Tag: 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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Volcker Rule: Agencies Release New Guidance

Whitney A. Chatterjee is partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication authored by Ms. Chatterjee, C. Andrew Gerlach, Eric M. Diamond, and Ken Li; the complete publication, including Appendix, is available here.

[June 12, 2015], the staffs of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (collectively, the “Agencies”) provided two important additions to their existing list of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) addressing the implementation of section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended (the “BHC Act”), commonly known as the “Volcker Rule.”

The Volcker Rule imposes broad prohibitions on proprietary trading and investing in and sponsoring private equity funds, hedge funds and certain other investment vehicles (“covered funds”) by “banking entities” and their affiliates. The Volcker Rule, as implemented by the final rule issued by the Agencies (the “Final Rule”), provides exclusions from the definition of covered fund for certain foreign public funds and joint ventures.

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The SEC’s Current Views on Private Equity

Alfred O. Rose and Randall W. Bodner are partners at Ropes & Gray LLP. This post is based on a Ropes & Gray publication.

As a follow-up to last year’s “Spreading Sunshine in Private Equity” speech, in which then-OCIE Director Andrew Bowden stated that the SEC had found that more than half of the funds examined by OCIE had allocated expenses and collected fees inappropriately and identified “lack of transparency” as a pervasive issue in the private equity industry, Marc Wyatt delivered a speech on May 13, 2015, reflecting on progress in the past year as well as identifying likely areas of scrutiny the private equity industry will face in the future. Although the speech has been widely reported, we wanted to highlight particular areas of interest. In this post, we examine the key takeaways from the speech, and outline best practices for the private equity industry going forward.

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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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SEC Enforcement Developments in 2014, and a Look Forward

The following post comes to us from Bill McLucas, partner and chair of the securities department at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, and is based on a WilmerHale publication by Mr. McLucas; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

As we noted last year in our memorandum focused on 2013 developments, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White has called for the SEC to be more aggressive in its enforcement program. By all accounts, the Enforcement Division has responded to that call. The past year saw the SEC continue the trend, started under Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami in 2009, of transforming the SEC’s civil enforcement arm into an aggressive law enforcement agency modeled on a federal prosecutor’s office. This should not come as a surprise since both Andrew Ceresney, the current Director, and George Cannellos, Ceresney’s Co-Director for a brief period of time, like Khuzami, spent many years as federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. And the Commission itself is now led for the first time by a former federal prosecutor, Mary Jo White, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002. Given the events of the past decade involving the Madoff fraud and the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, we believe both the aggressive tone and positions the SEC has taken in recent years will continue.

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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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Takeaways from the Past Year of SEC Private Equity Enforcement

The following post comes to us from John J. Sikora, partner in the Litigation Department at Latham & Watkins LLP, and is based on a Latham & Watkins publication authored by Mr. Sikora and Nabil Sabki.

After a year of “first ever” actions targeting private equity, fund managers should be vigilant, even about seemingly small issues.

In reviewing the results of SEC Enforcement’s fiscal year that ended on September 30, the agency congratulated itself on its comprehensive approach to enforcement and its “first-ever” cases. Private equity fund managers should consider a number of important takeaways.

The SEC Continues to Pursue a Broken Windows/Zero Tolerance Approach

Although the Enforcement Division announced a record number of enforcement actions, and the largest aggregate financial recovery, 2014, unlike in years past, did not include a headline-grabbing case such as Enron, Worldcom or Madoff. More recently, the agency has chosen to emphasize its pursuit of smaller cases as a way of improving compliance in the industry. SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney have each touted the agency’s “broken windows” approach to enforcement. A “broken windows” strategy means that the SEC will pursue even the smallest violations on the theory that publicly pursuing smaller matters will reduce the prevalence of larger violations. Ceresney has described “broken windows” as a zero tolerance policy. This past year illustrated the agency’s commitment to applying enforcement sanctions to what some might consider “foot fault” incidents. For example, in September 2014, the SEC announced a package of three dozen cases involving a failure to promptly file Section 13D and Section 13G reports, as well as Forms 3 and 4. Many of the filers charged were just days or weeks late in disclosing their positions. In announcing the cases, Ceresney emphasized that inadvertence was not a defense to late filings.

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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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