Posts Tagged ‘Short-termism’

The Corporation as Time Machine

Posted by Lynn A. Stout, Cornell Law School, on Wednesday March 25, 2015 at 9:09 am
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Editor’s Note: Lynn Stout is the Distinguished Professor of Corporate and Business Law at Cornell Law School.

This article, The Corporation as Time Machine: Intergenerational Equity, Intergenerational Efficiency, and the Corporate Form, advances an explanation for the rise of the corporate form and an alternative perspective on its economic function. The article argues that the board-controlled corporate entity is a legal innovation that can transfer wealth forward and sometimes backward through time, for the benefit of both present and future generations. The article was written for a symposium organized around the author’s prior work with Margaret Blair.

The corporate form allows natural persons to aggregate and transfer resources to a legal person with the capacity to hold assets in its own name in perpetuity. When the corporate entity is controlled by a board subject to the fiduciary duty of loyalty, corporate assets can be “locked in” and insulated from the demands of natural persons (e.g., the current generation of shareholders) who want to extract and consume them. Asset lock-in thus permits board-controlled corporate entities with perpetual life to invest in and pursue projects that may generate wealth only in later time periods, possibly even after the current cohort of human beings has ceased to exist.

…continue reading: The Corporation as Time Machine

Vice Chancellor Laster and the Long-Term Rule

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday March 11, 2015 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Covington & Burling LLP and is based on a Covington article by Jack Bodner, Leonard Chazen, and Donald Ross. 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.

Vice Chancellor Laster has been writing for several years about the fiduciary duties of directors who represent the interests of a particular block of stockholders. In his opinion in the Trados Shareholder Litigation he found that directors, elected by the venture capital investors who held Trados’s preferred stock, had a conflict of interest in deciding on a sale of the corporation in which all the proceeds would be absorbed by the liquidation preference of the preferred and nothing would go to the common. [1] As a result of this finding, Vice Chancellor Laster applied the entire fairness standard of review to the Trados board’s decision. He concluded that while the directors failed to follow a fair process, the transaction was fair because the common stock had no economic value before the sale and so it was fair for the common stock to receive nothing from the sale. [2] In a recent Business Lawyer article which he co-authored with Delaware practitioner John Mark Zeberkiewicz, [3] Vice Chancellor Laster extended his Trados conflict of interest analysis to other situations in which directors represent stockholder constituencies with short-term investment horizons, including directors elected by activist stockholders seeking immediate steps to increase the near term stock price of the corporation. He states that such directors can face a conflict of interest between their duties to the corporation and their duties to the activists.

…continue reading: Vice Chancellor Laster and the Long-Term Rule

The Threat to the Economy and Society from Activism and Short-Termism Updated

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Tuesday January 27, 2015 at 9:02 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, Sabastian V. Niles, and Sara J. Lewis. Earlier posts by Mr. Lipton on hedge fund activism are available herehere and here. Recent work from the Program on Corporate Governance about hedge fund activism includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here) and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here). For five posts by Mr. Lipton criticizing the Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang paper, and for three posts by the authors replying to Mr. Lipton’s criticism, see here.

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.

…continue reading: The Threat to the Economy and Society from Activism and Short-Termism Updated

The Threat to the Economy and Society from Activism and Short-Termism

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Thursday January 22, 2015 at 9:18 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. Earlier posts by Mr. Lipton on hedge fund activism are available here and here. Recent work from the Program on Corporate Governance about hedge fund activism includes The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang (discussed on the Forum here) and The Myth that Insulating Boards Serves Long-Term Value by Lucian Bebchuk (discussed on the Forum here). For five posts by Mr. Lipton criticizing the Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang paper, and for three posts by the authors replying to Mr. Lipton’s criticism, see here.

In a comprehensive report on prosperity and the sharing of prosperity in the industrial democracies, an all-star commission has examined and made recommendations for public and private initiatives to improve GDP growth and fair distribution of prosperity. Among the matters studied are corporate governance and short-termism and activism. The following specially selected quotes (omitting compensation and other matters that the report finds promote short-termism) from the report support the limitations on activism that many of us believe are essential to the American economy and society:

…continue reading: The Threat to the Economy and Society from Activism and Short-Termism

The Threat to Shareholders and the Economy from Activist Hedge Funds

Posted by Martin Lipton, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Wednesday January 14, 2015 at 9:02 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 and Sara J. Lewis.

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.

…continue reading: The Threat to Shareholders and the Economy from Activist Hedge Funds

Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2015

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, Stephen A. Rosenblum, and Karessa L. Cain.

The challenges that directors of public companies face in carrying out their duties continue to grow. The end goal remains the same, to oversee the successful, profitable and sustainable operations of their companies. But the pressures that confront directors, from activism and short-termism, to ongoing shifts in governance, to global risks and competition, are many. A few weeks ago we issued an updated list of key issues that boards will be expected to deal with in the coming year (accessible at this link: The Spotlight on Boards, and discussed on the Forum here). Highlighted below are a few of the more significant issues and trends that we believe directors should bear in mind as they consider their companies’ priorities and objectives and seek to meet their companies’ goals.

…continue reading: Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2015

Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday November 20, 2014 at 9:18 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from John Asker, Professor of Economics at UCLA; Joan Farre-Mensa of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School; and Alexander Ljungqvist, Professor of Finance at NYU.

Economists have long worried that a stock market listing can induce short-termist pressures that distort the investment decisions of public firms. Back in 1985 Narayanan wrote in the Journal of Finance that “American managers tend to make decisions that yield short-term gains at the expense of the long-term interests of the shareholders.” More recently, a growing number of commentators blame the sluggish performance of the U.S. economy since the 2008–2009 financial crisis on short-termism. For example, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, Barton and Wiseman, global managing director at McKinsey & Co. and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, respectively, argue that “the ongoing short-termism in the business world is undermining corporate investment, holding back economic growth.”

Yet, systematic empirical evidence of widespread short-termism has proved elusive, largely because identifying its effects is challenging. A chief challenge is the difficulty of finding a plausible counterfactual for how firms would invest absent short-termist pressures. In our paper, Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?, which is forthcoming at the Review of Financial Studies, we address this difficulty by comparing the investment behavior of stock market-listed firms to that of comparable privately held firms, using a novel panel dataset of private U.S. firms covering more than 400,000 firm years over the period 2001–2011. Building on prior work, our key identification assumption is that, on average, private firms suffer from fewer agency problems and, in particular, are subject to fewer short-termist pressures than are their listed counterparts. This assumption is motivated by the fact that private firms are often owner managed and, even when not, are both illiquid and typically have highly concentrated ownership. These features encourage their owners to monitor management more closely to ensure long-term value is maximized.

…continue reading: Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?

The Short-Termism Debate at the Federalist Society Convention

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday November 17, 2014 at 9:16 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post relates to an empirical study of hedge fund activism issued by the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and co-authored by Professor Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang. Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Alon Brav is Professor of Finance at Duke University and a Senior Fellow of the Program. Wei Jiang is Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School, and a Senior Fellow of the Program.

Last week, The Federalist Society’s 2014 National Lawyers Convention featured a session dedicated to the short-termism debate and the evidence put forward by Professors Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, and Wei Jiang in their study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism. The session began with a presentation by Professor Bebchuk that outlined the key findings and implications of the study. Three panelists then offered their reactions to the study: Jonathan Macey, Sam Harris Professor of Corporate Law, Corporate Finance, and Securities Law, Yale Law School; Robert Miller, Professor of Law and F. Arnold Daum Fellow in Corporate Law, University of Iowa College of Law; and Steven Rosenblum, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The debate was moderated by E. Norman Veasey, former Chief Justice, Delaware Supreme Court.

Professor Bebchuk’s presentation slides are available here. The Bebchuk-Brav-Jiang study is available here, and posts about the study, including one published by critics of the study, are available on the Forum here.

Short-Termism

Posted by Theodore Mirvis, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, on Friday October 10, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: Theodore N. Mirvis is a partner in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Last Monday I ventured into the belly of the beast by presenting the attached decks (available here and here) in Professor Bebchuk’s class at Harvard Law School. The class and discussion focused on short-termism, using the Airgas case as a jumping off point (see first deck available here) to the broader governance issues canvassed by the second deck (available here). Once again there were no answers given to the “inconvenient questions” listed on the two pager available here.

Real Effects of Frequent Financial Reporting

Posted by R. Christopher Small, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday September 19, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Arthur Kraft of Cass Business School, City University London, and Rahul Vashishtha and Mohan Venkatachalam, both of the Accounting Area at Duke University.

In our paper, Real Effects of Frequent Financial Reporting, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine the impact of financial reporting frequency on firms’ investment decisions. Whether increased financial reporting frequency improves or adversely influences a manager’s investments decision is ambiguous. On the one hand, increased transparency through higher reporting frequency can beneficially affect firms’ investment decisions in two ways. First, increased transparency can reduce firms’ cost of capital and improve access to external financing, allowing firms to invest in a larger set of positive NPV projects. Second, increased transparency can improve external monitoring and help mitigate over- or under-investment stemming from managerial agency problems. On the other hand, frequent reporting can distort investment decisions. In particular, frequent reporting can cause managers to make myopic investment decisions that boost short-term performance measures at the cost of long run firm value. Which of these two forces dominate is an open empirical question that we explore in this study.

…continue reading: Real Effects of Frequent Financial Reporting

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