Monthly Archives: September 2014

Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?

The following post comes to us from Shai Levi of the Department of Accounting at Tel Aviv University, Benjamin Segal of the Department of Accounting at Fordham University and The Hebrew University, and Dan Segal of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah and Singapore Management University. 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.

Financial reports should provide useful information to both shareholders and creditors, according to U.S. accounting principles. However, directors of corporations have fiduciary duties only toward equity holders, and those fiduciary duties normally do not extend to the interests of creditors. In our paper, Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether this slant in corporate governance biases financial reports in favor of equity investors. We show that the likelihood that firms will manipulate their reporting to circumvent debt covenants is higher when directors owe fiduciary duties only to equity holders, rather than when they owe fiduciary duties also to creditors. Covenants limit the amount of new debt that the firm issues, for example, and by that reduce bankruptcy risk, and allow creditors to avoid bankruptcy costs, and to recover more from the borrowing firm in case it approaches insolvency. When managers manipulate financial reports to circumvent these debt covenants, they transfer wealth from creditors to shareholders. Our results suggest that when corporate governance is designed to protect only equity holders, firms’ financial reports serve equity holders’ interests at the expense of other stakeholders. We find that when the legal regime requires directors to consider creditors’ interests, firms are less likely to use structured transactions designed to skirt debt covenant limits, particularly if the board of directors of the firm is independent.

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After the Deal: Fannie, Freddie and the Financial Crisis Aftermath

The following post comes to us from Steven Davidoff Solomon, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and David T. Zaring, Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

In After the Deal: Fannie, Freddie and the Financial Crisis Aftermath, we offer a solution to the problem of what to do with the profits being made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the subject of a dispute between the government, which has declared that it will keep those profits, and the shareholders of common and preferred stock left behind after the firms were quasi-nationalized, who have sought, in court, a share of them.

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Senator Schumer’s Anti-Inversion Bill

The following post comes to us from Neil Barr, partner and co-head of the Tax Department at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Mr. Barr, Rachel D. Kleinberg, and Michael Mollerus.

A draft of the bill that is being considered by Senator Schumer (D-NY) to reduce some of the economic incentives for corporate inversions was made publicly available yesterday. Senator Schumer has indicated that, while the proposed bill is still the subject of discussion and is subject to change, he intends to introduce the bill into the Senate this week. The following is a summary of the provisions in the proposed bill as it currently stands.

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Rolling Back the Repo Safe Harbors

Mark Roe is the David Berg Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches bankruptcy and corporate law. This post is based on an article co-authored by Professor Roe, Ed Morrison, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi for the District of Delaware. All three are members of the Advisory Committee on Derivatives, Financial Contracts and Safe Harbors, which is working with the ABI Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11. The article was presented at the Federal Reserve’s recent conference on Wholesale Funding Markets.

Ed Morrison, Judge Christopher Sontchi and I recently posted to SSRN our article recommending a major narrowing of the repo safe harbors, after presenting it at the Federal Reserve’s recent conference on Wholesale Funding Markets in which the Boston Fed president warned of the dangers in the repo market. Overall, we conclude that the Bankruptcy Code has aggressively and unwisely sought to regulate market liquidity and systemic risk, with the Code’s “safe harbors” from the normal bankruptcy machinery largely backfiring during the financial crisis. The sounder policy would be to limit the repo safe harbors to U.S. Treasury repos and repos of similarly liquid government securities.

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Cyber Security and Cyber Governance: Federal Regulation and Oversight—Today and Tomorrow

Paul A. Ferrillo is counsel at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP specializing in complex securities and business litigation. This post is based on an article authored by Mr. Ferrillo and David J. Schwartz.

In our June 4, 2014 article on cyber security and cyber governance [1] we noted that for many reasons, boards of directors and executives of U.S. companies needed to reexamine how they protect (and respond to the successful hacking of) their most critical intellectual property and customer information. One of the reasons was that all signs out of Washington, D.C. pointed towards increasing federal regulation and oversight of cyber security for public and private companies, and particularly for those in the financial services sector. Further, we foresaw not only heightened scrutiny from regulators, but increasing class action litigation, with plaintiffs accusing boards and management of not taking the appropriate steps to protect company and client data. Our predictions were correct on all fronts.

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Correcting Some of the Flaws in the ABS Market

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.

Today [August 27, 2014] the Commission takes an important step to protect investors and promote capital formation, by enhancing the transparency of asset-backed securities (“ABS”) and by increasing the accountability of issuers of these securities. The securitization market is critical to our economy and can provide liquidity to nearly all the major economic sectors, including the automobile industry, the consumer credit industry, the leasing industry, and the commercial lending and credit markets.

Given the importance of this market, let’s also remember why we are here and the magnitude of the crisis in the ABS market. At the end of 2007, the ABS market consisted of more than $7 trillion of mortgage-backed securities and nearly $2.5 trillion of other outstanding ABS. However, by the fall of 2008, the securitization market had completely seized up. For example, in 2006 and 2007, new issuances of private-label residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) totaled $686 billion and $507 billion, respectively. In 2008, private-label RMBS issuance dropped to $9 billion, and flat-lined in 2009.

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How Efficient is Sufficient? Securities Litigation Post-Halliburton

The following post comes to us from Bradford Cornell at California Institute of Technology.

In its recent decision in Halliburton Co., et al. v Erica P. John Fund, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legal standard for reliance in Rule 10b-5 securities fraud class actions that it had established some 25 years ago in Basic, Inc. v. Levinson. This standard, known as the fraud-on-the market doctrine, created a rebuttable presumption that plaintiffs relied on the integrity of the market price if they can establish that the market for that security was efficient. Defendants can rebut this presumption in several ways, including showing that the market for the security was not efficient or that the security’s price was not affected by the misrepresentations at issue. In delivering its ruling, the Halliburton Court noted that market efficiency is not a binary, yes-or-no proposition but is instead a matter of degree, pointing out that “a public, material misrepresentation might not affect a stock’s price even in a generally efficient market.” (Halliburton, 573 U.S. ___ at 10.)

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The Spotlight on Boards

Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton.

The ever evolving challenges facing corporate boards prompts an updated snapshot of what is expected from the board of directors of a major public company—not just the legal rules, but also the aspirational “best practices” that have come to have almost as much influence on board and company behavior.

Boards are expected to:

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Employee Satisfaction, Labor Market Flexibility, and Stock Returns Around The World

The following post comes to us from Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at London Business School; and Lucius Li and Chendi Zhang, both of the Finance Group at the University of Warwick.

In our paper, Employee Satisfaction, Labor Market Flexibility, and Stock Returns Around The World, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN at, we study the relationship between employee satisfaction and abnormal stock returns around the world, using lists of the “Best Companies to Work For” in 14 countries.

Theory provides conflicting predictions as to whether employee satisfaction is beneficial or harmful to firm value. On the one hand, employee welfare can be a valuable tool for recruitment, retention, and motivation. For the typical 20th-century firm, the bulk of its value stemmed from its physical capital. In contrast, most modern firms’ key assets are their workers. Employee-friendly policies can attract high-quality workers to a firm and ensure that they remain within the firm, to form a source of sustainable competitive advantage.

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Commissioner Gallagher Offers Advice to Public Companies on Handling Proxy Advisors

The following post comes to us from Yafit Cohn, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum.

Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) authored a working paper, published last month by the Washington Legal Foundation, regarding the outsized power and influence of proxy advisory firms. [1] In his paper, Commissioner Gallagher provides his view of the most important aspects of Staff Legal Bulletin No. 20 (“SLB 20”), in which the SEC staff recently “moved toward addressing some of the serious issues” resulting from the emergence of proxy advisory firms as a dominant player in American corporate governance. Notably, Gallagher also offers some critical advice to public companies engaging with proxy advisory firms.

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