For Entrepreneurs and Companies

In light of the SEC’s first enforcement action against a company for impeding whistleblower activity in violation of Rule 21F-17, employers may wish to consider clarifying in their agreements, policies and practices that involve confidentiality obligations that employees may provide truthful information to the SEC or other governmental agencies concerning potential violations of law.

Rule 21F-17, adopted pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, provides in relevant part:

(a) No person may take any action to impede an individual from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation, including enforcing, or threatening to enforce, a confidentiality agreement … with respect to such communications.

KBR, a Houston-based global technology and engineering firm, had a practice of conducting internal investigations in response to complaints regarding potential illegal or unethical conduct, which included interviewing employees (including those who had lodged a complaint). KBR required witnesses in these internal investigations to sign a confidentiality statement that included the following language:

I understand that in order to protect the integrity of this review, I am prohibited from discussing any particulars regarding this interview and the subject matter discussed during the interview, without the prior authorization of the Law Department. I understand that the unauthorized disclosure of information may be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

The SEC acknowledged that it was not aware of any employee in fact being prevented from communicating directly with SEC staff, or of KBR taking any action to enforce these confidentiality statements. Nevertheless, the SEC concluded that that the language in the confidentiality statement impeded communications with the SEC staff about potential securities violations by requiring permission from KBR’s legal department or face the prospect of discipline.
Continue Reading Carefully Draft NDAs to Avoid Whistleblower Concerns

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its anticipated Omnicare decision, which addresses the standard of liability applied to expressions of opinion in a registration statement for a public offering. While there will be clamoring about Omnicare (it is somewhat rare for the Supreme Court to issue securities law decisions), in my opinion the case does not involve a fundamental shift in how disclosure is drafted, although it does invite a few drafting and diligence strategies.

Statutory Backdrop

Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 permits purchasers of securities to sue for damages if a registration statement, at the time it became effective:

  • contained an untrue statement of a material fact; or
  • omitted to state a material fact required to be stated therein or necessary to make the statements therein not misleading.

In contrast with other types of securities liability, neither the untrue statements prong nor the omissions prong of Section 11 requires showing that a defendant acted with any intent to deceive or defraud.

Omnicare’s Opinions

Omnicare, the nation’s largest provider of pharmacy services for residents of nursing homes, filed a registration statement for a public offering of its common stock. In discussing the effects of various laws on its business model, including its acceptance of rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers, the registration statement contained the following statements of opinion:

  • “We believe our contract arrangements with other healthcare providers, our pharmaceutical suppliers and our pharmacy practices are in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.”
  • “We believe that our contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers are legally and economically valid arrangements that bring value to the healthcare system and the patients that we serve.”


Continue Reading IMHO, Omnicare Doesn’t Materially Change Opinion Disclosure

PitchBook recently released its 1H 2015 VC Valuations and Trends Report that breaks down over 20,000 valuations of private company financings and exits over the past 10 years. The report shows continued increase in median U.S. venture-backed company valuation across stage of investment. Not surprising, PitchBook’s conclusion is that Series Seed is the new Series A, Series A is the new Series B, and Series B is the new Series C – noting that while this is not a new finding by any means, PitchBook has more data to support
Continue Reading Series Seed is the new Series A; VC-backed company valuations continue to rise

Compliments of our DLA Piper colleagues in the data protection and privacy practice, and co-editors Kate Lucente and John Townsend, here is the DLA Piper 2015 Data Protection Laws of the World Handbook. This updated 2015 online edition of the handbook offers a high-level snapshot of selected features of international laws as they currently stand in 77 jurisdictions across the world. For example, here is a heat map that provides a visual representation of the privacy challenges faced in certain jurisdictions.

Here is a .pdf of the full 421-page
Continue Reading Interactive 2015 Data Protection Laws of the World Handbook

Contributed by our colleague Mark Radcliffe

2014 was a great year for startups seeking funding.  Two of the leading reporting companies, PitchBook and CB Insights, report similar trends (both of these reports focus on funding by traditional financial venture capitalists and corporate venture capitalists, but the numbers differ because PitchBook also includes some angel investments). The key points are:

1.  Significant Increase in the Amount of Funding:  The funding in 2014 increased dramatically from 2013: according to PitchBook,  funding increased almost $20 billion from $39.4 billion to $59 billion
Continue Reading Three Trends in 2014 Venture Capital Funding

A useful note from our colleague Sanjay Beri, originally posted at Technology’s Legal Edge.

I was recently reminded that the term “reseller” agreement can often mean different things to different people.  Misunderstandings about these types of relationships creates the potential for miscommunication and wasted time drafting the wrong terms.

A client recently asked me for a form of reseller agreement to engage resellers to help distribute the client’s software based product.  “You know, just grab something off the shelf that will work” went the common refrain.  As I talked
Continue Reading What Exactly Do You Mean By “Reseller” Agreement?

From our colleagues Paolo Morante, Steven E. Levitsky, and Laura Kam

In accordance with the 2000 amendments to the HSR Act, the Federal Trade Commission has announced its annual revision to the jurisdictional thresholds under the Act. The new thresholds will go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is expected in the next few business days.

Under the new thresholds, no transaction will be reportable unless, as a result of it, the acquiring person will hold voting securities, assets, or noncorporate interests of
Continue Reading FTC ANNOUNCES ANNUAL REVISIONS TO HSR ACT THRESHOLDS

From our colleagues, Michelle J. Anderson and Jim Halpert, originally published as a Data Protection, Privacy and Security Alert (US)

According to the Data Quality Campaign, 36 states considered 110 student data privacy bills in 2014, and 20 states enacted 28 such bills into law.  At least eight of these new laws may have significant implications for businesses that provide services involving student data to schools, and most of these laws have already taken effect.

IMPLICATIONS FOR VENDORS: Some of the new state student privacy laws specifically require
Continue Reading New student data privacy laws: top points for school contractors and K-12 education sites, apps and online services

Just a reminder to those who have Delaware corporations, your annual report and franchise tax payment are both due by March 1 (which falls on a Sunday this year so plan accordingly). At this point, you have likely already received from Delaware your notification of annual report and franchise tax due, which is sent to a corporation’s registered agent in December or January of each year. Delaware requires these reports to be filed electronically.

As you will notice, there are two methods that you can use to calculate the amount of Delaware franchise tax due for your corporation (i.e., the “Authorized Shares Method” and the “Assumed Par Value Capital Method”), which result in vastly different amounts due. The default payment amount listed on your notification is set by Delaware using the Authorized Shares Method, which method will almost always result in a much high amount due for startups with limited assets. The minimum franchise tax is $175 (increased from $75 on July 1, 2014) and the maximum franchise tax is $180,000.

Franchise taxes are generally due in arrears for the prior calendar year. However, note that Delaware requires corporations owing $5,000 or more for the prior year to make estimated payments for the current (going-forward) year’s franchise tax with 40% due June 1, 20% due by September 1, 20% due by December 1, and the remainder due March 1.

Here are some examples showing how the different methods can dramatically impact the amount of Delaware franchise tax due:
Continue Reading Franchise tax due by March 1 (a Sunday!) for Delaware corporations: two methods of calculation, two vastly different results

PitchBook just released its recap of 2014 venture capital trends by region, focusing on the most active regions and presenting the information in infographic form. Each infographic can be found here: Bay Area, Pacific Northwest, New York metro and Europe. Below is also a quick summary of the highlights by region:

Bay Area:

  • The median pre-money valuation for 2014 was $28.2m (up from $18.3m for 2013).
  • The most active sector (by both deal count and capital invested), by a wide margin, was information technology.
  • The region


Continue Reading Recap of 2014 Venture Capital Trends by Region