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Long-Run Short Selling

On December 3, 2019, Japan’s Government Pension Fund (GPIF) announced that it would suspend share lending to short sellers.  This is the latest development in a growing global regulatory skepticism of shorting, with Reuters recently reporting that short selling bans are under consideration in South Korea, Germany, France, Italy, and Turkey.  Prominent short activists have characterized these regulatory efforts as a “war on truth,” calling themselves modern-day Davids fighting corporate Goliaths, powerful companies who commandeer protectionist instincts to shield local industry from legitimate criticism.

To be sure, a large academic literature has found that short selling improves price Read more

SEC Commissioner Speaks on Protecting Elder Investors

Good morning. I am truly happy to join you today at the fall 2019 meeting of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (“EJCC”). I want to thank U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary [Alex] Azar, Assistant Secretary [Lance] Robertson, EJCC Coordinator [Toni] Bacon, and the Administration for Community Living for, once again, bringing the EJCC together to discuss our shared goal of protecting elder Americans. Thank you also to the EJCC members, participants, and presenters here today for their critical roles in furthering this effort. Before I say more, let me note that the views I express today are

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Does Litigation Risk Make Financial Reports Less Readable?

Financial reports can be opaque, complex, and difficult to understand. As far back as 1998, this was the premise behind the SEC’s Plain English Rule: an unsuccessful attempt to encourage firms to write more readable financial reports. In a new paper, we show that the turgid nature of financial reports could be an unintentional response to litigation risk. Indeed, firms’ concerns about satisfying disclosure requirements lead to more voluminous, and more complex, disclosures. We ensure that our results are well identified and take steps to mitigate endogeneity concerns.

What we investigate

We start with the observation that decreasing readability … Read more

Sullivan & Cromwell Discusses NYSE Proposal to Expand Permitted Use of Direct Listings

On November 26, 2019, New York Stock Exchange LLC (“NYSE”) filed notice of a proposed rule change with the Securities and Exchange Commission to modify its listing rules relating to direct listings. The proposed rule change would allow companies to raise capital and sell new shares in a direct listing, in contrast to the current rules, which only permit secondary sales by existing shareholders. In addition, the proposed rule would modify the distribution requirements for direct listings, thereby expanding the number of private companies that would be eligible for direct listings. If adopted, the proposed rules would significantly increase the … Read more

Insider Trading and Macroeconomic Risk

In a new article, I use network theory to show that there is a hidden link between insider trading and macroeconomic risk.  I suggest that current laws on insider trading increase the level of macroeconomic risk for the economy, and I show that this problem can be addressed by banning what I call network trades: trades based on private material information in firms that are connected to the firm of the insider (e.g. suppliers and competitors).

We live in an interconnected economy where private material information about one firm is also a relevant predictor of the performance of connected firms … Read more

SEC’s Director of Investment Management Division Talks Securities Law Developments

Good Morning. Thank you Susan [Olson], and thank you all for the opportunity to come back and update you on the Division’s work.[1]

I recently came across a September Compliance Minute Podcast, titled: Where Have you Gone, Dalia Blass?[2] In the podcast, Mr. Todd Cipperman wanted an update on initiatives that I had announced last March, including the exchange-traded funds (ETF) final rule and the proposed updates to the investment adviser advertising and solicitation rules. I enjoyed listening to the podcast because it reminded me of how much work we undertook and also how much we achieved.

The

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SEC Commissioners Jackson and Lee on Proposed Rules for Funds’ Use of Derivatives

Yesterday [November 25] the Commission proposed rules on funds’ use of derivatives to obtain leverage.[1] Appropriate use of derivatives can produce benefits for investors, like better risk-adjusted returns or more efficient exposure to certain asset classes. But that same leverage also presents serious risks, magnifying losses for investors in times of turbulence. And the Commission’s historically piecemeal approach to these issues is insufficient given the growth in funds’ use of derivatives over the past several decades.

The Commission is long overdue in establishing a systematic approach that more meaningfully limits fund risktaking, so we support this proposal. We’re also

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SEC Commissioners Peirce and Roisman on Proposed Rules for Funds’ Use of Derivatives

We thank the staff of the Division of Investment Management (the “Division”) for undertaking the challenging task of devising and presenting for Commission vote a proposal to modernize the way we regulate the use of derivatives in investment funds’ portfolios. Derivatives are essential financial tools in today’s markets. They enable portfolio managers of registered investment companies and business development companies (“funds”) to manage and hedge risk, enhance portfolio liquidity, efficiently gain or reduce exposure to certain asset classes, reduce transaction costs, reduce volatility, increase yield, and otherwise assist in portfolio management. If funds were prohibited from using derivatives, investors would

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Spinning the CEO Pay Ratio Disclosure

The growing compensation gap between CEOs and rank-and-file employees has generated considerable debate about potential adverse consequences at both the firm and societal levels. Despite interest in the topic, assessing vertical pay disparity has been difficult due to the lack of public disclosure about employee compensation.

While companies have long reported top-executive pay, transparency on employee compensation was recently enhanced when the SEC adopted the CEO Pay Ratio Rule requiring most reporting companies to provide new disclosures of the median employee’s pay and a ratio comparing the CEO’s compensation with this value.[1] For example, if the CEO and median … Read more

Debevoise & Plimpton Discusses SEC’s Proposed Changes to Advertising Rule

On November 4, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) proposed amendments (the “Proposal”) to modernize Rule 206(4)-1 (the “Advertising Rule”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”). [1] The first substantial amendment to the Advertising Rule since its adoption in 1961, the Proposal is intended to reflect “changes in the technology used for communication, the expectations of investors shopping for advisory services, and the nature of the investment advisory industry, including the types of investors seeking and receiving investment advisory services.”

While the Proposal appears to be designed to provide investment advisers, particularly private fund managers, … Read more

SEC Chair Clayton Discusses Modernizing Our Regulatory Framework

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to deliver this year’s Distinguished Jurist Lecture. This is a special honor for me. Philadelphia is my hometown. Penn is my alma mater—two times. And, I miss teaching here.

In particular, I miss the students and their wonderfully insightful questions. I also miss co-teaching with my good friend, Joe Frumkin. Joe has long supported, and spurred my participation in, the Institute of Law and Economics. Thank you Joe for your friendship and support.

Today, I am pleased to discuss:

(1) the Commission’s actions over the past year, with reference to our “organic” and

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Davis Polk Discusses SEC’s Proposed Rules on Proxy Advisers, Shareholder Proposals

On November 5, 2019, at an open meeting the SEC voted (3 to 2) to propose amendments to the proxy rules. The proposed amendments relate to regulating proxy advisory firms. The Commission also voted to propose amendments with regard to shareholder proposals, including eligibility standards for submission and resubmission. Chairman Jay Clayton observed that the proposals were “rooted in two essential aspects of effective regulation: modernization and retrospective review.”

The SEC is soliciting public comment, through numerous questions in both proposals covering a range of topics and alternatives, for 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register.

Application

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SEC Chair Talks Small Business Capital Formation

Thank you Carla [Garrett], members of the Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee, Martha [Miller], and the staff in the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation.[1] It is nice to join you again for today’s meeting.

I am pleased that you will devote today’s meeting to a discussion of the concept release on harmonization of securities offering exemptions. [2] Taking a critical look at our offering exemptions is important for investors and issuers alike.

First, I believe that our private markets are not providing opportunities to our Main Street investors to the same extent, including quality,

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Commissioner Peirce Discusses SEC’s Enforcement Program

Thank you, Meredith [Cross], for that kind introduction. It is an honor to be with you here today [November 4]. I must begin with my standard disclaimer that the views I represent are my own views and not necessarily those of the Commission or my fellow Commissioners.

It is hard to believe that 2019 is almost over. When I think back on the year, one defining theme is broken windows. Why is 2019 the “Year of the Broken Window”? I live in an condominium building with a lobby that has three sides of floor to ceiling windows. Three times this

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Toxic Unicorns: What Has Been Missed About WeWork’s Fiasco

Most everyone has had their say about the collapse of WeWork’s failed initial public offering (“IPO”).[1] Clearly, this failure was overdetermined, as many competing causes can explain it, including: (1) the extraordinary level of self-dealing that its CEO, Adam Neumann, regularly engaged in; (2) the corporate governance structure that locked up all voting power and control in him; (3) a system of non-GAAP metrics that more than raised eyebrows; (4) an extraordinarily high valuation for a company that, despite its claims of being a high-tech start-up, was closer to a simple real estate firm; and (5) the unstable personality … Read more

SEC Chair Clayton on Proposals to Reform Proxy Voting System

Good morning.  This is an open meeting of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, under the Government in the Sunshine Act.

Today we have two items on the agenda.  These items are part of the Commission’s ongoing work to enhance the accuracy, transparency and effectiveness of our proxy voting system.  They reflect the considerable experience of our staff.  In 2018, almost 5,700 proxy materials were filed with the Commission, and the staff in the Division of Corporation Finance received more than 250 no-action requests relating to shareholder proposals.

Today’s proposals are both rooted in key principles of our securities law. 

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Commissioner Roisman on Modernizing SEC Rules About Proxy Voting Advice

I. Introduction – An Important Milestone

Thank you, Chairman Clayton.

I have said before that proxy voting is fundamental to our capital markets.[1]  Improving proxy voting is a subject that I am passionate about, and one I have cared about deeply for the better part of my career.

Today marks an important day for having, and continuing, a real and valuable debate about topics involving investors and companies.  Much has been written and said about the shareholder-company dynamic for over a century in this country, and these debates likely will continue for at least another century as the market

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SEC Commissioner Jackson on Proposals to Restrict Shareholder Voting

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to Commissioner Roisman, Division Director Bill Hinman, and especially the tremendous Staff in the Division of Corporation Finance for their hard work in advance of today’s meeting. And congratulations to all of my colleagues who watched the Washington Nationals earn their first World Series title last week.[1]

Today the Commission proposes rule changes that would limit public-company investors’ ability to hold corporate insiders accountable. We haven’t examined our rules in this area for years, so updating them makes sense—and these issues have been thoughtfully debated for decades.[2] But rather than engage carefully

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