Archive for the ‘Accounting & Disclosure’ Category

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?

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

Monitoring the Monitors

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday July 22, 2014 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jodi Short, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law; Michael Toffel of the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School; and Andrea Hugill of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School.

Drawing on insights from the literatures on street-level bureaucracy and on regulatory and audit design, our paper, Monitoring the Monitors: How Social Factors Influence Supply Chain Auditors, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, theorizes and tests the factors that shape the practices of private supply chain auditors. We find that audits are conducted most stringently by auditors who are experienced and highly trained, and by audit teams that include female auditors. By contrast, auditors that have ongoing relationships with audited factories, and all-male audit teams conduct more lax audits, identifying and citing fewer violations. These findings make five key contributions and suggest strategies for designing audit regimes to more effectively detect and prevent corporate wrongdoing.

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Banks: Parallel Disclosure Universes and Divergent Regulatory Quests

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday July 21, 2014 at 9:10 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Henry T. C. Hu, Allan Shivers Chair in the Law of Banking and Finance at the University of Texas School of Law.

Legal and economic issues involving mandatory public disclosure have centered on the appropriateness of either Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules or the D.C. Circuit review of SEC rule-making. In this longstanding disclosure universe, the focus has been on the ends of investor protection and market efficiency, and implementation by means of annual reports and other SEC-prescribed documents.

In 2013, these common understandings became obsolete when a new system for public disclosure became effective, the first since the SEC’s creation in 1934. Today, major banks must make disclosures mandated not only by the SEC, but also by a new system developed by the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators in the shadow of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the Dodd-Frank Act. This independent, bank regulator-developed system has ends and means that diverge from the SEC system. The bank regulator system is directed not at the ends of investor protection and market efficiency, but instead at the well-being of the bank entities themselves and the minimization of systemic risk. This new system, which stemmed in significant part from a belief that disclosures on the complex risks flowing from modern financial innovation were manifestly inadequate, already dwarfs the SEC system in sophistication on the quantitative aspects of market risk and the impact of economic stress.

…continue reading: Banks: Parallel Disclosure Universes and Divergent Regulatory Quests

Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday July 18, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Stewart D. Aaron, partner in the Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice at Arnold & Porter LLP, and is based on an Arnold & Porter publication by Mr. Aaron and Robert C. Azarow. 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.

Under Delaware’s corporate benefit doctrine, a stockholder who presents a meritorious claim to a board of directors may be entitled to attorneys’ fees if the stockholder’s efforts result in the conferring of a corporate benefit. [1] On June 20, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court considered in Raul v. Astoria Financial Corporation [2] whether attorneys’ fees are warranted under this doctrine when a stockholder identifies potential deficiencies in executive compensation disclosures required by the SEC pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act “say on pay” provisions. [3] The court held that the alleged omissions at issue failed to demonstrate any breach of the Board of Directors’ fiduciary duties under Delaware law and accordingly the Plaintiff did not present a meritorious demand to the Board. This decision makes clear that the courts will not shift fees to a stockholder (and the stockholder’s law firm) who “has simply done the company a good turn by bringing to the attention of the board an action that it ultimately decides to take.” [4]

…continue reading: Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday July 17, 2014 at 9:23 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Karen K. Nelson, the Harmon Whittington Professor at Accounting at Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business, and Adam C. Pritchard, the Frances and George Skestos Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School.

In our paper, Carrot or Stick? The Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors, we investigate public companies’ disclosure of risk factors that are meant to inform investors about risks and uncertainties. We compare risk factor disclosures under the voluntary, incentive-based disclosure regime provided by the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, adopted in 1995, and the SEC’s subsequent disclosure mandate, adopted in 2005.

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A New Tool to Detect Financial Reporting Irregularities

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday July 9, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Dan Amiram and Ethan Rouen, both of the Accounting Division at Columbia University, and Zahn Bozanic of the Department of Accounting and MIS at Ohio State University.

Irregularities in financial statements lead to inefficiencies in capital allocation and can become costly to investors, regulators, and potentially taxpayers if left unchecked. Finding an effective way to detect accounting irregularities has been challenging for academics and regulators. Responding to this challenge, we rely on a peculiar mathematical property known as Benford’s Law to create a summary red-flag measure to capture the likelihood that a company may be manipulating its financial statement numbers.

…continue reading: A New Tool to Detect Financial Reporting Irregularities

A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday June 27, 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. This post is based on Chair White’s remarks to the Twentieth Annual Stanford Directors’ College; 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.

The SEC today has about 4,200 employees, located in Washington and 11 regional offices across the country, including one in San Francisco that is very ably led by Regional Director Jina Choi, who is here [June 23, 2014]. Many of you have likely had some contact with our Division of Corporation Finance, which, among other things, has the responsibility to review your periodic filings and your securities offerings. Some of you that work for or represent a company that we oversee know our staff in our National Exam Program, and I imagine a few of your companies know something about our Enforcement Division staff. Our other major divisions are Investment Management, Trading and Markets and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.

So that is just a quick snapshot of the structure of the SEC and as you undoubtedly know, the SEC has a lot on its regulatory plate that is relevant to you—completion of the mandated rulemakings under the Dodd Frank Act and JOBS Act, adopting a final rule on money market funds, enhancing the structure and transparency of our equity and fixed income markets, reviewing the effectiveness of disclosures by public companies, to name just a few. But what you may not be as focused on is the mindset of the agency on some other things that are also relevant to you as directors.

…continue reading: A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul Asquith, Professor of Finance at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Thomas Covert of the Economics Area at the University of Chicago; and Parag Pathak of the Department of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Many financial markets have recently become subject to new regulations requiring transparency. In our recent NBER working paper, The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design: Evidence from the Corporate Bond Market, we study how mandatory transparency affects trading in the corporate bond market. In July 2002, the Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) program began requiring the public dissemination of post-trade price and volume information for corporate bonds. Dissemination took place in four phases over a three-and-a-half year period, with actively traded, investment grade bonds becoming transparent before thinly traded, high-yield bonds.

…continue reading: The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design

Measuring Readability in Financial Disclosures

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday June 24, 2014 at 8:58 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Tim Loughran and Bill McDonald, both of the Department of Finance at the University of Notre Dame.

The Fog Index has become a popular measure of financial disclosure readability in recent accounting and finance research. The SEC has even contemplated the use of the Fog Index to help identify poorly written financial documents. However, the measure has migrated to financial applications without its efficacy in the context of business disclosures having been determined.

In our forthcoming Journal of Finance paper, Measuring Readability in Financial Disclosures, we argue that traditional readability measures like the Fog Index are poorly specified in the realm of business writing. The Fog Index is based on two components: sentence length and word complexity. Although sentence length is a reasonable readability measure, it is difficult to accurately measure in financial documents. More importantly, we show that the count of multisyllabic words in 10-K filings is dominated by common business words that should be easily understood. Frequently used “complex” words like company, operations, and management are not going to confuse consumers of SEC filings. Additionally, the correlation of complex words with alternative measures of readability contradicts its traditional interpretation.

…continue reading: Measuring Readability in Financial Disclosures

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