Opacity in Financial Markets

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday October 23, 2014 at 9:17 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yuki Sato of the Department of Finance at the University of Lausanne and the Swiss Finance Institute.

In my paper, Opacity in Financial Markets, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, I study the implications of opacity in financial markets for investor behavior, asset prices, and welfare. In the model, transparent funds (e.g., mutual funds) and opaque funds (e.g., hedge funds) trade transparent assets (e.g., plain-vanilla products) and opaque assets (e.g., structured products). Investors observe neither opaque funds’ portfolios nor opaque assets’ payoffs. Consistent with empirical observations, the model predicts an “opacity price premium”: opaque assets trade at a premium over transparent ones despite identical payoffs. This premium arises because fund managers bid up opaque assets’ prices, as opacity potentially allows them to collect higher fees by manipulating investor assessments of their funds’ future prospects. The premium accompanies endogenous market segmentation: transparent funds trade only transparent assets, and opaque funds trade only opaque assets. A novel insight is that opacity is self-feeding in financial markets: given the opacity price premium, financial engineers exploit it by supplying opaque assets (that is, they render transparent assets opaque deliberately), which in turn are a source of agency problems in portfolio delegation, resulting in the opacity price premium.

…continue reading: Opacity in Financial Markets

Statement on Credit Risk Retention

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday October 22, 2014 at 5:05 pm
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC, 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.

Today [October 22, 2014], the Commission will consider the recommendation of the staff to adopt, jointly with five other federal agencies, final rules for the asset-backed securities market that will require securitizers to keep “skin in the game.” Specifically, we will consider rules to require certain securitizers to retain no less than five percent of the credit risk of the assets they securitize. These rules, which are mandated by Section 941 of the Dodd-Frank Act, are part of a strong and comprehensive package of reforms that will address some of the most serious issues exposed in the asset-backed securities market that contributed to the financial crisis.

…continue reading: Statement on Credit Risk Retention

Proxy Access in the US

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 22, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Matt Orsagh, director at CFA Institute, and is based on the summary of a CFA publication, titled Proxy Access in the United States: Revisiting the Proposed SEC Rule; the complete publication is available here.

In this summary of CFA Institute findings, we take a brief look at the history of proxy access, discuss the pertinent academic studies, examine the benefits and limits of cost–benefit analysis, analyze the use of proxy access in non-US jurisdictions, and draw some conclusions.

How We Got Here

Proxy access refers to the ability of shareowners to place their nominees for director on a company’s proxy ballot. This right is available in many markets, though not in the United States. Supporters of proxy access argue that it increases the accountability of corporate boards by allowing shareowners to nominate a limited number of board directors. Afraid that special-interest groups could hijack the process, opponents of proxy access are also concerned about its cost and are not convinced that proxy access would improve either company or board performance.

…continue reading: Proxy Access in the US

Shareholder Scrutiny and Executive Compensation

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 22, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Mathias Kronlund of the Department of Finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Shastri Sandy of the Department of Finance at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, public firms must periodically hold advisory shareholder votes on executive compensation (“say on pay”). One of the main goals of the say-on-pay mandate is to increase shareholder scrutiny of executive pay, and thus alleviate perceived governance problems when boards decide on executive compensation. In our paper, Does Shareholder Scrutiny Affect Executive Compensation? Evidence from Say-on-Pay Voting, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how firms change the structure and level of executive compensation depending on whether the firm will face a say-on-pay vote or not.

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Key Privacy Issues in M&A Transactions

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday October 21, 2014 at 9:29 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul A. Chandler, Counsel at Mayer Brown LLP, and is based on a Mayer Brown Legal Update by Mr. Chandler and Lei Shen.

Many merger and acquisition (“M&A”) agreements lack specific representations and warranties regarding privacy issues. Often, this is because deal lawyers do not recognize potential privacy risks where the target company (the “Target”) lacks e-commerce websites or retail stores that collect consumer data. Nonetheless, significant privacy issues may exist even if the Target is a traditional “brick and mortar” business. Early attention to privacy issues in M&A transaction planning and due diligence can mitigate risks for both buyers and sellers.

…continue reading: Key Privacy Issues in M&A Transactions

The Institutional Framework for Cost Benefit Analysis in Financial Regulation

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday October 21, 2014 at 9:27 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Robert Bartlett, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Four years after the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), the use of cost benefit analysis (CBA) in financial regulation has come to play a critical role in an increasingly heated debate concerning the statute’s implementation. Requiring nearly three hundred rule-makings across twenty agencies, Dodd-Frank’s enormous regulatory mandate represents for many an especially dangerous risk of the typical “drift” and “slack” problems long associated with administrative rule-making. The fact that Dodd-Frank was enacted in the midst of an economic recession only heightens these fears, particularly the concern that overworked and/or overzealous agencies might discharge their regulatory mandate by promulgating cost-insensitive regulations. In light of these concerns, a number of Congressional proposals now exist that would subject financial rule-making to more formal CBA reflecting the conventional belief that rigorous CBA can provide much-needed accountability over regulatory agencies.

…continue reading: The Institutional Framework for Cost Benefit Analysis in Financial Regulation

Delaware Reaffirms that Corporate Control Lies in the Boardroom

Editor’s Note: Edward D. Herlihy is a partner and co-chairman of the Executive Committee at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The following post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum authored by Mr. Herlihy, William SavittDavid E. Shapiro, and Ryan A. McLeod. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In an important ruling [October 14, 2014], the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed a merger challenge on the pleadings and reaffirmed the primacy of director authority, the significance of the vote of disinterested stockholders, and the vibrancy of the business judgment rule. In re KKR Fin. Holdings LLC S’holder Litig., C.A. No. 9210-CB (Del. Ch. Oct. 14, 2014).

…continue reading: Delaware Reaffirms that Corporate Control Lies in the Boardroom

Corporate Governance and the Creation of the SEC

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday October 20, 2014 at 8:59 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Arevik Avedian of Harvard Law School; Henrik Cronqvist, Professor of Finance from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS); and Marc Weidenmier, Professor of Economics at Claremont Colleges.

Severe turmoil in financial markets—whether the Panic of 1826, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, or the Global Financial Crisis of 2008—often raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of pre-existing securities market regulation. In turn, such concerns tend to result in calls for more and stricter government regulation of corporations and financial markets. It is widely considered that the most significant change to U.S. financial regulation in the past 100 years was the Securities Act of 1933 and the subsequent creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enforce it. Before the SEC creation, federal securities market regulation was essentially absent in the U.S. In our paper, Corporate Governance and the Creation of the SEC, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how companies listing in the U.S. responded to this significant increase in the provision of government-sponsored corporate governance. Specifically, did this landmark legislation have any significant effects on board governance (e.g., the independence of boards) and firm valuations?

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Disclosure and Financial Market Regulation

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday October 19, 2014 at 8:31 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Luca Enriques, Allen & Overy Professor of Corporate Law at University of Oxford, Faculty of Law, and Sergio Gilotta of University of Bologna.

In our recent paper, Disclosure and Financial Market Regulation, we provide a critical overview of the role of disclosure in financial market regulation.

We begin by discussing the goals of disclosure regulation, which we identify in investor protection, agency cost reduction and price accuracy enhancement. Disclosure protects investors because (a) it gives them the information that is needed in order to make correct investment decisions, (b) it prevents them from being “exploited” by traders having superior information, and (c) it constrains managers’ and controlling shareholders’ opportunistic behavior. In this last respect, the goal of investor protection equates that of agency cost reduction.

…continue reading: Disclosure and Financial Market Regulation

FINRA To Propose Market Structure Actions

Posted by Annette L. Nazareth, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, on Saturday October 18, 2014 at 7:18 am
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Editor’s Note: 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 client memorandum.

On September 19, 2014, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) announced that its Board of Governors (the “Board”) approved a series of regulatory initiatives primarily focused on equity and fixed income market structure issues. This is a direct response by FINRA to two important speeches this summer by SEC Chair Mary Jo White, in which she articulated an ambitious agenda of market structure reforms. [1]

The Board authorized FINRA staff to prepare Regulatory Notices soliciting comments or issuing guidance on the following:

…continue reading: FINRA To Propose Market Structure Actions

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