In my forthcoming article in the Journal of Legal Studies, I empirically test a claim made by institutional investors in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd. In Morrison, the Supreme Court limited investors’ ability to bring private 10b-5 securities fraud actions to cases where the securities at issue were purchased on a United States stock exchange or were otherwise purchased in the U.S. Because many foreign firms’ securities trade simultaneously on non-U.S. venues and on U.S. exchanges, institutional investors claimed after Morrison that, such was the importance of the 10b-5 private right of action, they would look to such firms’ U.S-traded securities to preserve their rights under 10b-5.
Posts Tagged ‘Institutional Investors’
Again in 2014, as in the two previous years, there has been an increase in the number and intensity of attacks by activist hedge funds. Indeed, 2014 could well be called the “year of the wolf pack.”
With the increase in activist hedge fund attacks, particularly those aimed at achieving an immediate increase in the market value of the target by dismembering or overleveraging, there is a growing recognition of the adverse effect of these attacks on shareholders, employees, communities and the economy. Noted below are the most significant 2014 developments holding out a promise of turning the tide against activism and its proponents, including those in academia. Already in 2015 there have been several significant developments that are worth adding, which are included in bold at the end.
In our paper, Passive Investors, Not Passive Owners, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether passive institutional investors, like Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors, influence firms’ governance structure. Although passive institutional investors, which seek to deliver the return of a market index with expenses that are as low as possible, reflect a large and growing component of U.S. stock ownership, there is little research on their role in influencing firm behavior.
The lack of research on passive institutional investors likely stems from a presumption that such investors lack both the resources and motives to monitor their large and diverse portfolios. For example, unwilling to accumulate or exit positions, which would lead to deviations from the underlying index weights, passive institutions lack a traditional lever used by non-passive investors to influence managers. Moreover, it is unclear whether passive institutional investors should even care about firm-specific policies or governance choices. Unlike actively-managed funds that attempt to outperform some benchmark, passive funds seek to deliver the performance of the benchmark, and any improvement in one stock’s performance will simply increase the performance of both the institution’s portfolio and the underlying benchmark.
ISS recently issued updated guidelines for several of its benchmark global voting policies, which will be effective for analyses of publicly traded companies with shareholder meetings on or after Feb. 1, 2015. For the 10th year running, ISS gathered broad input from institutional investors, corporate issuers, and other market constituents worldwide as a key part of its policy development process. The 2015 updates reflect the time and effort of hundreds of investors, issuers, corporate directors, and other market participants who provided input through a variety of channels, including ISS’ annual policy survey, topical and regional roundtables, and direct engagements with staff.
As part of our active ownership process, State Street Global Advisors (“SSgA”) considers environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) matters while evaluating and engaging with investee companies. SSgA believes that ESG factors can impact the reputation of companies and can also create significant operational risks and costs to businesses. Conversely, well-developed corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) programs  can generate efficiencies, enhance productivity and mitigate risks, all of which impact shareholder value.
In Q1 and early Q2 2014, SSgA actively engaged with 15 global banks ahead of the proxy voting season. These engagements were conducted jointly with members of SSgA’s investment and governance teams. Our engagement addressed specific governance issues at each bank and also encompassed a wider discussion on the changing regulatory landscape and its impact on business strategy, capital requirements, operations and risk management, and the bank’s global footprint. Below we have provided the perspectives and insights gleaned from our engagement activities with banks this year.
Studies showing that weather patterns in major financial centers influence stock index returns provide suggestive evidence that investor mood influences asset prices (Saunders, 1993; Hirshleifer and Shumway, 2003). Individuals may misattribute mood induced by weather as information when making assessments about objects that should be otherwise unrelated (Schwarz and Clore, 1983), leading to mood-congruent judgments. For example, sunnier days may induce good moods amongst investors, generating overly optimistic beliefs regarding their investments and congruently influencing their trading decisions. Despite strong evidence of the weather effect on stock index returns, establishing plausibility in mood-based explanations relies in part on distinguishing which group of investors drives the weather effect, and directly confirming mood effects in their judgments.
Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (“ISS”) has released a technical document detailing the factors and scoring methodology of Governance QuickScore 3.0, which ISS plans to launch on November 24, 2014.  Corporate issuers may verify, update or correct the data used to calculate their scores, via ISS’s data verification site, through 8:00 p.m. EST on November 14.
Publicly traded companies are required by the SEC and the stock exchanges to obtain shareholder approval when such companies seek to implement a new long‐term equity plan or increase the share reserve pursuant to such plans.
Companies comply with this requirement by seeking shareholder approval through the annual proxy process. Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), the large proxy advisory firm retained by many institutional investors for proxy voting advice, offers its services to institutional clients by evaluating such proposals. One of the tools used by ISS in developing its voting advice is a financial model referred to as the Shareholder Value Transfer (SVT) Model that attempts to assign a cost to each company’s equity plan. ISS’ proprietary SVT model contains numerous hidden values and algorithms a company cannot readily replicate. If the SVT Model results in an assigned cost that falls outside the boundaries of what is acceptable to ISS, ISS will submit a negative vote recommendation.
In my paper, Opacity in Financial Markets, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, I study the implications of opacity in financial markets for investor behavior, asset prices, and welfare. In the model, transparent funds (e.g., mutual funds) and opaque funds (e.g., hedge funds) trade transparent assets (e.g., plain-vanilla products) and opaque assets (e.g., structured products). Investors observe neither opaque funds’ portfolios nor opaque assets’ payoffs. Consistent with empirical observations, the model predicts an “opacity price premium”: opaque assets trade at a premium over transparent ones despite identical payoffs. This premium arises because fund managers bid up opaque assets’ prices, as opacity potentially allows them to collect higher fees by manipulating investor assessments of their funds’ future prospects. The premium accompanies endogenous market segmentation: transparent funds trade only transparent assets, and opaque funds trade only opaque assets. A novel insight is that opacity is self-feeding in financial markets: given the opacity price premium, financial engineers exploit it by supplying opaque assets (that is, they render transparent assets opaque deliberately), which in turn are a source of agency problems in portfolio delegation, resulting in the opacity price premium.