Brief Beginning Comments About California SB 260 – Climate Corporate Accountability Act

I have provided below a link to California SB 260 – Climate Corporate Accountability Act – introduced January 26, 2021. I try to comment about legislation only when it fits within the scope of my topic areas or the topic areas of other people with whom I am working. It is a given that businesses will be seeing an increasing number of climate-related disclosure and compliance laws, regulations and rules, in addition to the increased stakeholder, community and consumer interests in those topics and in ESG + Sustainability + Climate Action.

But these topics also raise a lot of questions that need to be answered. For example, reading SB 260, which is a short piece of legislation, I have a comment or question about the majority of the sentences in the legislation – such as “please define that . . . ” or “what does that mean . . .” or “what is required for compliance . . “ or “after you first define the specific problem and goal to be achieved, and why, what is the anticipated ROI on that or this . . . “?

I presume that at many businesses, audit committees will be tasked with oversight. And finally, from a 10,000-foot view, my approach to drafting the legislation and to compliance would be a risk management processes approach (see slide picture below) with a view toward defining the very specific problem and issue, defining the specific goal and success, the reasonable options that are available, and the pros and cons for each and ROI. Additionally, assuming, arguendo, that California has legal authority to draft its own laws on this and to regulate in this manner each “publicly traded domestic or publicly traded foreign corporation with annual revenues in excess of one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) that does business in California,” has the Legislature addressed whether these issues will be addressed at a national level with the Biden administration?

Again, the proposed legislation is a short piece. And there will be a lot more to follow in California, and nationally, and internationally. See the link to the legislation below.

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB260

Best to you. David Tate, Esq. (and inactive CPA)

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only

Litigation, Disputes, Mediator & Governance: Business, Trust/Probate, Real Property, Governance, Elder Abuse, Investigations, Other Areas

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, ESG + sustainability, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • M&A disputes.
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
  • Buy-sell disputes.
  • Funding and share dilution disputes.
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
  • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, Boards and Committees, Officers, and Responsibilities and Rights

  • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
  • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, compliance, ESG, sustainability, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Dispute Resolution

  • Trust, estate, elder and elder abuse, conservatorship, power of attorney, and other probate court cases.
  • Business: breach of contract.
  • Business: owner, founder, partner, shareholder, investor, board and committee, officer, and governance disputes.
  • Employment and workplace, discrimination, wrongful termination, and harassment.
  • Real estate.
  • Personal injury.
  • ADDITIONAL AREAS – ASK

* * * * *

ESG and the “E” and the “S” and the “G” – ESG + Sustainability + Climate Action

ESG criteria refers to an organization’s environmental, social and governance policies, practices and processes, some of which depend upon whether the organization is a public corporation or business, private corporation or business, nonprofit, not for profit or NGO, governmental organization or entity, or a hybrid or mixed organization or entity. ESG criteria will also vary depending on the size of the organization or entity, its industry, and whether it primarily provides a service, a product or manufacturing, or a combination of both.

The following criteria can be used for reference; indeed, however, whereas applicable criteria have been set in some circumstances or for some situations, applicable criteria otherwise often remain in a state of change, discretion, suggestion or proposal, and choice. The various services that evaluate and rate ESG also each individually decide which criteria they will use. Indeed, the below listed possible criteria are intended to be fairly encompassing so as to promote thought and consideration, but are not necessarily in the whole a list of required criteria. Each organization and entity must evaluate its own requirements and circumstances.

Environmental criteria broadly refer to some or all of the following:

Resource materials and energy evaluation, selection, use, and discharge, management and conservation;

Environmental risks and management;

Waste;

Emissions;

Pollution;

Hazardous and toxic wastes and emissions;

Ownership and management of contaminated materials and land;

Treatment of animals; and

Compliance with laws and regulations.

Depending on the processes that are being used sometimes the environmental component of ESG can be the more clear-cut or direct component to identify and measure.

Social criteria broadly refer to some or all of the following:

The organization’s or entity’s internal and external relationships, values and culture and its adherence to and enforcement of values with employees and independent contractors in the workplace and work environment;

Its working relationship employees, independent contractors and in the workplace, with customers, with suppliers, in the community, and with other stakeholders;

Human capital, as it has been called – I don’t particularly like the term “human capital” as to me it sounds a bit faceless or depersonalized – instead I prefer something such as simply the category “People”;

Health and safety;

Well-being;

Diversity;

Opportunities provided, inclusiveness and equality, training, mentorship, advancement and advancement opportunities;

Talent acquisition and retention;

Social engagement and active involvement;

Discrimination;

Organizational openness and communications;

Organizational trust, integrity and reputation; and

Compliance with laws and regulations.

I view the social criteria component of ESG as being the more currently challenging component because of the very large numbers of criteria that people can argue are or should be included, and its sometimes difficulty of measurement or more subjective nature.

Governance criteria broadly refer to some or all of the following:

The organization or entity overall, and to its leaders and their actions and leadership including such criteria as:

Board and management roles, makeup, structure, policies, processes and practices;

Decision making;

Accounting methods and related transparency;

Shareholder engagement and shareholder rights;

Avoidance of unlawful practices, and legally or ethically questionable business practices;

Strong, transparent and enforced governance policies and practices;

Codes of conduct and ethics, and enforcement;

Board, executive officer and senior management diversity;

Measurement of corporate and organization performance;

Corporate and organization values, trust, integrity, and reputation;

Board oversight;

Accountability for actions;

Oversight of internal controls;

Oversight of compliance with laws and regulations;

Compensation;

Avoidance of unlawful conflicts of interest;

Information disclosure;

Corporate and organization sustainability;

Oversight of environmental, social and governance criteria;

The organization’s use of information and private information, and information and cyber security;

Protection of the organization’s assets including intellectual property;

Officer, director, and management openness to appropriate challenges, disagreement, and criticism, and the manner and processes for learning about, addressing, evaluating and debating, decision making, and resolving those ongoing occurrences and situations; and

Board and director structure, agenda setting, demeanor, meeting processes, independence, and adherence to prudent business judgment and diligent, active and proactive business judgment rule practices.

Whereas the above list of possible governance criteria might suggest that the governance component of ESG is more well-defined, I view the governance criteria as currently being perhaps the more challenging component of ESG because a large number of possible criteria can be identified but in practice the criteria that are recognized as being accepted tend to be less numerous, and as a group governance criteria still tend to be more vague, undefined and less agreed upon, and identification, evaluation and measurement of governance criteria also tend to vary more from organization and entity to organization and entity.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq. (and inactive CPA)

——————————————————————–

Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only

Litigation, Disputes, Mediator & Governance: Business, Trust/Probate, Real Property, Governance, Elder Abuse, Investigations, Other Areas

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, ESG + sustainability, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • M&A disputes.
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
  • Buy-sell disputes.
  • Funding and share dilution disputes.
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
  • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, Boards and Committees, Officers, and Responsibilities and Rights

  • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
  • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, compliance, ESG, sustainability, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Dispute Resolution

  • Trust, estate, elder and elder abuse, conservatorship, power of attorney, and other probate court cases.
  • Business: breach of contract.
  • Business: owner, founder, partner, shareholder, investor, board and committee, officer, and governance disputes.
  • Employment and workplace, discrimination, wrongful termination, and harassment.
  • Real estate.
  • Personal injury.
  • ADDITIONAL AREAS – ASK

* * * * *

New Fiduciary Duty In The 21st Century: California Roadmap Paper – Regarding ESG

I have provided below a link to a pdf of a new paper (September 2020) that is written as “the result of a collaboration between the PRI and the Climate Risk Initiative at UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment.” The UNEP Finance Initiative also appears to be an author or sponsor.

The paper and its recommendations are not law. However, the paper is potentially (i.e., appears to be) more than simply discussion when you view the Acknowledgements (page 4) and the Forwards (pages 5-7).

The paper contains 40 recommendations in 7 categories which encourage California to enact legislation and/or regulations that require ESG standards or processes and disclosures for the listed entities and organizations.

I will not be spending much time on this paper for the reason that as a general rule I don’t spend much time on discussion papers that are not proposed or actual legislation, regulations or rules. However, I am mentioning this paper because I am presuming that it was written with at least some buy-in from other people who have the authority to make some or all of the provisions enforceable by law. And I note that at page 26, under the heading “Challenges” with respect to ESG integration, the paper notes “A lack of consistent, comparable, robust, and widely available ESG data . . . ,” and the paper also does contain the 40 specific recommendations many of which relate to statutes (law) or regulations (also law).

One additional comment about the paper and ESG standards, while the paper in part discusses legislation to require and mandate that certain non-governmental businesses implement certain ESG standards and reporting or disclosure, the paper also discussed or provides ESG recommendations for governmental organizations in California – for which I presume that ESG standards and reporting (i.e., standards and reporting for governmental entities and organizations) could be ordered or required immediately or relatively easily right now – thus, one approach would be for governmental entities and organizations to lead the way by example.

The following is a link to the paper:

Best to you. David Tate, Esq.

——————————————————————–

Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only

Litigation, Disputes, Mediator & Governance: Business, Trust/Probate, Real Property, Governance, Elder Abuse, Investigations, Other Areas

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, ESG, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • M&A disputes.
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
  • Buy-sell disputes.
  • Funding and share dilution disputes.
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
  • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

  • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
  • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Dispute Resolution

* * * * *

Designing and Implementing Your Organization’s ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)

At the bottom of this post I have included a link to an article in Forbes that I find worthwhile for beginning the steps toward your design and implementation of ESG.

One of the current difficulties with starting to design and implement ESG for your organization is that there continues to be no single definition or list of criteria for exactly what ESG is, and, thus, what is included in ESG. Perhaps related, but really a different issue, is that there is no agreed upon standard or process for how to audit or even evaluate ESG from one organization to the next. For example, the following are some of the various standards that have been developed for ESG standards and evaluating ESG, and which contain their various respective criteria and components including for example SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board), GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), UN SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals), MSCI, ISS ESG, and Sustainalytics (Morningstar), to name some.

However, stepping back a few steps from the above paragraph, it can also be argued that the lack of one or two definitive standards might also be a benefit for the majority of organizations that want to start designing and implementing their ESG. I say that because while a significant focus has been directed toward ESG in public companies and possible required regulations, all of which takes time and has taken time and regulations and legal requirements whatever they are and whatever they might become will in any event be a progression of starts and stops, the fact is that the great, great majority of organizations are nonpublic, nonprofit and governmental to which legal requirements for public companies will not apply, or only might at some point become relevant but typically not in a legal required sense.

There is in fact no obstruction to any organization, whether public, nonpublic, nonprofit or governmental, designing, implementing, and even reporting ESG. That having been said, however, depending on the type of organization “reporting” and what the organization says or represents about its ESG will require consideration from a legal perspective, but that also is true about everything that the organization reports or says or represents about its operations, policies, conduct, governance, etc.

I have written about ESG several times (including six posts in 2019 and 2020 in which ESG is part of the title), see for example NASDAQ snapshot https://wp.me/p75iWX-jw, SEC Commissioner comments https://wp.me/p75iWX-gH, CAQ calls for ESG standards https://wp.me/p75iWX-xH, from Protiviti https://wp.me/p75iWX-qU, and What if California Government, Nonprofits and Education are Leaders https://wp.me/p75iWX-hi.

Looking more at specific design and implementation of ESG, the following is a link to an article in Forbes that I find worthwhile for beginning the steps toward your design and implementation of ESG: “How to Operationalize ESG” https://www.forbes.com/sites/betsyatkins/2020/05/08/how-to-operationalize-esg/?sh=601883294835. One of the points is that the organization has the ability, and even for public companies at least in part the ability, to design and implement its own ESG and can start small, limited or specifically focused and can then grow from there, keeping in mind, of course, that what the organization reports or says or represents about its ESG will require consideration from a legal perspective.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq.

——————————————————————–

Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only

Litigation, Disputes, Mediator & Governance: Business, Trust/Probate, Real Property, Governance, Elder Abuse, Investigations, Other Areas

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • M&A disputes.
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
  • Buy-sell disputes.
  • Funding and share dilution disputes.
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
  • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

  • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
  • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Conflict Resolution

* * * * *

The Private Directors Association – A Worthwhile Association – Take A Look, You Might Find It Interesting

I have become a member of the Private Directors Association and the San Francisco Chapter in which I am participating. The following is a link to the webpage for the San Francisco Chapter: https://www.privatedirectorsassociation.org/chapters/san-francisco-chapter/, and you can view the organization as a whole at http://www.privatedirectorsassociation.org. As you might be aware, the great majority of businesses and organizations are private (i.e., non-public entities). The PDA is a very active organization nationally and locally with many multiple state chapters, and with new chapters in progress – in my view you should take a look.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq.

——————————————————————–

Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only

Litigation, Disputes, Mediator & Governance: Business, Trust/Probate, Real Property, Governance, Elder Abuse, Investigations, Other Areas

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • M&A disputes.
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
  • Buy-sell disputes.
  • Funding and share dilution disputes.
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
  • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

  • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
  • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Conflict Resolution

* * * * *  

A simple nine point risk management and ERM process – a short video

Below I have provided a link to a short video on youtube in which I discuss a simple nine point risk management and ERM process. Please do feel free to also pass this information to anyone else who might be interested.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing as a lawyer in California only

———————————————————————-

Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only

Litigation, Disputes & Mediator: Business, Trust/Probate, Real Property, Governance, Elder Abuse, Investigations, Other Areas

Blogs:

Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

      • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

      • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
      • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
      • M&A disputes.
      • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
      • Buy-sell disputes.
      • Funding and share dilution disputes.
      • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
      • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
      • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
      • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

      • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
      • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Conflict Resolution

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Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs – Updated June 2020 – U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division

David W. Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California – dave@tateattorney.com

You may have heard that the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division has updated its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs (June 2020). I have provided below a link to the updated guidance. The changes can be and are important.

Click on the following link for the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Updated June 2020: evaluation-of-corporate-compliance-programs-june-2020-revision

The updated guidance will be discussed in many legal articles and blog posts. And I have not had the time to digest all of the changes. However, for example, below I have provided a snapshot of a paragraph that has been revised and expanded in the Introduction section, and also a snapshot of the revised three fundamental questions (note the revisions to number 2 requiring that the program be adequately resourced and empowered to function effectively). The third fundamental question also still remains challenging, i.e., “Does the corporation’s compliance program work” in practice, and what do you have to do to be able to make the determination that it does “work”?

 

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California) – dave@tateattorney.com

Litigation, Governance, Administrations, Investigations, Mediator & Conflict Resolution

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs

Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

      • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

      • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
      • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
      • M&A disputes.
      • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
      • Buy-sell disputes.
      • Funding and share dilution disputes.
      • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
      • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
      • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
      • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

      • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
      • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Mediator Services and Conflict Resolution

Mediation and Conflict Resolution Hexagon Matrix to Help Achieve Resolution and Settlement – Dave Tate, Esq.

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California Department of Insurance Issues Alert for Insurers to Accept, Forward, Acknowledge, and Fairly Investigate All Business Interruption Insurance Claims

On April 14, 2020, the California Department of Insurance (by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara) issued an Alert in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically to all admitted and non-admitted insurance companies, all licensed insurance adjusters and producers, and other licensees and interested parties entitled “Requirement to Accept, Forward, Acknowledge, and Fairly Investigate All Business Interruption Insurance Claims Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.” You can find the Alert at the following link: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0250-insurers/0300-insurers/0200-bulletins/bulletin-notices-commiss-opinion/upload/Business-Interruption-Claims-Notice.pdf?inf_contact_key=44c76327a563a3b14bfebe52cf1546a1b7af0999dac2af6212784c39e05d2aef

You might be aware that possible insurance recovery by businesses for losses arising from COVID-19 already is a heavily discussed legal topic in the context of business interruption and other possible insurance policies and coverages. Each business should be evaluating each of its policies, not just its business interruption policy, for possible coverage. Such a discussion and evaluation requires specific policy analysis which is beyond the scope of this post or of any one post. Each insurance policy and its coverage, exclusions, etc., must be read and evaluated separately including such matters as the applicable jurisdiction and laws, not just the wording of the policy but also the intent of the policy and the parties, contract and insurance policy legal interpretation, presumptions, burden of proof, etc.

The Alert is also interesting for its citations to the California Code of Regulations at Sections 2695.5 and 2695.7, and requirements pertaining to the acceptance, forwarding, acknowledgement, and fair investigation, acceptance, or denial as those Sections apply to all insurance policies and claims. For example, in part, Section 2695.7(b) requires:

(b) Upon receiving proof of claim, every insurer, except as specified in subsection 2695.7(b)(4) below, shall immediately, but in no event more than forty (40) calendar days later, accept or deny the claim, in whole or in part. The amounts accepted or denied shall be clearly documented in the claim file unless the claim has been denied in its entirety.

(1) Where an insurer denies or rejects a first party claim, in whole or in part, it shall do so in writing and shall provide to the claimant a statement listing all bases for such rejection or denial and the factual and legal bases for each reason given for such rejection or denial which is then within the insurer’s knowledge. Where an insurer’s denial of a first party claim, in whole or in part, is based on a specific statute, applicable law or policy provision, condition or exclusion, the written denial shall include reference thereto and provide an explanation of the application of the statute, applicable law or provision, condition or exclusion to the claim. Every insurer that denies or rejects a third party claim, in whole or in part, or disputes liability or damages shall do so in writing.

(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection 2695.7(k), nothing contained in subsection 2695.7(b)(1) shall require an insurer to disclose any information that could reasonably be expected to alert a claimant to the fact that the subject claim is being investigated as a suspected fraudulent claim.

(3) Written notification pursuant to this subsection shall include a statement that, if the claimant believes all or part of the claim has been wrongfully denied or rejected, he or she may have the matter reviewed by the California Department of Insurance, and shall include the address and telephone number of the unit of the Department which reviews claims practices.

However, in part, Sections 2695.7(c), (d), and (e) also provide:

(c)(1) If more time is required than is allotted in subsection 2695.7(b) to determine whether a claim should be accepted and/or denied in whole or in part, every insurer shall provide the claimant, within the time frame specified in subsection 2695.7(b), with written notice of the need for additional time. This written notice shall specify any additional information the insurer requires in order to make a determination and state any continuing reasons for the insurer’s inability to make a determination. Thereafter, the written notice shall be provided every thirty (30) calendar days until a determination is made or notice of legal action is served. If the determination cannot be made until some future event occurs, then the insurer shall comply with this continuing notice requirement by advising the claimant of the situation and providing an estimate as to when the determination can be made.

(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection 2695.7(k), nothing contained in subsection 2695.7(c)(1) shall require an insurer to disclose any information that could reasonably be expected to alert a claimant to the fact that the claim is being investigated as a possible suspected fraudulent claim.

(d) Every insurer shall conduct and diligently pursue a thorough, fair and objective investigation and shall not persist in seeking information not reasonably required for or material to the resolution of a claim dispute.

(e) No insurer shall delay or deny settlement of a first party claim on the basis that responsibility for payment should be assumed by others, except as may otherwise be provided by policy provisions, statutes or regulations, including those pertaining to coordination of benefits.

Obviously each individual insurance policy and coverage situation must be separately evaluated. Similarly, in this unusual time many contracts between suppliers and buyers also need to be evaluated – see my prior post at https://wp.me/p75iWX-sK.

In the insurance policy context whether or not an insurer has acted reasonably or unreasonably and possible bad faith are evaluated on many different actions and criteria, some but not all of which, can include the following:

  • The failure to investigate the claim or to investigate the claim thoroughly (and fairly to the insured);
  • The failure to evaluate the claim objectively;
  • Using incorrect, erroneous, improper or unduly restrictive standards or interpretations to delay, frustrate or deny the insured’s claim or the claim form;
  • Delay in claims handling;
  • Unreasonably and unfairly requesting additional and further unnecessary documents or evidence from the insured;
  • The failure to timely or with sufficient detail communicate acceptance or denial of the claim or acceptance or denial of the individual parts of the claim;
  • Unreasonable or unfair delay in payment on the claim;
  • Unreasonably low first party or third party claim or settlement offers;
  • Unreasonable litigation, or unreasonable litigation tactics to delay, frustrate or avoid payment on the insured’s claim;
  • Unreasonable or unfair post claim interpretation or underwriting practices;
  • And other unreasonable, unfair, deceptive, abusive, or coercive practices and tactics to delay or avoid the payment of claims.

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California)

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs

Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com

Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

      • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries, beneficiaries and families; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

      • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
      • Misappropriation of trade secrets.
      • M&A disputes.
      • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes.
      • Buy-sell disputes.
      • Funding and share dilution disputes.
      • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages.
      • Insurance coverage and bad faith.
      • Access to corporate and business records disputes.
      • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

      • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations.
      • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards.

Comments About Going Concern Uncertainties, CAMs, Etc. – Relevant In This Economic Environment

I have pasted below my post from May 28, 2019, because of the discussion about going concern uncertainties. Obviously in this economic environment a going concern issue might be pressing for more entities than usual.

And if you are interested in CAMs (critical audit matters), the May 28, 2019, post also in part discusses CAMs and provides a link to a prior May 9, 2019, post that also discussed CAMs. Subsequent to the May 9 and 28, 2019, posts I have also provided comments about CAMs in three additional posts – those subsequent posts and links to those posts are as follows: July 17, 2019 https://wp.me/p75iWX-im, September 22, 2019 https://wp.me/p75iWX-k8, and February 22, 2020 https://wp.me/p75iWX-pl.

I don’t hear or see much in the news about disclosures about an entity’s going concern, but I have a feeling that this is going to become a bigger issue for certain public companies, their boards and audit committees, and their auditors. Evaluating going concern is a complicated topic – thus, in this post I am highlighting one aspect, but an important aspect. See, FASB ASU No. 2014-15, and subsequent materials relating thereto. I suspect that most people would conclude that evaluating a potential issue relating to going concern involves, or depending on the circumstances could involve, especially challenging, subjective, or complex auditor judgment – thus, potentially raising critical audit matters or CAMs. Click on the following link  https://wp.me/p75iWX-fr for a prior summary post about CAMs. I digress here for one comment: in regard to CAMs, one might ask, for example, “When are the circumstances of an auditor’s judgment simply ‘challenging’ v. ‘especially challenging’”?

Going concern can generally be defined as an evaluation of the entity’s expected ability to continue as an ongoing viable going concern business entity within one year after the date that its financial statements are issued (or within one year after the date that the financial statements are available to be issued, when applicable). Thus, for example, obviously for some business entities it can become a question of liquidity or liquid assets v. rate of cash burn. For the purpose of this post, I am looking at this issue only from an accounting/auditing viewpoint. Many other issues can arise, such as, for example, possible shareholder, investor, and creditor rights, and possible officer, director, and shareholder or majority shareholder liability relating thereto.

Now to the single point of this post, ASU No. 2014-15 provides that when evaluating conditions and events as to whether there is substantial doubt about an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern, the “initial” evaluation does not take into consideration the potential effect of management’s plans that have not been fully implemented as of the date that the financial statements are issued (for example, the initial evaluation might not take into consideration plans to raise capital, borrow money, restructure debt, or dispose of an asset, that have been approved but that have not been fully implemented as of the date that the financial statements are issued). Again, I digress for one comment: in the above discussion, consider, for example, how to evaluate when a matter is “approved” v. “fully implemented.”

Importantly, I note, however, that later in the going concern evaluation process, mitigating factors should be taken into consideration including, for example, the probability that management’s plans will be effectively implemented within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued, and the probability that management’s plans, when implemented, will mitigate the relevant conditions or events that raise substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued. Thus, in the evaluation process there is a timing aspect to considering possible mitigating factors: first they are not considered, but subsequently they are considered including their probability of implementation and success. Obviously, the going concern evaluation can be or can become complicated.

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California)

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Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance and governance committee, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Trust, Estate, Probate Court, Elder and Dependent Adult, and Disability Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries and beneficiaries; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business, Business-Related, and Workplace Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; Nonprofit Entities; and Governmental Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; licensing agreements, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets
  • M&A disputes
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, independence, voting, etc., disputes
  • Buy-sell disputes
  • Funding and share dilution disputes
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes and damages
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes and processes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations, Governance, and Responsibilities and Rights

  • Corporate, business, nonprofit and governmental internal investigations
  • Board, audit committee, governance committee, and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, culture, ethics, etc.; and advising audit committees, governance committees, officers, directors, and boards

The following are copies of the tables of contents of three of the more formal materials that I have written over the years about accounting/auditing, audit committees, and related legal topics – Accounting and Its Legal Implications was my first formal effort, which resulted in a published book that had more of an accounting and auditing focus; Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, for the California Continuing Education of the Bar has a more legal focus; and the most recent Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide (February 2017) also has a more legal focus:

Accounting and Its Legal Implications

Chapter 5A, Audit Committee Functions and Responsibilities, CEB Advising and Defending Corporate Directors and Officers

Tate’s Excellent Audit Committee Guide

The following are additional materials that you might find useful:

Audit Committee Self-Evaluation Process and Format (and for Boards and Other Committees) – click on the following link https://wp.me/p75iWX-sd for my March 19, 2020, post with an attachment to the discussion and paper.

An internal investigation summary overview page from a prior blog post which you can find at https://wp.me/p75iWX-dk if the below scan is too difficult to read (and you will also find other posts about investigations on my blog):

 

OVERVIEW OF A RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS THAT YOU CAN USE 03162018

Audit Committee 5 Lines of Success, Diligence, and Defense - David Tate, Esq, 05052018

COSO Enterprise Risk Management Framework ERM Components and Principles

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Audit Committee Self-Evaluation Process and Format (and for Boards and Other Committees)

I have pasted below the introduction from my paper Audit Committee Self-Evaluation Process and Format (and for Boards and Other Committees)(please excuse the formatting which changed slightly during the copy and paste), and below this paragraph I have provided a link to a pdf of the entire paper. This is an important topic for boards, audit committees, and other committees – please do tell other people about this blog post and the paper, and feel free to print and use the paper and provide it to other people. I hope that you find this useful. You will also find a lot of additional audit committee, board, governance committee and related materials on prior posts to this blog.

Here is the link to the pdf: Audit Committee Self-Evaluation 03192020

Best to you, Dave Tate, Esq.

AUDIT COMMITTEE SELF-EVALUATION PROCESS AND FORMAT

(AND FOR BOARDS AND OTHER COMMITTEES)

 

DAVID W. TATE

Attorney at Law

Inactive Certified Public Accountant (California)


Copyright 2020 David W. Tate (however, you are authorized to download and print these materials for your use, and to also pass them to other people who would be interested)

 

BLOGS

D&O, Audit Committees, Risk Management, Compliance, Investigations & Governance: http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

Trust, Estate, Conservatorship & Elder Abuse Litigation: http://californiaestatetrust.com

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davetateesq

Twitter: http://twitter.com/davidtateesq

 

Self-evaluation is an important board and committee activity, and can be very helpful if done properly.

 

A.  Introduction and Overview

The following discussion specifically covers audit committee self-evaluations and provides processes that you can use – this discussion can also be used for board and other committee self-evaluations and processes, such as for governance and risk committees. As noted elsewhere in these materials, although many board and audit committee functions, responsibilities and tasks are specified by statute, regulation, rule or pronouncement, board and audit committee member standards of care remain significantly dependent on due diligence and prudent judgment.

Boards, audit committees and other committees of various entities are required by law, regulation or rule to conduct annual committee self-evaluations; however, it is worthwhile for boards, audit committees and other committees of all public and private companies and nonprofit entities to conduct self-evaluations. Board committee jobs are challenging, ongoing, and technical in nature, and require the members to significantly interact with many people in different capacities within and outside of the entity. It only makes sense that boards and committees should at least once each year take time to step back and review, evaluate and make improvements to their manners of operation, and also consider helpful actions that can be taken by other people with whom the board, audit committee, or other committee interacts. Self-evaluation will be worthwhile even if it results in improving only one area of operation.

Board and committee responsibilities originate from several different sources at least including (1) activities and responsibilities that boards or committees voluntarily undertake or that are delegated to them; (2) the business judgment rule; (3) the specific laws, regulations and rules that are applicable to the entity’s directors and committee members; (4) the wording of the board and committee charters, if there are charters; (5) shareholder and stakeholder expectations, and (6) for audit committees, accounting and auditing pronouncements relating to the outside auditor’s activities.

Prudent board and committee processes and diligence are also important to reduce member and entity liability and reputation risk. An increasing number of cases hold that board and audit committee members can be liable for failure to exercise sufficient diligence, failure to spot and respond to red flags, and failure to take action. Active board, committee and corporate diligence tend to demonstrate prudent business judgment and negate allegations of recklessness, improper intent, intentional wrongdoing, or “scienter” such as in the context of securities litigation, thus reducing the risk of securities liability and damages. In the context of audit committee activities, potential entity, board, and audit committee member liability typically arises in the context of alleged improper accounting practices, written and oral public misrepresentations (such as with respect to financial matters), and improper employment practices.

Although not required, there can be advantages to having a facilitator conduct an interactive interview approach to the self-evaluation process, but without performance grading or rating: it can be difficult to construct a questionnaire with standardized questions that would be similarly understood by each of the participants in the self-evaluation process; different people use different rating scales; different people express responses in different manners; and certain important issues will change from year to year. A facilitated approach may encourage better discussion and comment, compilation, continuity, explanation, and follow-up. Contact me if you are interested in committee self-evaluation assistance at a reasonable fixed fee.

Issues and topic areas to consider during the self-evaluation process will naturally vary from entity to entity, and from board, audit committee or other committee to board, audit committee or other committee. Thus, to stimulate discussion, below for both boards and audit committees I have provided lists of potential broad issues or topic areas to consider for discussion and evaluation, including both successes and possible improvements; and I have also outlined processes to assist your board and audit committee self-evaluation processes.

B.  Audit Committee Self-Evaluation

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