Category Archives: International Corporate Governance & Regulation

SEC Proposal on Resource Extraction Payments

Nicolas Grabar and Sandra L. Flow are partners in the New York office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum. The complete publication, including footnotes and Annex, is available here.

On December 11, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) issued a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) on disclosure of resource extraction payments, more than two years after a federal court vacated a prior version of the rule. The Proposed Rule is similar in many ways to the Commission’s original rule, adopted in August 2012 (the “2012 Rule”)—in large part because the Commission is implementing a detailed congressional directive contained in Section 1504 of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. However, in addition to addressing the deficiencies the court found in the original rulemaking, the Commission has made other notable changes to reflect global developments in transparency for resource extraction payments, particularly in the European Union and Canada.

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FinCEN: Know Your Customer Requirements

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Sean Joyce, Joseph Nocera, Jeff Lavine, Didier Lavion, and Armen Meyer.

In recent years, authorities in the US and abroad have increased their focus on modernizing and enforcing anti-money laundering and terrorism financing (AML) regulations. As part of these efforts, the US’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) proposed Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements in 2014, which we expect to be finalized this year. [1]

FinCEN’s KYC requirements were proposed as part of a broader regulation setting out the core elements of a customer due diligence program. [2] Taken together, these elements are intended to help financial institutions avoid illicit transactions by improving their view of their clients’ identities and business relationships.

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M&A at a Glance: 2015 Year-End Roundup

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. The complete publication, including figures, is available here.

Continuing the upward trend started in 2013, 2015 was a record-breaking year for M&A activity. Almost every measure tracked in our Year-End Roundup increased sharply both globally and in the U.S.

Globally, overall deal volume as measured by total deal value was $4,741 billion, which is 63.7% greater than in 2014 ($3,506 billion), and 83% greater than in 2013 ($2,591 billion). In the U.S., overall deal volume was $2,285 billion, which is 56% greater than in 2014 ($1,465 billion), and 133.4% greater than in 2013 ($979 billion). Strategic deal volume in 2015 increased from 2014 by 41.8% globally (from $2,620 billion to $3,715 billion), and by 63.9% in the U.S (from $1,040 billion to $1,705 billion). As a result of this growth, the ratio of strategic to sponsor-related deal volume in the U.S. increased from approximately 2:1 in both 2013 and 2014 to approximately 3:1 in 2015. (Figure 1 of the complete publication, available here). Average deal value in the U.S. was 12.1% higher in 2015 than in 2014. The average value of the ten largest “megadeals” in 2015 was approximately $44 billion, which is consistent with 2014, but more than 160% greater than the average value in 2013. (Figure 2.)
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White Collar and Regulatory Enforcement: What to Expect In 2016

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum.

One way in which we expect the white-collar/regulatory enforcement regime in 2016 to continue last year’s pattern is that the government’s appetite for extracting enormous fines and penalties from settling companies will likely continue unabated. However, as we discuss below, the manner in which well-advised companies facing criminal or serious regulatory investigations will seek to mitigate such fines and sanctions will likely change in some important respects in 2016. The reason for this expected change is that U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced late in 2015 that DOJ was formalizing a requirement that, in order to get “any” cooperation credit, companies must come forward with all available evidence identifying individuals responsible for the underlying misconduct subject to investigation.

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Inversions: Recent Developments

Peter J. Connors is a tax partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Jason M. Halper is a partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group. This post is based on an article authored by Mr. Connors and Mr. Halper, that was previously published in Law360.

In October 2015, press reports began appearing suggesting that Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and Allergan, an Irish publicly traded pharmaceutical company, were considering entering into the largest inversion in history. Within weeks, the IRS launched its latest missive against inversion transactions. It also put the tax community on notice that more regulatory activity was yet to come.

Companies invert primarily because of perceived disadvantages associated with the U.S. corporate tax system, which has one of the world’s highest tax rates and levies taxes on worldwide income, including income earned by foreign subsidiaries (generally referred to as “controlled foreign corporations”) when repatriated and, at times, prior to repatriation. In its broadest terms, an inversion is the acquisition of substantially all the assets of a U.S. corporation or partnership by a foreign corporation. If a transaction triggers Internal Revenue Code Section 7874, the post-transaction foreign corporation will be treated as a U.S. corporation, and gain that is otherwise recognized on the transaction will not be offset by tax attributes of the U.S. entity, such as net operating losses (NOLs).

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The Biases of an “Unbiased” Optional Takeover Regime

Marco Ventoruzzo is a comparative business law scholar with a joint appointment with the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and Bocconi University. This post is based on a recent article authored by Prof. Ventoruzzo and Johannes Fedderke, Professor of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University School of International Affairs.

The conundrum of the perfect balance between mandatory and enabling rules and the role of private ordering in takeover regulation is one of the most relevant and interesting issues regarding the optimal regime for acquisitions of listed corporations. The issue is rife with complex questions and implications, both from a more technical legal perspective and in terms of public choice.

In a recent and compelling article (available here and published in the Harvard Business Law Review in 2014, and discussed on the Forum here), Luca Enriques, Ron Gilson and Alessio Pacces have argued the desirability of an optional, default regime to regulate takeovers particularly in the European Union. According to this approach, which the proponents call “unbiased,” listed corporations should be allowed to opt out of the default regime and use private ordering to tailor more desirable rules on the “pillars” of the European approach: mandatory bid, board neutrality, and breakthrough. More precisely, they suggest a dichotomy, distinguishing already listed corporations and new IPOs: for the former, the default regime should be the one currently in place; for the latter, a regime crafted against the interests of the existing incumbents should be introduced. With adequate protections and procedural rules, the theory goes, it would be easier to achieve a more efficient regulatory structure.

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2015 Securities Law Developments

Jason M. Halper is a 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, Paul F. RuganiKatherine L. Maco, Katie Lieberg Stowe, and Suzette Pringle.

On balance, the securities litigation landscape in 2015 offered a glass half-full/glass half-empty perspective for issuers and their officers, directors and advisors. Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), the major securities law decision of the 2015 Supreme Court term, afforded defendants relatively greater protection from liability based on public statements of opinion, as long as those opinions are honestly held and have a reasonable factual basis. The SEC suffered several notable setbacks, with some federal courts striking as unconstitutional the highly debated conflict minerals rule and the SEC’s method of appointing administrative law judges. The Second Circuit significantly restricted federal prosecutors’ ability to pursue downstream recipients of non-public information, resulting in a spate of overturned convictions and withdrawn guilty pleas. And although decisions from lower courts within the Second Circuit dismissing derivative lawsuits will be subject to less deferential review, both the Second Circuit and the Delaware Supreme Court reaffirmed that decisions of independent and disinterested boards to reject stockholder demands are entitled to business judgment rule protection, thereby precluding minority shareholder second guessing in private lawsuits. Yet the results were not uniformly favorable to the defense. The SEC took an expansive view of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower anti-retaliation provision, formalizing its view that such protections apply to whistleblowers who allege retaliation for reporting internally (as opposed to reporting to the SEC). The Second Circuit endorsed the SEC’s view shortly thereafter. And, the early returns from last year’s second Supreme Court decision in Halliburton suggest that rebutting the Basic presumption of reliance through price impact evidence will be a lofty hurdle for defendants at the class certification stage. Below is a roundup of key securities law developments in 2015 and trends for 2016.

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Reputation Concerns of Independent Directors

Wei Jiang is Professor of Finance at Columbia University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Jiang; Hualin Wan, Associate Professor of Accounting at Shanghai Lixin University of Commerce; and Shan Zhao, Assistant Professor of Finance at Grenoble Ecole de Management.

Across the major world markets, institutional investors, stock exchanges and regulators have pushed publically listed firms to increase the number of independent directors on their boards. By 2013, 80% of directors of the S&P 1500 firms are independent, according to RiskMetric. Such a trend reflects a common belief that independent directors are effective monitors of management since they are not formally connected to firm insiders nor do they have material business relationship with the firm. However, it is unclear what incentivizes independent directors to monitor and potentially confront management, given that they are not significant shareholders, do not receive performance-sensitive compensation, and often owe their appointment to the managers they monitor.

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Where are the Best (Corporate) Law Professors Teaching?

Marco Ventoruzzo is a comparative business law scholar with a joint appointment with the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and Bocconi University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Ventoruzzo.

Are the best law professors teaching at the best law schools in the United States? And how can the best law schools around the world be evaluated in terms of the scholarship their professors produce? On this website we talk a lot about corporate governance, but what about the governance of scholars of corporate governance? Is the Emperor naked?

I recently wrote an essay that contributes to addressing these questions by examining empirically a specific issue: whether the top-ranking law schools employ the most productive, authoritative and influential scholars of corporate law. For the reasons I explain in the paper, corporate law can be used as an effective and useful proxy also for other areas.

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Global and Regional Trends in Corporate Governance in 2016

Anthony Goodman is a member of the Board Effectiveness Practice at Russell Reynolds Associates. This post is based on an Russell Reynolds publication authored by Mr. Goodman and Jack “Rusty” O’Kelley, III, available here.

Over the past few years, institutional investors have held boards increasingly accountable for company performance and have demanded greater transparency and engagement with directors. The real question investors are asking is How can we be sure we have a high-performing board in place? Most of the governance reforms currently under discussion globally attempt to address that question.

Around the world, large institutional investors continue to push hard for reforms that will enable them to elect independent non-executive directors who will constructively challenge management on strategy and hold executives accountable for performance (and pay them accordingly). When trust breaks down, activist investors (often hedge funds) move in to drive for change, often with institutional support.

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