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John Coates

  • Are Index Funds Making the Economy Less Fair?

    September 12, 2023

    Bit by bit, financial interests concentrated again. In the 21st century, the old trusts appear to be back, but in different garb. It’s a far…

  • The ‘Problem of Twelve’ — redux

    August 24, 2023

    Last summer Alphaville wrote a list of the dozen most powerful people of the investment world, inspired by a paper written by Harvard University’s John

  • Still image from the movie Wall Street.

    Harvard Law professor explains why private equity and index funds need reform

    August 24, 2023

    In "The Problem of Twelve," John Coates argues that a small number of large financial institutions increasingly pose a threat to American democracy and to themselves.

  • Are index funds getting too powerful?

    August 7, 2023

    Index funds are a very popular way of investing across the stock market. “The top four index funds alone – State Street, Vanguard, BlackRock and…

  • Sunglasses on top of a stack of books at the beach

    Summer 2023 Harvard Law faculty reading recommendations

    June 13, 2023

    Looking for a summer book recommendation? Check out what these members of the Harvard Law School faculty plan to read — and listen to — this summer.

  • Why the Right Invented a Conservative Right to Post

    December 9, 2022

    Early december might have marked the first time anyone ever asserted a First Amendment right to see the president’s son’s penis, an argument that the…

  • The INDEX Act: A challenge to the voting influence of institutional investors that may yield unintended consequences

    November 4, 2022

    The Act’s supporters say it would shift voting power from large investment advisers to individual investors, but the reality could be far more complex. In…

  • Co-founder of Trump’s media company details Truth Social’s bitter infighting

    October 17, 2022

    Will Wilkerson, then an executive at former president Donald Trump’s start-up Trump Media & Technology Group, was at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., coffee shop with…

  • VC Law: Episode 7: Discussing M&A Deals with John Coates

    October 14, 2022

    Host Gary J. Ross discusses mergers and acquisitions with John Coates, Professor of Law and Economics at Harvard Law School, former partner at Wachtell Lipton,…

  • SEC Struggles to Stem Staff Losses as Disclosure Workload Grows

    October 4, 2022

    The SEC is down dozens of officials to scrutinize and regulate companies’ climate disclosures and other corporate reporting, as they grapple with a years-old staff…

  • SEC Deals a Big Blow to SPACs

    March 31, 2022

    The hype around special purpose acquisition companies — and the investor losses that have resulted since the SPAC boom began to fizzle a year ago — has led the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue harsh new SPAC rules and amendments that go beyond what many originally envisioned. The changes are so onerous that Hester Peirce, the lone commissioner who opposed them, said in a hearing Wednesday that they “seem designed to stop SPACs in their tracks.” (Peirce is the only Republican commissioner at the SEC.) ... This change addresses the criticism of SPACs being able to make overly optimistic forward-looking statements in a deSPAC because they are entitled to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Act — something IPOs do not have. Last year, the SEC’s acting director of the division of corporation finance, John Coates, indicated that the SEC was prepared to challenge those protections.

  • Law Schools Launch Effort To Track Firms’ Russia Pledges

    March 22, 2022

    Yale, Harvard and Stanford's law schools have joined forces on an initiative to keep track of large law firms' pledges surrounding their work for Russian entities, as they look to spotlight how the legal industry is responding to the Kremlin's bloody war in Ukraine. In the weeks since Russia's military invasion, at least 25 major international law firms have announced they will exit the country. But the project launched by the law schools on Wednesday claimed that, while those departures are a good first step, they are possibly misleading. ..."We saw active, clear and rapid exits from a large number of U.S. companies, but much less clarity from U.S. law firms," [John Coates] said in an email. "Those who support a war-mongering dictator ought to pay a heavy financial and reputational price. I hope our efforts can increase the likelihood that 'ought' is real."

  • Uncertainty, Activism And SPACs Top Of Mind For M&A Attys

    March 22, 2022

    Regulatory uncertainty dampening the deals environment, new rules changing the shareholder activism playbook, and special purpose acquisition company mergers underperforming expectations were among the hot topics at Tulane University Law School's 34th annual Corporate Law Institute. ... John Coates, a Harvard Law School professor and former official at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, hammered home how uncertain the state of the world is, saying the situation in Ukraine represents an existential threat to global M&A health.

  • GC Cheat Sheet: The Hottest Corporate News Of The Week

    March 21, 2022

    Investors so far this year have filed a record 529 environmental, social and governance resolutions, and well-known companies including Goldman Sachs, Disney and Walmart received an "F" grade on pay gaps in a new report. These are some of the stories in corporate legal news you may have missed in the past week. John Coates, who last year spent time as general counsel for the SEC and acting director of its Division of Corporation Finance, discussed a range of topics during his appearance on the first day of the Tulane University Law School's 34th annual Corporate Law Institute. Although the conference was held in person this year following an entirely virtual event in 2021, Coates — a former partner at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz — was one of a few speakers who attended virtually. Coates warned during his speech that Russia's invasion of Ukraine could be a harbinger for further deterioration of business relationships across borders, especially with adversaries like China. "Globalization has been so powerful and basic for most of our practicing lives that it's taken for granted," he said. "We're at a point right now where there is real danger of that reversing to a significant extent."

  • Harvard, Stanford, Yale Law project monitors law firms’ Russia pledges

    March 18, 2022

    The top three U.S. law schools have joined forces to track law firms' policies on working for Russian clients in the wake of that country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, accusing some of "splitting hairs about which clients they will avoid." Law professors at Stanford, Yale, and Harvard categorized statements by major U.S. and U.K. law firms regarding their Moscow offices and Russia-related work, calling on them to fully cut ties with the Kremlin, state-owned or controlled firms, and sanctioned entities and people. ... Harvard law professor John Coates said Thursday that researchers hope to expand the scope of the list and to monitor whether firms are living up to their commitments. Such a policing effort would be extremely difficult, however, since many law firm-client relationships are not public.

  • Ex-SEC Official Urges Regulators To Counter SPAC ‘Myths’

    March 14, 2022

    Harvard Law School professor and former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official John Coates wants regulators to be more forthright in debunking legal myths that he argues contributed to the boom in special purpose acquisition companies. Coates told Law360 in an interview that regulators should be "more aggressive" in countering myths that he believes SPAC industry promoters and their advisers have circulated that make SPACs appear more legally advantageous than is justified.

  • Investors warned against taking ‘lottery ticket’ approach to SPACs

    February 22, 2022

    CFOs aiming to take their companies public by merging with a SPAC have more choices of partners than ever before. As of today, 602 SPACs are searching for companies to combine with in an initial public offering, according to SPACInsider. “Investors should be aware that competition is fierce,” the CFA Institute said. SPACs in 2021 brought to market a record 613 offerings and raised more than $162 billion, a total exceeding all previous years combined, SPACInsider data show. The pace has recently slowed, with just 41 SPAC IPOs so far this year. ... SPACs pose several hazards to investors, according to John Coates, acting director of the SEC’s Corporation Finance Division from February until October 2021.

  • SPAC industry promotes myths in a ‘deep fraud,’ former SEC official says

    February 3, 2022

    Several ‘myths’ about the legal underpinnings for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have influenced the perceived costs, benefits and risks of the so-called blank-check companies and distorted capital markets, according to John Coates, acting director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Corporation Finance Division from February until October 2021.