On September 21, 2017 the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued interpretive guidance on the CEO pay ratio calculation and disclosure. The pay ratio rule was adopted by the SEC on August 5, 2015 under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It requires companies to disclose their CEO’s annual total compensation as a multiple of the annual total compensation of the median employee for the first fiscal year beginning in 2017.
The guidance came in the following three areas:
- As long as the company uses reasonable estimates, assumptions, or methodologies (to identify the median employee or calculating any elements of annual total compensation for employees), the pay ratio itself and related disclosure would not provide the basis for an enforcement action from the SEC
- A company may use internal records (such as tax or payroll records) to identify its median employee
- For determining whether independent contractors are “employees”, companies may apply a widely recognized test under another area of law (e.g., tax or employment laws) that they would otherwise use to determine whether their workers are employees
- Provides guidance and detailed examples on the use of statistical sampling
- Adds a new C&DI that issuers can state the ratio is an “estimate”
- Withdraws C&DI that primarily addressed the treatment of independent contractors and leased workers
The latest guidance now provides more flexibility for companies in determining the median employee, specifically as it relates to the use of statistical sampling and clarification of independent contractors. We will track pay ratio disclosure over the coming year and keep you informed of new developments as they occur.