Equity & Share-Based Comp

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”

Special thanks to Geoff Martin and Maria Piontkovska.

On March 3, 2023, the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) published details of a three year Pilot Program Regarding Compensation Incentives and Clawbacks (the “Compensation Pilot Program”). The Compensation Pilot Program is effective March 15, 2023 and from that date it will be applicable to all corporate criminal matters handled by the DOJ Criminal Division. At the same time, DOJ also updated its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs guidance document to reflect the criteria introduced by the Compensation Pilot Program, among other updates.
 
Background and Objectives of the Compensation Pilot Program

The concept of incentivizing corporate compliance by structuring compensation programs to reward compliant behaviors and punish non-compliant ones, is nothing new. For example, prior editions of the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs addressed appropriate incentives for company management and executives to promote good governance and compliance, and expectations about the consistent application of discipline against employees found to be involved in misconduct.

However, in a September 2022 memo to DOJ prosecutors titled: “Further Revisions to Corporate Criminal Enforcement Policies Following Discussions with Corporate Crime Advisory Group“, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco indicated that DOJ intended to go further on this particular topic. In the memo, Monaco indicated that DOJ would expect companies to design compensation structures not only to incentivize and reward good compliance practices, but also to financially penalize individual employees found to have been engaged in misconduct, including by clawing back compensation after the fact.

DOJ’s objective in this initiative is to encourage companies to redistribute some of the cost and penalties associated with individuals’ criminal conduct away from the company (and its shareholders) and onto the individuals themselves. Because misconduct is often discovered after the fact, measures that enable retroactive discipline and clawback of compensation already paid, are of particular importance to DOJ. These measures also reinforce DOJ’s continued focus on individual accountability which has been another of DOJ’s recent areas of focus in addressing corporate criminal matters.

Six months after Monaco’s memo, the Compensation Pilot Program now puts concrete DOJ policy in place to implement those objectives. At the end of the three year pilot period, DOJ will determine whether the Compensation Pilot Program will be extended or modified. If it is deemed a success, we can expect the Compensation Pilot Program to be fully adopted by DOJ. Continue Reading Practical Considerations When Addressing New DOJ Compensation Incentives and Clawbacks Program

Special thanks to Scott McMillen.

Looking Ahead: Exploring the Key Themes and Recommendations for US and Global Employers in 2023

Between maintaining business continuity and keeping your workforce safe, we know there’s been little time to track the rapidly changing employment, compensation and mobility law landscape — in Illinois, across the US, and globally.