As the debate continues over whether and how to punish companies for unlawful conduct, U.S. federal prosecutors continue to rely significantly on Non-Prosecution Agreements (“NPAs”) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (“DPAs”) (collectively, “agreements”). Such agreements have emerged as a flexible alternative to prosecutorial declination, on the one hand, and trials or guilty pleas, on the other. Companies and prosecutors alike rely on NPAs and DPAs to resolve allegations of corporate misconduct while mitigating the collateral consequences that guilty pleas or verdicts can inflict on companies, employees, communities, or the economy. NPAs and DPAs allow prosecutors, without obtaining a criminal conviction, to ensure that corporate wrongdoers receive punishment, including often eye-popping financial penalties, deep reforms to corporate culture through compliance requirements, and independent monitoring or self-reporting arrangements. Although the trend has been robust for more than a decade, Attorney General Eric Holder’s statements in connection with recent prosecutions of financial institutions underscore the dynamic environment in which NPAs and DPAs have evolved.
Posts Tagged ‘UK’
In our paper, Does Mandatory Shareholder Voting Prevent Bad Corporate Acquisitions?, which was recently made publicly available as an ECGI and Rock Center Working Paper on SSRN, we examine how much power shareholders should delegate to the board of directors. In practice, there is broad consensus that fundamental changes to the basic corporate contract or decisions that might have large material consequences for shareholder wealth must be taken via an extraordinary shareholder resolution (Rock, Davies, Kanda and Kraakman 2009). Large corporate acquisitions are a notable exception. In the United Kingdom, deals larger than 25% in relative size are subject to a mandatory shareholder vote; in most of continental Europe there is no vote, while in Delaware voting is largely discretionary.
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?
Significant new rules to strengthen the UK premium listing regime have come into force today (The Listing Rules (Listing Regime Enhancements) Instrument 2014). The rules have been the subject of two rounds of consultation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) and are designed in particular to improve the governance of premium listed companies with a controlling shareholder. Feedback on the responses received has also been published today by the FCA (PS14/8: Response to CP13/15—Enhancing the effectiveness of the Listing Regime).
We summarise the main elements of the new regime below, which are largely as proposed by the FCA in its previous consultation document (see our Client Memorandum dated November 7, 2013). Companies contemplating a premium listing will need to consider the new rules as part of their IPO process and, over the coming months, existing premium listed companies with controlling shareholders will need to implement a number of new measures to comply with the new rules.
In the paper, Lift not the Painted Veil! To Whom are Directors’ Duties Really Owed?, which we recently posted on SSRN, we identify a fundamental contradiction in the law of fiduciary duty of corporate directors across jurisdictions, namely the tension between the uniformity of directors’ duties and the heterogeneity of directors themselves. The traditional characterization of the board as a homogeneous, often largely self-perpetuating body is far from universally true internationally, and it tends to be increasingly less true even in the United States. Directors are often formally or informally selected by specific shareholders (such as a venture capitalist or an important shareholder) or other stakeholders of the corporation (such as creditors or employees), or they are elected to represent specific types of shareholders (e.g. minority investors). The law thus sometimes facilitates the nomination of what has been called “constituency” directors, or even requires their appointment (e.g. employee directors in some European systems). However, even in systems that require the appointment of such directors, legal rules tend nevertheless to treat directors as a homogeneous group that is expected to pursue a uniform goal. We explore this tension and ask why a director representing a specific shareholder cannot advance this shareholder’s interests on the board?
State Street Global Advisors (“SSgA”) believes that board refreshment and planning for director succession are key functions of the board. Some markets such as the UK, have adopted best practices on a comply-or-explain basis that aim to limit a director’s tenure to nine years of board service, beyond which, investors may question a director’s independence from management. Such best practices have helped lower average board tenure, and have encouraged boards to focus on refreshment of director skills and plan for director succession in an orderly manner.
“You like to-may-to and I like to-mah-to…
Potato, potahto, tomayto, tomahto
Let’s call the whole thing off”
(“Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” by George & Ira Gershwin, 1937)
Two nations divided by a common tongue. In M&A, as in so many spheres, common language and terminology often give rise to the assumption that the architecture is similarly homogenous. Although the US and the UK have a number of similarities in terms of capital markets and business practices, there are fundamental divergences in approach to public takeover practice and regulation.
Consistent with the title of this post, I have used the great American songbook as an entry point to this guide to the ten principal differences between takeover practice and regulation in the US and the UK.
EU proposal for a regulation on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions
1. On 29 January 2014 the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council “on structural measures improving the resilience of EU credit institutions”. This proposed legislation is the EU’s equivalent of Volcker and Vickers. It was initiated by the Liikanen report published on 2 October 2012 but the legislative proposal departs in a number of ways from the report’s conclusions. There are two significant departures: the legislative proposal contains a Volcker-style prohibition, which also departs from the individual EU Member States’ approach, and, although the proposal contains provisions which mirror the Vickers “ring-fencing” approach they are not, in direct contradiction to Liikanen’s recommendation, mandatory.
Following an increase in shareholder and investor activism beyond pure executive remuneration issues in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2013, with some 25 companies targeted for public campaigns, this post provides a summary of certain principles of English law and UK and European regulation applicable to UK listed public companies and their shareholders that are relevant to the expected further increase in activism in 2014. This post covers (i) stake-building; (ii) shareholders’ rights to require companies to hold general meetings; (iii) shareholders’ rights to propose resolutions at annual general meetings; and (iv) recent developments in these and related areas through raising and answering a number of relevant questions.
In the paper, Do Managers Manipulate Earnings Prior to Management Buyouts?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we investigate accounting manipulation prior to buyout transactions in the UK during the second buyout wave of 1997 to 2007. Prior to management buyouts (MBOs), managers have an incentive to deflate the reported earnings numbers by accounting manipulation in the hope of lowering the subsequent stock price. If they succeed, they will be able to acquire (a large part of) the company on the cheap. It is important to note that accounting manipulation in a buyout transaction may have severe consequences for the shareholders who sell out in the transaction: if the earnings distortion is reflected in the stock price, the stock price decline cannot be undone and the wealth loss of shareholders is irreversible if the company goes private subsequent to the buyout. Mispriced stock and false financial statements are still issues frequently mentioned when MBO transactions are evaluated. The UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA, 2006) ranks market abuse as one of the highest risks and suggests more intensive supervision of leveraged buyouts (LBOs). The concerns about mispriced buyouts are therefore a motive to test empirically whether earnings numbers are manipulated preceding buyout transactions.