Tag: Securities Regulation


A Conversation with SEC Chair Mary Jo White

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s recent interview at the Keynote Session of the 43rd Annual Securities Regulation Institute, 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.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White participated in a Q&A session with Steven Bochner, Chair of the Securities Regulation Institute. The Q&A was part of Northwestern University School of Law’s 43rd Annual Securities Regulation Institute. The event was held in San Diego, California. This transcript was edited for clarity.

Steven Bochner: It is my great honor to introduce the Alan Levenson keynote speaker and I’m going to read her resume, even though I know most of it by heart, because it’s a long, impressive resume and we’re honored to have you here, Chair White.

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Mergers and Acquisitions—2016

Andrew R. Brownstein is a partner in the corporate group at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum.

2015 was a record year for M&A. Global M&A volume hit an all-time high of over $5 trillion, surpassing the previous record of $4.6 trillion set in 2007. U.S. M&A made up nearly 50% of the total. The “mega-deal” made a big comeback, with a record 69 deals over $10 billion, and 10 deals over $50 billion, including two of the largest on record: Pfizer’s $160 billion agreement to acquire Allergan and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $117 billion bid for SABMiller. Cross-border M&A reached $1.56 trillion in 2015, the second highest volume ever.

A number of factors provided directors and officers with confidence to pursue large, and frequently transformative, merger transactions in 2015. The economic outlook had become more stable, particularly in the United States. Many companies had trimmed costs in the years following the financial crisis, but still faced challenges generating organic revenue growth. M&A offered a powerful lever for value creation through synergies. In a number of cases, the price of a buyer’s stock rose on announcement of an acquisition, as investors rewarded transactions with strong commercial logic, bucking historical trends. Equity prices in 2015 were strong, if flat, providing companies with valuable acquisition currency. For at least the first half of the year, strong appetite from debt investors (particularly for quality credits) and low interest rates enabled acquirors to obtain financing on attractive terms.

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SEC Proposal on 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. The complete publication, including footnotes and Annex, is available here.

On December 11, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) issued a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) on disclosure of resource extraction payments, more than two years after a federal court vacated a prior version of the rule. The Proposed Rule is similar in many ways to the Commission’s original rule, adopted in August 2012 (the “2012 Rule”)—in large part because the Commission 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 Commission 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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2016 Proxy Season: Engagement, Transparency, Proxy Access

Howard B. Dicker is a partner in the Public Company Advisory Group of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. This post is based on a Weil publication; the complete publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Lucian Bebchuk’s The Case for Shareholder Access to the Ballot and The Myth of the Shareholder Franchise (discussed on the Forum here), and Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

While shareholders have a wide spectrum of views on corporate objectives, the time horizon for realizing these objectives and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, there is an emerging consensus that—regardless of size, industry or profitability—public companies must achieve greater accountability to their shareholders, through engagement and transparency, than ever before. Corporate engagement and transparency now take two forms: direct dialogue, increasingly involving directors, and enhanced proxy statement and other public disclosure that sheds light on the company’s strategy and the performance of its board, board committees and management, demonstrates responsiveness to shareholder ESG concerns, and justifies the composition of the board in light of the company’s present needs. Throughout this post, we offer practical suggestions about “what to do now” to meet shareholder expectations about engagement and transparency and to address a host of other new developments for the 2016 proxy season.

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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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So You’re Thinking of Joining a Public Company Board

David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and activism, and crisis management at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Katz and Laura A. McIntosh that first appeared in the New York Law Journal.

Candidates for directorships on public company boards have much to consider. Potential exposure to legal liability, public criticism, and reputational harm, a complex tangle of applicable regulations and requirements, and a very significant time commitment are facts of life for public company directors in the modern era. The extent to which individuals can effectively manage the risks of directorship often depends on company-specific factors and can be increased through diligence and thoughtful preparation on the part of the director and the company.

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U.S. Uncleared Swap Margin, Capital, and Segregation Rules

Annette Nazareth is a partner in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and a former commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on a Davis Polk visual memorandum; the complete publication, including charts, is available here.

U.S. prudential regulators (the OCC, Federal Reserve, FDIC, FCA and FHFA) and the CFTC have finalized uncleared swap margin, capital and segregation requirements (the “PR rules,” and “CFTC rules,” respectively, and the “final rules,” collectively).* The PR rules apply to swap entities that are prudentially regulated by a U.S. prudential regulator (“PR CSEs”). The CFTC rules apply to swap entities that are regulated by the CFTC and that are not prudentially regulated (“CFTC CSEs”). In this memorandum, “covered swap entities” refers to PR CSEs and CFTC CSEs, together.

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White Collar and Regulatory Enforcement: What to Expect In 2016

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum.

One way in which we expect the white-collar/regulatory enforcement regime in 2016 to continue last year’s pattern is that the government’s appetite for extracting enormous fines and penalties from settling companies will likely continue unabated. However, as we discuss below, the manner in which well-advised companies facing criminal or serious regulatory investigations will seek to mitigate such fines and sanctions will likely change in some important respects in 2016. The reason for this expected change is that U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced late in 2015 that DOJ was formalizing a requirement that, in order to get “any” cooperation credit, companies must come forward with all available evidence identifying individuals responsible for the underlying misconduct subject to investigation.

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Inversions: Recent Developments

Peter J. Connors is a tax partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Jason M. Halper is a partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group. This post is based on an article authored by Mr. Connors and Mr. Halper, that was previously published in Law360.

In October 2015, press reports began appearing suggesting that Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and Allergan, an Irish publicly traded pharmaceutical company, were considering entering into the largest inversion in history. Within weeks, the IRS launched its latest missive against inversion transactions. It also put the tax community on notice that more regulatory activity was yet to come.

Companies invert primarily because of perceived disadvantages associated with the U.S. corporate tax system, which has one of the world’s highest tax rates and levies taxes on worldwide income, including income earned by foreign subsidiaries (generally referred to as “controlled foreign corporations”) when repatriated and, at times, prior to repatriation. In its broadest terms, an inversion is the acquisition of substantially all the assets of a U.S. corporation or partnership by a foreign corporation. If a transaction triggers Internal Revenue Code Section 7874, the post-transaction foreign corporation will be treated as a U.S. corporation, and gain that is otherwise recognized on the transaction will not be offset by tax attributes of the U.S. entity, such as net operating losses (NOLs).

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The Biases of an “Unbiased” Optional Takeover Regime

Marco Ventoruzzo is a comparative business law scholar with a joint appointment with the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and Bocconi University. This post is based on a recent article authored by Prof. Ventoruzzo and Johannes Fedderke, Professor of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University School of International Affairs.

The conundrum of the perfect balance between mandatory and enabling rules and the role of private ordering in takeover regulation is one of the most relevant and interesting issues regarding the optimal regime for acquisitions of listed corporations. The issue is rife with complex questions and implications, both from a more technical legal perspective and in terms of public choice.

In a recent and compelling article (available here and published in the Harvard Business Law Review in 2014, and discussed on the Forum here), Luca Enriques, Ron Gilson and Alessio Pacces have argued the desirability of an optional, default regime to regulate takeovers particularly in the European Union. According to this approach, which the proponents call “unbiased,” listed corporations should be allowed to opt out of the default regime and use private ordering to tailor more desirable rules on the “pillars” of the European approach: mandatory bid, board neutrality, and breakthrough. More precisely, they suggest a dichotomy, distinguishing already listed corporations and new IPOs: for the former, the default regime should be the one currently in place; for the latter, a regime crafted against the interests of the existing incumbents should be introduced. With adequate protections and procedural rules, the theory goes, it would be easier to achieve a more efficient regulatory structure.

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