Monday, February 11, 2013

Defending 10b5-1 Plans

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...
We haven't seen much interest in Rule 10b5-1 plans recently. I suppose that a declining market during recent years tempered the desire to sell stock. If so, we should see a rise in the interest in such plans once again.

For those unfamiliar with these plans, a 10b5-1 plan is used by insiders in public company to sell securities of their company, without running afoul of insider trading laws. The plans are detailed, specific plans that are designed to let executives sell off shares at regular intervals, regardless of events inside the company at the time of the sales. Properly structured and executed, the plans provide a clear defense to an insider trading allegation.

Years ago the SEC began investigating the use of the plans, or rather the alleged abuse of the plans. According to the Commission, some executives were attempting to modify their plans as events at the company unfolded, causing potential violations of Rule 10b5-1, the SEC rule that permits the use of such plans. I wrote about the issue back then - 10b5-1 Plans Under Attack.

Along with a potential increase in the use of the plans, the Commission is once again looking into the use of the plans. According to the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation,  several recent Wall Street Journal articles suggest that some executives may have achieved above-market returns using the plans. These articles are reported to have drawn the interest of federal prosecutors and the SEC enforcement staff.

The problems that we have seen in the plans are in the execution of the plan itself, not in the creation of the plan. Defending executives in an SEC investigation over the use of a 10b5-1 plan  should not be a difficult endeavor. As noted in the article, although regulators and the media may scrutinize trades made under 10b5-1 plans even when above board and done according to best practices, a well-thought-out and implemented 10b5-1 plan may help a company and its executives avoid or ultimately refute accusations of impropriety.

More details are available at Rule 10b5-1 Plans: What You Need to Know

The attorneys associated with my firm include former SEC Senior Enforcement Attorneys and criminal prosecutors. In addition, I have been representing executive, financial professionals and firms in regulatory investigations and proceedings for over 25 years. If you have a question regarding an investigation, give me a call or send me an email - 212-509-6544 or astarita@beamlaw.com


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