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Governance of Financial Services Outsourcing : Managing Misconduct and Third-Party Risks

With financial institutions increasingly outsourcing their activities, they face a record number of fraud and misconduct cases arising from third-party services. We survey financial institutions to better understand which governance mechanisms may improve the monitoring and management of third-party relationships. Overall, our results suggest that there are gaps in traditional governance arrangements.
We find that financial institutions rely mainly on internal monitoring to detect fraud and that whistleblowing plays an important role in mitigating misconduct risks.

Finally, we report evidence that vendor dependency and product complexity play a pronounced role in delaying termination of agreements.

‘Dynamic Precaution’ in Maintaining Financial Stability : The Importance of FSOC

The Financial Crisis of 2007-09 has shown that financial stability is the ultimate public good: all benefit from it, it is costly to maintain, and its undersupply results in catastrophe. The threat to financial stability comes along four different avenues: first, the effort by institutions within the financial stability regime to find loopholes and other sorts of regulatory arbitrage to avoid the regime’s costs; second, the effort by institutions outside of the regime to produce financial intermediation services that are the functional equivalent of within-the-regime firms; third, “innovation,” which includes the unexpected consequence of existing rules in new application; and fourth, macroeconomic forces that magnify the threat of financial instability. The forces, separately and in combination, can reshape the financial system; these forces can move a formerly stable system into one that is systemically susceptible to either an internal or external shock.

One very important lesson of the Financial Crisis is that the maintenance of financial stability is an on-going project that requires an approach of “Dynamic Precaution.” This requires an institution such as the Financial Stability Oversight Council to monitor the financial system as it evolves, to call attention to emerging risks to financial stability, and to catalyze the necessary regulatory intervention. In developing a case for Dynamic Precaution, this chapter explains first, why financial institutions need to remain as the focus of the FSOC regime even while observation and regulation aimed at activities is also important; second, how FSOC can serve Dynamic Precaution by using its designation authority to negotiate “off ramps” from enhanced oversight for firms whose instability or failure would otherwise have systemic implications; and third, if the maintenance of financial stability is the apex goal, why cost-benefit analysis can play only a limited role in financial regulation.

Related Party Transactions in Insolvency

Transaction avoidance rules are widely considered to be an important tool for the regulation of related party transactions in insolvency. Existing ‘best practice’ guidance on the design of insolvency laws assumes that such avoidance rules are best operationalised within collective insolvency procedures. But in many jurisdictions the commencement of collective insolvency proceedings is value destructive; so much so that creditors may prefer to see firms fail outside such proceedings, even if this means foregoing opportunities to use the avoidance tools available within them. This suggests that avoidance tools may be most powerful when available outside insolvency proceedings as well as within them.

Many jurisdictions do have some such form of avoidance action, often described as the ‘actio Pauliana outside bankruptcy’, on their statute books. But these forms of action have been neglected in the literature on the control of related party transactions in insolvency, and, perhaps as a consequence, have not benefited from international initiatives to improve the operation of domestic insolvency rules in cross-border cases in the same way that transaction avoidance actions brought in connection with collective insolvency proceedings have benefited. The chapter begins by evaluating the case for approaching transaction avoidance within insolvency proceedings, before turning to consider aspects of the design of the ‘actio Pauliana outside bankruptcy’, including measures to improve its efficacy in cross-border cases.

Stock Market Short-Termism’s Impact

Stock-market-driven short-termism is crippling the American economy, according to legal, judicial, and media analyses. Firms forgo the R&D they need, cut capital spending, and buy back their own stock so feverishly that they starve themselves of cash. The stock market is the primary cause: directors and executives cannot manage for the long-term when their shareholders furiously trade their company’s stock, they cannot make long-term investments when stockholders demand to see profits on this quarter’s financial statements, they cannot even strategize about the long-term when shareholder activists demand immediate results, and they cannot keep the cash to invest in their future when stock market pressure drains away that cash in stock buybacks. This doomsday version of the stock-market-driven short-termism argument entails economy-wide predictions that have not been wellexamined for their severity and accuracy. If the scenario is correct and strong, we should first see sharp increases in stock trading in recent decades and more frequent activist interventions, and these increases should be accompanied by (1) sharply declining investment spending in the United States, where large firms depend on stock markets and where activists are important, as compared to advanced economies that do not depend as much on stock markets, (2) buybacks bleeding cash out from the corporate sector, (3) economy-wide R&D spending declining from what it should be, and (4) a stock market unwilling to support innovative, long-term, technological firms. These are the central channels from stock market-driven shorttermism to overall economic degradation. They justify corporate law policies that seek to prevent these outcomes. But these predicted economy-wide outcomes are either undemonstrated, implausible, or untrue. Corporate R&D is not declining, corporate cash is not bleeding out, and the world’s developed nations with neither American-style quarterly oriented stock markets nor aggressive activist investors are investing no more in capital equipment than the United States. The five largest American firms by stock market capitalization are tech-oriented, R&D intensive, longer-term operations. The economy-wide picture is more one of capital markets moving capital from larger, older firms to younger ones; of a post-industrial economy doing more R&D than ever; and of an economy whose investment intensity depends on overall economic activity, not stock market trading nor hedge fund activism.
True, the economy-wide data could hide stock-market hits that hold back R&D from increasing more and that weaken American capital spending more than is fitting for a post-industrial economy. But if so, these have not been shown and several seem implausible. Hence, the calamitous form of the stock-market-driven short-termist argument needs to be reconsidered, recalibrated, and, quite plausibly, rejected.

Then, last, comes the broadest question: why has a view that lacks strong economywide evidentiary support become the rare corporate governance issues that attracts attention from the media, political players, policymakers, and the public — and that is widely accepted as true? I suggest why in this paper’s final part.

Informed trading and cybersecurity breaches

Cybersecurity has become a significant concern in corporate and commercial settings, and for good reason: a threatened or realized cybersecurity breach can materially affect firm value for capital investors. This paper explores whether market arbitrageurs appear systematically to exploit advance knowledge of such vulnerabilities. We make use of a novel data set tracking cybersecurity breach announcements among public companies to study trading patterns in the derivatives market preceding the announcement of a breach. Using a matched sample of unaffected control firms, we find significant trading abnormalities for hacked targets, measured in terms of both open interest and volume. Our results are robust to several alternative matching techniques, as well as to both cross-sectional and longitudinal identification strategies. All told, our findings appear strongly consistent with the proposition that arbitrageurs can and do obtain early notice of impending breach disclosures, and that they are able to profit from such information. Normatively, we argue that the efficiency implications of cybersecurity trading are distinct—and generally more concerning—than those posed by garden-variety information trading within securities markets. Notwithstanding these idiosyncratic concerns, however, both securities fraud and computer fraud in their current form appear poorly adapted to address such concerns, and both would require nontrivial re-imagining to meet the challenge (even approximately).

Evaluating Stock-Trading Practices and Their Regulation

The social benefits of more accurate stock prices—that is, stock-market prices that more accurately reflect the future cash flows that companies are likely to produce—are well established. But it is also thought that market forces alone will lead to only a sub-optimal level of stock-price accuracy—a level that fails to obtain the maximum net social benefits, or wealth, that would result from a higher level. One of the principal aims of federal securities law has therefore been to increase the extent to which the stock prices of the most important companies in our economy (public companies) contain information about firms’ prospects so that society generates more wealth. Indeed, enhancing the accuracy of these prices in this way is perhaps the primary justification for the corporate disclosure, fraud, and insider-trading rules that make up the traditional core of federal securities law. Yet, important price-accuracy effects of a distinct area of the field (the law governing the market in which stocks are traded) have been overlooked.

This Article theorizes that a set of central, yet little-noticed, stock-market rules is resulting in society producing a lower level of stock-price accuracy than it otherwise might. The Article therefore provides examples of ways in which the laws governing stock trading can be altered to increase stock-price accuracy. And it urges regulators to consider whether such alternations might be socially desirable in one of two ways: by enhancing the current level of stock-price accuracy in a manner that results in net social benefits, or by providing society with a lower-cost means than those associated with existing disclosure, fraud, and insider-trading laws for obtaining that current level. Accordingly, the Article theorizes that regulators have a fourth main securities-law tool (stock-market law) for increasing the accuracy of public companies’ stock prices, and sets forth a cost-benefit framework to help them determine whether it can be used to achieve one of the chief goals of securities law: obtaining a socially optimal level of stock-price accuracy.

The Death of a Regulator : Strict Supervision, Bank Lending and Business Activity

An important question in banking is how strict supervision affects bank lending and in turn local business activity. Forcing banks to recognize losses could choke off lending and amplify local economic woes. But stricter supervision could also change how banks assess and manage loans. Estimating such effects is challenging. We exploit the extinction of the thrift regulator (OTS) – a large change in prudential supervision – to analyze economic links between strict supervision, bank lending and business activity. We first show that the OTS replacement indeed resulted in stricter supervision of former OTS banks. Next, we analyze the ensuing lending effects. We show that former OTS banks increase small business lending by roughly 10 percent. This increase is not entirely accounted by a reallocation of mortgage lending and stems primarily from well-capitalized banks and those more affected by the new regime. These findings suggest that stricter supervision operates not only through capital but can also overcome frictions in bank management, leading to more lending and a reallocation of loans.

Consistent with the latter, we find increases in business entry and exit in counties with greater expose to OTS banks.

Is There a Relationship Between Shareholder Protection and Stock Market Development ?

The paper uses recently created datasets measuring legal change over time in a sample of 28 developed and emerging economies to test whether the strengthening of share-holder rights in the course of the mid-1990s and 2000s promoted stock market devel-opment in those countries. It finds only weak and equivocal evidence of a positive effect of shareholder protection on market capitalisation, the value of stock trading, and the turnover ratio, and a negative impact on the number of listed companies. There is stronger evidence of reverse causality, in the sense of stock market development at country level generating changes in shareholder protection law. We conclude, firstly, that legal reforms were at least in part an endogenous response to stock market devel-opment and not simply a reaction to the generation of global standards; but, secondly, that the laws passed in response to the demand for shareholder empowerment did not consistently have the expected impact on financial markets, and may have had some negative and perverse results.

Market soundings : the interaction between securities regulation and company law in the United Kingdom and Italy

Before deciding on operations involving share issuance or sale, companies or shareholders may seek to disclose information to selected investors, in order to gauge their opinion on the envisaged market operation. Such ‘market soundings’ risk violating the prohibition of insider trading and yet such selective disclosures have been partially accepted in several European jurisdictions. Market soundings have been recently regulated in the Market Abuse Regulation, which clarifies under which circumstances they are allowed and the position of the involved parties. This Article analyses the rules on market soundings in the Market Abuse Regulation with regard to initial public offers of securities, issuance in the secondary market and accelerated bookbuildings. Additionally, it will be stressed that market soundings might also violate national company law rules and principles, mostly those related to directors’ duties and liabilities. This Article addresses how Italian and English company law regimes react towards selective disclosures. It will be shown that a tension may still exist between national company law rules and uniform rules on the prohibition of market abuses.

New Special Study of the Securities Markets : Institutional Intermediaries

This essay, written for the Conference on the New Special Study of Securities Markets at Columbia Law School, identifies the key regulatory challenges posed by institutional intermediaries in America’s capital markets. We survey existing legal and economic research and suggest new areas for regulatory reform and scholarly inquiry. We cover registered investment companies (such as mutual funds), private investment funds (such as hedge funds and private equity funds), credit-rating agencies, and broker-dealers.

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