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Scott Hirst, The Case for Investor Ordering, 8 Harv. Bus. L. Rev. (forthcoming June 2018).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Securities Law & Regulation
,
Shareholders
,
Corporate Law
Type: Article
Abstract
Whether corporate arrangements should be mandated by public law or "privately ordered" by corporations themselves has been a foundational question in corporate law scholarship. State corporation laws are generally privately ordered. But a significant and growing number of arrangements are governed by "corporate regulations" created by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). SEC corporate regulations are invariably mandatory. Whether they should be is the focus of this paper. The paper contributes to the ongoing debate by showing that whether mandatory or privately-ordered rules are optimal depends on the nature of investors, and their incentives in choosing corporate arrangements. The rise of institutional investors means that investors can now be relied on to choose optimal arrangements, because institutional investors will make informed decisions about corporate arrangements, and will internalize their effects on the capital markets. The paper thus makes the case for a third alternative: "investor ordering." For all but a few corporate regulations, investor ordering will result in the same or greater aggregate net benefit as mandatory regulations. The optimality of investor ordering of SEC corporate regulations has important implications. First, the D.C. Circuit’s jurisprudence on cost-benefit analysis will require the SEC to consider investor ordering. In the many cases where investor ordering would be superior to mandatory regulation, were the SEC to nevertheless implement a mandatory regulation, it would be susceptible to invalidation by the D.C. Circuit under the Administrative Procedure Act. Second, investor ordering substantially reduces the burden of the D.C. Circuit’s recent requirements for SEC cost-benefit analysis. This reduces the overall cost of SEC rule making, or permits the SEC to promulgate more regulations on its fixed budget. It also sidesteps the considerable academic debate about the value of cost-benefit analysis for corporate regulations. Third, investor ordering reduces the need for retrospective analysis. To the extent retrospective analysis remains necessary, investor ordering makes it more straightforward, and also permits lower-cost regulatory experimentation. Investor ordering therefore allows for a more dynamic regulatory system. These benefits mean that the SEC should implement investor ordering as its default approach for new corporate regulations, and for deregulating existing regulations. The paper considers a number of promising candidates for investor ordering among potential and proposed SEC regulations, and for deregulation of contentious existing SEC regulations. Investor ordering also has important implications for state corporation laws and for federal legislation.
Scott Hirst, Universal Proxies, 35 Yale J. on Reg. (forthcoming June 2018).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Securities Law & Regulation
,
Corporate Law
Type: Article
Abstract
Contested director elections are a central feature of the corporate landscape, and underlie shareholder activism. Shareholders vote by unilateral proxies, which prevent them from “mixing and matching” among nominees from either side. The solution is universal proxies. The Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed a universal proxy rule, which has been the subject of heated debate and conflicting claims. This paper provides the first empirical analysis of universal proxies, allowing evaluation of these claims. The paper’s analysis shows that unilateral proxies can lead to distorted proxy contest outcomes, which disenfranchise shareholders. By removing these distortions, universal proxies would improve corporate suffrage. Empirical analysis shows that distorted proxy contests are a significant problem: 12% of proxy contests at large U.S. corporations between 2008 and 2015 can be expected to have had distorted outcomes, with as many as 22% of contests possibly distorted. Contrary to the claims of most commentators, removing distortions can most often be expected to favor management nominees, by a significant margin (9% of contests, versus 3% for dissident nominees). A universal proxy rule is therefore unlikely to lead to more proxy contests, or to greater success by special interest groups. Given that the arguments made against a universal proxy rule are not valid, the SEC should implement proxy regulation. A rule permitting corporations to opt-out of universal proxies would be superior to the SEC’s proposed mandatory rule. If the SEC chooses not to implement a universal proxy regulation, investors could implement universal proxies through private ordering to adopt “nominee consent policies.”
Scott Hirst, Social Responsibility Resolutions, 43 J. Corp. L. (forthcoming Dec. 2017).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Shareholders
,
Corporate Governance
Type: Article
Abstract
Shareholders exert significant influence on the social and environmental behavior of U.S. corporations through their votes on social responsibility resolutions. However, the outcomes of many social responsibility resolutions are distorted, because the largest shareholders – institutional investors, such as mutual funds and pension funds – often do not follow the interests or the preferences of their own investors. This paper presents evidence that institutions with similar investors and identical fiduciary duties vote very differently on social responsibility resolutions, suggesting that some institutional votes distort the interests of their investors. Other evidence presented suggests that institutional votes on social responsibility resolutions vary significantly from the preferences of their own investors. Whether such distortion of preferences is a problem is an open question. If such distortion is considered to be a problem, it could be addressed by institutions changing their voting policies on social responsibility resolutions to better approximate the preferences of their investors. The stakes are high: eliminating distortion could significantly influence the behavior of corporations on social and environmental matters in a way that investors, and society, would prefer.
Lucian A. Bebchuk, Alma Cohen & Scott Hirst, The Agency Problems of Institutional Investors (June 1, 2017).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Shareholders
,
Corporate Governance
Type: Other
Abstract
We analyze how the rise of institutional investors has transformed the governance landscape. While corporate ownership is now concentrated in the hands of institutional investors that can exercise stewardship of those corporations that would be impossible for dispersed shareholders, the investment managers of these institutional investors have agency problems vis-à-vis their own investors. We develop an analytical framework for examining these agency problems and apply it to study several key types of investment managers. We analyze how the investment managers of mutual funds - both index funds and actively managed funds - have incentives to under-spend on stewardship and to side excessively with managers of corporations. We show that these incentives are especially acute for managers of index funds, and that the rise of such funds has system-wide adverse consequences for corporate governance. Activist hedge funds have substantially better incentives than managers of index funds or active mutual funds, but their activities do not provide a complete solution for the agency problems of institutional investors. Our analysis provides a framework for future work on institutional investors and their agency problems, and generates insights on a wide range of policy questions. We discuss implications for disclosure by institutional investors; regulation of their fees; stewardship codes; the rise of index investing; proxy advisors; hedge funds; wolf pack activism; and the allocation of power between corporate managers and shareholders.
Scott Hirst, Frozen Charters, 34 Yale J. on Reg. 91 (2017).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Law
,
Corporate Governance
,
Securities Law & Regulation
Type: Article
Abstract
In 2012, the New York Stock Exchange changed its policies to prevent brokers from voting shares on corporate governance proposals when they have not received instructions from beneficial owners. Although the change was intended to protect investors and improve corporate governance, it has had the opposite effect: a significant number of U.S. public companies are no longer able to amend important parts of their corporate charters, despite the support of their boards of directors and overwhelming majorities of shareholders. Their charters are frozen. This Article provides the first empirical and policy analysis of the broker voting change and its significant unintended consequences. I provide empirical evidence that the broker voting change has resulted in the failure of more than fifty charter amendments at U.S. public companies, despite board approval and overwhelming shareholder support, and that hundreds more companies have frozen charters as a result of the change. The rule change has also made it more difficult to amend corporate bylaws and given some insiders a de-facto veto in proxy voting contests. These costs substantially outweigh the negligible benefits of the broker voting change. I compare a number of solutions to address these problems and identify several that would be preferable to the current approach.
Lucian Bebchuk, Scott Hirst & June Rhee, Toward the Declassification of S&P 500 Boards, 3 Harv. Bus. L. Rev. 157 (2013).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Corporate Governance
,
Shareholders
Type: Article
Abstract
This report provides an overview and analysis of the work that the Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) undertook on behalf of a number of institutional investors during 2012 and 2013, the SRP’s first two years of operations. During 2012 and 2013, the SRP worked on behalf of eight SRP-represented investors on board declassification proposals submitted for a vote at the 2012 and/or 2013 annual meetings of 122 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies, and this work has produced substantial results: 100 Negotiated Outcomes: Negotiated outcomes involving a commitment to board declassification were reached with 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies, about three-quarters of the companies receiving proposals in 2012 and/or 2013. 58 Successful Precatory Proposals: During 2012 and 2013, declassification proposals brought by SRP-represented investors received majority support at 58 annual meetings of 53 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies (all but three of the annual meetings in which such proposals went to a vote), with average support of about 80% of votes cast. 81 Board declassifications: A total of 81 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies already declassified their boards during 2012 and 2013 as a result of the work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors. These 81 companies, which have an aggregate market capitalization exceeding one trillion dollars (as of Dec, 31, 2013), represent about 65% of the companies with which engagements took place and about 60% of the S&P 500 companies that had classified boards as of the beginning of 2012. Expected Impact by End of 2014: The work of the SRP and SRP-represented investors is expected to produce a significant number of additional board declassifications during 2014 as a result of (i) management declassification proposals that will go to a vote pursuant to 2012 and 2013 agreements, (ii) companies agreeing to follow the preferences of shareholders expressed in 58 successful precatory declassification proposals, and (iii) ongoing engagement by the SRP and SRP-represented investors. We estimate that, by the end of 2014, this work will have contributed to movements towards board declassification by about 100 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies; this large-scale change can be expected to increase board accountability and thereby to enhance shareholder value and company performance in the affected companies. Beyond Board Declassification: The SRP’s 2012 and 2013 work also facilitated a substantial increase in successful engagement by public pension funds, and in their ability to obtain governance changes favored by shareholders. The proposals that the SRP worked in 2012 and 2013 on represented over 50% of the shareholder proposals by public pension funds that received majority support in 2012 and 2013, and over 20% of all precatory shareholder proposals (by all proponents) that received majority support in 2012 and 2013. The Shareholder Rights Project (SRP) is a clinical program operating at Harvard Law School and directed by Professor Lucian Bebchuk. The SRP works on behalf of public pension funds and charitable organizations seeking to improve corporate governance at publicly traded companies, as well as on research and policy projects related to corporate governance. Any views expressed and positions taken by the SRP and its representatives should be attributed solely to the SRP and not to Harvard Law School or Harvard University.
Lucian A. Bebchuk & Scott Hirst, Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate, 65 Bus. Law. 329 (2010).
Categories:
Corporate Law & Securities
Sub-Categories:
Shareholders
,
Corporate Law
,
Corporate Governance
,
Securities Law & Regulation
Type: Article