November 23, 2022Calculating...

SEC adopts pay-for-performance disclosure rules

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently adopted new rules1 that will require many U.S. reporting companies to disclose in a clear manner the relationship between executive compensation actually paid and the company’s financial performance. However, the rules generally will not apply to Canadian companies that report under the Multijurisdictional Disclosure System (MJDS), foreign private issuers, registered investment companies and emerging growth companies2. Smaller reporting companies are subject to scaled back disclosure requirements.

What you need to know

  • Companies must show how management pay aligns with corporate results. Although many companies have been including a description of the pay-for-performance elements of their executive compensation arrangements in their disclosure, companies subject to the new rules will have to disclose how the compensation actually paid to their principal executive officer (PEO) and other named executive officers (NEOs) over the previous five fiscal years relates to the performance of the company and its peers over that period
  • Changes apply as early as January 2023. The rules will apply to any proxy and information statement that is filed with the SEC on Schedule 14A or 14C in respect of a fiscal year ending on or after December 16, 2022, where shareholders will vote on the election of directors or executive compensation. Accordingly, pay versus performance disclosure will be required beginning in 2023 for companies with a calendar-year-end fiscal year. However, the SEC has adopted transitional relief so that, in the first year disclosure is required, companies may provide the required disclosure for three years instead of five, with an additional year of disclosure added in each of their two subsequent proxy or information statements.
  • Canadian SEC issuers that follow U.S. rules. The rules also will apply to Canadian SEC issuers3 that have elected to comply with the U.S. compensation disclosure rules in lieu of the Canadian disclosure requirements.
  • Canadian companies that voluntarily align disclosure with U.S. rules. Canadian companies that are not required to comply with the new rules but that, historically, have presented pay-for-performance disclosure for their NEOs, or provided supplemental disclosure, in line with U.S. disclosure rules, may wish to consider aligning their disclosure going forward with some or all of the SEC’s new disclosure requirements.

Three new disclosure elements

The new SEC disclosure rules require companies to disclose the following three new elements:

  • Prescribed tabular disclosure: A company subject to the rules will be required to disclose the total compensation paid to its PEO and average total compensation paid to the other NEOs for its five most recently completed fiscal years compared to total shareholder return, peer group shareholder return, net income and, if applicable, an additional measure specific to the company and chosen by it as the company’s most important measure of financial performance. In addition, companies will be required to disclose the compensation actually paid to those individuals, calculated using a prescribed formula that takes into account, among other matters, the fair value of equity awards as at year-end (versus the estimated value at grant). This “actually paid” amount could be different from the amounts of “realized pay” that some companies have been disclosing voluntarily.
  • Additional comparative disclosure: Companies will be required to disclose a clear description of the relationship between each of the financial performance measures included in the tabular disclosure and the compensation actually paid to the NEOs during the five most recent fiscal years. For example, this disclosure could include a graph showing executive compensation actually paid and change in the financial performance measures on parallel axes and plotting compensation and such measures over the required time period.
  • Tabular list of financial performance measures: Each company subject to the rules will be required to provide an unranked list of three to seven financial performance measures that are the “most important” measures used by the company to link the actual compensation paid to the NEOs to company performance for the most recent fiscal year.

To discuss these issues, please contact the author(s).

This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

For permission to republish this or any other publication, contact Janelle Weed.

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