Monthly Archives: January 2014

CEO Connectedness and Corporate Frauds

The following post comes to us from Vikramaditya Khanna, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan; E. Han Kim, Professor of Finance at the University of Michigan; and Yao Lu of the Department of Finance at Tsinghua University.

The collective behavior of corporate leaders is often critical in corporate wrongdoing, and the CEO often plays the central role. Yet there is no comprehensive study exploring how CEOs and their influence within executive suites and the boardroom impact corporate wrongdoing. In our paper, CEO Connectedness and Corporate Frauds, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we focus on the effects of CEOs’ social influence accumulated during the CEO’s tenure through top executive and director appointment decisions.


The Value of Corporate Culture

The following post comes to us from Luigi Guiso, Professor of Finance at the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance; Paola Sapienza, Professor of Finance at Northwestern University; and Luigi Zingales, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago.

In our recent NBER working paper, The Value of Corporate Culture, we study which dimensions of corporate culture are related to a firm’s performance and why. Resigning from Goldman Sachs, vice president Greg Smith wrote in a very controversial New York Times op-ed: “Culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years.” He then adds “I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years.” In his follow-up book, Greg Smith seems to blame the demise of Goldman Sachs’s culture to its transformation from a partnership to a publicly traded company.

While highly disputed by the company, Greg Smith’s remarks raise several important questions. What constitutes a firm’s culture? How can we measure it? Does this culture—however defined and measured—impact a firm’s success? If so, why? And how can different governance structures enable or curtail the formation and preservation of a value-enhancing culture? In this paper we try to answer these questions.


“Greenmail” Makes a Comeback

The following post comes to us from Spencer D. Klein, partner in the Corporate Department and co-chair of the global Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Morrison & Foerster LLP, and is based on a Morrison & Foerster publication by Mr. Klein and Enrico Granata.

The much-maligned 1980s tactic of “greenmail” [1] appears to have made a comeback in 2013. “Greenmail” has generally been defined as the practice of purchasing enough shares in a company to threaten a takeover, and then using that leverage to pressure the target company to buy those shares back at a premium in order to abandon the takeover. Today’s variety of greenmail does not always involve the threat of a takeover, but instead typically involves the actual or implied threat of a proxy contest that would effect major corporate change.

In just the last few months, several noted activist investors have profited handsomely by selling shares back to their target companies, including, among others, Icahn Associates with respect to its stake in WebMD and Corvex Management with respect to its stake in ADT.


Key Trends in Financial Institutions M&A and Governance

Edward Herlihy is a partner and co-chairman of the Executive Committee at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The following post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Herlihy, Richard K. Kim, Lawrence S. Makow, Nicholas G. Demmo, and David E. Shapiro.

2013 was a year of continuing challenges and opportunities for U.S. banks. The low-interest rate environment continued to challenge the ability of banks to lend profitably. Already burdensome regulatory demands grew weightier with expanded Dodd-Frank stress testing and the finalization of the Volcker Rule, among other things. More than ever before, the responsibility of directors of financial institutions for regulatory compliance and bank safety and soundness is broadening, highlighted most recently by the OCC’s steps to formalize its program of supervisory “heightened expectations” for larger banks and their directors. Against this backdrop, the banking industry saw steady and creative deal activity, with a pronounced concentration among community banks.


HLS Corporate Faculty Excels in SSRN’s 2013 Citation Rankings

Statistics released by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) indicate that, as of the end of 2013, Harvard Law School professors and senior fellows associated with the Program on Corporate Governance featured prominently on SSRN’s law author rankings. These professors and fellows captured ten of the top 100 slots among the top 100 law authors in all legal areas in terms of citations to their work. No corporate faculty group at any other law school comes even close to this level of citation prominence.

As in previous years, Professor Lucian Bebchuk was ranked first among all law school professors (a post about Professor Bebchuk’s ranking is available here and his papers are available on his SSRN page here). In addition, nine other professors and senior fellows associated with the Program on Corporate Governance are included among SSRN’s 2013 top 100 law authors:


Blockholders and Corporate Governance

The following post comes to us from Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at the London Business School.

In the paper, Blockholders and Corporate Governance, forthcoming in the Annual Review of Financial Economics, I review the theoretical and empirical literature on the different channels through which blockholders (large shareholders) engage in corporate governance. Berle and Means’s (1932) seminal article highlighted the agency problems that arise from the separation of ownership and control. When a firm’s managers are distinct from its ultimate owners, they have inadequate incentives to maximize its value. For example, they may exert insufficient effort, engage in wasteful investment, or extract excessive salaries and perks. The potential for such value erosion leads to a first-order role for corporate governance—mechanisms to ensure that managers act in shareholders’ interest. The importance of firm-level governance for the economy as a whole has been highlighted by the recent financial crisis, which had substantial effects above and beyond the individual firms involved.


Gender Diversity at Silicon Valley Public Companies 2013

The following post comes to us from David A. Bell, partner in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP. This post is based on a Fenwick publication, titled Gender Diversity in Silicon Valley: A Comparison of Large Public Companies and Silicon Valley Companies; the complete survey is available here.

Significantly expanding on the data in the Fenwick Corporate Governance Survey (discussed on the Forum here), Fenwick has published the first survey to analyze gender diversity on boards and executive management teams of companies in the technology and life science companies included in the Silicon Valley 150 Index (SV 150) compared to the very large public companies included in the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index (S&P 100). [1] The Fenwick Gender Diversity Survey analyzes eighteen years of public filings regarding boards and management teams—beginning with the 1996 proxy season and ending with the 2013 proxy season—to better understand changes in the leadership of some of our most important companies, and the gradual gender diversity improvements taking place. The 70-page report includes detailed analysis of:


ISS To Revise QuickScore

Amy Goodman is a partner and co-chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Ms. Goodman and Elizabeth A. Ising.

On January 8, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc. (“ISS”) announced that it will launch a new version of QuickScore (“QuickScore 2.0”) on February 18, 2014. QuickScore benchmarks a company’s governance risk against other companies in the Russell 3000 Index based on a number of weighted governance factors. QuickScore 2.0 will use a different method to score companies’ governance risk and will automatically reflect changes in companies’ governance structures based on publicly disclosed information.


No Magic Bullet in Post-Credit Crisis Investment Litigation

The following post comes to us from Jason M. Halper, partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, and is based on a Cadwalader publication by Mr. Halper and Gregory Beaman. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Nearly a decade ago, the United States Supreme Court in Dura Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 345 (2005), emphasized that a securities fraud suit is not an investor’s insurance policy against market losses. As courts continue to address the fallout from the financial crisis that began in 2007, the court’s admonition is alive and well, and frequently appearing in decisions addressing claims under § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and common law claims involving structured products such as mortgage-backed securities. Just recently, two federal courts observed in the § 10(b) context that “[t]he securities laws are not an insurance policy for investments gone wrong, inexperience, bad luck, poor choices, or unexpected market events,” nor are they “a prophylaxis against the normal risks attendant to speculation and investment in the financial markets.”


“SPOE” Resolution Strategy for SIFIs under Dodd-Frank

H. Rodgin Cohen is a partner and senior chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP focusing on acquisition, corporate governance, regulatory and securities law matters. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Mr. Cohen, Rebecca J. Simmons, Mark J. Welshimer, and Stephen T. Milligan.

On December 10, 2013, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) proposed for public comment a notice (the “Notice”) describing its “Single Point of Entry” (“SPOE”) strategy for resolving systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”) in default or in danger of default under the orderly liquidation authority granted by Title II of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”). [1] The Notice follows the FDIC’s endorsement of the SPOE model in its joint paper issued with the Bank of England last year.


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