In my article The Arbitration Bootstrap, I explain how courts are misinterpreting the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 (the FAA) in ways that allow firms to use arbitration clauses to render unenforceable contract terms enforceable. Arbitration clauses require consumers and employees to waive their rights to bring litigation in court. Although arbitration is less protective of consumers and employees than litigation in public courts, arbitration clauses are unavoidable in many markets because firms impose contracts of adhesion that include mandatory arbitration clauses.
Arbitration bootstrapping describes situations where firms insert terms unrelated to arbitration into an arbitration clause because … Read more
Following the 2008 financial crisis, more and more countries have begun to embrace whistleblower protections as a tool to change corporate cultures. Such provisions may give whistleblowers the protections they need to raise their voices, and draw attention to undesired and sometimes even illegal activities, in situations when they would otherwise remain silent. After all, many people will hesitate to point out questionable conduct if they know they might face retaliation.
In the United States, Congress authorized the SEC to go further than other whistleblower provisions by authorizing a bounty program—allowing the SEC to reward whistleblowers for particularly valuable tips. … Read more
On May 5, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) proposed a rule that would govern two aspects of consumer finance dispute resolution. First, the new regulations would prohibit providers of certain consumer financial products and services from including in their contracts arbitration clauses that prohibit class action lawsuits. Second, covered providers involved in an arbitration pursuant to a pre-dispute arbitration agreement would be required to submit specified arbitral records to the CFPB. If the proposed rule becomes final, it will significantly impact the current industry practice of including arbitration clauses with class action waivers in these types of contracts, … Read more
On May 23, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a $1.3 billion civil penalty imposed against Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., Bank of America, N.A., and related defendants (collectively, “Countrywide”) under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”). Although the decision rebuffed the government’s case against Countrywide, it did not address the government’s novel interpretation that FIRREA permits civil penalties against financial institutions whose criminal conduct is “self-affecting.” FIRREA permits civil penalties against a defendant if it commits certain unlawful acts “affecting a federally insured financial institution.” Over a … Read more
“And we played the Hustle music. There were, you know, printed materials passed out,” with dance steps so “ideally we could all perform the Hustle in precision,” recalled the former Countrywide first vice president. “There was a lot of excitement. There was a lot of fanfare. It was fun.” He was describing events in the summer of 2007, when Countrywide decide to speed up its process for approving loans, using a program called the “High Speed Swim Lane,” or “HSSL” (or “Hustle”). The music stopped after the global financial crisis. Bank of America bought out the failing Countrywide Financial. In … Read more
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released recommendations in March for how banks and credit unions can better protect elderly customers from financial exploitation. The CFPB issued its recommendations as the elderly population continues to rapidly grow, positioning banks and credit unions for a significant increase in elder financial exploitation (EFE) attacks.
Other regulatory bodies have taken notice of this growing threat as well and are putting forth regulations and guidance of their own. For example, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) last year proposed a regulation requiring broker-dealers to take action in response to suspected EFE.
EFE is … Read more
EU financial policymakers appear to be once more in a deadlock situation over proposals to limit the sovereign risk exposure of European banks. The strong exposure of some banks in the southern European periphery in their national sovereign’s debt was seen by many as one of the contributing factors to the ongoing sovereign debt crisis (Acharya et al. 2014, Beltratti & Stulz 2015; Brunnermeier et al. 2016). Powerful incentives have encouraged financial institutions to buy and hold government bonds in the past (Gros 2013). In fact, this was the intellectual background for the policy framework known as the Banking Union, … Read more
Since the Volkswagen story first broke in September 2015, most observers have just scratched their heads and muttered to themselves in amazement: “What were they thinking? How could you place ‘defeat devices’ in 11 million cars worldwide and expect that you were going to escape detection for long?” There is, however, an answer to this question—one that says much about what is wrong with current priorities and practices for the enforcement of white collar crime. This column begins with an assessment of the Volkswagen case and then turns to an analysis of white collar crime strategies. Finally, it proposes remedies … Read more
On April 21, 2016, the National Credit Union Administration (the NCUA) issued a proposed rule regarding incentive-based compensation paid by certain financial institutions (the Proposed Rule) to implement Section 956 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Section 956).1 Section 956 requires various Federal agencies to issue regulations that limit certain incentive compensation practices at financial institutions. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the FDIC) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the FHFA) released their respective versions of the proposed rule on April 26, 2016, and the … Read more
One down, three to go: SEC rulemaking is heating up.
Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized business conduct standards for security-based swap dealers (SBSDs). The completion of this rule by the SEC is significant because few security-based swap (SBS) rules have been finalized as compared to the numerous rules completed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) that govern other types of swaps. These business conduct standards represent the first of four rulemakings that must be finalized before SBSDs will have to register with the SEC.
The SEC’s rule will impact how SBSDs communicate … Read more
On Monday, LendingClub Corp., a leader in the growing online lending space, announced the surprise resignation of its founder and CEO, Renaud Laplanche. Laplanche resigned in response to a board investigation that revealed a number of internal control failures, including the sale of more than $20 million in loans that failed to conform to the requirements imposed by the acquiring investors and the doctoring of dates on loan applications to cover up noncompliance with respect to $3 million in loans sold. These developments triggered a massive decline in LendingClub’s stock price, but also contribute to a growing cacophony of questions … Read more
The work of Columbia Law School Professor Kate Judge appears in the list of twelve best corporate and securities law articles in 2015, based on a poll conducted by the Corporate Practice Commentator. Teachers in corporate and securities law were asked to select the best corporate and securities articles from a list of articles published and indexed in legal journals during 2015. More than 540 articles were on the list. Professor Judge was selected for her article Intermediary Influence appearing in the University of Chicago Law Review.… Read more
Last week, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (Basel) proposed floors and other constraints on the use of internal models for calculating credit risk capital. The proposal aims to reduce complexity and variation in the calculation of regulatory capital among banking institutions, thus improving comparability. To that end, the proposal generally discourages (and in some instances prohibits) the use of internal ratings-based (IRB) approaches in calculating risk weighted assets (RWA) related to credit risk. The proposal’s objective is consistent with Basel’s other recent issuances, i.e., the re-proposed standardized approach for credit risk (issued last December),1 revised final capital requirements … Read more
Congress expanded the SEC’s ability to pursue enforcement actions in administrative proceedings in the Dodd Frank Act, bringing the agency’s use of proceedings before its own administrative law judges (ALJs) into the spotlight. A number of respondents have challenged the constitutionality of these proceedings, relying principally on arguments arising out of the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. Those disputes are currently being played out both before the SEC and in the courts, but they are unlikely to be a long-term obstacle to the SEC’s use of administrative proceedings.
In our article, The SEC’s Shift to Administrative Proceedings: An Empirical Assessment… Read more
The ‘Twin Peaks’ method of financial system regulation is widely regarded as the leading model for the regulation of a country’s financial system. Australia was the first to adopt the model in 1997, has been using it the longest, and fared the best among the G20 during the global financial crisis. As a result, Australia’s Twin Peaks model is being exported around the globe.
The model was first proposed by an Englishman, Dr Michael Taylor, in 1994. So-called because it proposes two, specialist, mega-regulators: one charged with the maintenance of financial system stability (ensuring banks don’t end-up bankrupt), and … Read more
Columbia Law School is looking for an Editor-at-Large to oversee and administer the Columbia Law School Blue Sky Blog. The Blog, now completing its third year, has grown rapidly and become one of the most read sources of current information and opinion on corporate law, securities law, and financial regulatory issues, including white collar crime, enforcement, antitrust, restructuring and kindred topics. The Blog’s content presents legal developments and insights from a range of sources, including practitioners, academics and regulatory bodies. A new post is generally published at least once every weekday and the Blog also highlights important news developments in … Read more
Herd behavior is a widely used notion met in different contexts and disciplines, from neurology and zoology to sociology, psychology, economics and finance. In economics and finance the term herd behavior usually suggests the process where agents tend to imitate each other’s actions and/or base their decisions upon the actions of others. This behavior may not always indicate irrational agents. For instance, market participants may infer information from actions of previous participants, investors may react to the arrival of fundamental information or analysts and institutional investors may herd in order to protect their reputation. For example, Bikhchandani and Sharma (2001) … Read more
With the passage of Section 929P(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, the SEC saw the largest expansion of its administrative enforcement power to date. Prior to that, SEC administrative proceedings were limited to obtaining an order enjoining violations of the Exchange Act. Section 929P(a) amended this, authorizing the SEC to seek civil monetary penalties from “any person” in an administrative hearing.
While the SEC still brings a majority of its cases in federal courts—roughly 63 percent this fiscal year through June—a growing proportion of cases have been tried in its internal administrative tribunals, a trend the agency … Read more
Many would describe the era we are living in as a “startup bubble.” Not only has the number of startup companies increased dramatically, but many startups have also achieved record-breaking valuations. Alibaba, an e-commerce site, recently went public at a valuation of $21 billion, while Facebook’s IPO raised $16 billion. Yet experts say that 90% of startups fail, and even startups that do succeed often do so only after many years.
Many early startups don’t have enough capital to pay market rate salaries. To incentivize employees, many startup businesses give their employee “options” to receive shares in … Read more