Posts Tagged ‘Information asymmetries’

Facilitating Mergers and Acquisitions with Earnouts and Purchase Price Adjustments

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday August 12, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Albert H. Choi, Albert C. BeVier Research Professor of Law at University of Virginia Law School.

In mergers and acquisitions transactions with privately-held (or closely-held) target companies, transacting parties will often agree to make payments to the target shareholders contingent upon some post-closing measures. Two often used arrangements are purchase price adjustments (PPAs) and earnouts. With a purchase price adjustment mechanism, payment to the target shareholders will be adjusted based on an accounting metric (such as the net working capital or shareholders’ equity) calculated shortly after the deal is closed. For instance, with a purchase price adjustment based on the target’s net working capital, as the target’s post-closing net working capital goes up or down compared to a pre-closing estimate, consideration to the target shareholders increases or decreases in accordance. Similarly, with an earnout, the transacting parties will agree upon post-closing performance targets, using measures such as earnings, net income, or gross revenue, and the amount of consideration that the target shareholders are entitled to receive will depend on whether such targets are met over the earnout period.

…continue reading: Facilitating Mergers and Acquisitions with Earnouts and Purchase Price Adjustments

Hedge Funds and Material Nonpublic Information

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday July 31, 2014 at 9:03 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jon N. Eisenberg, partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The last thing hedge funds need is another wake up call about the risks of liability for trading on the basis of material nonpublic information. But if they did, a July 17 article in the Wall Street Journal would provide it. According to the article, the SEC is investigating nearly four dozen hedge funds, asset managers and other firms to determine whether they traded on material nonpublic information concerning a change in Medicare reimbursement rates. If so, it appears that the material nonpublic information, if any, may have originated from a staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee, was then communicated to a law firm lobbyist, was further communicated by the lobbyist to a political intelligence firm, and finally, was communicated to clients who traded. According to an April 3, 2013 Wall Street Journal article, the political intelligence firm issued a flash report to clients on April 1, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.—18 minutes before the market closed and 35 minutes before the government announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would increase reimbursements by 3.3%, rather than reduce them 2.3%, as initially proposed. Shares in several large insurance firms rose as much as 6% in the last 18 minutes of trading.

…continue reading: Hedge Funds and Material Nonpublic Information

The Peril of an Expectations Gap in Proxy Advisory Firm Regulation

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday July 29, 2014 at 9:08 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Asaf Eckstein of Tel Aviv University-Buchmann Faculty of Law.

Over the last few years, Congress and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were put under pressure to seriously consider regulating proxy advisory firms. Financial industry and government leaders have voiced concern that proxy advisory firms exert too much power over corporate governance to operate unregulated. The SEC as well as the Congress have investigated and debated the merits of proxy advisory regulation. The U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the matter in June of 2013, and the SEC followed this hearing with a roundtable discussion in December of 2013. On June 30, 2014, the Investment Management and Corporate Finance Divisions of the SEC issued a bulletin outlining the responsibilities of proxy advisors and institutional investors when casting proxy votes. As of yet, no binding regulation has been promulgated, despite repeated calls for it.

…continue reading: The Peril of an Expectations Gap in Proxy Advisory Firm Regulation

The Informational Role of Internet-Based Short Sellers

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday April 23, 2014 at 9:32 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lei Chen of the Department of Accounting at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Despite serious concerns about the quality of auditing and financial reporting of U.S.-listed Chinese firms, the SEC and the PCAOB have been unable to provide sufficient or timely information to U.S. investors due to resource constraints, the confidentiality rules underlying the PCAOB disciplinary proceedings, and no access to relevant work papers of Chinese auditors. In the paper, The Informational Role of Internet-Based Short Sellers, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I focus on a new breed of information intermediary, i.e. Internet-based short sellers that have emerged in response to such regulatory loopholes and severe information asymmetry. Based on hand-collected Internet reports released during the 2009-2012 period by short sellers that target U.S.-listed Chinese firms, I find that these short sellers provide substantial information both directly and indirectly to investors.

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Financial Conglomerates and Chinese Walls

Posted by Andrew Tuch, Washington University School of Law, on Wednesday January 8, 2014 at 9:05 am
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Editor’s Note: Andrew Tuch is Associate Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law.

In my paper, Financial Conglomerates and Chinese Walls, which was recently made available on SSRN, I examine the effectiveness of Chinese walls, or information barriers, in preventing financial conglomerates from misusing non-public information in their trading and other activities. In recent years, empirical evidence has shown that financial conglomerates’ Chinese walls fail in important contexts, allowing firms to trade using non-public information they garner from their clients. Nevertheless, Chinese walls continue to have the legal effect of allowing financial conglomerates to discharge the otherwise incompatible client duties they owe under agency law. These incompatible duties arise due to the inflexible application of agency law and to financial conglomerates’ organizational structure, under which firms act for numerous clients across a broad and diverse range of financial activities, accumulating vast quantities of non-public information in doing so. As agents, firms are duty-bound to disclose material information in their possession to clients, and yet to do so is to breach duties of confidence owed to other clients. Chinese walls help financial conglomerates to reconcile their otherwise incompatible duties.

…continue reading: Financial Conglomerates and Chinese Walls

The Economics of Solicited and Unsolicited Credit Ratings

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday December 29, 2013 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Paolo Fulghieri, Professor of Finance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Günter Strobl, Professor of Finance at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management; and Han Xia of the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In our paper, The Economics of Solicited and Unsolicited Credit Ratings, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we develop a dynamic rational expectations model to address the question of why rating agencies issue unsolicited credit ratings and why these ratings are, on average, lower than solicited ratings. We analyze the implications of this practice for credit rating standards, rating fees, and social welfare. Our model incorporates three critical elements of the credit rating industry: (i) the rating agencies’ ability to misreport the issuer’s credit quality, (ii) their ability to issue unsolicited ratings, and (iii) their reputational concerns.

…continue reading: The Economics of Solicited and Unsolicited Credit Ratings

The Real Costs of Disclosure

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday November 6, 2013 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Alex Edmans, Professor of Finance at the London Business School; Mirko Heinle of the Department of Accounting at the University of Pennsylvania; and Chong Huang of the UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business.

In our paper, The Real Costs of Disclosure, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we analyze the effect of a firm’s disclosure policy on real investment. An extensive literature highlights numerous benefits of disclosure. Diamond (1985) shows that disclosing information reduces the need for each individual shareholder to bear the cost of gathering it. In Diamond and Verrecchia (1991), disclosure reduces the cost of capital by lowering the information asymmetry that shareholders suffer if they subsequently need to sell due to a liquidity shock. Kanodia (1980) and Fishman and Hagerty (1989) show that disclosure increases price efficiency and thus the manager’s investment incentives.

However, the costs of disclosure have been more difficult to pin down. Standard models (e.g. Verrecchia (1983)) typically assume an exogenous cost of disclosure, justified by several motivations. First, the actual act of communicating information may be costly. While such costs were likely significant at the time of writing, when information had to be mailed to shareholders, nowadays these costs are likely much smaller due to electronic communication. Second, there may be costs of producing information. However, firms already produce copious information for internal or tax purposes. Third, the information may be proprietary (i.e., business sensitive) and disclosing it will benefit competitors (e.g., Verrecchia (1983) and Dye (1986)). However, while likely important for some types of disclosure (e.g., the stage of a patent application), proprietary considerations are unlikely to be for others (e.g., earnings). Perhaps motivated by the view that, nowadays, the costs of disclosure are small relative to the benefits, recent government policies have increased disclosure requirements, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Regulation FD, and Dodd-Frank.

…continue reading: The Real Costs of Disclosure

Judicial Resolution of Business Deadlock

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 16, 2013 at 9:12 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Claudia M. Landeo, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Alberta, and Kathryn E. Spier, Domenico de Sole Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Irreconcilable differences among joint owners are all too common in business entities, including closely-held companies such as general partnerships and LLCs. While many joint owners foresee possible deadlocks and include resolution mechanisms in their business agreements, others fail to do so. Judicial involvement may become necessary when a deadlock clause was included in the business agreement but the grounds for dissociation or dissolution are unclear, or when a deadlock clause was not included at all. In both situations, the court may be called upon to determine the appropriate remedy and to design an asset-valuation procedure.

Placing an accurate value on the business assets of a closely-held company can be a daunting task. While publicly-traded companies often have active markets for ownership, closely-held companies may be very difficult for outside investors and/or appraisers to evaluate. By virtue of their experience with the business venture and their expertise, the joint owners may themselves be in the best position to accurately pinpoint the value of the assets. Thus, the court faces the challenge of designing a deadlock resolution mechanism that induces the owners to accurately reveal the value of the business assets.

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Insider Trading in the Derivatives Markets

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday October 13, 2013 at 9:10 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Yesha Yadav of Vanderbilt Law School.

In my paper, Insider Trading in the Derivatives Markets, recently made available on SSRN, I argue that the prohibition against insider trading is becoming increasingly anachronistic in markets where derivatives like credit default swaps (CDS) trade. I demonstrate that the emergence of credit derivatives marks a profound development for the prohibition against insider trading, problematizing conventional theory and doctrine like never before. With the workability of current rules subject to question, this paper advocates for a rethinking of the present regulatory framework for one better suited to modern markets.

Lenders use CDS to trade the risk of the loans they make. And, when they engage in such trading, they are usually privy to vast reserves of confidential information on their borrowers. From a doctrinal perspective, CDS appear to subvert insider trading laws by their very design, insofar as lenders rely on what looks like insider information to transfer the risk of a loan to another institution. Fundamentally, insider trading rules prohibit trading based on information procured at an unfair advantage by those in a privileged relationship to a company. And, increasingly, insider trading laws are taking a fairly broad approach in preventing misuse of confidential information by those who acquire this information through their special access or through deception. For example, Rule 10b-5(2) can ground a claim for insider trading where someone trades on information obtained through a relationship of trust and confidence. In the CDS market, lenders usually buy and sell credit protection based, at least in part, on information they obtain in their relationship with the borrower, one ordinarily protected by restrictive confidentiality clauses. From the doctrinal viewpoint then, old laws and new CDS markets appear to exist in a state of serious tension. Put differently, either this thriving market is operating outside or at the margins of existing law—or the law itself has not adapted to the existence of these markets.

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Consumer Financial Protection: A New Paradigm

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday October 6, 2013 at 9:40 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Karen Petrou, co-founder and managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, Inc., and is based on a FedFin white paper by Ms. Petrou.

In this post, Federal Financial Analytics, Inc. (FedFin) recommends steps the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other regulators can and should take to make their rules simpler, clearer, less burdensome and—critically—more enforceable. This paper is not a call for “cutting the red tape,” a mantra that has all too often meant eviscerating critical consumer protections. It is, rather a how-to on ways to cut through the daunting morass of consumer-protection standards that have only grown worse in the wake of the financial crisis.

We note not only ways to restructure rules to meet these goals, but also how to do so without losing the clarity essential to legal integrity and supervisory effectiveness. We also describe recent efforts by U.S. bank regulators to curtail problematic products (e.g., payday lending) by limiting it at banks, leaving wide swaths of the financial sector (sometimes called “shadow banks”) free to engage in predatory practices unless the bank-centric rules choke them off (uncertain), state regulators intervene (problematic) or federal rules across the sector are quickly enacted (so far unseen).

…continue reading: Consumer Financial Protection: A New Paradigm

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