On September 10, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced an unprecedented enforcement sweep against 34 companies and individuals for alleged failures to timely file with the SEC various Section 16(a) filings (Forms 3, 4 and 5) and Schedules 13D and 13G (the “September 10 actions”).  The September 10 actions named 13 corporate officers or directors, five individuals and 10 investment firms with beneficial ownership of publicly traded companies, and six public companies; all but one settled the claims without admitting or denying the allegations. The SEC emphasized that the filing requirements may be violated even inadvertently, without any showing of scienter. Notably, among the executives targeted by the SEC were some who had provided their employers with trading information and relied on the company to make the requisite SEC filings on their behalf.
Earlier this week, the SEC adopted significant changes to Regulation AB, which governs the offering process and disclosure and periodic reporting requirements for public offerings of asset-backed securities, including residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS). The revisions to Regulation AB were a long time coming—they were first proposed in 2010 and have drawn several rounds of comments from industry participants. Issuers must comply with the new rules no later than one year after publication in the Federal Registrar (or two years in the case of the asset-level disclosure requirements described below). The new rules do not address “risk retention” by sponsors which is the subject of a separate rule-making process.
In our paper, Real Effects of Frequent Financial Reporting, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine the impact of financial reporting frequency on firms’ investment decisions. Whether increased financial reporting frequency improves or adversely influences a manager’s investments decision is ambiguous. On the one hand, increased transparency through higher reporting frequency can beneficially affect firms’ investment decisions in two ways. First, increased transparency can reduce firms’ cost of capital and improve access to external financing, allowing firms to invest in a larger set of positive NPV projects. Second, increased transparency can improve external monitoring and help mitigate over- or under-investment stemming from managerial agency problems. On the other hand, frequent reporting can distort investment decisions. In particular, frequent reporting can cause managers to make myopic investment decisions that boost short-term performance measures at the cost of long run firm value. Which of these two forces dominate is an open empirical question that we explore in this study.
On September 4, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued two lengthy post-trial opinions,  both authored by Vice Chancellor John W. Noble, finding that recapitalization or restructuring transactions did not satisfy the entire fairness standard of review. Although plaintiffs in each instance had received a fair price, the court found that the defendants had employed unfair processes and breached their fiduciary duties.
Significantly, one of the cases involved a recognizable set of facts: various plaintiff stockholders challenged a recapitalization that was approved at the same time the company conducted an “insider” round of financing as the company was running out of cash. The recapitalization and financing were approved by a five-member board of directors, three of whom were designated by venture capital funds that either participated in the financing or were said to have received a special benefit, with no participation by the company’s other stockholders. While the company received an informal and insider-led valuation of $4 million at the time of the recapitalization, the court found that the company’s equity at that time actually had a value of zero. However, as a result of the recapitalization, the company was able to acquire new lines of businesses. Four years after the recapitalization, the company was sold for $175 million. Following the sale, six years of litigation unfolded.
In The Race to the Bottom Recalculated: Scoring Corporate Law Over Time we undertake a pioneering historically-oriented leximetric analysis of U.S. corporate law to provide insights concerning the evolution of shareholder rights. There have previously been studies seeking to measure the pace of change with U.S. corporate law. Our study, which covers from 1900 to the present, is the first to quantify systematically the level of protection afforded to shareholders.
As controversial as is HFT, the large volume of the discussion sometimes makes it hard to understand the content. What elements of HFT positively impact the trading markets? Which are problematic? What are the proposed mitigations? Therefore, the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRC Institute) asked Khashanah, Florescu, and Yang (KF&Y) to look at HFT from various perspectives. The result includes:
- The effect of HFT on volume, price efficiency and liquidity.
- The problems and risks seen by various stakeholders from their vantage points.
In our paper, Window Dressing in Mutual Funds, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we investigate an alleged agency problem in the mutual fund industry. This problem involves fund managers attempting to mislead investors about their true ability by trading in such a manner that they disclose at quarter ends disproportionately higher (lower) holdings in stocks that have recently done well (poorly). The portfolio churning associated with this practice of window dressing has potentially damaging effects on both fund value and performance.
Wall Street is eagerly watching what is expected to be one of the largest initial public offerings (IPOs) in history: the offering of the Chinese Internet retailer Alibaba at the end of this week. Investors have been described by the media as “salivating” and “flooding underwriters with orders.” It is important for investors, however, to keep their eyes open to the serious governance risks of investing in Alibaba.
In a New York Times DealBook column, posted today, I analyze these governance risks. I show that Alibaba’s ownership structure does not provide adequate protections to public investors. In particular, such investors should worry that, over time, a significant amount of the value created by Alibaba would not be shared with them. Investors participating in the IPO, I conclude, should recognize the significant governance risks they will be taking.
The column, Alibaba’s Governance Leaves Investors at a Disadvantage, is available here.
The increasing use of corporate inversions, whereby a company via merger achieves 20 percent or more new ownership, claims non-US residence, and is then permitted to adopt that country’s lower corporate tax structure and take advantage of tax base reduction techniques, has been the subject of intense media commentary and political attention. That is perhaps not surprising given the numbers: there was approximately one inversion in 2010, four in each of 2011 and 2012, six in 2013 and sixteen signed or consummated this year to date—or more than in all other years combined. And, the threat of anti-inversion legislation appears only to be hastening the pace at which companies are contemplating such transactions.
The recent Supreme Court decision in Halliburton brought renewed interest to price impact and event studies. Aside from identification and analysis of the news itself, the event study has three basis steps: (i) Estimate a statistical model (or “market model”) of how the stock price would be expected to change in absence of such news (“predicted price changes”), (ii) Calculate stock price changes in excess of the predicted price changes (“excess price change”), and (iii) Evaluate the statistical significance of the excess price change to distinguish material news from noise, or normal variations in stock prices.