August 13, 2014
The Argentinian Sovereign Bond Litigation, Part II
Posted by Sung Hui Kim

In a previous post (The Argentinian Sovereign Bond Litigation, Part I), I roughly described the factual background for the Argentinian bond litigation, culminating in the July 30th Argentine default of bonds.  Incidentally, Joseph Cotterill (Commentator, Financial Times’ FT Alphaville) tells us that on August 7, 2014, the Argentine Republic filed a case in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, claiming that “US court decisions . . . have violated its sovereign immunity in public international law.” That story can be found here.

In this post, I would like to focus on the particular clause which has served as the basis for the judicial decisions enjoining Argentina from paying its restructured creditors unless it also paid the holdout creditors in full. That clause is the pari passu clause – the contractual provision that promises that all (pari passu-designated) bondholders will be treated on an equal footing. A common variant of the clause reads: “The Notes will rank equally (or Pari Passu) in right of payment with all other present and future unsecured and unsubordinated External Indebtedness of the issuer.” Although the pari passu clause is ubiquitous in sovereign bonds, its meaning (or application) in the sovereign debt context is highly disputed. In fact, an empirical study, based on extensive interviews of sovereign debt lawyers, reveals at least five possible explanations, ranging from “the clause was simply the product of mindless copying from corporate bonds” to “the clause was intended to prohibit sovereigns from passing laws that would have the effect of involuntarily subordinating certain creditors.”

Why the confusion/disagreement over its meaning? In a corporate liquidation, the clause helps ensure that pari passu-ranking creditors receive equal shares of the proceeds. But in the sovereign debt context, no liquidation is possible.  Unlike private debtors, sovereigns cannot go bankrupt and their assets cannot be seized, pooled and distributed to a fixed group of claimants at a single moment of reckoning.

So what is the purpose of the pari passu clause in a sovereign bond? The federal district court in Manhattan and then the Second Circuit in NML Capital v. Argentina offered an interpretation of pari passu. They expressed the view that the pari passuclause required a debtor who was unable to pay all its creditors in full to pay each creditor proportionately or “ratably.” Hence, the sovereign debtor could not be permitted to stiff creditors who had refused to restructure their debts while paying the other creditors who had assented to the restructuring. To do so would violate the promise of equal treatment under the pari passu clause (according to these courts). And, by upholding an injunction against the third party financial intermediary responsible for transferring payments to the restructured creditors, the pari passu clause was given not only meaning but also teeth—a concrete remedy that could be used by the hold-out creditor to induce the sovereign debtor to pay its debt. These decisions disturbed many, because they threatened to make future sovereign debt restructurings more difficult—by encouraging, perhaps, more holdout strategies.

The July volume of the Capital Markets Law Journal  (CMLJ) happens to be devoted to the pari passu clause. (Links to all the CMLJ articles can be found here (subscription required), and links to the authors’ prior SSRN drafts are provided below where available.) (Apologies in advance to authors if I’ve mischaracterized some of their arguments or omitted them. I tried to be as judicious as possible.)

The centerpiece of the CMLJ volume is a fascinating work of history. Benjamin Remy Chabot (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago) and G. Mitu Gulati (Duke) have discovered what appears to be the first use of pari passu principle in connection with a sovereign bond issue. In their article, "Santa Anna and His Black Eagle: The Origins of Pari Passu?" , they show that the spirit of the pari passu concept can be traced back to General Santa Anna’s 1843 decree promising that foreign holders of Mexican Black Eagle bonds would be treated with a “just equality among the creditors, as much as regards the rate of interest as the order of payment.” Similar language appeared in the preamble of the Black Eagle bonds, although not as a contractual provision per se. Chabot and Gulati show that the promise of equality was drafted in response to foreign outrage expressed against a former debt restructuring. This restructuring treated holders of identical claims differently based on their nationality or country of residence. Thus, the pari passu language in respect of the Black Eagle bonds appears to have been intended to prevent discrimination in payments among nationalities of the creditors in the context of a sovereign default.

Chabot and Gulati’s findings, of course, raise the question: why is the original (first) meaning of a clause relevant? Stated another way, what is the relevance of history as a guide to contract interpretation? Chabot and Gulati offer a response:

“Even if lawyers today are copying the clause by rote, surely the earliest drafters of the clause were not doing that. Someone had to have thought of this clause first. If we could find them, and figure out what they were thinking, that we potentially have a way of cutting the Gordian knot.”

W. Mark C. Weidemaier (UNC) addresses this question (“why is the original meaning of a clause relevant?”) in “Indiana Jones, Contracts Originalist”. With wit and humor, Weidemaier reminds us that, in the absence of contemporaneous evidence of the parties’ intentions, judges would ordinarily assign the clause’s historically-accepted meaning if one exists. But in a situation (such as this) where there is no historically-accepted meaning, Weidemaier asks, “ . . . why should the judge try to uncover the intentions of the first drafters?” He then answers, “Whatever the merits of originalism as an approach to constitutional interpretation, surely the originators of a contract term have only a modest claim to authority.” (But a modest claim is arguably still better than no claim, right?) Surveying the available historical evidence, including the Black Eagle bond story, Weidemaier concludes that there is no known precedent to support the Second Circuit’s interpretation that the pari passu clause grants each bondholder a unilateral right to block payments to restructured bondholders. Therefore, the million dollar question is the normative one: whether the pari passu clause, which has not traditionally served the purpose imbued it by the Second Circuit, should be repurposed to do so.

Sovereign debt guru, Lee C. Buchheit (Clearly Gottlieb), invites us to think more generally and deeply about the effort to excavate examples of contracts or clauses from a fragmentary historical record. In “A Note on Contract Paleontology,” Buchheit notes that while the Black Eagle bond story may not much clarify the substantive meaning of the modern version of the pari passu clause, it may explain “why some people have an emotional attachment to the notion of ratable payments in a distressed situation” and why modern litigants are prepared to stretch their interpretation of this boilerplate provision to assign it a meaning that neither the text nor the history of the clause can support.

My article, “Pari Passu: The Nazi Gambit” takes us through a pre-war instance of pari passu. In the paper, I present what might be the clearest historical evidence of what the clause was understood to mean in the pre-war period. I discovered this evidence while studying the protests lodged against the German government when Germany first defaulted on two international loans entered into by it during the aftermath of the First World War. When Germany, in response to its financial crisis, selectively defaulted on the American tranches of the Dawes and Young Loans, parties defending the interest of American bondholders invoked pari passu in their protests against Germany’s discriminatory practices. In claiming that Germany violated the pari passu clause, the protesters adopted the meaning that the clause promised parity in servicing across the various tranches of the Dawes and Young Loans. In other words, bondholders of the various tranches were entitled to be repaid in proportion to their holdings of debt. What’s more, based on the evidence, Germany seems to have acquiesced in this interpretation of pari passu. Perhaps more pertinent to the Argentinian bond litigation, I find no evidence to suggest that the pari passu clause was understood as entitling the aggrieved creditor to a unilateral right to block payments to bondholders who assented to a government’s restructuring proposal. In fact, neither the investors (in the Dawes and Young loans) nor the Bank for International Settlements (trustee) seemed to have interpreted the clause as a tool by which one investor could interfere with payments to another. That said, the failure to invoke an inter-creditor remedy may simply reflect the more mundane fact that legal redress of sovereign debt defaults was highly unlikely during this period.

John V. Orth (UNC) provides useful perspective in “A Gathering of Eagles.” Orth reminds us that the pari passu clause addresses a ubiquitous problem in the borrowing context: unequal payments to creditors of equal rank. Seen in this light, the story of the Mexican Black Eagle bonds is an instantiation of this ubiquitous problem. Accordingly, the meaning of the pari passu clause is clear: it promises equal treatment for all creditors of the same priority. The only problem is the application of the clause to the sovereign debt context, where it is difficult to enforce the terms against a sovereign debtor, which is the same problem with all other clauses of a sovereign bond. The implication of Orth’s piece (I think) is that the pari passu clause is not materially different from all other sovereign promises: they are all “ultimately unenforceable” and “will continue to multiply until there is an effective resolution regime for sovereign defaults.” So, in the end, Orth emphasizes the lack of a practical mechanism of resolving these types of disputes with sovereigns.

Lachlan Burn (Linklaters) is skeptical of the value of historical spelunking for interpreting the pari passu clause in sovereign debt issues governed by English law. In “History – ‘Bunk’ or a Useful Tool for Contractual Interpretation?”, Burn argues that English courts would interpret contracts in a “commercially sensible” way, which he believes “would prevent any due weight being given to the Black Eagle bonds.” After all, Burn notes, as these Mexican bonds have been sitting in a basement until their recent discovery, “[t]hey formed no part of the background information available to the sovereign issuer of bonds or the investors during the last hundred years or so.” Moreover, Burn cautions that “historical precedent will often be a dangerous tool for interpreting contracts.” Finally, Burn argues that enforcement, rather than the meaning of the pari passu clause, is the central issue underlying the Argentinian litigation. (This last point is similar to the one made by Orth.)

Tolek Petch (Slaughter and May) in “NML v. Argentina in an English Legal Setting” notes that under English law, the legal history of a clause is relevant but not determinative. Ordinarily, the court would find an interpretation that accords with business common sense as it would have been understood by both parties at the time that the bonds were issued. Therefore, English courts can and have overturned centuries of precedent on the basis that the proposed construction was not in conformity with the intentions of the parties. Petch discounts the significance of the fact that in the pre-war period Americans protestested against German discriminatory treatment because they are basically ex post facto arguments that will be seen as inherently self-serving and, more pertinently, not contemporaneous with the drafting/negotiation of the disputed provision. (Excellent point, but would Petch or English law accord any significance to the fact that Germans themselves apparently acquiesced in the Americans’ interpretation of pari passu?) Applying the “business common sense” principle of English courts, Petch in the end rejects the “rateable” interpretation of the clause, in part because “no sovereign borrower would agree to” it.  Argentina (and many sovereign debt experts) would agree with Petch’s last point!

In “Interpreting the Pari Passu Clause in Sovereign Bond Contracts: It’s All Hebrew (and Aramaic) to Me,” Mark L.J. Wright (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago/NBER) argues that the Second Circuit “has, if not completely misinterpreted the meaning of the pari passu clause, then at least misapplied it.” He stresses the importance of interpreting the pari passu clause in the context of long-existing social norms among sovereign debt market participants. In short, it has been customary to treat holders of similar debts similarly, i.e., to repay them in proportion to their holdings of debt (measured at face value plus deferred interest). But custom also reveals a complementary “principle of differentiation,” under which certain claims (e.g., claims that had been reduced in value as a result of a prior default) were accorded preferential treatment precisely because they were meaningfully different. Applying the principle of differentiation and observing that Argentina’s restructured creditors hold bonds that have been reduced by almost 70% of their value, Wright argues that the NML decision got it all wrong and ignored the principle of differentiation.  

Side-stepping the debate over the relevance of historical origins, in “NML v. Argentina: The Borrower, the Banker, and the Lawyer – Contract Reform at a Snail’s Pace,” Leland Goss (Int’l Capital Markets Ass’n) looks to the present and the future and asks: Why have most of the foreign law governed sovereign bonds issued since the Second Circuit’s ruling failed to change their pari passu clauses? After surveying a number of explanations, e.g., network effects theory, blaming the lawyers’ risk aversion, he offers his own highly entertaining theory.

In “The injunction has landed: the ‘Black Eagle’, pari passu and sovereign debt enforcement,” Joseph Cotterill (Financial Times) recounts the Black Eagle bond history and key moments in the Argentine bond litigation to remind us that “the enforcement of sovereign debt can take many forms” and that “Pari passu is one strategy among many others,” including, e.g., discovery of assets, injunctions, and courts’ powers of equity. The Black Eagle Bond story is just as much about ad hoc enforcement of sovereign debts as it is about pari passu. And that ad hoc enforcement is what we see even today – 171 years after General Santa Anna’s decree.  

In “The origins and future of non-discrimination in sovereign bankruptcies: a comment,” Philip Wood (Allen & Overy) puts the pari passu clause into the context of the broader principle of non-discrimination and equality in payment between creditors. Wood speculates that the “concept of equality of payment by law was well established by the second century BC in Roman law.” This is evident from the laws against fraudulent conveyances, which developed around this time. Wood then provides a very helpful exposition of the byzantine devices used in sovereign debt contracts for restructurings in light of the non-discrimination principle.

In the same CMLJ volume, Jeffrey Golden (CMLJ, PRIME Fin. Found’n), Anna Gelpern (Georgetown, Petersen Inst. for Int’l Econ.), and Joanna Benjamin (London School of Econ.) also have very interesting contributions (but not on the topic of the pari passu clause).

What’s the long-term impact of the judicial rulings? Anna Gelpern (Georgetown, Petersen Inst. for Int’l Econ.) has some interesting thoughts in her “Sovereign Damage Control.”

***  

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August 11, 2014
The Argentinian Sovereign Bond Litigation, Part I
Posted by Sung Hui Kim

Thanks to Gordon Smith for inviting me to guest blog on The Conglomerate. Having long been a big fan of Gordon’s work, I was gratified to finally meet him at the April 2014 conference/micro-symposium on Competing Theories of Corporate Governance, hosted by my friend and wonderful colleague Stephen Bainbridge and the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy, UCLA School of Law. (The conference was a wonderful opportunity to debate and discuss the competing models of corporate governance with the leading proponents of those models. Streaming links to the conference panels can be found here.)

Although most of my work has been devoted to federal insider trading, the role of in-house counsel, and gatekeeping, what I’d like to write about this week is . . . sovereign debt. If you’ve been paying attention to the international financial news lately, you may have noticed that on Wednesday, July 30, Argentina missed its regular bond payment and defaulted for the second time in 13 years. This second default occurred after mediated talks between Argentina and a group of hedge funds broke down. The first default occurred in 2001 after which Argentina proceeded to restructure its debt by offering a take-it-or-leave-it exchange of new discounted bonds for old ones. At the end of the day, almost 93 per cent of Argentine bond investors consented to taking writedowns in two Argentine debt restructurings. But a group of hedge funds refused to participate in the restructuring and demanded full repayment, suing Argentina in NML Capital, Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina in New York. Because it’s notoriously difficult to enforce debt collection against a sovereign state, Argentina believed that it could simply exclude these defiant holdouts from the repayments. 

Not so. In 2012, Argentina’s expectations were upended, when—in a highly controversial decision—Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the federal district court in Manhattan ruled that Argentina could not continue to pay the restructured bondholders without also paying the hedge fund holdouts in full. Moreover, any bank that aided the payment to holders of restructured bonds without also paying the old bonds held by the holdouts would be in violation of the court order. Judge Griesa’s ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and in June 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Argentina’s appeal.

Whether you side with the hedge fund holdouts or Argentina, commentators generally agree that these rulings against Argentina have at minimum a (short-term) destabilizing impact on the sovereign debt markets. For example, Floyd Norris (NY Times), notes that by rejecting Argentina’s appeal, the Supreme Court “most likely damaged the status of New York as the world’s financial capital. It made it far less likely that genuinely troubled countries will be able to restructure their debts. And it increased the power of investors — often but not solely hedge funds that buy distressed bonds at deep discounts to face value — to prevent needed restructurings.”

Professor Tim Samples (UGA) opines in a recently released article that the current state of affairs is “… a radical departure from the traditional unenforceability of sovereign debt in favor of the opposite extreme: enforcement through potent injunctive remedies applicable to third parties” and that these decisions “create[] major uncertainties for sovereign debt markets.”

Professor Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia, former chief economist of the World Bank) warned: “Unable to restructure, governments that default would be permanently shut out from the debt market, with consequential adverse effects on development and economic growth prospects.”

Professor Mitu Gulati (Duke): “The decision has very significant implications . . . . The world has changed.” And Professor Mark Weidemaier (UNC) warns about the expansive coverage of Griesa’s injunction: “The injunction by its terms extends to virtually the entire global financial system.”

So how did we get into this mess and what’s the long-term impact of these judicial decisions? To answer both questions, we need to focus on the particular clause in the Argentinian bonds that has been the subject of a growing body of scholarship and that has served as the legal hook for these judicial rulings: the pari passu (equal footing) clause. Now that we’re up to speed on the general factual background of the Argentinian debt litigation, in a follow-up post, I will discuss recent scholarship on the history and disputed meaning of the troublesome pari passu clause.

***

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August 09, 2014
Disruptive Legal Technologies: Benefit Corporations and the Crowdfunding of Firms
Posted by Eric Orts

Two recent developments in the law and practice of business include:  (1) the advent of benefit corporations (and kindred organizational forms) and (2) the application of crowdfunding practices to capital-raising for start-ups.  My thesis here is that these two innovations will become disruptive legal technologies.  In other words, benefit corporations and capital crowdfunding will change the landscape of business organization substantially.

A disruptive technology is one that changes the foundational context of business.  Think of the internet and the rise of Amazon, Google, etc.   Or consider the invention of laptops and the rise of Microsoft and the fall of the old IBM.  Automobiles displace horses, and telephones make the telegraph obsolete.  The Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter coined a phrase for the phenomenon:  “creative destruction.”

Technologies can be further divided into two types:  physical technologies (e.g., new scientific inventions or mechanical innovations) and social technologies (such as law and accounting).   See Business Persons, p. 1 (citing Richard R. Nelson, Technology, Institutions, and Economic Growth (2005), pp. 153–65, 195–209).  The legal innovations of benefit corporations and capital crowdfunding count as major changes in social technologies.  (Perhaps the biggest legal technological invention remains the corporation itself.)

1.  Benefit corporations began as a nonprofit idea, hatched in my hometown of Philadelphia (actually Berwyn, Pennsylvania, but I’ll claim it as close enough).  A nonprofit organization called B Lab began to offer an independent brand to business firms (somewhat confusingly not limited to corporations) that agree to adopt a “social purpose” as well as the usual self-seeking goal of profit-making.  In addition, a “Certified B Corporation” must meet a transparency requirement of regular reporting on its “social” as well as financial progress.  Other similar efforts include the advent of “low-profit” limited liability companies or L3Cs, which attempt to combine nonprofit/social and profit objectives.  In my theory of business, I label these kind of firms “hybrid social enterprises.”  Business Persons, pp. 206-15.

A significant change occurred in the last few years with the passage of legislation that gave teeth to the benefit corporation idea.  Previously, the nonprofit label for a B Corp required a firm to declare adherence to a corporate constituency statute or to adopt a similar constituency by-law or other governing provision which signaled that a firm’s sense of its business objective extended beyond shareholders or other equity-owners alone.  (One of my first academic articles addressed the topic at an earlier stage.  See “Beyond Shareholders:  Interpreting Corporate Constituency Statutes.”  I also gave a recent video interview on the topic here.)  Beginning in 2010, a number of U.S. states passed formal statutes authorizing benefit corporations.  One recent count finds that twenty-seven states have now passed similar statutes.  California has allowed for an option of all corporations to “opt in” to a “flexible purpose corporation” statute which combines features of benefit corporations and constituency statutes.  Most notably, Delaware – the center of gravity of U.S. incorporations – adopted a benefit corporation statute in the summer of 2013. According to Alicia Plerhoples, fifty-five corporations opted in to the Delaware benefit corporation form within six months.  Better known companies that have chosen to operate as benefit corporations include Method Products in Delaware and Patagonia in California.

2. Crowdfunding firms.  Crowdfunding along the lines of Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns for the creation of new products have become commonplace.  And the amounts of capital raised have sometimes been eye-popping.  An article in Forbes relates the recent case of a robotics company raising $1.4 million in three weeks for a new project.  Nonprofit funding for the microfinance of small business ventures in developing countries seems also to be successful.  Kiva is probably the best known example.  (Disclosure:  my family has been an investor in various Kiva projects, and I’ve been surprised and encouraged by the fact that no loans have so far defaulted!)

However, a truly disruptive change in the capital funding of enterprises – perhaps including hybrid social enterprises – may be signaled by the Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups (JOBS) Act passed in 2012. Although it is limited at the moment in terms of the range of investors that may be tapped for crowdfunding (including a $1 million capital limit and sophisticated/wealthy investors requirement), a successful initial run may result in amendments that may begin to change the face of capital fundraising for firms.  Judging from some recent books at least, crowdfunding for new ventures seems to have arrived.  See Kevin Lawton and Dan Marom’s The Crowdfunding Revolution (2012) and Gary Spirer’s Crowdfunding:  The Next Big Thing (2013).

What if easier capital crowdfunding combined with benefit corporation structures?  Is it possible to imagine the construction of new securities markets that would raise capital for benefit corporations -- outside of traditional Wall Street markets where the norm of “shareholder value maximization” rules?  There are some reasons for doubt:  securities regulations change slowly (with the financial status quo more than willing to lobby against disruptive changes) and hopes for “do-good” business models may run into trouble if consumer markets don’t support them strongly.  But it’s at least possible to imagine a different world of business emerging with the energy and commitment of a generation of entrepreneurs who might care about more in their lives than making themselves rich.  Benefit corporations fueled by capital crowdfunding might lead a revolution:  or, less provocatively, may at least challenge traditional business models that for too long have assumed a narrow economic model of profit-maximizing self-interest.  James Surowiecki, in his recent column in The New Yorker, captures a more modest possibility:  “The rise of B corps is a reminder that the idea that corporations should be only lean, mean, profit-maximizing machines isn’t dictated by the inherent nature of capitalism, let alone by human nature.  As individuals, we try to make our work not just profitable but also meaningful. It may be time for more companies to do the same.”

So a combination of hybrid social enterprises and capital crowdfunding doesn’t need to displace all of the traditional modes of doing business to change the world.  If a significant number of entrepreneurs, employees, investors, and customers lock-in to these new social technologies, then they will indeed become “disruptive.”

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August 07, 2014
New Directions in Corporate Disclosure: Politics, Environment, and Religion
Posted by Eric Orts

Corporate disclosure, especially in securities regulation, has been a standard regulatory strategy since the New Deal. Brandeisian “sunlight” has been endorsed widely as a cure for nefarious inside dealings. An impressive apparatus of regulatory disclosure has emerged, including annual and quarterly reports enshrined in Forms 10K and 10Q. Other less comprehensive disclosures are also required: for initial public offerings and various debt issuances, as well as for unexpected events that require an update of available information in the market (Form 8K).

For the most part, corporate disclosure has focused on financial information: for the good and sufficient reason that it is designed to protect investors – especially investors who are relatively small players in large public trading markets. Some doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of this kind of disclosure and, indeed, the effectiveness of mandatory disclosure in general. A recent book by Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl Scheider, More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure, advances a wide-ranging attack on all mandatory disclosure. (I think that their attack goes too far: I’ll be coming out with a short review of the book for Penn Law’s RegBlog called “Defending Disclosure”).   Assuming, though, that much financial disclosure makes sense, what about expanding it to include other activities of business firms?

Consider three types of nonfinancial information that might usefully be disclosed: information about a business firm’s activities with respect to politics, the natural environment, and religion.

1. Politics. One good candidate for enhanced corporate disclosure concerns business activities in politics. Lobbying laws require various disclosures, and various campaign finance laws do too. It is possible to obscure actual political spending through the complexity of corporate organization. (For a nice graphic of the Koch brothers’ labyrinth assembled by the Center for Responsive Politics, see here.) Good reporters can ferret out this information – but they need to get access to it in the first place. My colleague Bill Laufer has been an academic leader in an effort to encourage public corporations to disclose political spending voluntarily, with Wharton’s Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research teaming up with the nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability to rank companies with respect to their transparency about corporate political spending. The rankings have been done for three years now, and there are indications of increased business participation.  Recently, even this voluntary effort has been attacked by business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for being “anti-business.” See letter from U.S. Chamber of Commerce quoted here.  Jonathan Macey of Yale Law School has also objected to the rankings in an article in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that the purpose of political disclosure is somehow part of “a continuing war against corporate America.” These objections, however, seem overblown and misplaced. What is so wrong about asking for disclosure about the political spending of business firms? One can Google individuals to see their record of supporting Presidential and Congressional candidates via the Federal Election Commission’s website, yet large businesses should be exempt? Political spending by corporations and other business should be disclosed in virtue of democratic ideals of transparency in the political process. Media, non-profit groups, political parties, and other citizens may then use the resulting information in political debates and election campaigns. Also, it seems reasonable for shareholders to expect to have access to this kind of information.

In Business Persons, I’ve gone further to argue (in chapter 7) that both majority and dissenting opinions in Citizens United appear to support mandatory disclosure as a good compromise strategy for regulation. One can still debate the merits of closer control of corporate spending in politics (and I believe that though business corporations indeed have “rights” to political speech these rights do not necessarily extend to unlimited spending directed toward political campaigns). It seems to me hard to dispute that principles of political democracy – and the transparency of the process – support a law of mandatory disclosure of corporate spending in politics.

2. Natural environment. Increasingly, many large companies are also issuing voluntary reports regarding their environmental performance (and often adding in other “social impact” elements). Annual reports issued under the International Standards Organization (the ISO 14000 series), the Global Reporting Initiative, and the Carbon Disclosure Project are examples. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also established a mandatory program for greenhouse gas emissions reporting, which is tailored to different industrial sectors. One can argue about whether these kinds of disclosures are sufficiently useful to justify their expense, but my own view is that they help to encourage business firms to take environmental concerns seriously. Many firms use this reporting to enhance their internal efficiency (often leading to financial bottom-line gains). As important, however, is the engagement of firms to consider environmental issues – and encouraging them to act as “part of the solution” rather than simply as a generating part of the problem.

One caveat that is relevant to all nonfinancial disclosure regimes:   The scope of firms required to disclose should be considered.  I do not believe that the case is convincing that only public reporting companies under the securities laws should be included.  (For one influential argument to the contrary, see Cynthia A. Williams, “The Securities and Exchange Commission and Corporate Social Transparency,”  112 Harvard Law Review 1197 (1999)).  Instead, it makes to sense for different agencies appropriate to the particular issue at hand to regulate:  the Federal Election Commission for political disclosures and the EPA for environmental disclosures.

3. Religion? In the wake of the Hobby Lobby case, some have called for greater disclosure about a firm’s values on this score both with respect to employment and investors. See, e.g., Joan Heminway’s piece here. Stephen Bainbridge has also called attention to this question here.  Probably it makes sense to consider disclosure as a partial solution, though the idea of mandatory government disclosure of religious characteristics makes me nervous on “separation of church and state” grounds. It might be better to “wait” (as Frank Partnoy advises us often to do in his recent book) and see how the Hobby Lobby line of cases develops. My guess is that some tensions will become apparent that may result in keeping Hobby Lobby limited to the context of close and usually small corporations (though Hobby Lobby itself is an exception, having more than 10,000 employees).
 
But a rule of disclosure might not be the best approach with respect to religion and firms. Better in this context perhaps to bite the bullet and ascertain when for various legal purposes a business firm “crosses the line” from a private organization (with rights of self-organization and self-determination with respect to many internal business practices) to a public-facing organization (with duties to treat public customers, employees, and business partners in a non-discriminatory manner). These issues are not easy. As I suggest in Business Persons (chapter 3), a central problem in business theory concerns “the public/private distinction” which I conceive as involving “two faces of the business enterprise.” Here, the religious preferences of private owners require balancing with the public role undertaken when holding out one’s shingle in public markets. Drawing legal lines isn’t always easy, but often it’s necessary.  And disclosures alone will not always be sufficient.

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August 05, 2014
The Banco Espirto Santo Bailout
Posted by David Zaring

Portugal took the kind of quick action on its second largest bank that is completely by the book.  What can we learn about the current reality of bank bailouts from it?

  • Even medium sized banks are global: BES was doomed not by its Portuguese operations, but by its Angolan unit.  This sort of thing has driven supervisors to set up global regimes - the idea that their domestically safe and sound bank is in trouble internationally, but they don't know it - or that its foreign counterparties are, and they don't know that.
  • The government created a good bank and a bad bank, meaning that BES stakeholders now have one bank with depositors and branches, and another with dodgy loans in Angola.  This is a way of giving everyone - creditors, shareholders, employees - a haircut, but, since the Portuguese government is loaning BES $4.5 billion, it is hard to say this isn't also a lender of last resort bailout.  Still, a textbook approach.
  • This sort of ring-fencing, on a much larger scale, is one of the ways that some regulators would like to practice bank safety.  A British bank would have its British assets segregated from its overseas ones, and so on.  That obviously creates internal inefficiencies in the bank, but there you go.
  • What Portugal did was to "resolve" BES.  You can perhaps see why some think that one of the failures of the post financial crisis reforms is the failure to, so far, come up with a cross-border resolution scheme.  The British couldn't do this with Barclays, or couldn't without agreement by the Americans, and who knows if, when the chips are down, that would be forthcoming?

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July 18, 2014
The College of Supervisors Considered
Posted by David Zaring

Over at DealBook, I've got something on the financial regulatory reform that Europeans, in particular, love.  Give it a look.  And let me know if you agree with this bit:

Can a supervisory college work in lieu of a vibrant global resolution authority regime? The problem with these colleges is not that they are implausible, but that they have not really been tried in a crisis. The best-known supervisory college outside of the European Union was created in 1987 to monitor the Luxembourg-based, but international, Bank of Credit and Commerce International. Rumors of widespread fraud in the management of the bank were plentiful, but the collegiate approach did not mean that these problems were nipped in the bud. Although coordinated supervision led regulators to close many of bank’s branches at once after the bank’s accountant resigned and its insolvency became obvious, it is not clear whether Bank of Credit and Commerce International is a college success story or cautionary tale.

There are other reasons to worry about relying on colleges. The collegiate approach is meant to encourage communication more than action. Colleges operate as peers, convened by the home banking regulator, without the sort of hierarchy of decision-making and direction that leads to coordinated action.

Permalink | Administrative Law| Finance| Financial Crisis| Financial Institutions | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Bookmark

June 19, 2014
Sovereignty Mismatch And The New Administrative Law
Posted by David Zaring

I've been on a bit of an international and administrative law kick these days, but as always, the case study is financial regulation.  If you're interested in Sovereignty Mismatch And The New Administrative Law, available from the Washington University Law Review and here, you know what to do.  Here's the abstract:

In the United States, making international policymaking work with domestic administrative law poses one of the thorniest of modern legal problems — the problem of sovereignty mismatch. Purely domestic regulation, which is a bureaucratic exercise of sovereignty, cannot solve the most challenging issues that regulators now face, and so agencies have started cooperating with their foreign counterparts, which is a negotiated form of sovereignty. But the way they cooperate threatens to undermine all of the values that domestic administrative law, especially its American variant, stands for. International and domestic regulation differ in almost every important way: procedural requirements, substantive remits, method of legitimation, and even in basic policy goals. Even worse, the delegation of power away from the United States is something that our constitutional, international, and administrative law traditions all look upon with great suspicion. The resulting effort to merge international and domestic regulatory styles has been uneven at best. As the globalization of policymaking is the likely future of environmental, business conduct, and consumer protection regulation — and the new paradigm-setting present of financial regulation — the sovereignty mismatch problem must be addressed; this Article shows how Congress can do so.

Comments and concerns welcome.

Permalink | Administrative Law| Finance| Financial Institutions| Globalization/Trade | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Bookmark

June 11, 2014
Delaware as “Market-Dominant Small Jurisdiction”
Posted by Christopher Bruner

Those familiar with US corporate law are well aware that, in this field, a single small jurisdiction looms very large.  The state of Delaware is today the legal home to more than half of US public companies and about 64% of the Fortune 500.  It’s widely understood that no other US state even comes close, and there’s a substantial US corporate legal literature exploring the contours of, and seeking to explain, Delaware’s domestic dominance.  As I’ve ventured into the field of cross-border finance, however, I’ve been struck by the fact that Delaware isn’t really unique.  Taking a broad view of the regulatory fields relevant to cross-border corporate and financial services, there’s a set of small jurisdictions that are not merely successful in their respective fields of specialization, but are in fact globally dominant in those fields. 

In a current working paper I’ve selected a handful of these jurisdictions that I find particularly interesting; assessed whether extant theoretical paradigms can shed much light on their successes; and proposed an alternative approach that I think better captures their salient characteristics and competitive strategies – the so-called “market-dominant small jurisdiction,” or MDSJ.  The jurisdictions studied include Bermuda, well-established among the world’s preeminent insurance markets; Singapore, a rising power in wealth management; Switzerland, the long-standing global leader in private banking; and Delaware, the predominant jurisdiction of incorporation for US public companies and a global competitor in the organization of various forms of business entities.

The interesting question, of course, is why these small jurisdictions have been able to achieve global dominance in their respective specialties – and the paper includes an extended treatment of various theoretical lenses to which one might turn for an explanation.  None, however, can account for the range of jurisdictions that I identify.  Notably, while taxation (or lack thereof) certainly looms large as a competitive strategy in each case, the “tax haven” literature can’t explain the global dominance of these particular jurisdictions.  Simply put, it’s implausible that a new entrant could meaningfully challenge the competitive position of any of these jurisdictions simply by copying their tax codes, or any other component of their regulatory structures for that matter.  Each has a substantive domain of service-based expertise providing a source of real competitive advantage beyond the jurisdiction’s black-letter law – and this renders it effectively impossible to compete with these jurisdictions simply by copying and pasting their laws into one’s own books.  

The“offshore financial center” literature looks beyond tax, emphasizing cross-border services as such, yet encounters its own problems.  This literature has been heavily preoccupied with recent entrants, reflecting strong preoccupation with the global acceleration of cross-border finance since the late 1960s – an inclination that’s tended to distract this literature from the commonalities with early movers like Delaware and Switzerland, which rose to prominence in the early 20th Century.  In this light, it’s critical to observe that some of the most successful of the small jurisdictions active in cross-border finance aren’t actually “offshore” at all – again, including Delaware and Switzerland.  I argue that the onshore/offshore distinction has obscured more than it illuminates; it simultaneously fails to provide a comprehensive account of what’s truly distinctive about the range of successful small jurisdictions, and overstates the distinction between “us” (onshore) and “them” (offshore) – particularly in terms of involvement in problematic practices, which occur in both settings (of which more below).  The rhetorical function of this distinction is largely to paint small jurisdictions’ activities as uniquely and exclusively problematic, obscuring both small-market positives and big-market negatives. 

In developing my alternative – this “market-dominant small jurisdiction” (MDSJ) concept – I draw upon these and other literatures while endeavoring to avoid their limitations.  I argue that, notwithstanding substantial differences, these jurisdictions do exhibit fundamental commonalities in their contextual features and economic development strategies:

MDSJs are small and poorly endowed in natural resources, limiting their economic development options.  This creates a strong incentive to innovate in law and finance, while rendering credible their long-term commitment to the innovations undertaken.  These jurisdictions substantially depend on their legal and financial structures, and the market knows it. 

They possess legislative autonomy – the critical resource for such innovation.  This is obvious for sovereigns like Singapore and Switzerland, yet full-blown sovereignty isn’t required.  Delaware possesses sufficient room to maneuver under the internal affairs doctrine, and Bermuda – a British overseas territory – benefits from an express delegation of legislative authority.

MDSJs tend to be culturally proximate to major economic powers, and favorably situated geographically vis-à-vis those powers.  These ties can arise in various ways – through colonialism, common histories, and/or geography.  But in each case, their identification with – and capacity to interact closely with – multiple powers positions them to perform important regional and global “bridging” functions in cross-border finance. 

  • Bermuda has long bridged the Atlantic, maintaining strong ties with the UK and North America alike.  They benefit from the substantial ballast of association with the British legal system and insurance market (i.e. Lloyds) on one side, and proximity to the massive US economy and insurance market on the other. 
  • Singapore has long bridged East and West, having been established as a British colony to maintain an East Asian trade route.  Their location allowed them to contribute to the creation of a 24-hour global securities trading system – in the morning taking the baton from US markets that just closed, and in the afternoon handing the baton to European markets that just opened.  Since the 2000s Singapore has developed a two-way wealth management strategy, serving as the entry point for Western money into East Asia, and the entry point for rapidly accumulating East Asian money into the West – a strategy facilitated by a highly educated, bilingual (Mandarin-English) working population. 
  • Switzerland, located in the heart of Europe, borders on and transacts in the native languages of each of the surrounding economic powers.  German, French, and Italian are all official languages, and English-language proficiency is widespread as well. 
  • Delaware plays an under-explored bridging function in the US political economy, standing between and interacting with both the finance capital (New York) and the political capital (DC) – a geographic feature touted in corporate marketing materials. 

In addition to these contextual commonalities, MDSJs exhibit similar economic development strategies.  Notably, they’ve heavily invested in human capital, professional networks, and related institutional structures.  The aim is to foster a community of financial professionals with the incentives and capacity to develop high value-added niche specializations – a project eased by the fact that these are small places.  In each case the relevant public and private stakeholders often know one another personally, facilitating consensus and responsiveness to evolving markets.  Additionally, these public and private constituencies share largely homogenous interests – they all prosper if finance prospers.

Finally, MDSJs consciously seek to balance close collaboration with, and robust oversight of, the relevant professional communities – the aim being to at once convey flexibility, stability, and credibility.  Essentially these jurisdictions seek to avoid over-regulation frowned upon by the market, while at the same time avoiding under-regulation frowned upon by regulators in other jurisdictions.  In so doing, they generally try to bring private-sector experience to bear upon the regulatory design process, seeking to maintain cutting-edge regulatory regimes while at the same time conveying stability and credibility to global markets and their foreign regulatory counterparts. In each case this dual aim is reinforced by additional confidence-enhancing features – notably, low levels of perceived public corruption, and multi-party support for the development of financial services capacity.

The paper explores the embodiment of these characteristics in some depth, and ultimately suggests that examining such jurisdictions through this lens could offer tangible benefits as we continue to assess their costs and benefits in cross-border finance.  While potential abuse of the structures available in each of these jurisdictions is acknowledged – including money laundering and tax evasion – these problems are not unique to so-called “offshore” jurisdictions.  Notwithstanding Delaware’s extraordinary contribution to the development of substantive corporate law – principally attributable to their expert bench and bar – the state has been roundly criticized for creating some of the world’s most opaque shell companies.  At the same time, US calls for greater tax transparency are undercut by the fact that we ourselves don’t tax interest income on – and accordingly don’t require 1099s for – non-resident alien accounts.  In this light, to avoid charges of a regulatory double standard, US policymakers seeking greater financial and tax transparency – efforts I broadly support – may have to start by cleaning up their own backyards.

Permalink | Business Organizations| Corporate Law| Finance| Taxation | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Bookmark

June 09, 2014
What is Complexity?
Posted by Christine Hurt

I am sitting in the excellent AALS Mid-Year Meeting Workshop on Blurring Boundaries in Financial and Corporate Law organized by a planning committee chaired by the amazing and incredible Joan Heminway.  The topic could not be more timely and the participants are making interesting and provocative presentations.  This morning's plenary panel was entitled "Complexity," and featured excellent presentations from Henry Hu, Kristin Johnsons, Tom Lin, and Saule Omarova.

In listening to these thoughtful presentations, I had a few thoughts on the use of the term "complexity."  Instead of taking up precious question an answer time, I thought I would just save this question for a blog post.

Many terms have been overused since the financial crisis:  risk, systemic risk, tranche, "slice and dice," etc.  Lately, however, the noun "complexity" has gained a lot of popularity.  However, I'm not sure we are all using it either to describe the real noun being described (i.e., "complexity of X") or the nature of the underlying adjective "complex."  The noun "complexity" ends up being a derivative itself that inserts more uncertainty into the conversation!

First, I would urge scholars to limit the use of "complexity" as a stand-alone noun.  Are you describing a complex organizational structure?  Complex business activities of a corporation, particularly a financial institution's proprietary trading system?  Complex financial products that are either being sold by an entity or purchased by an entity and held as an asset?  

Second, is compllex the right adjective to use?  Like many folks this Spring, I recently finished "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis.  The book, which chronicles one man's campaign against the abuses of high frequency trading and dark pools, is fun to read and worthy of its own blog post, but I wanted to focus on one paragraph.  In this paragraph, Zoran Perkov, a programmer lured away from NASDAQ to work for the good guys, defines a complex system as "something you cannot predict" and a place where "Sh*t will break and there is nothing you can do about it":  "People think complex is an advanced state of complicated.  It's not.  A car key is simple.  A car is complicated.  A car in traffic is complex."  Zoran cites the book "Complexity" by Mitchell Waldrop, and the Amazon page for that book talks about the work on complexity at the Sante Fe Institute.  One commentator at today's panel also mentioned the SFI.

I haven't read the Waldrup book, but it does seem that we may be using the word "complex" in situations in which we should simply use "complicated."  That would also cut down on the nominalization trend.  "Complicatedness" just doesn't roll of your tongue very easily.

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May 29, 2014
Harvard Grads as Bubble Predictors
Posted by Erik Gerding

Here is an old saw: the best way to predict bubbles is to look at the industry to which Harvard MBA grads are flocking.  I used this as a laugh line when I spoke to David’s students at Wharton in October.  Now Matt O’Brien at the Washington Post Wonkblog extends the analysis to Crimson undergrads.

O’Brien’s article is the latest salvo in the analysis of what makes “Organization Kids” flock to finance.   Kevin Roose’s Young Money made a splash when it was published earlier this year.  Academics looking to understand students should consider delving into what makes students who enter finance and law with more than a dismissive lament of “kids these days.”  Indeed, the modern university seems designed specifically to create organization kids.  Think of how the bizarre gatekeeping rituals of college admissions filter down to create an achievement junky culture that begins in middle school if not earlier.  Students and parents seek to anticipate the divinations of middle aged oracles who themselves attempt to divine meaning from personal statements and lists of extracurriculars.

The Harvard MBA Indicator is a fun parlor game.  But it also suggests that in trying to understand deep questions such as why bubbles begin and how financial institutions operate, we might look at a broader set of disciplines than just economics.   Some very interesting legal scholarship on bubbles, financial markets (think Stuart Banner’s history) and financial institutions (Annelise Rile’s sociological studies of Japanese firms) serves as examples of the possibilities.  If academics lament their students being organization kids, they should have a little self-awareness and step outside their own institutional comfort zone.

Permalink | Finance| Financial Institutions| Law & Society| Law Schools/Lawyering| Legal Scholarship | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Bookmark

May 22, 2014
Godzilla versus Collateralized Debt Obligations
Posted by Erik Gerding

 

Godzilla

 

Collateralized Debt Obligations

Definitively

Derivative?

Definitionally

USAF Tests early 1950s

Origin

JPM experiments early 1990s

Radioactive waste

Diet

Toxic Mortgages

Pricey Simulation of Destruction of Tokyo

Computer Special Effects

Destructive Monte Carlo Simulation for Pricing

Heating up in Asia

Foreign Markets

Europe already burned

Laser, Taser, Bomb

Too Big To

Fail

Japan, Hawaii, San Francisco, Las Vegas, in other words, comparatively limited

Scope of Devastation

Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, European banks, worldwide financial markets

“Mmm … Calamari”

Attitude towards

Giant Squid

BFF

Mothra, MechaGodzilla

Nemesis

Carl Levin, Mecha-Carl Levin

Hollywood too risk averse; recycles old assets

Bottom Line

Wall Street too risk seeking; recycles old assets

 

 

Permalink | Film| Finance| Financial Crisis | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Bookmark

May 12, 2014
Summer Reading from Colorado’s Business Law Colloquium
Posted by Erik Gerding

We enjoyed a great lineup of speakers and cutting edge scholarship here in Boulder this past semester as part of CU’s Business Law Colloquium.  The following papers make for excellent start-of-the-summer reading:

Dan Katz (Michigan State): Quantitative Legal Prediction – or – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Preparing for the Data Driven Future of the Legal Services Industry: a provocative look at Big Data will help clients analyze everything from whether to bring or settle a lawsuit to how to hire legal counsel.  Katz examines implications for legal education.

Rob Jackson (Columbia): Toward a Constitutional Review of the Poison Pill (with Lucian Bebchuk): Jackson and Bebchuk kicked a hornet’s nest with their argument that some state antitakeover statutes (and, by extension, poison pills under those statutes) may be preempted by the Williams Act.  See here for the rapid fire response from Martin Lipton.

Brad Bernthal (Colorado): What the Advocate’s Playbook Reveals About FCC Institutional Tendencies in an Innovation Age: my co-teacher interviewed telecom lawyers to map out both their strategies for influencing the Federal Communications Commission and what these strategies mean for stifling innovation in that agency.

Kate Judge (Columbia): Intermediary Influence:  Judge examines the mechanisms by which intermediaries – both financial and otherwise – engage in rent-seeking rather than lowering transaction costs for market participants.  The paper helps explain everything from Tesla’s ongoing fight with the Great State of New Jersey to sell cars without relying on dealers to entrenchment by large financial conglomerates.  

Lynn Stout (Cornell): Killing Conscience: The Unintended Behavioral Consequences of 'Pay For Performance': Stout argues that pay for performance compensation in companies undermines ethical behavior by framing choices in terms of monetary reward.  This adds to the growing literature on compliance which ranges from Tom Tyler’s germinal work to Tung & Henderson, who argue for adapting pay for performance for regulators.

Steven Schwarcz (Duke): The Governance Structure of Shadow Banking: Rethinking Assumptions About Limited Liability: Schwarcz argues for imposing additional liability on the “owner-managers” of some shadow banking entities to dampen the moral hazard and excessive risk taking by these entities, which contributed to the financial crisis.  This paper joins a chorus of other papers arguing to using shareholder  or director & officer liability mechanisms to fight systemic risk.  (See Hill & PainterAdmati, Conti-Brown, & Pfleiderer; and Armour & Gordon).

[I’ll inject myself editorially on this one paper: this is a provocative idea, but one that would make debt even cheaper relative to equity than it already is.  This would encourage firms to ratchet up already high levels of leverage.  I looked at the expansion of limited liability in Britain in the 18th Century in Chapter 2 of my book.  The good news for Schwarcz’s proposal from this history: expansions of limited liability seem to have coincided and contributed to the booms in the cycle of financial crises in that country that occurred every 10 years in that country.  The bad news: unlimited liability for shareholders does not seem to have staved off crises and likely contributed to the contagion in the Panic of 1825.]

The CU Business Law Colloquium also heard from Gordon Smith (BYU), Jim Cox (Duke), Sharon Matusik (Colorado – Business), Afra Afsharipour (UC Davis), Jesse Fried (Harvard), and Brian Broughman (Indiana).  Their papers are not yet up on ssrn.

Permalink | Corporate Governance| Corporate Law| Finance| Financial Crisis| Financial Institutions| Legal Scholarship | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0) | Bookmark

May 11, 2014
Program for the AALS Mid-year Meeting on Corporate and Financial Law
Posted by Erik Gerding

After the jump, is the program for the AALS Mid-year Meeting on Corporate and Financial Law in Washington, D.C. from June 7-9.  If you register (site restricted) and attend, make sure to stay until the fireworks at the very last panel!

Program

 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

 

4:00 - 8:00 p.m.

AALS Registration                                                                                                   

 

6:00 - 7:30 p.m.

AALS Reception

 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

 

8:45 - 9:00 a.m.

Welcome                                                                                                          

Judith Areen, AALS Executive Director, Chief Executive Officer

 

Introduction

Joan M. Heminway, Chair, Planning Committee for AALS Workshop on Blurring Boundaries in Financial and Corporate Law and The University of Tennessee College of Law

 

9:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Keynote

Donald C. Langevoort, Georgetown University Law Center

 

9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Sessions on Research

 

Recent appraisals of the state of legal education have raised questions about the value of legal scholarship.  Yet, most law scholars believe that their work contributes meaningfully to important theoretical and policy-oriented discussions-including those involving financial and corporate law.  What is the relevance and overall value of legal scholarship in financial and corporate law in an era of blurred and blurring boundaries? What methodologies, forms of scholarly output, and publication venues most effectively and efficiently reach the target audiences for financial and corporate law scholarship?  This segment of the program focuses on these and other questions relating to research and writing in financial and corporate law as a matter of current and desired future practice. 

 

Specifically, the segment features a two-part approach to questions involving research in the context of unclear substantive demarcations in financial and corporate law.  The first part is a plenary panel discussion, and the second part is a series of small-group networking sessions.  More detailed descriptions of each are set forth below.

 

9:30 -10:45 a.m.

Research Plenary Panel

Robert P. Bartlett, III, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Jill E. Fisch, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Claire A. Hill, University of Minnesota Law School

 

The prevalence of economic analysis is one element that unites legal scholarship across the many areas of business law.  Scholars in the various business law fields of endeavor (e.g., business associations, securities regulation, financial institutions, insurance) have used other disciplines and methodological approaches to a far lesser extent.  Do we have the right mix of interdisciplinarity to most effectively respond to current challenges involving financial and corporate law?  How, if at all, do traditional legal scholars re-tool to address any perceived need for interdisciplinary research that engages academic disciplines outside their areas of expertise (or areas of expertise in which their knowledge is superficial or outdated)?

 

This panel explores the capacity of a variety of methodologies and disciplines to enrich the study of financial and corporate law in an era of blurring substantive and regulatory boundaries.  The panel also addresses cutting edge questions and controversies regarding blurring boundaries in particular research traditions.  The panel comprises scholars who use different quantitative and qualitative analytical methods in their work.   The panel is designed to allow these scholars to discuss techniques and tools they use and to yield valuable insights into questions that cut across financial and corporate law, such as the behavior of consumers, investors, financial institutions (and the individuals who work inside them), lawyers, and regulators.

 

10:45 - 11:00 a.m.                                                                                         

Refreshment Break                                                                                       

 

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Research Small Group /Networking Sessions

Michelle M. Harner, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
Christine Hurt, University of Illinois College of Law
Anne M. Tucker, Georgia State University College of Law

Others to be announced.

 

This part of the program is designed to offer participants the opportunity to share their thoughts on blurred lines in financial regulation research.  Topics will vary from session to session but may include:  how individual research approaches and methods have changed and are changing; how law academics keep up with emerging research approaches and methods-e.g., where research content is now found and how it is processed; whether (and, if so, how) individuals with different substantive law and research backgrounds "talk" to each other to help bridge gaps; and what optimal work product outcomes look like as substantive and regulatory lines continue to blur. Facilitators will report out the ideas from their sessions.

 

12:00 - 1:30 p.m.                                                                                             

AALS Luncheon

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator for Massachusetts (Invited)

               

1:45 - 5:00 p.m.

Teaching Sessions

 

Associated legal and regulatory challenges and changes force us to reconsider our pedagogy and the business law curriculum in very fundamental ways.  Structuring courses and choosing and employing effective teaching tools are, of course, part of the discussion.  But teaching financial and corporate law in an era of blurring boundaries also engages larger issues, such as the role of different types of courses (e.g., clinics, practicums, externships, field placements, simulation courses) and pedagogies in teaching business law courses. Also important are pedagogical methods geared to develop the financial literacy, numeracy, and professional values that students concentrating in financial and corporate law should have when they graduate from law school.  Finally, it seems that it would be beneficial to address the value for law students, if any, in joint degree (e.g., JD/MBA) and advanced degree (LLM, Masters in Law, Juris Masters, etc.) programs and the overall place and prominence of financial and corporate law in the current and future program of legal education in the United States.  The program is designed to involve a significant amount of "show and tell," rather than predominantly focusing on traditional academic presentations.

 

1:45 - 3:00 p.m.

Teaching Plenary Panel

William A. Birdthistle, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology
James A. Fanto, Brooklyn Law School
Edward J. Janger, Brooklyn Law School
John Henry Schlegel, University at Buffalo Law School
David A. Westbrook, University at Buffalo Law School

 

This panel, populated with presenters culled from a call for proposals, explores the challenges and opportunities for legal educators in an era of blurring substantive and regulatory boundaries.  A range of possible teaching methods and tools can assist in the task.  But difficult questions exist as to how to best use these methods and tools in individual courses and across the curriculum-in and outside business law teaching.  Course selection and curricular options (including those external to the standard Juris Doctor courses and curriculum) deserve important consideration at both the individual (student and faculty) and institutional levels.  The panel is designed to allow academics specializing in financial and corporate law to discuss these and other issues relevant to educating business law students in light of blurring financial and corporate law boundaries.

 

3:00 - 3:15 p.m.                                                                                               

Refreshment Break                                                                                       

 

3:15 - 5:00 p.m.                                                                                              

Teaching Concurrent Sessions

 

This portion of the program features concurrent sessions on teaching led by law faculty chosen from a call for proposals.  Each session has a different topical focus and is offered twice-once in each breakout period.  Accordingly, each attendee has the opportunity to attend two sessions, each on a different topic.  These sessions are designed to involve significant interaction between the selected discussion leader and the attendees.  

 

3:15 - 3:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

 

Consumer Protection Clinicas as a Site for Blurring Boundaries

Bryan L. Adamson, Seattle University School of Law


Teaching Banking Law

Mehrsa Baradaran, University of Georgia School of Law


A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Real Estate Investment and Finance Law

Andrea Boyack, Washburn University School of Law


Teaching the Federal Reserve in Law School: Crossing Disciplines, Paradigms and Vantage Points

Timothy A. Canova, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center


From the Balance Sheet to Beta: A Hands-On Approach to Teaching Accounting & Finance Concepts

Virginia Harper Ho, University of Kansas School of Law   

 

 

3:45 - 4:15 p.m.

Repeat of Concurrent Session Presentations

 

4:15 - 5:00 p.m.

Report Out

 

5:30 - 6:30 p.m.                                                                                                       

AALS Reception

 

Monday, June 9, 2014

 

9:00 - 10:15 a.m.                                                  

Complexity Plenary Panel

Henry T. Hu, The University of Texas School of Law   

Kristin N. Johnson, Seton Hall University School of Law

Tom C.W. Lin, University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law

Saule T. Omarova, University of North Carolina, School of Law

 

Modern financial markets, as well as the firms that operate within these markets, have become increasingly complex over the last several decades.  This trend is attributable to various developments, including the accelerating sophistication of technology, the increasing size of firms, the more heterogeneous and sophisticated needs of users of financial services, and the inevitable desire of firms to seek out regulatory gaps.  This ever-growing complexity creates a broad set of new challenges for law and regulation.  For instance, complexity may confound the efforts of regulators to monitor financial markets for systemic risk or to erect rules to prevent or mitigate that risk.  Similarly, it can frustrate the capacity of law to promote more informed consumer and investor protection tools such as disclosure or financial literacy education. Increasing complexity also raises new challenges about the optimal modes of regulation: according to some, it demands greater reliance on regulatory approaches such as self-governance or "new governance," while others argue that it may counter-intuitively necessitate simpler and blunter rules.   Finally, market and firm complexity complicates the targets of regulation, which now consists not only of banks, insurers and broker-dealers, but also shadow banks, hedge funds, and participants in derivatives markets.

 

10:15 - 10:30 a.m.                                                                                         

Refreshment Break                                                                                       

 

10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

 

Modern Regulatory Approaches

 

Historically, scholars have studied law and regulation within a particular substantive area, such as banking, corporate, insurance, or securities regulation. However, modern regulatory approaches frequently require knowledge of multiple topics and raise challenges that cut across different areas of legal study. These two concurrent sessions will feature four approaches to understanding modern regulation, each led by a scholar whose work has been focused in the area. 

 

Regulatory arbitrage and cost-benefit analysis are issues that cut across many areas of modern regulation. Many costly rules create incentives for parties to transact in ways that are economically equivalent, but lead to differential regulatory treatment. Both regulators and courts increasingly are required to, and do, use cost-benefit analysis to justify new regulation.

 

10:30 - 11:15 a.m.

Modern Regulatory Approaches Concurrent Session #1

Jordan M. Barry, University of San Diego School of Law (confirmed)

 

Modern Regulatory Approaches Concurrent Session #2

Yoon-Ho Alex Lee, University of Southern California Gould School of Law (confirmed)

 

11:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Modern Regulatory Approaches Concurrent Session #1

Adam J. Levitin, Georgetown University Law Center (confirmed)

 

Modern Regulatory Approaches Concurrent Session #2

Dana Brakman Reiser, Brooklyn Law School (confirmed)

 

12:00 - 1:30 p.m.                                                                                             

AALS Luncheon                                                                                           

Daniel K. Tarullo, Governor, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System, Washington, DC

                                      

1:30 - 3:00 p.m.                                                                                              

New Frontiers: Innovation, Competition and Collaboration in International Financial Markets

Wulf Kaal, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Eric J. Pan, Associate Director, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Securities and 

Exchange Commission, Washington, DC

Roberta Romano, Yale Law School

 

Innovation and the mobility of capital have changed global financial markets in profound and consequential ways. Advances in technology and developments in the infrastructure of financial markets have engendered new levels of interconnectivity. The creation of new financial products, the increasing prominence of market participants such as private equity and hedge funds, and the birth of complex trading strategies (namely algorithmic and high-frequency trading); have permanently altered the landscape of financial markets. Operating in this new frontier, significant financial institutions face historically unparalleled vulnerabilities. The financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated the broad range of concerns that challenge government efforts to regulate financial markets.

 

Responding to the crisis, authorities propose a diverse array of regulatory reforms. For example, the U.S. Congress and regulators have adopted an aggressive and extraterritorial policy governing domestic and international over-the-counter derivatives, creating a Financial Stability Oversight Council and articulating formal processes to address the insolvency of an international financial market conglomerate. In addition, the highly debated and not-yet-finalized Volker Rule promises to reduce excessive risk taking by systemically important financial institutions and minimize the likelihood of future crises. Other countries' proposed solutions take a different tack, adopting Vickers- and Liikanen-style "ring-fencing" policies. The trend toward diversity in regulatory approaches overshadows central bankers' collaborative efforts to craft, implement and enforce the third round of Basel accords.

 

The debate over uniformity or diversity in regulation provides a forum for evaluating the merits of these various regulatory approaches and the domestic and international actors who inform the discussion. Questions arising from the debate explore the value of efforts to adopt uniform regulatory approaches; the contributions of international regulatory bodies and trade organizations such as the BIS, the G-20, and IOSCO; the benefits and shortcomings of microprudential policies governing banking institutions; and the limits that political accountability and legitimacy pose for each of the governments whose regulatory policies may heighten or mitigate the potential for future financial crises.

 

3:00 - 3:15 p.m.                                                                                              

Refreshment Break

 

3:15 - 4:45 p.m.                                                                                              

Political Dynamics Plenary Panel

Erik F. Gerding, University of Colorado School of Law
M. Todd Henderson, The University of Chicago, The Law School
Steven Ramirez, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Hillary A. Sale, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law    

 

Financial and corporate regulation no longer fits within the comfortable regulatory silos so familiar to scholars of previous decades.  The efforts to design and implement new regulatory structures after the financial crisis are taking place in sometimes unfamiliar political cross-currents that reshape prior theories.   This plenary panel will address the political dynamics of financial and corporate law in contexts framed by a series of important questions: Have financial and corporate law become more political (e.g. the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act within 20 months of each other)?  Have the roles of courts, legislators, the president, and independent agencies changed and what should those roles be, (with the Citizens United, Business Roundtable, and American Petroleum cases as recent relevant examples)?  How has the blurred world of financial and corporate law changed? Who are the constituencies to be considered in evaluating these laws? For example, whose primacy should be our focus and is there new space for occupiers, crowds, and those pursuing social benefit enterprises?  Does globalization stress our traditional reliance on state regulation and complicate our existing theories of political economy?

 

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April 29, 2014
What Happens When You Miss Your Capital Requirement?
Posted by David Zaring

Oops, says BofA, we messed up our capital calculations.  We don't have as much money on hand for shocks or emergencies as we thought.  Since that's the principal thing that banking regulators care about, you might wonder what happens to banks who do this.  Perhaps it would be interesting to consider some alternatives, might offer a sense of what bank supervision does and doesn't involve these days.

  • The Fed could prosecute BofA executives for fraud.  Call that the securities regulator/white collar approach.  One problem, fraud must be intentional, so this would have to be not an error, but at the very least some sort of reckless accounting.  It punishes individuals in management who contributed to the fraud.
  • The Fed/FDIC could revoke their license or pull the inspectors.  This is the USDA approach.  The problem is that it is too nuclear - both of those things would shut down a bank that is far too big to fail.
  • The Fed could fine them.  This is the money laundering approach, and those fines are often imposed not just for tolerating the laundering of money, but for having inadequate controls in place to prevent it.  We may see a fine here, BofA is pretty much saying that it had inadequate controls in place by acknowledging that it did the calculations wrong to the tune of billions of dollars.
  • Or the Fed could do what the Fed is, for now, doing.  It is suspending any dividend increases by the bank until it submits an accurate account of the state of its capital reserves, and has that account approved by the agency as sufficient.  This is a somewhat new thing in high level banking oversight - punish the shareholders, thereby encouraging them to monitor management. Does it work?  It is perhaps a little untested, although suspending capital distributions has been a tool used by the FDIC on the sorts of distressed small banks that were its old stock in trade.  Seeing that tool applied to Citi and now BofA, however, is a dfferent thing altogether.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

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April 17, 2014
Marc Andreessen on Valuation
Posted by Gordon Smith

Dealbook has reprinted a series of tweets by Marc Andreessen explaining the sometimes lofty valuations of acquisitions in the tech sector. The key idea is "attach rate," which Andreessen describes as follows: "acquirer Y can attach company X's product to Y's sales engine."

We used to have another word for this idea: synergy.

Just because it's not new doesn't mean it's not real. But Andreessen rightly cautions: "Of course, for the deal to be good, I have to deliver that attach rate. But when it works, and it often does, it's magical & worth doing."

I am probably more skeptical -- "often" should probably be "sometimes" -- but I generally agree with the thrust of the tweets. Thanks to Matt Jennejohn for the pointer.

 

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