ISS and Glass Lewis Voting Guidelines for 2015 Proxy Season

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday November 20, 2014 at 9:39 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Edmond T. FitzGerald, partner and head of the Executive Compensation Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Kyoko T. Lin and Ning Chiu.

ISS and Glass Lewis, two influential proxy advisory firms, have both released updates to their policies that govern recommendations for how shareholders should cast their votes on significant ballot items for the 2015 proxy season, including governance, compensation and environmental and social matters.

ISS policy updates are effective for annual meetings after February 1, 2015. We understand that the new Glass Lewis policies are effective for annual meetings after January 1, 2015, but clarifications to existing policies are effective immediately.

…continue reading: ISS and Glass Lewis Voting Guidelines for 2015 Proxy Season

Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday November 20, 2014 at 9:18 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from John Asker, Professor of Economics at UCLA; Joan Farre-Mensa of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School; and Alexander Ljungqvist, Professor of Finance at NYU.

Economists have long worried that a stock market listing can induce short-termist pressures that distort the investment decisions of public firms. Back in 1985 Narayanan wrote in the Journal of Finance that “American managers tend to make decisions that yield short-term gains at the expense of the long-term interests of the shareholders.” More recently, a growing number of commentators blame the sluggish performance of the U.S. economy since the 2008–2009 financial crisis on short-termism. For example, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, Barton and Wiseman, global managing director at McKinsey & Co. and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, respectively, argue that “the ongoing short-termism in the business world is undermining corporate investment, holding back economic growth.”

Yet, systematic empirical evidence of widespread short-termism has proved elusive, largely because identifying its effects is challenging. A chief challenge is the difficulty of finding a plausible counterfactual for how firms would invest absent short-termist pressures. In our paper, Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?, which is forthcoming at the Review of Financial Studies, we address this difficulty by comparing the investment behavior of stock market-listed firms to that of comparable privately held firms, using a novel panel dataset of private U.S. firms covering more than 400,000 firm years over the period 2001–2011. Building on prior work, our key identification assumption is that, on average, private firms suffer from fewer agency problems and, in particular, are subject to fewer short-termist pressures than are their listed counterparts. This assumption is motivated by the fact that private firms are often owner managed and, even when not, are both illiquid and typically have highly concentrated ownership. These features encourage their owners to monitor management more closely to ensure long-term value is maximized.

…continue reading: Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?

Justice Department Fines Unsuccessful Merger Parties for “Gun Jumping”

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday November 19, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Nelson O. Fitts, partner in the Antitrust Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Fitts and Nathaniel L. Asker.

On November 7, 2014, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against Flakeboard America Limited, its foreign parents, and SierraPine, charging that Flakeboard exercised operational control over SierraPine prior to expiration of the statutory pre-merger waiting period, prematurely assuming beneficial ownership of the target assets in violation of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and conspiring in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Flakeboard and SierraPine settled the case, with each agreeing to pay $1.9 million in HSR fines and Flakeboard disgorging an additional $1.15 million in unlawful profits.

…continue reading: Justice Department Fines Unsuccessful Merger Parties for “Gun Jumping”

Weather-Induced Mood, Institutional Investors, and Stock Returns

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday November 19, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from William Goetzmann, Professor of Finance at Yale University; Dasol Kim of the Department of Banking and Finance at Case Western Reserve University; Alok Kumar, Professor of Finance at the University of Miami; and Qin Wang of the Department of Accounting and Finance at the University of Michigan at Dearborn.

Studies showing that weather patterns in major financial centers influence stock index returns provide suggestive evidence that investor mood influences asset prices (Saunders, 1993; Hirshleifer and Shumway, 2003). Individuals may misattribute mood induced by weather as information when making assessments about objects that should be otherwise unrelated (Schwarz and Clore, 1983), leading to mood-congruent judgments. For example, sunnier days may induce good moods amongst investors, generating overly optimistic beliefs regarding their investments and congruently influencing their trading decisions. Despite strong evidence of the weather effect on stock index returns, establishing plausibility in mood-based explanations relies in part on distinguishing which group of investors drives the weather effect, and directly confirming mood effects in their judgments.

…continue reading: Weather-Induced Mood, Institutional Investors, and Stock Returns

Bank Capital Plans and Stress Tests

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday November 18, 2014 at 9:12 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 H. Rodgin Cohen, Andrew R. Gladin, Mark J. Welshimer, and Lauren A. Wansor.

On October 16, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”) issued its summary instructions and guidance [1] (the “CCAR 2015 Instructions”) for its supervisory Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review program for 2015 (“CCAR 2015”) applicable to bank holding companies with $50 billion or more of total consolidated assets (“Covered BHCs”). Thirty-one institutions will participate in CCAR 2015, including the 30 Covered BHCs [2] that participated in CCAR in 2014, as well as one institution that is new to the program. [3]

…continue reading: Bank Capital Plans and Stress Tests

Shirking CEOs

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday November 18, 2014 at 9:11 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lee Biggerstaff of the Department of Finance at Miami University of Ohio; David Cicero of the Department of Finance at the University of Alabama; and Andy Puckett of the Department of Finance at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Anytime you hire someone there is always a risk that they will not complete their task with the level of diligence that you had anticipated. Unless you monitor the hired party at all times, which can be extremely inefficient, they always have the temptation to “shirk” their responsibilities and avoid the hard work required to do an excellent job. In our paper, FORE! An Analysis of CEO Shirking, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we provide evidence that some CEOs of public companies in the U.S. succumb to the same temptation to shirk their duties to shareholders by choosing leisure consumption over the hard work required to maximize firm values.

…continue reading: Shirking CEOs

The Short-Termism Debate at the Federalist Society Convention

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday November 17, 2014 at 9:16 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post relates to an empirical study of hedge fund activism issued by the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and co-authored by Professor Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang. Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Alon Brav is Professor of Finance at Duke University and a Senior Fellow of the Program. Wei Jiang is Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School, and a Senior Fellow of the Program.

Last week, The Federalist Society’s 2014 National Lawyers Convention featured a session dedicated to the short-termism debate and the evidence put forward by Professors Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang in their study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. The session began with a presentation by Professor Bebchuk that outlined the key findings and implications of the study. Three panelists then offered their reactions to the study: Jonathan Macey, Sam Harris Professor of Corporate Law, Corporate Finance, and Securities Law, Yale Law School; Robert Miller, Professor of Law and F. Arnold Daum Fellow in Corporate Law, University of Iowa College of Law; and Steven Rosenblum, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The debate was moderated by E. Norman Veasey, former Chief Justice, Delaware Supreme Court.

Professor Bebchuk’s presentation slides are available here. The Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang study is available here, and posts about the study, including one published by critics of the study, are available on the Forum here.

Pontiac General Employees Retirement System v. Healthways, Inc.

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday November 17, 2014 at 9:15 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 by Alexandra D. Korry, John E. Estes, S. Neal McKnight, 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 a bench ruling [1] issued on October 14, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Laster) declined to dismiss fiduciary duty claims against the directors of Healthways, Inc. (“Healthways”) and an aiding and abetting claim against SunTrust Bank (“SunTrust”), the lender administrative agent, for entering into a credit facility of Healthways that has a dead hand “proxy put” provision. The provision at issue allows the lenders to declare an event of default and accelerate the debt in the event that a majority of the Healthways board during a period of 24 months is comprised of “non-continuing” directors, including directors initially nominated as a result of an actual or threatened proxy contest. Rejecting the director defendant claims that the fiduciary duty claims were not ripe, the Court stated that Healthways’ stockholders may presently be “suffering a distinct injury” from the deterrent effect of the “proxy put” and the fact that the dissident directors are non-continuing directors under the “proxy put.” In addition, in a further significant development, the Court stated that its prior holdings on the “entrenching” nature of “proxy puts” placed SunTrust on notice that a borrower’s board runs the risk of breaching their fiduciary duties if they accept dead hand “proxy puts” in the borrower’s debt documentation without negotiating significant value in return. Because the dead hand “proxy put” was included in Healthways’ credit agreement shortly after the threat of a proxy contest had occurred, the Court found that there was sufficient “knowing participation” pled to survive a motion to dismiss the aiding and abetting claim against SunTrust.

…continue reading: Pontiac General Employees Retirement System v. Healthways, Inc.

A Closer Look at US Credit Risk Retention Rules

Editor’s Note: David M. Lynn is a partner and co-chair of the Corporate Finance practice at Morrison & Foerster LLP. The following post is based on a Morrison & Foerster publication by Jerry Marlatt, Melissa Beck, and Kenneth Kohler.

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.

…continue reading: A Closer Look at US Credit Risk Retention Rules

ISS Details Governance QuickScore 3.0 Updates

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday November 15, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yafit Cohn, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and is based on a Simpson Thacher memorandum.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) has released a technical document detailing the factors and scoring methodology of Governance QuickScore 3.0, which ISS plans to launch on November 24, 2014. [1] Corporate issuers may verify, update or correct the data used to calculate their scores, via ISS’s data verification site, through 8:00 p.m. EST on November 14.

…continue reading: ISS Details Governance QuickScore 3.0 Updates

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