Tag: Accountability


PCAOB Adopts Disclosure Rule

Avrohom J. Kess is partner and head of the Public Company Advisory Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. This post is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum by Mr. Kess and Yafit Cohn.

On December 15, 2015, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) issued a new rule and related amendments to its auditing standards that require accounting firms to disclose, in a new PCAOB form, specified information regarding the engagement partner and other accounting firms that participated in the audit. [1]

The PCAOB’s New Rule

The PCAOB’s final rule requires accounting firms to disclose, on Form AP, Auditor Reporting of Certain Audit Participants, the following information for each completed issuer audit:

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Political Values, Culture, and Corporate Litigation

Danling Jiang is Associate Professor of Finance at Florida State University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Jiang; Irena Hutton, Associate Professor of Finance at Florida State University; and Alok Kumar, Professor of Finance at the University of Miami.

In our paper, Political Values, Culture, and Corporate Litigation, published in the latest issue of Management Science, we examine whether the political culture of a firm defines its ethical and legal boundaries as observed by the propensity for corporate misconduct. Using one of the largest samples of litigation data to date, we show that firms with Republican culture are more likely to be the subject of civil rights, labor, and environmental litigation than Democratic firms, consistent with the Democratic ideology that emphasizes equal rights, labor rights, and environmental protection. However, firms with Democratic culture are more likely to be the subject of litigation related to securities fraud and intellectual property rights violations than Republican firms whose Party ideology stresses self-reliance, property rights, market discipline, and limited government regulation.

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Board Governance: Higher Expectations, but Better Practices?

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Jeff Lavine, Adam Gilbert, and Armen Meyer. The complete publication, including appendix, is available here.

The board’s role in risk governance continues to attract the attention of regulators who demand that the appropriate risk tone be set at the top of financial institutions. While the largest US banks have made significant progress toward meeting these expectations, many institutions still have a lot of work to do.

Our observations of the policies and practices of the largest US banks indicate that boards have undergone structural and functional transformation in recent years. We are finding that this transformation has been fueled not only by banks’ need to satisfy regulators, but also by their own realization of the benefits of stronger risk governance. We believe the post-crisis regulatory requirements and heightened expectations for risk governance, when fully implemented, will lead to improvements in the board’s understanding of risk taking activities and position the board to more effectively challenge management’s actions when necessary.

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Governance Challenges When Gatekeepers are “Chilled”

Michael W. Peregrine is a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Peregrine, with assistance from Joshua T. BuchmanEugene I. Goldman, and Kelsey J. Leingang; the views expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the views of McDermott Will & Emery LLP or its clients.

An emerging governance challenge is the need to address the tension between the pursuit of legitimate corporate strategic goals, and the concerns of internal “gatekeepers” who perceive themselves at increasing personal legal risk for corporate wrongdoing. This challenge is a direct byproduct of new enforcement initiatives of the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other recent developments with respect to corporate officials.

The concern is that these developments may cause some gatekeepers and other corporate officials to be much more self-protective in performing their corporate and fiduciary responsibilities, to the possible detriment of strategic implementation. Attentive boards will acknowledge this challenge and engage its gatekeepers in an appropriate resolution.

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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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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 by Mr. Grabar, Ms. Flow, Nina E. Bell, and Daniel Chor.

On December 11, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a proposed rule on disclosure of resource extraction payments, over two years after a federal court vacated a prior version of the rule. The new proposal is similar in many ways to the SEC’s original rule, adopted in August 2012—in large part because the SEC 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 SEC 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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SEC Enforcement Actions Against Broker-Dealers

Jon N. Eisenberg is partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

In its 2015 Financial Report, the SEC repeated its view that one of the two principal purposes of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 is to ensure that “people who sell and trade securities—brokers, dealers and exchanges—must treat investors fairly and honestly, putting investors’ interests first.” Broker-dealers have been and remain a critical focus of the Commission’s enforcement program. In the first 11 months of 2015, the SEC brought enforcement actions against broker-dealers in approximately two dozen distinct areas, with sanctions ranging from less than $100,000 to nearly $180 million.

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Looking Back at the SEC’s Transformation

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement; 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.

I started my tenure as an SEC Commissioner in the late summer of 2008, only a few weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial turmoil that followed, and only a few months before one of the largest financial frauds in U.S. history—the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme—was exposed. Beyond their obviously substantial impact on the capital markets and the greater economy, these historical events demonstrated that the Commission needed to change and adapt if it was to continue to be an effective regulator. Indeed, in late 2008 and in 2009, the continuing existence of the Commission was a matter of serious speculation. Thus, whether by coincidence or circumstance—some would say a fate of timing—it is not surprising that my tenure has corresponded with one of the most transformational periods in the SEC’s august history.

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Individual Indemnity Protections After the “Yates Memo”

Joseph A. Hall is a Partner and member of the Corporate Department at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. This post is based on a Davis Polk memorandum authored by Mr. Hall, John A. Bick, Melissa Glass, and Louis L. Goldberg. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On November 16, 2015, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates gave a speech regarding the implementation of the Department of Justice’s recent policy initiatives to facilitate the prosecution of individuals in corporate cases outlined in the “Yates Memo,” issued on September 9, 2015. These policy initiatives have now been incorporated in the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual. There is some debate about what is new in the Yates memo and what the potential implications for companies and their directors and officers may be, but one thing is clear—the question of individual liability is on the front burner once again. As evidence, note that Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division William Baer recently emphasized the potential for increased civil accountability for individuals as a result of the Yates Memo, and stated that the Antitrust Division in particular was assessing whether there should be more individual liability in civil antitrust investigations. Unsurprisingly, we are now increasingly advising clients on the implications for individual indemnity protections and D&O insurance policies.

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Does Majority Voting Improve Board Accountability?

Edward B. Rock is the Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Business Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School. This post is based on a paper, Does Majority Voting Improve Board Accountability?, authored by Professor Rock, Stephen J. Choi, Murray and Kathleen Bring Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law, Jill E. Fisch, Perry Golkin Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Marcel Kahan, George T. Lowy Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

Directors have traditionally been elected by a plurality of the votes cast (the Plurality Voting Rule or PVR). This means that the candidates who receive the most votes are elected, even if a candidate does not receive a majority of the votes cast. Indeed, in uncontested elections, a candidate who receives even a single vote is elected. Proponents of “shareholder democracy” have advocated a shift to a Majority Voting Rule (MVR), under which a candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast to be elected. This, proponents say, will make directors more accountable to shareholders.

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