United States: SEC Clarifies Existing Cybersecurity Disclosure Guidance

On February 21, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") issued cybersecurity disclosure guidance for public companies ("SEC Guidance") that, according to SEC Chair Jay Clayton, "reinforces and expands" on the SEC Division of Corporation Finance's prior guidance from 2011 ("Corp Fin Guidance" as we previously covered) regarding disclosure requirements under the federal securities laws and related policies and procedures. Chair Clayton indicated that "providing the Commission's views on these matters will promote clearer and more robust disclosure by companies about cybersecurity risks and incidents, resulting in more complete information being available to investors."

Although this guidance was unanimously issued, two of the Commissioners questioned whether it adequately addresses the needs of the public markets. In particular, Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr. "reluctantly support[ed]" the guidance because it "essentially reiterates years-old staff-level views on this issue," and Commissioner Kara M. Stein was "disappointed with the Commission's limited action." A close review of the SEC Guidance and a comparison to the Corp Fin Guidance (below) reveal that the new guidance appears to be a restatement of existing interpretations with clarifications around the margin, including:

  • Materiality remains the hallmark of cybersecurity disclosures, but the SEC Guidance now more clearly identifies the portions of filings that should include these disclosures;
  • Negative consequences of cybersecurity incidents are now viewed more broadly as guided by experience over the past seven years;
  • The board's role in overseeing cybersecurity risk management should be disclosed; and
  • Disclosure controls should continue to be assessed and disclosed but, unlike the Corp Fin Guidance (which was silent on the subject), those controls now should also explicitly prohibit insiders from trading on material nonpublic information relating to cybersecurity risks and incidents.

Much of the SEC Guidance was already encapsulated more generally in the Corp Fin Guidance and other portions of the federal securities laws and regulations (e.g., the registration and anti-fraud provisions prohibit material misstatements or omissions regardless of whether they relate to cybersecurity). For example, based on the Corp Fin Guidance, public companies have generally disclosed three categories of cybersecurity risks:

  • Operations Resiliency – the potential impact on a public company if its information systems or other business technologies fail;
  • Data Breach Risk – the threats posed by historical and anticipated cybersecurity incidents given a public company's business operations; and
  • Regulatory Compliance – the costs associated with demonstrating compliance with data privacy, securities, and other laws that are enacted and modified worldwide.

Regardless of the apparent overlap, the SEC Guidance is helpful for the industry because it pulls the relevant guidance together into one reference document. And perhaps the most significant aspect of the SEC Guidance is that it is a formal adoption by the SEC of positions taken by its staff over the past seven years.

Materiality Remains the Hallmark of Cybersecurity Disclosures. Like the Corp Fin Guidance, the SEC Guidance reminds public companies that the federal securities laws require disclosure of material cybersecurity risks and incidents. Similarly, the SEC Guidance notes that the materiality of cybersecurity risks or incidents is a facts and circumstances determination that "depends upon their nature, extent, and potential magnitude, particularly as they relate to any compromised information or the business and scope of company operations." The SEC Guidance continues to emphasize that materiality also depends on "the occurrence of prior cybersecurity incidents, including their severity and frequency" and "the adequacy of preventative actions taken to reduce cybersecurity risks" in the context of the public company's industry.

Also like the Corp Fin Guidance, the SEC Guidance encourages balance in making disclosures ‒ public companies should avoid generic boilerplate disclosures but also need not provide a "road map" that could compromise their own cybersecurity efforts. The SEC Guidance also continues to recognize that public companies may need time to determine the implications of a cybersecurity incident and that cooperating with law enforcement may limit the scope of disclosure.

Where the Corp Fin Guidance previously was silent, the SEC Guidance now indicates that public companies may not avoid disclosures altogether on the basis of an internal or external investigation.

Negative Consequences of Cybersecurity Incidents Now Viewed More Broadly. The SEC Guidance reiterates the same Corp Fin Guidance examples of how public companies "may incur substantial costs and suffer other negative consequences," including:

  • Remediation costs, such as liability for stolen assets or information, repairs of system damage, and incentives to customers or business partners in an effort to maintain relationships after an attack;
  • Increased cybersecurity protection costs, which may include the costs of making organizational changes, deploying additional personnel and protection technologies, training employees, and engaging third party experts and consultants;
  • Lost revenues resulting from the unauthorized use of proprietary information or the failure to retain or attract customers following an attack;
  • Litigation; and
  • Reputational damage that adversely affects customer or investor confidence.

But the SEC Guidance also lists the following examples that are not found in the Corp Fin Guidance:

  • Ransomware payments;
  • Legal risks, including regulatory actions by state and federal governmental authorities and non-U.S. authorities;
  • Increased insurance premiums; and
  • Damage to the company's competitiveness, stock price, and long-term shareholder value.

Regardless, both sets of guidance emphasize that public companies put their risks into context for investors to understand. In particular, if a public company has experienced a specific cybersecurity incident, the company likely should discuss the occurrence instead of mentioning it as merely a risk.

Conclusion. Given all this, it is important for public companies to carefully review the SEC Guidance to verify that their public disclosures and related controls satisfy regulatory and investor expectations. This recent guidance illustrates that the SEC is scrutinizing those disclosures and controls and expects public companies to respond accordingly. There is also little doubt that the plaintiffs' bar will seize on this guidance to support securities class actions going forward.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions