Monthly Archives: May 2014

More Than You Wanted to Know: Failure of Mandated Disclosure

The following post comes to us from Omri Ben-Shahar, the Leo & Eileen Herzel Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.

“Mandated disclosure may be the most common and least successful regulatory technique in American law.” Thus opens our book, More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure (Princeton Press, 2014).

Of mandated disclosure’s triumph there is no doubt. This blog’s readers see it everywhere. Corporate scandals and financial crises ceaselessly spawn new disclosure laws: the Securities Act of 1933, the Truth-in-Lending laws of the 60s and 70s, Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002, and, recently, Dodd-Frank. Disclosure pervades tort law (“duty to warn”), consumer protection (“truth in lending”), bioethics and health care (“informed consent”), online contracting (“opportunity to read”), food law (“nutrition data”), campaign finance regulation, privacy protection, insurance regulation, and more.

This triumph is understandable. Mandated disclosure aspires to help people making complex decisions while dealing with specialists by requiring the latter (disclosers) to give the former (disclosees) information so that disclosees choose sensibly and disclosers do not abuse their position. It is seductively plausible. (Don’t people make poor decisions because they have poor information? Won’t they make good decisions with good information?) It alluringly fits all ideologies. (Thaler and Sunstein like it because it is “libertarian paternalistic”; corporations would “rather disclose than be regulated”). So mandates are enacted unopposed. Literally.

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Rights Plans and Proxy Contests: Chancery Court Denies Activist’s Motion to Enjoin Sotheby’s Shareholder Meeting

Victor Lewkow is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum by Benet J. O’Reilly and Aaron J. Meyers, and 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.

On May 2, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court denied a motion to preliminarily enjoin Sotheby’s annual stockholder meeting based on allegations by an activist stockholder, Third Point LLC, that the Sotheby’s board of directors violated its fiduciary duties by adopting a rights plan (or “poison pill”) and refusing to provide a waiver from its terms in order to obtain an advantage in an ongoing proxy contest. Applying the two-prong Unocal test, Vice Chancellor Parsons held that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability of success on the merits of their claims. Notably, the Chancery Court accepted that the threat of “negative control” (i.e., disproportionate influence over major corporate decisions) by a stockholder with less than 20% ownership and without any express veto rights may constitute a threat to corporate policy justifying responsive action by a board, including the adoption and retention of a right plan.

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Chen v. Howard-Anderson

James C. Morphy is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP specializing in mergers & acquisitions and corporate governance. The following post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Mr. Morphy, Alexandra Korry, Joseph Frumkin, and Brian Frawley. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. 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. Additional reading about Chen v. Howard-Anderson is available here.

In a summary judgment opinion issued on April 8, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Laster) held that in a change of control case governed by enhanced scrutiny, directors and officers could incur personal liability for a breach of their duty of loyalty if it is established that they acted unreasonably in conducting the sale process and allowed interests other than the pursuit of the best value reasonably available, i.e. an improper motive, to influence their decisions. The Court expressly rejected arguments that directors (or officers) could only be found to have acted in bad faith and thereby be personally liable for a breach of the duty of loyalty if it were determined that they were motivated by an intent to do harm or had consciously disregarded known obligations and utterly failed to attempt to obtain the best sale price, as articulated by the Delaware Supreme Court in Lyondell Chemical Company v. Ryan. Applying the new standard to the case before it, the Court concluded that the evidence against the director defendants was not sufficient to impose personal liability under the new standard, but that the evidence was sufficient to proceed to trial against the officers on the same theory.

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Do the Securities Laws Matter?

The following post comes to us from Elisabeth de Fontenay of Duke University School of Law.

Since the Great Depression, U.S. securities regulation has been centered on mandatory disclosure: the various rules requiring issuers of securities to make publicly available certain information that regulators deem material to investors. But do the mandatory disclosure rules actually work? The stakes raised by this question are enormous, yet there is precious little consensus in answering it. After more than eighty years of intensive federal securities regulation, empirical testing of its effectiveness has failed to yield a definitive result.

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SEC Provides Guidance to Investment Advisers on Use of Social Media

The following post comes to us from James T. Lidbury, partner and co-head of the Mergers & Acquisitions practice at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray publication by Rajib Chanda.

In response to the prevalence of social media sites featuring consumer reviews of various types of businesses, on March 28, 2014, the SEC’s Division of Investment Management published an IM Guidance Update to address concerns arising from the rating of investment advisers on such social media sites (the “Guidance Update”). Specifically, the Guidance Update clarifies the application of the testimonial rule to social media sites featuring consumer reviews, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, and sets forth the parameters for the use of such sites by investment advisers in connection with their marketing materials.

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Senior Manager Liability for Derivatives Misconduct: The Buck Stops Where?

The following post comes to us from Clifford Chance LLP and is based on a Clifford Chance publication by David Yeres, Edward O’Callaghan, and Alejandra de Urioste; the full text, including footnotes, is available here.

The buck, so to speak, does not necessarily stop with the individual who personally violates the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), which regulates a wide array of commodities and financial derivatives trading, including swaps (in addition to traditional futures contracts and physical commodities trading) in U.S. markets or otherwise engaged in by or with any U.S. person. Rather, as illustrated by a recent court ruling permitting regulatory charges to go forward against the former CEO of MF Global, Jon Corzine, liability can extend to senior managers, even if they are not regulatory supervisors and have not culpably participated in any misconduct.

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The Future of Capital Formation

Craig M. Lewis is Chief Economist and Director of the Division of Risk, Strategy, and Financial Innovation at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. This post is based on Mr. Lewis’s remarks at the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Center for Finance and Policy’s Distinguished Speaker Series, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Mr. Lewis and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today I’d like to talk about capital formation—one part of the Commission’s tri-partite mission to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. There is much to be said about the Commission’s efforts to facilitate capital formation. But because I’m an economist, today I will focus in particular on some of the economic fundamentals that I believe can be considered when thinking about capital formation.

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Supersize Them? Large Banks, Taxpayers and the Subsidies

The following post comes to us from Nizan Geslevich Packin of the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, City University of New York.

In the paper Supersize Them? Large Banks, Taxpayers and the Subsidies that Lay Between, I provide an in-depth study of the substantial, non-transparent governmental subsidies received by the biggest banks. Though some continue to deny the existence of these subsidies, I conclude that the subsidies exist and negatively impact the financial markets. The most significant implicit subsidy stems from market perception that the government will not allow the biggest banks to fail—i.e., that they are “too-big-to-fail” (TBTF)—enabling them to borrow at lower interest rates. I outline the solutions that have been proposed and/or implemented as an attempt to solve the TBTF problem, and I suggest a new user-fees framework that can be used in conjunction with other approaches to mitigate the consequences of the TBTF subsidies.

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Corporate Takeovers and Economic Efficiency

The following post comes to us from B. Espen Eckbo, Professor of Finance at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

In the paper, Corporate Takeovers and Economic Efficiency, written for the Annual Review of Financial Economics, I review recent takeover research which advances our understanding of the role of M&A in the drive for productive efficiency. Much of this research places takeovers in the context of industrial organization, tracing with unprecedented level of detail “who buys who” up and down the supply chain and within industrial networks. I also review recent research testing the rationality of the bidding process, including whether the sales mechanism promotes a transfer of control of the target resources to the most efficient buyer. This literature draws on auction theory to describe optimal bidding strategies and it uses sophisticated econometric techniques to generate counterfactuals, exogenous variation, and causality. The review is necessarily selective, with an emphasis on the most recent contributions: half of the referenced articles were drafted or published within the past five years.

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