Archive for the ‘Speeches & Testimony’ Category

Preparing for the Regulatory Challenges of the 21st Century

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 recent remarks at the Georgia Law Review’s Annual Symposium, Financial Regulation: Reflections and Projections; 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.

During my tenure as an SEC Commissioner, our country’s economy has experienced extreme highs and lows. In fact, the country experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, followed by the current period of significant economic growth where the stock market has grown by around 165% from the low point of the financial crisis.

I have had a front-row seat to all of this, as I became an SEC Commissioner just weeks before the financial crisis hit our nation. As a result, I witnessed first-hand just how fragile our capital markets can be, and the need for a robust and effective SEC to protect them. First, let me provide a snapshot of what went on. I was sworn-in as an SEC Commissioner on July 31, 2008. Within a few weeks, on September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. To give you a sense of its rapid decline, within 15 days, its share price went from $17.50 per share to virtually worthless. The demise of Lehman Brothers is often seen as the first in a rapid succession of events that led to an unimaginable market and liquidity crisis. These events included:

…continue reading: Preparing for the Regulatory Challenges of the 21st Century

The Role of Academics and Industry in Improving Equity Market Structure

Posted by Michael S. Piwowar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Saturday March 21, 2015 at 9:29 am
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Editor’s Note: Michael S. Piwowar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Piwowar’s recent remarks at the University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business, Center for the Study of Financial Regulation; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Piwowar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [March 13, 2015], I want to focus my remarks on the equities markets, and specifically equity market structure. Although it may be hard for some of you in this room to believe, in the 20 months since I began this job, some have suggested that I am a so-called “market structure expert.” While such comments are certainly flattering, I cannot accept the compliment. Of course, my academic research, my private and public sector experience, and my current role as a Commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or the “Commission”) have all given me unique insights into the functioning of our equities markets. However, like many people in this room, I still consider myself a “student of markets.” With so many issues to examine and debate, and the continued evolution of the financial markets, I think we can agree there is more for all of us to observe and learn.

It has been fifteen months since I gave my first speech on equity market structure. Both before and since, my colleagues at the Commission have kept the issue of market structure in the forefront through their own public remarks. Congress also has been expressing keen interest in equity market structure, shining a bright light on the issue. And we have had some unsolicited prompting by a bestselling author, who, to put it lightly, does not have flattering things to say about the current state of the equity markets in what many refer to as simply “The Book.” Given all of this attention, I am frankly disappointed that we at the SEC have accomplished very little.

…continue reading: The Role of Academics and Industry in Improving Equity Market Structure

A Few Observations on Shareholders in 2015

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday March 20, 2015 at 9:03 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s recent address at Tulane’s 27th Annual Corporate Law Institute; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [March 19, 2015], I will share a few observations on three specific areas: the current state of shareholder activism; the shareholder proposal process; and fee-shifting bylaws. I know your next two panels take up aspects of these important topics, but I think the space is lively and big enough for all of us to comment.

The Current Activism Landscape

There are different views on what is meant by “shareholder activism,” but just the word “activism” triggers an adverse reaction from many companies. Reflexively painting all activism negatively is, in my view, using too broad a brush and indeed is counterproductive. To me, the term activism captures the range of efforts by investors to influence a company’s management or decision-making. Some of it is constructive. In certain situations, activism seeks to bring about important changes at companies that can increase shareholder value. Now, some of you may find the juxtaposition of the word “activism” with “shareholder value” does not comport with your sense of reality. Some of you also believe that activists are not interested in increasing long-term value for shareholders and other stakeholders. Still others will assert that activists are simply short-term traders looking to make a quick dollar. I did say this was a lively topic with many different views.

…continue reading: A Few Observations on Shareholders in 2015

The Need for Greater Secondary Market Liquidity for Small Businesses

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 public statement at a recent meeting of the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies; 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.

I am delighted to see that today’s [March 4, 2015] meeting will discuss the secondary trading environment for the securities of small businesses. The lack of a fair, liquid, and transparent secondary market for these securities is a longstanding problem that needs an effective solution. Indeed, I’ve spoken publicly about this very issue on a number of occasions, most recently less than two weeks ago at the annual SEC Speaks conference. This topic is increasingly urgent in light of certain new, or anticipated, Commission rules required by the JOBS Act that would result in a far wider range of small business securities needing to find liquidity in the secondary markets. Specifically, proposed rules under Regulation A-plus and Crowdfunding, and final rules under Rule 506(c) of Regulation D, would permit wide distributions of securities and also allow such securities to be freely-traded by security holders immediately upon issuance, or after a one-year holding period. These registration exemptions also provide—or are expected to provide—for lesser on-going reporting requirements than is required for listed securities.

…continue reading: The Need for Greater Secondary Market Liquidity for Small Businesses

Keeping Pace with Digital Disruption in our Securities Marketplace

Posted by Kara M. Stein, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday March 6, 2015 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: Kara M. Stein is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Stein’s recent address at the Practising Law Institute’s SEC Speaks in 2015 Conference, available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Stein and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to acknowledge the remarkable and dedicated career of Harvey Goldschmid. Just a few weeks ago, Harvey visited me to discuss his perspectives on a number of timely securities law issues. His superb intellect was reinforced by his engaging personality and skill as a teacher.

Harvey’s intense passion for the securities laws and investor protection was an inspiration to many of us. In authoring a tribute to Harvey Goldschmid in 2006, SEC historian Joel Seligman labeled him one of the most influential Commissioners. [1] I couldn’t agree more.

This conference provides us with an opportunity to look backward and to look forward. As I look back over the SEC’s history, I am always impressed by the rate and degree of change.

Picture Wall Street 80 years ago—the street was filled with dozens of young men—“runners”—carrying paper back and forth between various brokers and dealers and banks and exchanges and companies that made up the securities markets. Runners were the backbone of the securities market, delivering paperwork and stock certificates at a rate of $8 per day. Maybe the telephone would ring (the desk telephone was launched in 1932) or a telegram would arrive. And investors, would look to the newspaper to decide what stocks to buy or sell.

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Chairman’s Address at SEC Speaks 2015

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday February 25, 2015 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Chair White’s recent address at the Practising Law Institute’s SEC Speaks in 2015 Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

By every meaningful measure, 2014 was a year of significant accomplishment across all of the agency’s areas of responsibility. The year was highlighted by the completion of several transformative rulemakings, including new policy reforms to address faults exposed during the financial crisis and initiatives to better address vulnerabilities in the resiliency and integrity of our markets. It was also an unprecedented year in enforcement, in terms of the number of cases and, more importantly, their subject matter. We made important strides in our review and action plans for optimizing the structure of our equity and fixed income markets, enhancing our risk supervision of the asset management industry and bolstering the effectiveness of public company disclosure. We also significantly strengthened our examination coverage of market participants. But, as always, we have more to do and expect a very busy 2015.

…continue reading: Chairman’s Address at SEC Speaks 2015

Setting Forth Goals for 2015

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday February 25, 2015 at 9:02 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 recent address at the Practising Law Institute’s SEC Speaks in 2015 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.

During the past seven years, the SEC has taken action on a significant number of issues. There is little doubt, that these years have been one of the most active periods in SEC history. For example, during this period, the Commission voted on almost 250 rulemaking releases, both proposing rules and adopting final rules. Many of these rulemakings have been ground-breaking.

Still, even with all that activity, the SEC has not finished its work on many ongoing issues, such as the need to improve disclosures related to target-date funds and municipal securities. The Commission also has not completed many of its outstanding statutory mandates. I plan to use my time with you today [February 20, 2015] to lay out a few important priorities that the SEC should pursue in 2015 in order to move toward completing its outstanding work, to strengthen the Commission and do right by the public.

…continue reading: Setting Forth Goals for 2015

A Fair, Orderly, and Efficient SEC

Posted by Michael S. Piwowar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Wednesday February 25, 2015 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Michael S. Piwowar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Piwowar’s recent address at the Practising Law Institute’s SEC Speaks in 2015 Conference; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Piwowar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here today [Feb. 20, 2015] with so many of the SEC staff, former SEC staff, and other members of the securities community. “SEC Speaks” provides us with the chance to reflect on all of the Commission’s accomplishments in the past year, which are the result of the hard work and dedication of the staff. At the same time, it is also an appropriate venue for considering what else we can do to effectively carry out our mission to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. I would suggest that the answer to how we can build upon the accomplishments of the past year is to apply the same objective that we have for the markets we regulate—that they be fair, orderly, and efficient—to ourselves. And so, I would like to discuss how we can make the SEC a more fair, orderly, and efficient agency.

Before going any further, lest you think that what I say necessary reflects the views of the Commission or my fellow Commissioners, I want to assure all of you that the views I express today are solely my own.

…continue reading: A Fair, Orderly, and Efficient SEC

Making the Municipal Securities Market More Transparent, Liquid, and Fair

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Sunday February 22, 2015 at 9:00 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 recent public statement; 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.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the municipal securities market. There is perhaps no other market that so profoundly influences the quality of our daily lives. Municipal securities provide financing to build and maintain schools, hospitals, and utilities, as well as the roads and other basic infrastructure that enable our economy to flourish. Municipal bonds’ tax-free status also makes them an important investment vehicle for individual investors, particularly retirees. Ensuring the existence of a vibrant and efficient municipal bond market is essential, particularly at a time when state and local government budgets remain stretched.

Unfortunately, despite its size and importance, the municipal securities market has been subjected to a far lesser degree of regulation and transparency than other segments of the U.S. capital markets. In fact, investors in municipal securities are afforded “second-class treatment” under current law in many ways. This has allowed market participants to cling to outdated notions about how the municipal securities market should operate. The result is a market that, in the view of many, is excessively opaque, illiquid, and decentralized.

…continue reading: Making the Municipal Securities Market More Transparent, Liquid, and Fair

Ensuring the Proxy Process Works for Shareholders

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday February 20, 2015 at 9:00 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 recent public statement; 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.

Today’s [February 19, 2015] Roundtable on Proxy Voting is certainly timely since over the course of the next several months, thousands of America’s public companies will hold annual shareholders meetings to elect directors and to vote on many important corporate governance issues. The start of the annual “proxy season” is an appropriate time to consider the annual process by which companies communicate with their shareholders and get their input on a variety of issues. Whether it’s voting on directors, executive compensation matters, or other significant matters, the annual meeting is the principal opportunity for shareholders—the true owners of public companies—to have their voices heard by the corporate managers of their investments. At these annual meetings, shareholders can express their support, or disappointment, with the direction of their companies through the exercise of their right to vote.

…continue reading: Ensuring the Proxy Process Works for Shareholders

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