10b5-1 Trading Plans Continue to Draw Attention

As we previously discussed, executives’ trading under Rule 10b5-1 plans has been the focus of SEC scrutiny.  The Wall Street Journal continues to publish articles casting 10b5-1 trading plans in a harsh light, and the SEC is continuing its aggressive pursuit of those illegal insider trading.  Recently, the Council of Institutional Investors wrote to the SEC to reiterate the requests made in its December 28, 2012 letter asking the SEC to consider various changes to Rule 10b5-1 or the issuance of interpretive guidance “to address the variety and number of abuses that have been identified” with respect to 10b5-1 trading plans. 

The SEC has a lot on its plate at the moment and the SEC may not address the perceived abuses or misuses of 10b5-1 trading plans any time soon.  Nonetheless, public company boards should consider reviewing their policies regarding 10b5-1 trading plans to be sure the policies are up to date and adequately address the needs of the company’s officers and directors as well as investors’ concerns.  For more on what to consider when reviewing your 10b5-1 trading plans, please see our December 2012/January 2013 issue of Up to Date.

SEC Intensifies Scrutiny on Stock Sales by Insiders and 10b5-1 Plans

On February 5, 2013, the Wall Street Journal published the third in a series of articles discussing trading by public company executives in their companies’ securities, including trading pursuant to Rule 10b5-1 trading plans.  A 10b5-1 trading plan is a plan for buying or selling securities meeting the requirements of Securities Exchange Act Rule 10b5-1(c).  A properly adopted and implemented Rule 10b5-1 trading plan provides an affirmative defense against accusations of insider trading and allows the purchases and sales of securities even when the person who adopted the plan is aware of material nonpublic information. 

This latest Wall Street Journal article, “SEC Expands Probe on Executive Trades,” reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission has expanded its investigation into trading by corporate executives beyond the seven companies named in the first article in the series.  This latest article also refers to “shortcomings of the regulations” and “loopholes in the rules . . . known as a 10b5-1 plans.”  Whether or not you agree with the characterization of 10b5-1 plans as “loopholes” (I don’t), the Wall Street Journal’s recent reporting makes clear that trading by executives pursuant to 10b5-1 trading plans is likely to be subject to intense scrutiny in the coming months.  If you have not done so recently, now may be a very good time to review your company’s policies with respect to 10b5-1 trading plans and other insider trading policies to be sure they are adequate for today’s environment.  For some tips on what you may wish to consider in such a review, please see our December 2012/January 2013 Up to Date newsletter.