Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Next Frontier for Boards, Oversight of Risk Culture

Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. This post relates to an issue of The Conference Board’s Director Notes series authored by Parveen P. Gupta and Tim Leech. The complete publication, including footnotes and Appendix, is available here.

Over the past 15 years expectations for board oversight have skyrocketed. In 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley Act put the spotlight on board oversight of financial reporting. The 2008 global financial crisis focused regulatory attention on the need to improve board oversight of management’s risk appetite and tolerance. Most recently, in the wake of a number of high-profile personal data breaches, questions are being asked about board oversight of cyber-security, the newest risk threatening companies’ long term success. This post provides a primer on the next frontier for boards: oversight of “risk culture.”

Weak “risk culture” has been diagnosed as the root cause of many large and, in the words of the Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, “egregious” corporate governance failures. Deficient risk and control management processes, IT security, and unreliable financial reporting are increasingly seen as mere symptoms of a “bad” or “deficient” risk culture. The new challenge that corporate directors face is how to diagnose and oversee the company’s risk culture and what actions to take if it is found to be deficient.

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Illegality and Hardball in Government’s Nationalization of AIG

Lawrence A. Cunningham is Henry St. George Tucker III Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School. This post builds on Professor Cunningham’s recent article published in The National Interest, available here. Professor Cunningham is co-author with Hank Greenberg, former chairman and CEO of American International Group (AIG), of The AIG Story.

Suppose your bank offers to lend you money to buy a home, and even if you repaid the loan, the bank would retain ownership of your home as well. Would you sign up? Would you expect a business organization to accept equivalent loan-plus-forfeiture terms? I don’t think so but that is what the U.S. government’s “bailout” of American International Group (AIG) involved and one reason a federal judge has declared it an illegal exaction in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

In the fall of 2008, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner demanded the permanent surrender of nearly an 80% stake in AIG as “security” for a usurious loan. They then fired AIG’s CEO, replaced its board members, took control of all the company’s affairs, and divested nearly half the company’s worldwide assets in a series of fire sales—all while using subterfuge and deception to avoid a shareholder vote the officials agreed was required and promised would be held.

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Basel III Liquidity Framework: Final Net Stable Funding Ratio Disclosure Standards

Andrew R. Gladin is a partner in the Financial Services and Corporate and Finance Groups at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication authored by Mr. Gladin, Mark J. Welshimer, Andrea R. Tokheim, and Christopher F. Nenno.

Last week, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (the “Basel Committee”) published final standards (the “Final Disclosure Standards”) for the disclosure of information relating to banks’ net stable funding ratio (the “NSFR”) calculations. [1] The Final Disclosure Standards were adopted substantially as proposed in December 2014. [2]

The NSFR, which the Basel Committee adopted in final form in October 2014, [3] is one of the key standards, along with the liquidity coverage ratio (the “LCR”), [4] introduced by the Basel Committee to strengthen liquidity risk management as part of the Basel III framework. The NSFR is designed to promote more medium- and long-term funding of the assets and activities of banks over a one-year time horizon. The Final Disclosure Standards, in turn, are part of the broader so-called Pillar 3 disclosure regime (along with disclosure requirements in capital rules as well as the LCR-related disclosure framework) and are designed to “improve the transparency of regulatory funding …, enhance market discipline, and reduce uncertainty in the markets as the NSFR is implemented.” [5]

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Federal Reserve Provides Guidance on Bank M&A

Edward D. Herlihy is a partner and co-chairman of the Executive Committee at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The following post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Herlihy, Richard K. Kim, and Matthew M. Guest.

The Federal Reserve Board approved BB&T’s application to acquire Susquehanna Bancshares earlier this week and set the stage for an August 1 closing—just over eight months from the date of announcement. The BB&T/Susquehanna transaction will be the largest U.S. bank merger in recent years to close within this timeframe. This acquisition follows closely after the timely approval of two other smaller acquisitions by BB&T, of Bank of Kentucky in June and of former Citibank branches in Texas in February. The series of promptly completed transactions reflects well on BB&T’s M&A and regulatory approach and continues its long history of successful deal-making.

Also very recently, another successful and acquisitive bank, Sterling Bancorp, completed its acquisition of Hudson Valley Holding Corp. This transaction was transformative in taking Sterling above $10 billion in assets—an important threshold for regulatory purposes which triggers requirements for annual stress tests, caps on debit card interchange fees and other new requirements. Again, the transaction was completed within 8 months of announcement and in line with market expectations, despite protests by community groups pursuant to the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”).

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Merger Price and Process Win the Day Yet Again In Delaware Appraisal Action

Jason M. Halper is partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. This post is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper and Gregory Beaman. 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.

On June 30, 2015, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a post-trial opinion in which it yet again rejected a dissenting shareholder’s attempt to extract consideration for its shares above the merger price through appraisal rights. See LongPath Capital, LLC v. Ramtron Int’l Corp., Slip. Op. June 30, 2015, C.A. No. 8094-VCP (Del. Ch. June 30, 2015). LongPath is just the latest decision in which the Chancery Court has upheld merger price as the most reliable indicator of fair value where it was the result of a fair and adequate process. Vice Chancellor Parsons’ opinion reaffirms the importance of merger price and process in Delaware appraisal actions, and offers helpful guidance to companies, directors and their counsel in defending against claims that the company was sold at too low a price.

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SPAC-and-Span: A Clean Exit?

Carol Anne Huff is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis who practices corporate and securities laws, with an emphasis on the representation of private equity firms and public companies in capital markets transactions and in mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. The following post is based on a Kirkland memorandum by Ms. Huff and Daniel Wolf.

While robust M&A and IPO markets have given investors solid liquidity options, in some cases selling a company to a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, can be an appealing alternative. Recent examples in the United States include the $500 million acquisition by Levy Acquisition Corp. of Del Taco in June 2015 and the pending $879 million acquisition by Boulevard Acquisition Corp. of AgroFresh Inc., a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company. In the UK, notable examples include Burger King going public in 2012 through a $1.4 billion merger with a UK SPAC.

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Delaware LLC and Partnership Law

Gregory P. Williams is chair of the Corporate Department at Richards, Layton & Finger. This post is based on a Richards, Layton & Finger publication, 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.

Delaware has recently adopted legislation amending the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act (LLC Act), the Delaware Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act (LP Act) and the Delaware Revised Uniform Partnership Act (GP Act) (collectively, the LLC and Partnership Acts). The following is a brief summary of some of the more significant amendments that affect Delaware limited liability companies (Delaware LLCs), Delaware limited partnerships (Delaware LPs) and Delaware general partnerships (Delaware GPs).

Default Class or Group Voting Requirements Eliminated

The LLC Act and the LP Act have been amended to eliminate the default class or group voting requirements in connection with the merger or consolidation, transfer or continuance, conversion, dissolution and winding up of a Delaware LLC or Delaware LP and the termination and winding up of a series of a Delaware LLC or Delaware LP. The recent amendments provide that, in connection with the foregoing matters, the default class or group voting requirements under the LLC Act and the LP Act, as in effect on July 31, 2015, will continue to apply to a Delaware LLC or Delaware LP whose original certificate of formation or certificate of limited partnership was filed with the Delaware Secretary of State and is effective on or before July 31, 2015, unless otherwise provided in a limited liability company agreement or partnership agreement.

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Florida SBA Proxy Contest Voting Decisions Drive Shareowner Value

Michael McCauley is Senior Officer, Investment Programs & Governance, of the Florida State Board of Administration (the “SBA”). This post relates to an SBA report authored by Mr. McCauley, Jacob Williams, Tracy Stewart, Hugh Brown, and Michael Levin.

The State Board of Administration (SBA) of Florida recently completed a first-of-its-kind empirical analysis of an institutional investor’s proxy voting decisions involving dual board nominees and their impact on portfolio value. The study examined the SBA’s own voting decisions covering proxy contests occurring between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2014 at U.S.-domiciled companies with market capitalizations exceeding $100 million. The SBA’s total investment across all examined companies, at the time of the initial announcement of the proxy contest, equaled $1.9 billion. The study also provides coverage of the types of activist fund campaigns, level of activity, and several specific proxy vote case studies.

The authors of the study believe the quantitative results provide evidence of a sound analytical framework employed by SBA staff in evaluating proxy contests, and the historical proxy voting decisions enhanced portfolio performance through improved investment returns over both short and long time periods. Among SBA votes to support one or more dissident nominees where the dissident won seats, the company’s subsequent 1, 3, and 5-year relative cumulative stock performance was positive, at levels of 12%, 21%, and 26%, respectively. The same returns for cases where SBA supported the dissident but management won all seats were negative, at -14%, -16%, and -15%. The study demonstrates that the proxy voting decisions of investors can have significant and positive economic effects on portfolio value.

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Second Circuit Decision Could Disrupt Secondary Market for Bank-Originated Loans

Bryan Chegwidden is partner and co-leader of the Investment Management Group at Ropes & Gray LLP. This post is based on a Ropes & Gray alert.

A May 22, 2015 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appears to disturb the generally settled body of law concerning the status of non-bank investors with respect to applicable usury laws for bank-originated loans. As assignees of a national bank, such non-bank investors were generally deemed to stand in the shoes of the bank with respect to applicable usury laws. However, in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, [1] the Second Circuit rejected this principle and held that the usury laws of the debtor’s jurisdiction could apply to non-bank investors. Consequently, unless reversed, Madden could significantly disrupt the secondary market for bank loans originated by national banks, as well as affect the valuation of such loans already held by non-bank investors. Bank lenders, securitization platforms and non-bank investors, including specialty debt funds, could be affected.

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Attorney-Whistleblowing and Conflicting Regulatory Regimes

Jennifer M. Pacella is Assistant Professor of Law at City University of New York (CUNY), Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College.

In my latest article, Conflicted Counselors: Retaliation Protections for Attorney-Whistleblowers in an Inconsistent Regulatory Regime, I examine the ever-evolving issue of attorney-whistleblowing, the reporting requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”) of attorneys representing issuer-clients, the potential for conflict of these requirements with the rules of professional conduct in various states, and the lack of retaliation protections for attorneys subject to these rules. Although attorney-whistleblowing undoubtedly invokes concerns about ethics and client relationships, SOX requires attorneys who “appear and practice” before the Securities and Exchange Commission to internally blow the whistle on their clients by reporting evidence of material violations of the law “up-the-ladder” when they represent issuers. If an attorney fails to adhere to these requirements, he/she will be subject to SEC-imposed civil penalties and disciplinary action. The SOX rules also allow an attorney to make a permissive disclosure to the SEC, revealing confidential information without the issuer-client’s consent, in certain instances, including when the attorney reasonably believes necessary to prevent substantial financial injury to the issuer.

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