Posts Tagged ‘Management’

SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday August 17, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from R. Daniel O’Connor, partner focusing on securities enforcement at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray Alert authored by Mr. O’Connor, Marko S. Zatylny, Kait Michaud, and Michael J. Vito.

On July 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) advanced a novel theory of fraud against the former CEO (Marc Sherman) and CFO (Edward Cummings) of Quality Services Group, Inc. (“QSGI”), a Florida-based computer equipment company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The SEC alleged that the CEO misrepresented the extent of his involvement in evaluating internal controls and that the CEO and CFO knew of significant internal controls issues with the company’s inventory practices that they failed to disclose to investors and internal auditors. This case did not involve any restatement of financial statements or allegations of accounting fraud, merely disclosure issues around internal controls and involvement in a review of the same by senior management. The SEC’s approach has the potential to broaden practical exposure to liability for corporate officers who sign financial statements and certifications required under Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”). By advancing a theory of fraud premised on internal controls issues without establishing an actionable accounting misstatement, the SEC is continuing to demonstrate that it will extend the range of conduct for which it has historically pursued fraud claims against corporate officers.

…continue reading: SEC Charges Corporate Officers with Fraud

Director Engagement on Executive Pay

Posted by Jeremy L. Goldstein, Jeremy L. Goldstein & Associates, LLC, on Friday August 15, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Jeremy L. Goldstein is founder of Jeremy L. Goldstein & Associates, LLC. This post is based on a publication by Mr. Goldstein.

Since the implementation of the mandatory advisory vote on executive compensation, shareholder engagement has become an increasingly important part of the corporate landscape. In light of this development, many companies are struggling to determine whether, when and how corporate directors should engage with shareholders on issues of executive compensation. Set forth below are considerations for companies grappling with these issues.

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Peer Effects and Corporate Corruption

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday August 14, 2014 at 9:09 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Christopher Parsons of the Finance Area at the University of California, San Diego; Johan Sulaeman of the Department of Finance at Southern Methodist University; and Sheridan Titman, Professor of Finance at the University of Texas at Austin.

Traditional models of crime frame the choice to engage in misbehavior like any other economic decision involving cost and benefit tradeoffs. Though somewhat successful when taken to the data, perhaps the theory’s largest embarrassment is its failure to account for the enormous variation in crime rates observed across both time and space. Indeed, as Glaeser, Sacerdote, and Scheinkman (1996) argue, regional variation in demographics, enforcement, and other observables are simply not large enough to explain why, for example, two seemingly identical neighborhoods in the same city have such drastically different crime rates. The answer they propose is simple: social interactions induce positive correlations in the tendency to break rules.

…continue reading: Peer Effects and Corporate Corruption

Compliance or Legal? The Board’s Duty to Assure Clarity

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday August 12, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Michael W. Peregrine, partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Peregrine; the views expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the views of McDermott Will & Emery LLP or its clients.

A series of developments threaten to blur the important distinction between the corporation’s legal and compliance functions. These developments arise from federal regulatory action, media and public discourse, policy statements from compliance industry leaders, and new surveys reflecting the increasing prominence of the general counsel. If left unaddressed, they could lead to significant organizational risk, e.g., leadership disharmony, misallocation of executive resources, ineffective risk management, and the loss of the attorney-client privilege in certain circumstances. The governing board is obligated to address this risk by working with executive leadership to assure clarity between the roles of general counsel and chief compliance officer.

…continue reading: Compliance or Legal? The Board’s Duty to Assure Clarity

Symbolic Corporate Governance Politics

Posted by Marcel Kahan, NYU School of Law, on Monday August 11, 2014 at 9:12 am
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Editor’s Note: Marcel Kahan is the George T. Lowy Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. This post is based on a paper co-authored by Professor Kahan and Edward Rock, Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Business Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Corporate governance politics display a peculiar feature: while the rhetoric is often heated, the material stakes are often low. Consider, for example, shareholder resolutions requesting boards to redeem poison pills. Anti-pill resolutions were the most common type of shareholder proposal from 1987–2004, received significant shareholder support, and led many companies to dismantle their pills. Yet, because pills can be reinstated at any time, dismantling a pill has no impact on a company’s ability to resist a hostile bid. Although shareholder activists may claim that these proposals vindicate shareholder power against entrenched managers, we are struck by the fact that these same activists have not made any serious efforts to impose effective constraints on boards, for example, by pushing for restrictions on the use of pills in the certificate of incorporation. Other contested governance issues, such as proxy access and majority voting, exhibit a similar pattern: much ado about largely symbolic change.

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Socially Responsible Firms

Posted by Allen Ferrell, Harvard Law School, on Wednesday August 6, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: Allen Ferrell is Greenfield Professor of Securities Law, Harvard Law School. The following post is based on the paper co-authored by Professor Ferrell, Hao Liang and Professor Luc Renneboog.

The desirability of corporations engaging in “socially responsible” behavior has long been hotly debated among economists, lawyers, and business experts. Two general views on corporate social responsibility (CSR) prevail in the literature. The CSR “value-enhancing view” argues that socially responsible firms, such as firms that promote efforts to help protect the environment, promote social equality, improve community relationships, can and often do adhere to value-maximizing corporate governance practices. Indeed, well-governed firms are more likely to be socially responsible. In short, CSR can be consistent with shareholder wealth maximization as well as achieving broader societal goals. The opposite view on CSR begins with Milton Friedman’s (1970) well-known claim that “the only social responsibility of corporations is to make money”. Extending this view, several researchers argue that CSR is often simply a manifestation of managerial agency problems inside the firm (Benabou and Tirole, 2010; Cheng, Hong, and Shue, 2013; Masulis and Reza, 2014) and hence problematic (“agency view”). That is to say, socially responsible firms tend to suffer from agency problems which enable managers to engage in CSR that benefits themselves at the expense of shareholders (Krueger, 2013). Furthermore, managers engaged in time-consuming CSR activities may lose focus on their core managerial responsibilities (Jensen, 2001). Overall, according to the agency view, CSR is generally not in the interests of shareholders.

…continue reading: Socially Responsible Firms

Compensating for Long-Term Value Creation in U.S. Public Corporations

Editor’s Note: Joseph Bachelder is special counsel in the Tax, Employee Benefits & Private Clients practice group at McCarter & English, LLP. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Bachelder, with assistance from Andy Tsang, which first appeared in the New York Law Journal.

Three categories of performers are rewarded for value creation in U.S. public corporations. They are: (1) the executives who manage the corporations; (2) the directors who oversee the performance of these corporations; and (3) the individual asset managers and others who provide investment services to investors who own, directly or indirectly, these corporations.

The following post takes a look at the correlation between the long-term incentive compensation of these three categories of performers and long-term value creation in U.S. public corporations that is attributable to them. In fact, such correlation appears to be limited. In addition, the article will consider a definition of “long-term” value creation, the roles of these three categories of performers in creating “long-term” value and the methods of compensating these different categories of performers in their respective roles in “long-term” value creation.

…continue reading: Compensating for Long-Term Value Creation in U.S. Public Corporations

Human Capital, Management Quality, and Firm Performance

Posted by R. Christopher Small, 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 Thomas Chemmanur and Lei Kong, both of the Department of Finance at Boston College, and Karthik Krishnan of the Finance Group at Northeastern University.

The quality of the top management team of a firm is an important determinant of its performance. This is an obvious statement to many. Yet, there is little evidence that relates top management team quality to firm performance in a causal manner. Part of the challenge in doing so stems from assigning a measure to the quality of the top management team. There are, after all, various aspects of top managers that contribute to their performance, including their education, their connections and prior experience. Another reason that relating management quality to firm performance is hard is that one can argue that the best managers can simply select into the best firms to work in. This makes making causal statements extremely hard in this context. As a result, while one can point toward anecdotal evidence relating good managers to good performance (e.g., Steve Jobs of Apple), systematic evidence is lacking in the academic literature on this issue. The relation between management quality and firm performance is important in more than just an academic context. For instance, analysts frequently cite top management quality as a reason to invest in a stock. Thus, one needs to ask what they mean by “quality,” and does it really impact the future performance of the firm.

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Executive Remuneration and the Payout Decision

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday July 11, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Philipp Geiler of the Department of Economics, Finances, and Control at EMLYON Business School and Luc Renneboog, Professor of Finance at Tilburg University.

Corporations rely on dividends, share repurchases, or a combination of both payout methods to return earnings to their shareholders. Over the last decade, the importance of the dominating payout method—dividends—seems to be somewhat eroded at UK firms, with an increasing number of firms combining share repurchases with dividends. What explains the surge in the use of combined share repurchases and dividends in the UK? Is there a link between firm’s payout decision and executive remuneration?

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Navigating Today’s Shareholder Activism Landscape

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday July 8, 2014 at 9:18 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Richard J. Grossman, partner concentrating in corporate governance matters and mergers and acquisitions, at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and is based on a Skadden alert by Mr. Grossman and Stephen F. Arcano.

Shareholder activism is the corporate topic du jour, be it in boardrooms, the media or Washington, D.C. While corporate boards and management need to understand the current environment and how we got here, their top priority is to develop comprehensive strategies for navigating the activism landscape. As activists have become more sophisticated, and activism more mainstream, approaches to dealing with activists are, by necessity, evolving.

…continue reading: Navigating Today’s Shareholder Activism Landscape

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