December 17, 2008

Her Majesty’s Government: Corp Fin Grants Schedule 13D Relief for UK’s Investment in the Banking Sector

Last week, Corp Fin issued this no-action letter entitled “Her Majesty’s Government.” Is that the coolest name for a government response or what? It’s so “James Bond.”

Corp Fin’s relief allows the United Kingdom to file an “Alternative” Schedule 13D when the UK Treasury takes ownership interests in the UK banks that is taking place due to the recapitalization of the UK banking industry, a recap “scheme” blessed by the Bank of England and the UK Financial Services Authority. For example, the UK Treasury is acquiring a 57.9% interest in the Royal Bank of Scotland’s holding company.

The “Alternative” Schedule 13D is intended to dovetail with the notification required to be filed with the FSA under DTR 5.1.2R (this is in Chapter 5 of the FSA’s “Disclosure & Transparency Rules”). Under Corp Fin’s relief, this alternative 13D will consist of a cover page, the UK notification and the 13D signature page. A form of the alternative Schedule 13D is attached as Annex I of the incoming letter of the no-action request – and here is the alternative Schedule 13D filed by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Why Hasn’t the US Treasury or Fed Filed Any Schedule 13Ds?

What about Schedule 13Ds filed by the US Treasury or the Federal Reserve for their investments in AIG, Fannie, Freddie, etc.? We looked pretty hard for Schedule 13Ds filed by the US government and didn’t find any. We aren’t the only ones wondering where these filings are – Professor Davidoff mused about this also a while back.

Just like the Professor, at first, the only rationale I could think of was that the Treasury figures nobody is going to sue it for not meeting filing requirements. But then I remembered Section 3(c) of the Exchange Act, which provides an exemption from the provisions of the Exchange Act for “any executive department or independent establishment of the United States, or any lending agency which is wholly owned, directly or indirectly, by the United States, or any officer, agent, or employee of any such department, establishment, or agency, acting in the course of his official duty as such….” Depending on the nature of the entity making the investment, it may be able to rely on Section 3(c) to avoid filing beneficial ownership reports. So that may be what is being relied upon…