the attainment of any financial reporting measure would be subject to recovery. Financial reporting measures are those based on the accounting principles used in preparing the company’s financial statements, any measures derived wholly or in part from such financial information, and stock price and total shareholder return.
Each listed company would be required to file its compensation recovery policy as an exhibit to its Exchange Act annual report.
In addition, if during its last completed fiscal year the company either prepared a restatement that required recovery of excess incentive-based compensation, or there was an outstanding balance of excess incentive-based compensation relating to a prior restatement, a listed company would be required to disclose:
- The date on which it was required to prepare each accounting restatement, the aggregate dollar amount of excess incentive-based compensation attributable to the restatement and the aggregate dollar amount that remained outstanding at the end of its last completed fiscal year.
- The name of each person subject to recovery from whom the company decided not to pursue recovery, the amounts due from each such person, and a brief description of the reason the company decided not to pursue recovery.
- If amounts of excess incentive-based compensation are outstanding for more than 180 days, the name of, and amount due from, each person at the end of the company’s last completed fiscal year.
The proposed disclosure would be included along with the listed company’s other executive compensation disclosure in annual reports and any proxy or information statements in which executive compensation disclosure is required.
Listed companies would also be required to block tag the disclosure in an interactive data format using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).
The proposed rules would apply to all listed companies except for certain registered investment companies to the extent they do not provide incentive-based compensation to their employees.
The proposal requires the exchanges to file their proposed listing rules no later than 90 days following the publication of the adopted version of Rule 10D-1 in the Federal Register. The proposal also requires the listing rules to become effective no later than one year following the publication date.
Each listed company would be required to adopt its recovery policy no later than 60 days following the date on which the listing exchange’s listing rule becomes effective. Each listed company would be required to recover all excess incentive-based compensation received by current and former executive officers on or after the effective date of Rule 10D-1 that results from attaining a financial reporting measure based on financial information for any fiscal period ending on or after the effective date of Rule 10D-1.
Listed companies would be required to comply with the new disclosures in proxy or information statements and Exchange Act annual reports filed on or after the effective date of the listing exchange’s rule.
If approved for publication by the Commission, the proposed rules will be published on the Commission’s website and in the Federal Register. The comment period for the proposed rules would be 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.