Tag: Management

Those Short-Sighted Attacks on Quarterly Earnings

Robert C. Pozen is a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Corporate Short-termism—In the Boardroom and in the Courtroom by Mark Roe (discussed on the Forum here); and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here).

The clamor against so-called corporate short-term thinking has been steadily rising, with a recent focus on eliminating the quarterly earnings report that public firms issue. Quarterly reports are said to push management to forgo attractive long-term projects to meet the expectations of investors and traders who want smooth, rising earnings from quarter to quarter.

The U.K. recently eliminated mandatory quarterly reports with the goal of lengthening the time horizon for corporate business decision-making. And now Martin Lipton, a prominent U.S. corporate lawyer, has proposed that U.S. companies’ boards be allowed to choose semiannual instead of quarterly reporting. The proposal resonates in Washington circles: presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has criticized “quarterly capitalism” and so has Daniel Gallagher, the departing Republican SEC commissioner.

But while quarterly reporting has drawbacks, the costs of going to semiannual reporting clearly outweigh any benefits.


The Spotlight on Boards

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 and Sabastian V. Niles. Mr. Niles is counsel at Wachtell Lipton specializing in rapid response shareholder activism and preparedness, takeover defense, corporate governance, and M&A.

The ever evolving challenges facing corporate boards, and especially this year the statements by BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard of what they expect from boards, prompts an updated snapshot of what is expected from the board of directors of a major public company—not just the legal rules, but also the aspirational “best practices” that have come to have almost as much influence on board and company behavior.

Boards are expected to:


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.


Cybersecurity: Enter Insurance Regulators

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Sean Joyce, Chris Joline, Adam Gilbert, Joseph Nocera, and Armen Meyer.

Since issuing its Principles of Effective Cybersecurity last July, [1] the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”) has been making progress in the development of cybersecurity examination manuals. NAIC’s regulatory guidance is intended to help state insurance regulators identify cybersecurity risks and communicate a uniform set of control requirements to insurers, insurance producers, and related regulated entities (collectively, “Insurance Companies”).

Given the priority regulators are placing on cybersecurity (including NAIC’s Cybersecurity Task Force) and the continued occurrence of high profile data breaches, we expect that cybersecurity examinations will commence as early as 2016 and will be performed by insurance regulators as part of their standard three-year exam cycle. While NAIC’s examination manuals will act as guidelines for state regulators, actual regulation will vary by state. Thus, Insurance Companies should be tracking state regulatory developments to ensure that their cybersecurity programs are rigorous and all-encompassing.


In re Dole Food Company, Inc. and the Cost of Going Private

James Jian Hu is an associate in the corporate and mergers & acquisitions practice at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The views expressed in this post represent solely those of the author. 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.

On August 27, 2015, Vice Chancellor Laster authored a widely anticipated opinion providing valuable guidance on steering clear of a flawed process in a going-private transaction. David H. Murdock, the CEO and Chairman of Dole and a 40% shareholder, and C. Michael Carter, the General Counsel, President and COO of Dole and characterized as Murdock’s right-hand man, were found personally liable for $148 million to Dole shareholders. A number of considerations detailed in the court’s opinion serve as valuable reminders for practitioners guiding a controlling stockholder in a going-private process in the interest of minimizing post-closing litigation risk and liability exposure.


Opportunism as a Managerial Trait

David Hirshleifer is Professor of Finance at the University of California, Irvine. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Hirshleifer and Usman Ali, Portfolio Manager at MIG Capital. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Insider Trading via the Corporation by Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here.)

In trading their firms’ stocks, insiders must balance the profits of informed trading before news, the scrutiny by regulators that such trading can engender, formal policy restrictions by firms of insider trading activities, and diversification and liquidity motivations for selling shares after vesting of equity-based compensation. This mixture of motivations and constraints makes it is hard to decipher the information content of insider trades, especially because different trades may be intended to exploit news arriving at short or long horizons. This noise makes it feasible, up to a point, to conceal deliberate opportunism from regulators such as the SEC.

Empirically, there are some indications that insiders do exploit private information. Past research finds that insider purchases positively predict subsequent abnormal returns. On the other hand, effects are much harder to identify for insider sales, presumably because such sales are often performed for non-informational reasons, such as to reduce risk or to consume.


Role of the Board in M&A

Alexandra R. Lajoux is chief knowledge officer at the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). This post is based on a NACD publication authored by Ms. Lajoux.

What is the current trend in M&A?

Right now, M&A deal value is at its highest since the global financial crisis began, according to Dealogic. In the first half of 2015, deal value rose to $2.28 trillion—approaching the record-setting first half of 2007, when $2.59 trillion changed hands just before the onset of the financial crisis. Global healthcare deal value reached a record $346.7 billion in early 2015, which includes the highest-ever U.S. health M&A activity. And total global deal value for July 2015 alone was $549.7 billion worldwide, entering record books as the second highest monthly total for value since April 2007. The United States played an important part in this developing story: M&A deal value in the first half of 2015 exceeded the $1 trillion mark for announced U.S. targets, with a total of $1.2 trillion.


Pro Forma Compensation

David Larcker is Professor of Accounting at Stanford University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Larcker; Brian Tayan, Researcher with the Corporate Governance Research Initiative at Stanford University; and Youfei Xiao of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In recent years, companies have begun to voluntarily disclose supplemental calculations of executive compensation beyond those required by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the annual proxy. Our paper, Pro Forma Compensation: Useful Insight or Window-Dressing?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, examines the motivation to disclose adjusted compensation and the prevalence of this practice.

Corporate disclosure of executive compensation is regulated by the SEC and is reported in the annual proxy Compensation Discussion & Analysis section and various summary compensation tables. These figures are widely cited by corporate observers, and in many cases used to rank (and criticize) corporations for their pay practices.


Corporate Risk-Taking and Public Duty

Steven L. Schwarcz is the Stanley A. Star Professor of Law & Business at Duke University School of Law. This post is based on a draft article by Professor Schwarcz, available here.

Although corporate risk-taking is economically necessary and even desirable, it can also be harmful. There is widespread agreement that excessive corporate risk-taking was one of the primary causes of the systemic collapse that caused the 2008-09 financial crisis. To avoid another devastating collapse, most financial regulation since the crisis is directed at reducing excessive corporate risk-taking by systemically important firms. Often that regulation focuses on aligning managerial and investor interests, on the assumption that investors generally would oppose excessively risky business ventures.

My article, Misalignment: Corporate Risk-Taking and Public Duty, argues that assumption is flawed. What constitutes “excessive” risk-taking depends on the observer; risk-taking is excessive from a given observer’s standpoint if, on balance, it is expected to harm that observer. As a result, the law inadvertently allows systemically important firms to engage in risk-taking ventures that are expected to benefit the firm and its investors but, because much of the systemic harm from the firm’s failure would be externalized onto other market participants as well as onto ordinary citizens impacted by an economic collapse, harm the public.


Do Women Stay Out of Trouble?

Anup Agrawal is Professor of Finance at the University of Alabama. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Agrawal; Binay Adhikari, Visiting Assistant Professor of Finance at Miami University; and James Malm, Assistant Professor of Finance at the College of Charleston.

Does the presence of women in a firm’s top management team affect the risk of the firm being sued? A large literature in economics and psychology finds that women tend be more risk-averse, less overconfident, and more law-abiding than men. As more women reach top management positions, these gender differences have implications for firms’ policies and performance. As Neelie Kroes, then European Competition Commissioner provocatively asked in a speech at the World Economic Forum, “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, would the financial crisis have happened like it did?” (see New York Times, February 1, 2009).


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