Corporate Finance & Securities Regulation
Senate JOBS Act Passes Key Hurdle
Today the Senate voted 76-22 to pass a cloture motion (a motion to end debate) on the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act. This controversial legislation would enable businesses to raise money through crowdfunding, and would reduce other restrictions on raising capital. The Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune support the JOBS Act, but others including the New York Times and the Securities Exchange Commission have spoken against the bill. One the one hand, the Journal and the Tribune are taking the position that the bill should be passed because it will boost the economy, and on the other, the Times and the SEC are concerned that without appropriate regulation the average Joe will be swindled. Personally, I’m hoping that some version of the bill gets passed. While I dislike portions of the bill, I think on the whole it will do more good than harm. The final vote on the bill and two amendments is scheduled for 9:30am PST on Thursday.
International Trade & Clean Energy Industry
In Boost to American Solar Panel Manufacturers, US to Impose Tariff on Chinese Solar Panels
On Tuesday the US Commerce Department said that it would impose tariffs of 2.9% to 4.73% on Chinese-manufactured solar panels. The commerce department concluded that China had been illegally subsidizing the manufacture of solar panels, and could further increase the tariffs, if it is determined that Chinese manufacturers are “dumping” solar panels at below-cost prices. The tariff is a boost for American manufacturers, who have had trouble competing with the subsidized imports.
Apple Announces Dividend & Buyback
Starting in July, Apple will give shareholders a quarterly dividend worth $2.65 per share. While this dividend may be insignificant for Apple’s smaller shareholders, it is significant for its largest shareholders. Apple’s institutional owners will receive substantial distributions, for example Fidelity Asset Management, which owns 5.4% of Apple, will receive $536 million from the announced dividend. Apple has $100 billion in cash, and had to decide what to do with it. They have been reinvesting in acquisitions and product development, but have decided that they are prepared to start returning some of their profits directly to shareholders. Apple also announced that it will buy back $10 billion of its shares over three years. The stock buyback reduces dilution, and increases the value of outstanding stock.
Social Media & Employment Law
Some Employers Asking for Voluntary Disclosure of Facebook Passwords
The Associated Press is reporting that employers are asking for voluntary disclosure of Facebook passwords as part of job applications. Some employers claim to be looking for signs of gang activity, while others, like Sears, use the policy to find information about work history. A Sears spokesperson told the WSJ Law Blog that Sears only uses information found in Social Media profiles to keep up to date on the employees location and job experience, but that it does not examine more personal items like pictures. In the wake of the AP report, the ACLU released a statement calling such actions an invasion of privacy. While such requests for voluntary disclosures are not recommended, neither are they generally considered to be strictly against the law. However there is legislation pending in Illinois and Maryland which would outlaw such requests.