On October 31, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in Chamber of Commerce of the USA v. SEC, granting the Chamber’s petition for review of the SEC’s Share Repurchase Disclosure Modernization rule. The Court held that the “SEC acted arbitrarily and capriciously, in violation of the APA, when it failed to respond to petitioners’ comments and failed to conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis.” However, recognizing that there was “at least a serious possibility that the agency will be able to substantiate its decision given an opportunity to do so,” the Court decided that, instead of vacating the rule, it would allow the SEC 30 days “to remedy the deficiencies in the rule,” and remanded the matter with directions to the SEC to correct the defects in the rule. The three-judge panel, however, “retain[ed] jurisdiction to consider the decision that is made on remand.” The deadline was set at November 30, 2023. On November 22, the SEC announced that it had issued an order postponing the effective date of the Share Repurchase Disclosure Modernization rule. As a result, the rule was stayed pending further SEC action. (See this PubCo post.) On the same date, the SEC filed a brief motion asking the Court for an extension of time to correct the defects. In its motion, the SEC said only that, “[s]ince the remand, the Commission’s staff has worked diligently to ascertain the steps necessary to comply with the Court’s remand order and has determined that doing so will require additional time.” The SEC said in the motion that it would provide an update within 60 days on the status of its efforts. Not surprisingly, the Chamber opposed the motion. On November 26, the Court issued an Order, refusing to grant the extension. The question then was whether or not the SEC would still submit an analysis to the Court attempting to correct the defects by the court-imposed deadline. (See this PubCo post, this PubCo post and this PubCo post.) Now we have the answer.
Today, the SEC’s Office of General Counsel submitted a letter to the Court to inform the Court of the status of the Repurchase Rule under review. In the letter, the SEC advised that “[c]onsistent with the statements in its November 22, 2023 filing, the Commission was not able ‘to correct the defects in the rule,’… within 30 days of the Court’s opinion.” Presumably, the Court will now vacate the rule and it will be up to the SEC to decide whether to appeal the decision or to try again with a new share repurchase proposal—this time one that addresses the defects identified by the Court.