On July 23, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted significant amendments (the “amendments”) to rules under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Investment Company Act”) and related requirements that govern money market funds (“MMFs”). The SEC’s adoption of the amendments is the latest action taken by U.S. regulators as part of the ongoing debate about systemic risks posed by MMFs and the extent to which previous reform efforts have addressed these concerns. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) released guidance on the same day setting forth simplified rules to address tax compliance issues that the SEC’s MMF reforms would otherwise impose on MMFs and their investors.
Posts Tagged ‘Davis Polk’
Corporate governance remains a hot topic worldwide this year, but for different reasons in different regions. In the United States, this year could be characterised as largely “business as usual”; rather than planning and implementing new post-financial crisis corporate governance reforms, companies have operated under those new (and now, not so new) reforms. We have witnessed the growing and changing influence of large institutional investors, and different attempts by companies to respond to those investors as well as to pressure by activist shareholders. We have also continued to monitor the results of say-on-pay votes and believe that shareholder litigation related to executive compensation continues to warrant particular attention.
Two recent bankruptcy court decisions have increased uncertainty over the right of secured creditors to credit bid in sales of debtors’ assets. Relying on and expanding a rarely used “for cause” limitation on a secured creditor’s right to credit bid under §363(k) of the Bankruptcy Code, these decisions may ultimately affect credit bidding rights in a broad swath of cases.
As the pace of Chapter 11 filings jumped in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, bankruptcy courts found their resources increasingly stretched. The number of Chapter 11 “mega-cases”—that is, cases that involve $100m or more in assets, over 1000 entities and/or a high degree of public interest—placed significant strain on the nation’s bankruptcy courts. Many of these cases involve numerous creditors and, given the stakes, litigation that has the potential to drag on for years. Against this backdrop, bankruptcy judges have developed a variety of strategies to foster the efficient resolution of such cases. Mediation is becoming a regular feature of contentious mega-cases, and judges are frequently urging parties to resolve their disputes. Where a compromise is not possible and litigation is unavoidable, judges have increasingly issued “roadmap” decisions that deny relief but provide a specific list of steps that need to be taken or changes to be made that will yield judicial approval. These decisions encourage parties to recalibrate their positions based on the court’s views on the matter, engage in productive negotiations, and quickly come to an agreement on a proposal that the court has already indicated it will approve.
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.
More than six months after the release of final Volcker Rule regulations, banking organizations continue to grapple with a long list of interpretive questions and an opaque process for seeking clarity from the Volcker agencies. Regulatory silence broke for a brief moment this past week in the form of a short interagency FAQ and, from the OCC, interim examination guidelines for assessing banking entities’ progress toward Volcker Rule compliance during the conformance period.
Neither document is a significant source of new guidance or interpretive gloss. Nonetheless, the OCC guidelines evidence the staff’s intention to begin detailed inquiries into banks’ conformance efforts to date and suggest a higher standard for interim compliance than many may have expected. It remains to be seen whether the other Volcker agencies take the same approach.
In May 2014, the Federal Reserve issued a proposal that would implement the financial sector concentration limit set forth in Section 622 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The proposal reflects the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s January 2011 Study and Recommendations Regarding Concentration Limits on Large Financial Companies.
The concentration limit generally prohibits a financial company from merging or consolidating with, acquiring all or substantially all of the assets of, or otherwise acquiring control of another company if the “liabilities” of the resulting financial company, calculated using methodologies in the proposal, exceed 10% of aggregate financial sector liabilities.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its long-awaited decision today on the appeal from Judge Jed S. Rakoff’s rejection in 2011 of the consent settlement in United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Citigroup Global Markets Inc. The Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s order, holding that the lower court abused its discretion by applying an incorrect legal standard to its review of the settlement. The Second Circuit clarified the manner in which district courts should review SEC consent settlements, emphasizing the deference courts owe to the SEC and the parties with which it settles, including on the parties’ decision to settle without an admission of liability.
In its decision, the Court held that a district court must review consent decrees with enforcement agencies for fairness and reasonableness, with the additional requirement in cases seeking injunctive relief that the “public interest would not be disserved.” The opinion explained that “[a]bsent a substantial basis in the record for concluding that the proposed consent decree does not meet these requirements, the district court is required to enter the order.” In general, the Court noted that the “job of determining whether the proposed S.E.C. consent decree best serves the public interest … rests squarely with the S.E.C., and its decision merits significant deference.”
Significant new rules to strengthen the UK premium listing regime have come into force today (The Listing Rules (Listing Regime Enhancements) Instrument 2014). The rules have been the subject of two rounds of consultation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) and are designed in particular to improve the governance of premium listed companies with a controlling shareholder. Feedback on the responses received has also been published today by the FCA (PS14/8: Response to CP13/15—Enhancing the effectiveness of the Listing Regime).
We summarise the main elements of the new regime below, which are largely as proposed by the FCA in its previous consultation document (see our Client Memorandum dated November 7, 2013). Companies contemplating a premium listing will need to consider the new rules as part of their IPO process and, over the coming months, existing premium listed companies with controlling shareholders will need to implement a number of new measures to comply with the new rules.
On May 6, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued the following decision in the City of Pontiac Policemen’s & Firemen’s Ret. Sys. et al. v. UBS AG et al., No. 12-4355 (2d Cir. May 6, 2014). The decision is one of first impression in the Second Circuit with respect to two questions arising out of the Supreme Court’s decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., 561 U.S. 247 (2010). First, does Morrison bar Exchange Act Section 10(b) claims with respect to the purchase or sale of securities on foreign exchanges when those same securities are cross-listed on a U.S. exchange? The Second Circuit answered with a “yes.” Second, is the mere placement of a buy order in the United States for the purchase of foreign securities on a foreign exchange sufficient to allege that a purchaser incurred irrevocable liability in the United States, such that the U.S. securities laws govern the purchase of those securities under the Second Circuit’s decision in Absolute Activist Value Master Fund Ltd v. Ficeto, 677 F.3d 60 (2d Cir. 2012)? The Second Circuit answered with a “no.”