United States: Cross-Border Structured Finance and the Rating Agency Web Site Rules

Last Updated: August 3 2010

Article by Douglas A. Doetsch , Kevin Hawken , Stuart Litwin and James P. Patti

Originally published August 2, 2010

Keywords: cross-border structured finance, rating agency, web site rules, NRSROs, SEC, asset backed securities

New US regulations for nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs)1 took effect earlier this year, with compliance required starting June 2, 2010.2 Among other changes, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) amended rule 17g-53 to facilitate unsolicited ratings from NRSROs that were not hired to rate particular asset-backed securities (ABS) and other structured finance products. The amendments (collectively referred to as the Web Site Rules) enable non-hired NRSROs (Accessing NRSROs) to access the same rating-related information as NRSROs that are hired (Hired NRSROs).

The Web Site Rules are relevant to any issuer of a structured finance product that is rated by an NRSRO, including non-US issuers and even transactions that have no US investors or other connection to the United States. We will discuss the territorial scope of these rules, the types of products they cover and some basic compliance issues below.

In Europe, the European Commission adopted a proposal4 on June 2, 2010, which, among other things, amends the existing EU regulation on credit rating agencies5 to include web site rules modeled on rule 17g-5. This proposal has now been passed to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for consideration. If adopted, the EU web site rules are expected to come into force sometime in 2011. We discuss this proposal below after explaining the US Web Site Rules.

Overview of the Web Site Rules

While the Web Site Rules only apply directly to NRSROs,6 they also necessitate significant efforts by issuers, sponsors and financial intermediaries that assist with the rating process.7 The adopting release for the Web Site Rules (the Adopting Release) uses the term "arranger" to refer collectively to issuers, sponsors and underwriters that may be required to maintain Arranger Sites (as defined below). However, we expect that issuers or sponsors will usually be the parties that actually carry out these new responsibilities since they generally hire NRSROs and have a significant interest in controlling rating-related information.

New paragraph (b)(9) of rule 17g-5 identifies the following practice as a conflict of interest for an NRSRO: issuing or maintaining a credit rating for a security or money market instrument issued by an asset pool or as part of any asset-backed or mortgage-backed securities transaction (a Structured Finance Product) that was paid for by an arranger. In order to be permitted to engage in this practice, notwithstanding such conflict of interest, new paragraph (a)(3) requires Hired NRSROs to take specified steps, which the SEC intends as mitigants to the impact of the conflict of interest by facilitating unsolicited ratings.8 Specifically, a Hired NRSRO that wishes to issue or maintain ratings on Structured Finance Products where the rating is paid for by an arranger must:

  • Maintain on a password-protected web site (a Hired NRSRO Site) a list (the Ratings in Process List) of each Structured Finance Product for which it is currently in the process of determining an initial credit rating, with specified information including the name of the issuer, the date the rating process was initiated and the address of a password-protected web site (an Arranger Site) where an arranger is maintaining the information described below;
  • Provide access to its Hired NRSRO Site to Accessing NRSROs (subject to the certification requirement discussed below); and
  • Obtain a written representation, that can reasonably be relied upon, from an issuer, sponsor or other arranger of each Structured Finance Product on the Hired NRSRO's Ratings in Process List to the effect that the issuer or other arranger will maintain an Arranger Site containing rating-related information and will:
  • Provide Accessing NRSROs access to such Arranger Site (subject to the certification requirement discussed below); and
  • Post on such Arranger Site all of the information that the arranger provides (or contracts with a third party to provide) to the Hired NRSRO for the purpose of (i) determining the initial credit rating for the Structured Finance Product or (ii) rating surveillance, all in a manner indicating which information currently should be relied on to determine or monitor the credit rating.

While arrangers are not directly subject to the Web Site Rules, it is clear that the SEC intends to take seriously any failures by arrangers to perform the obligations they undertake,9 and NRSROs will essentially not be permitted to provide ratings unless arrangers undertake those obligations.

Territorial Reach

The Web Site Rules are silent as to their territorial reach, focusing instead on the activities of the NRSROs. Prior to adoption of the Web Site Rules, the major credit rating agencies active in the United States had registered not only themselves but also all or most of their foreign affiliates as NRSROs. As a result, it appears that the Web Site Rules apply by their terms to all ratings on Structured Finance Products issued by any of such US rating agencies or any of those foreign affiliates. This would include transactions conducted wholly outside the United States where the only US connection is a rating by an entity that is registered as an NRSRO. In other words, an NRSRO that provides a rating for a Structured Finance Product that has a non-US issuer and a non-US sponsor and is sold entirely to non-US investors would be subject to these rules and would need to seek compliance by the arrangers of that transaction.

As the June 2 compliance date for the Web Site Rules approached, staff from several non-US securities regulators, as well as a number of market participants, notified the SEC that arrangers of Structured Finance Products located outside the United States generally had not been aware of the extra-territorial reach of the rules and would not be prepared to comply with them by June 2. This created the potential for disruption of any new issuance activity in local securitization markets. The non-US securities regulators and European issuers also expressed concern about possible conflicts between the Web Site Rules and European Union data protection and bank secrecy law, rating regulations and possibly other EU and national laws.

Responding to these concerns, in May 2010, the SEC issued an order10 granting a temporary exemption from the Web Site Rules for transactions in which:

  • The issuer of the structured finance product is a non-US person.
  • The Hired NRSRO has a reasonable basis to conclude that the Structured Finance Product will be offered and sold upon issuance, and that any arranger linked to the structured finance product will effect transactions in the structured finance product after issuance, only in transactions that occur outside the United States.

The exemption only applies until December 2, 2010, and it does not apply if a Structured Finance Product issued by a non-US person is being offered in the United States or otherwise to US persons (for example, in a combined Rule 144A/Reg S offering). The SEC also asked for comments on various issues relating to the extraterritorial application of the Web Site Rules but did not give any indication as to whether it might consider further relief after December 2, 2010.

What Types of Deals are Covered?

The Web Site Rules apply to "a security or money market instrument issued by an asset pool or as part of any asset-backed or mortgage-backed securities transaction" (where the rating is paid for by an arranger). The Adopting Release makes clear that this category is meant to cover "the full range of structured finance products, including, but not limited to, securities collateralized by static and actively managed pools of loans or receivables (e.g., commercial and residential mortgages, corporate loans, auto loans, education loans, credit card receivables, and leases), collateralized debt obligations, collateralized loan obligations, collateralized mortgage obligations, structured investment vehicles, synthetic collateralized debt obligations that reference debt securities or indexes, and hybrid collateralized debt obligations."11 At a minimum, it should cover any "asset-backed security" within the Regulation AB definition, which the Adopting Release characterizes as a "narrower" definition.12

Because the Web Site Rules apply directly to NRSROs, any uncertainties as to whether or not a particular transaction is a Structured Finance Product will be determined primarily by the Hired NRSROs. The major NRSROs active in rating ABS have published preliminary guidance as to some of the transactions that they do or do not view as subject to the Web Site Rules. In each case, conventional ABS (including residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities) are clearly covered, as is asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP). Generally, the deciding factor is whether or not the NRSRO applies what it views as a structured finance analysis to the transaction as opposed to a traditional corporate or municipal debt rating analysis.

Some particular points that may be of interest to cross-border issuers are:

  • Future Flow Transactions. Neither the Web Site Rules nor the Adopting Release specifically addresses future flow transactions, and none of the major NRSROs have published a position as to whether or not future flow transactions are Structured Finance Products and thus subject to the Web Site Rules. We think it is possible that an NRSRO, when faced with the issue, will decide that future flow transactions are subject to the rules because it is our understanding that the NRSROs analyze these transactions using a combination of structured finance and general corporate credit criteria (since these transactions typically focus on particular future-arising assets but involve full recourse to the sponsor).
  • Loans vs. Securities. Often cross-border future flow or asset-backed transactions involve loan agreements between one or more lenders and a special-purpose entity rather than issuance by the special-purpose entity of tradable debt securities. We do not believe the use of a loan agreement will keep a transaction outside of the scope of the Web Site Rules if the transaction is rated by at least one Hired NRSRO using structured finance criteria. Although the Web Site Rules refer to "securities or money market instruments," the SEC and the NRSROs have interpreted the Web Site Rules broadly, and we believe they would focus on the presence of a rating and type of rating methodology rather than the legal form (such as loan vs. security).
  • Covered Bonds. Both Moody's Investors Services and Fitch Ratings have indicated that they do not view conventional covered bonds as subject to the Web Site Rules. This may be a useful precedent in considering whether or not future flow transactions are subject to the rules, but neither NRSRO provided enough explanation of this conclusion to enable us to predict whether such an argument would be persuasive.
  • Public Offerings vs. Private Placements. The scope of the Web Site Rules is not limited to publicly offered securities. Ratings on Structured Finance Products that are paid for by arrangers are covered, regardless of whether the product is offered publicly or in a private placement or other offering exempt from registration under the Securities Act (including offerings under Rule 144A or, subject to the territorial issues addressed above, Regulation S).
  • Published vs. Confidential Ratings. The major NRSROs have taken the position that the Web Site Rules apply only to "published" or "public" ratings, as opposed to ratings that they provide on a confidential basis. The NRSROs have not provided detailed guidance on exactly how many people can see a rating before it is considered to be public. Moody's has provided the most detail, indicating that it will only treat a rating as confidential (and exclude it from the Web Site Rules) if an arranger (i) represents to Moody's that the arranger does not intend to obtain a published or definitive credit rating of the Structured Finance Product from Moody's and (ii) acknowledges that Moody's cannot publish or make available to any other person the private rating, assessment or a definitive credit rating of the Structured Finance Product. Standard and Poor's has said that it will treat ratings that are "kept strictly confidential by the issuer and sponsor" as not covered by the Web Site Rules, while Fitch Ratings has indicated that it will apply the Web Site Rules to ratings that it publishes, without indicating how broad that publication must be.
  • Using Existing Multi-Seller ABCP Conduits. Under the terms of the Web Site Rules, it was not initially clear that transactions entered into by multi-seller conduits established prior to the June 2 compliance date would be subject to the rules, unless the transaction was itself rated. However, in discussions prior to the compliance date, the SEC made it clear that the SEC intended to cover pre-existing conduits. As a result, even unrated transactions funded by these conduits going forward are being treated as subject to the rules. The level of information provided to NRSROs relating to these transactions varies based on the structure and history of the particular conduit.

Compliance Steps

It is important to determine at the outset whether any NRSRO hired to rate a transaction views the transaction as subject to the Web Site Rules, so that the arrangers can begin to comply as soon as they start providing rating-related information to the Hired NRSRO. In practice, the NRSROs will generally take the initiative on this since they are the parties directly subject to the rules. If an NRSRO views a transaction as covered, it will provide a form of letter agreement relating to compliance with the rules to whoever is hiring the NRSRO (in our experience, generally the issuer or sponsor).

Although issuers or sponsors usually hire NRSROs, often an "underwriter" (including a placement agent in a traditional private placement or an initial purchaser in a Rule 144A offering) or other financial intermediary helps with the rating process. Any information provided by an underwriter or other financial intermediary to a Hired NRSRO in connection with a rating is subject to the Web Site Rules in the same manner as information provided directly by the issuer or sponsor. Consequently, it is also important for an issuer or sponsor and the underwriter or other financial intermediary to set up "rules of the road" on communicating with the NRSROs, setting up the required Arranger Site and posting information to that site. These understandings are generally memorialized in the underwriting or similar agreement for the transaction or sometimes in a separate agreement executed earlier in the process.

An arranger is required to post all information that the arranger provides (or contracts with a third party to provide) to any Hired NRSRO for the purpose either of determining the initial credit rating for the Structured Finance Product or of rating surveillance. Unfortunately, this includes information provided orally, which presents some logistical problems and is leading many issuers to record their telephone calls with Hired NRSROs and post the recordings. As to the initial credit rating, the Web Site Rules specifically mention (i) information about the characteristics of the assets underlying or referenced by the Structured Finance Product and (ii) the legal structure of the Structured Finance Product.

As to surveillance, element (i) above is repeated, with additional reference to information about performance – for example, periodic servicing reports should be made available on the Arranger Site. Element (ii) is not repeated. However, we would not place too much importance on these differences. The main point is what we emphasized above: "all information" relevant to the initial rating or surveillance that is provided by (or on behalf of) an arranger to a Hired NRSRO is to be posted. All of the required information is to be posted at the same time such information is provided to the Hired NRSRO and in a manner indicating which information currently should be relied on to determine or monitor the credit rating.

Arrangers will have to consider the facts and circumstances of each visit, but in our experience most rating agency visits relate to the process of determining an initial rating, surveillance of existing ratings or both. Consequently, we would expect arrangers will usually conclude that they should post any written information provided at these meetings, as well as recordings of conversations at the meetings.

Unfortunately, neither the Web Site Rules nor the Adopting Release provide much guidance on how long an arranger must maintain information on its Arranger Site once it has been posted. It is clear that an NRSRO can remove securities from its Ratings in Process List once the rating has been issued. However, the Adopting Release contemplates that even after a security is removed from a Ratings in Process List, "the information on the arranger's Website would remain available."13 There does not seem to be a clear end date for the arranger's maintenance requirement, though once the deal has paid off there would be little point in keeping the information posted. The same would be true if the rating request was withdrawn.

Confidentiality and Access Issues

In order to be entitled to access either a Hired NRSRO Site or an Arranger Site, an Accessing NRSRO must furnish the SEC, for each calendar year for which it is requesting a password, a certification as to the matters set out below.14 Hired NRSROs and arrangers are entitled to receive a copy of such certification before providing access. The required certification must indicate that the Accessing NRSRO:

  • Will access the Hired NRSRO Sites and Arranger Sites solely for the purpose of determining or monitoring credit ratings
  • Will keep the information it accesses confidential and treat it as material nonpublic information subject to its written policies and procedures.15

In addition, the certification must include representations as to the Accessing NRSRO's intent and track record relating to the actual use of accessed information to issue ratings. Besides obtaining these certifications, most arrangers are setting up a click-through confidentiality agreement as part of the procedure for signing into Arranger Sites. The Adopting Release permits this, stating:

the representations an NRSRO must obtain from an arranger will not prevent the arranger from employing a simple process requiring non-hired NRSROs to agree to keep the information they obtain from the arranger confidential, provided that such a process does not operate to preclude, discourage, or significantly impede non-hired NRSROs' access to the information, or their ability to issue a credit rating based on the information. For example, an arranger could interpose a confidentiality agreement in a window (click-through screen) on the Internet Web site that appears after the NRSRO successfully enters its password to access the information and which requires the NRSRO to hit an ''Agree'' button before being directed to the information to be used to determine the credit rating. Presumably, this confidentiality agreement would contain the same terms as the confidentiality agreement between the arranger and the hired NRSRO.16

Also, the Web Site Rules do not preclude due diligence procedures that enable the arranger to ensure that an individual accessing an Arranger Site is entitled to do so, provided that "such a process does not operate to preclude, discourage, or significantly impede non-hired NRSROs' access to the information, or their ability to issue a credit rating based on the information."17 For example, arrangers may take any or all the following steps:

  • Ask for information such as the name, company and email address of an individual requesting a password to access the Arranger Site and only provide a password to valid email addresses at the NRSRO's proprietary domain rather than, for example, an email address at "gmail.com"
  • Require a click-through certification that the NRSRO meets the requirements to access the web site
  • Call the main telephone number of the requesting NRSRO and interview an appropriate employee regarding such topics as the number of times the NRSRO has accessed Arranger Sites and the number and percentage of unsolicited ratings the NRSRO has issued.

Proposed EU Legislation

As mentioned at the start of this Update, the European Commission has adopted a proposal (the Proposal) to amend the existing EC Regulation 1060/2009 on credit rating agencies (the EC Regulation). The Proposal would add new Articles 8a and 8b, which set out web site rules modeled on the US rule 17g-5.

Specifically, proposed Articles 8a and 8b would require the following:

  • That the issuer or related third party to a structured finance instrument must:

    • on a password protected web site that such party shall manage, provide to the hired credit rating agency all information necessary for it to set a rating and to monitor such a rating on a structured finance instrument;
    • give access without delay to other credit rating agencies that request access to the web site if they are registered or certified under EC Regulation 1060/2009 and:

      • have the systems to ensure the information remains confidential; and
      • provide ratings on a yearly basis on at least 10 percent of structured finance instruments to which they request access.

  • That a hired credit rating agency must:

    • maintain a password protected web site containing:

      • a list of the structured finance instruments for which it is in the process of providing credit ratings, identifying the type of instrument, name of issuer and date when the rating process was initiated; and
      • a link to the web site maintained by the issuer or related third party as soon as it is available.

    • give access without delay to any non-hired credit rating agency registered or certified under EC Regulation 1060/2009 and complying with the access conditions under 1(b) above.

These amendments broadly look to introduce what rule 17g-5 has already enacted in the United States. However, there are differences between the US Web Site Rules and the Proposal, and there are open issues surrounding the Proposal and how it will operate in practice.

Key Difference

Possibly the most important difference between the Proposal and the US Web Site Rules is that the Proposal would impose obligations directly on issuers and related third parties to supply all information to the hired credit rating agencies. Under the US rules, if an issuer, sponsor or underwriter failed to place required information on a password protected web site and make that information accessible to non-hired credit rating agencies, the main consequence would be that it would not get its transaction rated. Under the Proposal, the issuer's or related third party's failure to comply would contravene the EC Regulation and be subject to sanctions including fines.

Scope of the Proposal

At the moment, the Proposal is just that, and a number of areas remain unclear as to exactly who and what it is meant to cover.

Article 8a would impose obligations on an "issuer or related third party." The EC Regulation defines related third party as ''the originator, arranger, sponsor, servicer or any other party that interacts with a credit rating agency on behalf of a rated entity, including any person directly or indirectly linked to that rated entity by control." So the range of parties and information would be at least as wide as, or wider than, under the US rules.

Under the Proposal, the web site rules would apply to "structured finance instruments," which the EC Regulation defines by reference to the definition of securitization in the Capital Requirements Directive.18 That definition of securitization is very wide and has been interpreted differently by regulators and market participants, so there could be uncertainty about which types of transactions will be covered by the rules. Like the US rules, the EU web site rule is likely to cover a wide range of structured finance products, but not traditional covered bonds.

Existing EU Data Protection and Bank Secrecy Laws

Further clarification is also required as to how Articles 8a and 8b would work in conjunction with existing EU data protection and bank secrecy laws. The EU Data Protection Directive19 already stipulates that the transfer of personal data to countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA)20 is forbidden unless certain rules are complied with. In addition, certain banking laws of EU Member States are stricter than others when it comes to passing on personal data. As such, it is so far unclear as to whether the provision of information to credit rating agencies which can be accessed from outside the EEA would contravene these existing laws.

Territorial Reach

How far the Proposal will extend territorially is another area that may need further interpretation. Article 8a(1) requires an issuer or related third party to provide information to the hired credit rating agency (apparently, whether or not that agency is registered under the EC Regulation), but Article 8a(2) requires the party to make that information available upon request to any other credit rating agency only if that agency is registered or certified under the EC Regulation.

As noted above, prior to the implementation of the US Web Site Rules, the major credit rating agencies in the United States also registered their affiliates worldwide as NRSROs. Though the exemption for offshore-issued transactions discussed above is in place until December 2, 2010, EU issuers of structured finance securities will still be subject to the Web Site Rules if any of those securities are sold in the United States, and if the current exemption is not extended then even securities issued only outside the United States would be affected. In either case EU issuers will be caught by both the Web Site Rules and the new EU legislation as well. As a result, both EU and US transaction parties and regulators will need to consider how these similar but not identical systems will work together.

As one example of the potential difficulties, the US rules deal in some detail with confidentiality issues between transaction parties and hired and non-hired rating agencies in relation to information required to be posted on the password protected web site. In the Proposal, Article 8a(3) merely states that the European Commission shall in the future adopt more detailed procedures and rules on ensuring the confidentiality and accuracy of data and personal data, especially in respect of the EU Data Protection Directive.21 Considering the implied worldwide effect of the Web Site Rules, it is not yet clear whether the forms and procedures developed in the United States for compliance with the Web Site Rules will be also be consistent with the amended EC Regulation and other applicable EU law.

Compliance

Article 8a would require that the issuer or related third party provide "all information necessary ... to determine or monitor a credit rating." The information required by rating agencies from transaction to transaction can vary a great deal, so it could be difficult for an issuer or related third party to comply with this obligation. In addition, it is often the case that issuers or related third parties will not be in the possession or control of all the required information that the credit rating agencies may need. As a result, a party could inadvertently fail to comply with its obligations under Article 8a and so become subject to fines or other sanctions.

Furthermore, it is yet to be seen how non-hired credit rating agencies will meet the 10 percent yearly rating stipulation as set out in Article 8a(2)(b). Granting access to the password protected web sites maintained by either the issuer/related third party or the hired credit rating agency is, on the face of it, the only way another credit rating agency can provide a rating. The most likely way this will work in practice is that non-hired credit rating agencies will not have to fulfill this requirement for the first year, as long as they do so thereafter. However, further clarification is needed as to how this requirement will work in practice.

Process to Law

On June 6, 2010, the Proposal was passed to the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for further consideration and approval. It is likely that, as the Proposal passes through both these bodies, some changes will be made, maybe addressing some of the issues highlighted above, as interested market participants make known their concerns. Because the Proposal relates to an EC regulation, once it is passed into law at EU level it will have direct applicability and become law in each EU Member State at the same time without the need for local enabling laws or rulemaking in each Member State. The consideration and approval process is likely to take up the remainder of this year, with a likely final implementation of the Proposal in 2011.

Footnotes

1. NRSROs are credit rating agencies that have registered with the SEC.

2. Amendments to Rules for Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations; Proposed Rules for Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations; Final Rule and Proposed Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 74, p. 63832 (December 4, 2009), available at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-28496.pdf. For a general summary of the December changes and other related developments last year see our prior update, "Rating Agency Reform – 2009 in Review," available at http://www.mayerbrown.com/publications/article.asp?id=8407&nid=6.

3. 17 CFR 240.17g-5.

4. Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on amending Regulation (EC) No 1060/2009 on credit rating agencies, available at http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/securities/docs/agencies/100602_proposal_en.pdf.

5. Regulation (EC) No. 1060/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council (16 September 2009), available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:302:0001:0031:EN:PDF

6. Because rule 17g-5 applies directly to NRSROs, each NRSRO has developed its own compliance positions on some interpretive issues and its own form agreement that it requires arrangers to sign.

7. The terms issuer, sponsor and underwriter are not defined, but they are being interpreted consistently with their meanings elsewhere in the federal securities laws, particularly Regulation AB (for "issuer" and "sponsor"). Also, while the term "underwriter" is not used in the Rule 144A/Regulation S offering context, Hired NRSROs are treating initial purchasers in those transactions as "underwriters" under the Web Site Rules.

8. It is unclear whether any NRSROs that are not Hired NRSROs would expend the time and effort to provide an unsolicited rating or, if so, whether the quality of that work would equal that of the compensated Hired NRSROs. As a result, some commentators believe that there will be limited such unsolicited ratings and that, when provided, they may tend to be intentionally more conservative than those provided by the Hired NRSROs due both to the lesser degree of research likely to be undertaken by the Accessing NRSRO and the possibility that external considerations (such as disappointment at not having been selected as a Hired NRSRO) may influence their ratings.

9. Adopting Release, note 152. The SEC also expects that the ongoing relationship between NRSROs and arrangers will enable NRSROs to, in some sense, police an arranger's compliance: "if, for example, an NRSRO had knowledge that an arranger had not complied with its representations, the NRSRO would be on notice that future reliance on that arranger might not be reasonable. The SEC believes it is likely that the required representations will be part of the standard contracts entered into between NRSROs and arrangers and that an arranger that fails to comply with its representations will risk having the hired NRSRO withdraw the credit ratings paid for by that arranger and being denied the ability to obtain credit ratings from the hired NRSRO in the future, given that the hired NRSRO may not be able to reasonably rely on the safe harbor. The SEC believes that the consequences of losing the safe harbor should provide sufficient incentive for NRSROs to ensure that they obtain the representations from arrangers as set forth in paragraph (a)(3)(iii) and that arrangers comply with their representations." Adopting Release, p. 63847. See also Adopting Release, p. 63849 (discussion of click-through confidentiality agreements).

10. SEC Release No. 34-62120, available at http://www.sec.gov/rules/exorders/2010/34-62120.pdf.

11. Adopting Release, p. 63844.

12. Ibid.

13. Adopting Release, n. 139.

14. Rule 17g-5(e) provides verbatim required language for the certification, which we have summarized here.

15. These policies and procedures are required pursuant to section 15E(g)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act and 17 CFR 240.17g–4.

16. Adopting Release, p. 63849.

17. Ibid. Although the quoted text refers specifically to a click-through confidentiality agreement, as discussed above, we would expect the SEC to take the same view on other due diligence-related log-in procedures.

18. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:177:0001:0200:EN:PDF

19. http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/privacy/docs/95-46-ce/dir1995-46_part1_en.pdf

20. The European Economic Area includes all Member States of the European Union plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

21. See endnote 19

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Copyright 2010. Mayer Brown LLP, Mayer Brown International LLP, Mayer Brown JSM and/or Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. All rights reserved.

Mayer Brown is a global legal services organization comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the Mayer Brown Practices). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP, a limited liability partnership established in the United States; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership, and its associated entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.

This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.

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Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.