Just over a year ago, the Delaware Court of Chancery upheld the facial validity of exclusive forum bylaws adopted by corporate boards as a means of rationalizing stockholder litigation. In the time since Chancery’s landmark Chevron opinion, numerous corporations have adopted exclusive forum bylaws, and courts in New York, Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, and California have enforced such bylaws against stockholders bringing duplicative lawsuits in violation of their terms. The result, as one commentator recently noted, has been to disincentivize duplicative filings and reduce the concomitant litigation “deal tax” on merging parties. Yet, despite this progress, pernicious multijurisdictional litigation persists. A recent decision from a court in Oregon (Roberts v. TriQuint SemiConductor, Inc., No. 1402-02441 (Or. Cir. Ct. Aug. 14, 2014)) illustrates the potential harm from such litigation and the importance of continued authoritative articulation of the law to ensure the efficacy of exclusive forum bylaws.
Why the Cybersecurity Framework was created and why it is so important
Despite the fact that companies are continuing to increase spending on cybersecurity initiatives, data breaches continue to occur. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Global cybersecurity spending by critical infrastructure industries was expected to hit $46 billion in 2013, up 10% from a year earlier according to Allied Business Intelligence Inc.”  Despite the boost in security spending, vulnerabilities, threats against these vulnerabilities, data breaches and destruction persist. To combat these issues, the President on February 12, 2013 issued Executive Order (EO) 13636, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.”  The EO directed NIST, in cooperation with the private sector, to develop and issue a voluntary, risk-based Cybersecurity Framework that would provide U.S. critical infrastructure organizations with a set of industry standards and best practices to help manage cybersecurity risks.
In our recent ECGI working paper, A Strict Liability Regime for Rating Agencies, we study how to induce Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs) to produce ratings as accurate as the available forecasting technology allows.
Referring to CRAs, Paul Krugman wrote that: “It was a system that looked dignified and respectable on the surface. Yet it produced huge conflicts of interest. Issuers of debt […] could choose among several rating agencies. So they could direct their business to whichever agency was most likely to give a favorable verdict, and threaten to pull business from an agency that tried too hard to do its job.”
However, the conflicts of interest stemming from the issuer-pays model and rating shopping by issuers are not sufficient to explain rating inflation. Because ratings are valuable only as far as they are considered informative by investors, in a well-functioning market, reputational sanctions should prevent rating inflation.
September 22, 2014 (the “Implementation Date”) will mark a new chapter in the credit derivatives market with the implementation of the new 2014 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “New Definitions”). The New Definitions constitute a major reform of the terms governing credit derivatives products and address numerous issues identified this past decade with regard to credit and succession events and in the context of the Eurozone crisis. Most new credit derivatives trades entered into after the Implementation Date will follow the New Definitions, which are expected to ultimately fully replace the 2003 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “Old Definitions”) in the market. Market participants will also have the opportunity to adopt the New Definitions for their portfolio of existing trades.
This post provides an overview of the most significant amendments made to the Old Definitions and describes how the market will migrate to the New Definitions.
For most commercial end-users of swaps, the mandatory clearing requirement under Dodd-Frank first became applicable on September 9, 2013. Since then, many commercial end-users have relied on the so called “end-user exception” from the clearing mandate to continue executing uncleared swaps with their dealer counterparties. The end-user exception is subject to several conditions, which for SEC filers include undertaking certain corporate governance steps. The generally applicable conditions include reporting of certain information including how the entity relying on the exception generally meets its financial obligations, which reporting may be done annually. In discussing the corporate governance steps that SEC filers must undertake to avail themselves of the exception, the CFTC noted that it expects policies governing the relevant entity’s use of swaps under the end-user exception to be reviewed at least annually (and more often upon triggering events). With the one year anniversary of the initial clearing mandate approaching, this post reviews the scope of the mandate as well as important related requirements and exceptions (including the annual reports and reviews that may be undertaken in the course of qualifying for the exception).
Leo Strine, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Review and a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance, and J. Travis Laster, Vice Chancellor, Delaware Court of Chancery, recently issued an essay that is forthcoming in Elgar Handbook on Alternative Entities (Eds. Mark Lowenstein and Robert Hillman, Edward Elgar Publishing 2014). The essay, titled The Siren Song of Unlimited Contractual Freedom, is available here.
The abstract of Chief Justice Strine’s and Vice Chancellor Laster’s essay summarizes it briefly as follows:
One frequently cited distinction between alternative entities—such as limited liability companies and limited partnerships—and their corporate counterparts is the greater contractual freedom accorded alternative entities. Consistent with this vision, discussions of alternative entities tend to conjure up images of arms-length bargaining similar to what occurs between sophisticated parties negotiating a commercial agreement, such as a joint venture, with the parties successfully tailoring the contract to the unique features of their relationship.
Today [June 25, 2014], the Commission will consider a recommendation of the staff to adopt core rules and critical guidance on cross-border security-based swap activities under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act created an important and entirely new regulatory framework for the over-the-counter derivatives market. Transforming this framework into a series of strong rules is one of the most important tasks remaining before the Commission in discharging our responsibility to address the lessons of the last financial crisis. The events of 2008 and 2009—and the significant role derivatives played in those events—still reverberate throughout our economy.
Properly constructed, the Commission’s rules under Title VII should mitigate significant risks to the U.S. financial system, bring transparency to previously opaque bilateral markets, and provide critical new protections for swap customers and counterparties. And the vital regulatory protections of Title VII are not confined to large multi-national banks and other market participants—they are also essential to preserving the stability of a financial system that is vital to all Americans.
The experience of the overwhelming majority of corporate managers, and their advisors, is that attacks by activist hedge funds are followed by declines in long-term future performance. Indeed, activist hedge fund attacks, and the efforts to avoid becoming the target of an attack, result in increased leverage, decreased investment in CAPEX and R&D and employee layoffs and poor employee morale.
Several law school professors who have long embraced shareholder-centric corporate governance are promoting a statistical study that they claim establishes that activist hedge fund attacks on corporations do not damage the future operating performance of the targets, but that this statistical study irrefutably establishes that on average the long-term operating performance of the targets is actually improved.
In our paper, The JOBS Act and Information Uncertainty in IPO Firms, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) increases information uncertainty in firms with initial public offerings (IPOs). The JOBS Act, which was signed into law in April 2012, creates a new category of issuer, the Emerging Growth Company (EGC), and eases regulations for EGCs to encourage initial public offerings of their shares. Specifically, the Act includes provisions that allow firms with EGC status to reduce the scope of mandatory disclosure of financial statement and executive compensation information, to file draft registration statements confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to delay application of new or revised accounting standards, and to delay compliance with Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which relates to auditor attestation on internal controls. We find evidence consistent with the easing of these regulations increasing information uncertainty in the IPO market.
In a one-two punch illustrating the continuing vigor of the presumption against extraterritoriality, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, on consecutive days last week, issued important decisions applying Morrison v. National Australia Bank in two disparate but significant contexts under the federal securities laws. Last Thursday, in Liu v. Siemens AG, No. 13-4385-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 14, 2014), the court rejected the extraterritorial application of the whistleblower anti-retaliation provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. And on the very next day, in Parkcentral Global Hub Ltd. v. Porsche Automobil Holdings SE, No. 11-397-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 15, 2014), the court rejected the extraterritorial application of Rule 10b-5 to claims seeking recovery of losses on swap agreements that reference foreign securities.