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SEC Requires Hyperlinking of Exhibits

by   |   March 5, 2017

The SEC has adopted rules which will require public companies, or registrants, to include a hyperlink to each exhibit identified in an exhibit index, unless the exhibit is filed in paper pursuant to a temporary or continuing hardship exemption under Rules 201 or 202 of Regulation S-T, or pursuant to Rule 311 of Regulation S-T. This requirement will apply to the forms for which exhibits are required under Item 601 of Regulation S-K.

Registrants are not required to refile electronically any documents in paper, including organizational documents. The final rules exclude hyperlinking of any XBRL exhibits and also exclude exhibits that are filed with Form ABS-EE.  With respect to registration statements, exhibit hyperlinks are required for the initial registration statement and each subsequent pre-effective amendment.

In order to provide electronic filers time to prepare filings to include hyperlinks to exhibits, the final rules will take effect on September 1, 2017.

Currently, registrants must submit electronic filings to the Commission using the EDGAR system in either the ASCII format or the HTML format. Documents prepared in the ASCII format cannot support functional hyperlinks.  Because the ASCII format does not support hyperlink functionality, the exhibit hyperlinking requirement would be feasible only if registrants are required to file in HTML.  Under the final rules, registrants will be required to file in HTML format a registration statement or report subject to the exhibit filing requirements under Item 601 of Regulation S-K, and Forms 20-F and F-10. While the affected registration statements and reports will be required to be filed in HTML pursuant to the amendments to Rule 105, registrants may continue to file in ASCII any schedules or forms that are not subject to the exhibit filing requirements under Item 601, such as proxy statements, or other documents included with a filing, such as an exhibit.

In response to comments, The SEC adopted a phase-in period for non-accelerated filers and smaller reporting companies. Non-accelerated filers and smaller reporting companies that submit filings in ASCII will have an additional one year after the effective date of the final rules to begin to comply with the rules. During the phase-in period, these filers may continue to file registration statements or reports in ASCII and will not need to include hyperlinks to the exhibits listed in the exhibit indexes of their filings.

An instruction to Rule 105 states that a registrant must correct a nonfunctioning hyperlink or hyperlink to the wrong exhibit by filing, in the case of a registration statement that is not yet effective, a pre-effective amendment to such registration statement, or in the case of a registration statement that is effective or an Exchange Act report, in the next Exchange Act periodic report that requires, or includes, an exhibit pursuant to Item 601 of Regulation S-K (or in the case of a foreign private issuer, pursuant to Form 20-F or Form F-10). According to the SEC, if a filing contains an inaccurate exhibit hyperlink, the inaccurate hyperlink alone would not render the filing materially deficient, nor affect a registrant’s eligibility to use short-form registration statements.