Financial Innovation and Governance Mechanisms: The Evolution of Decoupling and Transparency
Henry T. C. Hu; 70(2): 347-406 (Spring 2015)
Financial innovation has fundamental implications for the key substantive and information-based mechanisms of corporate governance. “Decoupling” undermines classic understandings of the allocation of voting rights among shareholders (via, e.g., “empty voting”), the control rights of debtholders (via, e.g., “empty crediting” and “hidden interests”/ “hidden non-interests”), and of takeover practices (via, e.g., “morphable ownership” to avoid section 13(d) disclosure and to avoid triggering certain poison pills). Stock-based compensation, the monitoring of managerial performance, the market for corporate control, and other governance mechanisms dependent on a robust informational predicate and market efficiency are undermined by the transparency challenges posed by financial innovation. The basic approach to information that the SEC has always used—the “descriptive mode,” which relies on “intermediary depictions” of objective reality—is manifestly insufficient to capture highly complex objective realities, such as the realities of major banks heavily involved with derivatives. Ironically, the primary governmental response to such transparency challenges—a new system for public disclosure that became effective in 2013, the first since the establishment of the SEC—also creates difficulties. This new parallel public disclosure system, developed by bank regulators and applicable to major financial institutions, is not directed primarily at the familiar transparency ends of investor protection and market efficiency.
As starting points, this Article offers brief overviews of: (1) the analytical framework developed in 2006−2008 for “decoupling” and its calls for reform; and (2) the analytical framework developed in 2012−2014 reconceptualizing “information” in terms of three “modes” and addressing the two parallel disclosure universes.
As to decoupling, the Article proceeds to analyze some key post- 2008 developments (including the status of efforts at reform) and the road ahead. A detailed analysis is offered as to the landmark December 2012 TELUS opinion in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, involving perhaps the most complicated public example of decoupling to date. The Article discusses recent actions on the part of the Delaware judiciary and legislature, the European Union, and bankruptcy courts—and the pressing need for more action by the SEC. At the time the debt decoupling research was introduced, available evidence as to the phenomenon’s significance was limited. This Article helps address that gap.
As to information, the Article begins by outlining the calls for reform associated with the 2012−2014 analytical framework. With revolutionary advances in computer- and web-related technologies, regulators need no longer rely almost exclusively on the descriptive mode rooted in intermediary depictions. Regulators must also begin to systematically deploy the “transfer mode” rooted in “pure information” and the “hybrid mode” rooted in “moderately pure information.” The Article then shows some of the key ways that the new analytical framework can contribute to the SEC’s comprehensive and long-needed new initiative to address “disclosure effectiveness,” including in “depiction-difficult” contexts completely unrelated to financial innovation (e.g., pension disclosures and high technology companies). The Article concludes with a concise version of the analytical framework’s thesis that the new morphology of public information—consisting of two parallel regulatory universes with divergent ends and means—is unsustainable in the long run and involve certain matters that need statutory resolution. However, certain steps involving coordination among the SEC, the Federal Reserve, and others can be taken in the interim.
Appraisal Arbitrage—Is There a Delaware Advantage?
Gaurav Jetley and Xinyu Ji; 71(2): 427-458 (Spring 2016)
The article examines the extent to which economic incentives may have improved for appraisal arbitrageurs in recent years, which could help explain the observed increase in appraisal activity. We investigate three specific issues. First, we review the economic implications of allowing petitioners to seek appraisal on shares acquired after the record date. We conclude that appraisal arbitrageurs realize an economic benefit from their ability to delay investment for two reasons: (1) it enables arbitrageurs to use better information about the value of the target that may emerge after the record date to assess the potential payoff of bringing an appraisal claim and (2) it helps minimize arbitrageurs’ exposure to the risk of deal failure. Second, based on a review of the recent Delaware opinions in appraisal matters, as well as fairness opinions issued by targets’ financial advisors, we document that the Delaware Chancery Court seems to prefer a lower equity risk premium than bankers. Such a systematic difference in valuation input choices also works in favor of appraisal arbitrageurs. Finally, we benchmark the Delaware statutory interest rate and find that the statutory rate more than compensates appraisal petitioners for the time value of money or for any bond-like claim that they may have on either the target or the surviving entity.
Our findings suggest that, from a policy perspective, it may be useful to limit petitioners’ ability to seek appraisal to shares acquired before the record date. We also posit that, absent any finding of a flawed sales process, the actual transaction price may serve as a useful benchmark for fair value. We conjecture that, while the statutory interest rate may not be the main factor driving appraisal arbitrage, it does help improve the economics for arbitrageurs. Thus, the proposal by the Council of the Delaware Bar Association’s Corporation Law Section to limit the amount of interest paid by appraisal respondents—by allowing them to pay appraisal claimants a sum of money at the beginning of the appraisal action—seems like a practical way to address concerns regarding the statutory rate. However, paying appraisal claimants a portion of the target’s fair value up front is akin to funding claimants’ appraisal actions, which may end up encouraging appraisal arbitrage.
The Post Dodd-Frank Act Evolution of the Private Fund Industry: Comparative Evidence from 2012 and 2015
Wulf A. Kaal, 71(4): 1151-1206 (Fall 2016)
This comparative survey study examines the private fund industry’s reactions and adjustments to a rapidly evolving regulatory framework, three years after the first application of mandatory registration and disclosure rules for private fund advisers under the Dodd-Frank Act. Using two datasets (2012: N = 94; 2015: N = 69) for a population of 1267 registered investment advisers to add an historical time series perspective, the author analyzes and compares survey respondents’ short- and long-term estimations of industry effects. The data suggest that immediate and short-term concerns have given way to adaptation to the changes.
How Did We Get Here? Dissecting the Hedge Fund Conundrum Through an Institutional Theory Lens
Cary Martin Shelby, 74(3) 735-788 (Summer 2019)
This article dissects both the origins and resulting harms of what the author terms the “hedge fund conundrum,” in which institutional investors, such as pension plans and endowments, have consistently increased hedge fund allocations over the past decade despite pervasive evidence of excessive fees and subpar returns. It then utilizes an historical institutionalist lens to examine how lawmakers may have enabled a conundrum of this magnitude. By and large, this phenomenon is a symptom of regulatory loopholes that have permitted the private hedge fund market to increase in “publicness” through its expanding access and subsequent harm to retail investors. Such investors are now indirectly exposed to hedge funds through pension plans and endowments, without receiving the investor protection guarantees under the federal securities laws. Subsets of historical institutionalism, such as “conversion” and “drift,” provide useful rubrics in analyzing how the law has evolved in this regard. An examination of this nature provides a useful guidepost for exploring well-tailored solutions that concede the unlikelihood of subjecting hedge funds to direct regulation.