Tag: UK


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.

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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:

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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.).

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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.

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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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Freedom of Establishment for Companies

The following post comes to us from Martin Gelter, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University.

I recently posted my forthcoming book chapter, Centros, the Freedom of Establishment for Companies, and the Court’s Accidental Vision for Corporate Law (forthcoming in EU Law Stories, Fernanda Nicola & Bill Davies eds., Cambridge University Press 2015) on SSRN.

This chapter attempts to tell a short intellectual history of the debate about free choice in corporate law in the EU. In contrast to the United States, in many EU Member States it was traditionally not permissible to set up a corporation in one Member State in order to run the company with its head office (meaning the center of its actual commercial and financial operations) in another. This changed with three cases of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), namely Centros (1999), Überseering (2002), and Inspire Art (2003). Consequently, EU member states can no longer effectively deny the legal capacity to pseudo-foreign corporations, or apply key provisions of their own corporate law to them. At least in principle, founders can now exercise the freedom of establishment for companies to “pick and choose” the best national legal form.

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Comparative Study on Economics, Law and Regulation of Corporate Groups

The following post comes to us from Klaus J. Hopt, a professor and director (emeritus) at the Max-Planck-Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, in Hamburg and was advisor inter alia for the European Commission, the German legislator and the Ministries of Finance and of Justice.

The phenomenon of the groups of companies is very common in modern corporate reality. The groups differ greatly as to structure, organization, and ownership. In the US, groups with 100-per cent-owned subsidiaries are common. In continental Europe, the parents usually own less of the subsidiaries, just enough to maintain control. In Germany and Italy pyramids are frequent, i.e., hierarchical groups with various layers of subsidiaries and subsidiaries of subsidiaries forming very complicated group nets. The empirical data on groups of companies are heterogeneous because they are collected for very different regulatory and other objectives, for example for antitrust and merger control regulation or for bank supervision.

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Shareholders in the United Kingdom

The following post comes to us from Paul L. Davies, Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford. He was the Allen & Overy Professor of Corporate Law from 2009 to 2014 at University of Oxford, Faculty of Law. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about lobbying includes Investor Protection and Interest Group Politics by Lucian Bebchuk and Zvika Neeman (discussed on the Forum here).

The United States and the United Kingdom are lumped put together as ‘dispersed shareholder’ jurisdictions and contrasted with the concentrated shareholdings found in the rest of the world. This paper, Shareholders in the United Kingdom, argues that it would be better to view the UK, at least over the past half century, as a semi-dispersed rather than as simply a dispersed shareholder jurisdiction, and that there are interesting contrasts between the UK and the US experience.

Whilst the typical company listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange certainly lacks a single (or even a cohesive small group) of shareholders with legal control, neither does the typical company display atomised shareholdings, for example, where no single shareholder holds more than 1% of the voting rights. Typically, a coalition of six or so of the largest shareholders can put together enough votes to have a fighting chance of carrying a resolution at a shareholder meeting against the wishes of the management. The question thus becomes one of the incentives and disincentives for those shareholders to coordinate their actions.

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2014 Year-End Update on Corporate Deferred Prosecution and Non-Prosecution Agreements

Joseph Warin is partner and chair of the litigation department at the Washington D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert; the full publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here.

The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) continue to deploy DPAs and NPAs aggressively. This past year left no doubt that such resolutions are a vital part of the federal corporate law enforcement arsenal, affording the U.S. government an avenue both to punish and reform corporations accused of wrongdoing. In early December, for example, U.S. Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Criminal Division, Leslie Caldwell, highlighted the importance of negotiated resolutions that allowed DOJ to “impose reforms, impose compliance controls, and impose all sorts of behavioral change.” She concluded: “In the United States system at least [settlement] is a more powerful tool than actually going to trial.” DOJ and the SEC have used negotiated resolutions, including DPAs and NPAs, to require companies to implement an effective compliance program. In 2014 we witnessed a number of notable developments in negotiated resolutions that demonstrate that the traditional hallmarks of DPAs and NPAs, including post-settlement compliance and reporting obligations, are here to stay.

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Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior

The following post comes to us from Scott Dyreng of the Accounting Area at Duke University, Jeffrey Hoopes of the Department of Accounting & Management Information Systems at Ohio State University, and Jaron Wilde of the Department of Accounting at the University of Iowa.

In our paper, Public Pressure and Corporate Tax Behavior, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether public scrutiny related to firms’ tax avoidance activities has a significant effect on their tax avoidance behavior. In contrast to U.S. regulations that only require disclosure of significant subsidiaries, the U.K.’s Companies Act of 2006 (“Companies Act”) requires firms to disclose the name and location of all subsidiaries, regardless of size or materiality. Although the U.K. law went into effect in 2006, in 2010, ActionAid International, a global non-profit dedicated to ending poverty worldwide, discovered that approximately half of the firms in the FTSE 100 were not disclosing the name and location of all subsidiaries. ActionAid’s finding was prima facie evidence that the Companies House was not enforcing the subsidiaries disclosure requirement. More importantly, the fact that some firms chose not to comply with the law suggests that the cost of disclosing detailed information on subsidiaries was greater than the benefit of a more complete information environment for the non-compliant firms.

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  • Programs Faculty & Senior Fellows

    Lucian Bebchuk
    Alon Brav
    Robert Charles Clark
    John Coates
    Alma Cohen
    Stephen M. Davis
    Allen Ferrell
    Jesse Fried
    Oliver Hart
    Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
    Scott Hirst
    Howell Jackson
    Robert J. Jackson, Jr.
    Wei Jiang
    Reinier Kraakman
    Robert Pozen
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    Mark Roe
    Robert Sitkoff
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    Guhan Subramanian

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    Allison Bennington
    Richard Breeden
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    Richard Climan
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