Monthly Archives: July 2014

Hedge Funds and Material Nonpublic Information

The following post comes to us from Jon N. Eisenberg, partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The last thing hedge funds need is another wake up call about the risks of liability for trading on the basis of material nonpublic information. But if they did, a July 17 article in the Wall Street Journal would provide it. According to the article, the SEC is investigating nearly four dozen hedge funds, asset managers and other firms to determine whether they traded on material nonpublic information concerning a change in Medicare reimbursement rates. If so, it appears that the material nonpublic information, if any, may have originated from a staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee, was then communicated to a law firm lobbyist, was further communicated by the lobbyist to a political intelligence firm, and finally, was communicated to clients who traded. According to an April 3, 2013 Wall Street Journal article, the political intelligence firm issued a flash report to clients on April 1, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.—18 minutes before the market closed and 35 minutes before the government announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would increase reimbursements by 3.3%, rather than reduce them 2.3%, as initially proposed. Shares in several large insurance firms rose as much as 6% in the last 18 minutes of trading.

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Human Capital, Management Quality, and Firm Performance

The following post comes to us from Thomas Chemmanur and Lei Kong, both of the Department of Finance at Boston College, and Karthik Krishnan of the Finance Group at Northeastern University.

The quality of the top management team of a firm is an important determinant of its performance. This is an obvious statement to many. Yet, there is little evidence that relates top management team quality to firm performance in a causal manner. Part of the challenge in doing so stems from assigning a measure to the quality of the top management team. There are, after all, various aspects of top managers that contribute to their performance, including their education, their connections and prior experience. Another reason that relating management quality to firm performance is hard is that one can argue that the best managers can simply select into the best firms to work in. This makes making causal statements extremely hard in this context. As a result, while one can point toward anecdotal evidence relating good managers to good performance (e.g., Steve Jobs of Apple), systematic evidence is lacking in the academic literature on this issue. The relation between management quality and firm performance is important in more than just an academic context. For instance, analysts frequently cite top management quality as a reason to invest in a stock. Thus, one needs to ask what they mean by “quality,” and does it really impact the future performance of the firm.

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What Is a Board’s Role in a Family Business?

Mary Ann Cloyd is leader of the Center for Board Governance at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Catherine Bromilow and John Morrow; the complete publication, including interview insights, is available here.

Individual- and family-owned businesses are a vital part of our economy. If you or your family owns such a company you understand how important the company’s success is to your personal wealth and to future generations. If you’re a nonfamily executive at a family company, you also recognize that its profitability and resilience is vital to your job security and financial well-being.

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Do Banks Always Protect Their Reputation?

The following post comes to us from John Griffin and Richard Lowery, both of the Department of Finance at the University of Texas at Austin, and Alessio Saretto of the Finance Area at the University of Texas at Dallas.

A firm’s reputation is a valuable asset. Arguably, conventional wisdom suggests that a reputable firm will always act in the best interest of their clients to preserve the firm’s reputation. For example, in his testimony/defense of Goldman Sachs before Congress, the Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein states, “We have been a client-centered firm for 140 years and if our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust, we cannot survive.” In our forthcoming Review of Financial Studies article entitled Complex Securities and Underwriter Reputation: Do Reputable Underwriters Produce Better Securities?, we examine the extent to which this conventional wisdom holds with complex securities.

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SEC Guidance May Lessen Investment Adviser Demand for Proxy Advisory Services

Holly J. Gregory is a partner and co-global coordinator of the Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation group at Sidley Austin LLP. This post is based on a Sidley update.

Recently issued SEC staff guidance addresses concerns that have been raised about proxy advisory firms by emphasizing that the investment adviser that retains and pays a proxy advisory firm is uniquely positioned to monitor the proxy advisory firm and is required to actively oversee the firm if it wants to benefit from the firm’s services to discharge its fiduciary duty. As a result of the greater oversight exercised by all of their investment adviser clients, the proxy advisory firms will presumably respond by enhancing their policies, processes and procedures, as well as the transparency of these policies, processes and procedures. In turn, the corporate community may indirectly benefit to some degree.

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The Peril of an Expectations Gap in Proxy Advisory Firm Regulation

The following post comes to us from Asaf Eckstein of Tel Aviv University-Buchmann Faculty of Law.

Over the last few years, Congress and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were put under pressure to seriously consider regulating proxy advisory firms. Financial industry and government leaders have voiced concern that proxy advisory firms exert too much power over corporate governance to operate unregulated. The SEC as well as the Congress have investigated and debated the merits of proxy advisory regulation. The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the matter in June of 2013, and the SEC followed this hearing with a roundtable discussion in December of 2013. On June 30, 2014, the Investment Management and Corporate Finance Divisions of the SEC issued a bulletin outlining the responsibilities of proxy advisors and institutional investors when casting proxy votes. As of yet, no binding regulation has been promulgated, despite repeated calls for it.

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Wachtell Keeps Running Away from the Evidence

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. This post responds to a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Martin Lipton and Steven A. Rosenblum, Do Activist Hedge Funds Really Create Long Term Value?, available on the Forum here. This memorandum criticizes a recently-issued empirical study by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang on the long-term effects of hedge fund activism. The empirical study is available here, and is discussed on the Forum here. Additional posts discussing the study, including critiques by Wachtell Lipton and responses by Professors Bebchuk, Brav, and Jiang, are available on the Forum here.

In a memorandum issued by the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (Wachtell) last week, Do Activist Hedge Funds Really Create Long Term Value?, the firm’s founding partner Martin Lipton and another senior partner of the law firm criticize again my empirical study with Alon Brav and Wei Jiang, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. The memorandum announces triumphantly that Wachtell is not alone in its opposition to our study and that two staff members from the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations (IGOPP) in Montreal issued a white paper (available here) criticizing our study. Wachtell asserts that the IGOPP paper provides a “refutation” of our findings that is “academically rigorous.” An examination of this paper, however, indicates that it is anything but academically rigorous, and that the Wachtell memo is yet another attempt by the law firm to run away from empirical evidence that is inconsistent with its long-standing claims.

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Communicating Voluntary Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Charles Nathan is partner and head of the Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury. This post is based on an RLM Finsbury commentary by Mr. Nathan. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about corporate political spending includes Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson, discussed on the Forum here. A committee of law professors co-chaired by Bebchuk and Jackson submitted a rulemaking petition to the SEC concerning corporate political spending; that petition is discussed here.

Over the past several years, judicial decisions involving Citizens United, McCutcheon and SpeechNow.org have lifted caps on total political contributions, and also expanded the number of avenues through and amounts which companies can lawfully contribute to political campaigns. Corporate donations can still be made to recipients like political action committees and third-party organizations (such as trade associations). Now, however, companies can also contribute directly to campaigns and to organizations that support candidates and political causes, including Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.

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SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser for Prohibited Transactions and Retaliating Against Whistleblower

The following post comes to us from David A. Vaughan and Catherine Botticelli, Partners at Dechert LLP, and is based on a Dechert legal update authored by Mr. Vaughan, Ms. Botticelli, Brenden P. Carroll, and Aaron D. Withrow.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) issued a cease and desist order on June 16, 2014 (the Order) against Paradigm Capital Management, Inc. (Paradigm) and its founder, Director, President and Chief Investment Officer, Candace King Weir (Weir). [1] The Order alleged that Weir caused Paradigm’s hedge fund client, PCM Partners L.P. II (Fund), to engage in certain transactions (Transactions) with a proprietary account (Trading Account) at the Fund’s prime broker, C.L. King & Associates, Inc. (C.L. King). Paradigm and C.L. King were allegedly under the common control of Weir. The Order further alleged that, because of Weir’s personal interest in the Transactions and the fact that the committee designated to review and approve the Transactions on behalf of the Fund was conflicted, Paradigm failed to provide the Fund with effective disclosure and failed effectively to obtain the Fund’s consent to the Transactions, as required under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act).

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Timely Notice of Merger’s Effective Date Reduces Litigation Risks in Delaware

The following post comes to us from Jon E. Abramczyk, Partner and Member of the Corporate and Business Litigation Group at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, and is based on a Morris Nichols publication. 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.

Following a merger (or consolidation), Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) requires notice to be sent to any stockholder of record who has demanded appraisal informing that stockholder that the transaction was accomplished. For long-form mergers approved pursuant to a stockholder vote (i.e., under Section 251(c) of the DGCL), Section 262(d)(1) requires notice of the effective date of the merger to be sent within 10 days of the merger becoming effective. For mergers approved pursuant to Sections 228, 251(h), 253 or 267 of the DGCL (e.g., mergers approved by written consent, certain mergers following a tender or exchange offer, short-form mergers between parent and subsidiary corporations and short-form mergers between a non-corporation parent entity and its subsidiary corporation) the notice of the effective date is governed by Section 262(d)(2), which sets its own timing requirements.

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