Equity & Share-Based Comp

The FTC rule banning post-employment noncompetes was published in the Federal Register on May 7, which means the rule will take effect on September 4, 2024, unless pending lawsuits to void the rule are successful.

Despite considerable uncertainty around when, or even whether, the rule will apply, employers should prepare now so as not to be caught flatfooted. The first step is to understand the rule’s parameters and potential impact on your business. Our FAQs guide you through the intricacies of the rule and the steps you should take while waiting for the lawsuits challenging the rule to be resolved.

Application of the Rule to Workers

1. Does the rule apply to B2B noncompetes?

No, the FTC rule does not apply to business-to-business (B2B) noncompetes. Instead, existing federal antitrust laws should continue to be considered when evaluating B2B noncompetes.

2. Does the rule apply to all workers?

No, there are limited exceptions. First, the rule does not invalidate existing noncompete agreements (i.e. agreements entered into on or before the effective date of September 4, 2024) with “senior executives.” After that date, new noncompetes with all US employees will be prohibited.

Senior executive” means a worker who received “total annual compensation” of at least $151,164 in the preceding year (or the equivalent amount when annualized if the worker was employed during only part of the year) and who is in a “policy-making position.”

  • “Total annual compensation” may include salary, commissions, nondiscretionary bonuses, and other nondiscretionary compensation earned during the preceding year, but does not include the cost of, or contributions to, fringe benefit programs.
  • Those in a “policy-making position” may include the President, CEO or equivalent, or others with “policy-making authority,” meaning “final authority to make policy decisions that control significant aspects of a business entity or common enterprise.” In the Supplementary Information to the rule (the FTC’s commentary on the rule), the Commission notes “many executives in what is often called the ‘C-suite’ will likely be senior executives if they are making decisions that have a significant impact on the business, such as important policies that affect most or all of the business. Partners in a business, such as physician partners of an independent physician practice, would also generally qualify as senior executives under the duties prong, assuming the partners have authority to make policy decisions about the business.”

Second, the rule does not apply to workers outside of the United States. See FAQ 11 below.Continue Reading Thirteen Things You Didn’t Know About the FTC’s Noncompete Ban and Five Steps to Prepare Now in Case it Takes Effect

US legislators and regulators are unleashing new compliance requirements for global equity programs at a dizzying pace and many companies are struggling to keep up. Global equity programs remain essential to compete for and retain top talent, but are also quite complex to structure and manage due to rapidly shifting laws and regulations around the

Special thanks to co-authors Thomas Asmar, Victor Flores, Denise Glagau, Christopher Guldberg, Jen Kirk, Maura Ann McBreen, Lindsay Minnis, Kela Shang, Aimee Soodan and Brian Wydajewski.

As many readers likely know, last fall California doubled-down on the state’s hostility to noncompete agreements. Assembly Bill 1076 codified the landmark 2008 Edward v. Arthur Andersen decision that invalidated all employment noncompetes, including narrowly tailored ones, unless they satisfy a statutory exception.
   
AB 1076 also added new Business & Professions Code §16600.1, requiring California employers to notify current (and certain former) employees that any noncompete agreement or clause to which they may be subject is void (unless it falls within one of the limited statutory exceptions).

Individualized written notice must be sent by February 14, 2024 or significant penalties may apply.Continue Reading Don’t Miss California’s Noncompete Notice Requirement (Deadline 2/14/24) |Review Equity Award Agreements & Other Employment-Related Contracts ASAP

Join us for our virtual New York 2023-2024 Employment Law Update on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 1 pm ET.

In this 60-minute session, our team will highlight what employers in New York and the surrounding areas need to know to effectively navigate 2024, with practical tips to handle the latest developments including:

  • The shifting

Special thanks to co-authors Glenn Fox and Paul DePasquale.

One of the biggest sleeper issues (in my opinion) for US companies when granting equity awards to non-US employees or other service providers is the fact that their heirs may be assessed with US estate tax and be required to file an estate tax return in the US if the individual dies while holding equity awards or shares.

US Estate Tax Exemptions

Individual US taxpayers (i.e., US citizens and non-US citizens who are domiciled in the US) can currently benefit from a significant estate tax exemption: no estate tax is due unless the value of the estate exceeds US$13,610,000 (this is the inflation-adjusted amount for 2024), reduced for taxable lifetime gifts, but doubled for married couples if both spouses’ estates qualify for the exemption. Accordingly, relatively few US estates currently are subject to estate tax. In any event, US employees and their heirs will most likely be well aware of possible estate tax consequences for their assets, including equity awards and shares acquired under a company share plan.Continue Reading A Cautionary Tale: US Estate Tax May be Due on Equity Awards/Shares Held by Non-US Residents

In many cases, when a candidate is recruited, they offered a new hire grant of equity awards and (possibly) subsequent “refresh” grants. Depending on the company, this can be a significant component of the employee’s total compensation and may be the most important piece to get the candidate to accept the offer. 

So, naturally, companies tend to include information about the equity awards in the offer letter provided to the candidate, together with information about the employment terms (e.g., base pay, bonus eligibility, etc.). 

If the candidate is to be employed by an entity outside the United States that is different/separate from the company that will be granting the equity awards (typically the parent company), we strongly recommend changing this practice. In a nutshell, we would advise to delete any references to the equity awards from the offer letter (as well as from any employment agreement that may be provided later or at the same time) and to communicate information regarding the equity awards in a separate equity award side letter that is provided by the granting company. Continue Reading The Case for Not Mentioning Equity Awards in Offer Letters

We are pleased to share a recent LegalDive article, “Why companies should review noncompetes in equity award agreements,” with quotes from Barbara Klementz.

Given increased government scrutiny, employers need to be mindful of the time periods noncompetes cover and review state-specific requirements.

In the light of the sharp focus the federal government and a growing

Baker McKenzie’s annual Global Equity Academy is designed to provide stock administration, HR, legal, employment and tax professionals with a comprehensive training on the basics of global employee share plan offerings.

Our virtual series spans four 60-minute webinars, each followed by an optional 30-minute “study hall” for participants to ask additional questions of our presenters and discuss learnings

Given recent developments and trends in the United States relating to restricted covenants (especially non-competes), companies should take another look at any restrictive covenants included in equity award agreements.

To learn more about the possible approaches companies can take to deal with restrictive covenants for employees outside the United States, read our recent NASPP guest blog post.
Continue Reading Reevaluating Restrictive Covenants in Equity Award Agreements

The New York City Council is already considering an expansion to the City’s pay transparency law to require NYC employers to include a description of non-salary or non-wage compensation in job postings. Dramatically increasing the burden on employers, the proposed ordinance would require a description of “bonuses, benefits, stocks, bonds, options and equity or ownership, if any.”

Background

As discussed here, New York City’s pay transparency law (Local Law 32 and its amendment), went into effect on November 1, 2022, and requires NYC employers with four or more employees to disclose in job postings – including those for promotion or transfer opportunities – the minimum and maximum salary offered for any position located within New York City. This range may extend from the lowest to the highest salary that the employer in good faith believes at the time of the posting it would pay for the advertised job, promotion, or transfer opportunity.

Update

On February 2, 2023, the Council introduced Int. No. 907, a local law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, broadening the information that must be disclosed in job postings.Continue Reading Proposed Expansion of NYC’s Pay Transparency Law Includes Bonuses, Equity Awards and Other “Non-Wage Compensation”