Posts Tagged ‘Disclosure’

Banks: Parallel Disclosure Universes and Divergent Regulatory Quests

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday July 21, 2014 at 9:10 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Henry T. C. Hu, Allan Shivers Chair in the Law of Banking and Finance at the University of Texas School of Law.

Legal and economic issues involving mandatory public disclosure have centered on the appropriateness of either Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules or the D.C. Circuit review of SEC rule-making. In this longstanding disclosure universe, the focus has been on the ends of investor protection and market efficiency, and implementation by means of annual reports and other SEC-prescribed documents.

In 2013, these common understandings became obsolete when a new system for public disclosure became effective, the first since the SEC’s creation in 1934. Today, major banks must make disclosures mandated not only by the SEC, but also by a new system developed by the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators in the shadow of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the Dodd-Frank Act. This independent, bank regulator-developed system has ends and means that diverge from the SEC system. The bank regulator system is directed not at the ends of investor protection and market efficiency, but instead at the well-being of the bank entities themselves and the minimization of systemic risk. This new system, which stemmed in significant part from a belief that disclosures on the complex risks flowing from modern financial innovation were manifestly inadequate, already dwarfs the SEC system in sophistication on the quantitative aspects of market risk and the impact of economic stress.

…continue reading: Banks: Parallel Disclosure Universes and Divergent Regulatory Quests

Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday July 17, 2014 at 9:23 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Karen K. Nelson, the Harmon Whittington Professor at Accounting at Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business, and Adam C. Pritchard, the Frances and George Skestos Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School.

In our paper, Carrot or Stick? The Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors, we investigate public companies’ disclosure of risk factors that are meant to inform investors about risks and uncertainties. We compare risk factor disclosures under the voluntary, incentive-based disclosure regime provided by the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, adopted in 1995, and the SEC’s subsequent disclosure mandate, adopted in 2005.

…continue reading: Shift from Voluntary to Mandatory Disclosure of Risk Factors

A New Tool to Detect Financial Reporting Irregularities

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday July 9, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Dan Amiram and Ethan Rouen, both of the Accounting Division at Columbia University, and Zahn Bozanic of the Department of Accounting and MIS at Ohio State University.

Irregularities in financial statements lead to inefficiencies in capital allocation and can become costly to investors, regulators, and potentially taxpayers if left unchecked. Finding an effective way to detect accounting irregularities has been challenging for academics and regulators. Responding to this challenge, we rely on a peculiar mathematical property known as Benford’s Law to create a summary red-flag measure to capture the likelihood that a company may be manipulating its financial statement numbers.

…continue reading: A New Tool to Detect Financial Reporting Irregularities

The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paul Asquith, Professor of Finance at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Thomas Covert of the Economics Area at the University of Chicago; and Parag Pathak of the Department of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Many financial markets have recently become subject to new regulations requiring transparency. In our recent NBER working paper, The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design: Evidence from the Corporate Bond Market, we study how mandatory transparency affects trading in the corporate bond market. In July 2002, the Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) program began requiring the public dissemination of post-trade price and volume information for corporate bonds. Dissemination took place in four phases over a three-and-a-half year period, with actively traded, investment grade bonds becoming transparent before thinly traded, high-yield bonds.

…continue reading: The Effects of Mandatory Transparency in Financial Market Design

Measuring Readability in Financial Disclosures

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday June 24, 2014 at 8:58 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Tim Loughran and Bill McDonald, both of the Department of Finance at the University of Notre Dame.

The Fog Index has become a popular measure of financial disclosure readability in recent accounting and finance research. The SEC has even contemplated the use of the Fog Index to help identify poorly written financial documents. However, the measure has migrated to financial applications without its efficacy in the context of business disclosures having been determined.

In our forthcoming Journal of Finance paper, Measuring Readability in Financial Disclosures, we argue that traditional readability measures like the Fog Index are poorly specified in the realm of business writing. The Fog Index is based on two components: sentence length and word complexity. Although sentence length is a reasonable readability measure, it is difficult to accurately measure in financial documents. More importantly, we show that the count of multisyllabic words in 10-K filings is dominated by common business words that should be easily understood. Frequently used “complex” words like company, operations, and management are not going to confuse consumers of SEC filings. Additionally, the correlation of complex words with alternative measures of readability contradicts its traditional interpretation.

…continue reading: Measuring Readability in Financial Disclosures

PCAOB Adopts New and Amended Auditing Standards

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday June 22, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Michael Scanlon, partner in the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance and Corporate Transactions practice groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Mr. Scanlon.

On June 10, 2014, The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”) adopted new and amended auditing standards that expand audit procedures required to be performed with respect to three important areas: (1) related party transactions; (2) significant unusual transactions; and (3) a company’s financial relationships and transactions with its executive officers. The standards also expand the required communications that an auditor must make to the audit committee related to these three areas. They also amend the standard governing representations that the auditor is required to periodically obtain from management.

…continue reading: PCAOB Adopts New and Amended Auditing Standards

How Foreign Firms Communicate with US Investors

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday June 17, 2014 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Russell Lundholm, Rafael Rogo, and Jenny Li Zhang, all of the Accounting Division at the University of British Columbia.

Foreign companies that trade their equity in the US face serious obstacles. They must navigate a complex set of SEC disclosure requirements, while at the same time satisfying US investor expectations about the frequency and content of voluntary disclosures. Their home country may be far from the US, speak a different language, use different accounting rules, and offer different types of investor protection than the US, and each of these differences presents a friction that must be mitigated in order to attract US investors. Given these cultural, procedural, and linguistic differences, one might expect that the disclosures of foreign firms would be of lower quality than their US firm counter-parts. Nonetheless, in our paper, Restoring the Tower of Babel: How Foreign Firms Communicate with US Investors, forthcoming in The Accounting Review, we find that foreign firms traded in the US present more numerical data and write more readable text in the Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) section of their 10-K, and write more readable text in their earnings press releases, than comparable US firms. More importantly, we find that the readability of text and amount of numerical data in both the MD&A and earnings press releases increase with the foreign firm’s distance from the US. Finally, we find that within a country, firms with relatively more readable disclosures attract relatively more US institutional investment.

…continue reading: How Foreign Firms Communicate with US Investors

Private Equity Management of Fees and Expenses: A Cautionary Tale

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday June 3, 2014 at 9:20 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Veronica E. Rendón, partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice. This post is a based on an Arnold & Porter memorandum.

In recent weeks, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has revealed that it is closely reviewing how private equity fund advisers disclose the allocation of fees and expenses to their investors. The SEC is primarily implementing this review through the Presence Exam Initiative (the Initiative), which has been initiated through the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). [1] Under the Initiative, the SEC has examined more than 150 newly-registered private equity advisers. According to the OCIE, the goal is to examine 25% of the new private fund registrants by the end of the year. The SEC has indicated that over 50% of the newly-registered private equity fund advisers that it has examined to date have either violated the law or have demonstrated material weaknesses in their controls related to the allocation of fees and expenses. The SEC has identified inadequate policies and procedures and inadequate disclosure as related issues, with deficiencies in these arenas running between 40% and 60% of all adviser examinations conducted, depending on the year. This sheer number of perceived deficiencies likely will result in increased regulatory investigations, enforcement activity and possible sanctions, as well as increased exposure to investor-initiated lawsuits. As a result, (i) sophisticated fund investors will likely start asking questions to determine whether their fund managers engage in these practices and (ii) private equity firms should consider compliance and disclosure practices that can help limit this exposure.

…continue reading: Private Equity Management of Fees and Expenses: A Cautionary Tale

Court of Appeals Invalidates Part of SEC’s Conflict Minerals Rule

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday May 17, 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.

On April 14, 2014, in National Association of Manufacturers v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit partially invalidated the final rule of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) requiring public companies to investigate and disclose the origin of certain minerals found in the war-ridden Congo region (“conflict minerals”). [1] While upholding most aspects of the rule, the Court concluded that the rule and the statutory provisions on which it is based violate the First Amendment “to the extent the statute and rule require regulated entities to report to the Commission and to state on their website that any of their products have not been found to be ‘DRC conflict free.’” [2] On April 29, 2014, amid uncertainty regarding the impact of the Court’s decision on issuers’ obligations under the rule, the Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance announced that the SEC expects issuers to comply with those aspects of the rule that were upheld by the Court.

…continue reading: Court of Appeals Invalidates Part of SEC’s Conflict Minerals Rule

Shareholder Governance through Disclosure

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday May 15, 2014 at 9:17 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jordan Schoenfeld of the Department of Accounting at the University of Michigan.

Index fund sponsors today oversee about 18% of all mutual fund and ETF assets (or $2.3 trillion), but their ability to govern is hampered by a pressing need to keep expense ratios low (ICI, 2013). Thus traditional governance channels, such as evaluating and guiding project selection by managers (intervention), are foreclosed to them. Neither can these fund sponsors strategically trade in response to private information, because they must hold the index. Nonetheless, index fund sponsors would still like to govern their portfolio companies, because high index returns mean more inflows into their funds and fees. In my paper, Shareholder Governance through Disclosure, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I conjecture that index fund sponsors govern by asking management of firms to disclose more about their activities. These disclosures can facilitate the monitoring activities of all stakeholders and increase firm value, thus benefiting the index fund sponsor. For example, more disclosure enhances other blockholders’ monitoring activities and makes stock prices more informative about management’s actions. In addition, eliciting such disclosures about current projects undertaken by management does not require the index fund sponsor to invest in and acquire specific skills about how to run the business. This feature of disclosure makes it particularly attractive to index fund sponsors, who compete by keeping their expenses low.

…continue reading: Shareholder Governance through Disclosure

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