The Robust Use of Civil and Criminal Actions to Police the Markets

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday April 18, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) 2014 Compliance & Legal Society Annual Seminar; the full text, including footnotes, is 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.

I have participated in this event for many years and have always considered this conference to be all about the compliance and legal issues that are most important to the integrity of our securities markets. Now, as Chair of the SEC, I would like to thank you for the work you do day in and day out to protect investors and keep our markets robust and safe.

In about a week, I will have completed my first year at the SEC. It has been quite a year. We have made very good progress in accomplishing the initial goals I set to achieve significant traction on our rulemaking agenda arising from the Dodd Frank and JOBS Acts, intensify our review of the structure of our equity markets, and enhance our already strong enforcement program.

…continue reading: The Robust Use of Civil and Criminal Actions to Police the Markets

Executive Compensation Under Dodd-Frank: an Update

Editor’s Note: Joseph Bachelder is special counsel in the Tax, Employee Benefits & Private Clients practice group at McCarter & English, LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Bachelder, with assistance from Andy Tsang, which first appeared in the New York Law Journal.

The Dodd-Frank law took effect July 21, 2010. [1] Subtitle E of Title IX of Dodd-Frank addresses “Accountability and Executive Compensation” (§§951-957). Since the enactment of the act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has adopted final rules as to two of the provisions, proposed rules as to two others and has not yet proposed (but has announced it will be proposing) rules as to another three provisions. This post summarizes the current status of regulation projects under Dodd-Frank Sections 951 through 957.

…continue reading: Executive Compensation Under Dodd-Frank: an Update

Shareholder Voting in an Age of Intermediary Capitalism

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul H. Edelman and Randall S. Thomas, Professor of Law and Mathematics and Professor of Law and Business, respectively, at Vanderbilt University, and Robert Thompson, Professor of Business Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Shareholder voting, once given up for dead as a vestige or ritual of little practical importance, has come roaring back as a key part of American corporate governance. Where once voting was limited to uncontested annual election of directors, it is now common to see short slate proxy contests, board declassification proposals, and “Say on Pay” votes occurring at public companies. The surge in the importance of shareholder voting has caused increased conflict between shareholders and directors, a tension well-illustrated in recent high profile voting fights in takeovers (e.g. Dell) and in the growing role for Say on Pay votes. Yet, despite the obvious importance of shareholder voting, none of the existing corporate law theories coherently justify it.

…continue reading: Shareholder Voting in an Age of Intermediary Capitalism

European Commission Proposes to Moderate Short-termism and Reduce Activist Attacks

Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton.

Two articles (among several) in a comprehensive proposal to revise EU corporate governance would have a significant beneficial impact if they were to be adopted in the United States. In large measure they mirror recommendations by Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., in two essays: Can We do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law, 114 Columbia Law Review 449 (Mar. 2014) and One Fundamental Corporate Governance Question We Face: Can Corporations Be Managed for the Long Term Unless Their Powerful Electorates Also Act and Think Long Term? 66 Business Lawyer 1 (Nov. 2010).

…continue reading: European Commission Proposes to Moderate Short-termism and Reduce Activist Attacks

SEC Exempts “Foreign Issuer” From Filing a Preliminary Proxy Statement

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday April 12, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yafit Cohn, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum by Ms. Cohn.

On January 31, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a no-action letter to Schlumberger Ltd. (“Schlumberger” or “the Company”), permitting the Company not to file a preliminary proxy statement under Rule 14a-6(a) when the only matters to be acted upon by stockholders at the Company’s annual meeting were either specifically excluded from the filing requirements by Rule 14a-6(a) or were certain ordinary and routine matters required to be submitted for stockholder approval under Curaçao law on an annual basis.

…continue reading: SEC Exempts “Foreign Issuer” From Filing a Preliminary Proxy Statement

Reliance by Directors: What’s a Conscientious Director to Do?

Posted by Peter Atkins, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, on Friday April 11, 2014 at 9:01 am
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Editor’s Note: Peter Atkins is a partner of corporate and securities law matters at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. This post is based on a Skadden, Arps memorandum by Mr. Atkins. The views expressed in this post are those of Peter Atkins, a senior partner of the firm, and are not presented as those of the firm. 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 its recent decision in In Re Rural Metro Corporation Stockholders Litigation, [1] the Delaware Court of Chancery, in a footnote, touches on what it means for directors to be “fully protected” by §141(e) of the Delaware General Corporation Law when they rely on information, opinions, reports or statements provided to them by officers, employees, board committees or experts. While not central to the Rural Metro decision, this is an issue that should be of interest to conscientious public company directors. Below I suggest that, as currently applied, §141(e) does not sufficiently protect conscientious directors, examine why that may be so, highlight the need for alternative approaches to provide truly full protection without undermining other important conduct imperatives Delaware law imposes on directors and others, and offer some suggestions toward that end.

…continue reading: Reliance by Directors: What’s a Conscientious Director to Do?

Current Thoughts About Activism, Revisited

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Tuesday April 8, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton, Steven A. Rosenblum, and Sabastian V. Niles. Wachtell Lipton’s earlier memorandum on current thoughts on activism is available here, their earlier memoranda criticizing an empirical study by Bebchuk, Brav and Jiang on the long-term effects of hedge fund activism are available here and here, and their earlier memoranda criticizing the Shareholder Rights Project are available here and here. The Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang study is available here, Lucian Bebchuk’s earlier response to the criticism of the Shareholder Rights Project is available here, and the Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang responses to the Wachtell Lipton criticisms of their study are available here and here.

We published this post last August. Since then there have been several developments that prompt us to revisit it; adding the first three paragraphs below.

First, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr. published a brilliant article in the Columbia Law Review, Can We Do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law in which he points out the serious defects in allowing short-term investors to override carefully considered judgments of the boards of directors of public corporations. Chief Justice Strine rejects the argument of the academic activists and activist hedge funds that shareholders should have the unfettered right to force corporations to maximize shareholder value in the short run. We embrace Chief Justice Strine’s reasoning and conclusions.

…continue reading: Current Thoughts About Activism, Revisited

Three Courts Dismiss Lawsuits for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday April 6, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yafit Cohn, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum; the full text, including footnotes, is available here.

This proxy season, rather than following the traditional route of seeking no-action relief from the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) (or, in one instance, after receiving a no-action denial), at least four companies have filed lawsuits against activist investor John Chevedden, in each case requesting declaratory judgment that the company may properly exclude Chevedden’s proposed shareholder resolution from the proxy materials for its 2014 annual meeting. While companies have enjoyed judicial victories against Chevedden in the recent past (including during the current proxy season), this month, for the first time, three federal courts dismissed actions against Chevedden, citing lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

…continue reading: Three Courts Dismiss Lawsuits for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

SEC Upholds Rule 14a-8’s One-Year Holding Period for Newly-Public Company

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Bradley P. Goldberg, Counsel in the Corporate Department and member of the Public Company Advisory Practice at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum by Mr. Goldberg and Yafit Cohn.

On March 10, 2014, in a no-action letter to SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (the “Company”), the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) signaled its position that shareholders seeking to submit proposals for inclusion in the proxy materials of newly-public companies are not exempt from the requirement in Rule 14a-8(b)(1) that proponents must hold the requisite amount of stock in the company for at least one year by the date on which they have submitted their proposal.

…continue reading: SEC Upholds Rule 14a-8’s One-Year Holding Period for Newly-Public Company

Court Finds Financial Advisor Liable for Aiding and Abetting Fiduciary Duty Breaches

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday March 30, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Michael Kaplan, co-head of Davis Polk’s global Capital Markets Group, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. 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.

On March 7, 2014, Vice Chancellor Travis Laster of the Delaware Court of Chancery found a financial advisor liable for aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary duties by the board of Rural/Metro Corporation in connection with the company’s 2011 sale to an affiliate of Warburg Pincus LLC. In its 91-page, post-trial opinion, the Court concluded that the financial advisor allowed its interests in pursuing buy-side financing roles in both the sales of Rural/Metro and Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”) to negatively affect the timing and structure of the company’s sales process, that the board was not aware of certain of these actual or potential conflicts of interest, and that the valuation analysis provided to the board was flawed in several respects. Both the Rural/Metro board of directors and a second financial advisor to Rural/Metro settled before trial for $6.6 million and $5.0 million, respectively.

…continue reading: Court Finds Financial Advisor Liable for Aiding and Abetting Fiduciary Duty Breaches

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