Category Archives: Accounting & Disclosure

Modernizing and Enhancing Investment Company and Investment Adviser Reporting

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Good morning, everyone. This is an open meeting of the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 20, 2015 under the Government in the Sunshine Act.

The Commission today will consider two recommendations of the staff to modernize and augment the information reported by both registered investment companies, which include mutual funds and ETFs, and investment advisers. These proposals are part of a series of rulemakings to enhance the SEC’s monitoring and regulation of the asset management industry. We will discuss the two recommendations together and then will vote separately on each following the discussion.

The oversight of funds and advisers is one of the most important functions of the Commission. Over the past 75 years, our regulatory program for asset management has grown and adapted, guided by our mission, to address the challenges of this important, ever-evolving and growing area of our financial markets. Today, we once again are doing that.

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Effective Regulatory Oversight and Investor Protection Requires Better Information

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

It is said that, “knowledge is power.” Knowledge, however, requires information. And there is no doubt we live in an age of information. The advent of the Internet and the breathtaking technological advances we have witnessed over the last few decades have given us access to more information than at any time in history. The available data seems to be limitless—and all available at the touch of a fingertip.

Yet, when I joined the Commission, it quickly became apparent that the SEC did not have the breadth and quality of information necessary to do its job effectively. As our country experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and, as things began to unravel, I sought data and information to analyze the impact of what was occurring—only to find that much of the information available to the Commission was missing, stale, or incomplete.

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Supporters of Transparency Should Work with the SEC, Not Take it to Court

Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Robert J. Jackson, Jr. is Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. Bebchuk and Jackson served as co-chairs of the Committee on Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending, which filed a rulemaking petition requesting that the SEC require all public companies to disclose their political spending. Bebchuk and Jackson are also co-authors of Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending, published in the Georgetown Law Journal. A series of posts in which Bebchuk and Jackson respond to objections to an SEC rule requiring disclosure of corporate political spending is available here. All posts related to the SEC rulemaking petition on disclosure of political spending are available here.

In July 2011, we co-chaired a committee of ten corporate and securities law experts that petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to develop rules requiring public companies to disclose their political spending. As reflected on the SEC’s webpage for comments filed on the petition, the SEC has now received more than 1.2 million comments on the proposal—more than any rulemaking petition in the SEC’s history. Earlier this week, a suit was filed in the federal court for the District of Columbia, relying in part on our petition and the broad support it has received, seeking an injunction requiring the SEC to initiate rulemaking on the subject. As explained below, this litigation is unhelpful to the broadly supported effort to obtain disclosure that would shed light on corporate political spending.

To be sure, we are disappointed that the SEC has not yet started the rulemaking process urged by our petition. At the end of 2012, the Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance acknowledged the widespread support for the petition, and the Commission placed the proposal on its regulatory agenda for 2013. Unfortunately, Chairman Mary Jo White faced considerable political pressure from Congress not to develop rules that would require disclosure of corporate spending on politics, and the Commission has thus far delayed any further consideration of rules in this area. As we explained in earlier posts on the Forum (see, for example, posts here and here), we view the delay as unfortunate and unwarranted in light of the compelling arguments for disclosure, the breadth of support that the petition has received, and the weakness of the objections that opponents have been able to raise.

While the SEC would do well to initiate rulemaking without further delay, we view the attempt to force the Commission to act through court action as unhelpful for two reasons. First, while the SEC’s delay in initiating rulemaking is regrettable, the SEC’s behavior thus far does not come close to satisfying the demanding conditions for judicial intervention. The court should thus not be expected to provide the injunction requested by the lawsuit.

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Latest CD&A Template Offers Best Practices, Is Win-Win for Issuers, Investors

Matt Orsagh is a director at CFA Institute.

To help companies produce a more clear and concise executive compensation report that attends to the needs of both companies and investors, CFA Institute has released an updated Compensation Discussion & Analysis (CD&A) Template. It is an update of the 2011 template of the same name and aims to help companies draft CD&As that serve as better communications tools, not simply as compliance documents.

CFA Institute worked with issuers, investors, proxy advisers, compensation consultants, legal experts and other associations to update the manual so it would best serve the needs of investors and issuers. One of the main enhancements in the latest version of the template is a graphic executive summary that presents the main information investors are looking for in a concise format that takes up only one or two pages.

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SEC Proposes “Pay Versus Performance” Rule

Edmond T. FitzGerald is partner and head of the Executive Compensation Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum; the complete publication, including Appendix, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about CEO pay includes Paying for Long-Term Performance (discussed on the Forum here) and the book Pay without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation, both by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried.

On April 29, 2015, a divided Securities and Exchange Commission proposed requiring U.S. public companies to disclose the relationship between executive compensation and the company’s financial performance. [1] The proposed “pay versus performance” rule, one of the last Dodd-Frank Act rulemaking responsibilities for the SEC, mandates that a company provide, in any proxy or information statement:

  • A new table, covering up to five years, that shows:
    • compensation “actually paid” to the CEO, and total compensation paid to the CEO as reported in the Summary Compensation Table;
    • average compensation “actually paid” to other named executive officers, and average compensation paid to such officers as reported in the Summary Compensation Table; and
    • cumulative total shareholder return (TSR) of the company and its peer group; and
  • Disclosure of the relationship between:
    • executive compensation “actually paid” and company TSR; and
    • company TSR and peer group TSR.

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Proposed Rule on Pay Versus Performance

Kara M. Stein is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Stein’s recent public statement, available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Stein and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about CEO pay includes Paying for Long-Term Performance (discussed on the Forum here) and the book Pay without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation, both by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried.

Executive compensation and its relationship to the performance of a company has been an important issue since the first proxy rules were promulgated by the Commission nearly 80 years ago. The first tabular disclosure of executive compensation appeared in 1943, and over the years, the Commission has continued to update and overhaul the presentation and content of compensation disclosures.

Today [April 29, 2015], the Commission, as directed by Congress, takes another important step in modernizing our executive compensation rules by proposing amendments on pay versus performance. [1] Section 953(a) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed the Commission to adopt rules requiring public companies to disclose in their proxy materials the relationship between executive compensation actually paid, and the financial performance of the company.

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The SEC as the Whistleblower’s Advocate

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s recent address at the Ray Garrett, Jr. Corporate and Securities Law Institute–Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

I am very honored to address the Garrett Institute, one of the most important programs in the country for corporate and securities lawyers, and to be in David’s home territory of Northwestern Law School where he served as Dean before going on to serve as a very distinguished Chairman of the SEC in the late 1980s.

Although the Garrett Institute was established 35 years ago to honor former SEC Chairman Ray Garrett, Jr., I really first came to learn about him when I did a bit of research for a speech I gave in honor of former SEC Commissioner Al Sommer on the importance of the SEC as an independent agency. Mr. Sommer, himself a legendary Commissioner, was recommended by Chairman Garrett to succeed him as Chairman. Seemingly, that did not come to pass because Commissioner Sommer was a Democrat during a Republican administration. That, however, did not stop Chairman Garrett, a Republican, from recommending the person he thought would be the best for the job.

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SEC Broadens Focus on and Requirements for 13D Amendment Disclosure

Philip Richter is co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Richter, Steven Epstein, Abigail Pickering Bomba, and Gail Weinstein. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about blockholder disclosure includes The Law and Economics of Blockholder Disclosure by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert J. Jackson Jr. (discussed on the Forum here), and Pre-Disclosure Accumulations by Activist Investors: Evidence and Policy by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Robert J. Jackson Jr., and Wei Jiang.

The SEC recently announced settlements of charges against insiders relating to three different going private transactions. The settlement orders (the “Orders”) reflect a general increased focus by the SEC on insiders’ compliance with Schedule 13D amendment requirements in connection with going private transactions (and possibly other extraordinary transactions), as well as possibly expanded requirements for disclosure of steps taken during the preliminary stage of consideration of a transaction. The charges were against eight directors, officers or major stockholders for their respective failures to file timely amendments to their Schedule 13D filings to disclose their plans to take the companies private. The charges were based on steps these parties had taken in furtherance of the going private transactions, but that had only been disclosed months (or in some cases years) afterward in the proxy statements or Schedule 13E-3 statements relating to the transactions. READ MORE »

SEC Releases Proposed Rules on Dodd-Frank Pay vs. Performance Disclosure Rule

Michael J. Segal is partner in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Segal, Andrea K. Wahlquist, and David E. Kahan.

On April 29, 2015, the SEC released proposed rules under Section 953(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act, regarding required proxy and other information statement disclosure of the relationship between executive compensation actually paid by a company, and the company’s financial performance. The proposed rules are subject to public comments for 60 days following their publication in the Federal Register. The new requirements could become effective as early as the 2016 proxy season.

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Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever

Holger Spamann is an assistant professor at Harvard Law School. This post is based on the article Fixing Public Sector Finances: The Accounting and Reporting Lever recently published in the UCLA Law Review and co-authored by Professor Spamann and James Naughton of Kellogg School of Management.

Detroit’s bankruptcy highlighted the precarious financial situation of many states, cities, and other localities (collectively referred to as municipalities). In an article just published in the UCLA Law Review, we argue that part of the blame for this situation lies with the outdated and ineffective financial reporting regime for public entities and that fixing this regime is a necessary first step toward fiscal recovery. We provide concrete examples of advisable changes in accounting rules and advocate for institutional changes, particularly involvement of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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  • Programs Faculty & Senior Fellows

    Lucian Bebchuk
    Alon Brav
    Robert Charles Clark
    John Coates
    Alma Cohen
    Stephen M. Davis
    Allen Ferrell
    Jesse Fried
    Oliver Hart
    Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
    Scott Hirst
    Howell Jackson
    Robert J. Jackson, Jr.
    Wei Jiang
    Reinier Kraakman
    Robert Pozen
    Mark Ramseyer
    Mark Roe
    Robert Sitkoff
    Holger Spamann
    Guhan Subramanian

  • Program on Corporate Governance Advisory Board

    William Ackman
    Peter Atkins
    Joseph Bachelder
    John Bader
    Allison Bennington
    Richard Breeden
    Daniel Burch
    Richard Climan
    Jesse Cohn
    Isaac Corré
    Scott Davis
    John Finley
    Daniel Fischel
    Stephen Fraidin
    Byron Georgiou
    Larry Hamdan
    Carl Icahn
    David Millstone
    Theodore Mirvis
    James Morphy
    Toby Myerson
    Barry Rosenstein
    Paul Rowe
    Rodman Ward