Category Archives: Private Equity

Scrutiny of Private Equity Firms

Veronica Rendón Callahan is a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice. This post is a based on an Arnold & Porter memorandum.

On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. with misallocating more than $17 million in broken deal expenses to its flagship private equity funds in breach of its fiduciary duty as an SEC-registered investment adviser. KKR agreed to pay nearly $30 million to settle the charges. This action represents a continuing and robust focus by the SEC on fee and expense allocation practices and disclosure by private equity fund advisers, many of which are relatively newly registered with the SEC following passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. It serves as a reminder of the need for private equity firms and other advisers to private investment funds to consider bolstering their compliance and disclosure policies and procedures related to the allocation of fees and expenses.
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Proposed Regulations May Affect Fee Waivers

David I. Shapiro is a is a tax partner resident at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Shapiro, Michelle GoldBrian Kniesly, and Christopher Roman.

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS have issued proposed regulations regarding “disguised payments for services” under Section 707(a)(2)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code. The proposed regulations appear to be primarily focused on management fee waivers (and similar arrangements), but could also affect certain aspects of the tax treatment of carried interest.

Management fee waivers are a planning technique seen mostly in the private equity fund industry, where a fund manager waives a share of its management fee in exchange for a share of future profits (that is separate from any carried interest otherwise payable), often in amounts that are intended to replicate the foregone management fees. Management fee waivers are generally intended to achieve certain benefits, including deferring the receipt of taxable income by the fund sponsor, allowing the fund sponsor to meet its capital commitment to a fund on a non-cash basis, and providing for potentially more favorable tax rates applicable to individuals (i.e., if the underlying share of profits is comprised of long-term capital gain). Management fee waivers have been utilized in different forms, over many years, including arrangements which effectively amount to a package of a higher carried interest and a lower management fee, as well as arrangements which are structured as annual elective waivers. Different arrangements vary in the manner and priority in which waived amounts are paid out of future partnership profit.

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Angels and Venture Capitalists: A Match Made in Heaven?

Thomas Hellmann is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford University. This post is based on two recent articles authored by Mr. Hellmann, Veikko Thiel, Assistant Professor of Business Economics at Queen’s University; Paul Schure, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Victoria; and Dan Vo, Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups, by Jesse Fried and Brian Broughman (discussed on the Forum here) and Delaware Law as Lingua Franca: Evidence from VC-Backed Startups, by Jesse FriedBrian Broughman, and Darian Ibrahim (discussed on the Forum here).

Are angel investors and venture capitalists friends or foes? Are they synergistic partners in the process of funding entrepreneurial value creation? Or are they distinct funding mechanisms where entrepreneurs have to decide which camp they want to be part of? In a series of two recent papers (Friends or Foes? The Interrelationship between Angel and Venture Capital Markets; and Angels and Venture Capitalists: Substitutes or Complements?), we examine these questions both from a theoretical [1] and an empirical [2] perspective.

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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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Intermediation in Private Equity: The Role of Placement Agents

The following post comes to us from Matthew Cain, Financial Economist at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Stephen McKeon of the Department of Finance at the University of Oregon, and Steven Davidoff Solomon, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In light of recent “pay to play” scandals, placement agents have been portrayed in a negative light, using inappropriate influence to gain business from pension funds and other institutional investors. In our paper Intermediation in Private Equity: The Role of Placement Agents, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine the determinants of placement agent usage and implications for performance using a dataset of 32,526 investments in 4,335 private equity funds.

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Private Equity Fund Managers: Annual Compliance Reminders and New Developments

The following post comes to us from David J. Greene, partner focusing on investment fund formation, structuring, and related transactions at Latham & Watkins LLP, and is based on a Latham client alert by Mr. Greene, Amy Rigdon, Barton Clark, and Nabil Sabki.

US federal laws and regulations, as well as the rules of self-regulatory organizations, impose numerous yearly reporting and compliance obligations on private equity firms. While these obligations include many routine and ongoing obligations, new and emerging regulatory developments also impact private equity firms’ compliance operations. This post provides a round-up of certain annual or periodic investment advisory compliance-related requirements that apply to many private equity firms. In addition, this post highlights material regulatory developments in 2014 as well as a number of expectations regarding areas of regulatory focus for 2015.

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Heightened Activist Attacks on Boards of Directors

David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Katz and Laura A. McIntosh that first appeared in the New York Law Journal; the full article, including footnotes, is available here.

This has been called “the heyday of hedge fund activism,” and it is certainly true that today boards of directors must constantly be vigilant to the many and varied ways in which activist investors can approach a target. Commencing a proxy fight long has been an activist tactic, but it is now being used in a different way. Some hedge funds are engaging in proxy fights in order to exercise direct influence or control over the board’s decision-making as opposed to clearing the way for a takeover of the target company or seeking a stock buyback. In some cases, multiple hedge funds acting in parallel purchase enough target shares to hold a voting bloc adequate to elect their director nominees to the board. A recent Delaware case addressed a situation in which a board resisted a threat from hedge funds acting together in this manner. The court determined that a shareholder rights plan, or poison pill, could, in certain circumstances, be an appropriate response. As a general matter, boards of directors facing activist share accumulations and threats of board takeovers can take comfort in this latest affirmation of the respect accorded to an independent board’s informed business judgment.

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Corporate Venture Capital, Value Creation, and Innovation

The following post comes to us from Thomas Chemmanur, Professor of Finance at Boston College; Elena Loutskina of the Finance Area at the University of Virginia; and Xuan Tian of the Finance Department at Indiana University.

There is no doubt that innovation is a critical driver of a nation’s long-term economic growth and competitive advantage. The question lies, however, in identifying the optimal organizational form for nurturing innovation. While corporate research laboratories account for two-thirds of all U.S. research, it is not obvious that these innovation incubators are more efficient than independent investors such as venture capitalists. In our paper, Corporate Venture Capital, Value Creation, and Innovation, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we explore this question by comparing the innovation productivity of entrepreneurial firms backed by corporate venture capitalists (CVCs) and independent venture capitalists (IVCs).

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Do Going-Private Transactions Affect Plant Efficiency and Investment?

The following post comes to us from Sreedhar Bharath of the Department of Finance at Arizona State University, Amy Dittmar of the Department of Finance at the University of Michigan, and Jagadeesh Sivadasan of the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Are private firms more efficient than public firms? Jensen (1986) suggests that going-private could result in efficiency gains by aligning managers’ incentives with shareholders and providing better monitoring. In our paper, Do Going-Private Transactions Affect Plant Efficiency and Investment?, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we examine a broad dataset of going-private transactions, including those taken private by private equity, management and private operating firms between 1981 and 2005. We link data on going-private transactions to rich plant-level US Census microdata to examine how going-private affects plant-level productivity, investment, and exit (sale and closure). While we find within-plant increases in measures of productivity after going-private, there is little evidence of efficiency gains relative to a control sample composed of firms from within the same industry, and of similar age and size (employment) as the going-private firms. Further, our productivity results hold excluding all plants that underwent a change in ownership after going-private, alleviating the potential concern that control plants may undergo improvements through ownership changes.

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Shareholder Activism in Germany

The following post comes to us from Dirk Besse, at Morrison & Foerster LLP, and is based on a Morrison & Foerster publication by Mr. Besse and Moritz Heuser.

Over the past few years there has been a noticeable increase in the frequency of activist investors building up considerable stakes in German listed companies in the context of public takeovers. One reason for this development is what appears to be a new business model of hedge funds—the realization of profits through litigation after the completion of a takeover. To this end, the funds take advantage of minority shareholder rights granted under German stock corporation law in connection with certain corporate measures which are likely to be implemented for business integration purposes following a successful takeover.

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