Yesterday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission finalized a rule that requires new disclosures from companies conducting stock buybacks.
The background: Stock buybacks are a commonplace practice that allow companies to ensure that their cash reserves are being used effectively. Returning capital to shareholders benefits both the company and its investors by increasing shareholder returns, enhancing capital formation and ensuring efficient capital allocation.
- Over the past few years, however, policymakers and regulators have taken steps to discourage buybacks, and the SEC has now finalized a rule targeting them.
The burden: The SEC’s rule imposes several new burdens on manufacturers conducting buybacks:
- A requirement that companies disclose detailed buyback data from each day of a fiscal quarter—imposing significant costs and dramatically increasing the complexity of businesses’ quarterly filings
- A requirement that companies provide disclosures justifying their buybacks, which could further politicize these capital allocation decisions
- New disclosures related to companies’ stock buyback programs and transactions by company management and boards of directors
The pushback: The NAM spoke out against the SEC’s rule when it was proposed last year, detailing the harm it would do to manufacturers.
- In particular, the NAM called on the SEC to reverse its proposed next-day disclosure requirement, which would have mandated upward of 250 new SEC filings per year for many public companies.
The result: Thanks to the NAM’s advocacy, the SEC’s final rule left out the daily disclosure requirement—a significant victory for manufacturers.
- However, companies will still be required to track daily buyback activity to comply with the quarterly day-by-day reporting mandate.
- In addition, the final rule maintained the proposal’s burdensome requirement that companies describe the “objectives or rationales” for any stock buybacks as well as the “process or criteria” used to set buyback targets.
The next steps: Most domestic companies will be required to provide daily buyback data in their Q4 2023 filings, meaning that daily tracking will begin in October 2023 and be reported to the SEC in early 2024. Most foreign companies will be required to comply in their Q2 2024 filings.
The last word: “The NAM is disappointed that the SEC has chosen to unjustifiably punish manufacturers for returning capital to their shareholders,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. “Manufacturers, investors, retirement plans and the entire economy benefit when companies can efficiently allocate capital via share repurchases.”
Further reading: The SEC rule is not the only action targeting buybacks in the past few years. The Inflation Reduction Act included a new tax on buybacks—which the NAM also opposed. It is currently engaging with the IRS to minimize the harm done to manufacturers by the tax. Read more here.