Monthly Archives: September 2012

Defining a Joint Venture’s Scope of Business: Key Issues

Eduardo Gallardo is a partner focusing on mergers and acquisitions at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Ruth Fisher and Benyamin Ross.

Early in the discussions about whether and how to form a joint venture [1] — perhaps as the very first significant issue to be resolved — the potential joint venture partners [2] will try to agree on the scope of the venture’s business. That definition is usually embodied in one or more of the venture agreements, and may circumscribe the nature of the venture’s business, potential future lines of business into which the venture may expand, geographic areas in which the venture will or may operate, and how deviations from the venture’s scope will be determined and approved by the venture partners.

As partners negotiate the scope of the venture’s business, they also need to focus on the key corollary provisions of the venture arrangement impacted by the agreed-upon scope. The terms of those provisions will in turn inform the discussion about scope. This alert focuses on factors to be considered as the venture partners discuss two of the core issues that arise in conjunction with the discussion about scope: the parameters of the non-compete, if any, to be entered into by the partners for the benefit of the venture, and the application of the corporate opportunity doctrine to the venture and the venture partners.

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Insider Trading and the Scienter Requirement

The following post comes to us from Donald Langevoort, Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

On its face, the connection between insider trading regulation and the state of mind of the trader or tipper seems fairly intuitive. Insider trading is a form of market abuse: taking advantage of a material, non-public secret to which one is not entitled, generally in breach of some kind of fiduciary-like duty. It is an exploitation of status or access, typically coupled with some form of faithlessness. Certainly the extraordinary public attention that insider trading enforcement and prosecutions command reflects the idea that the essence of unlawful insider trading is cheating. These prosecutions are main-stage morality plays, with greed as the story line. The SEC in particular seems to sense that it garners public political support by casting itself in the role of tormentor of the greedy.

If this is right, then what the legal system should be looking to proscribe is deliberate exploitation—trading on the basis of information in order to gain an unfair, unlawful advantage over others in the marketplace. That involves a fairly tight causal connection between knowledge of the information and the decision to buy or sell.

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Regulation of OTC Derivatives Markets — EU vs US Initiatives

David Felsenthal is a partner at Clifford Chance LLP focusing on financial transactions. This post is based on a Clifford Chance publication by Mr. Felsenthal and Christopher Bates, partner at Clifford Chance; and Mary Johannes and Richard Metcalfe of International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. The full report is available for download here.

Both the EU and the US have now adopted the primary legislation which aims to fulfill the G20 commitments that all standardised over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives should be cleared through central counterparties (CCPs) by end 2012 and that OTC derivatives contracts should be reported to trade repositories (and the related commitments to a common approach to margin rules for uncleared derivatives transactions). The US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in July 2010 and the text of the EU Regulation on OTC Derivatives, CCPs and Trade Repositories (EMIR) was finally published in the Official Journal on 27 July 2012.

There is a significant commonality of approaches between EMIR and the Dodd-Frank Act in relation to the regulation of OTC derivatives markets, but there are also some significant differences. This paper summarises the way in which the two regimes treat different categories of counterparty and highlights certain other major differences between EMIR and the Dodd-Frank Act in relation to OTC derivatives regulation.

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Recent Circuit Court Opinions Impact SEC Enforcement Program

The following post comes to us from Douglas J. Davison, partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and vice chair of the firm’s securities department. This post is based on a WilmerHale client update by Mr. Davison, Andy Weissman and Benjamin C. Brown; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Four federal circuit courts recently issued a string of rulings that are likely to have an impact on the manner in which the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) seeks to police the financial markets and penalize alleged misconduct. The Courts of Appeals for the Second, Fifth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits released four opinions, two of which potentially enlarge the SEC’s tool kit in seeking to punish wrongdoing, one that could pare back the SEC’s reach, and finally one that is useful in addressing potential collateral consequences of SEC “neither admit nor deny” settlements in subsequent litigation. Each has the potential to influence litigated matters involving SEC investigations that are currently pending before federal courts, and may well have an impact even at the investigative stage.

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The Supreme Court’s Recent Focus on 10b-5 Cases

The following post comes to us from Paul A. Ferrillo, litigation counsel at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a survey of securities fraud litigation by Mr. Ferrillo, Robert F. Carangelo, David Schwartz and Matt Altemeier; the full guide, including complete footnotes, is available here.

Years from now, when historians write the history of the Roberts Court, perhaps they will be able to explain why, in the second half of the first dozen years of the 21st Century, the Supreme Court suddenly became so interested in taking up cases under the federal securities laws. Indeed, a review of recent private 10b-5 jurisprudence reveals that the last two years have generated more United States Supreme Court precedent than the previous eighteen. [1] These cases could have profound implications for how public and private companies around the globe meet their reporting obligations, defend against class actions, and/or maintain their credibility in the eyes of regulators, judges, and investors. We discuss this plethora of recent Supreme Court cases below, concluding with a discussion of Amgen, Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans & Trust Funds, which will be heard by the Supreme Court in November 2012.

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The Merits of One-Size-Fits-All Securities Regulation

The following post comes to us from Henry Friedman of the Accounting Area at UCLA and Mirko Heinle of the Department of Accounting at the University of Pennsylvania.

Recent securities regulation, like Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, has been criticized for taking a costly one-size-fits-all approach. The critics suggest that, instead, regulation tailored to different firms, industries, or sectors is beneficial as it reduces compliance costs and the costs that arise from constraining firms’ operating and financing choices. In our paper, The Merits of One-Size-Fits-All Securities Regulation, which was recently posted on SSRN, we develop an analytical model to highlight indirect effects caused by choosing an individualized or generalized regulatory regime.

Securities regulation is enacted to reduce the potential for managers to extract rents from their firm’s investors. We model a regulatory agency that is in charge of securities regulation and can be influenced by two groups: investors and managers. Managers can reduce the extent of regulation by lobbying the agency, which helps them maintain their ability to extract rents. The existence of rents, however, reduces the payouts from firms to investors and this translates into negative political consequences for the regulator. The regulatory agency chooses the quality of securities regulation taking into consideration both the firms’ lobbying and investors’ interests. Our model of an economy with two firms can be interpreted as a multi-industry or multi-sector economy where each firm represents an industry or sector. We compare two regulatory regimes, one in which the regulator is constrained to define a general regulatory quality for both firms or industries (the one-size-fits-all approach) and one where the agency may set different regulation for different firms.

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Board Evolution: Progress Made, Yet Challenges Persist

The following post comes to us from Mary Ann Cloyd, leader of the Center for Board Governance at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC annual survey of corporate directors; the full document is available here.

Corporate directors have adjusted to significant changes in the governance environment during the last year. On the regulatory front, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continues to implement new rules stemming from the Dodd-Frank Act, causing companies to rethink and react. The voice of shareholders has never been louder, pressuring companies to adopt structural governance changes by submitting proposals on board declassification, splitting CEO and board chair roles, and majority voting. Shareholder “say on pay” votes moved into a second year with some companies uncertain about how to respond based on their voting results. Plus, more companies had their shareholders withhold approval on their “say on pay” votes, maintaining the pressure on compensation committees.

In the summer of 2012, 860 public company directors responded to PwC’s 2012 Annual Corporate Directors Survey. Of those directors, 70% serve on the boards of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. As a result, the survey’s findings reflect the practices and boardroom perspectives of many of today’s world-class companies. We structured the survey to provide pragmatic feedback directors can use to assess and improve performance in areas that are “top of mind” to today’s boards. The survey shows directors are clearly making progress and enhancing their practices. At the same time, directors acknowledge the numerous challenges they still face. The following are the highlights:

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Cherry Picking in Cross-Border Acquisitions

E. Han Kim is a Professor of Finance at the University of Michigan.

In the paper, Cherry Picking in Cross-Border Acquisitions, my co-author (Yao Lu of Tsinghua University) and I investigate how investor protection (IP) affects the allocation of foreign capital inflows at the firm level. A simple model provides an explanation for a well documented but little understood phenomenon on international capital flows—the tendency of foreign investors to target better-performing firms in emerging markets.

When a foreign acquirer’s country has stronger IP than a target country, the acquirer’s controlling shareholder values private benefits of control less than controlling shareholders of local firms because stronger IP imposes greater constraints on diversion of corporate resources for private benefits. Within the target country, controlling shareholders of firms with more profitable investments take fewer private benefits and, hence, demand lower control premiums. Foreign acquirers, which value control premiums less, will target firms with more profitable investments. The tendency to cherry pick will intensify (moderate) as the IP gap between the acquirer and target countries increases (decreases).

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California Court Acknowledges “Quasi-California Corporation” Decision

Larry Sonsini is chairman of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. This post is based on a WSGR alert.

Companies incorporated outside of California but with significant California contacts (so-called “quasi-California corporations”) have struggled with exactly how to comply with the long-arm statute found in Section 2115 of the California Corporations Code. The statute purports to impose a number of provisions of the California Corporations Code on quasi-California corporations, including the state’s requirement to obtain separate approval from holders of each class of capital stock on a merger “to the exclusion of the law of the jurisdiction in which [the quasi-California corporation] is incorporated.” Section 2115 has been thought to be legally infirm for some time, particularly after a decision by the Delaware Supreme Court in 2005. However, there never has been an acknowledgement by a California court that Section 2115 reaches too far. That changed earlier this year, when a California Court of Appeal stated in dicta that certain matters of internal corporate governance fall within a corporation’s internal affairs and should be governed by the laws of the corporation’s state of incorporation.

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Does the Revolving Door Affect the SEC’s Enforcement Outcomes?

Simi Kedia is a Professor of Finance and Economics at Rutgers Business School.

In the paper, Does the Revolving Door Affect the SEC’s Enforcement Outcomes?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, my co-authors (Ed DeHaan of the University of Washington, Kevin Koh of Nanyang Technological University, and Shivaram Rajgopal of Emory University) and I examine whether revolving doors are associated with compromised regulatory oversight by the SEC. In particular, we investigate whether regulatory enforcement against financial reporting fraud is influenced by the future job prospects of prosecuting SEC lawyers. Revolving doors lead to both the SEC hiring officials from firms that they regulate as well as SEC officials leaving to work for firms that are regulated. The revolving door exists because (i) the SEC needs industry specific expertise to regulate its constituents effectively, and (ii) regulated firms value experience and knowledge of complex regulations to minimize their cost of compliance.

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