The U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) continue to deploy DPAs and NPAs aggressively. This past year left no doubt that such resolutions are a vital part of the federal corporate law enforcement arsenal, affording the U.S. government an avenue both to punish and reform corporations accused of wrongdoing. In early December, for example, U.S. Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Criminal Division, Leslie Caldwell, highlighted the importance of negotiated resolutions that allowed DOJ to “impose reforms, impose compliance controls, and impose all sorts of behavioral change.” She concluded: “In the United States system at least [settlement] is a more powerful tool than actually going to trial.” DOJ and the SEC have used negotiated resolutions, including DPAs and NPAs, to require companies to implement an effective compliance program. In 2014 we witnessed a number of notable developments in negotiated resolutions that demonstrate that the traditional hallmarks of DPAs and NPAs, including post-settlement compliance and reporting obligations, are here to stay.
Archive for the ‘International Corporate Governance & Regulation’ Category
On December 9, 2014, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) issued a long-awaited proposal to impose additional capital requirements on the US’s global systemically important banks (G-SIBs). The proposal implements the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s (BCBS) G-SIB capital surcharge framework that was finalized in 2011, but also proposes changes to BCBS’s calculation methodology resulting in significantly higher surcharges for US G-SIBs compared with their global peers.
The proposal, which we expect will be finalized in 2015, requires US G-SIBs to hold additional capital (Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) as a percentage of Risk Weighted Assets (RWA)) equal to the greater of the amount calculated under two methods. The first method is consistent with BCBS’s framework, and calculates the amount of extra capital to be held based on the G-SIB’s size, interconnectedness, cross-jurisdictional activity, substitutability, and complexity. The second method is introduced by the US proposal, and uses similar inputs but replaces the substitutability element with a measure based on a G-SIB’s reliance on short-term wholesale funding (STWF).
ISS recently issued updated guidelines for several of its benchmark global voting policies, which will be effective for analyses of publicly traded companies with shareholder meetings on or after Feb. 1, 2015. For the 10th year running, ISS gathered broad input from institutional investors, corporate issuers, and other market constituents worldwide as a key part of its policy development process. The 2015 updates reflect the time and effort of hundreds of investors, issuers, corporate directors, and other market participants who provided input through a variety of channels, including ISS’ annual policy survey, topical and regional roundtables, and direct engagements with staff.
On November 10th, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) issued a long-awaited consultative document that defined a global standard for minimum amounts of Total Loss Absorbency Capacity (TLAC) to be held by Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs). TLAC is meant to ensure that G-SIBs have the loss absorbing and recapitalization capacity so that, in and immediately following resolution, critical functions can continue without requiring taxpayer support or threatening financial stability.
The FSB’s document requires a G-SIB to hold a minimum amount of regulatory capital (Tier 1 and Tier 2) plus long term unsecured debt that together are at least 16-20%  of its risk weighted assets (RWA), i.e., at least twice the minimum Basel III total regulatory capital ratio of 8%. In addition, the amount of a firm’s regulatory capital and unsecured long term debt cannot be less than 6% of its leverage exposure, i.e., at least twice the Basel III leverage ratio. In addition to this “Pillar 1” requirement, TLAC would also include a subjective component (called “Pillar 2”) to be assessed for each firm individually, based on qualitative firm-specific risks that take into account the firm’s recovery and resolution plans, systemic footprint, risk profile, and other factors.
Tax inversion deals are clearly the most talked about M&A deal structure we have seen for many years. Unlike other hot-topic M&A deal structures (think LBOs or activist investor campaigns), inversions involve a highly charged political controversy in the context of the global competitiveness of corporations and their home economies. Although the recent Treasury Department rules have significantly or, in some cases, fatally crimped the economics of some previously announced inversions, many tax advantages of inversions remain. As a result, the structure retains its appeal for a number of cross-border acquisitions by U.S. companies and will likely continue to create business and political headlines in the U.S. and abroad.
Depending on the friendly or hostile nature of the deal, the parties’ home countries and the constituencies being addressed, tax inversion can be a plus to be celebrated, a minus to be exploited or, all too often, a combination of both. The many facets of inversion deals and their shifting nature create far more complicated communications challenges than any other type of M&A deal structure.
International financial law scholarship is undergoing a revolution. The financial crisis of 2008 has led to a dramatic rethinking of the “givens,” and has attracted a new community of scholars to the field. Until 2008, international legal theory played only a minor role in international financial law. The implicit and taken for granted neoclassical economic theory that undergirded debates about global financial regulation was presumed to be all the theory that could or should apply, and the analysis focused rather simply and uniformly on questions of efficiency and social welfare. Since the financial crisis, however, the mainstream debate has shifted its focus to so-called “macro-prudential issues” and to an awareness of a need for some sort of global, or at least a transnationally coordinated response to systemic risk.
A key element of the Basel III framework aims to ensure the maintenance and stability of funding and liquidity profiles of banks’ balance sheets. Two liquidity standards, the “net stable funding ratio” and a “liquidity coverage ratio”, were introduced in the Basel III framework to achieve this aim. Final standards on the net stable funding ratio have recently been released. Despite the implementation date of January 2018, banking institutions are considering the full impact of these measures on all aspects of their businesses now.
In our paper, Capital Allocation and Delegation of Decision-Making Authority within Firms, forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, we use a unique data set that contains information on more than 1,000 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) around the world to investigate the degree to which executives delegate financial decisions and the circumstances that drive variation in delegation. Our results can be grouped into four themes.
The ISDA 2014 Resolution Stay Protocol, published on November 12, 2014, by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA),  represents a significant shift in the terms of the over-the-counter derivatives market. It will require adhering parties to relinquish termination rights that have long been part of bankruptcy “safe harbors” for derivatives contracts under bankruptcy and insolvency regimes in many jurisdictions. While buy-side market participants are not required to adhere to the Protocol at this time, future regulations will likely have the effect of compelling market participants to agree to its terms. This change will impact institutional investors, hedge funds, mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds, and other buy-side market participants who enter into over-the-counter derivatives transactions with financial institutions.
Among the key features of the Protocol are the following:
On October 31, 2014, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (the “Basel Committee”) released the final Net Stable Funding Ratio (the “NSFR”) framework, which requires banking organizations to maintain stable funding (in the form of various types of liabilities and capital) for their assets and certain off-balance sheet activities. The NSFR finalizes a proposal first published by the Basel Committee in December of 2010 and later revised in January of 2014. Particularly given the historical trend as between the Basel Committee and U.S. banking agency implementation and in line with its Halloween release, it has left many wondering: Is it a trick or a treat?