Monthly Archives: December 2013

International Corporate Governance Spillovers

The following post comes to us from Rui Albuquerque of the Department of Finance at Boston University; Miguel Ferreira, Professor of Finance at Nova School of Business and Economics; Luis Brandao Marques, Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund; and Pedro Matos of the Finance Area at the University of Virginia.

In the paper, International Corporate Governance Spillovers: Evidence from Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we investigate whether the change in corporate control following a cross-border M&A leads to changes in corporate governance of non-target firms that operate in the same country and industry as the target firm. We focus on the strategic complementarity in governance choices between the target firm and its rival firms in the local market. We take the view that corporate governance is affected by the choice of other competing firms as in the models developed by Acharya and Volpin (2010), Cheng (2010), and Dicks (2012).

To provide guidance for our empirical analysis, we develop a simple industry oligopoly model, which captures the idea that rival firms operating in a given industry change their governance in response to competitive forces. The spillover effect occurs as firms in an industry recognize that corporate governance is used more efficiently by the target firm and therefore strengthen their own governance as a response. The model has two decision stages and builds on the work of Shleifer and Wolfenzon (2002) and Albuquerque and Wang (2008). In the first stage, outside shareholders choose firm-level governance (i.e., how much to monitor and limit of managerial private benefits), given the governance choices of other firms. In the second stage, firm managers choose output and the level of private benefits that they extract in the context of a symmetric oligopolistic industry. In the Nash equilibrium outcome, managers have an incentive to “overproduce” (because their private benefits increase with revenues) and industry-level profits are not maximized.


Shareholder Activism in the US Banking Industry

The following post comes to us from William Sweet, partner and head of the Financial Institutions Regulation and Enforcement Group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and is based on a Skadden memorandum by Mr. Sweet, Brian D. Christiansen, David C. Ingles, Sven G. Mickisch, William S. Rubenstein, and Andrew P. Alin.

Although the 2012 and 2013 proxy seasons saw increased (and highly publicized) shareholder activism across a range of industries, that trend has not yet made its way to the U.S. banking industry. Over the last two proxy seasons, aside from Nelson Peltz’s well-publicized campaign for action at State Street Corporation, certain negative say-on-pay recommendations from ISS and shareholder proposals on governance matters at some large banking organizations (e.g., the campaign to separate the Chairman and CEO positions and to vote against certain directors at JP Morgan Chase), as well as a handful of examples of shareholder activism at community banking institutions, the banking industry has seen relatively little investor activism by comparison. And no investor has conducted a proxy solicitation against a large banking organization since Relational Investors waged a proxy battle against the management and board of directors of Sovereign Bancorp in 2005-06.

The relative absence of activist campaigns targeting banking organizations over the last several years may be explained mainly by current market conditions in the industry, which are not conducive to investor expectations for realizing a profit from an activist campaign against a bank. Most significantly, the absence of a robust bank M&A market with willing buyers that are able to execute transactions at attractive valuations (i.e., a premium to the market price at which the activist acquired the stock) has undermined one of the key exit opportunities for activist investors in the industry. The bank M&A market has been and continues to be adversely affected by uncertainties around asset quality, capital expectations, the regulatory and legislative environment, and the future prospects for the industry as a whole.


The Impact of CEO Divorce on Shareholders

The following post comes to us from David Larcker, Professor of Accounting at Stanford University; Allan McCall of the Department of Accounting at Stanford University; and Brian Tayan of the Corporate Governance Research Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Recent events suggest that shareholders pay attention to matters involving the personal lives of CEOs and take this information into account when making investment decisions. In our paper, Separation Anxiety: The Impact of CEO Divorce on Shareholders, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine the impact that CEO divorce can have on a corporation.

There are at least three potential ways in which a CEO divorce might impact a corporation and its shareholders. The first is loss of control or influence. A CEO with a significant ownership stake in a company might be forced to sell or transfer a portion of this stake to satisfy the terms of a divorce settlement. This can reduce the influence that he or she has over the organization and impact decisions regarding corporate strategy, asset ownership, and board composition. Shareholder reaction to loss of control will vary, depending on the view that investors have of CEO performance and governance quality. If they view performance and governance quality favorably, they will react negatively to the news; if they view management as entrenched or a poor steward of assets, they will react positively. Shareholder reaction will also depend in part on what happens to divested shares, including whether they are transferred to the spouse, sold in a block to a third-party, or dispersed in the general market. Each of these can shape the future governance of a firm.


The SEC Delays its Consideration of Rules Requiring Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Robert J. Jackson, Jr. is Associate Professor of Law, Milton Handler Fellow, and Co-Director of the Millstein Center at Columbia Law School. Bebchuk and Jackson served as co-chairs of the Committee on Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending, which filed a rulemaking petition requesting that the SEC require public companies to disclose their political spending, discussed on the Forum here. Bebchuk and Jackson are also co-authors of Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending, recently published in the Georgetown Law Journal. A series of posts in which Bebchuk and Jackson respond to objections to an SEC rule requiring disclosure of corporate political spending is available here.

Last week the Securities and Exchange Commission released its regulatory agenda, and this agenda no longer includes rules requiring public companies to disclose their spending on politics. The agenda now includes only overdue rules that the SEC is required to develop under Dodd-Frank and the JOBS Act. While we are disappointed by the SEC’s decision to delay its consideration of rules requiring disclosure of corporate political spending, we hope that the SEC will consider such rules as soon as it is able to devote resources to rulemaking other than that required by Dodd-Frank and the JOBS Act. The submissions to the SEC over the past two years have clearly demonstrated the compelling case and large support for requiring such disclosure.

We co-chaired a committee of ten corporate and securities law professors that filed a rulemaking petition urging the SEC to develop rules requiring public companies to disclose their spending on politics. In the two years since the petition was submitted, the SEC has received more than 600,000 comment letters on our petition—more than on any other rulemaking project in the Commission’s history. The overwhelming majority of these comments—including letters from institutional investors and Members of Congress—have been supportive of the petition. At the end of 2012, the Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance acknowledged the widespread support for the petition, and the Commission placed the rulemaking petition on its regulatory agenda for 2013.


CFTC Re-Proposes Position Limits and Aggregation Standards for Derivatives

Annette Nazareth is a partner in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and a former commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. The complete publication, including sidebars and appendices, is available here.

On November 5, 2013, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposed rules to establish new position limits that would apply to 28 agricultural, energy and metals futures contracts, and swaps, futures and options that are economically equivalent to those contracts. [1] Once adopted, the proposal would reinstate, with certain changes, the position limit rules that were vacated by a U.S. federal court in 2012 (the “Vacated Rules”). [2] The CFTC also re-proposed aggregation standards that are similar to those initially proposed as amendments to the Vacated Rules, but with a few notable differences, to be used in applying position limits (the “Aggregation Proposal”). [3]

The proposals would:


OCC Updates Guidance on Third-Party Risk Management

Lee A. Meyerson is a Partner who heads the M&A Group and Financial Institutions Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum.

On October 30, 2013, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) issued updated guidance to national banks and federal savings associations on assessing and managing risks associated with third-party relationships, which include all business arrangements between a bank and another entity (by contract or otherwise). [1] The new guidance introduces a “life cycle” approach to third-party risk management, requiring comprehensive oversight throughout each phase of a bank’s business arrangement with consultants, joint ventures, affiliates, subsidiaries, payment processors, computer network and security providers, and other third parties. Rather than mandating a uniform set of rules, however, the guidance instructs banks to adopt risk management processes commensurate with the level of risk and complexity of its third-party relationships. Accordingly, the OCC expects especially rigorous oversight of third-party relationships that involve certain “critical activities.”

The revamped guidance reflects the OCC’s concern that the increasing risk and complexity of third-party relationships is outpacing the quality of banks’ risk management over these outsourcing arrangements. The guidance cautions that a bank’s failure to implement appropriate third-party risk management processes may constitute an unsafe and unsound banking practice, and could prompt formal enforcement actions or a downgrade in a bank’s CAMELS management rating to less than satisfactory. The severity of these consequences suggests that third-party risk management practices are becoming an increasingly important focus of OCC supervisory efforts.


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