Posts Tagged ‘Corporate governance’

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?

Looking at Corporate Governance from the Investor’s Perspective

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Thursday April 24, 2014 at 9:08 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 remarks at Emory University School of Law’s Corporate Governance Lecture Series; 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.

Corporate governance has always been an important topic. It is even more so today, as many Americans recognize the need to develop a more robust corporate governance regime in the aftermath of the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Although the recent financial crisis—aptly named the “Great Recession”—has many fathers, there is ample evidence that poor corporate governance, including weak risk management standards at many financial institutions, contributed to the devastation wrought by the crisis. For example, it has been reported that senior executives at both AIG and Merrill Lynch tried to warn their respective management teams of excessive exposure to subprime mortgages, but were rebuffed or ignored. These and other failures of oversight continue to remind us that good corporate governance is essential to the stability of our capital markets and our economy, as well as the protection of investors.

…continue reading: Looking at Corporate Governance from the Investor’s Perspective

The Corporate Governance Movement, Banks and the Financial Crisis

Editor’s Note: Brian Cheffins is a Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Cambridge.

The primary function of corporate governance in the United States has been to address the managerial agency cost problem that afflicts publicly traded companies with dispersed share ownership. Berle and Means threw the spotlight on this type of agency cost problem—using different nomenclature—in their famous 1932 book The Modern Corporation and Private Property. Nevertheless, it was only in the 1970s that the now ubiquitous corporate governance movement began. Why did the corporate governance movement gain momentum in the U.S. when it did? And given its belated arrival, why did it flourish during ensuing decades?

…continue reading: The Corporate Governance Movement, Banks and the Financial Crisis

How Stock Exchange Indices Can Advance Good Corporate Governance Practices

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday September 25, 2013 at 9:23 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Pasquale Di Benedetta, Corporate Governance Specialist at the World Bank and Andreas Grimminger, Managing Director at PGS Advisors International, and is based on a World Bank/IFC study by Mr. Di Benedetta and Mr. Grimminger.

Since 2001, eight stock exchanges around the world have launched corporate governance indices (CGIs), sometimes as part of a broader environment, social, and governance (ESG) initiative. The comprehensive analysis of these indices is presented in our World Bank/IFC study: “Raising the Bar on Corporate Governance – A Study of Eight Stock Exchanges Indices”. The study is the first of its kind, and it reveals that CGIs may have a positive impact in enhancing legal and regulatory frameworks by contributing to the development of objective and measurable governance benchmarks. The study also shows that CGIs offer companies an opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market and be more attractive to foreign and domestic capital; and, ultimately, CGIs incentivize companies to adopt better governance practices. Nevertheless, as the process for vetting companies to access the indices continues to evolve, the scrutiny of underlying methodologies, the disclosure of company ratings or company self-assessments, and the on-going monitoring process have still room to improve.

…continue reading: How Stock Exchange Indices Can Advance Good Corporate Governance Practices

Corporate Governance in the Shadow of the State

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday July 10, 2013 at 9:25 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Marc Moore, Deputy Director of the University College London Centre for Commercial Law.

Over recent decades, corporate governance has become an increasingly high profile aspect of legal scholarship and practice. But despite this widespread interest, there remains considerable uncertainty about how exactly corporate governance should be defined or understood. Of particular concern is whether corporate governance is most appropriately understood as an aspect of ‘private’ (facilitative) law, or else as a part of ‘public’ (regulatory) law. In my recent book, Corporate Governance in the Shadow of the State (2013, Hart Publishing), I demonstrate that this question is not just an academic one in the pejorative sense. On the contrary, it is arguably the most important issue confronting those who study or teach the subject of corporate governance in any level of depth or analytical rigour.

…continue reading: Corporate Governance in the Shadow of the State

Bebchuk, Cohen, and Wang Win the 2013 IRRCi Academic Award for “Learning and the Disappearing Association between Governance and Returns”

In an award ceremony held in New York City on Tuesday, the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) announced the winners of its the 2013 prize competition. The academic award, coming with a $10,000 award prize, went to HLS professor Lucian Bebchuk, HLS Senior Fellow and Tel-Aviv University Professor Alma Cohen, and HBS professor Charles Wang. Bebchuk, Cohen, and Wang received the award for their study, Learning and the Disappearing Association between Governance and Returns, available on SSRN here.

The Bebchuk-Cohen-Wang study was published last month by the Journal of Financial Economics. In presenting the award, IRRCi chair announced that the winning paper “will be valuable … for investors, policymakers, academia, and other stakeholders.”

The study seeks to explain a pattern that has received a great deal of attention from financial economists and capital market participants: during the period 1991-1999, stock returns were correlated with the G-Index, which is based on twenty-four governance provisions (Gompers, Ishii, and Metrick (2003)) and the E-Index, which is based on the six provisions that matter most (Bebchuk, Cohen, and Ferrell (2009)). The study shows that this correlation did not persist during the subsequent period 2000-2008. Furthermore, the study provides evidence that both the identified correlation and its subsequent disappearance were due to market participants’ gradually learning to appreciate the difference between firms scoring well and poorly on the governance indices. Consistent with the learning hypothesis, the study finds that:

…continue reading: Bebchuk, Cohen, and Wang Win the 2013 IRRCi Academic Award for “Learning and the Disappearing Association between Governance and Returns”

Corporate Governance, Incentives, and Tax Avoidance

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday June 20, 2013 at 9:08 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Christopher Armstrong and Jennifer Blouin, both of the Department of Accounting at the University of Pennsylvania; Alan Jagolinzer of the Division of Accounting at the University of Colorado; and David Larcker, Professor of Accounting at Stanford University.

There has been a recent surge in research that seeks to understand the sources of variation in tax avoidance (e.g., Shevlin and Shackelford, 2001; Shevlin, 2007; Hanlon and Heitzman, 2010). The benefits of tax avoidance can be economically large (e.g., Scholes et al., 2009) and tax avoidance can be a relatively inexpensive source of financing (e.g., Armstrong et al., 2012). However, aggressive tax avoidance may be accompanied by substantial observable (e.g., fines and legal fees) and unobservable (e.g., excess risk and loss of corporate reputation) costs. Although understanding the factors that influence managers’ tax avoidance decisions is an important research question that has broad public policy implications, relatively little is known about why some firms appear to be more tax aggressive than others.

In our paper, Corporate Governance, Incentives, and Tax Avoidance, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether variation in firms’ corporate governance mechanisms explains differences in their level of tax avoidance. We view tax avoidance as one of many investment opportunities that is available to managers. Similar to other investment decisions, managers have personal incentives to engage in a certain amount of tax avoidance that may not be in the best interest of shareholders, thereby giving rise to an agency problem. From the perspective of the firm’s shareholders, unresolved agency problems with respect to tax avoidance can manifest as either “too little” or “too much” tax avoidance. As with other agency problems, certain corporate governance mechanisms can mitigate agency problems with respect to tax avoidance.

…continue reading: Corporate Governance, Incentives, and Tax Avoidance

Quadratic Vote Buying, Square Root Voting, and Corporate Governance

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday June 6, 2013 at 9:24 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Eric Posner, Kirkland & Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Aaron Director Research Scholar at the University of Chicago, and E. Glen Weyl, Assistant Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago.

Imagine that a corporation holds a shareholder vote on a project like a merger, and, under the corporation’s bylaws, each shareholder can cast a number of votes equal to the square root of the number of shares that he holds. This might seem like a gimmick, but it actually provides a natural, smooth form of minority shareholder protection without the external intervention of the courts. In fact, under reasonable conditions square root voting (SRV) ensures that the project is approved if and only if it maximizes the value of the firm and thus achieves the efficiency goals of minority shareholder protection without the messy legal procedures that usually accompany them.

To see why, suppose that a corporation proposes a merger. An investor believes that the merger will increase the value of the corporation by $1000 per share, and that a vote in favor of the merger increases the probability of approval by 0.01. Thus, the marginal benefit from buying a share is $10. The investor can buy shares of the corporation at an opportunity cost of $1 (in the sense that she would rather use her money in another way and she incurs brokerage fees, but can otherwise sell the share for net expected profit of $0 if the merger is not approved). Because of the square-root rule, however, she must buy the square of the number of shares for every vote she casts. Thus, if she wants to cast 1 vote, she must buy 1 share at a cost of $1; if she wants to cast 2 votes, she must buy 2 shares at a cost of $4; if she wants to buy 3 shares, she must pay $9; and so on.

…continue reading: Quadratic Vote Buying, Square Root Voting, and Corporate Governance

The Role of Governments and Proxy Advisory Firms in Corporate Governance

Posted by Daniel M. Gallagher, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Tuesday June 4, 2013 at 9:33 am
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Editor’s Note: Daniel M. Gallagher is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Commissioner Gallagher’s remarks at the 12th European Corporate Governance & Company Law Conference in Dublin, Ireland. The full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Gallagher and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

I am delighted to be able to participate in this conference, and especially proud as an Irish-American that it is being held in conjunction with Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This conference is particularly valuable because it provides a forum for executives, directors, investors, and policy makers to have a frank and productive dialogue on important corporate governance issues.

I would like to talk about the increasing role that governments – particularly, in the United States, the federal government – play in corporate governance as well as the increasingly prominent influence of proxy advisory firms on how companies are governed and on how shareholders vote. These changes have led to, among other things, new limitations and requirements being imposed on boards of directors and companies. And while the resulting costs to investors are easily apparent, the purported benefits are harder to discern. Although today I will for the most part discuss these issues as they apply to U.S. companies, I note that there is a related trend in Europe. As such, I hope that my comments may help inform your approach to regulating corporate governance as well.

…continue reading: The Role of Governments and Proxy Advisory Firms in Corporate Governance

Passive Investors, Not Passive Owners

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday May 10, 2013 at 9:51 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Glenn Booraem, Principal and Fund Controller at Vanguard Fund Financial Services, and is based on a Vanguard publication by Mr. Booraem.

About a year ago we restated Vanguard’s mission to read: “To take a stand for all investors, treat them fairly, and give them the best chance for investment success.” While the words were new, the ideals were not; they’ve been the consistent principles by which we’ve managed our enterprise since our founding.

As we stand on the cusp of “proxy season”—when investors in most U.S. companies will vote at shareholder meetings on matters including the election of directors and the approval of compensation plans—it strikes me that nothing better exemplifies our mission in action than our efforts to ensure that the companies in which our funds invest are subject to the highest standards of corporate governance.

…continue reading: Passive Investors, Not Passive Owners

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