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SEC adopts breach-reporting rules, establishes requirements for cybersecurity risk management

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues Securities Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security SEC Data Breach Risk Management

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On July 26, a divided SEC adopted a final rule outlining disclosure requirements for publicly traded companies in the event of a material cybersecurity incident. The final rule (proposed last year and covered by InfoBytes here) also requires companies to periodically disclose their cybersecurity risk management processes and establishes requirements for how cybersecurity disclosures must be presented. The final rule requires that material cybersecurity incidents be disclosed within four days from the time a company determines the incident was material (a disclosure may be delayed should the U.S. attorney general notify the SEC in writing that immediate disclosure poses a substantial risk to national security or public safety). Companies must also identify material aspects of the incident’s nature, scope, and timing, as well as its impact or reasonably likely impact on the company, and are required to describe their board’s and management’s oversight of risks from cybersecurity threats and previous cybersecurity incidents. These disclosures will be required in a company’s annual report. The final rule will also mandate foreign private issuers to provide comparable disclosures on forms related to material cybersecurity incidents and risk management, strategy, and governance.

The final rule is effective 30 days following publication of the adopting release in the Federal Register. The SEC noted that incident-specific disclosures will be required in Forms 8-K and 6-K beginning either 90 days after the final rule’s publication in the Federal Register or on December 18, whichever is later, though smaller reporting companies are provided an extra 180 days before they must begin providing such disclosures. Annual disclosures on cyber risk management, strategy, and governance will be required in Form 10-K and Form 20-F reports starting with annual reports for fiscal years ending on or after December 15. In terms of structured data requirements, all companies must tag disclosures in the required format beginning one year after initial compliance with the related disclosure requirement.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler commented that, in response to public comments received on the proposed rule, the final rule “streamlines required disclosures for both periodic and incident reporting” and requires companies “to disclose only an incident’s material impacts, nature, scope, and timing, whereas the proposal would have required additional details, not explicitly limited by materiality.”

In voting against the final rule, Commissioner Hester M. Pierce raised concerns that the final rule’s compliance timelines are overly aggressive even for large companies and that the short incident disclosure period could potentially mislead otherwise uninformed investors and “lead to disclosures that are ‘tentative and unclear, resulting in false positives and mispricing in the market.’” The final rule allows a company to update its incident disclosure with new information in subsequent reports that was unavailable at first and could impact investors who may suffer a loss due to the mispricing of the company’s securities following the initial reporting, Pierce said. She also criticized the risk to national security or public safety exemption as being overly narrow. Commissioner Mark Uyeda also opposed the adoption, writing that “[n]o other Form 8-K event requires such broad forward-looking disclosure that needs to be constantly assessed for a potential amendment.” Uyeda also questioned whether “[p]remature public disclosure of a cybersecurity incident at one company could result in uncertainty of vulnerabilities at other companies, especially if it involves a commonly used technology provider, [thus] resulting in widespread panic in the market and financial contagion.”