Posts Tagged ‘Short-termism’

European Commission Proposes to Moderate Short-termism and Reduce Activist Attacks

Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton.

Two articles (among several) in a comprehensive proposal to revise EU corporate governance would have a significant beneficial impact if they were to be adopted in the United States. In large measure they mirror recommendations by Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., in two essays: Can We do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law, 114 Columbia Law Review 449 (Mar. 2014) and One Fundamental Corporate Governance Question We Face: Can Corporations Be Managed for the Long Term Unless Their Powerful Electorates Also Act and Think Long Term? 66 Business Lawyer 1 (Nov. 2010).

…continue reading: European Commission Proposes to Moderate Short-termism and Reduce Activist Attacks

Current Thoughts About Activism, Revisited

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Tuesday April 8, 2014 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton, Steven A. Rosenblum, and Sabastian V. Niles. Wachtell Lipton’s earlier memorandum on current thoughts on activism is available here, their earlier memoranda criticizing an empirical study by Bebchuk, Brav and Jiang on the long-term effects of hedge fund activism are available here and here, and their earlier memoranda criticizing the Shareholder Rights Project are available here and here. The Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang study is available here, Lucian Bebchuk’s earlier response to the criticism of the Shareholder Rights Project is available here, and the Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang responses to the Wachtell Lipton criticisms of their study are available here and here.

We published this post last August. Since then there have been several developments that prompt us to revisit it; adding the first three paragraphs below.

First, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr. published a brilliant article in the Columbia Law Review, Can We Do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law in which he points out the serious defects in allowing short-term investors to override carefully considered judgments of the boards of directors of public corporations. Chief Justice Strine rejects the argument of the academic activists and activist hedge funds that shareholders should have the unfettered right to force corporations to maximize shareholder value in the short run. We embrace Chief Justice Strine’s reasoning and conclusions.

…continue reading: Current Thoughts About Activism, Revisited

Excess Risk Taking and Competition for Managerial Talent

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday March 31, 2014 at 9:07 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Viral Acharya, Professor of Finance at NYU; Marco Pagano, Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Naples Federico II; and Paolo Volpin, Professor of Finance, Cass Business School.

Excessive risk-taking by financial institutions and overly generous executive pay are widely regarded as key factors in the 2007-09 crisis. In particular, it has become commonplace to blame banks and securities companies for compensation packages that reward managers (and more generally, other risk-takers such as traders and salesmen) generously for making investments with high returns in the short run but large risks that emerge only in the long run. As governments have been forced to rescue failing financial institutions, politicians and the media have stressed the need to cut executive pay packages and rein in incentives based on options and bonuses, making them more dependent on long-term performance and in extreme cases eliminating them outright. It is natural to ask whether this is the right policy response to the problem. It is crucial to ask what is the root of the problem—that is, precisely which market failure produced excessive risk-taking.

…continue reading: Excess Risk Taking and Competition for Managerial Talent

Will The New Shareholder-Director Exchange Achieve Its Potential?

Editor’s Note: Carl Icahn is the majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises. The following post is based on a commentary featured today at the Shareholders’ Square Table.

The recent announcement of the formation of the Shareholder-Director Exchange, a new group that aims to facilitate direct communication between institutional shareholders (namely, mutual funds and pension programs) and non-management directors of the U.S. public companies they own, has been accompanied by a flurry of articles regarding the purposes and possibilities of this new group. From my perspective, the Shareholder-Director Exchange has tremendous potential to help improve corporate governance and performance in this country.

…continue reading: Will The New Shareholder-Director Exchange Achieve Its Potential?

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

Empiricism and Experience; Activism and Short-Termism; the Real World of Business

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Monday October 28, 2013 at 9:40 am
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Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton that replies to a post published by Professor Lucian Bebchuk, available here, which in turn responds to two Wachtell Lipton memoranda posted by Martin Lipton, available on the Forum here and here. These memoranda criticize the recently-issued empirical study by Bebchuk, Brav, and Jiang on the long-term effects of hedge fund activism. The study is available here, and its results are summarized in a Forum post and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article.

Harvard Law School Professor Lucian Bebchuk believes that shareholders should be able to control the material decisions of the companies they invest in. Over the years, he has written numerous articles expressing this view, including a 2005 article urging that shareholders should have the power to initiate a shareholder referendum on material corporate business decisions. In addition to his writings and speeches, Prof. Bebchuk has established and directs the Shareholder Rights Project at Harvard Law School for the purpose of managing efforts to dismantle classified boards and do away with other charter or bylaw provisions that restrain or moderate shareholder control of corporations (see “Harvard’s Shareholder Rights Project is Wrong” and “Harvard’s Shareholder Rights Project is Still Wrong”). In addition, Prof. Bebchuk has been at the forefront in arguing to the SEC that, despite the specific action of Congress in 2010 to empower the SEC to adopt a rule to require fair and prompt public disclosure of accumulations of shares by activist hedge funds and other blockholders, the SEC should not do so because it would limit the ability of activist hedge funds to attack corporations. In short, Prof. Bebchuk believes that shareholders should have the power to control the fundamental decisions of corporations—even those shareholders who bought their shares only a few days or weeks before they sought to assert their power, and regardless of whether their investment objective is short-term trading gains instead of long-term value creation.

…continue reading: Empiricism and Experience; Activism and Short-Termism; the Real World of Business

Equity Vesting and Managerial Myopia

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 9, 2013 at 9:30 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, Vivian Fang of the Department of Accounting at the University of Minnesota, and Katharina Lewellen of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

In our paper, Equity Vesting and Managerial Myopia, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we study the link between real investment decisions and the vesting horizon of a CEO’s equity incentives. We find that research and development (“R&D”) is negatively associated with the stock price sensitivity of stock and options that vest over the course of the same year. This association continues to hold when including advertising and capital expenditure in the investment measure. Moreover, CEOs with significant newly-vesting equity are more likely to meet or beat analyst consensus forecasts by a narrow margin. However, the market recognizes such CEOs’ incentives to inflate earnings—the lower announcement returns to meet or beating earnings forecasts are decreasing in the sensitivity of vesting equity. These results provide empirical support for managerial myopia theories.

Many academics and practitioners believe that managerial myopia is a first-order problem faced by the modern firm. While the 20th century firm emphasized cost efficiency, Porter (1992) argues that “the nature of competition has changed, placing a premium on investment in increasingly complex and intangible forms,” such as innovation, employee training, and organizational development. However, the myopia theories of Stein (1988, 1989) show that managers may fail to invest due to concerns with the firm’s short-term stock price. Since the benefits of intangible investment are only visible in the long run, the immediate effect of such investment is to depress earnings and thus the current stock price. Therefore, a manager aligned with the short-term stock price may turn down valuable investment opportunities.

…continue reading: Equity Vesting and Managerial Myopia

Adjusting to Shareholder Activism as the New Normal

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday September 4, 2013 at 9:19 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Joseph B. Frumkin, H. Rodgin Cohen, Francis J. Aquila, James C. Morphy and Glen T. Schleyer.

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.

…continue reading: Adjusting to Shareholder Activism as the New Normal

Current Thoughts About Activism

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Friday August 9, 2013 at 9:15 am
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Editor’s Note: Martin Lipton is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in mergers and acquisitions and matters affecting corporate policy and strategy. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Lipton, Steven A. Rosenblum, and Sabastian V. Niles. Work from the Program on Corporate Governance about hedge fund activism includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon P. Brav, and Wei Jiang.

A long-term oriented, well-functioning and responsible private sector is the country’s core engine for economic growth, national competitiveness, real innovation and sustained employment. Prudent reinvestment of corporate profits into research and development, capital projects and value-creating initiatives furthers these goals. Yet U.S. companies, including well-run, high-performing companies, increasingly face:

  • pressure to deliver short-term results at the expense of long-term value, whether through excessive risk-taking, avoiding investments that require long-term horizons or taking on substantial leverage to fund special payouts to shareholders;
  • challenges in trying to balance competing interests due to excessively empowered special interest and activist shareholders; and
  • significant strain from the misallocation of corporate resources and energy into mandated activist or governance initiatives that provide no meaningful benefit to investors or other critical stakeholders.

…continue reading: Current Thoughts About Activism

Activist Shareholders in the US: A Changing Landscape

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday June 28, 2013 at 9:44 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Stephen F. Arcano, partner concentrating in mergers and acquisitions and other corporate matters at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and is based on a Skadden alert by Mr. Arcano and Richard J. Grossman.

Shareholder activism in the U.S. has increased significantly over the past several years, with activist campaigns increasingly targeting well-known, larger market capitalization companies, such as Apple, Hess, Procter & Gamble and Sony. In 2013, the number, nature and degree of success of these campaigns has garnered the attention of boards of directors, shareholders and the media. While the continued level of success of activists is uncertain, and the longer-term impact of activism is unknown, at the moment shareholder activism is exerting considerable influence in the M&A and corporate governance arenas. In this evolving landscape, public company boards and their managements need to be aware that virtually any company is a potential target for shareholder activism.

Key Factors Influencing the Current Paradigm

Activism has become a viable and increasingly applied (arguably mainstream) tool for shareholders to seek to influence corporate policy. Several changes have occurred over the past few years that have contributed to the heightened — although not universal — success now being enjoyed by activism, including factors related to the activists, institutional investors and corporate defenses.

…continue reading: Activist Shareholders in the US: A Changing Landscape

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