Tag: Agency costs


Crowdfunding and the Digital Shareholder

Andrew A. Schwartz is an Associate Professor at University of Colorado Law School. This post is based on Professor Schwartz’s recent article published in The Minnesota Law Review, available here.

After several years of delay, Internet-based securities crowdfunding is finally poised to go live this year thanks to the SEC’s recent issuance of Regulation Crowdfunding. Through crowdfunding, people of modest means will for the first time be legally authorized to make investments that are currently offered exclusively to “accredited” (wealthy) investors. This democratization of entrepreneurial finance sounds great in theory, but will it work in practice? Will non-accredited investors really buy unregistered securities in speculative startups, over the Internet, with only the barest form of disclosure? The conventional wisdom among most legal scholars is, basically, no. In their view, securities crowdfunding is doomed to failure for myriad reasons, including fraud, [1] costs, [2] dilution, [3] adverse selection, [4] opportunism, [5] and more. [6]

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Corporate Control and Idiosyncratic Vision

Zohar Goshen is the Alfred W. Bressler Professor of Law, Columbia Law School and Professor of Law at Ono Academic College. Assaf Hamdani is the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz Professor of Corporate Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Goshen and Professor Hamdani.

Prominent technology firms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon, Yelp, and Alibaba have gone public with the controversial dual-class structure to allow their controlling shareholders to preserve their indefinite, uncontestable control over the corporation. Similarly, in the concentrated ownership structure, a person or entity—the controlling shareholder—holds an effective majority of the firm’s voting and equity rights to preserve control. Indeed, most public corporations around the world have controlling shareholders, and concentrated ownership has a significant presence in the United States as well. Unlike diversified minority shareholders, a controlling shareholder bears the extra costs of being largely undiversified and illiquid. Why, then, does she insist on holding a control block?

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Private Equity Portfolio Company Fees

Ludovic Phalippou is an Associate Professor of Finance at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Phalippou; Christian Rauch, Barclays Career Development Fellow in Entrepreneurial Finance at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; and Marc Umber, Assistant Professor of Corporate Finance at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management.

When private equity firms sponsor a takeover, they may charge fees to the target company while some of the firm’s partners sit on the company’s board of directors. In the wake of the global financial crisis, such potential for conflicts of interest became a public policy focus. On July 21st 2015, thirteen state and city treasurers wrote to the SEC to ask for private equity firms to reveal all of the fees that they charge investors. The SEC announced on October 7th 2015, that it “will continue taking action against advisers that do not adequately disclose their fees and expenses” following a settlement by Blackstone for $39 million over accelerated monitoring fees.

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Executive Optimism, Option Exercise, and Share Retention

Robert Tumarkin is Senior Lecturer of Finance at the University of New South Wales. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Tumarkin and Rik Sen, Assistant Professor of Finance at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Optimism shows up as a pervasive bias in experimental and real-life settings. In the business world, executive optimism is believed to influence a wide range of corporate decisions and policies. However, determining whether an executive is optimistic is not straightforward. Corporate communications featuring key executives can be heavily rehearsed, with words carefully chosen to hide any biases. Interviews with executives may reveal the biases of journalists more than that of the executives.

In our paper, Stocking Up: Executive Optimism, Option Exercise, and Share Retention, recently featured in the Journal of Financial Economics, we propose a robust empirical measure of executive optimism. This measure, which we call Share retainer, is based on observing an executive’s stock transactions that coincide with option exercise. It is motivated by our examination of the optimal option exercise and portfolio choice problem of an optimistic executive who faces a short-sale constraint on company stock.
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Employee Rights and Acquisitions

Anzhela Knyazeva is a Financial Economist at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on an article authored by Dr. Knyazeva, Diana Knyazeva, Financial Economist at the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Kose John, Professor in Banking and Finance at New York University. The views expressed in this post are those of Dr. Knyazeva and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission or its Staff.

 

In our paper, Employee Rights and Acquisitions, which was recently featured in the Journal of Financial Economics, we consider incentive conflicts involving employees, and how they may affect firms in the context of acquisitions. More specifically, we look at the effects of variation in employee protections on shareholder value, the choice of targets, and deal characteristics.  We focus on acquisitions since they are major firm investment decisions with the potential to substantially affect firm value.

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Corporate Governance Responses to Director Rule Changes

Cindy Vojtech is an Economist at the Federal Reserve Board. This post is based on an article authored by Dr. Vojtech and Benjamin Kay, Economist at the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research.

Much of the corporate governance literature has been plagued by endogeneity problems. In our paper, Corporate Governance Responses to Director Rule Changes, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we use a law change as a natural experiment to test how firms adjust the choice and magnitude of governance tools given a floor level of monitoring from independent directors. Through this analysis, we can recover the structural relationship between inputs in the governance production function. We study these relationships with a new board of director dataset with a much larger range of firm size.

In 2002, U.S. stock exchanges and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act established minimum standards for director independence. These director rules altered firm choice of other tools for mitigating agency problems. On average, treated firms do not increase the size of their board, instead inside directors are replaced with outside directors.

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On Secondary Buyouts

François Degeorge is Professor of Finance at the University of Lugano This post is based on an article authored by Professor Degeorge; Jens Martin, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Amsterdam; and Ludovic Phalippou, Associate Professor of Finance at Saïd Business School, Oxford University.

Twenty years ago, private equity (PE) firms seeking to exit sold their portfolio companies to another company in the same industry or organized an IPO. Nowadays, 40 percent of PE exits occur through secondary buyouts (SBOs), transactions in which a PE firm sells a portfolio company to another PE firm. The rise of SBOs has elicited concerns among PE investors (the limited partners with stakes in private equity funds): Does the rise of SBOs mean that PE firms have run out of investment ideas? Do SBOs create or destroy value for investors? Our paper, On Secondary Buyouts, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, provides answers to these questions.

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The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation

Frances M. Tice is Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This post is based on an article authored by Ms. Tice.

In the paper, The Effect of Relative Performance Evaluation on Investment Efficiency and Firm Performance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I examine the effect of explicit relative performance evaluation (RPE) on managers’ investment decisions and firm performance. Principal-agent theory suggests that firms can motivate managers to act in shareholders’ interest by linking their compensation to firm performance. However, firm performance is often affected by exogenous factors, and as a result, performance-based compensation may expose managers to common risk that they cannot directly control. In such cases, RPE enables the principal to compensate managers on their effort and events under their control by removing the effect of common shocks from measured performance, thus improving risk sharing and incentive alignment. However, RPE use as implemented in practice may not be effective in addressing agency costs because of potential peer group issues, such as availability of firms with common risk or a self-serving bias in peer selection. In addition, prior research also suggests that a large gap in ability between the RPE firm and peers (“superstar effect”) may actually reduce managers’ effort because the probability of winning is low. Therefore, the question of whether explicit RPE use in executive compensation does indeed reduce agency costs remains unanswered in the empirical literature.

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Banker Loyalty in Mergers and Acquisitions

Andrew F. Tuch is Associate Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law. This post is based on an article authored by Dr. Tuch, 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.

As recent decisions of the Delaware Court of Chancery illustrate, investment banks can face conflicts of interest in their role as advisors on merger and acquisition (“M&A”) transactions. In a trilogy of recent decisions—Del Monte[1] El Paso [2] and Rural Metro [3]—the court signaled its concern, making clear that potentially disloyal investment banking conduct may lead to Revlon breaches by corporate directors and even expose bank advisors (“M&A advisors”) themselves to aiding and abetting liability. But the law is developing incrementally, and uncertainty remains as to the proper obligations of M&A advisors and the directors who retain them. For example, are M&A advisors in this context properly regarded as fiduciaries and thus obliged to act loyally toward their clients; gatekeepers, and thus expected to perform a guardian-like function for investors; or simply arm’s length counterparties with no other-regarding duties? [4] The Chancery Court in Rural Metro potentially muddied the waters by labelling M&A advisors as gatekeepers and—in an underappreciated part of its opinion—by also suggesting they act consistently with “established fiduciary norms.” [5]

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New Direction from Delaware on Merger Litigation Settlements

David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; William Savitt is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum, 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.

In a series of rulings culminating in a recent memorandum opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery has reset the rules for settling merger-related litigation. In re Riverbed Tech. Inc. S’holders Litig., C.A. No. 10484-VCG (Del. Ch. Sept. 17, 2015).

Nearly every public company merger now draws class action litigation, and the great majority of these suits have long been resolved by “disclosure-only” settlements in which the target company makes supplemental disclosures related to the merger in exchange for a broad class-wide release of claims. The only money that changes hands is an award of fees for the plaintiff’s lawyers. In recent bench rulings, members of the Court of Chancery have noted that these settlements seem to provide very little benefit to stockholders and questioned whether plaintiffs and their counsel had investigated their claims sufficiently to justify what some judges call the customary “intergalactic” release of all potential claims relating to a challenged merger.

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