Tag: European Commission


Related Party Transactions: Policy Options and Real-world Challenges (with a Critique of the European Commission Proposal)

Luca Enriques is Allen & Overy Professor of Corporate Law at University of Oxford, Faculty of Law.

Transactions between a corporation and a “related party” (a director, the dominant shareholder, or an affiliate of theirs) are a common instrument for those in control to divert value from a corporation, especially in countries with concentrated ownership. While direct evidence of value diversion via related party transactions (RPTs) is obviously hard to obtain, widespread use of RPTs has been observed for example in China (in the form of inter-company loans) and South Korea (also as a tool to transfer wealth from one generation of controllers to the next in avoidance of inheritance taxes), has been vividly reported for post-privatization Russia and Italy (where corporate scandals, such as Parmalat and, more recently, Fondiaria-Sai, often go together with significant RPT activity). Anecdotal evidence of value extraction via RPTs also exists with regard to the US (think of the Hollinger case and those reported in Atanasov et al.’s paper on law and tunneling, available here). Their (ab)use at Russian and East-Asian companies listed in the UK has recently prompted the UK Listing Authority to stiffen its already strict provisions on RPTs (see here; for a news report on RPTs at one of these East-Asian companies—Bumi, now renamed Asia Mineral Resources—see here).

In my article Related Party Transactions: Policy Options and Real-world Challenges (with a Critique of the European Commission Proposal), published in 16 European Business Organization Law Review 1 (2015), and available here (and here as a working paper), I provide a comparative and functional overview of how laws deal with RPTs and criticize a recent European Commission proposal for a harmonized EU regime on RPTs (see Article 9c of the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2007/36/EC and 2013/34/EU, available here).

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A European Prospectus Revolution?

David M. Lynn is a partner and co-chair of the Corporate Finance practice at Morrison & Foerster LLP. The following post is based on a Morrison & Foerster publication by Jeremy C. Jennings-Mares and Peter J. Green.

The EU prospectus regime, based on Directive 2003/71/EC (the “Prospective Directive”) as amended, has been in place now for nearly 10 years and was due to be reviewed by the European Commission by 1 January 2016. However, the European Commission has moved forward its review, and on 18 February 2015 released a consultation [1] on possible reform of the current regime, in conjunction with its Green Paper on a possible EU Capital Markets Union, released on the same date.

The main focus of the proposed EU Capital Markets Union is on improving the access to capital markets for smaller business entities (“SMEs”), in order to broaden the range of funding without the need for bank intermediation. The European Commission considers that the review of the EU prospectus regime is a vital part of developing a Capital Markets Union and, as such, has accelerated the timing of the review by launching its consultation now.

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European Commission Imposes €20 Million Fine for Failing to Notify a Merger

The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Juan Rodriguez, Axel Beckmerhagen, Patrick Gorman.

On 23 July 2014, the European Commission fined Marine Harvest ASA €20 million for failing to notify its acquisition of Morpol ASA in accordance with the EU Merger Regulation and closing the transaction prior to receiving the European Commission’s approval. This is the first time the European Commission has imposed a fine in relation to a two-step transaction comprising a sale of a block of shares followed by a mandatory public bid for the remainder of the target’s shares. The level of fine is a further reminder that failure to comply with the EU Merger Regulation can have significant financial and reputational consequences.

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European Commission Proposes to Moderate Short-termism and Reduce Activist Attacks

Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton.

Two articles (among several) in a comprehensive proposal to revise EU corporate governance would have a significant beneficial impact if they were to be adopted in the United States. In large measure they mirror recommendations by Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., in two essays: Can We do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law, 114 Columbia Law Review 449 (Mar. 2014) and One Fundamental Corporate Governance Question We Face: Can Corporations Be Managed for the Long Term Unless Their Powerful Electorates Also Act and Think Long Term? 66 Business Lawyer 1 (Nov. 2010).

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Does Volcker + Vickers = Liikanen?

The following post comes to us from David R. Sahr, partner at Mayer Brown, and is based on a Mayer Brown update. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

EU proposal for a regulation on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions

1. On 29 January 2014 the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council “on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions”. This proposed legislation is the EU’s equivalent of Volcker and Vickers. It was initiated by the Liikanen report published on 2 October 2012 but the legislative proposal departs in a number of ways from the report’s conclusions. There are two significant departures: the legislative proposal contains a Volcker-style prohibition, which also departs from the individual EU Member States’ approach, and, although the proposal contains provisions which mirror the Vickers “ring-fencing” approach they are not, in direct contradiction to Liikanen’s recommendation, mandatory.

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Who Is Responsible for Libor Rate-Fixing?

The following post comes to us from Mark R. Patterson at Fordham University School of Law.

On December 4, the European Commission announced the imposition of €1.7 billion in fines on eight international banks for participation in cartels in euro- and yen-denominated interest-rate derivatives. The banks had conspired on submissions for euro and yen Libor rates, and the fines were imposed under European antitrust law. As EU Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said, “What is shocking about the LIBOR and EURIBOR scandals is not only the manipulation of benchmarks, which is being tackled by financial regulators worldwide, but also the collusion between banks who are supposed to be competing with each other.”

Commissioner Almunia’s comment might have been addressed specifically to U.S. antitrust enforcers. Although the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice has been involved in some of the settlements that the department has reached with banks, to date none of those settlements has included antitrust liability. Instead, the banks have pled guilty or admitted liability only for fraud, even though the statements issued by the Justice Department when announcing the settlements describe just the sort of collusion to which Commissioner Almunia referred.

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European Commission Proposes Amendments to Premerger Notification Regime

The following post comes to us from Franco Castelli, attorney at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz focusing on antitrust aspects of U.S. and cross-border mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Castelli.

Last week, the European Commission announced proposed amendments to the notification forms that companies must complete to report mergers subject to antitrust review in the EU, with the stated intention of reducing burdens on filing parties. If adopted, the proposed changes would reduce the amount of information parties must provide in transactions that are unlikely to raise competitive concerns.

The EC proposes to expand the categories of mergers that are eligible for review under a simplified procedure that allows companies to file “short form” notifications with more limited information requirements. Under the proposed changes, the simplified procedure would apply to all mergers that result in the combined firm holding a market share of less than 20% in any market in which both parties are active, up from the current threshold of 15%. In addition, at the EC’s discretion, filing parties would be permitted to use the “short form” when a merger results in a small market share increase, even if the combined firm’s market share exceeds 20%. For vertical mergers, the market share threshold for the simplified procedure would increase from 25% to 30%. The EC estimates that, as a result of these changes, an additional 10% of all reportable mergers could be reviewed under the simplified procedure, with significant benefits—in terms of both time and costs—for companies no longer required to complete the full notification.

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EU Commission Proposes Action Plan for Corporate Governance

The following post comes to us from James R. Modrall, partner focusing on EU and international competition law at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On December 12, 2012, the European Commission published an Action Plan with initiatives it intends to undertake in 2013 in the fields of EU company law and corporate governance. These initiatives are primarily inspired by the responses to the Commission’s 2011 Green Paper on the EU corporate governance framework and an on-line consultation on the future of European company law. They are aimed at enhancing transparency, engaging shareholders and simplifying cross-border operations of EU companies. The Commission further plans to codify a number of major EU company law directives.

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Pan-European Short Selling Regulation

The following post comes to us from Stephen P. Wink, partner in the Corporate Department at Latham & Watkins LLP. This post is based on a Latham & Watkins client alert by Mr. Wink, Vladimir Maly and Gitanjali P. Faleiro; the full document, including complete footnotes, is available here.

I. Introduction and Overview

As previously described in our memorandum on the pan-European short selling regulation [1], the European Commission (the Commission) adopted a proposal on September 15, 2010 to harmonize the regulation of short sales and credit default swaps across the European Union. [2] On March 14, 2012, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (the Council) each voted to adopt the proposed regulation, after including a number of significant amendments (the Regulation). [3]

The Regulation has been in force since March 25, 2012 (a day after it was published in the Official Journal) and is due to become ‘directly’ effective in the EU Member States (each a Member State) on November 1, 2012. [4] As such, the Regulation will become law in each Member State in its own right without the need for domestic implementing measures. On September 13, 2012 the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) published its first edition of Q&A on the ‘Implementation of the Regulation on short selling and certain aspects of credit default swaps,’ in response to frequently asked questions posed by market participants, market regulators and the general public. [5] On September 17, 2012, ESMA published its consultation paper on the Regulation’s exemption for market making activities and primary market operations.

The Regulation brings to an end the current fragmented approach to shortsale restrictions across Member States and also establishes a ‘preventive regulatory framework’ to be used in ‘exceptional circumstances’ for ‘temporary’ periods.

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The Revised EU and US Regulatory Frameworks for Commodity Derivatives

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; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Users of commodity derivatives markets are now facing major changes under proposed European and US legislation. Stronger supervision of the commodity derivatives market is one of the key areas of the G20 regulatory reform agenda. In Europe, the European Commission is proposing to regulate the activities of a wider range of commodity derivatives traders through amendments to MiFID. End-users will become subject to mandatory clearing requirements for OTC derivative transactions above certain thresholds once the recently agreed EMIR proposal comes into force. For the first time, the wholesale energy market and the commodity spot market will become subject to the market abuse regime. In the US, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act brings in a comprehensive reform of the OTC derivatives market. This publication gives an overview of the impact of the various recent European and US regulatory changes from the perspective of non-financial businesses involved in commodity derivatives trading.

Introduction

Various proposals have been introduced since the onset of the financial crisis to strengthen financial regulation across the full spectrum of financial services at international, EU and domestic levels. Previous client publications address many of these proposals. This publication draws together various threads of regulation in the context of their impact on commodity derivatives trading.

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