Tag: Capital structure

Ten Trends in SEC Enforcement Actions

Jonathan 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.

As 2015 winds down, we offer the following observations about ten important trends in SEC enforcement actions.

1. Increased Number of Enforcement Actions

The number of SEC enforcement actions continues to grow. In FY 2015, the SEC filed 807 enforcement actions, of which 507 were independent actions for violations of the securities laws and 300 were either follow-on actions (e.g., seeking bars against individuals based on prior orders) or actions against issuers who were delinquent in making required filings. This was up from 755 enforcement actions in 2014, of which 413 were independent actions, and that in turn was up from 676 enforcement actions in 2013, of which 341 were independent actions. Total monetary relief ordered rose from $3.4 billion in 2013 to $4.16 billion in 2014 to $4.19 billion in 2015.

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.


Financing Payouts

Joan Farre-Mensa is Assistant Professor of Business Management in the Entrepreneurial Unit at Harvard Business School. This post is based on the article, Financing Payouts, authored by Mr. Farre-Mensa, Roni Michaely, Professor of Finance at Cornell University, and Martin Schmalz, Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Michigan.

The established conventional wisdom in the finance literature is that firms rely on free cash flow to fund their payouts, whether these payouts are motivated by agency, signaling, or other considerations. In a popular finance textbook, Ross, Westfield, and Jaffe (2013) conclude that “a firm should begin making distributions when it generates sufficient internal cash flow to fund its investment needs now and into the foreseeable future.” Accordingly, they recommend managers to set their level of payouts “low enough to avoid expensive future external financing.” While it is a theoretical possibility that firms could also raise external funds to finance their payouts, such behavior is costly and thus often considered an “extreme payout policy” (DeAngelo, DeAngelo, and Skinner, 2008) that is “uneconomic as well as pointless” (Miller and Rock, 1985)—which likely explains why this possibility has gone unexamined until now.


A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America

The following post comes to us from John Graham, Professor of Finance at Duke University; Mark Leary of the Finance Area at Washington University in St. Louis; and Michael Roberts, Professor of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

In our paper, A Century of Capital Structure: The Leveraging of Corporate America, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we shed light on the evolution and determination of corporate financial policy by analyzing a unique panel data set containing accounting and financial market information for US nonfinancial publicly traded firms over the last century. Our analysis is organized around three questions. First, how have corporate capital structures changed over the past one hundred years? Second, do existing empirical models of capital structure account for these changes? And, third, if not explained by existing empirical models, what forces are behind variation in financial policy over the last century?


Financing as a Supply Chain

The following post comes to us from Will Gornall and Ilya Strebulaev, both of the Finance Area at Stanford University.

In our recent NBER working paper, Financing as a Supply Chain: The Capital Structure of Banks and Borrowers, we propose a novel framework to model joint debt decisions of banks and borrowers. Our framework combines the models used by bank regulators with the models used to explain capital structure in corporate finance. This structure can be used to explore the quantitative impact of government interventions such as deposit insurance, bailouts, and capital regulation.


Are Stock-Financed Takeovers Opportunistic?

The following post comes to us from B. Espen Eckbo, Professor of Finance at Dartmouth College; Tanakorn Makaew of the Department of Finance at the University of South Carolina; and Karin Thorburn, Professor of Finance at the Norwegian School of Economics.

In our paper, Are Stock-Financed Takeovers Opportunistic?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we present significant new empirical evidence relevant to the ongoing controversy over whether bidder shares in stock-financed mergers are overpriced. The extant literature is split on this issue, with some studies suggesting that investor misvaluation plays an important role in driving stock-financed mergers—especially during periods of high market valuations and merger waves. Others maintain the neoclassical view of merger activity where takeover synergies emanate from industry-specific productivity shocks. This debate is important because opportunities for selling overpriced bidder shares may result in the most overvalued rather than the most efficient bidder winning the target—distorting corporate resource allocation through the takeover market.


Bank Capital and Financial Stability

The following post comes to us from Anjan Thakor, Professor of Finance at Washington University in Saint Louis.

In the paper, Bank Capital and Financial Stability: An Economic Tradeoff or a Faustian Bargain?, forthcoming in the Annual Review of Financial Economics, I review the literature on the relationship between bank capital and stability. Higher capital contributes positively to financial stability. On this issue, there seems to be little disagreement. There is, however, disagreement in the literature on whether the high leverage in banking serves a socially-useful economic purpose, and whether regulators should permit banks to operate with such high leverage despite its pernicious effect on bank stability, and this disagreement seems at least as strong as that over the causes of the subprime crisis (Lo (2012)). Some of the disagreement over higher capital requirements is between those who emphasize the potential benefits of this in terms of reducing systemic risk and those who believe that sufficiently high capital requirements will generate various costs (e.g., lower lending and liquidity creation and the migration of key financial intermediation services to the unregulated sector).


How Does Corporate Governance Affect Bank Capitalization Strategies?

The following post comes to us from Deniz Anginer of the Department of Finance at Virginal Tech, Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Director of Research at the World Bank; Harry Huizinga, Professor of Economics at Tilburg University; and Kebin Ma of the World Bank.

In our paper, How Does Corporate Governance Affect Bank Capitalization Strategies?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how corporate governance and executive compensation affect bank capitalization strategies for an international sample of banks over the 2003-2011 period.

We find that ‘good’ corporate governance—or corporate governance that causes the bank to act in the interests of bank shareholders—engenders lower levels of bank capital. Specifically, we find that bank boards of intermediate size (big enough to escape capture by management, but small enough to avoid free rider problems within the board), separation of the CEO and chairman of the board roles, and an absence of anti-takeover provisions lead to lower capitalization rates. ‘Good’ corporate governance thus may be bad for bank stability and potentially entail high social costs. This disadvantage of ‘good’ corporate governance has be balanced with presumed benefits in terms of restricting management’s ability to perform less badly in other areas—for instance, by shirking or acquiring perks—at the expense of bank shareholders.


Cross-Border Schemes of Arrangement and Forum Shopping

The following post comes to us from Jennifer Payne, Professor of Corporate Finance Law at University of Oxford.

The English scheme of arrangement has existed for over a century as a flexible tool for reorganising a company’s capital structure. Schemes of arrangement can be used in a wide variety of ways. In theory a scheme of arrangement can be a compromise or arrangement between a company and its creditors or members about anything which they can properly agree amongst themselves. It is common to see both member-focused schemes and creditor-focused schemes. In practice the most common schemes are those which seek to transfer control of a company, as an alternative to a takeover offer, and those which restructure the debts of a financially distressed company with a view to rescuing the company or its business.

In recent years schemes of arrangement have proved popular as a restructuring tool not only for English companies but also for non-English companies. A number of recent high profile cases have allowed non-English companies to make use of the English scheme jurisdiction to restructure their debts, including Re Rodenstock GmbH [2011] EWHC 1104 (Ch), Primacom Holdings GmbH [2012] EWHC 164 (Ch), Re NEF Telecom Co BV [2012] EWHC 2944 (Comm), Re Cortefiel SA [2012] EWHC 2998 (Ch) and Re Seat Pagine Gialle SpA [2012] EWHC 3686 (Ch). Typically, these cases involve financially distressed companies registered in another EU Member State making use of an English scheme of arrangement without moving either their seat or Centre of Main Interest (COMI). In general, the main connection to England is the senior lenders’ choice of English law and English jurisdiction as governing their lending relationship with the company.


The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms

The following post comes to us from Alicia Robb, Senior Fellow with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and David Robinson, Professor of Finance at Duke University.

Understanding how capital markets affect the growth and survival of newly created firms is perhaps the central question of entrepreneurial finance. Yet, much of what we know about entrepreneurial finance comes from firms that are already established, have already received venture capital funding, or are on the verge of going public—the dearth of data on very-early-stage firms makes it difficult for researchers to look further back in firms’ life histories. Even data sets that are oriented toward small businesses do not allow us to measure systematically the decisions that firms make at their founding. This article uses a novel data set, the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS), to study the behavior and decision-making of newly founded firms. As such, it provides a first-time glimpse into the capital structure decisions of nascent firms.

In our paper, The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we use the confidential, restricted-access version of the KFS, which tracks nearly 5,000 firms from their birth in 2004 through their early years of operation. Because the survey identifies firms at their founding and follows the cohort over time, recording growth, death, and any later funding events, it provides a rich picture of firms’ early fund-raising decisions.