Rulemaking Petition Seeks to Allow Electronic Signatures Under Reg S-T
In what could be a big step forward for the SEC, a rulemaking petition from Wilson Sonsini, Fenwick & West and Cooley asks the SEC to amend rules under Reg S-T that would permit companies to obtain electronic signatures for documents filed with the SEC. The rulemaking petition acknowledges the Staff’s recent statement providing flexibility regarding manual signatures during the current crisis and then encourages the SEC to go further.
In this day and age, electronic signatures seem to be more the norm and routing manual signatures to hold in a dusty, over-crowded file cabinet somewhere seems somewhat archaic — this change would be a nice improvement for many. Here’s an excerpt from the petition:
We acknowledge the Staff Statement: Regarding Rule 302(b) of Regulation S-T in Light of COVID-19 Concerns (March 24, 2020) (the “Staff Statement”) and appreciate the added flexibility it provides regarding manual signatures in the current extraordinary environment. We believe, however, and many of our clients have also informed us, that obtaining and retaining manual signatures in compliance with the Staff Statement remains a significant logistical burden. We and many of our clients believe the Staff Statement could be of greater effectiveness to registrants, with no compromise to the integrity of the document signing process, if registrants were permitted to use existing, proven electronic signature processes with respect to filing documents with the Commission.
Improvements in electronic signature software technology make it possible to confirm (with at least equal confidence to the collection of manual signatures) who has signed a document and when it was signed (and, indeed, far better accuracy as to the timing of execution), and make recordkeeping and storage of such signatures seamless and secure.
-Lynn Jokela, TheCorporateCounsel.net April 17, 2020
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