Tag: Disclosure

An End to Disclosure-Only Settlements?

Monica K. Loseman is a partner in the Litigation Department at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn publication authored by Ms. Loseman, Nicholas A. KleinBrian M. Lutz, and Meryl L. Young. 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.

In an opinion last week [September 17, 2015], the Delaware Court of Chancery, following other recent decisions from that Court, strongly signaled that stockholder lawsuits in Delaware attacking mergers may no longer be resolved by a corporate defendant providing additional disclosures to stockholders in exchange for a broad release of claims against all defendants. Signaling the end to what has become common practice in stockholder litigation routinely challenging mergers, Vice Chancellor Glasscock noted in his decision approving a settlement in In re Riverbed Technologies that, “in light of this Memorandum Opinion,” expectations that the court will approve such broad releases in exchange for additional disclosures “will be diminished or eliminated going forward.”

The settlement arose out of stockholder litigation concerning a going-private transaction. In the settlement, Riverbed agreed to make supplemental disclosures in an SEC filing prior to the stockholder vote and pay plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees, in exchange for defendants receiving a full release from liability for all claims arising out of the merger.


The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation

Frances M. Tice is Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This post is based on an article authored by Ms. Tice.

In the paper, The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation on Investment Efficiency and Firm Performance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I examine the effect of explicit relative performance evaluation (RPE) on managers’ investment decisions and firm performance. Principal-agent theory suggests that firms can motivate managers to act in shareholders’ interest by linking their compensation to firm performance. However, firm performance is often affected by exogenous factors, and as a result, performance-based compensation may expose managers to common risk that they cannot directly control. In such cases, RPE enables the principal to compensate managers on their effort and events under their control by removing the effect of common shocks from measured performance, thus improving risk sharing and incentive alignment. However, RPE use as implemented in practice may not be effective in addressing agency costs because of potential peer group issues, such as availability of firms with common risk or a self-serving bias in peer selection. In addition, prior research also suggests that a large gap in ability between the RPE firm and peers (“superstar effect”) may actually reduce managers’ effort because the probability of winning is low. Therefore, the question of whether explicit RPE use in executive compensation does indeed reduce agency costs remains unanswered in the empirical literature.


SEC Interpretation of “Whistleblower” Definition

Nicholas S. Goldin is a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher publication by Mr. Goldin, Peter H. BresnanYafit Cohn, and Mark J. Stein.

On August 4, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an interpretive release to clarify its reading of the whistleblower rules it promulgated in 2011 under Section 21F of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). The release expressed the SEC’s view that the employment retaliation protection accorded by the Dodd-Frank Act and codified in Section 21F is available to individuals who report the suspected securities law violation internally, rather than to the SEC. [1]


Remarks on Small and Emerging Companies

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.

As you know, the term of this Committee expires September 24, 2015. The advice and expertise the Committee has provided to the Commission on a variety of issues over the last four years has been incredibly helpful to us. And, as today’s [September 23, 2015] agenda reflects, you are continuing those contributions. Your contributions have shown the importance of this Committee, and I am pleased to announce that the Commission is renewing its charter for another two-year term. The Commission will be selecting members and it is my hope that many of you will continue your service. I look forward to our continuing dialogue and being the beneficiary of your insight and suggestions.


NYSE Expands Rules on Material News and Trading Halts

Stuart H. Gelfond is a partner in the Corporate Department at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Gelfond, Victoria D. Laubach, and Hayley S. Cohen.

Recently, the New York Stock Exchange LLC (“NYSE” or “Exchange”) filed a proposed rule change with the Securities and Exchange Commission to amend the NYSE Listed Company Manual (the “Manual”), effective September 28, 2015. [1] The proposed amendments (i) expand the pre-market hours during which companies with listed securities are required to notify the Exchange prior to disseminating material news, (ii) provide guidance related to the release of material news after the close of trading on the Exchange and (iii) permit the Exchange to halt trading in certain additional circumstances, including when it needs to obtain more information about a listed company’s news release.


Opening Remarks at the 75th Anniversary of the Investment Company Act and Investment Advisers Act

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks on the 75th Anniversary of the Investment Company Act and Investment Advisers Act. 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.

Good morning. Thank you for coming today [September 29, 2015], and welcome to the SEC, both those here in person and through our webcast. Before I say anything else, I would like to acknowledge staff from the Division of Investment Management for their hard work in putting this anniversary program together. In particular, kudos go to Director Dave Grim, Jennifer McHugh, Bridget Farrell and Jamie Walter. I also would like to thank my fellow Commissioners who are introducing the panels, and all of the stellar panelists who will be sharing with us their insights throughout the day.

Today, we celebrate 75 years of the Investment Company Act and the Investment Advisers Act—two pieces of legislation that came to shape the financial markets as we know them. And this event is more than an anniversary celebration—it is a day to reflect on this extraordinary regulatory system that has facilitated the management and growth of assets for millions of Americans and other investors from around the world. In these opening remarks, my assignment is to first take us on a brief historical tour and then come back full circle to today where we see just how powerful and alive these Acts are in the modern markets.

The Importance of Being Earnest About Liquidity Risk Management

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement at an 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.

The fund industry has witnessed substantial changes in recent years, including the rise of novel investment strategies, a growing use of derivatives, and an increased focus on assets that, traditionally, have been less liquid. Unfortunately, it appears that not all funds’ liquidity risk management practices have kept pace with these developments.

Today [September 22, 2015], the Commission considers proposing a set of rules and amendments that will help ensure that open-end investment companies—which include mutual funds and exchange traded funds—manage their liquidity risks in a prudent and responsible manner. The proposed changes will also help attenuate the dilution risks that confront long-term shareholders, and will give investors needed tools to monitor how well funds are managing their liquidity risk. These proposals are important, because they will adapt our decades-old liquidity regime to the fund industry’s new and vastly altered landscape. The proposals we consider today are especially timely, for at least two reasons. First, a study published just last night suggests that U.S. bond funds need to sharpen their methodologies for analyzing the liquidity of their portfolios, because their current methods might be inadequate. And second, a resurgence of volatility in the bond markets in recent months has, in concert with shifting market dynamics, thrust liquidity concerns in that space to the forefront.

These proposals are intended to foster a rigorous and analytically sound approach to liquidity risk management, while also helping investors to better gauge the ability of funds to fulfill redemption obligations.


New Direction from Delaware on Merger Litigation Settlements

David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; William Savitt is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum, and 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.

In a series of rulings culminating in a recent memorandum opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery has reset the rules for settling merger-related litigation. In re Riverbed Tech. Inc. S’holders Litig., C.A. No. 10484-VCG (Del. Ch. Sept. 17, 2015).

Nearly every public company merger now draws class action litigation, and the great majority of these suits have long been resolved by “disclosure-only” settlements in which the target company makes supplemental disclosures related to the merger in exchange for a broad class-wide release of claims. The only money that changes hands is an award of fees for the plaintiff’s lawyers. In recent bench rulings, members of the Court of Chancery have noted that these settlements seem to provide very little benefit to stockholders and questioned whether plaintiffs and their counsel had investigated their claims sufficiently to justify what some judges call the customary “intergalactic” release of all potential claims relating to a challenged merger.


The Board’s Prerogative and Mergers

Clare O’Brien and Rory O’Halloran are partners at Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication by Ms. O’Brien, Mr. O’Halloran, and Gregory Gewirtz. This article first appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Thomson Reuters’ The M&A Lawyer. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Case Against Board Veto in Corporate Takeovers by Lucian Bebchuk. 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.

Under Delaware law, the board of directors of each company executing a merger agreement is required to adopt a resolution approving the merger agreement and declaring its advisability, [1] although Delaware law also provides that a company may “agree to submit a matter to a vote of its stockholders whether or not the board of directors determines at any time subsequent to approving such matter that such matter is no longer advisable and recommends that the stockholders reject or vote against the matter.” [2] Further, under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, for transactions involving a tender offer or exchange offer, the target is required to file a Tender Offer Solicitation/Recommendation Statement on Schedule 14D-9, disclosing the target board’s position as to whether its stockholders should accept or reject the tender offer or defer making a determination regarding such offer. [3]


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:


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