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How External Whistleblower Rewards Affect Internal Reporting

Does paying employees for blowing the whistle on corporate crime to regulators discourage internal reporting and undermine corporate governance? The answer is not as simple as it might seem. My research shows that, as the amount of reward increases, the probability of internal reporting rises at first but then falls.

The question has been discussed in countries that have introduced or contemplated the introduction of legislation to reward whistleblowers but has not yet been fully analyzed. One of the overlooked obstacles is that the standard of proof for external whistleblowing cases is higher than for cases of internal reporting, and … Read more

SEC’s Jackson Calls for Curbing Executives’ Ability to Cash Out on Buybacks

Thank you so much, Neera [Tanden], for that very kind introduction. I’ve long admired all that you and everyone here at the Center for American Progress do to promote a progressive economic agenda. And I share your commitment to making sure our markets are safe and efficient—and fair for all Americans. So it’s a real honor to be with you here today.[1]

I also want to thank my friend Andy Green, who in addition to being Managing Director of Economic Policy here at CAP, has been a critical source of wisdom for me since my swearing in at the

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Cleary Gottlieb Discusses New Law Revising Dodd-Frank Act

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the “Act”), which became law on May 24, contains the first major package of revisions to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.  The Act leaves the architecture and core features of Dodd-Frank intact but significantly recalibrates applicability thresholds.  While the changes mandated by the Act are significant, it also places significant discretion for further changes in the hands of the Federal Reserve Board.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Act on bipartisan votes.  The Chairman of the House Financial Services … Read more

Did Dodd-Frank Help Reduce Systemic Risk?

In response to the 2008 financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) was enacted on July 21, 2010 to overhaul the U.S. financial regulatory system. Dodd-Frank contains 390 rulemaking requirements, of which 274 (70.3 percent) were satisfied as of July 2016.[1] Although implementation has been slow, Dodd-Frank has wrought many changes in the financial system. One of the most visible is the increased levels of capital at bank holding companies (BHCs).

The common equity tier 1 ratio of the 31 large and interconnected BHCs decreased from 7.07 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005 … Read more

Whistleblower Provisions of Dodd-Frank Deter Aggressive Financial Reporting

In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) introduced a Whistleblower (WB) program as part of the Dodd-Frank Act to protect investors through greater deterrence of securities law violations and more effective enforcement. The program offers financial incentives to provide original information that leads to a successful enforcement action. SEC officials have called the program a “game changer,” improving their ability to detect illegal conduct and speed investigations with fewer resources.[1] Since the program’s introduction, the SEC has received over 18,000 tips, with the highest number coming in three categories: corporate disclosures and financials (financial reporting fraud); Ponzi schemes … Read more

K&L Gates Discusses the Dodd-Frank Reform Endgame

Early 2018 will likely see the most significant progress on reforming the Dodd-Frank Act (“DFA”) since its passage in 2010 thanks to four key efforts: the Financial CHOICE Act and activity in the House Financial Services Committee, an appropriations effort, President Trump’s executive actions, and bipartisan legislation in the Senate.

The Reform Efforts

Last June, the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) passed the House of Representatives by a party line vote of 233–186. This moved the bill to the Senate, where it would have required 60 votes for passage. At that time, the Senate had 52 Republicans and … Read more

Financial Reporting Choices of Large Private Firms

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of firms opting to either forgo the public equity market or exit the market in favor of private financing.[1] Increasingly, financing for private firms comes from private funds, such as private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds. In 2015, private funds owned stakes in over 7,500 firms and had over $4 trillion in capital under management.[2] This amounts to a significant portion of the overall economy relative to the total U.S. market capitalization of $25 trillion.[3]

As the privately-held sector of the economy grows, the financial … Read more

Does Local Supervision Affect Banks’ Risk Taking?

An often-over-looked aspect of regulation is how agencies are organized. Regulatory agencies for many industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals, mining, and agriculture, rely on a mix of centralized decision-making and delegated monitoring. For instance, in the case of banking, federal agencies design regulations in Washington, D.C. but monitor banks at the local level by utilizing semi-autonomous field offices.

A major advantage of this dispersed presence is that it allows local examiners and supervisors to interact with regulated firms more frequently and to collect “soft information” about firms’ performance that is often imperfectly captured through accounting-based reporting measures. The approach may, however, … Read more

Too Big to Fail: Measures, Remedies, and Consequences for Efficiency and Stability

Bank failure was almost unthinkable in Europe long before “too big to fail” became a byword for U.S. regulatory policy on big banks. But the 2007−2009 global financial crisis, which for some countries grew to a full-blown crisis, made the unthinkable a real possibility.

U.S. and EU regulators were responsible for much of the increase in bank size and concentration over the previous three decades, and the crisis forced them not only to contemplate allowing banks to fail, but to plan for banks’ orderly demise. To that end, they have proposed and implemented remedies for the too-big-to-fail, or TBTF, problem. … Read more

Do Corporate Whistleblower Laws Deter Accounting Fraud?

Whistleblowers play a significant role in detecting corporate fraud. For example, recent high-profile financial frauds such as the Enron scandal and Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme were brought to light by whistleblowers. To encourage more whistleblowers to come forward, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) implemented in 2011 the Dodd-Frank whistleblower program, which provides enhanced protection and financial rewards to whistleblowers. According to the program’s 2016 annual report, the SEC received over 4,200 tips for the fiscal year 2016 and has awarded more than $111 million to 34 whistleblowers since the inception of this program.[1] In a recent paper, I … Read more

The Case Against Activity-Based Financial Regulation

An October 2017 Treasury Department report on the asset management and insurance industries includes an important—and fundamentally flawed—recommendation that could change the way U.S. regulators monitor risk in the financial system.  The Treasury report recommends that regulators focus on identifying and overseeing potentially risky financial activities rather than systemic firms like AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns.

This proposal, long favored by the insurance sector, would represent a sharp departure from U.S. and global regulators’ approach to systemic risk since the financial crisis.  When Congress created the Financial Stability Oversight Council as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, it gave the … Read more

Arnold & Porter Discusses SEC’s Pay Ratio Guidance

Item 402(u) of Regulation S-K was adopted in 2015 to implement the pay ratio disclosure provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and will require pay ratio disclosure with respect to the first fiscal year beginning on or after January 1, 2017 (i.e., such disclosure will be required during the 2018 proxy season)[1]. The required disclosures consist of the total compensation of the registrant’s principal executive officer, the median total compensation of the registrant’s employees other than its principal executive officer, and the ratio of the first of these amounts to the second.

One … Read more

Skadden Discusses Potential Impacts of the Financial CHOICE Act

On June 8, 2017, the House of Representatives passed, by a 233-186 vote (with all Democrats and one Republican voting against), the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, a bill principally designed to reverse many features of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank). The House Financial Services Committee majority has provided both an executive summary and a comprehensive summary of the current bill. It is unclear at this time what action the U.S. Senate will take with regard to the bill in its current form.

While the vast majority of the bill relates to the … Read more

The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017: Will Collective Amnesia Triumph?

Notwithstanding decidedly hostile testimony last month from this humble columnist,[1] the U.S. House of Representatives will soon pass legislation (probably on a strict party-line basis) entitled, “The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017” (H.R. 10) (which acronym stands for “Creating Hope and Optimism for Investors, Corporations, and Entrepreneurs”).  Despite this cutesy and innocuous title, the CHOICE Act proposes dangerous and radical surgery that would gut those provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that seek to prevent the failure of a single major bank from setting off a chain reaction that could bring down all interconnected banks.  Indeed, the Act reads as … Read more

Corporate Governance, Shareholder Proposals, and Engagement Between Managers and Owners

Tucked into the Financial Choice Act (FCA), the recent endeavor in the House of Representatives to overturn significant segments of the Dodd-Frank Act, was an entirely unrelated provision. Section 844 of the FCA proposed a number of changes to Rule 14a-8,[1] including tougher eligibility standards. To submit a proposal, shareholders would have to own at least 1 percent of a company’s outstanding voting shares continuously for three years.[2] Instead of holding around 15 shares of Apple for 12 months, the proposed standards would require something closer to 5 million shares for 36 months. Instead of acquiring $2000 worth … Read more

The FSOC’s Off-Ramp for the Systemically Important Financial Firm

Attacks on the authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) to designate non-bank financial firms as systemically important, and thus subject to the Fed’s oversight, are misguided. [1] Such authority is essential to the long-term maintenance of financial stability, because financial intermediation will increasingly move outside the current regulatory perimeter. The most effective way for FSOC to use designation authority, however, is prospectively: to negotiate size and regulatory constraints with firms to avoid designation, because the optimal number of additional systemic firms is zero.

Historically, financial crises have been of two general types: foreign exchange and domestic banking. A … Read more

The CHOICE Act Is a Bad Choice for Financial Reform

We may stand at the threshold (or is it precipice?) of repeal of important parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“the Dodd-Frank Act”) in the House of Representatives.  (Prospects for repeal in the Senate seem much dimmer.)  At the time of its enactment in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act was regarded as the most important financial reform legislation since the time of the Great Depression.  Now, scarcely seven years after its enactment, significant elements of the Dodd-Frank Act are targeted by the Republicans in the House of Representatives for outright repeal or significant modification in the … Read more

The SEC as Financial Stability Regulator

The Financial Stability Oversight Council is the only regulatory body in the United States with an express mandate to “identify risks to the financial stability of the United States” and to “respond to emerging threats to the stability of the United States financial system.” But the FSOC is not a stand-alone agency; rather it is a council of regulators, lacking sufficient staff or resources to operate on its own.  To function, the FSOC must leverage the expertise of its component agencies – including the Securities and Exchange Commission.

There have been several subtle (and not-so-subtle) tugs-of-war between the FSOC and … Read more

Proskauer Rose Discusses the SEC’s Extraterritorial Reach

A federal court in Utah recently held that the Securities and Exchange Commission may bring an enforcement action based on allegedly foreign securities transactions involving non-U.S. residents if sufficient conduct occurred in the United States.

The March 28, 2017 ruling in SEC v. Traffic Monsoon, LLC (D. Utah) appears to be the first decision squarely resolving whether the Dodd-Frank Act succeeded in allowing the Government to pursue such claims. The court recognized that the Act’s grant of “jurisdiction” to federal courts over enforcement actions relating to non-U.S. securities transactions had inartfully responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Morrison v. Read more