Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Dodd-Frank Act’s Maginot Line: Clearinghouse Construction

Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law.

This post summarizes “The Dodd-Frank Act’s Maginot Line:  Clearinghouse Construction,” which will appear in the California Law Review later this year.

Regulatory reaction to the 2008–2009 financial crisis, following the failures of AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and the Reserve Primary Fund, focused on complex financial instruments that deepened the crisis. A consensus emerged that these risky financial instruments should move through safe, strong clearinghouses, which would be bulwarks against systemic risk.

The consensus turned into law, via the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, in which Congress instructed regulators to construct clearinghouses through which these risky financial instruments would trade and settle. Clearinghouses could repel financial risk, reduce contagion, and halt a local financial problem before it became an economy-wide crisis.

But clearinghouses are weaker bulwarks against financial contagion, financial panic, and systemic risk than is commonly thought. They may well be unable to defend the economy against financial stress such as that of the 2008–2009 crisis. Although they can be efficient financial platforms in ordinary times, they do little to reduce systemic risk in crisis times.


Bankruptcy Court Denies $20 Million Severance for American Airlines CEO

The following post comes to us from Alan W. Kornberg, partner and chair of the Bankruptcy and Corporate Reorganization Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum.

On March 27, 2013, Judge Sean Lane of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York approved the $11 billion merger of US Airways Group and AMR Corporation effective upon confirmation of the AMR debtors’ chapter 11 plan. Upon completion of the merger, a new entity – “Newco,” for present purposes – will survive. In his March 27 ruling, Judge Lane declined to approve a proposed $20 million severance payment by Newco to Thomas Horton, the current Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation. Shortly thereafter, Judge Lane issued a written opinion explaining his reasoning for denying the proposed severance payment and in it, foreclosed an attempt to approve a severance package free from the strict standards of Section 503(c) of the Bankruptcy Code.


In connection with the proposed merger, the AMR debtors sought Bankruptcy Court approval of employee compensation and benefit arrangements (the “Employee Arrangements”) falling into three categories (i) Ordinary Course Changes; (ii) Employee Protection Arrangements; and (iii) the CEO severance payment. Though the US Trustee initially objected to all three Employee Arrangements, she eventually withdrew her objections to all but the CEO severance payment.


Corporate Governance Planning for Companies Going Public

Mary Ann Cloyd is leader of the Center for Board Governance at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on PwC reports discussed below, titled “Going Public? Five Governance Factors to Focus on” and “Governance for Companies Going Public: What Works Best™,” which are available here and here, respectively.

PwC U.S. recently released two reports on corporate governance considerations relating to public offerings. The first, titled “Going Public? Five Governance Factors to Focus on,” outlines key governance considerations companies should address when pursuing a public offering. Its companion document, “Governance for Companies Going Public: What Works Best™,” guides directors and executives of companies planning an IPO through the many governance decisions necessary; offers insights from interviews with directors, executives, investors and board advisors; reports results of PwC’s proprietary research on pre-and post-IPO governance structures; and assists those involved understand the governance landscape.

The five key governance considerations detailed in the report titled “Going Public? Five Governance Factors to Focus on” include:


Corporate Mobility and Regulatory Competition in Europe

The following post comes to us from Wolf-Georg Ringe, Professor of International Commercial Law at Copenhagen Business School.

Is there a competition for corporate charters in Europe? Corporate and comparative scholars have been discussing the similarities between the Delaware-led competition in the United States with the slowly emerging market for corporate legal forms in the European Union.

In my recent paper, Corporate Mobility in the European Union – a Flash in the Pan? An empirical study on the success of lawmaking and regulatory competition, recently made available on SSRN, I provide new empirical evidence on the development of the market for incorporations in Europe, and on the impact of national law reforms.

Since the seminal Centros case in 1999, European entrepreneurs have been allowed to select foreign legal forms to govern their affairs. While much academic effort has been spent to evaluate the early market reactions to this case-law, effectively opening up the European market, relatively little attention has been devoted to subsequent developments. This is surprising, since the various national lawmakers’ responses to the wave of entrepreneurial migration offer a rare glimpse on the effects of regulatory competition and subsequent business’ reaction, as well as on the relevance and effects of lawmaking and regulatory responses to market pressure.


Setting the Record (Date) Straight

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, Joshua M. Zachariah, Jeffrey D. Symons, and David B. Feirstein.

A record date, often viewed in the merger context as a mere mechanic to be quickly checked off a “to do” list, creates a frozen list of stockholders as of a specified date who are entitled to receive notice of, and to vote at, a stockholders’ meeting. A tactical approach to the timing of the record date can have strategic implications on the prospects for a deal’s success, while the failure to comply with the rules relating to setting a record date could cause a significant delay in holding the vote, leaving the door open for a topping bidder or dissident stockholder to emerge or gather support. As a result, it is important that dealmakers understand the basic mechanics and rules of setting a record date and the tactical repercussions of the record date construct.

Starting first with the legal requirements, there are several key inputs that inform the mechanics of setting a record date, including laws of the company’s state of incorporation, the company’s organizational documents, federal securities laws, rules of the applicable securities exchange and the relevant merger agreement. Taken together, these requirements dictate the necessary procedural and governance steps for setting the record date and establish the minimum and maximum time periods between the record date and the meeting, as well as between the board action setting the record date and the record date itself.


Guidance on Resolution Plans of U.S. and Foreign Banking Organizations

The following post comes to us from Arthur S. Long, partner and member of the financial institutions and securities regulation practice groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Long, Alexander G. Acree, Kimble C. Cannon, Cantwell F. Muckenfuss III, and Colin C. Richard.

On April 15, 2013, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued additional guidance (Guidance) with respect to the 2013 resolution plan submissions of the U.S. and foreign banking organizations that filed their initial resolution plans on July 1, 2012 (First-Round Filers).

The Guidance shows that the Federal Reserve and FDIC are intensifying their credibility review of resolution plans, requiring analysis of the most challenging issues raised by a Covered Company’s failure. Responding to the Guidance will require First-Round Filers to address head-on difficult questions raised by their original submissions. In recognition of the amount of new information required to be supplied, the Guidance extends the 2013 submission date for First-Round Filers to October 1, 2013.

Although by its terms the Guidance is limited to the plans of the First-Round Filers, it suggests that banking organizations in the second and third filing rounds may be required to undertake more searching analysis in their submissions next year.

In this post, we discuss the most significant aspects of the Guidance:


Takeover Defenses as Drivers of Innovation and Value-Creation

The following post comes to us from Mark Humphery-Jenner of the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales.

In the paper, Takeover Defenses as Drivers of Innovation and Value-Creation, forthcoming in the Strategic Management Journal, I analyze the role of anti-takeover provisions in ameliorating agency conflicts of managerial risk aversion in certain types of companies.

The desirability of anti-takeover provisions (ATPs) is a contentious issue. ATPs can lead to shareholder wealth-destruction by insulating managers from disciplinary takeovers and enabling them to engage in empire building. However, without ATPs, managers of hard-to-value (HTV) firms, which might trade at a discount due to valuation-difficulties, are exposed to ‘opportunistic takeovers’ (which aim to take advantage of low stock prices), potentially causing managerial myopia and under-investment in innovative projects. Thus, in HTV firms, ATPs might serve as credible commitments to encourage managers to make value-creating investments, but in easier-to-value firms, they might lead to inefficient governance.


Audit Committee Reporting to Shareholders

The following post comes to us from Ernst & Young, and is based on an Ernst & Young study by Ruby Sharma and Allie M. Rutherford. The full publication, including table and footnotes, is available here.

Ernst & Young supports effective audit committees and believes that audit committee transparency can promote greater investor confidence in financial reporting. A number of companies currently disclose more information about their audit committees than is required under relevant rules. With this post, we seek to alert audit committees and other stakeholders to current disclosure practices, and also to proposals that have been made for additional disclosures, in order to facilitate consideration and discussion.

Going Beyond the Minimum

Audit Committee Transparency

In general, investor demand and regulatory changes are driving boards of directors of public companies to be more transparent about their activities.

More specifically, investor interest – and policy debate around the role of audit committees and auditor independence – are generating discussion about audit committee disclosures that go beyond the minimum requirements. For example:


The Changing Landscape of the CFTC’s Enforcement Actions

The following post comes to us from John H. Sturc, partner and co-chair of the Securities Enforcement Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Mr. Sturc and Jeffrey L. Steiner; the full text, including footnotes, is available here.

During the past four years, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or the “Commission”) has substantially expanded its regulatory reach and flexed stronger enforcement muscles. Since 2010, the CFTC has dramatically increased its annual enforcement action totals, and has imposed record high financial penalties on significant market participants. In 2011 and 2012, the CFTC filed at least 201 enforcement actions, almost as many as the past five years combined, and has already recovered approximately $1.8 billion in total sanctions. As CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler has stated, “Dodd-Frank expands the CFTC’s arsenal of enforcement tools. We will use these tools to be a more effective cop on the beat, to promote market integrity, and to protect market participants.” Notwithstanding budgetary constraints, the next four years are likely to show continued emphasis on expanded enforcement efforts as the agency implements its new rules. This post focuses on the CFTC’s new rulemakings and how Title VII has increased the CFTC’s power to create and police the derivatives markets.

I. Expanding the CFTC’s Enforcement Actions

Over the past two years, the agency has hit record levels of enforcement actions and civil penalties imposed. Figure 1 below details the types of enforcement actions that the CFTC has brought from 2006 through 2012, as well as the total amounts of monetary penalties it recovered during each fiscal year.


Breaking Bankruptcy Priority: How Rent-Seeking Upends the Creditors’ Bargain

Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law, and Frederick Tung is Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law.

Frederick Tung and I recently posted “Breaking Bankruptcy Priority: How Rent-Seeking Upends the Creditors’ Bargain,” to SSRN. It is scheduled to appear in Virginia Law Review later this year. In “Breaking Bankruptcy Priority,” we examine the stability of bankruptcy’s priority structure.

Overall, bankruptcy reallocates value in a faltering firm. The bankruptcy apparatus eliminates some claims and alters others, leaving a reduced set of claims to match the firm’s diminished capacity to pay. This restructuring is done according to statutory and agreed-to contractual priorities, so that lower-ranking claims are eliminated first and higher ranking ones are preserved to the extent possible. Bankruptcy scholarship has long conceptualized this reallocation as a hypothetical bargain among creditors: creditors agree in advance that if the firm falters, value will be reallocated according to a fixed set of predetermined rules and contracts.


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