The week in GRC: Apple to face human rights shareholder proposal, and COSO issues new cyber-security framework

Dec 20, 2019
This week’s governance, compliance and risk-management stories from around the web

The week in GRC will be taking a week off for the holidays. It will return on January 3. From all at Corporate Secretary, happy holidays and best wishes for 2020. 

– Vox Media announced plans to cut 200 freelance positions for sports reporters based in California, as a result of a new law that was intended to improve working conditions for companies like Uber and Lyft, which rely heavily on contractors rather than employees, the New York Times reported.

The law will come into effect on January 1, 2020 and has been nicknamed ‘the Uber bill’. New Jersey legislators are also considering passing a similar bill. For Vox Media, the law means writers are restricted to contributing around 35 articles per year, a company spokesperson revealed.

 

– A former partner at Goldman Sachs has been barred from working in the financial industry for more than one year by securities regulators, after he pleaded guilty to money laundering and foreign bribery charges, the Times reported.

Tim Leissner did not contest the sentence handed out by the SEC, the NYT reported. Leissner had already agreed to give up $43.7 million when he pleaded guilty. It is alleged he played a role in a $6.5 billion scheme to take money from a sovereign wealth fund in Malaysia.

In a statement provided to the Times, a Goldman Sachs spokesperson confirmed that the firm had been deceived by Leissner, who has admitted lying to his former employer. Leissner’s lawyers did not return a request for comment from the Times.

 

– The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (Coso) has issued new guidance for how companies can bolster their internal cyber-security controls, the Wall Street Journal reported. The guidelines suggest companies should establish a cyber-risk management that should include executives from risk, finance, audit and other areas. Among Coso’s other recommendations is the suggestion that companies should consider adding directors with cyber-security experience to their boards. The guidelines also provide a tool for companies to assess their own cyber-risk, as well as those faced by their suppliers and vendors.

 

– The SEC is exploring loosening regulation of audit firms, according to the WSJ. Based on remarks by SEC chairman Jay Clayton earlier this month, the WSJ reported that the commission will likely consider a rule change relating to auditor independence in April 2020. The planned rules, which would follow the approval in June of softer rules governing auditors’ and funds’ financial ties to the same lender, are part of the SEC’s broader shift from strict guidance toward a principles-based approach governing corporate disclosures.

 

– Uber resolved an investigation into its workplace culture by establishing a $4.4 million fund to compensate current and former employees who were subjected to sexual harassment, the Times reported. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had led an investigation into the company since 2017 and found ‘reasonable cause to believe that Uber permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment.’ As part of the settlement, Uber also agreed to three years of monitoring by a former agency commissioner.

Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, told the NYT the company had ‘worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do.’

 

– The SEC proposed changes to the definition of a professional investor to encourage more investment in private companies, reported Reuters. The agency wants to increase access given that a growing number of companies are staying private for longer. The SEC thinks the current definition, which is based on wealth and income, could be too restrictive. There will be a public consultation on the changes. 

 

– The Bank of England (BoE) launched a major project to better understand the risks posed to financial institutions by climate change, reported the BBC. BoE will conduct climate-related stress tests on banks and insurance firms in a similar manner to how it currently runs financial stress tests. The tests will focus on two types of risk: physical risks related to weather activity and transition risks related to moving to a low-carbon economy. 

 

– Apple will face a vote on its human rights policies at next year’s annual shareholder meeting after failing to have a resolution struck from the agenda, reported the Financial Times (paywall). The tech giant has faced criticism over human rights after removing an application that helped protestors track police during demonstrations in Hong Kong. The resolution asks Apple to make a commitment to freedom of expression and explain how it responds to government actions that may limit free expression. 

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