Monthly Archives: October 2013

Clarifying Aiding and Abetting under the Commodities Exchange Act

Brad Karp is chairman and partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum by Mr. Karp, Eric GoldsteinMark Pomerantz, and Daniel J. Toal.

On September 23, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision clarifying the standard for aiding and abetting liability under the Commodities Exchange Act (“CEA”). The decision, in In re Amaranth Natural Gas Commodities Litigation, No. 12-2075-cv (2d Cir. Sept. 23, 2013), affirmed a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which dismissed a putative class action filed by purchasers of natural gas futures contracts against J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, Inc. and J.P. Morgan Futures, Inc. (“JPMorgan”). The purchaser plaintiffs claimed that Amaranth, a hedge fund for which JPMorgan provided clearing broker services, manipulated natural gas futures prices on the NYMEX commodities exchange, and that JPMorgan aided and abetted Amaranth’s manipulation.

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CFTC Issues FAQ Regarding Commodity Options

The following post comes to us from J. Paul Forrester, partner focusing in corporate finance and securities at Mayer Brown LLP, and is based on a Mayer Brown Legal Update.

On September 30, 2013, the Division of Market Oversight of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) released responses to Frequently Asked Questions regarding Commodity Options (FAQ). While intended to be provide non-binding guidance to affected market participants, the FAQ also serves to highlight the significant complexity of the current analysis required for commodity options.

Andrew K. Soto, Senior Managing Counsel for Regulatory Affairs of the American Gas Association (AGA), in written testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management at a recent hearing regarding the Future of the CFTC: End-User Perspectives effectively summarized this complexity as follows:

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Time is Money—Ticking Fees

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, David B. Feirstein, and Joshua M. Zachariah.

In any transaction facing a meaningful delay between signing and closing, dealmakers on both sides of the table spend a considerable amount of time thinking about allocating the various risks resulting from that delay (e.g., regulatory, business and financing). Most of the discussion centers on “deal certainty,” with sellers focused on contract provisions that force buyers to move quickly through transaction hurdles and obligate them to close despite potentially changed circumstances or unfavorable regulatory demands. In a prior M&A Update that focused on the allocation of antitrust risk, discussed here, we addressed merger agreement terms that outline the required efforts and remedy concessions by buyers, as well as the possible use of a reverse termination fee payable to the seller if the deal terminates because of the failure to obtain required antitrust approvals.

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Insider Trading as Private Corruption

The following post comes to us from Sung Hui Kim at UCLA School of Law.

Fighting insider trading is clearly at the top of law enforcement’s agenda. In May 2011, Raj Rajaratnam, the former head of the Galleon Group hedge fund, received an eleven-year prison sentence for insider trading, the longest ever imposed. More recently, in July 2013, SAC Capital Advisors, a $15 billion hedge fund, was slapped with a criminal complaint that threatens the fund’s existence, even after having agreed to pay a $616 million civil penalty, the largest-ever settlement of an insider trading action. Yet, despite the high enforcement priority and the high stakes involved, a satisfying theory of insider trading law has yet to emerge. And this is not for want of trying. As Larry Mitchell remarked as early as 1988, “Many forests have been destroyed in the quest to understand and explain the law of insider trading.”

In my forthcoming article, Insider Trading as Private Corruption, to be published next year in the UCLA Law Review, I make the case that insider trading is best understood as a form of private corruption. I begin by arguing that we need a theory of insider trading law that not only makes sense of the law that has developed but also guides the law forward. In my view, such a theory must do two things.

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A Simpler Approach to Financial Reform

The following post comes to us from Morgan Ricks at Vanderbilt Law School.

There is a growing consensus that new financial reform legislation may be in order. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, while well-intended, is now widely viewed to be at best insufficient, at worst a costly misfire. Members of Congress are considering new and different measures. Some have proposed substantially higher capital requirements for the largest financial firms; others favor an updated version of the old Glass-Steagall regime.

In A Simpler Approach to Financial Reform, forthcoming in Regulation, I suggest a different and simpler strategy. This simpler approach would be compatible with other financial stability reforms. However, in the first instance, it is better understood as a substitute for Dodd-Frank and other measures. The simpler approach would require new legislation. It consists of the following specific measures, starting from a pre-Dodd-Frank baseline:

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2013 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Accountability and Disclosure

Editor’s Note: Bruce F. Freed is president and a founder of the Center for Political Accountability. This post is based on the 2013 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability by Mr. Freed, Karl Sandstrom, Sol Kwon, and Peter Hardin; the full report is available here. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about corporate political spending includes Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson, discussed on the Forum here. A committee of law professors co-chaired by Bebchuk and Jackson submitted a rulemaking petition to the SEC concerning corporate political spending; that petition is discussed here.

Leading US public companies are making political disclosure and accountability a mainstream corporate practice. That’s a key finding of the 2013 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Accountability and Disclosure released on September 25. Now in its third year, the Index benchmarked the top 200 companies of the S&P 500 on their policies and practices for disclosing, decision-making and managing the risks associated with their political spending. (The actual total was 195 after discounting mergers and other factors.)

The increase in the average overall Index score of all companies—a 41 percent jump from 38 last year to 51 in 2013—showed strong across the board improvement in company policies. Over three quarters of these companies—about 78 percent—saw their scores rise. Biggest gains came in board oversight, with 66 percent of the companies improving scores in that area, followed by disclosure, with 57 percent improving, and political spending policies, with 42 percent improving.

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Focusing on Fundamentals: The Path to Address Equity Market Structure

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Security Traders Association 80th Annual Market Structure Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

As market professionals, you obviously live the U.S. equity markets first hand, day in and day out. As an association, you have used your voice to focus attention on the value of our equity markets—an all-important engine for capital formation, job creation, and economic growth.

Like you, I believe that we must constantly strive to ensure that the U.S. equity markets continue to serve the interests of all investors. That mutual challenge must come fully of age and address today’s, not yesterday’s, markets. And today, I will speak about the path forward.

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Judicial Resolution of Business Deadlock

The following post comes to us from Claudia M. Landeo, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Alberta, and Kathryn E. Spier, Domenico de Sole Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Irreconcilable differences among joint owners are all too common in business entities, including closely-held companies such as general partnerships and LLCs. While many joint owners foresee possible deadlocks and include resolution mechanisms in their business agreements, others fail to do so. Judicial involvement may become necessary when a deadlock clause was included in the business agreement but the grounds for dissociation or dissolution are unclear, or when a deadlock clause was not included at all. In both situations, the court may be called upon to determine the appropriate remedy and to design an asset-valuation procedure.

Placing an accurate value on the business assets of a closely-held company can be a daunting task. While publicly-traded companies often have active markets for ownership, closely-held companies may be very difficult for outside investors and/or appraisers to evaluate. By virtue of their experience with the business venture and their expertise, the joint owners may themselves be in the best position to accurately pinpoint the value of the assets. Thus, the court faces the challenge of designing a deadlock resolution mechanism that induces the owners to accurately reveal the value of the business assets.

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Through the Investor Lens: Perspectives on Risk & Governance

Kayla Gillan is leader of the Investor Resource Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The following post is based on the Introduction and Overview of a PwC Investor Survey; the complete publication is available here.

Investors are looking at risks differently than in the past. The financial crisis that affected capital markets across the globe demonstrated that companies—and even whole economies—can be rocked to their core when the connections between lending practices, securitization programs, and capital and funding levels are not clearly understood and monitored.

Investors today are expecting that those who manage the businesses that rely on their capital will exercise greater care over this expanded concept of “risk.” Of course, investors also seek steady returns, so risks cannot be eliminated. But this is when disclosure—information that provides necessary nourishment to an efficient market—becomes so important.

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Preparing for the 2014 Proxy and Annual Reporting Season

The following post comes to us from Laura Richman, counsel at Mayer Brown LLP, and is based on a Mayer Brown Legal Update.

While the proxy and annual reporting season for calendar year public companies typically heats up in the winter, by autumn preparations for the 2014 season should be underway. The following key issues for the upcoming season are discussed below:

  • Current Say-on-Pay Considerations
  • Say-When-on-Pay
  • Compensation Committee Independence and Compensation Consultants
  • NYSE Quorum Requirement Change
  • Pending Dodd-Frank Regulation
  • Proxy Access
  • Specialized Disclosures
  • SEC Interpretations Impacting Reporting
  • Iran Sanctions Disclosure
  • XBRL
  • PCAOB Audit Committee Communications Requirements
  • Director and Officer Questionnaires
  • E-proxy

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