On July 2, 2013, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) announced two new initiatives aimed at preventing and detecting improper or fraudulent financial reporting.  We previously noted that one of these initiatives, a computer-based tool called the Accounting Quality Model (AQM, or “Robocop”),  is designed to enable real-time analytical review of financial reports filed with the SEC in order to help identify questionable accounting practices.
Posts Tagged ‘Weil Gotshal’
Public companies that have recently adopted or are considering adopting bylaws that disqualify director nominees who receive compensation from anyone other than the company should be aware of new FAQs released yesterday by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and the potential impact the FAQs may have on forthcoming director elections. Such bylaws typically operate in conjunction with advance notice bylaws that require proponents to disclose compensation arrangements with their nominees. Compensation payable by a third party for director candidacy and/or board service—for example, by an insurgent in a contested director election—may call into question a director’s undivided loyalty to the company and all of its shareholders.
On November 15, 2013, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “the Commission”) released its Annual Report to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program (“the Report”). The Report is remarkable for three reasons. First, the Report shows that, despite very significant efforts to publicize the program, the SEC is not seeing a meaningful increase in the number of tips it receives. Indeed, the SEC received essentially the same number of tips in the same categories in 2013 as it did in 2012 (3,283 and 3,001, respectively). Second, consistent with the few awards made under the program, the Report fails to shed any light at all on the SEC’s thought process in making these awards, and provides no insight into how the SEC is applying the highly nuanced factors applicable to award decisions. Finally, the Report does not acknowledge that, for the second year in a row, the largest category of tips were in the “other” category, which suggests that many of these tips are probably meritless, nor does the Report illuminate at all the critical question of how many of the tips the SEC receives actually result in meaningful investigations and cases.
On November 21, 2013, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) released updates to its proxy voting policies for the 2014 proxy season, effective for meetings held on or after February 1, 2014.  In addition, ISS has requested that companies notify it by December 9, 2013 of any changes to a company’s self-selected peer companies for purposes of benchmarking CEO compensation for the 2013 fiscal year.
This post provides guidance to US companies on how to address ISS policy changes and also highlights recent developments regarding potential regulation or self-regulation of proxy advisory firms.
The amendments to ISS proxy voting policies for the 2014 proxy season relate to:
Negotiating a term sheet, LOI, or other preliminary document can sometimes feel a bit like the Wild West: local laws and unintended consequences can vary from town to town. Even a concept as seemingly straightforward as agreeing to negotiate in good faith can yield extremely different results depending on jurisdiction. The Delaware Supreme Court’s recent decision in SIGA Technologies, Inc. v. PharmAthene, Inc. is a warning shot to investors and deal makers that, unlike most other states in the US, Delaware will award expectation (i.e., “benefit-of-the-bargain”) damages for the breach of an agreement to negotiate. What this means in practical terms is that, in certain circumstances, failure to fully negotiate a deal based on a non-binding but detailed term sheet could result in full damages as if the parties had actually signed up a deal.
The recent shareholder “campaign” by a coalition of large institutional investors – AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, Hermes Fund Managers, the New York City Pension Funds, and the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds – sought on its face to pressure the JPMorgan Chase & Co. board of directors to amend the bylaws to require that the role of chair be held by an independent director. It became a referendum on two additional issues: Mr. Dimon’s competence as a manager, and the competence of the board’s oversight of risk management. Unfortunately for “good governance,” the three issues become conflated and lead to harangues, heat, and polar positions by all sides, leading to little that’s instructive. It’s worth separating the issues to seek guidelines for the future.
Thoughtful advocates recognize that the board should have flexibility to determine leadership based on the company’s circumstances and rather than seeking to mandate the practice of independent chairmanship, view it as the appropriate default standard – or presumptive model. Even so, very few advocates of the independent chair model favor stripping an extant CEO/chair of the chair title; rather, they urge boards to consider separation upon CEO succession, unless there is an urgent need.
Weil surveyed 40 sponsor-backed going private transactions announced from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012 with a transaction value (i.e., enterprise value) of at least $100 million (excluding target companies that were real estate investment trusts).
For United States transactions to be included in the survey, the transaction must have closed or such transaction remains pending.
Twenty-four of the surveyed transactions in 2012 involved a target company in the United States, 10 involved a target company in Europe, and 6 involved a target company in Asia-Pacific. The publicly available information for certain surveyed transactions did not disclose all data points covered by our survey; therefore, the charts and graphs in this survey may not reflect information from all surveyed transactions.
The 40 surveyed transactions included the following target companies:
No less than two years ago, had one tried to initiate a conversation with a Private Equity Sponsor or an M&A lawyer regarding M&A “reps and warranties” insurance (i.e., insurance designed to expressly provide insurance coverage for the breach of a representation or a warranty contained in a Purchase and Sale Agreement, in addition to or as a replacement for a contractual indemnity), one might have gotten a shrug of the shoulders or a polite response to the effect of “let’s try to negotiate around the problem instead.” Perhaps because it was misunderstood or perhaps because it had not yet hit its stride in terms of breadth of coverage, reps and warranties insurance was hardly ever used to close deals. Like Harry Potter, it was the poor stepchild often left in the closet.
Today that is no longer the case. One global insurance broker with whom we work notes that over $4 billion in reps and warranties insurance worldwide was bound last year, of which $1.4 billion thereof was bound in the US and $2.1 billion thereof was bound in the EU. Such broker’s US-based reps and warranties writings nearly doubled from 2011 and 2012. Reps and warranties insurance has become an important tool to close deals that might not otherwise get done. This post is meant to highlight how reps and warranties insurance may be of use to you in winning bids and finding means of closing deals in today’s challenging environment.
On March 22, 2013, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) (collectively, the “bank regulators”) released their final guidance on leveraged lending activities.  The final guidance does not deviate significantly from the proposed guidance released last year on March 26, 2012, but does attempt to provide clarity in response to the many comment letters relating to the proposed guidance received by the bank regulators. The final guidance is the latest revision and update to the interagency leveraged finance guidance first issued in April 2001. 
About a year ago, we published A New Playbook for Global Securities Litigation and Regulation, in which we detailed dramatic changes in the global securities regulatory and litigation arena driven by various factors, including not only the financial crisis of 2007-2008, but also changes in tolerance in the United States to litigation brought by foreign investors against public companies listed on non-U.S. exchanges.
One year later, the regulatory environment continues to revamp with new rules being issued constantly in the United States to conform to the legislative mandates set forth in the Dodd Frank Act. The United Kingdom and European Union also seek to reinforce previous global initiatives to reform and strengthen the Pan-European financial markets.
What is more ever-present, however, is the marked increase in global enforcement activities by regulators in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union, which are attempts to give teeth to the global financial reforms each jurisdiction felt necessary to potentially prevent a “repeat” of the financial crisis. This article seeks to address the increase in global securities enforcement activity and concludes that continued cooperation and coordination in enforcement activities will be required to seamlessly address the desire to strengthen global regulatory initiatives aimed at harmonizing and centralizing international securities regulation to create safer, more fundamentally sound financial markets for investors.