Monthly Archives: March 2014

Court of Chancery Stresses Need for Board Monitoring of Advisors and Potential Conflicts

Paul Rowe is a partner in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Rowe, David A. KatzWilliam Savitt, and Ryan A. McLeod. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery reached the rare conclusion that an independent, disinterested board breached its fiduciary duties in connection with an arm’s-length, third-party, premium merger transaction. The decision, In re Rural Metro Corp. Stockholders Litig., C.A. No. 6350-VCL (Del. Ch. Mar. 7, 2014), which relies heavily on findings that the board’s financial advisor had undisclosed conflicts of interest, holds the advisor liable for aiding and abetting the breaches, but does not reach the question of whether the directors themselves could have been liable, as they settled before trial. The decision sends a strong message that boards should actively oversee their financial advisors in any sale process.


Remarks on the Halliburton Oral Argument (1): Toward a Fraudulent Distortion Approach

Lucian Bebchuk is William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance, Harvard Law School. Allen Ferrell is Greenfield Professor of Securities Law, Harvard Law School. They are co-authors of Rethinking Basic, a Harvard Law School Discussion Paper forthcoming in the May 2014 issue of The Business Lawyer, that is available here. This post is the first in a three-part series in which they remark on the oral argument at the Halliburton case.

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Halliburton case (transcript available here), which is expected to have a major impact on the future of securities litigation. Encouragingly, there were signs that a number of the Justices might choose to avoid making a judgment on the state of efficient market theory and to focus on the presence of fraudulent distortion (sometimes also referred to as price impact). As we explain in our recent paper, Rethinking Basic, adopting such an approach would be the desirable outcome of this major case both conceptually and practically.

In this first post of a three-part series on the Halliburton oral argument, we comment on prospects of the fraudulent distortion approach in light of what was said at the oral argument. The two subsequent posts will discuss (1) the implementation of such an approach and, in particular, the availability of tools other than events studies for this implementation, and (2) the consistency of the fraudulent distortion approach with not resolving merit issues at the class certification stage. In their briefs, one side of the case argued that the Justices should overrule the Basic ruling in part because of the evidence of market inefficiency that has accumulated over the past twenty five years. The other side, however, urged the Justices to recognize the substantial support that the efficient market hypothesis still has among financial economists.


Enhanced Prudential Standards

The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Andrew R. Gladin, Rebecca J. Simmons, Mark J. Welshimer, and Samuel R. Woodall III. The complete publication, including Annexes, is available here.

On February 18, 2014, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “FRB”) approved a final rule (the “Final Rule”) implementing certain of the “enhanced prudential standards” mandated by Section 165 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act” or “Dodd-Frank”). The Final Rule applies the enhanced prudential standards to (i) U.S. bank holding companies (“U.S. BHCs”) with $50 billion (and in some cases, $10 billion) or more in total consolidated assets and (ii) foreign banking organizations (“FBOs”) with (x) a U.S. banking presence, through branches, agencies or depository institution subsidiaries, and (y) depending on the standard, certain designated amounts of assets worldwide, in the United States or in U.S. non-branch assets. The Final Rule’s provisions are the most significant, detailed and prescriptive for the largest U.S. BHCs and the FBOs with the largest U.S. presence—those with $50 billion or more in total consolidated assets and, in the case of FBOs, particularly (and with increasing stringency) for FBOs with combined U.S. assets of $50 billion or more or U.S. non-branch assets of $50 billion or more.


Does Stock Liquidity Affect Incentives to Monitor?

The following post comes to us from Peter Roosenboom, Professor of Finance at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University; Frederik Schlingemann of the Finance Group at the University of Pittsburgh; and Manuel Vasconcelos of Cornerstone Research.

In our paper, Does Stock Liquidity Affect Incentives to Monitor? Evidence from Corporate Takeovers, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we examine the role of liquidity as a monitoring incentive and its effect on firm value by analyzing the market reaction to takeover announcements. The empirical evidence is consistent with the view that there is a tradeoff between monitoring via institutional intervention and liquidity for takeovers of private targets, but not for takeovers of public targets. This finding may be explained by the increased role of the disciplining effect of the threat of exit in connection to actions that on average destroy shareholder value, such as takeovers of public targets (Admati and Pfleiderer 2009).


SEC Crowdfunding Rulemaking under the Jobs Act—an Opportunity Lost?

The following post comes to us from Samuel S. Guzik, Of Counsel and member of the corporate practice group at Richardson Patel LLP, and is based on an article by Mr. Guzik.

In an article recently posted to SSRN I addressed certain issues faced by the SEC in the ongoing Title III rulemaking process under the JOBS Act of 2012, enacted into law by Congress in April 2012. The SEC issued proposed rules to implement Title III in October 23, 2013, and has yet to issue final rules.

Title III of the JOBS Act created an exemption from registration for the offer and sale of so-called “crowdfunded” securities under the Securities Act of 1933, allowing the offer and sale of securities to an unlimited number of unaccredited investors without registration with the SEC, on an Internet-based platform, through intermediaries (portals) which are either registered broker-dealers or SEC licensed “funding portals.” Title III also provided for a number of built-in investor protections, including limitations on the amount invested, a limitation on the amount an issuer may raise in a 12 month period ($1 million), detailed financial and non-financial disclosure in connection with the offering, and ongoing annual issuer disclosure. Congress left much of the details of Title III in the hands of the SEC, to be fleshed out in the rulemaking process.


Does Volcker + Vickers = Liikanen?

The following post comes to us from David R. Sahr, partner at Mayer Brown, and is based on a Mayer Brown update. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

EU proposal for a regulation on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions

1. On 29 January 2014 the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council “on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions”. This proposed legislation is the EU’s equivalent of Volcker and Vickers. It was initiated by the Liikanen report published on 2 October 2012 but the legislative proposal departs in a number of ways from the report’s conclusions. There are two significant departures: the legislative proposal contains a Volcker-style prohibition, which also departs from the individual EU Member States’ approach, and, although the proposal contains provisions which mirror the Vickers “ring-fencing” approach they are not, in direct contradiction to Liikanen’s recommendation, mandatory.


Staggered Boards and Firm Value, Revisited

The following post comes to us from Martijn Cremers, Professor of Finance at the University of Notre Dame; Lubomir P. Litov, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Arizona; and Simone M. Sepe, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Arizona. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about staggered boards includes The Costs of Entrenched Boards by Lucian Bebchuk and Alma Cohen, and How Do Staggered Boards Affect Shareholder Value? Evidence from a Natural Experiment by Alma Cohen and Charles C. Y. Wang.

Staggered boards have long played a central role in the debate on the proper relationship between boards of directors and shareholders. Advocates of shareholder empowerment view staggered boards as a quintessential corporate governance failure. Under this view, insulating directors from market discipline diminishes director accountability and encourages self-serving behaviors by incumbents such as shirking, empire building, and private benefits extraction. On the contrary, defendants of staggered boards view staggered boards as an instrument to preserve board stability and strengthen long-term commitments to value creation. This debate notwithstanding, the existing empirical literature to date has strongly supported the claim that board classification seems undesirable, finding that, in the cross-section, staggered boards are associated with lower firm value and negative abnormal returns at economically and statistically significant levels.


Argentina and Exchange Bondholders File Certiorari Petitions

The following post comes to us from Antonia E. Stolper, partner in the Capital Markets-Americas group at Shearman & Sterling LLP, and is based on a Shearman & Sterling client publication by Ms. Stolper, Henry Weisburg, and Patrick Clancy.

On February 18, both Argentina and the Exchange Bondholders Group filed petitions for writs of certiorari with the Supreme Court, seeking review of the Second Circuit’s rulings in the pari passu litigation. We discuss below the certiorari procedure, followed by comments on substantive arguments raised by Argentina and the Exchange Bondholders.

Our many prior comments on Argentina’s pari passu litigation, as well as all of the material pleadings and decisions (including the two February 18 certiorari petitions), can be found on our Argentine Sovereign Debt webpage, at


Disappearing Small IPOs and Lifecycle of Small Firms

Steven M. Davidoff is Professor of Law and Finance at Ohio State University College of Law. As of July 2014, Professor Davidoff will be Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. The following post is based on a paper by Professor Davidoff and Paul Rose of Ohio State University College of Law.

The small company initial public offering (IPO) is dead. In 1997, there were 168 exchange-listed IPOs for companies with an initial market capitalization of less than $75 million. In 2012, there were seven such IPOs, the same number as in 2003.

While there is no doubt that the small company IPO has disappeared, the cause of this decline is uncertain and disputed.

A number of theories have been offered for this decline, but the most prominent theory attributes the decline to increased federal regulation and market structure changes also driven by federal regulation. The explanation for this decline is important, because it has driven passage of the JumpStart Our Business Start-ups Act (the JOBS Act) as well as recently introduced Congressional legislation to mandate decimalization for a five-year period for all companies with a market capitalization of $750 million or below.


Still Running Away from the Evidence: A Reply to Wachtell Lipton’s Review of Empirical Work

Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Alon Brav is Professor of Finance at Duke University. Wei Jiang is Professor of Economics and Finance at Columbia Business School. This post responds to a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Martin Lipton, Empiricism and Experience; Activism and Short-Termism; the Real World of Business, available on the Forum here. This memorandum presents a review of empirical work on activism and uses this review to criticize the empirical study by Bebchuk, Brav, and Jiang on The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. The study is available here, and its results are summarized in a Forum post and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article. Bebchuk and Lipton will discuss the evidence on hedge fund activism at the Harvard Roundtable on Activist Interventions, which will take place later this month.

In a 17-page memorandum issued by the law firm of Wachtell Lipton (Wachtell), Empiricism and Experience; Activism and Short-Termism; the Real World of Business, the firm’s founder Martin Lipton put forward new criticism of our empirical study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. Lipton’s critique is based on a review of a large number of works which, he asserts, back up empirically the view that our study questions. Following our examination of each of the studies noted by Lipton, this post responds to Lipton’s empirical review. We show that Lipton’s review fails to identify any empirical evidence that is inconsistent with our findings or backs the claim of Wachtell that our study questions.

Our study shows that the myopic activisms claim that Lipton and his firm have long asserted—the claim that that interventions by activist hedge funds are in the long term detrimental to the involved companies and their long-term shareholders—is not supported by the data. Seeking to cast doubt on the validity of our finding, Lipton’s memorandum cites twenty-seven works by academics or policymakers, and asserts that these studies demonstrate that our conclusion—that the myopic activism claims is not supported by the data—is “patently false.” In this post, we explain that this assertion is not supported by the cited studies; most of the studies are not even related to the subject of the consequences of hedge fund activism, and those that are related to it do not provide evidence contradicting our findings.

Below we begin with discussing the relevant background and then review the cited studies and explain why, in contrast to the impression Lipton’s memo seeks to make, they do not provide an empirical basis for the myopic activists view. Instead of running away from the empirical evidence, while constantly shooting back, Wachtell Lipton should accept that its myopic activists claim is not supported by the data. Indeed, as one of us plans to discuss in a separate post, despite its repeated attacks on our study, Wachtell is shifting its position toward avoiding reliance on the myopic activism claim in its opposition to hedge fun activism, and this shift should lead Wachtell and its clients to rethink their attitude to hedge funds activists.


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