Monthly Archives: October 2015

Delaware Court Refinement of Director Independence Analysis

Ariel J. Deckelbaum is a partner and deputy chair of the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum by Mr. Deckelbaum, Justin G. Hamill, Stephen P. LambJeffrey D. Marell, Frances Mi, and Matthew D. Stachel. 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.

In Delaware County Employees Retirement Fund, et al. v. Sanchez, et al., the Delaware Supreme Court held that stockholder plaintiffs in a derivative action adequately alleged facts to support a pleading-stage inference that a director was not independent from an interested director due to their close, 50-year friendship and significant business relationships consistent with that friendship. The court thus reversed the Delaware Court of Chancery’s holding on the defendants’ motion to dismiss that the plaintiffs had failed to adequately plead demand excusal. The court emphasized that Delaware courts must analyze all the particularized facts pled by the plaintiffs “in their totality and not in isolation from each other.”

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Enforcement Discretion at the SEC

David Zaring is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Zaring.

The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act allowed the Securities & Exchange Commission to bring almost any claim that it can file in federal court to its own Administrative Law Judges. The agency has since taken up this power against a panoply of alleged insider traders and other perpetrators of securities fraud. Many targets of SEC ALJ enforcement actions have sued on equal protection, due process, and separation of powers grounds, seeking to require the agency to sue them in court, if at all.

The SEC has vigorously—and, my article argues, correctly—defended its power to choose where it sues. Agencies have always enjoyed unfettered discretion to choose their enforcement targets and their policy making fora. Formal adjudication under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which is the process SEC ALJs offer, has been with us for decades, and has never before been thought to be unconstitutional in any way. It violates no rights, nor offends the separation of powers; if anything scholars have bemoaned the fact that it offers inefficiently large amounts of process to defendants, administered by insulated civil servants who in no way threaten the president’s control over the executive branch. Nonetheless, because defendants, advised by high profile lawyers, have raised appointments clause, due process, equal protection, and right to a jury trial claims against the agency, the article reviews the reasons why these claims will fail, and discusses the timing issues that have led the two appellate courts to address the claims to dismiss them as prematurely brought.

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Boards and Internal Audit

Ruby Sharma is a principal with the EY Center for Board Matters. The following post is based on a report from the EY Center for Board Matters, available here.

The role of the board has always been an important and demanding one, but today’s board members face increasingly complex challenges in overseeing an organization’s risk management, including:

  • Demands for greater accountability from investors
  • Increasingly complex regulatory oversight
  • Sluggish economic growth
  • The convergence of industries
  • Disruptive new technologies
  • Scarcity of resources and the effects of a changing climate
  • Human capital and talent management challenges

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Broker-dealers: Lock in your Liquidity

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Adam Gilbert, Grace Vogel, Armen Meyer, and Peter Melz.

The credit crisis of 2008 highlighted the criticality of effective liquidity management and demonstrated the difficulties broker-dealers face without adequate funding sources. In response, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) has been taking steps to impose new requirements that will impact many broker-dealers, especially those that hold inventory positions or that clear and carry customer transactions.

Following up on guidance issued in November of 2010, FINRA last month issued new liquidity risk management guidance after a year-long liquidity review of 43 member firms under a stressed environment.

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Is Proxy Access Inevitable?

Holly J. Gregory is a partner and co-global coordinator of the Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation group at Sidley Austin LLP. The following post is based on a Sidley update by Ms. Gregory, John P. Kelsh, Thomas J. Kim, Rebecca Grapsas, and Claire H. Holland. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about proxy access include Lucian Bebchuk’s The Case for Shareholder Access to the Ballot and The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise (discussed on the Forum here), and Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

This post revises our August 3, 2015 post to include additional information relating to the prevalence of certain types of proxy access provisions. In particular, the charts included in Appendix A and Appendix B highlight, on a company-by-company basis, the following terms of proxy access provisions adopted so far this year.

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SEC Proposed Amendments to Rules for Administrative Proceedings

Barry R. Goldsmith is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Goldsmith, Joel CohenMarc J. Fagel, Monica K. Loseman, and Mark Schonfeld.

On September 24, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had voted to propose amendments to rules governing its administrative proceedings. SEC Chair Mary Jo White noted that the “proposed amendments seek to modernize our rules of practice for administrative proceedings, including provisions for additional time and prescribed discovery for the parties.” [1] These proposals follow the SEC’s June 2014 announcement that it intended to bring more cases through administrative proceedings rather than in federal court [2] and the release of the Division of Enforcement’s May 2015 guidance entitled “Approach to Forum Selection in Contested Actions,” explaining how the SEC chooses between administrative proceedings and federal court to litigate its claims. [3]
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Omnicare in Action: City of Westland Decision

Aric H. Wu is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Wu and Michael J. Kahn.

When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), plaintiff and defense counsel had warring views on what its practical impact would be, particularly at the motion to dismiss stage of securities class actions brought under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. A recent decision from the Southern District of New York, City of Westland Police and Fire Retirement System v. MetLife, Inc., 2015 WL 5311196 (S.D.N.Y Sept. 11, 2015) (Kaplan, J.), shows that Omnicare will serve as a meaningful bar to plaintiffs who seek to base federal securities law claims on statements of opinion, but cannot plead sufficient underlying facts.

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Exception to Attorney-Client Privilege in Shareholder Suits

William Savitt is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savitt, Jonathan M. Moses, Kevin Schwartz, and Nathaniel D. Cullerton.

The New York appellate court overseeing cases arising in Manhattan last week clarified and limited the circumstances in which corporations are obligated to produce confidential attorney-client communications to stockholder plaintiffs in the context of derivative litigation. Nama Holdings, LLC v. Greenberg Traurig LLP, No. 14738-14739N, 2015 WL 5839311 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dep’t. Oct. 8, 2015). The decision endorsed a multi-factored approach to determining when shareholder plaintiffs have established “good cause” for production of privileged communications.

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The New European Model Company Act

Marco Ventoruzzo is a comparative business law scholar with a joint appointment with the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and Bocconi University.

On September 10 and 11, 2015, at the annual conference of the European Company and Financial Law Review at WU University in Vienna, the “European Model Company Act” (“EMCA”) made its debut to an audience of corporate law professors, practitioners and judges, introduced to society by its drafters (your correspondent must disclose that, while not involved in the drafting of the EMCA, he is one of the editors of the journal co-organizing the event, and was one of the discussants of the document).

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2016 Proxy Season Update

Laura D. Richman is counsel and Michael L. Hermsen is partner at Mayer Brown LLP. This post is based on a Mayer Brown Legal update, available here, authored by Laura D. Richman, Robert F. Gray, Michael L. Hermsen, Elizabeth A. Raymond, and David A. Schuette.

It is time for public companies to think about the upcoming 2016 proxy and annual reporting season. Preparation of proxy statements and annual reports requires a major commitment of corporate resources. Companies have to gather a great deal of information to produce the necessary disclosures. In addition, with increasing frequency, companies are choosing to implement the required elements of their proxy statements with a focus on shareholder engagement, seeking to clearly present, and effectively advocate for, their positions on annual meeting agenda items. As the process for the 2016 proxy and annual reporting season begins, there are a number of recent developments that public companies should be aware of that will impact current and future seasons.

This post is divided into five sections covering the following topics:

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