“What does Sarbanes-Oxley mean? That’s when two members of U.S. Congress fiddle and half a million accountants in Europe start dancing.”
President Donald Trump pledged during his electoral campaign to repeal some of the reforms that came about after the 2008 financial crisis, including the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, declaring that the coming administration would seek to remake the way the U.S. oversees the financial sector. This has led some commenters to go even further back in time and call for the repeal of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (‘Sarbanes-Oxley”).
Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted by … Read more
While a major overhaul of U.S. financial regulation may be unlikely during the early months of the Trump administration, changes should be expected as his nominees to lead the Treasury Department and financial regulatory agencies are confirmed. This will be the biggest turnover in regulatory leadership since the passage in 2010 of the Dodd-Frank Act, and it may also prove to be a test for Basel III, the macro-prudential policy framework created by the G20 countries in response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
Dodd-Frank, which has not been fully implemented, is the legislative vehicle for U.S. integration of Basel III … Read more
Regulation Fair Disclosure (Regulation FD), implemented in 2000, prohibits U.S. public companies from disclosing non-public information selectively. Section 100(b)(2)(iii) of the regulation, however, allowed issuers to disclose non-public information to credit rating agencies (CRAs) for the purpose of determining or monitoring credit ratings, as long as the ratings were publicly disclosed. Section 939B of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act or the Act) removed this exemption from Regulation FD, as part of a major regulatory reform of the credit rating industry, following the financial crisis of 2008. This revision to Regulation FD seems … Read more
In recent years, policymakers have struggled with the question of how to prevent bank failures. The Dodd-Frank Act offers one answer, calling for stress tests that examine through economic models how banks of a certain size would react to a bad turn of economic events, such as negative interest rates. The 2016 stress tests, for example, required banks to consider their preparedness for negative U.S. short-term Treasury rates and major losses to their corporate and commercial real estate lending portfolios. A failed stress test raises red flags about whether a bank has enough capital to stay solvent in a … Read more
The latest chapter in the saga of resolution planning under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) unfolded in December 2016 when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve Board”) released their assessments of the October 2016 resolution plan submissions made by five systemically important U.S. banking institutions. The October submissions were in response to FDIC and Federal Reserve Board determinations in April 2016 that identified deficiencies in the five institutions’ July 2015 resolution plans. In their December assessments, the FDIC … Read more
On December 27, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Bandimere v. S.E.C. found that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) use of administrative law judges (“ALJs”) violated the U.S. Constitution. While the court’s opinion relies on a somewhat arcane question of administrative law—whether the hiring of SEC ALJs must comply with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution—its decision to set aside an SEC order imposing sanctions for securities laws violations raises significant questions about future SEC claims brought before ALJs rather than in federal courts, as well as prior adjudications. With the D.C. Circuit … Read more
How will derivatives regulation change in the Trump Administration? During the campaign and since the election, President-elect Trump and his advisors, as well as key Congressional Republicans and other market participants, have suggested that aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), should be rolled back, or even repealed outright. Derivatives regulation, however, has not been the focus of much of the discussion around financial regulation more generally, and some market participants have suggested that it would not necessarily be feasible or desirable to roll back the Dodd-Frank reforms completely. It will likely be some time … Read more
Many expect Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president and Republican majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress will result in a revised financial regulatory framework. Preliminary indications from the Trump transition team have signaled substantial changes may be in the offing, although the exact contours of these changes remain unclear. In this Client Update, we review the potential financial regulatory changes that may take place in the legislative, regulatory and international areas. We focus on issues relevant for the banking industry, capital markets and Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) enforcement.
We will continue to monitor developments in these areas … Read more
The fiduciary standards for institutions and individuals providing investment advice throughout the retail investment and municipal securities markets are currently undergoing significant change. Following on the heels of the issuance of a final Department of Labor (the “DOL”) fiduciary rule is the pending effectiveness of new fiduciary standards for municipal advisors, and the expected release of a proposed uniform fiduciary standard for investment advisers and broker-dealers by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, along with a Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, … Read more
Title II of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) represents a singular development in U.S. resolution law. It provides a new regime, the so-called Orderly Liquidation Authority, for use in the event that a systemically important U.S. financial company encounters severe financial distress. Like other provisions in the Dodd‑Frank Act, Title II was designed as a response to perceived inadequacies in U.S. legal and regulatory regimes during the financial crisis. Title II is intended to be available as an alternative to and substitute for a bankruptcy process, because a bankruptcy process was seen … Read more
With Congress and the Presidency soon in Republican control, look for the Financial CHOICE Act (or perhaps an enhanced version) to be re-introduced in the next Congress. The bill, sponsored by Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, was framed as a Republican proposal to reform the financial regulatory system necessary to undo the burdens of Dodd-Frank, which were characterized as distractions from the SEC’s basic statutory responsibilities. In addition to taking aim at much of Dodd-Frank, among other things, the bill places a heavier burden on proxy advisory firms, regulators and regulations generally and eases some other … Read more
Attempts by U.S. federal officials to regulate corporate governance have been criticized by prominent scholars as “quackery.” Major reforms like Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank may in fact do far more harm than good. But what if these efforts at healing our financial system are more than just poorly designed and executed? What if, instead, they are achieving precisely what they were designed to achieve? What if they were designed not by quacks but by bootleggers?
In 1999, Bruce Yandle, emeritus dean and professor of economics at Clemson University, proposed a public-choice economics version of the old saying, “politics makes strange … Read more
In the approaching Era of Trump, we are likely to see much deregulation, reduced public enforcement, and possibly some curbs on private enforcement. Corporate compliance efforts may also be downsized, and compliance officials may learn again to defer to the judgment of the entrepreneurs in the corporation’s profit centers. If a bubble develops in financial stocks (as seems more than possible), some corporate debacles and scandals become predictable. What defenses do shareholders have in this brave new world?
Here, Wells Fargo & Co’s decision to claw back a record $60 million from two senior executives ($41 million from CEO John … Read more
Prior to the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession, global banks were big, broad and borderless. They operated as integrated groups. Separate legal entities within a group were an afterthought: The results that mattered were those for lines of business and for the group as a whole. Global banks were also considered good for growth, facilitating the allocation of capital to its most efficient uses.
The financial crisis changed that judgment. Governments bailed out global banks, and global banks came to be seen as a source of instability. Consequently, in 2009, G-20 leaders mandated officials to devise a new … Read more
The staff of the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued new guidance on the SEC’s rules requiring companies to disclose the pay ratio between their CEO and median compensated employee. The staff’s new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (the C&DIs) provide helpful clarity on how to determine the relevant employee population and the median employee for purposes of the ratio, although questions remain.
In August 2015, pursuant to Section 953(b) of the Dodd Frank Act, the SEC adopted the CEO pay ratio rules (the Rules), which added a new Item 402(u) of Regulation … Read more
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB” or “Bureau”) made headlines in FinTech on October 24, 2016. First, the Bureau released its first-ever Project Catalyst report on promoting consumer-friendly innovation (the “Report”). The Report summarizes the work conducted by Project Catalyst to date and sets forth in broad strokes some of the financial innovations that the CFPB is encouraging. While the Report does not represent new policy, it provides a helpful glimpse into the key developments in financial services that the Bureau is encouraging or monitoring.
On the same day, Director Richard Cordray addressed Money 20/20 in Las Vegas, Nevada, … Read more
There is an increasing worldwide focus on trying to end the problem of “too big to fail” (“TBTF”). Regulators are concerned that systemically important financial firms might engage in excessive risk-taking because they would profit from a success and be bailed out by the government in case of a failure. This is primarily a problem of moral hazard, that persons protected from the negative consequences of their risky actions will be more tempted to take more risks.
My new article, available here, argues that, contrary to accepted regulatory wisdom, the problem is exaggerated. The central evil of TBTF is … Read more
The latest Wells Fargo bank scandal has rekindled debates about breaking up banks that are too big to fail, too big to manage or too big to comply.
Echoing the debate between Louis Brandeis and Teddy Roosevelt in the Progressive Era, politicians propose either to break up our huge banks — as Brandeis advocated — or to regulate them, which was Roosevelt’s position. Most Republican presidential primary candidates argued that, while the Dodd-Frank financial reform law overregulates small community banks, the law did not go far enough to eliminate the threat that the huge banks are too big to fail … Read more
On October 11, 2016, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) is “unconstitutionally structured” because its authority is vested in a single appointee who can be removed by the President only for cause. To remedy this constitutional flaw, the Court severed the unconstitutional “for-cause” provision in the legislation (Dodd-Frank) that created the CFPB. “As a result, the CFPB now will operate as an executive agency. The President of the United States now has the power to supervise and direct the Director of the CFPB, and may … Read more