Posts Tagged ‘Compliance & ethics’

Monitoring the Monitors

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday July 22, 2014 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jodi Short, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law; Michael Toffel of the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School; and Andrea Hugill of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School.

Drawing on insights from the literatures on street-level bureaucracy and on regulatory and audit design, our paper, Monitoring the Monitors: How Social Factors Influence Supply Chain Auditors, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, theorizes and tests the factors that shape the practices of private supply chain auditors. We find that audits are conducted most stringently by auditors who are experienced and highly trained, and by audit teams that include female auditors. By contrast, auditors that have ongoing relationships with audited factories, and all-male audit teams conduct more lax audits, identifying and citing fewer violations. These findings make five key contributions and suggest strategies for designing audit regimes to more effectively detect and prevent corporate wrongdoing.

…continue reading: Monitoring the Monitors

A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

Posted by Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Friday June 27, 2014 at 9:00 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 remarks to the Twentieth Annual Stanford Directors’ College; 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.

The SEC today has about 4,200 employees, located in Washington and 11 regional offices across the country, including one in San Francisco that is very ably led by Regional Director Jina Choi, who is here [June 23, 2014]. Many of you have likely had some contact with our Division of Corporation Finance, which, among other things, has the responsibility to review your periodic filings and your securities offerings. Some of you that work for or represent a company that we oversee know our staff in our National Exam Program, and I imagine a few of your companies know something about our Enforcement Division staff. Our other major divisions are Investment Management, Trading and Markets and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.

So that is just a quick snapshot of the structure of the SEC and as you undoubtedly know, the SEC has a lot on its regulatory plate that is relevant to you—completion of the mandated rulemakings under the Dodd Frank Act and JOBS Act, adopting a final rule on money market funds, enhancing the structure and transparency of our equity and fixed income markets, reviewing the effectiveness of disclosures by public companies, to name just a few. But what you may not be as focused on is the mindset of the agency on some other things that are also relevant to you as directors.

…continue reading: A Few Things Directors Should Know About the SEC

Recent Developments in Whistleblower Protections

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday June 26, 2014 at 9:11 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 Linda C. Thomsen, Antonio Perez-Marques, and Kyoko T. Lin. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”), the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”) impose overlapping anti-retaliation provisions that generally prohibit retaliation against corporate “whistleblowers.” Recent headlines of whistleblower awards granted to individuals, especially under Dodd-Frank, underscore the fact that, even if a company’s economic exposure arising from the alleged violation of these provisions may be relatively circumscribed—generally limited to amounts based on the compensation of the employee who is allegedly retaliated against—the “real world” exposure, in the form of reputational and regulatory risk, can be significantly greater.

…continue reading: Recent Developments in Whistleblower Protections

Board Oversight of Compliance Programs

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday June 16, 2014 at 9:18 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jeffrey M. Kaplan, partner at Kaplan & Walker LLP, and is based on an article by Mr. Kaplan and Rebecca Walker that first appeared in Compliance & Ethics Professional; the full article is available here.

Strong oversight by boards of directors—meaning typically by authorized board committees—of compliance-and-ethics (“C&E”) programs can be essential to promoting legal and ethical conduct within companies. In a variety of ways, board oversight should help to ensure that a program is effective and that directors and companies are otherwise meeting applicable C&E-related legal standards. Nonetheless, this is an area of uncertainty for many boards and managers, and can even be a struggle for some.

In Reporting to the Board on the Compliance and Ethics Program, published in the June issue of Compliance & Ethics Professional, we examine various aspects of such oversight from a law and good-practices perspective.

…continue reading: Board Oversight of Compliance Programs

The Untouchables of Self-Regulation

Editor’s Note: Andrew Tuch is Associate Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law.

The conduct of investment bankers often arouses suspicion and criticism. In Toys “R” Us, the Delaware Court of Chancery referred to “already heightened suspicions about the ethics of investment banking firms” [1] ; in Del Monte, it criticized investment bankers for “secretly and selfishly manipulat[ing] the sale process to engineer a transaction that would permit [their firm] to obtain lucrative … fees”; [2] and, more recently, in Del Monte, it criticized a prominent investment banker for failing to disclose a material conflict of interest with his client, a failure the Court described as “very troubling” and “tend[ing] to undercut the credibility of … the strategic advice he gave.” [3] While the investment bankers involved in the cases inevitably escaped court-imposed sanctions, because they were not defendants, they also escaped sanctions from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the regulator primarily responsible for overseeing their conduct.

…continue reading: The Untouchables of Self-Regulation

Compliance and Risk Management: Area for Legal Teaching and Scholarship?

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday May 22, 2014 at 9:25 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Geoffrey P. Miller, Stuyvesant P. Comfort Professor of Law at New York University School of Law.

Compliance is hot.

Pick up the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and you are likely to find a story about yet another huge fine for regulatory infractions.

In early May, to take a recent example, BNB Paribas, the big French bank, admitted that the $1.1 billion it had set aside for infractions involving sanctions regimes would not be nearly enough to cover its expected liability.

A billion dollars is a big number, but it is hardly the largest penalty we have seen in recent years. It is dwarfed, for example, by the more than $13 billion JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay to various regulatory agencies for mortgage infractions.

Numbers like these command attention.

…continue reading: Compliance and Risk Management: Area for Legal Teaching and Scholarship?

The Expanding Scope of Whistleblower Protections

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jason M. Halper, partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, and is based on a Cadwalader publication by Mr. Halper, Lambrina Mathews, and William J. Foley. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“Sarbanes-Oxley”) was enacted following the accounting scandals of the early 2000s involving Enron, WorldCom and other public companies. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) in 2010 following the global credit crisis that began a few years earlier. Both statutes offer protections for employees who face retaliation for “blowing the whistle” on corporate misconduct, and Dodd-Frank also provides enhanced monetary incentives to the employees who do so. Given the SEC’s recent and often-stated commitment to strict enforcement of the securities laws, coupled with the fact that the SEC has received over 6,000 whistleblower complaints in the past two years (and has made six awards since inception of its whistleblower reward program in 2011), whistleblowing activity now is a fact of corporate life that is likely to become even more prevalent as awareness spreads of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower reward program.

…continue reading: The Expanding Scope of Whistleblower Protections

Powerful Independent Directors

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday May 19, 2014 at 9:16 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Kathy Fogel of the Department of Finance at Suffolk University, Liping Ma of the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Randall Morck, Professor of Finance at the University of Alberta.

In our recent NBER working paper, Powerful Independent Directors, we find that independent directors who are powerful elevate shareholder wealth—in part at least by preventing value-destroying decisions such as economically unsound merger bids and excessive free cash flow retention, by meaningfully linking CEO pay to firm performance, and by forcing out underperforming CEOs. Independent directors who are not powerful do none of these things. These findings may explain why a robust link between independent directors on boards and firm value has proved so elusive; and thereby reconcile Fama’s (1980) thesis that independent directors can maximize shareholder valuations by advising and, where necessary, disciplining or replacing CEOs with the observation of Bebchuk and Fried (2006) that independent directors often do no such thing.

…continue reading: Powerful Independent Directors

Who’s Responsible for the Walmart Mexico Scandal?

Posted by Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr., Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, on Thursday May 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm
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Editor’s Note: Ben W. Heineman, Jr. is a former GE senior vice president for law and public affairs and a senior fellow at Harvard University’s schools of law and government. This post is based on an article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review online, which is available here.

The Walmart bribery scandal is one of the most closely-watched cases of alleged malfeasance by a global company. It broke into the open in April, 2012, when the New York Times published a lengthy investigative piece alleging Walmart bribery in a Mexican subsidiary and a cover-up in its Bentonville, Arkansas, global headquarters. The piece, which won a Pulitzer Prize for reporter David Barstow, raised a host of personal accountability and corporate governance issues for the company.

Late last month, on the second anniversary of the story nearly to the day, Walmart released its first Global Compliance Report (GCR). The report describes the company’s governance response and changed compliance framework—from holding 20 audit committee meetings in 2014, to substantial organizational restructuring, to enhanced education and training. On paper, Walmart appears to have adopted many best practices and to have set out a sound plan for moving forward. However, questions of accountability remain unanswered, when it comes to determining what actually happened in the past, what systems failed, and who was responsible for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars bribery of foreign officials. A lengthy internal inquiry continues, as well as investigations by the Justice Department and the SEC, with the scope broadened to include possible Walmart improprieties in Brazil, China and India.

…continue reading: Who’s Responsible for the Walmart Mexico Scandal?

Corporate Governance According to Charles T. Munger

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday April 17, 2014 at 9:07 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David Larcker, Professor of Accounting at Stanford University, and Brian Tayan of the Corporate Governance Research Initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger is well known as the partner of CEO Warren Buffett and also for his advocacy of “multi-disciplinary thinking”—the application of fundamental concepts from across various academic disciplines to solve complex real-world problems. One problem that Munger has addressed over the years is the optimal system of corporate governance. How should an organization be structured to encourage ethical behavior among organizational participants and motivate decision-making in the best interest of shareholders? His solution is unconventional by the standards of governance today and somewhat at odds with regulatory guidelines. However, the insights that Munger provides represent a contrast to current “best practices” and suggest the potential for alternative solutions to improve corporate performance and executive behavior. In our paper, Corporate Governance According to Charles T. Munger, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine this solution in greater detail.

…continue reading: Corporate Governance According to Charles T. Munger

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