Tag: Information asymmetries


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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Scope of Insider-Trading “Tippee” Liability

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Savarese and George T. Conway III.

In an insider-trading case that will be closely watched until it is decided before the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari yesterday to decide critical open questions about what is required to establish insider trading by a remote “tippee”—specifically, what kind of personal benefit must a “tipper” receive, and what knowledge of that benefit must the “tippee” have, for a conviction or sanction to stand.

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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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The First Insider Trader in Commodities

Andrew Verstein is Assistant Professor of Law at Wake Forest University. This post draws upon an article forthcoming in the Virginia Law Review

The Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Newman has led many commentators to predict fewer insider trading enforcement actions, a prediction quickly validated by Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for Manhattan, who has both unwound guilty pleas and dropped active prosecutions. For Newman’s critics and defenders alike, it is obvious that insider trading prosecution in the stock market is now in a period of stumbling retreat.

Yet the stock market is not the only financial market, and the trajectory of insider trading law looks very different if other asset classes are considered. Commodities markets are the world’s largest and oldest markets, and Wednesday marked the very first time an individual was sanctioned for insider trading in commodities.

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Does the Presence of Short Sellers Affect Insider Selling?

Massimo Massa is Professor of Finance at INSEAD. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Massa; Wenlan Qian, Assistant Profess of Finance at National University of Singapore; Weibiao Xu of the Department of Finance at National University of Singapore; and Hong Zhang, Associate Professor of Finance at Tsingua University.

A large body of literature shows that insiders trade on private information. Less attention, however, has been devoted to how the trading activity of other types of “informed” investors affects insiders’ trading activity. In our study, we address this issue by exploring how the presence of a particular type of informed investors—i.e., the short sellers—could alter insiders’ incentives to trade on their private (negative) information.

We know that short sellers are able to identify overvalued stocks. In addition, short sellers intermediate a considerable amount of trade. Collectively, these characteristics make short sellers an important class of “informed” investors whose trading activity may directly and significantly affect insiders.

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Information, Analysts, and Stock Return Comovement

Allaudeen Hameed is a Professor of Finance at National University of Singapore. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Hameed; Randall Morck, Professor of Finance at the University of Alberta; Jianfeng Shen, Senior Lecturer in Finance at the University of New South Wales; and Bernard Yeung, Professor of Finance at National University of Singapore.

Stocks followed by more analysts should be priced more accurately, yet their returns are unusually prone to co-move with market and industry indexes. Stocks that co-move more are often thought to be related to herding. This is because more informed trading ought to make a firm’s stock price move with the changing fortunes of that specific firm, as well as with market and industry trends. More firm-specific price variation in less-followed stocks seems counterintuitive, yet this is what we observe.

In our paper, Information, Analysts, and Stock Return Comovement, forthcoming in The Review of Financial Studies, we resolve this seeming paradox. Stocks covered by more analysts co-move more precisely because they are priced more accurately and their price movements help investors update the prices of less-followed stocks. This “information spillover” makes most price movement in highly-followed stocks look like comovement with industry or market trends, but in fact investors are using information about highly-followed stocks to deduce how other stocks ought to move.

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Insider Trading and Innovation

Ross Levine is Professor of Finance at the University of California, Berkeley. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Levine; Chen Lin, Professor of Finance at the University of Hong Kong; and Lai Wei of the School of Economics and Finance at the University of Hong Kong.

In our paper, Insider Trading and Innovation, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we investigate the impact of restricting insider trading on the rate of technological innovation. Our research is motivated by two literatures: the finance and growth literature stresses that financial markets shape economic growth and the rate of technological innovation, and the law and finance literature emphasizes that legal systems that protect minority shareholders enhance financial markets. What these literatures have not yet addressed is whether legal systems that protect outside investors from corporate insiders influence a crucial source of economic growth—technological innovation. In our research, we bridge this gap. We examine whether restrictions on insider trading—trading by corporate officials, major shareholders, or others based on material non-public information—influences technological innovation.

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Shedding Light on Dark Pools

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 at an open meeting of the SEC; 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.

Today, [November 18, 2015], the Commission considers proposing much-needed enhancements to the regulatory regime for alternative trading systems (“ATSs”) that trade national market system (“NMS”) stocks. I will support these proposals because they could go a long way toward helping market participants make informed decisions as they attempt to navigate the byzantine structure of today’s equity markets.

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Corporate Law and The Limits of Private Ordering

James D. Cox is the Brainerd Currie Professor of Law of Duke Law School. The following post is based on an article forthcoming in the Washington University Law Review. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

Solomon-like, the Delaware legislature in 2015 split the baby by amending the Delaware General Corporation Law to authorize forum-selection bylaws and to prohibit charter or bylaw provisions that would shift to the plaintiff defense costs incurred in connection with shareholder suits that were not successfully concluded. The legislature acted after the Boilermakers Local 154 Retirement Fund. v. Chevron Corp ATP Tour, Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund, broadly empowered the board vis-à-vis the shareholders through the board’s power to amend the bylaws. Repeatedly the analysis used by each court referenced the contractual relationship the shareholders had through the articles of incorporation and the bylaws with their corporation. The action of the Delaware legislation hardly puts the important question raised by each opinion to bed: are there limits on the board of directors to act through the bylaws to alter the rights shareholders customarily enjoy? Stated differently, can the board of directors’ authority to amend the bylaws extend to changing both the procedural and substantive relationship shareholders have with their corporation. In examining this question, the article, Corporate Law and The Limits of Private Ordering, develops two broad points: the shareholder’s relationship is more than just a contract and, even if the relationship was contractual, bedrock contract law does not support the results reached in Boilermakers and ATP Tour, Inc. In conclusion, the article also uncovers an issued overlooked in the debate over the relative prerogatives of shareholders and the board of directors, namely that bylaws proposed by the board of directors carry a strong presumption of propriety whereas those proposed by shareholders do not.

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