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William (Bill) R. Pomierski focuses his practice on the taxation of financial products and capital markets transactions, as well as on executive compensation matters. He is a former chair of the Firm’s Executive Compensation Practice Group. Bill advises clients on the federal income tax implications of a variety of domestic, cross-border and global financial products and related transactions. Read William Pomierski's full bio.

On August 21, 2018, the IRS issued guidance regarding recent statutory changes made to Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code. Overall, Notice 2018-68 strictly interprets the Section 162(m) grandfathering rule under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Public companies and other issuers subject to these deduction limitations will want to closely consider this guidance in connection with filing upcoming periodic reports with securities regulators. Further action to support existing tax positions or adjustments to deferred tax asset reporting in financial statements may be warranted in light of this guidance.

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The US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act intends to reduce corporate and individual tax rates. To pay for the proposed changes, the House Tax Bill would, if enacted, negatively impact long-standing current executive compensation practices.

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The recent presidential election has tax professionals busy analyzing predicted (and hoped for) tax reform proposals, including the potential reduction in the top marginal rates for individuals. It is unclear whether and when rates will be reduced, and how soon thereafter rates may creep up again, but tax rate proposals invariably lead to discussions relating to the timing of compensation payments.

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Much attention has been given to recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed rulemaking under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd Frank Act) that would require disclosure of chief executive officer pay ratios and a new pay-for-performance table.  But there’s another proposed rule that could cause significant headaches for public companies during the 2016 proxy season.  As we previously reported, the SEC has proposed rules that would require disclosure of what categories of transactions are – and are not – allowed under issuer hedging policies. These rules would implement Section 955 of the Dodd-Frank Act.  We believe that this issue has not received significant attention because most public companies already have hedging policies.  What’s not appreciated is that the scope of the proposed rules is quite broad and could cover many common investment transactions that would not be a hedge under many public company hedging policies.  For example, purchasing the stock of other issuers could be a hedge under the proposed rules.  If the proposed rules are implemented in their current form, public companies could be forced to choose between (i) disclosing that some forms of hedging are allowed under their hedging policies, thereby risking adverse voting recommendations from proxy advisory services (such as ISS and Glass-Lewis, at least under current voting guidelines) or (ii) modifying existing hedging polices to limit investment approaches used to diversify concentrated stock positions, which would complicate compliance oversight of hedging policies and lead to changes by executives in their investment strategies, including potentially more sales of issuer stock under 10b5-1 programs. McDermott Will & Emery has submitted comments urging the SEC to clarify and narrow the scope of hedging transactions that would be covered as part of the final rules – click here for a copy of the comment letter. We recommend that public companies keep in mind the need to review existing hedging polices in light of what the SEC adopts as final rules on hedging policy disclosures, which could be finalized by early this fall.

On March 31, 2015, IRS issued final regulations clarifying that stock options and SARs will only qualify as performance-based compensation if granted under a stockholder-approved plan that includes an individual limit on the number of such awards that may be granted during a specified period. In addition, only certain types of stock-based compensation are eligible to be treated as “paid” when granted for purposes of qualifying for an exemption under the IPO transition rule.

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For more information about structuring individual limits for equity grants, please see this article in The Corporate Executive.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently issued a proposed rule that would require public companies to disclose in annual proxy statements whether their employees and board members may hedge or otherwise offset any decrease in the market value of such companies’ equity securities. The proposed rule implements Section 955 of the Dodd-Frank Act and covers a broader range of transactions than typical hedging policies.

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