Archive for the ‘Institutional Investors’ Category

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).

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An Informed Approach to Issues Facing the Mutual Fund Industry

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Thursday April 10, 2014 at 9:22 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at the Mutual Fund Directors Forum’s 2014 Policy Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

As a practicing securities lawyer for more than thirty years, I have in the past advised boards of directors, including mutual fund boards, and I am well acquainted with the important work that you do. I also understand the essential role that independent directors play in ensuring good corporate governance. As fiduciaries, you play a critical role in setting the appropriate tone at the top and overseeing the funds’ business. Thus, I commend the Mutual Fund Directors Forum’s efforts in providing a platform for independent mutual fund directors to share ideas and best practices. Improving fund governance is vital to investor protection and maintaining the integrity of our financial markets.

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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.

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The Use and Abuse of Labor’s Capital

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday April 7, 2014 at 9:23 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David H. Webber of Boston University Law School.

Across the country, public employee retirement systems are investing in companies that privatize public employee jobs. Such investments lead to reduced working hours and often job losses for current employees. [1] Although, in some circumstances, pension fund participants and beneficiaries may benefit from these investments, their actual economic interests might also be harmed by them, once the negative jobs impact is taken into account. But that impact is almost never taken into account. That’s because under the ascendant view of the fiduciary duty of loyalty, pension trustees owe their allegiance to the fund first, rather than to the fund’s participants and beneficiaries. Notwithstanding the fact that ERISA and state pension codes command trustees to invest, “solely in the interests of participants and beneficiaries and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits,” the United States Department of Labor declared in 2008 that the plain text of the quoted language means that the interests of the plan come first. [2] Under this view, plan trustees should de facto ignore the potentially negative jobs impact of privatizing investments because that impact harms plan members, and not, purportedly, the plan itself. Thus, in the name of the duty of loyalty, the actual economic interests of plan members in plan investments are subverted to the interests of the plan itself (or, at a minimum, to an unduly constrained version of the plan’s interests that excludes lost employer and employee contributions). As a result, public pension plans make investments that harm the economic interests of their members. This turns the duty of loyalty on its head.

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There Is Something Special about Large Investors

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday April 2, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Marco Da Rin of the Department of Finance at Tilburg University and Ludovic Phalippou of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

It has been argued that the best private equity partnerships do not increase fund size or fees to market-clearing levels. Instead they have rationed access to their funds to favor their most prestigious investors (e.g. Ivy League university endowments). Further, industry observers (e.g. Swensen (2000)) have often argued that endowments are better equipped to assess and evaluate emerging alternative investments, such as private equity, in which asymmetric information problems are especially severe. Lerner, Schoar, and Wongsunwai (2007) document that improved access as well as experience of investing in the private equity sector led endowments to outperform other institutional investors substantially during the 1990s. However, private equity is no longer an emerging, unfamiliar asset class, and the distribution of private equity fund returns has also changed over time. In particular, venture capital returns fell dramatically after the technology bust of the early 2000s.

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Recommendations from Conference Board Task Force on Corporate/Investor Engagement

Posted by Charles Nathan, RLM Finsbury, and Arthur H. Kohn, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, on Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 9:37 am
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Editor’s Note: Charles Nathan is partner and head of the Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury. Arthur H. Kohn is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post relates to a report from The Conference Board Task Force on Corporate/Investor Engagement, one of three related publications released by The Conference Board Governance Center as a result of its year-long multifaceted study of corporate/investor engagement.

The 2008 financial crisis and the slow recovery that has followed has brought further evidence tending to support the view that the structure of our corporate sector needs adjustment, and that its faults affect the competitiveness of our economy. The crisis has resulted, as would be expected, in a raft of new rules and regulations, which as usual have been implemented before there emerged any consensus about the nature of the problems. There has also been a vigorous competition of ideas over causes and remedies.

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75% of 2014 Engagements Have Already Produced Agreements to Declassify

Editor’s Note: Lucian Bebchuk is the Director of the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), Scott Hirst is the SRP’s Associate Director, and June Rhee is a counsel at the SRP. The SRP, a clinical program operating at Harvard Law School, works on behalf of public pension funds and charitable organizations seeking to improve corporate governance at publicly traded companies, as well as on research and policy projects related to corporate governance. Any views expressed and positions taken by the SRP and its representatives should be attributed solely to the SRP and not to Harvard Law School or Harvard University. The work of the SRP has been discussed in other posts on the Forum available here.

In a news alert released last week, the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP), working with SRP-represented investors, announced the high level of company responsiveness to engagements during the 2014 proxy season. In particular, as discussed in more detail below, major results obtained so far include the following:

  • Following active engagement, about three-quarters of the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies that received declassification proposals for 2014 annual meetings from SRP-represented investors have already entered into agreements to move towards board declassification.
  • This outcome reinforces the SRP’s expectation (announced in a blog post available here) that, by the end of 2014, the work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors will have resulted in about 100 board declassifications by S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies.

…continue reading: 75% of 2014 Engagements Have Already Produced Agreements to Declassify

Do-It-Yourself Activism

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday March 13, 2014 at 7:58 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Gerry Hansell, senior partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group, and is based on a BCG publication by Mr. Hansell, Tawfik Hammoud, Alexander Roos, and Vinay Shandal. Recent work from the Program on Corporate Governance about hedge fund activism includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon P. Brav, and Wei Jiang.

Many corporate executives and board members view activist investors as little more than bullies with calculators: they seem to hunt in packs, force disruptive and risky changes, and use simplistic benchmarks as their call to action.

Yet their ranks have grown rapidly, and activist investors now attack even the largest and most successful companies. Worldwide, the assets managed by activist investors have increased sevenfold over the past decade, from $12 billion to $85 billion. Since 2005, the number of activist campaigns in the U.S. has increased 15 percent per year, reaching a total of 144 in 2012. These investors have pushed for the return of excess cash to shareholders at Apple; urged restructuring through spinoffs and divestitures at PepsiCo, Sony, Timken, and McGraw-Hill; and called for the replacement of senior management or board members at Abercrombie & Fitch, Yahoo, and Sotheby’s.

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UK Shareholder Activism: A Toolbox for 2014

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday March 2, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jeffery Roberts, senior partner in the London office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Mr. Roberts.

Following an increase in shareholder and investor activism beyond pure executive remuneration issues in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2013, with some 25 companies targeted for public campaigns, this post provides a summary of certain principles of English law and UK and European regulation applicable to UK listed public companies and their shareholders that are relevant to the expected further increase in activism in 2014. This post covers (i) stake-building; (ii) shareholders’ rights to require companies to hold general meetings; (iii) shareholders’ rights to propose resolutions at annual general meetings; and (iv) recent developments in these and related areas through raising and answering a number of relevant questions.

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Shareholder Activism in M&A Transactions

Posted by Alan M. Klein, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, on Wednesday February 26, 2014 at 9:06 am
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Editor’s Note: Alan M. Klein is a Partner in the Corporate Department at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. The following post is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum.

Shareholder activism, which has increasingly occupied headlines in recent years, continued along its sharp growth trajectory in 2013. The number of activists, as well as the amount of capital backing them, has increased substantially, as has the sophistication and effectiveness of their tactics.

In addition, last year was particularly noteworthy for the role shareholder activism played in the M&A sector, including a number of high-profile attacks on announced business combination transactions. In November 2013, we hosted a conference to discuss the rise of shareholder activism as it relates to M&A activity. We gathered a number of industry-leading experts to discuss significant recent developments and emerging trends and to explore tactics and responses from a company and an activist perspective. The panel discussions at this conference provided a number of interesting insights, observations and data points, and several of the key themes and highlights are outlined below.

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