Archive for the ‘Accounting & Disclosure’ Category

Real Effects of Frequent Financial Reporting

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday September 19, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Arthur Kraft of Cass Business School, City University London, and Rahul Vashishtha and Mohan Venkatachalam, both of the Accounting Area at Duke University.

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.

…continue reading: Real Effects of Frequent Financial Reporting

Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday September 12, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Shai Levi of the Department of Accounting at Tel Aviv University, Benjamin Segal of the Department of Accounting at Fordham University and The Hebrew University, and Dan Segal of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah and Singapore Management University. 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.

Financial reports should provide useful information to both shareholders and creditors, according to U.S. accounting principles. However, directors of corporations have fiduciary duties only toward equity holders, and those fiduciary duties normally do not extend to the interests of creditors. In our paper, Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether this slant in corporate governance biases financial reports in favor of equity investors. We show that the likelihood that firms will manipulate their reporting to circumvent debt covenants is higher when directors owe fiduciary duties only to equity holders, rather than when they owe fiduciary duties also to creditors. Covenants limit the amount of new debt that the firm issues, for example, and by that reduce bankruptcy risk, and allow creditors to avoid bankruptcy costs, and to recover more from the borrowing firm in case it approaches insolvency. When managers manipulate financial reports to circumvent these debt covenants, they transfer wealth from creditors to shareholders. Our results suggest that when corporate governance is designed to protect only equity holders, firms’ financial reports serve equity holders’ interests at the expense of other stakeholders. We find that when the legal regime requires directors to consider creditors’ interests, firms are less likely to use structured transactions designed to skirt debt covenant limits, particularly if the board of directors of the firm is independent.

…continue reading: Does Corporate Governance Make Financial Reports Better or Just Better for Equity Investors?

Delaware Court Affirms Order Requiring Production of Privileged Documents

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday August 19, 2014 at 9:16 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lewis R. Clayton, partner in the Litigation Department and co-chair of the Intellectual Property and ERISA Litigation Groups at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and is based on a Paul Weiss 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.

In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Indiana Electrical Workers Pension Trust Fund IBEW, the Delaware Supreme Court formally recognized the “Garner doctrine,” an exception to the attorney-client privilege, in connection with a stockholder’s demand for records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, and confirmed that the exception also applies to other stockholder claims. The decision may allow derivative plaintiffs to obtain certain sensitive privileged communications and attorney work-product in cases involving substantial allegations of serious fiduciary misconduct.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Affirms Order Requiring Production of Privileged Documents

SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday August 17, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from R. Daniel O’Connor, partner focusing on securities enforcement at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray Alert authored by Mr. O’Connor, Marko S. Zatylny, Kait Michaud, and Michael J. Vito.

On July 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) advanced a novel theory of fraud against the former CEO (Marc Sherman) and CFO (Edward Cummings) of Quality Services Group, Inc. (“QSGI”), a Florida-based computer equipment company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The SEC alleged that the CEO misrepresented the extent of his involvement in evaluating internal controls and that the CEO and CFO knew of significant internal controls issues with the company’s inventory practices that they failed to disclose to investors and internal auditors. This case did not involve any restatement of financial statements or allegations of accounting fraud, merely disclosure issues around internal controls and involvement in a review of the same by senior management. The SEC’s approach has the potential to broaden practical exposure to liability for corporate officers who sign financial statements and certifications required under Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”). By advancing a theory of fraud premised on internal controls issues without establishing an actionable accounting misstatement, the SEC is continuing to demonstrate that it will extend the range of conduct for which it has historically pursued fraud claims against corporate officers.

…continue reading: SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

2014 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update

Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jonathan C. Dickey, partner and Co-Chair of the National Securities Litigation Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication.

It almost goes without saying that the first half of 2014 brought with it the most significant development in securities litigation in decades: the U.S. Supreme Court decided Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc.—Halliburton II. In Halliburton II, the Court declined to revisit its earlier decision in Basic v. Levinson, Inc.; plaintiffs may therefore continue to avail themselves of the legal presumption of reliance, a presumption necessary for many class action plaintiffs to achieve class certification. But the Court also reiterated what it said 20 years ago in Basic: the presumption of reliance is rebuttable. And the Court clarified that defendants may now rebut the presumption at the class certification stage with evidence that the alleged misrepresentation did not affect the security’s price, making “price impact” evidence essential to class certification.

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UK Proposed Register of Individuals with Significant Control over Non-Public Companies

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday August 2, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Wayne P.J. McArdle, Partner in the London office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Mr. McArdle, James Barabas, and Edward A. Tran.

On June 25, 2014, the UK Government published the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill [1] which, among other things, proposes that all UK companies (other than publicly traded companies reporting under the Disclosure and Transparency Rules (DTR5)) be required to maintain a register of people who have significant control over the company. The Bill is part of the UK Government’s initiative to implement the G8 Action Plan to prevent the misuse of companies and legal arrangements agreed at the Lough Erne G8 Summit in June 2013, which we discussed in our client alert entitled “Through the Looking Glass: The Disclosure of Ultimate Ownership and the G8 Action Plan” (June 20, 2013). [2] In broad terms, the G8 Action Plan is designed to ensure the integrity of beneficial ownership and basic company information and the timely access to that information by law enforcement and tax authorities.

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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.

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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.

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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

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