Employment agreements between publicly-traded issuers and their executive officers often contain severance pay provisions that are heavily negotiated at the time of entering into the agreements.  The purpose of this post is to consider whether the amount of contractually-provided severance pay could, over the employment term, be reduced proportionate to the increase in the executive’s wealth accumulation over the same time period (i.e., an inversely proportional relationship between the amount of severance pay and the amount of wealth accumulation by the executive over the employment term).
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The recent settlement by James Dolan, CEO of Madison Square Garden Co. (MSG) serves as a reminder that the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended (“HSR Act”) can apply to compensatory equity awards.  To avoid violations, a publicly-traded issuer should monitor (at least annually) equity grants and outstanding equity awards for ongoing HSR

It is difficult for publicly-traded issuers to solve the problems associated with outstanding stock options that are “underwater” (i.e., underwater because the exercise price of the stock option is greater than the fair market value of the underlying shares).  None of the typical solutions are attractive to publicly-traded issuers.  As a result, the underwater stock options continue to exist for 10 years from the date they were granted, and continue to decrease the life expectancy of the equity plan’s share reserve.  But what if a compensatory design existed that, if implemented on the front end, could negate the possible future existence of outstanding stock options that are substantially underwater?  Would such a design be attractive to an issuer so long as the design did not destroy the retention value otherwise inherent in the stock option?  Could a stock-price forfeiture provision be a solution to the foregoing problem?  Discussing a stock-price forfeiture provision as a possible solution to negate substantially underwater stock options is this “Tip of the Week.”
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All publicly-traded issuers have (or should have) a blackout policy that prohibits a designated individual from engaging in open-market transactions whenever such individual possesses material non-public information.  But what if the issuer is always (or near always) in a blackout period?  How does the issuer satisfy its income tax withholding obligation if the individual cannot finance the obligation through other means (e.g., family money, borrowings, etc.) and the individual is prohibited from financing the obligation by selling shares in the open market?  Answers to these questions are discussed in this Tip of the Week (presented in NO particular order, and not intended as an exhaustive list).
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Most publicly-traded issuers are interested in ideas that could help increase the life expectancy of the share reserve under its stockholder-approved equity incentive plan.  The purpose of this “Tip of the Week” is to discuss the use of “inducement grants” as one of the many ideas to consider.

Background

If you look at an equity incentive plan’s annual life cycle on a per-key employee basis, it is likely that the largest share grant occurred at the time the key employee was hired.  That conclusion makes sense because more shares are generally granted at the time of the key employee’s hire in order to induce him or her to become employed with the issuer (compared to the number of shares it takes on an annual basis thereafter to retain that same key employee).  With this point in mind, issuers could increase the life expectancy of its equity incentive plan’s share reserve if new hires received equity grants that were “outside” of the stockholder-approved equity incentive plan.
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Publicly-traded issuers losing (or about to lose) Emerging Growth Company (“EGC”) status will have to include a CD&A within their proxy statement.  Since CD&A disclosure significantly drives compensation design, issuers losing EGC status will need to consider various business points that will likely change their compensatory programs.  Such business points include: (i) memorializing a compensation

Though relative Total Shareholder Return (“TSR”) programs offer no direct line of sight for the executive to chase the business goal, such programs continue to remain the most common metric within an issuer’s performance-based equity program.  In designing these programs, a common question is how payouts could be adjusted if the issuer’s stockholders realize negative returns and lose money during the measurement period.  The answer to that question is this “Tip of the Week.”
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