Monthly Archives: July 2014

2014 Mid-Year Securities Enforcement Update

The following post comes to us from Marc J. Fagel, partner in the Securities Enforcement and White Collar Defense Practice Groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication; the full publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Our mid-year report one year ago presented an exciting opportunity to discuss a time of great change at the SEC. A new Chair and a new Director of Enforcement had recently assumed the reins and begun making bold policy pronouncements. One year later, things have stabilized somewhat. The hot-button issues identified early in the new SEC administration—admissions for settling parties, a growing number of trials (and, for the agency, trial losses), and a renewed focus on public company accounting—remain the leading issues a year later, albeit with some interesting developments.


SEC’s Cross-Border Derivatives Rule

The following post comes to us from Dan Ryan, Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and is based on a PwC publication.

The SEC provided the “who” but not much else in its final rule regarding cross-border security-based swap activities (“final rule”), released at the SEC’s June 25, 2014 open meeting. Although most firms have already implemented a significant portion of the CFTC’s swaps regulatory regime (which governs well over 90% of the market), the SEC’s oversight of security-based swaps means that the SEC’s cross-border framework and its outstanding substantive rulemakings (e.g., clearing, reporting, etc.) have the potential to create rules that conflict with the CFTC’s approach. The impact that the SEC’s regulatory framework will have on the market remains uncertain, but the final rule at least begins to lay out the SEC’s cross-border position.


Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

The following post comes to us from Stewart D. Aaron, partner in the Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice at Arnold & Porter LLP, and is based on an Arnold & Porter publication by Mr. Aaron and Robert C. Azarow. 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.

Under Delaware’s corporate benefit doctrine, a stockholder who presents a meritorious claim to a board of directors may be entitled to attorneys’ fees if the stockholder’s efforts result in the conferring of a corporate benefit. [1] On June 20, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court considered in Raul v. Astoria Financial Corporation [2] whether attorneys’ fees are warranted under this doctrine when a stockholder identifies potential deficiencies in executive compensation disclosures required by the SEC pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act “say on pay” provisions. [3] The court held that the alleged omissions at issue failed to demonstrate any breach of the Board of Directors’ fiduciary duties under Delaware law and accordingly the Plaintiff did not present a meritorious demand to the Board. This decision makes clear that the courts will not shift fees to a stockholder (and the stockholder’s law firm) who “has simply done the company a good turn by bringing to the attention of the board an action that it ultimately decides to take.” [4]


2014 Proxy Season Mid-Year Review

Mary Ann Cloyd is leader of the Center for Board Governance at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on an edition of ProxyPulse™, a collaboration between Broadridge Financial Solutions and PwC’s Center for Board Governance; the full report, including additional figures, is available here.

This post looks at results from 2,788 shareholder meetings held between January 1 and May 22, 2014. We provide data and analyses on areas such as share ownership composition, director elections, say-on-pay, proxy material distribution and the mechanics of shareholder voting. We also look at differences in proxy voting by company size.

With about three-quarters of the 2014 proxy season complete, voting results continue to show that public company executives and directors must remain vigilant regarding corporate governance matters. In comparison to last proxy-season at this time, large-cap ($10b+) companies have attained higher levels of shareholder support both for directors and for executive compensation plans. In contrast, support levels for executive compensation plans fell at mid-cap ($2b–$10b), small-cap ($300m–$2b) and micro-cap ($300m or less) companies, and support for directors fell at mid-cap companies.


Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors

The following post comes to us from Karen K. Nelson, the Harmon Whittington Professor at Accounting at Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business, and Adam C. Pritchard, the Frances and George Skestos Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School.

In our paper, Carrot or Stick? The Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors, we investigate public companies’ disclosure of risk factors that are meant to inform investors about risks and uncertainties. We compare risk factor disclosures under the voluntary, incentive-based disclosure regime provided by the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, adopted in 1995, and the SEC’s subsequent disclosure mandate, adopted in 2005.


2014 Mid-Year Update on Corporate Non-Prosecution and Deferred Prosecution Agreements

Joseph Warin is partner and chair of the litigation department at the Washington D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The following post and is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert; the full publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here.

As the debate continues over whether and how to punish companies for unlawful conduct, U.S. federal prosecutors continue to rely significantly on Non-Prosecution Agreements (“NPAs”) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (“DPAs”) (collectively, “agreements”). Such agreements have emerged as a flexible alternative to prosecutorial declination, on the one hand, and trials or guilty pleas, on the other. Companies and prosecutors alike rely on NPAs and DPAs to resolve allegations of corporate misconduct while mitigating the collateral consequences that guilty pleas or verdicts can inflict on companies, employees, communities, or the economy. NPAs and DPAs allow prosecutors, without obtaining a criminal conviction, to ensure that corporate wrongdoers receive punishment, including often eye-popping financial penalties, deep reforms to corporate culture through compliance requirements, and independent monitoring or self-reporting arrangements. Although the trend has been robust for more than a decade, Attorney General Eric Holder’s statements in connection with recent prosecutions of financial institutions underscore the dynamic environment in which NPAs and DPAs have evolved.


Empirical Asset Pricing: Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen, and Robert Shiller

The following post comes to us from John Campbell, Professor of Economics at Harvard University.

In my paper, Empirical Asset Pricing: Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen, and Robert Shiller, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN and which was commissioned by the Scandinavian Journal of Economics, I explain the reasons why the 2013 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was awarded to Fama, Hansen, and Shiller for empirical analysis of asset prices.


Court Holds That US Bankruptcy Code Does Not Permit Recovery of Extraterritorial Transfers

George T. Conway III is partner in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The following post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum authored by Mr. Conway, Douglas K. Mayer, and Emil A. Kleinhaus.

In a decision that could significantly limit the power of U.S. bankruptcy trustees to challenge cross-border transactions, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has held that the trustee overseeing the Madoff liquidation may not recover transfers made by Madoff’s foreign customers to other foreign entities. SIPC v. Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, No. 12-mc-115 (S.D.N.Y. July 7, 2014). The court held that recovery of such “purely foreign” transfers would run afoul of the presumption against extraterritoriality reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Morrison v. National Australia Bank.


Corporate Venture Capital, Value Creation, and Innovation

The following post comes to us from Thomas Chemmanur, Professor of Finance at Boston College; Elena Loutskina of the Finance Area at the University of Virginia; and Xuan Tian of the Finance Department at Indiana University.

There is no doubt that innovation is a critical driver of a nation’s long-term economic growth and competitive advantage. The question lies, however, in identifying the optimal organizational form for nurturing innovation. While corporate research laboratories account for two-thirds of all U.S. research, it is not obvious that these innovation incubators are more efficient than independent investors such as venture capitalists. In our paper, Corporate Venture Capital, Value Creation, and Innovation, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we explore this question by comparing the innovation productivity of entrepreneurial firms backed by corporate venture capitalists (CVCs) and independent venture capitalists (IVCs).


Exclusive Forum Provisions: A New Item for Corporate Governance and M&A Checklists

The following post comes to us from Michael O’Bryan, partner in the Corporate Department at Morrison & Foerster LLP, and is based on a Morrison & Foerster Client Alert by Mr. O’Bryan, Kevin Calia, and James Beha. 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.

Public companies increasingly are adopting “exclusive forum” bylaws and charter provisions that require their stockholders to go to specified courts if they want to make fiduciary duty or other intra-corporate claims against the company and its directors.

Exclusive forum provisions can help companies respond to such litigation more efficiently. Following most public M&A announcements, for example, stockholders file nearly identical claims in multiple jurisdictions, raising the costs required to respond. Buyers also feel the pain, since they typically bear the costs and may even be named in some of the proceedings. Exclusive forum provisions help address the increased costs, while allowing stockholders to bring claims in the specified forum.


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