What Is a Board’s Role in a Family Business?

Editor’s Note: Mary Ann Cloyd is leader of the Center for Board Governance at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Catherine Bromilow and John Morrow; the complete publication, including interview insights, is available here.

Individual- and family-owned businesses are a vital part of our economy. If you or your family owns such a company you understand how important the company’s success is to your personal wealth and to future generations. If you’re a nonfamily executive at a family company, you also recognize that its profitability and resilience is vital to your job security and financial well-being.

…continue reading: What Is a Board’s Role in a Family Business?

Do Banks Always Protect Their Reputation?

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday July 30, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from John Griffin and Richard Lowery, both of the Department of Finance at the University of Texas at Austin, and Alessio Saretto of the Finance Area at the University of Texas at Dallas.

A firm’s reputation is a valuable asset. Arguably, conventional wisdom suggests that a reputable firm will always act in the best interest of their clients to preserve the firm’s reputation. For example, in his testimony/defense of Goldman Sachs before Congress, the Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein states, “We have been a client-centered firm for 140 years and if our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust, we cannot survive.” In our forthcoming Review of Financial Studies article entitled Complex Securities and Underwriter Reputation: Do Reputable Underwriters Produce Better Securities?, we examine the extent to which this conventional wisdom holds with complex securities.

…continue reading: Do Banks Always Protect Their Reputation?

SEC Guidance May Lessen Investment Adviser Demand for Proxy Advisory Services

Editor’s Note: Holly J. Gregory is a partner and co-global coordinator of the Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation group at Sidley Austin LLP. This post is based on a Sidley update.

Recently issued SEC staff guidance addresses concerns that have been raised about proxy advisory firms by emphasizing that the investment adviser that retains and pays a proxy advisory firm is uniquely positioned to monitor the proxy advisory firm and is required to actively oversee the firm if it wants to benefit from the firm’s services to discharge its fiduciary duty. As a result of the greater oversight exercised by all of their investment adviser clients, the proxy advisory firms will presumably respond by enhancing their policies, processes and procedures, as well as the transparency of these policies, processes and procedures. In turn, the corporate community may indirectly benefit to some degree.

…continue reading: SEC Guidance May Lessen Investment Adviser Demand for Proxy Advisory Services

The Peril of an Expectations Gap in Proxy Advisory Firm Regulation

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday July 29, 2014 at 9:08 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Asaf Eckstein of Tel Aviv University-Buchmann Faculty of Law.

Over the last few years, Congress and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were put under pressure to seriously consider regulating proxy advisory firms. Financial industry and government leaders have voiced concern that proxy advisory firms exert too much power over corporate governance to operate unregulated. The SEC as well as the Congress have investigated and debated the merits of proxy advisory regulation. The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the matter in June of 2013, and the SEC followed this hearing with a roundtable discussion in December of 2013. On June 30, 2014, the Investment Management and Corporate Finance Divisions of the SEC issued a bulletin outlining the responsibilities of proxy advisors and institutional investors when casting proxy votes. As of yet, no binding regulation has been promulgated, despite repeated calls for it.

…continue reading: The Peril of an Expectations Gap in Proxy Advisory Firm Regulation

Wachtell Keeps Running Away from the Evidence

Editor’s Note: Lucian Bebchuk is William J. Friedman and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance and Director of the Program on Corporate Governance, Harvard Law School. This post responds to a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Martin Lipton and Steven A. Rosenblum, Do Activist Hedge Funds Really Create Long Term Value?, available on the Forum here. This memorandum criticizes a recently-issued empirical study by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang on the long-term effects of hedge fund activism. The empirical study is available here, and is discussed on the Forum here. Additional posts discussing the study, including critiques by Wachtell Lipton and responses by Professors Bebchuk, Brav, and Jiang, are available on the Forum here.

In a memorandum issued by the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (Wachtell) last week, Do Activist Hedge Funds Really Create Long Term Value?, the firm’s founding partner Martin Lipton and another senior partner of the law firm criticize again my empirical study with Alon Brav and Wei Jiang, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. The memorandum announces triumphantly that Wachtell is not alone in its opposition to our study and that two staff members from the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations (IGOPP) in Montreal issued a white paper (available here) criticizing our study. Wachtell asserts that the IGOPP paper provides a “refutation” of our findings that is “academically rigorous.” An examination of this paper, however, indicates that it is anything but academically rigorous, and that the Wachtell memo is yet another attempt by the law firm to run away from empirical evidence that is inconsistent with its long-standing claims.

…continue reading: Wachtell Keeps Running Away from the Evidence

Communicating Voluntary Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Posted by Charles Nathan, RLM Finsbury, on Monday July 28, 2014 at 9:14 am
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Editor’s Note: Charles Nathan is partner and head of the Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury. This post is based on an RLM Finsbury commentary by Mr. Nathan. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about corporate political spending includes Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson, discussed on the Forum here. A committee of law professors co-chaired by Bebchuk and Jackson submitted a rulemaking petition to the SEC concerning corporate political spending; that petition is discussed here.

Over the past several years, judicial decisions involving Citizens United, McCutcheon and SpeechNow.org have lifted caps on total political contributions, and also expanded the number of avenues through and amounts which companies can lawfully contribute to political campaigns. Corporate donations can still be made to recipients like political action committees and third-party organizations (such as trade associations). Now, however, companies can also contribute directly to campaigns and to organizations that support candidates and political causes, including Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.

…continue reading: Communicating Voluntary Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser for Prohibited Transactions and Retaliating Against Whistleblower

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday July 27, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David A. Vaughan and Catherine Botticelli, Partners at Dechert LLP, and is based on a Dechert legal update authored by Mr. Vaughan, Ms. Botticelli, Brenden P. Carroll, and Aaron D. Withrow.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) issued a cease and desist order on June 16, 2014 (the Order) against Paradigm Capital Management, Inc. (Paradigm) and its founder, Director, President and Chief Investment Officer, Candace King Weir (Weir). [1] The Order alleged that Weir caused Paradigm’s hedge fund client, PCM Partners L.P. II (Fund), to engage in certain transactions (Transactions) with a proprietary account (Trading Account) at the Fund’s prime broker, C.L. King & Associates, Inc. (C.L. King). Paradigm and C.L. King were allegedly under the common control of Weir. The Order further alleged that, because of Weir’s personal interest in the Transactions and the fact that the committee designated to review and approve the Transactions on behalf of the Fund was conflicted, Paradigm failed to provide the Fund with effective disclosure and failed effectively to obtain the Fund’s consent to the Transactions, as required under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act).

…continue reading: SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser for Prohibited Transactions and Retaliating Against Whistleblower

Timely Notice of Merger’s Effective Date Reduces Litigation Risks in Delaware

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday July 26, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jon E. Abramczyk, Partner and Member of the Corporate and Business Litigation Group at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, and is based on a Morris Nichols publication. 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.

Following a merger (or consolidation), Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) requires notice to be sent to any stockholder of record who has demanded appraisal informing that stockholder that the transaction was accomplished. For long-form mergers approved pursuant to a stockholder vote (i.e., under Section 251(c) of the DGCL), Section 262(d)(1) requires notice of the effective date of the merger to be sent within 10 days of the merger becoming effective. For mergers approved pursuant to Sections 228, 251(h), 253 or 267 of the DGCL (e.g., mergers approved by written consent, certain mergers following a tender or exchange offer, short-form mergers between parent and subsidiary corporations and short-form mergers between a non-corporation parent entity and its subsidiary corporation) the notice of the effective date is governed by Section 262(d)(2), which sets its own timing requirements.

…continue reading: Timely Notice of Merger’s Effective Date Reduces Litigation Risks in Delaware

Money Market Fund Reform

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday July 25, 2014 at 9:00 am
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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’s [July 23, 2014] reforms will fundamentally change the way that most money market funds operate. They will reduce the risk of runs in money market funds and provide important new tools that will help further protect investors and the financial system in a crisis. Together, this strong reform package will make our financial system more resilient and enhance the transparency and fairness of these products for America’s investors.

…continue reading: Money Market Fund Reform

Heightened Activist Attacks on Boards of Directors

Editor’s Note: David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Katz and Laura A. McIntosh that first appeared in the New York Law Journal; the full article, including footnotes, is available here.

This has been called “the heyday of hedge fund activism,” and it is certainly true that today boards of directors must constantly be vigilant to the many and varied ways in which activist investors can approach a target. Commencing a proxy fight long has been an activist tactic, but it is now being used in a different way. Some hedge funds are engaging in proxy fights in order to exercise direct influence or control over the board’s decision-making as opposed to clearing the way for a takeover of the target company or seeking a stock buyback. In some cases, multiple hedge funds acting in parallel purchase enough target shares to hold a voting bloc adequate to elect their director nominees to the board. A recent Delaware case addressed a situation in which a board resisted a threat from hedge funds acting together in this manner. The court determined that a shareholder rights plan, or poison pill, could, in certain circumstances, be an appropriate response. As a general matter, boards of directors facing activist share accumulations and threats of board takeovers can take comfort in this latest affirmation of the respect accorded to an independent board’s informed business judgment.

…continue reading: Heightened Activist Attacks on Boards of Directors

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