Category Archives: International Corporate Governance & Regulation

Can Institutional Investors Improve Corporate Governance?

Craig Doidge is Professor of Finance at the University of Toronto. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Doidge; Alexander Dyck, Professor of Finance at the University of Toronto; Hamed Mahmudi, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Oklahoma; and Aazam Virani, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Arizona.

In our paper, Can Institutional Investors Improve Corporate Governance Through Collective Action?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether a collective action organization of institutional investors can significantly influence firms’ governance choices. Growth in institutional investor ownership over the last few decades puts these investors in the position to have significant influence, particularly if they can work collectively and coordinate their efforts. But we have very limited evidence whether institutional investors are able to overcome the obstacles to collective action. We focus on the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), an organization of institutional investors whose mandate is to promote good governance. We use proprietary data on its private communications and find that its private engagements between owners and independent directors influenced firms’ adoption of majority voting and say-on-pay advisory votes, improved compensation structure and disclosure, and influenced CEO incentive intensity.


Sustainability Practices 2015

Matteo Tonello is Managing Director at The Conference Board, Inc. This post relates to Sustainability Practices 2015, an annual benchmarking report authored by Mr. Tonello and Thomas Singer. The complete publication, including footnotes, graphics, and appendices, is available here.

More US companies are aligning sustainability disclosure with global standards through the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework. Even though the overall environmental and social disclosure rate among global companies has remained essentially unchanged over the last year, reporting using the GRI framework continued its rise in the United States, and one out of three large U.S. companies now adopt those guidelines. Exceptional progress has also been made in the transparency of individual practices, such as anti-bribery and climate change.

These are some of the findings from The Conference Board Sustainability Practices Dashboard 2015, a comprehensive database and online benchmarking tool that serves as the foundation for this report. The dashboard captures the most recent disclosure of environmental and social practices by large public companies around the world and segments them by market index, geography, sector, and revenue group. Other key findings from this year’s data include the following:


U.S. Enforcement Policy and Foreign Corporations

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savarese, David GruensteinRalph M. LeveneDavid B. Anders, and Lauren M. Kofke.

We recently reported on a new U.S. Department of Justice policy which expanded expectations for corporate cooperation in white collar investigations. While the initial wave of attention given to the DOJ pronouncement focused on U.S. companies, this new policy is also important for all companies with operations in the U.S. or whose activities otherwise bring them within the long arm of U.S. enforcement jurisdiction. Underscoring the relevance of these new policies to non-U.S. companies, Deputy Attorney General Yates noted in her remarks announcing the new policy that among “the challenges we face in pursuing financial fraud cases against individuals” is the fact that “since virtually all of these corporations operate worldwide, restrictive foreign data privacy laws and a limited ability to compel the testimony of witnesses abroad make it even more challenging to obtain the necessary evidence to bring individuals to justice.”


Title VII and Security-Based Swaps

Robert W. Reeder III and Dennis C. Sullivan are partners at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan and Cromwell publication. The complete publication is available for download here.

In the first half of 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) finalized or proposed a number of rules relating to security-based swaps (“SBSs”). These include final and proposed rules on the reporting and public dissemination of security-based swaps, proposed rules on security-based swap transactions arranged, negotiated or executed by U.S.-based personnel of a non-U.S. person and final rules on the registration of security-based swap data repositories (“SDRs”). This post provides an overview of these regulatory developments.


Remuneration in the Financial Services Industry 2015

Will Pearce is partner and Michael Sholem is European Counsel at Davis Polk LLP. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Mr. Pearce, Mr. Sholem, Simon Witty, and Anne Cathrine Ingerslev. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Regulating Bankers’ Pay by Lucian Bebchuk and Holger Spamann (discussed on the Forum here), The Wages of Failure: Executive Compensation at Bear Stearns and Lehman 2000-2008 by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Holger Spamann, and How to Fix Bankers’ Pay by Lucian Bebchuk.

The past year has seen the issue of financial sector pay continue to generate headlines. With the EU having put in place a complex web of overlapping law, regulation and guidance during 2013 and 2014, national regulators are faced with the task of interpreting these requirements and imposing them on a sometimes skeptical (if not openly hostile) financial services industry. This post aims to assist in navigating the European labyrinth by providing a snapshot of the four main European Directives that regulate remuneration:

  • Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV);
  • Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD);
  • Fifth instalment of the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Directive (UCITS V); and
  • Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID).


Regulating Trading Practices

Andreas M. Fleckner is a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg. This post is based on a chapter prepared for The Oxford Handbook of Financial Regulation (forthcoming).

High-frequency trading, dark pools, front-running, phantom orders, short selling—the way securities are traded ranks high among today’s regulatory challenges. Thanks to a steady stream of news reports, investor complaints, and public investigations, it has become commonplace to call for the government to intervene and impose order. The regulation of trading practices, one of the oldest roots of securities law and still a regulatory mystery to many people, is suddenly the talk of the town.

From a historical and empirical perspective, however, many of the recent developments look less dramatic than some observers believe. This is the essence of Regulating Trading Practices, my chapter for the new Oxford Handbook of Financial Regulation. The chapter explains how today’s regulatory regime evolved, identifies the key rationale for governments to intervene, and analyzes the rules, regulators, and techniques of the world’s leading jurisdictions. My central argument is that governments should focus on the price formation process and ensure that it is purely market-driven. Local regulators and self-regulatory organizations will take care of the rest.


UK Regulatory Proposals and Resolvability

Barnabas Reynolds is head of the global Financial Institutions Advisory & Financial Regulatory Group at Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication by Mr. Reynolds, Thomas DoneganReena Agrawal SahniJoel MossAzad AliTimothy J. Byrne, and Sylvia Favretto.

The Bank of England, the UK authority with powers to “resolve” failing banks, is consulting on how it might exercise its power of direction to remove impediments to resolvability. The Bank may require measures to be taken by a UK bank, building society or large investment firm to address a perceived obstacle to credible resolution. Concurrently, the Prudential Regulation Authority is proposing to impose a rule that would require a stay on termination or close-out of derivatives and certain other financial contracts to be contractually agreed by UK banks, building societies and investment firms with their non-EEA counterparties. This post discusses the proposed approaches by the UK regulators to ensuring that impediments to resolvability are removed, as well as certain cross-border implications.


England and Germany Limit Bank Resolution Obligations

Solomon J. Noh and Fredric Sosnick are partners in the Financial Restructuring & Insolvency Group at Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication.

In two recent decisions, European national courts have taken a narrow view of their obligations under the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD)—the new European framework for dealing with distressed banks. The message from both the English and the German courts was that resolution authorities must adhere strictly to the terms of the BRRD; otherwise, measures that they take in relation to distressed banks may not be given effect in other Member States.

Goldman Sachs International v Novo Banco SA

In August 2014, the Bank of Portugal announced the resolution of Banco Espírito Santo (BES), what at the time was Portugal’s second largest bank. That announcement followed the July disclosure of massive losses at BES, which compounded a picture of serious irregularities within the bank that had been developing for several months. As part of the resolution, BES’s healthy assets and most of its liabilities were transferred to a new bridge bank, Novo Banco (the so-called “good bank”), which received €4.9 billion of rescue funds—while troubled assets and “Excluded Liabilities,” categories specifically identified in the BRRD, remained at BES (the “bad bank”). Amongst those liabilities initially deemed to have transferred to Novo Banco in August was a USD $835 million loan made to BES via a Goldman Sachs-formed vehicle, Oak Finance.


New Rules for Mandatory Clearing in Europe

Arthur S. Long is a partner in the Financial Institutions and Securities Regulation practice groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn publication. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On August 6, 2015, the European Commission issued a Delegated Regulation (the “Delegated Regulation”) that requires all financial counterparties (“FCs”) and non-financial counterparties (“NFCs”) that exceed specified thresholds to clear certain interest rate swaps denominated in euro (“EUR”), pounds sterling (“GBP”), Japanese yen (“JPY”) or US dollars (“USD”) through central clearing counterparties (“CCPs”). Further, the Delegated Regulation addresses the so-called “frontloading” requirement that would require over-the-counter (“OTC”) derivatives contracts subject to the mandatory clearing obligation and executed between the first authorization of a CCP under European rules (which was March 18, 2014) and the date on which the clearing obligation takes place, to be cleared, unless the contracts have a remaining maturity shorter than certain minimums. These mandatory clearing obligations for certain interest rate derivatives contracts will become effective after review by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union (“EU”) and publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and will then be phased in over a three-year period, as specified in the Delegated Regulation, to allow smaller market participants additional time to comply.


Dodd-Frank Turns Five, What’s Next?

Daniel F.C. Crowley is a partner at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Crowley, Bruce J. HeimanSean P. Donovan-Smith, and Giovanni Campi.

The 2008 credit crisis was the beginning of an era of unprecedented government management of the capital markets. July 21, 2015 marked the fifth anniversary of the hallmark congressional response, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). Dodd-Frank resulted in an extraordinary revamp of the regulatory regime that governs the U.S. financial system and, consequently, has significant implications for the U.S. economy and the international financial system.

Members of Congress recognized the fifth anniversary of Dodd-Frank in markedly different ways. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has held two of a series of three hearings to examine whether the United States is more prosperous, free, and stable five years after enactment of the law. In contrast, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—one of the leading proponents of the law—and other members of Congress have criticized the slow pace of implementation by the regulatory agencies. Meanwhile, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is advancing the “Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015,” which seeks to amend a number of provisions of Dodd-Frank.


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