Tag: UK

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.


Is Institutional Investor Stewardship Still Elusive?

Simon C.Y. Wong is an adjunct professor of law at the Northwestern University School of Law, and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This post is based on an article that recently appeared in the Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Financial Law.


The idea that institutional investors should behave as active, long-term oriented “stewards” has caught on globally. Five years after the launch of the landmark UK Stewardship Code, counterparts can be found on four continents (see Figure 1).

When the UK code was promulgated, I argued that institutional investor stewardship was an elusive quest due to, inter alia: ––

  • Inappropriate performance metrics and financial arrangements that promote trading and a short-term focus;
  • ––Excessive portfolio diversification that makes monitoring of investee companies challenging; ––
  • Lengthening chain of ownership that weakens an ownership mindset; ––
  • Passive/index funds that pay scant attention to corporate governance; and ––
  • Pervasive conflicts of interest among asset managers.

The fifth anniversary of the UK code provides an opportune moment to examine the notable achievements and continuing challenges in the drive to encourage institutional investors to be informed and engaged owners.


Remuneration in the Financial Services Industry 2015

Will Pearce is partner and Michael Sholem is European Counsel at Davis Polk LLP. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Mr. Pearce, Mr. Sholem, Simon Witty, and Anne Cathrine Ingerslev. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Regulating Bankers’ Pay by Lucian Bebchuk and Holger Spamann (discussed on the Forum here), The Wages of Failure: Executive Compensation at Bear Stearns and Lehman 2000-2008 by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Holger Spamann, and How to Fix Bankers’ Pay by Lucian Bebchuk.

The past year has seen the issue of financial sector pay continue to generate headlines. With the EU having put in place a complex web of overlapping law, regulation and guidance during 2013 and 2014, national regulators are faced with the task of interpreting these requirements and imposing them on a sometimes skeptical (if not openly hostile) financial services industry. This post aims to assist in navigating the European labyrinth by providing a snapshot of the four main European Directives that regulate remuneration:

  • Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV);
  • Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD);
  • Fifth instalment of the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Directive (UCITS V); and
  • Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID).


UK Regulatory Proposals and Resolvability

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 by Mr. Reynolds, Thomas DoneganReena Agrawal SahniJoel MossAzad AliTimothy J. Byrne, and Sylvia Favretto.

The Bank of England, the UK authority with powers to “resolve” failing banks, is consulting on how it might exercise its power of direction to remove impediments to resolvability. The Bank may require measures to be taken by a UK bank, building society or large investment firm to address a perceived obstacle to credible resolution. Concurrently, the Prudential Regulation Authority is proposing to impose a rule that would require a stay on termination or close-out of derivatives and certain other financial contracts to be contractually agreed by UK banks, building societies and investment firms with their non-EEA counterparties. This post discusses the proposed approaches by the UK regulators to ensuring that impediments to resolvability are removed, as well as certain cross-border implications.


England and Germany Limit Bank Resolution Obligations

Solomon J. Noh and Fredric Sosnick are partners in the Financial Restructuring & Insolvency Group at Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication.

In two recent decisions, European national courts have taken a narrow view of their obligations under the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD)—the new European framework for dealing with distressed banks. The message from both the English and the German courts was that resolution authorities must adhere strictly to the terms of the BRRD; otherwise, measures that they take in relation to distressed banks may not be given effect in other Member States.

Goldman Sachs International v Novo Banco SA

In August 2014, the Bank of Portugal announced the resolution of Banco Espírito Santo (BES), what at the time was Portugal’s second largest bank. That announcement followed the July disclosure of massive losses at BES, which compounded a picture of serious irregularities within the bank that had been developing for several months. As part of the resolution, BES’s healthy assets and most of its liabilities were transferred to a new bridge bank, Novo Banco (the so-called “good bank”), which received €4.9 billion of rescue funds—while troubled assets and “Excluded Liabilities,” categories specifically identified in the BRRD, remained at BES (the “bad bank”). Amongst those liabilities initially deemed to have transferred to Novo Banco in August was a USD $835 million loan made to BES via a Goldman Sachs-formed vehicle, Oak Finance.


Legal & General Calls for End to Quarterly Reporting

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. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here) and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here).

This summer, Legal & General Investment Management, a major European asset manager and global investor with over £700 billion in total assets under management, contacted the Boards of the London Stock Exchange’s 350 largest companies to support the discontinuation of company quarterly reporting, emphasizing that:

  • “[R]eporting which focuses on short-term performance is not necessarily conducive to building a sustainable business as it may steer management to focus more on short-term goals and away from future business drivers. We, therefore, support the recent regulatory change that removes the requirement for companies to disclose financial reports on a quarterly basis.”
  • “While each company is unique, we understand that providing the market with quarterly updates adds little value for companies that are operating in long-term business cycles. On the other hand, industries with shorter market cycles and companies in a highly competitive global market environment may choose to report more than twice a year.”
  • “Reducing the time spent on reporting that adds little to the business … can lead to more articulation of business strategies, market dynamics and innovation drivers, which are linked to key metrics that drive business performance and long-term shareholder value.


Foreign Antitakeover Regimes

Daniel Wolf is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis focusing on mergers and acquisitions. The following post is based on a Kirkland memorandum by Mr. Wolf. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Case Against Board Veto in Corporate Takeovers by Lucian Bebchuk.

The confluence of a number of overlapping factors—including an uptick in global and cross-border M&A activity, a resurgence in unsolicited takeover offers, the continued flow of tax inversion transactions, and the growth of activism in non-U.S. markets—means that U.S. companies and investors are more often facing unfamiliar takeover (and antitakeover) regimes as they evaluate and pursue offers for foreign targets. While experienced dealmakers are often well-versed in the nuances of friendly transactions with a foreign seller, the defenses available, and sometimes unavailable, to foreign companies facing unsolicited or hostile offers occasionally come as a surprise and complicate the pursuit or defense of these bids.

While a comprehensive survey of antitakeover regimes in various foreign jurisdictions is well beyond the scope of this post, it is instructive to highlight a number of examples where the regime—mandatory or permissive—departs significantly from U.S. practices, even in countries with well-developed legal systems and capital markets.

In a number of jurisdictions, the applicable takeover rules can be seen to facilitate, or even encourage, offerors in taking rejected overtures to the public shareholders:


Comparative Corporate Law Casebook

Marco Ventoruzzo is a comparative business law scholar with a joint appointment with the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and Bocconi University.

Comparative Corporate Law is at the center of the scholarly debate, has a growing practical importance, and has become a staple course offered by most law schools and universities around the world, often in English independently of their location. The theoretical and practical reasons for this development are too obvious and well-known to be listed here. Yet there are few teaching resources that offer a systematic, in-depth, but also enjoyable analysis of the subject.

With our new book, Comparative Corporate Law (West Academic Press, 2015), we have tried to fill this gap. The book has been designed to be used in different legal systems and for different courses, primarily for law students, but not only: also students of business administration, economics, political science and international relationships might benefit from it. The book can be used in the basic course on corporations, as a complement to add a comparative and international dimension, and it can—more likely—be used in an upper-division course specifically dedicated to Comparative Corporate Law, or similar courses (Comparative Corporate Governance, Comparative Business Law, Comparative Corporate Finance, etc.).


The UK’s Final Bonus Compensation Rule

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Roozbeh Alavi, Mike Alix, Adam Gilbert, and Armen Meyer. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Regulating Bankers’ Pay by Lucian Bebchuk and Holger Spamann (discussed on the Forum here); The Wages of Failure: Executive Compensation at Bear Stearns and Lehman 2000-2008 by Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen, and Holger Spamann; and How to Fix Bankers’ Pay by Lucian Bebchuk.

On June 23rd, the UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) [1] finalized a joint bonus compensation rule that was proposed last July. While the industry (including subsidiaries and branches of US banks in the UK) had hoped for a more lenient approach, the final rule generally retains the proposal’s stringent requirements, especially with respect to bonus deferral periods and clawbacks. [2]

The rule applies to “senior managers” [3] and other “material risk takers” [4] at UK banks and certain investment firms. As finalized, the rule establishes the toughest regulatory approach to bonus compensation of any major jurisdiction, going beyond the EU-wide CRD IV. [5] Therefore, unless regulators in other major jurisdictions take a similar approach, institutions that are active in the UK are placed at a competitive disadvantage compared to their peers elsewhere.


The Next Frontier for Boards, Oversight of Risk Culture

Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. This post relates to an issue of The Conference Board’s Director Notes series authored by Parveen P. Gupta and Tim Leech. The complete publication, including footnotes and Appendix, is available here.

Over the past 15 years expectations for board oversight have skyrocketed. In 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley Act put the spotlight on board oversight of financial reporting. The 2008 global financial crisis focused regulatory attention on the need to improve board oversight of management’s risk appetite and tolerance. Most recently, in the wake of a number of high-profile personal data breaches, questions are being asked about board oversight of cyber-security, the newest risk threatening companies’ long term success. This post provides a primer on the next frontier for boards: oversight of “risk culture.”

Weak “risk culture” has been diagnosed as the root cause of many large and, in the words of the Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, “egregious” corporate governance failures. Deficient risk and control management processes, IT security, and unreliable financial reporting are increasingly seen as mere symptoms of a “bad” or “deficient” risk culture. The new challenge that corporate directors face is how to diagnose and oversee the company’s risk culture and what actions to take if it is found to be deficient.


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  • Programs Faculty & Senior Fellows

    Lucian Bebchuk
    Alon Brav
    Robert Charles Clark
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    Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
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    Howell Jackson
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