Archive for the ‘Boards of Directors’ Category

Directors Should Communicate with Shareholders

Editor’s Note: John Wilcox is chairman of Sodali and former Head of Corporate Governance at TIAA-CREF. This post is based on a Sodali publication by Mr. Wilcox.

To demonstrate their effectiveness, corporate boards should increase transparency, provide an annual report of boardroom activities and take charge of their relations with shareholders.

With shareholders continuing to press for ever-deepening levels of engagement, companies must find a way to answer the most basic question of corporate governance: “How effective is the board of directors?” It is a question that can only be answered by the board itself, but it presents directors with a challenge as well as an opportunity. The challenge is to overcome the mindset, habits and perceived risks that have long kept boardroom activities under wraps. The opportunity, on the other hand, is to define governance and strategic issues from the board’s perspective, manage shareholder expectations, take the engagement initiative away from shareholders and reduce the likelihood of activism. Directors should give careful consideration to this opportunity. Over the long term, it will be far better for companies to control the process by which board transparency is achieved rather than waiting for yet again another set of governance reforms that could further erode the board’s authority.

…continue reading: Directors Should Communicate with Shareholders

The Duty to Maximize Value of an Insolvent Enterprise

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday October 9, 2014 at 9:07 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Brad Eric Scheler, senior partner and chairman of the Bankruptcy and Restructuring Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and is based on a Fried Frank M&A Briefing authored by Mr. Scheler, Steven Epstein, Robert C. Schwenkel, and Gail Weinstein. 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 Quadrant Structured Products Company, Ltd. v. Vertin (October 1, 2014), Vice Chancellor Laster clarified the Delaware Chancery Court’s approach to breach of fiduciary duty derivative actions brought by creditors against the directors of an insolvent corporation. Importantly, the Vice Chancellor applied business judgment rule deference to the non-independent directors’ decision to try to increase the value of the insolvent corporation by adopting a highly risky investment strategy—even though the creditors bore the full risk of the strategy’s failing, while the corporation’s sole stockholder would benefit if the strategy succeeded. By contrast, the court viewed the directors’ decisions not to exercise their right to defer interest on the notes held by the controller and to pay above-market fees to an affiliate of the controller as having been “transfers of value” from the insolvent corporation to the controller, which were subject to entire fairness review.

…continue reading: The Duty to Maximize Value of an Insolvent Enterprise

Illinois Court Approves Single-Bidder Sale Strategy

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 8, 2014 at 10:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from William Savitt, partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savitt, David C. Karp, and Adam S. Hobson. 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.

The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois yesterday [October 2, 2014] confirmed that a Delaware board may employ a single-bidder process in a cash sale governed by the Revlon standard. Keating v. Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc., No. 11-CH-28854 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Ch. Div. Oct. 2, 2014).

The case arose from the 2011 transaction in which Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $40 per share in cash. The transaction elicited the now-conventional multiforum litigation in both Delaware (Motorola Mobility’s place of incorporation) and Illinois (its principal place of business). But the stockholder plaintiffs in Delaware dismissed their case and so only the Illinois action proceeded. Even though the merger price represented a 63% premium for Motorola Mobility’s shares and over 99% of the Motorola Mobility shares voting approved the merger, these plaintiffs attacked the deal, principally on the ground that the Motorola Mobility board should have conducted a broad auction rather than confidentially negotiate the deal with Google.

…continue reading: Illinois Court Approves Single-Bidder Sale Strategy

The Recent Evolution of Shareholder Activism

Editor’s Note: Matteo Tonello is vice president at The Conference Board. This post relates to a report released jointly by The Conference Board and FactSet, authored by Dr. Tonello and Melissa Aguilar of The Conference Board. The Executive Summary is available here (the document is free but registration is required). For details regarding how to obtain a copy of the full report, contact matteo.tonello@conference-board.org.

Proxy Voting Analytics (2010-2014), a report recently released by The Conference Board in collaboration with FactSet, reviews the last five years of shareholder activism and proxy voting at Russell 3000 and S&P 500 companies.

Data analyzed in the report includes:
…continue reading: The Recent Evolution of Shareholder Activism

Challenging Boardroom Homogeneity: Corporate Law, Governance, and Diversity

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday October 2, 2014 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Aaron A. Dhir, an Associate Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada and a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

The lack of gender parity in the governance of business corporations has ignited a heated global debate, leading policymakers to wrestle with difficult questions that lie at the intersection of market activity and social identity politics. In my new book, Challenging Boardroom Homogeneity: Corporate Law, Governance, and Diversity (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming in 2015), I draw on semi-structured interviews with corporate board directors in Norway and documentary content analysis of corporate securities filings in the United States to investigate empirically two distinct regulatory models designed to address diversity in the boardroom—quotas and disclosure.

…continue reading: Challenging Boardroom Homogeneity: Corporate Law, Governance, and Diversity

Delaware Court Declines to Dismiss Claims Against Disinterested Directors

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday September 30, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication authored by Alexandra D. Korry, Melissa Sawyer, and William J. Magnuson. 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 opinion [1] issued on September 9, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Glasscock) held that in a controlling stockholder freeze-out merger subject to entire fairness review at the outset, disinterested directors entitled under a company’s charter to exculpation for duty of care violations cannot prevail in a motion to dismiss even though the claims against them for breach of fiduciary duty are not pled with particularity; instead, the issue of whether they will be entitled to exculpation must await a developed record, post-trial. The decision once again highlights the litigation cost that will be imposed on companies engaged in controlling stockholder freeze-out mergers for failing to employ both of the safeguards that Delaware has endorsed to ensure business judgment, instead of entire fairness, review—(1) an up-front non-waivable commitment by the controller to condition the transaction on an informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders and (2) approval of the transaction by a well-functioning and broadly empowered special committee of disinterested directors. At the motion to dismiss stage, disinterested directors effectively will be treated in the same manner as controllers and their affiliated directors.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Declines to Dismiss Claims Against Disinterested Directors

Preparing for the 2015 Proxy Season

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday September 26, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lawrence R. Hamilton, partner in the Corporate & Securities practice at Mayer Brown LLP, and is based on a Mayer Brown Legal Update. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

It is time for calendar year-end public companies to focus on the upcoming 2015 proxy and annual reporting season. This post discusses the following key issues for companies to consider in their preparations:

  • Pending Dodd-Frank Regulation
  • Say-on-Pay and Compensation Disclosure Considerations
  • Shareholder Proposals
  • Proxy Access
  • Compensation Committee Independence Determinations
  • Compensation Adviser Independence Assessment
  • Compensation Consultant Conflict of Interest Disclosure
  • NYSE Quorum Requirement Change
  • Director and Officer Questionnaires
  • Proxy Advisory Firm and Investment Adviser Matters
  • Conflict Minerals
  • Cybersecurity
  • Management’s Discussion and Analysis
  • XBRL
  • Proxy Bundling
  • Foreign Issuer Preliminary Proxy Statement Relief
  • Technology and the Proxy Season

…continue reading: Preparing for the 2015 Proxy Season

Update on Directors’ and Officers’ Insurance in Bankruptcy

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday September 24, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Douglas K. Mayer, Of Counsel in the Restructuring and Finance Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Mayer, Martin J.E. Arms, and Emil A. Kleinhaus.

Directors’ and officers’ (“D&O”) insurance coverage continues to represent a key element of corporate risk management. See memo of July 28 2009. A decision in the bankruptcy of commodities brokerage MF Global, In re MF Global Holdings Ltd., No. 11-15059 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2014), provides a recent illustration of how D&O insurance may be treated upon the bankruptcy of the insured company, depending on the specific structure and terms of the insurance at issue.

…continue reading: Update on Directors’ and Officers’ Insurance in Bankruptcy

Delaware Court Finds Two Transactions Not Entirely Fair

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday September 18, 2014 at 9:07 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David J. Berger, partner focusing on corporate governance at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and is based on a WSGR Alert 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 September 4, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued two lengthy post-trial opinions, [1] both authored by Vice Chancellor John W. Noble, finding that recapitalization or restructuring transactions did not satisfy the entire fairness standard of review. Although plaintiffs in each instance had received a fair price, the court found that the defendants had employed unfair processes and breached their fiduciary duties.

Significantly, one of the cases involved a recognizable set of facts: various plaintiff stockholders challenged a recapitalization that was approved at the same time the company conducted an “insider” round of financing as the company was running out of cash. The recapitalization and financing were approved by a five-member board of directors, three of whom were designated by venture capital funds that either participated in the financing or were said to have received a special benefit, with no participation by the company’s other stockholders. While the company received an informal and insider-led valuation of $4 million at the time of the recapitalization, the court found that the company’s equity at that time actually had a value of zero. However, as a result of the recapitalization, the company was able to acquire new lines of businesses. Four years after the recapitalization, the company was sold for $175 million. Following the sale, six years of litigation unfolded.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Finds Two Transactions Not Entirely Fair

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?

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