Today [November 19, 2014], the Commission considers adopting Regulation Systems, Compliance, and Integrity (or Regulation SCI). These rules and amendments are intended to establish a foundational regulatory framework for the technological market infrastructure that has become increasingly intertwined with the functioning of our securities markets. The rules being considered for adoption today represent a clear improvement over the proposed version, which offered only a hollow promise that our markets would be safer, more resilient, and more stable.
Archive for the ‘Securities Regulation’ Category
In a flurry of regulatory actions on October 21 and 22, 2014, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the “FHFA”), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (collectively, the “Joint Regulators”) each adopted a final rule (the “Final Rule”) implementing the credit risk retention requirements of section 941 of the Dodd-Frank Act for asset-backed securities (“ABS”). The section 941 requirements were intended to ensure that securitizers generally have “skin in the game” with respect to securitized loans and other assets.
Last week, Securities and Exchange Commissioner Daniel Gallagher took the unusual step of publishing a letter to the editor of the New York Times expressing his opposition to the SEC even considering companies’ disclosure of political spending. In his letter, the Commissioner vows “to fight to keep” the subject off the SEC’s agenda. As explained below, however, his letter fails to provide a substantive basis for his vehement opposition to transparency in corporate spending on politics.
This week six federal agencies (Fed, OCC, FDIC, SEC, FHFA, and HUD) finalized their joint asset-backed securities (ABS) risk retention rule. As expected, the final rule requires sponsors of ABS to retain an interest equal to at least 5% of the credit risk in a securitization vehicle.
1. A win for the mortgage industry: The final rule effectively broadens the original proposal’s exemption from risk retention requirements for Qualified Residential Mortgages (QRM) by tying the definition of QRM to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s definition of Qualified Mortgage (QM). This alignment abandons the proposal’s most stringent requirements to obtain the QRM exemption, including that a residential mortgage have at least a 20% down payment. The final rule also provides an additional exemption for certain mortgages that would not meet the QRM standards, e.g., community-focused residential mortgages. The immediate impact of the rule on the industry is further muted, given the significant amount of mortgages issued by government sponsored entities (i.e., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae) that are currently exempt from the rule’s requirements. It may however be too soon for the industry to celebrate, as the final rule states that the agencies will reassess the effectiveness of the QRM definition at reducing securitization risk at most four years from now, and every five years thereafter.
Today [October 22, 2014], the Commission will consider the recommendation of the staff to adopt, jointly with five other federal agencies, final rules for the asset-backed securities market that will require securitizers to keep “skin in the game.” Specifically, we will consider rules to require certain securitizers to retain no less than five percent of the credit risk of the assets they securitize. These rules, which are mandated by Section 941 of the Dodd-Frank Act, are part of a strong and comprehensive package of reforms that will address some of the most serious issues exposed in the asset-backed securities market that contributed to the financial crisis.
Severe turmoil in financial markets—whether the Panic of 1826, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, or the Global Financial Crisis of 2008—often raises significant concerns about the effectiveness of pre-existing securities market regulation. In turn, such concerns tend to result in calls for more and stricter government regulation of corporations and financial markets. It is widely considered that the most significant change to U.S. financial regulation in the past 100 years was the Securities Act of 1933 and the subsequent creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enforce it. Before the SEC creation, federal securities market regulation was essentially absent in the U.S. In our paper, Corporate Governance and the Creation of the SEC, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine how companies listing in the U.S. responded to this significant increase in the provision of government-sponsored corporate governance. Specifically, did this landmark legislation have any significant effects on board governance (e.g., the independence of boards) and firm valuations?
In our recent paper, Disclosure and Financial Market Regulation, we provide a critical overview of the role of disclosure in financial market regulation.
We begin by discussing the goals of disclosure regulation, which we identify in investor protection, agency cost reduction and price accuracy enhancement. Disclosure protects investors because (a) it gives them the information that is needed in order to make correct investment decisions, (b) it prevents them from being “exploited” by traders having superior information, and (c) it constrains managers’ and controlling shareholders’ opportunistic behavior. In this last respect, the goal of investor protection equates that of agency cost reduction.
On September 19, 2014, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) announced that its Board of Governors (the “Board”) approved a series of regulatory initiatives primarily focused on equity and fixed income market structure issues. This is a direct response by FINRA to two important speeches this summer by SEC Chair Mary Jo White, in which she articulated an ambitious agenda of market structure reforms. 
The Board authorized FINRA staff to prepare Regulatory Notices soliciting comments or issuing guidance on the following:
Good morning, and welcome to today’s [October 9, 2014] meeting of the Investor Advisory Committee.
I want to touch briefly today on the Commission’s rulemaking agenda since you last met, mention a few other developments and give a brief update on the status of our consideration of your recommendations.
The Commission has completed three sets of important rulemakings since your last meeting in July. They each put in place critical new investor protections to address some of the most significant risks in the securities markets highlighted by the financial crisis.
As an echo of the last financial crisis, the two themes that have arguably dominated the corporate governance debate globally are investor activism and corporate governance enforcement. Recent years have seen by all accounts the highest rates of institutional investor activism on a range of issues such as executive remuneration, non-financial disclosure and board composition, and at the same time, increased oversight and enforcement. Stewardship-oriented initiatives and rigorous enforcement activity by securities but also banking sector regulators have seen a level of heightened interest in Europe and North America, and to a lesser extent in emerging markets.