2017 is in the books and 2018 is now upon us. A dramatic close to 2017 on Capitol Hill ushered in sweeping changes to the tax code that will begin to impact both employers and employees in a number of ways – some more immediately – from employers losing deductions for sexual harassment settlement payouts, to penalties for high nonprofit executive compensation, to tax deferral on exercise of stock options for public company executives, to employee benefit plans. Wage and leave-related issues are also likely to dominate in 2018, as more states (and employers on their own initiative) increase wage thresholds and broaden employee paid and unpaid leave entitlements (even for some smaller employers). Salary history bans, such as those already enacted in New York City, Massachusetts, and California, will continue to get traction in 2018 as more states and municipalities jump on that bandwagon. We also expect to continue to witness a significant shift in the NLRB’s enforcement policy and decision-making; the NLRB’s new General Counsel has already announced a number of changes that are sure to make employers sigh with relief. Also in 2018, employers could continue to face rising uncertainty with respect to health plans in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate that was central to keeping health plans affordable under the Affordable Care Act. Finally, so that we can help keep you accountable to the five New Year’s resolutions we made for you over the holidays (that we know you were eager to adopt as your own), we have collected them for you here: (1) review and refresh your non-harassment policies and training; (2) update your leave policies; (3) make sure your job applications comply with new state ban-the-box laws and salary history inquiry bans; (4) assess the strength and enforceability of your post-employment covenants under changing state law; and (5) make sure your employee benefit plans are compliant.
The Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 was recently signed into law creating two important changes in executive compensation, which we outline below.
The “intermediate sanctions” rules under Section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Code have long governed the payment of compensation to executives of public charities. While these rules are highly prescriptive, if followed, they offer taxpayers a significant advantage in the form or a rebuttable presumption of reasonableness. While there was concern among tax-exempts that the tax bill might reduce or even eliminate the presumption of reasonableness, that turned out not to be the case. But the final version of the legislation for the first time imposed a tax on certain excess compensation and excess parachute payments, which we discuss in more detail below.
Earlier this month, in In re Investors Bancorp, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, the Delaware Court of Chancery reiterated its view that placing a meaningful limit on director equity awards to be granted under a stockholder approved equity plan allows the court to determine whether director equity awards are excessive under the more lenient business judgment rule.
Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) has issued updated proxy voting guidelines, including an update to guidelines related to director compensation and the equity plan scorecard.
The updated guidelines are effective for meetings on or after February 1, 2017. Additional information will be made available in a FAQ to be released by ISS later this month.
Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission released new Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DIs”) which provide guidance on the CEO pay-ratio rules. As a reminder, the CEO pay-ratio rules were enacted in August of 2015 and generally require public companies to disclose the ratio of their CEO’s annual total compensation to that of the median annual total compensation of all other company employees.
The new C&DIs provide guidance on several aspects of these pay-ratio rules, including the determination of individuals to be included in the employee population and identification of the median employee.
For an overview of the pay-ratio rules, see this helpful post on the Securities Matters blog here.
The following provides an overview of the C&DIs:
Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”), the influential proxy advisory firm, recently released their 2016-2017 Global Policy Survey results. These results show some interesting findings related to executive compensation and may signal the future of ISS policies concerning pay for performance and say-on-pay frequency.
The Ninth Circuit recently held that Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX 304) allows for a clawback of certain CEO and CFO compensation regardless of whether the clawback was triggered by the personal misconduct of such officers. District courts have reached this conclusion before, but the Ninth Circuit appears to be the first circuit to adopt such a view. The Ninth Circuit also held that Rule 13a-14 of the Securities Exchange Act (Rule 13a-14) provides the SEC with a cause of action against a CEO and CFO who certify false or misleading statements. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds that SOX 304 Clawback Applies to Executives that are Not at Fault
On July 25, 2016, the IRS finalized regulations under Section 83 of the tax code that removes a procedural step in the process of filing an 83(b) election.
From: Ned Help
To: Carrie Counselor
Date: June 29, 2016
Subject: Benefit and Compensation Considerations
I appreciate the guidance you have provided regarding the documents the company needs to have in place when sending an employee on an assignment abroad.
Now I have a related question about immigration risks and responsibilities: where do we draw the line between the company’s obligations and assumption of risks in these scenarios and the employees’ obligations and assumptions of risks with respect to securing and maintaining visas and work permit approvals for our employees?
Thanks for helping me think through this thorny issue.