Tag: Financial reporting


The Real Effects of Share Repurchases

Mathias Kronlund is Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Kronlund; Heitor Almeida, Professor of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Vyacheslav Fos, Assistant Professor of Finance at Boston College.

Companies face intense pressure from activist shareholders, institutional investors, the government, and the media to put their cash to good use. Existing evidence suggests that share repurchases are a good way for companies to return cash to investors, since cash-rich companies tend to generate large abnormal returns when announcing new repurchase programs. However, some observers argue that the cash that is spent on repurchase programs should instead be used to increase research and employment, and that the recent increase in share repurchases is undermining the recovery from the recent recession and hurting the economy’s long-term prospects. Repurchases have also been cited as an explanation for why the increase in corporate profitability in the years after the recession has not resulted in higher growth in employment, and overall economic prosperity.

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Fed Rules on CFO Attestation Requirements

This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell LLP publication authored by Andrew R. Gladin, Mark J. Welshimer, and Sarah C. Flowers. The complete publication, including Annexes, is available here.

On January 21, 2016, the Federal Reserve published in the Federal Register a final rule (the “Final Rule”) [1] modifying Forms FR Y-14A, FR Y-14Q and FR Y-14M (collectively, the “FR Y-14 Forms”). Most notably, the Final Rule requires the chief financial officer (“CFO”) of each bank holding company (“BHC”) that is overseen by the Federal Reserve’s Large Institution Supervision Coordinating Committee (the “LISCC Firms”) and that reports on the FR Y-14 Forms to make attestations regarding those forms and to “agree to report material weaknesses and any material errors in the data” reported on those forms.

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A New Measure of Disclosure Quality

Shuping Chen is Professor of Accounting at the University of Texas at Austin. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Chen; Bin Miao, Assistant Professor of Accounting at the National Singapore University; and Terry Shevlin, Professor of Accounting at UC Irvine.

In our paper, A New Measure of Disclosure Quality: The Level of Disaggregation of Accounting Data in Annual Reports, recently featured in the Journal of Accounting Research, we develop a new measure of disclosure quality (DQ), which captures the level of disaggregation of accounting line items in firms’ annual reports, with greater disaggregation indicating higher disclosure quality. This measure is based on the premise that more detailed disclosure gives investors and lenders more information for valuation (Fairfield et al., 1996; Jegadeesh and Livnat 2006) and a higher level of disaggregation enhances the credibility of firms’ financial reports (Hirst et al. 2007; D’Souza et al. 2010).

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FAST Act: Capital Formation Changes and Reduced Disclosure Burdens

Stacy J. Kanter is co-head of the global Corporate Finance practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. This post is based on a Skadden alert by Ms. Kanter, David J. Goldschmidt, Michael J. Zeidel, and Brian V. Breheny.

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which, despite its name, contains several new provisions designed to facilitate capital formation and reduce disclosure burdens imposed on companies under the federal securities laws. The provisions build upon the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), which created a new category of issuers called “emerging growth companies” (EGCs) [1] and sought to encourage EGCs to go public in the United States. [2] The FAST Act provisions, which were first introduced in a package of bills often called “JOBS Act 2.0,” are the culmination of a continuing congressional effort to increase initial public offerings (IPOs) by EGCs, reduce the burdens on smaller companies seeking to conduct registered offerings and provide trading liquidity for securities of private companies.

While some of the new provisions require rulemaking by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before they are effective, other provisions of the FAST Act amend the Securities Act itself and therefore are effective, with an immediate effect on current offerings.

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Public Audit Oversight and Reporting Credibility

Christian Leuz is the Sondheimer Professor of International Economics, Finance and Accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is also an Economic Advisor to the PCAOB. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Leuz; Brandon Gipper, Ph.D. Candidate in Accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Economic Research Fellow at the PCAOB; and Mark Maffett, Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

As the accounting scandals in the early 2000s illustrated, reliable financial reporting is a cornerstone of trust in the stock market, which in turn plays a key role for investor participation (Guiso et al., 2008). In an effort to restore trust in financial reporting after the scandals, the U.S. Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (hereafter, “SOX”). One of its core provisions was the creation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (hereafter, the “PCAOB”) and the requirement that the PCAOB inspect all audit firms (hereafter, “auditors”) of SEC-registered public companies (hereafter, “firms” or “issuers”). The introduction of the PCAOB represents a major regime shift, replacing self-regulation with public oversight.

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Maintaining High-Quality, Reliable Financial Reporting

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s recent Keynote Address at the 2015 AICPA National Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

It is a pleasure to be here to speak to you about our shared and weighty responsibility to maintain high-quality, reliable financial reporting. This audience—preparers, auditors, audit committee members, and their advisors—is a very important one for the SEC. Investors, issuers, and the markets all depend on the work you do and the judgments you make—and how well you do both. You, together with the standard setters and the regulators, have a vital stake in ensuring that our capital markets remain the safest and strongest in the world—and we all share the responsibility.

Key to our mutual success is maintaining high-quality reporting of reliable and relevant financial information that investors can use to make informed investment decisions. If there is even one weak link in the financial reporting chain, investors and the integrity of our markets suffer. We must all work together in order to fulfill the high expectations investors rightly set for financial reporting.

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The Fed’s Finalized Liquidity Reporting 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, Mike Alix, Adam Gilbert, and Armen Meyer. The complete publication, including Appendix, is available here.

On November 13th, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) finalized liquidity reporting requirements for large US financial institutions and US operations of foreign banks (FBOs). [1] The requirements were proposed last year and are intended to improve the FRB’s monitoring of the liquidity profiles of firms that are subject to the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) [2] and their foreign peers, and to enhance the FRB’s view of liquidity across institutions.

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The SEC Proposed Clawback Rule

Joseph E. Bachelder is special counsel in the Tax, Employee Benefits & Private Clients practice group at McCarter & English, LLP. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Bachelder which first appeared in the New York Law Journal. Andy Tsang, a senior financial analyst with the firm, assisted in the preparation of this column. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Excess-Pay Clawbacks by Jesse Fried and Nitzan Shilon (discussed on the Forum here).

On July 1, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued Proposed Rule 10D-1 relating to so-called “clawbacks” pursuant to Section 10D of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (the Exchange Act). Section 10D of the Exchange Act was added by Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank).

(On Aug. 5, 2015 the SEC issued its final rule requiring the disclosure of the ratio of the annual pay of the CEO to the median annual pay of all employees (excluding the CEO). Issuers subject to the rule must comply with it for the first fiscal year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017. The pay ratio rule will be the subject of a future post.)

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Those Short-Sighted Attacks on Quarterly Earnings

Robert C. Pozen  is a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Mark Roe is a professor at Harvard Law School. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Corporate Short-termism—In the Boardroom and in the Courtroom by Mark Roe (discussed on the Forum here); and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here).

The clamor against so-called corporate short-term thinking has been steadily rising, with a recent focus on eliminating the quarterly earnings report that public firms issue. Quarterly reports are said to push management to forgo attractive long-term projects to meet the expectations of investors and traders who want smooth, rising earnings from quarter to quarter.

The U.K. recently eliminated mandatory quarterly reports with the goal of lengthening the time horizon for corporate business decision-making. And now Martin Lipton, a prominent U.S. corporate lawyer, has proposed that U.S. companies’ boards be allowed to choose semiannual instead of quarterly reporting. The proposal resonates in Washington circles: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has criticized “quarterly capitalism” as has the recently departed Republican SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher.

But while quarterly reporting has drawbacks, the costs of going to semiannual reporting clearly outweigh any claimed benefits.

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Legal & General Calls for End to Quarterly Reporting

Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton and Sabastian V. Niles. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here) and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here).

This summer, Legal & General Investment Management, a major European asset manager and global investor with over £700 billion in total assets under management, contacted the Boards of the London Stock Exchange’s 350 largest companies to support the discontinuation of company quarterly reporting, emphasizing that:

  • “[R]eporting which focuses on short-term performance is not necessarily conducive to building a sustainable business as it may steer management to focus more on short-term goals and away from future business drivers. We, therefore, support the recent regulatory change that removes the requirement for companies to disclose financial reports on a quarterly basis.”
  • “While each company is unique, we understand that providing the market with quarterly updates adds little value for companies that are operating in long-term business cycles. On the other hand, industries with shorter market cycles and companies in a highly competitive global market environment may choose to report more than twice a year.”
  • “Reducing the time spent on reporting that adds little to the business … can lead to more articulation of business strategies, market dynamics and innovation drivers, which are linked to key metrics that drive business performance and long-term shareholder value.

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