Monthly Archives: June 2014

Banking Agencies Release Limited Volcker Rule Guidance

The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Robert W. Reeder III, Camille L. Orme, Whitney A. Chatterjee, and C. Andrew Gerlach. The complete publication, including appendix, is available here.

On June 10, 2014, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (collectively, the “Banking Agencies”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) released substantially identical Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) addressing six topics regarding the implementation of section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended, commonly known as the “Volcker Rule.”

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The Institutional Investor Stewardship Myth in a Dutch Context

The following post comes to us from Daniëlle Melis of Nyenrode Business Universiteit.

The concept of institutional investor stewardship is based on the notion that in publicly listed companies responsibility for corporate governance is shared. The primary responsibility lies with the board, which oversees the actions of its management. Institutional investors in the company are assumed to play an important role in holding the board to account for fulfilling its responsibilities. According to the UK Stewardship Code (2010), effective stewardship is about well-chosen engagement. This means that institutional investors monitor and engage with companies on matters such as strategy, performance, risk, capital structure, and corporate governance, including culture and remuneration. Engagement means having a purposeful dialogue with companies on these matters as well as on issues that are the immediate subject of votes at general meetings.

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Defining Dealers and Major Participants in the Cross-Border Context

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Dealers and major participants play a crucial role in the derivatives market, a market that has been estimated to exceed $710 trillion worldwide, of which more than $14 trillion represents transactions in security-based swaps. In the United States, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and the SEC share responsibility for regulating the derivatives market. Out of the total derivatives market, the SEC is responsible for regulating security-based swaps. As evidenced in the most recent financial crisis, the unregulated derivatives market had devastating effects on our economy and U.S. investors. In response to this crisis, Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act and directed both the CFTC and SEC to promulgate an effective regulatory framework to oversee the derivatives market.

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An Economist’s View of Market Evidence in Valuation and Bankruptcy Litigation

The following post comes to us from Faten Sabry, Senior Vice President at NERA Economic Consulting, and is based on a NERA publication by Ms. Sabry and William P. Hrycay.

Courts often face many challenges when assessing the solvency of a company whether public or privately held. Examples of difficult valuation questions include: would a company with a market capitalization of several hundred million dollars possibly be insolvent? Or, would publicly-traded debt at or near par be conclusive evidence that the issuer is solvent at the time? Or, would a company’s inability to raise funds or maintain its investment grade rating at a given time be sufficient to rule on solvency?

It is common in valuation and solvency disputes to have qualified experts with very different opinions on the fair market value of a company, often using the same standard approaches of discounted cash flows and comparables. How would the courts or the arbitrators decide and what is the role of contemporaneous market evidence in such disputes? In this article, we discuss the role of market evidence and possible misinterpretations of such evidence and highlight recent court decisions in the United States.

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A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Twentieth Annual Stanford Directors’ College; 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.

The SEC today has about 4,200 employees, located in Washington and 11 regional offices across the country, including one in San Francisco that is very ably led by Regional Director Jina Choi, who is here [June 23, 2014]. Many of you have likely had some contact with our Division of Corporation Finance, which, among other things, has the responsibility to review your periodic filings and your securities offerings. Some of you that work for or represent a company that we oversee know our staff in our National Exam Program, and I imagine a few of your companies know something about our Enforcement Division staff. Our other major divisions are Investment Management, Trading and Markets and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.

So that is just a quick snapshot of the structure of the SEC and as you undoubtedly know, the SEC has a lot on its regulatory plate that is relevant to you—completion of the mandated rulemakings under the Dodd Frank Act and JOBS Act, adopting a final rule on money market funds, enhancing the structure and transparency of our equity and fixed income markets, reviewing the effectiveness of disclosures by public companies, to name just a few. But what you may not be as focused on is the mindset of the agency on some other things that are also relevant to you as directors.

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Recent Developments in Whistleblower Protections

The following post comes to us from Edmond T. FitzGerald, partner and head of the Executive Compensation Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Linda C. Thomsen, Antonio Perez-Marques, and Kyoko T. Lin. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”), the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”) impose overlapping anti-retaliation provisions that generally prohibit retaliation against corporate “whistleblowers.” Recent headlines of whistleblower awards granted to individuals, especially under Dodd-Frank, underscore the fact that, even if a company’s economic exposure arising from the alleged violation of these provisions may be relatively circumscribed—generally limited to amounts based on the compensation of the employee who is allegedly retaliated against—the “real world” exposure, in the form of reputational and regulatory risk, can be significantly greater.

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Speaking of Corporate Social Responsibility

The following post comes to us from Hao Liang and Luc Renneboog, both of the Department of Finance at Tilburg University, Christopher Marquis of the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School, and Sunny Li Sun of the Department of Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Linguists suggest that obligatory future-time-reference (FTR) in a language reduces the psychological importance of the future. Applying this to a corporate context, we theorize in this paper that companies with strong-FTR languages as their official/working language would be less future orientated and hence perform worse in future-oriented activities such as corporate social responsibility (CSR)—firms’ environmental, social, and governance engagement—compared to those in weak-FTR language environments.

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The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design

The following post comes to us from Paul Asquith, Professor of Finance at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Thomas Covert of the Economics Area at the University of Chicago; and Parag Pathak of the Department of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Many financial markets have recently become subject to new regulations requiring transparency. In our recent NBER working paper, The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design: Evidence from the Corporate Bond Market, we study how mandatory transparency affects trading in the corporate bond market. In July 2002, the Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) program began requiring the public dissemination of post-trade price and volume information for corporate bonds. Dissemination took place in four phases over a three-and-a-half year period, with actively traded, investment grade bonds becoming transparent before thinly traded, high-yield bonds.

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Supreme Court Upholds Fraud-On-The-Market Presumption in Halliburton

The following post comes to us from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C. and is based on a WSGR alert by Douglas Clark and Ignacio Salceda. The Supreme Court’s reconsideration of Basic and related legal questions are analyzed in detail in a Harvard Law School Discussion Paper by Professors Lucian Bebchuk and Allen Ferrell, Rethinking Basic, that has been published in the May 2014 issue of The Business Lawyer, and discussed earlier on the Forum here and here.

On June 23, 2014, the United States Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc. Halliburton called into question the very foundation of a securities class action—the presumption of class-wide reliance. A unanimous Court answered the question today, and the presumption of reliance lives. The Court’s decision may, however, have given defendants new opportunities to rebut the presumption in the earlier stages of a case.

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Putting Technology and Competition to Work for Investors

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Economic Club of New York, 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.

Today [June 20, 2014], I want to speak to you about the current state of our securities markets—an issue that I know is on your minds and one that is well-suited for the financial capital of the world.

The U.S. securities markets are the largest and most robust in the world, and they are fundamental to the global economy. They transform the savings of investors into capital for thousands of companies, add to nest eggs, send our children to college, turn American ingenuity into tomorrow’s innovation, finance critical public infrastructure, and help transfer unwanted financial risks.

The state and quality of our equity markets in particular have received a great deal of attention lately, with a discussion that has expanded well beyond those who regularly think and write about these markets to include every day investors concerned about the investments they make and the savings they depend on. I have been closely focused on these issues since I joined the SEC about a year ago, and I welcome this broader dialogue.

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