Tag: Debt

New FINRA Equity and Debt Research Rules

Annette L. Nazareth is a partner in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and a former commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Ms. Nazareth, Lanny A. SchwartzHilary S. Seo, and Zachary J. Zweihorn. The complete publication, including appendices, is available here.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) has adopted amendments to its equity research rules and an entirely new debt research rule. Member firms should review and revise their policies, procedures and processes to reflect the new rules, and analyze what organizational structure and business process changes will be necessary.

The main differences between FINRA’s Current Equity Rules and the New Equity and Debt Rules (as defined below) are outlined in the original publication, available here. Highlights include:


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 In an article just published in the UCLA Law Review, we argue that part of the blame for this situation lies with the outdated and ineffective financial reporting regime for public entities and that fixing this regime is a necessary first step toward fiscal recovery.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).


A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America

The following post comes to us from John Graham, Professor of Finance at Duke University; Mark Leary of the Finance Area at Washington University in St. Louis; and Michael Roberts, Professor of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

In our paper, A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we shed light on the evolution and determination of corporate financial policy by analyzing a unique panel data set containing accounting and financial market information for US nonfinancial publicly traded firms over the last century. Our analysis is organized around three questions. First, how have corporate capital structures changed over the past one hundred years? Second, do existing empirical models of capital structure account for these changes? And, third, if not explained by existing empirical models, what forces are behind variation in financial policy over the last century?


State Contract Law and Debt Contracts

The following post comes to us from Colleen Honigsberg and Sharon Katz, both of the Accounting Division at Columbia Business School, and Gil Sadka of the Department of Accounting at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In our recent JLE paper, State Contract Law and Debt Contracts, we examine the association between state contract law and debt contracts. A recent stream of papers in finance and economics studies the role debt contracts play in mitigating agency problems between equity and debt holders (for example, Baird and Rasmussen, 2006; Chava and Roberts, 2008; Roberts and Sufi, 2009; Nini, Smith, and Sufi, 2009). This area of literature examines both the contract terms and the implications of covenant violations. While these studies generally treat contract law as a uniform product across states and assume that all contracts are enforced in a similar fashion, in practice lenders and borrowers select the state law that will govern the contract. Because the legal rights of both parties vary depending on the law chosen, the state contract law may be associated with enforcement. To examine this relationship, we first categorize each state’s contract law by whether it is favorable or unfavorable to lenders, and then we examine the characteristics of the contracts and the relevant parties across states. Lastly, we test whether the contract terms, frequency of covenant violations, and repercussions of covenant violations are related to the state contract law.


Towards a “Rule of Law” Approach to Restructuring Sovereign Debt

Steven L. Schwarcz is the Stanley A. Star Professor of Law & Business at Duke University School of Law.

In a landmark vote, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly decided on September 9 to begin work on a multilateral legal framework—effectively a treaty or convention—for sovereign debt restructuring, in order to improve the global financial system. The resolution was introduced by Bolivia on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing nations and China. In part, it was sparked by recent litigation in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that, to comply with a pari passu clause (imposing an equal-and-ratable repayment obligation), Argentina could not pay holders of exchanged bonds without also paying holdouts who retained the original bonds. That decision was all the more dramatic because the holdouts included hedge funds—sometimes characterized as “vulture funds”—that purchased the original bonds at a deep discount, yet sued for full payment.


Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?

The following post comes to us from Shai Levi of the Department of Accounting at Tel Aviv University, Benjamin Segal of the Department of Accounting at Fordham University and The Hebrew University, and Dan Segal of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah and Singapore Management University. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Financial reports should provide useful information to both shareholders and creditors, according to U.S. accounting principles. However, directors of corporations have fiduciary duties only toward equity holders, and those fiduciary duties normally do not extend to the interests of creditors. In our paper, Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether this slant in corporate governance biases financial reports in favor of equity investors. We show that the likelihood that firms will manipulate their reporting to circumvent debt covenants is higher when directors owe fiduciary duties only to equity holders, rather than when they owe fiduciary duties also to creditors. Covenants limit the amount of new debt that the firm issues, for example, and by that reduce bankruptcy risk, and allow creditors to avoid bankruptcy costs, and to recover more from the borrowing firm in case it approaches insolvency. When managers manipulate financial reports to circumvent these debt covenants, they transfer wealth from creditors to shareholders. Our results suggest that when corporate governance is designed to protect only equity holders, firms’ financial reports serve equity holders’ interests at the expense of other stakeholders. We find that when the legal regime requires directors to consider creditors’ interests, firms are less likely to use structured transactions designed to skirt debt covenant limits, particularly if the board of directors of the firm is independent.


Make-Whole Provisions Continue to Cause Controversy

The following post comes to us from Michael Friedman, Partner in the Banking Group and in the Litigation, Bankruptcy and Restructuring Group at Chapman and Cutler LLP, and is based on a Chapman publication by Mr. Friedman and Craig M. Price.

Given today’s low interest rate environment, the enforceability of make-whole provisions has been the subject of intense litigation as debtors seek to redeem and refinance debt entered into during periods of higher interest rates, and investors seek to maintain their contractual rates of return. This trend has come to the forefront most recently in two separate cases, one filed in Delaware and the other in New York. In Energy Future Holdings, the first-lien and second-lien indenture trustees have each initiated separate adversary proceedings in Delaware bankruptcy court claiming the power company’s plan to redeem and refinance its outstanding debt entitles the respective holders to hundreds of millions of dollars in make-whole payments. [1] Conversely, In MPM Silicones, LLC, it is the debtors that have sought a declaratory judgment from the New York bankruptcy court that, on account of an automatic acceleration upon the bankruptcy filing, no make-whole payment is required to be paid. [2] Given the frequency which make-whole disputes have arisen and the enormous sums at stake, it is important for all investors to understand the various arguments for and against payment of a make-whole premium, and the specific issues to look for when analyzing debt containing make-whole provisions. Despite the various legal arguments that exist, the single most important factor will always be the specific language of the applicable credit agreement or indenture.


An Economist’s View of Market Evidence in Valuation and Bankruptcy Litigation

The following post comes to us from Faten Sabry, Senior Vice President at NERA Economic Consulting, and is based on a NERA publication by Ms. Sabry and William P. Hrycay.

Courts often face many challenges when assessing the solvency of a company whether public or privately held. Examples of difficult valuation questions include: would a company with a market capitalization of several hundred million dollars possibly be insolvent? Or, would publicly-traded debt at or near par be conclusive evidence that the issuer is solvent at the time? Or, would a company’s inability to raise funds or maintain its investment grade rating at a given time be sufficient to rule on solvency?

It is common in valuation and solvency disputes to have qualified experts with very different opinions on the fair market value of a company, often using the same standard approaches of discounted cash flows and comparables. How would the courts or the arbitrators decide and what is the role of contemporaneous market evidence in such disputes? In this article, we discuss the role of market evidence and possible misinterpretations of such evidence and highlight recent court decisions in the United States.


Do the Securities Laws Matter?

The following post comes to us from Elisabeth de Fontenay of Duke University School of Law.

Since the Great Depression, U.S. securities regulation has been centered on mandatory disclosure: the various rules requiring issuers of securities to make publicly available certain information that regulators deem material to investors. But do the mandatory disclosure rules actually work? The stakes raised by this question are enormous, yet there is precious little consensus in answering it. After more than eighty years of intensive federal securities regulation, empirical testing of its effectiveness has failed to yield a definitive result.


Who Knew that CLOs were Hedge Funds?

Margaret E. Tahyar is a partner in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. The following post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum.

U.S. financial regulators found themselves on the receiving end of an outpouring of concern from law makers last Wednesday about the risks to the banking sector and debt markets from the treatment of collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”) in the Volcker Rule final regulations. Regulators and others have come to realize that treating CLOs as if they were hedge funds is a problem and we now understand from Governor Tarullo’s testimony that the treatment of CLOs is at the top of the list for the new interagency Volcker task force. But what, if any, solutions regulators will offer—and whether they will be enough to allow the banking sector to continue to hold CLOs and reduce the risks facing debt markets—remains to be seen.


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