During the 2014 proxy season, governance-related shareholder proposals continued to be common at U.S. public companies, including proposals calling for declassified boards, majority voting in director elections, elimination of supermajority requirements, separation of the roles of the CEO and chair, the right to call special meetings and the right to act by written consent. While the number of these proposals was down from 2012 and 2013 levels, this decline related entirely to fewer proposals being received by large-cap companies, likely due to the diminishing number of large companies that have not already adopted these practices. Smaller companies, at which these practices are less common, have not seen a similar decline and, if anything, are increasingly being targeted with these types of proposals.
Posts Tagged ‘H. Rodgin Cohen’
On March 20, 2014, the Federal Reserve announced the summary results of the Dodd-Frank Act 2014 supervisory stress tests for the 30 largest U.S. banking organizations. The results demonstrate the sharply enhanced capital strength and resiliency of the U.S. banking system. Under an “extreme stress scenario”, these U.S. banking organizations could absorb an extraordinary downturn in “pre-provision net revenues” and an unprecedented level of loan losses and still maintain capital levels well above minimum regulatory requirements and almost 40% above the actual capital ratios in 2009.
Earlier this evening [January 14, 2014], the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (such three agencies together, the “Banking Agencies”), Securities and Exchange Commission, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC” and, collectively, the “Agencies”) issued an interim final rule (the “Interim Final Rule”) regarding the treatment of certain collateralized debt obligations backed by trust preferred securities (“TruPS-backed CDOs”) under the final rule (the “Final Rule”) implementing Section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), commonly known as the “Volcker Rule.” The Volcker Rule imposes broad restrictions on proprietary trading and investing in and sponsoring private equity and hedge funds (“covered funds”) by banking organizations and their affiliates.
On December 10, 2013, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) proposed for public comment a notice (the “Notice”) describing its “Single Point of Entry” (“SPOE”) strategy for resolving systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”) in default or in danger of default under the orderly liquidation authority granted by Title II of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”).  The Notice follows the FDIC’s endorsement of the SPOE model in its joint paper issued with the Bank of England last year.
The results of the 2013 proxy season and other recent corporate governance developments have demonstrated that boards and management teams should thoughtfully assess their approach to dealing with hedge funds and other “long” investors that are considered “activist.” Responding effectively to these activist shareholders in today’s environment requires more continuous engagement with shareholders, a recognition of the broad support given to many activist campaigns by traditional investors and advance preparation.
The universe of “activist” shareholders has expanded and their supporters more so. There is a broad spectrum of activist behavior that many traditional institutional investors—mutual funds, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and others—increasingly see as essential to enhancing their returns. This trend is reflected both in the increasing investor inflow into funds managed by hedge fund activists, which has permitted them to initiate action at larger companies, and in the increased voting support traditional institutional investors give to activist campaigns. To a greater or lesser extent, today many institutional investors are activist investors. These developments have highlighted the importance of management preparedness, board awareness and active, regular investor engagement on issues of importance to investors.
On July 2, 2013, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “FRB”) unanimously approved final rules (the “Final Rules”) establishing a new comprehensive capital framework for U.S. banking organizations  that would implement the Basel III capital framework  as well as certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). The Final Rules largely adhere to the rules as initially proposed in June 2012 (the “Proposed Rules”),  notwithstanding that the industry objected, sometimes strenuously, to certain aspects of the Proposed Rules. Most of the changes made in response to the industry’s most fundamental concerns were effectively limited to community banks and other smaller banking organizations; the most stringent rules for “advanced approaches banking organizations”—those with $250 billion or more in total consolidated assets or $10 billion or more in foreign exposures—were maintained. For example:
On May 3, 2013, Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel Tarullo delivered a speech outlining potential regulatory initiatives before the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. In this speech, entitled “Evaluating Progress in Regulatory Reforms to Promote Financial Stability,” Governor Tarullo acknowledged that substantial progress has been made in achieving financial regulatory reform, but he maintains that much more is still needed. 
Even beyond the substantive impact of the reforms proposed by Governor Tarullo, his speech is particularly noteworthy for two reasons. First, Governor Tarullo oversees the Federal Reserve Board’s banking supervision and regulation function and was recently appointed as Chairman of the Financial Stability Board’s Standing Committee on Supervisory and Regulatory Cooperation. Second, in the past, Governor Tarullo has used similar speeches to forecast the Federal Reserve’s upcoming regulatory initiatives.
Governor Tarullo’s speech focuses on three general areas of increased regulatory scrutiny: (1) large financial institutions generally; (2) large financial institutions that rely on short-term wholesale funding; and (3) short-term wholesale funding markets, in particular those for securities financing transactions (SFTs). Governor Tarullo proposes a number of regulatory requirements to address what he perceives as the unfinished business of regulatory reform, including both macro- and micro-prudential requirements at an institution-specific level and market practice level.
On December 17, 2012, the staff of the Federal Reserve issued a Supervision and Regulation (“SR”) letter describing the Federal Reserve’s new framework for consolidated supervision of large financial institutions. SR letters address significant policy and procedural matters related to the Federal Reserve’s supervisory responsibilities.
Under the new framework, the Federal Reserve’s primary supervisory objectives for large financial institutions will be (1) to enhance resiliency of an institution to lower the probability of its failure or its becoming unable to serve as a financial intermediary, and (2) to reduce the impact on the financial system and the broader economy of an institution’s failure or material weakness. These objectives are meant to conform to key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, such as enhanced prudential standards for large financial institutions. Although the Federal Reserve has not previously stated these objectives as its primary supervisory objectives, and the new framework formally integrates areas such as corporate governance and compensation that Federal Reserve staff has been focused on since the financial crisis, changes in specific supervisory expectations are limited. Changes include greater emphasis on recovery planning in the case of financial or operational weakness, and on orderly resolution planning, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The Federal Reserve will also engage in greater “macroprudential” supervision to detect systemic risks.
The new framework applies to the largest and most complex financial institutions subject to consolidated Federal Reserve supervision, including nonbank financial companies designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council for supervision by the Federal Reserve; other domestic bank and savings and loan holding companies with consolidated assets of $50 billion or more; and other foreign banking organizations with combined assets of U.S. operations of $50 billion or more.
On November 9, 2012, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”) issued instructions and guidance for:
- the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review program for 2013 (“CCAR 2013”) applicable to the 19 bank holding companies (“BHCs”) with total assets of $50 billion or more that were previously subject to CCAR and the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (“SCAP”); and
- the Capital Plan Review program for 2013 (“CapPR 2013”) applicable to an additional 11 BHCs with total assets of $50 billion or more that were not subject to prior CCARs or SCAP, but were subject to CapPR in 2012.
CCAR 2013 and CapPR 2013 are both being conducted under the Federal Reserve’s previously adopted Capital Plan Rule. In addition, elements of CCAR 2013 are being implemented in conjunction with the Federal Reserve’s newly finalized Stress Test Rules adopted pursuant to the separate stress test requirements of sections 165(i)(1) and (2) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). The following is an outline of certain notable aspects of the CCAR 2013, CapPR 2013 and their respective instructions.
In certain instances, the instructions and guidance for CCAR 2013 and CapPR 2013 contain new provisions, while in others, the new instructions are largely congruous with procedures for previous CCAR and CapPR iterations. Important aspects of CCAR 2013 instructions include:
In October 2012, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “FRB”) published in the Federal Register final rules implementing the requirements of Section 165(i)(1) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) concerning supervisory stress tests to be conducted by the FRB (the “Annual Supervisory Stress Test Rule”) and Section 165(i)(2) of Dodd-Frank regarding semi-annual company-run stress tests (the “Semi-Annual Company-Run Stress Test Rule,” and, together with the Annual Supervisory Stress Test Rule, the “Stress Test Rules”). The Stress Test Rules apply to bank holding companies (“BHCs”) with total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more (“Large BHCs”) and nonbank financial companies designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“Designated SIFIs,” and together with Large BHCs, “Covered Companies”). Concurrent with the Stress Test Rules, the FRB, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC,” and together with the FRB and OCC, the “Agencies”) published separate final rules implementing the requirements of Section 165(i)(2) of Dodd-Frank regarding annual company-run stress tests (the “Annual Company-Run Stress Test Rules”) for supervised entities (BHCs, savings and loan holding companies (“SLHCs”) and depository institutions) with average total consolidated assets greater than $10 billion other than Covered Companies (together “Covered Institutions”). The Stress Test Rules and Annual Company-Run Stress Test Rules have substantial implications for capital planning, including capital distributions.
The specific application of the rules generally depends on the type of entity involved (for example, BHC, depository institution, or SLHC), the size of the institution and its applicable regulator. In summary, the requirements of the Stress Test Rules and Annual Company-Run Stress Test Rules are as follows: