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Good News: SEC Allows Electronic Signatures in Authentication Documents

The SEC recently approved amendments to Rule 302(b) of Regulation S-T, which governs the signing of “authentication documents” relating to typewritten signatures included in documents that are filed with the SEC electronically via EDGAR.  Current Rule 302(b) requires that, prior to or at the time of such a filing, each signatory manually sign a signature page (or other document) “authenticating, acknowledging or otherwise adopting his or her signature that appears in typed form within the electronic filing.”  Rule 302(b), as amended, will for the first time allow a signatory to use an electronic signature (as an alternative to a manual signature) on any such authentication document, provided certain requirements are met, as described below.

Effective Date.  The amendments will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register.  Following approval of the amendments, however, the SEC staff issued a statement indicating that, in light of COVID-19 concerns, early reliance on and compliance with amended Rule 302(b) is permitted.

Attestation Document (New).  Before using an electronic signature in an authentication document for the first time, a signatory will be required to manually sign a document attesting that he or she agrees that the use of an electronic signature in any authentication document will be the legal equivalent of such individual’s manual signature.

Electronic Signature Procedures.  In connection with the amendments, the SEC updated the EDGAR Filer Manual to set out the procedures that are required to be followed before an electronic signature may be used in an authentication document.  The electronic signing

U.S. SEC Grants Temporary Relief for Edgar Code Applicants Unable to Obtain Notarization

April 3, 2020

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The SEC recently adopted temporary relief for Edgar filers that face challenges obtaining notarization of signatures on Form ID applications, which are required to obtain Edgar access codes.

Applicants can now upload a signed copy of Form ID without the notarization by including a statement that they were unable to obtain notarization due to difficulties related to COVID-19. Within 90 days after  obtaining access to Edgar, applicants must obtain notarization of the authorized signature on a copy of the completed Form ID and upload it to their Edgar account.  Failure to do so may result in the SEC inactivating their Edgar access codes.

The relief expires after July 1, 2020.

U.S. TriBar Committee opines on validity of electronic signatures in new comment; SEC relief on signatures on filings during COVID-19

TriBar Committee.  Last week the TriBar Opinion Committee issued a new Comment concerning the use of electronic signatures and third-party opinion letters, in response to COVID-19 and its impact on the giving of opinions on the execution of agreements signed electronically.  Although virtual closings have been the norm for some time, the Committee observed that COVID-19 has increased focus on giving opinions on the execution of agreements signed electronically. The Comment explains the legal basis for the conclusion underlying those opinions that the electronic signatures on those agreements have the same legal effect as manual signatures, focusing on the UETA and E-SIGN.

For more information on e-signing, see BCLP’s client alert on Executing U.S. Contracts While Working from Home.

SEC Relief.  On the same day, and in response to COVID -19, the SEC staff issued a statement, that while compliance with Rule 302 of Regulation S-T is still expected, they will not recommend enforcement action if:

  • the signatory retains a manually signed signature page or other document authenticating, acknowledging, or otherwise adopting his or her signature that appears in typed form within the electronic filing and provides such document, as promptly as reasonably practicable, to the filer for retention in the ordinary course pursuant to Rule 302(b);
  • such document indicates the date and time when the signature was executed; and
  • the filer establishes and maintains policies and procedures governing this process.

As one example, the statement notes that if a signatory is teleworking,

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