Posts Tagged ‘Proxy disclosure’

Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday July 18, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Stewart D. Aaron, partner in the Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice at Arnold & Porter LLP, and is based on an Arnold & Porter publication by Mr. Aaron and Robert C. Azarow. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Under Delaware’s corporate benefit doctrine, a stockholder who presents a meritorious claim to a board of directors may be entitled to attorneys’ fees if the stockholder’s efforts result in the conferring of a corporate benefit. [1] On June 20, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court considered in Raul v. Astoria Financial Corporation [2] whether attorneys’ fees are warranted under this doctrine when a stockholder identifies potential deficiencies in executive compensation disclosures required by the SEC pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act “say on pay” provisions. [3] The court held that the alleged omissions at issue failed to demonstrate any breach of the Board of Directors’ fiduciary duties under Delaware law and accordingly the Plaintiff did not present a meritorious demand to the Board. This decision makes clear that the courts will not shift fees to a stockholder (and the stockholder’s law firm) who “has simply done the company a good turn by bringing to the attention of the board an action that it ultimately decides to take.” [4]

…continue reading: Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

CII Urges SEC to Require Disclosure of Third-Party Director Compensation

Editor’s Note: Sabastian V. Niles is counsel in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where he focuses on rapid response shareholder activism, takeover defense and corporate governance. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Niles, Trevor Norwitz, Andrew R. Brownstein, and David C. Karp.

As we have previously written, special compensation arrangements between public company directors and third parties, such as activist hedge funds or other nominating shareholders, pose serious threats to the integrity of boardroom decision-making and have been sharply criticized by commentators and many institutional shareholders. The Council of Institutional Investors (CII), which has previously declared that third-party director incentive schemes “blatantly contradict” CII policies on director compensation, has now taken the additional step of encouraging the SEC to act to ensure investors are fully informed about such arrangements between nominating shareholders and their director candidates.

…continue reading: CII Urges SEC to Require Disclosure of Third-Party Director Compensation

Chen v. Howard-Anderson

Editor’s Note: James C. Morphy is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP specializing in mergers & acquisitions and corporate governance. The following post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Mr. Morphy, Alexandra Korry, Joseph Frumkin, and Brian Frawley. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here. Additional reading about Chen v. Howard-Anderson is available here.

In a summary judgment opinion issued on April 8, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Laster) held that in a change of control case governed by enhanced scrutiny, directors and officers could incur personal liability for a breach of their duty of loyalty if it is established that they acted unreasonably in conducting the sale process and allowed interests other than the pursuit of the best value reasonably available, i.e. an improper motive, to influence their decisions. The Court expressly rejected arguments that directors (or officers) could only be found to have acted in bad faith and thereby be personally liable for a breach of the duty of loyalty if it were determined that they were motivated by an intent to do harm or had consciously disregarded known obligations and utterly failed to attempt to obtain the best sale price, as articulated by the Delaware Supreme Court in Lyondell Chemical Company v. Ryan. Applying the new standard to the case before it, the Court concluded that the evidence against the director defendants was not sufficient to impose personal liability under the new standard, but that the evidence was sufficient to proceed to trial against the officers on the same theory.

…continue reading: Chen v. Howard-Anderson

Looking at Corporate Governance from the Investor’s Perspective

Posted by Luis A. Aguilar, Commissioner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, on Thursday April 24, 2014 at 9:08 am
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Editor’s Note: Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at Emory University School of Law’s Corporate Governance Lecture Series; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Corporate governance has always been an important topic. It is even more so today, as many Americans recognize the need to develop a more robust corporate governance regime in the aftermath of the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Although the recent financial crisis—aptly named the “Great Recession”—has many fathers, there is ample evidence that poor corporate governance, including weak risk management standards at many financial institutions, contributed to the devastation wrought by the crisis. For example, it has been reported that senior executives at both AIG and Merrill Lynch tried to warn their respective management teams of excessive exposure to subprime mortgages, but were rebuffed or ignored. These and other failures of oversight continue to remind us that good corporate governance is essential to the stability of our capital markets and our economy, as well as the protection of investors.

…continue reading: Looking at Corporate Governance from the Investor’s Perspective

SEC Issues Guidance on Use of Social Media in Offerings and Proxy Fights

Editor’s Note: Trevor Norwitz is a partner in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where he focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and securities law matters. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Norwitz, Sabastian V. Niles, Eitan S. Hoenig, and Matthew I. Danzig.

The SEC staff has released new guidance regarding the use of social media such as Twitter in securities offerings, business combinations and proxy contests (as a senior SEC official telegraphed at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute conference). Until now, SEC legending requirements have restricted an issuer’s ability to communicate electronically using Twitter or similar technologies with built-in character limitations before having an effective registration statement for offerees, or definitive proxy statement for stockholders (as the legends generally exceed the character limits). Companies using Twitter and similar media with character limits can now satisfy these legend requirements by using an active hyperlink to the full legend and ensuring that the hyperlink itself clearly conveys that it leads to important information. Although the SEC guidance does not provide example language, hyperlinks styled as “Important Information” or “SEC Legend” would seem to satisfy this standard. Social media platforms that do not have restrictive character limitations, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, must still include the full legend in the body of the message to offerees or stockholders.

…continue reading: SEC Issues Guidance on Use of Social Media in Offerings and Proxy Fights

Chen v. Howard-Anderson: Delaware Court Issues Guidance Regarding M&A Transactions

Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Eduardo Gallardo and Robert B. Little, partners in the Mergers and Acquisitions practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Little, Gregory A. Odegaard, and Chris Babcock. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On April 8, 2014, Vice Chancellor Laster of the Delaware Court of Chancery issued an opinion addressing the reasonableness of a “market check” as well as required proxy disclosures to stockholders in M&A transactions. In Chen v. Howard-Anderson, [1] the Vice Chancellor held that (i) evidence suggesting that a board of directors favored a potential acquirer by, among other things, failing to engage in a robust market check precluded summary judgment against a non-exculpated director, and (ii) evidence that the board failed to disclose all material facts in its proxy statement precluded summary judgment against all directors. The opinion addresses the appropriate scope of a market check, the necessary disclosure when submitting a transaction to stockholders for approval, the effect of exculpatory provisions in a company’s certificate of incorporation, and the potential conflicts faced by directors who are also fiduciaries of one of the company’s stockholders.

…continue reading: Chen v. Howard-Anderson: Delaware Court Issues Guidance Regarding M&A Transactions

Delaware Decision Reinforces Need for Proper Procedure in Squeeze-Out Merger

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday March 20, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David N. Shine, partner and co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and is based on a Fried Frank publication.

The private equity firm that was the controlling stockholder of Orchard Enterprises effected a squeeze-out merger of the minority public stockholders. Two years later, a Delaware appraisal proceeding determined that Orchard’s shares at the time of the merger were worth more than twice as much as was paid in the merger. Public shareholders then brought suit, claiming that the directors who had approved the merger and the controlling stockholder had breached their fiduciary duties and should be held liable for damages. The Orchard decision [1] issued by the Delaware Chancery Court this past Friday adjudicates the parties’ respective motions for summary judgment before trial.

…continue reading: Delaware Decision Reinforces Need for Proper Procedure in Squeeze-Out Merger

SEC Staff Issues Further Guidance on the Proxy “Unbundling” Rule

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday February 5, 2014 at 9:16 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Phillip R. Mills, partner in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about bundling includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar, discussed on the Forum here.

The SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance recently released three Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations concerning the SEC’s so-called unbundling rule (Exchange Act Rule 14a-4(a)(3)), which requires proxies to identify clearly and impartially each “separate matter” intended to be acted upon.

Nearly a year ago, in Greenlight Capital, L.P. v. Apple, Inc., a federal court enjoined Apple from bundling four charter amendments into a single proposal. The Apple decision highlighted the lack of clarity in the unbundling rules and the risk that the SEC or an activist shareholder could challenge a company’s presentation of proposals. The new C&DIs provide bright-line guidance for amendments to equity incentive plans but leave other situations to be considered on a facts-and-circumstances basis and, implicitly, to be discussed with the SEC Staff in cases of uncertainty.

Two new concepts will need to be addressed going forward:

…continue reading: SEC Staff Issues Further Guidance on the Proxy “Unbundling” Rule

Considerations for Directors in the 2014 Proxy Season and Beyond

Posted by Amy L. Goodman, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and John F. Olson, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Georgetown Law Center, on Monday January 27, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: Amy Goodman is a partner and co-chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and John Olson is a founding partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C. office and a visiting professor at the Georgetown Law Center. The following post is based on a Gibson Dunn alert by Ms. Goodman, Mr. Olson, Gillian McPhee, and Michael J. Scanlon.

As we begin 2014, calendar-year companies are immersed in preparing for what promises to be another busy proxy season. We continue to see shareholder proposals on many of the same subjects addressed during last proxy season, as discussed in our post recapping shareholder proposal developments in 2013. To help public companies and their boards of directors prepare for the coming year’s annual meeting and plan ahead for other corporate governance developments in 2014, we discuss below several key topics to consider.

…continue reading: Considerations for Directors in the 2014 Proxy Season and Beyond

Disclosure Lessons from the 2013 Proxy Season

Editor’s Note: Matteo Tonello is managing director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. This post relates to an issue of The Conference Board’s Director Notes series authored by James D. C. Barrall, David T. Della Rocca, Carol B. Samaan, Julie D. Crisp, and Michelle M. Khoury.

In light of increased transparency and governance expectations imposed by shareholder advisory groups and increasingly aggressive attempts by plaintiffs’ firms to enjoin shareholder votes on key compensation issues, U.S. public companies face a substantial burden to provide adequate disclosure in their annual proxy statements. This Director Notes examines the key disclosure issues and challenges facing companies during the 2013 proxy season and provides examples of company responses to these issues taken from proxy statements filed during the first half of 2013.

U.S. public companies face a substantial burden to provide adequate disclosure in their annual proxy statements. In addition to complying with a growing number of increasingly burdensome disclosure rules from Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), companies must take into account corporate governance guidelines from institutional shareholder advisory groups such as Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) and Glass Lewis & Co. Moreover, a recent wave of proxy injunction lawsuits has added to this burden and created additional issues and challenges for companies. The plaintiffs’ bar has also been actively pursuing damage claims against public companies based on disclosure and corporate governance issues, including issues relating to Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). All of these developments present many traps for the unwary. As a result, companies should review their executive compensation disclosure and their say-on-pay and equity plan proposals to determine whether additional disclosures, beyond those required by statutes and rules, are appropriate to attempt to reduce the risk of a potential lawsuit or investigation by a plaintiff’s law firm.

…continue reading: Disclosure Lessons from the 2013 Proxy Season

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