Crown image Columbia Law School

Revisiting the Audit Expectations Gap

As the regulation of public company audits evolves, questions persist over whether there is still a gap between the public and auditors over expectations for the responsibilities of auditors – what we call the expectations gap. In a recent study, we replicate an earlier study by McEnroe and Martens (2001) (hereinafter “MM 2001”) to determine whether the expectations gap has changed.

In the two decades since MM 2001, events such as audit failures and the issuance of new regulations may have affected the expectations gap. Most notably, large-scale accounting scandals, including those at Enron, WorldCom, and Waste Management, have led … Read more

Rolling Back Dodd-Frank: Investors’ and Banks’ Responses to Financial Market Deregulation

In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Dodd-Frank created a new financial regulatory landscape with intensified federal oversight and an extensive set of regulations on banks, such as stress tests and stricter capital, trading, loan, and mortgage underwriting standards (Acharya and Richardson, 2012; Richardson et al., 2018). These new regulations have triggered a debate over their benefits and the burden they place on banks. Since April 2016, and in May 2018, Congress passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCP Act), which makes … Read more

Davis Polk Discusses Reopening of Comment Period for SEC’s Dodd-Frank Clawback Rule

On June 8, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it is again reopening the comment period for its proposed clawback rule, a rule that has been required to be promulgated since the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. This new comment period is the SEC’s third request for comments on the clawback rule, with comments previously requested on proposals published in July 20151 and October 20212. As part of this reopening, which did not include a new version of the proposed rule, the SEC Staff released a … Read more

Davis Polk Discusses CFPB “Dormant” Authority to Examine Wide Range of Companies

The CFPB plans to use its authority to examine any company providing consumer financial products or services that the CFPB has “reasonable cause” to believe poses risks to consumers.

The CFPB has announced its intention to invoke its “dormant” statutory authority to examine any company providing consumer financial products or services that it has “reasonable cause” to believe poses risks to consumers.1 The authority the CFPB is referring to is a catch-all provision in Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act that can capture a wide range of companies that offer consumer financial products or services to individuals as well … Read more

SEC Chair Gensler Talks Registration of Security-Based Swap Execution Facilities

Today [April 6], the Commission is considering a proposal to create a framework for the registration of security-based swap execution facilities (security-based SEFs). I am pleased to support this proposal because, if adopted, it would increase the transparency and integrity of the traditionally opaque over-the-counter security-based swap market, fulfilling a mandate under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 to register and regulate the platforms that trade these instruments.

The 2008 financial crisis had many chapters, but a form of security-based swaps — credit default swaps — played a lead role throughout the story. Thus, as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress

Read more

Sullivan & Cromwell Discusses Reopened Comment Period for SEC’s Pay-Versus-Performance Disclosure Rule

On January 27, 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) reopened a 30-day comment period (beginning today) on proposed rules requiring registrants to disclose how executive compensation actually paid by a registrant relates to the financial performance of that company.[1]  Stakeholders may submit comments both on the original proposed rules and on 22 new questions raised by the SEC.  The new questions suggest several potential additional requirements under consideration, including expanding the performance measures to be disclosed in relation to executive compensation.

BACKGROUND

Section 953(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act

In 2010, Section 953(a) of the Dodd-Frank Wall … Read more

Sullivan & Cromwell Discusses SEC Proposal to Enhance Proxy Voting Disclosure by Investment Funds

On September 29, 2021, the SEC issued a proposed rulemaking to enhance the information mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other registered management investment companies (“funds”) report annually about their proxy votes.  The proposal also would require so-called “institutional investment managers” subject to section 13(f) of the Exchange Act (“managers”), which includes a broad range of investors in U.S. publicly traded equities, including some who are not “managers” in the conventional sense, to report annually regarding their voting of proxies related to executive compensation “say-on-pay” matters.  The proposed rulemaking—the first to be issued under the leadership of SEC Chairman Gary Gensler—touches … Read more

The Real Effects of Conflict Minerals Disclosures

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted the conflict minerals disclosure (CMD) rule, which requires issuers to perform due diligence on “conflict minerals” – natural resources known to fuel conflicts in underdeveloped nations – that are used in the “functionality or production” of their products. The issuers must disclose whether their products contain tantalum, tin, tungsten, or gold (3TG) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or any of nine neighboring African nations (together, the covered countries). The CMD rule is designed to further the humanitarian goal of ending the extreme violence perpetrated by armed … Read more

Whistleblowing Should Be Part of President Biden’s Fight Against Corruption

On June 3, 2021 President Joseph Biden issued a “Memorandum on Establishing the Fight Against Corruption as a Core United States National Security Interest,” (hereinafter “Anti-Corruption Memorandum” or “Memorandum”).  In issuing the Memorandum, President Biden placed fighting corruption at the “core” of his foreign policy, and explained that he wanted his administration to “lead efforts to promote good governance; bring transparency to the United States and global financial systems; prevent and combat corruption at home and abroad; and make it increasingly difficult for corrupt actors to shield their activities.”  The Memorandum set a deadline for obtaining recommendations from … Read more

Reforming the Macroprudential Regulatory Architecture in the United States

When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered major economies in March 2020, it also wreaked havoc on financial markets. In the first few weeks of March, investment-grade corporate bonds lost roughly a fifth of their value, on par with the declines in equity and high-yield debt. (Haddad et al., 2020; Falato, Goldstein & Hortaçsu (forthcoming)). Contrary to the usual flight to quality, in mid-March, U.S. Treasury yields began rising and only stabilized after the Federal Reserve initiated a massive purchase program. (Vissing-Jorgensen, 2020). The distress in the Treasury market accentuated distress in other markets and liquidity challenges for firms. Nonbanks that service … Read more

How Regulatory Stress Tests Affect Bank Lending

The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010 in the wake of the Great Recession, introduced mandatory stress-testing for the largest U.S. banks. Dodd-Frank Act Stress Testing (DFAST) was intended to ensure that banks have sufficient capitalization to absorb the losses they may experience in an economic downturn and, more importantly, continue providing credit to the economy. The stress-testing exercise, which is conducted by the Federal Reserve, uses hypothetical macroeconomic scenarios to predict a bank’s portfolio return under stress and its implied equity values. Thus, the exercise indicates whether a bank, given its current equity position and portfolio allocation, could withstand a … Read more

The Unfinished Business of Regulating Clearinghouses

The Dodd-Frank Act recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, with commentators, policymakers, and scholars joining the celebration by discussing the achievements of the sweeping post-crisis financial reform. Yet Dodd-Frank left critical unfinished business that, if not addressed, could erode the structural foundations of the post-crisis markets: the regulation of clearinghouses.

In a new article, I identify the flaws in the the current regulatory framework for clearinghouses. These flaws polarize rather than align the incentives of clearinghouses’ major stakeholders: the owners – companies such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group, Intercontinental Exchange, and the London Stock Exchange Group – and the … Read more

SEC Chair Speaks on Resource Extraction Disclosure Rules

Today [December 16], we take another step in a winding, resource-consuming, decade-long journey to implement Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act.  In 2010, Section 1504 added Section 13(q) to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which directed the Commission to issue rules, commonly known as the “resource extraction rules,” requiring resource extraction issuers – in essence, certain companies publicly traded on U.S. exchanges – to disclose information about payments made to a foreign government or the Federal government for the purpose of the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.

The Commission has finalized these rules twice already.  Yes,

Read more

A Tale of Two Enforcement Venues: Why the SEC’s Choice of Where to File Cases Matters

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 allows the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to bring enforcement actions and impose civil penalties in administrative proceedings as alternatives to federal district courts. Some argue that this gives the SEC a “home-court” advantage. For example, the SEC serves as both prosecutor and, through the administrative judges it appoints, adjudicator in an administrative proceeding, and no jury trials are allowed.[1] The SEC argues, though, that administrative proceedings can process cases more efficiently than federal courts.[2] Yet the opacity of administrative proceedings and the SEC’s discretion over the choice of venue have prompted criticism and challenges … Read more

Resurrecting the Office of Financial Research

The Office of Financial Research (“OFR”) was created by the Dodd-Frank Act to help address the gaps in data availability and analysis that had hampered governmental authorities in their response to the financial crisis of 2008.  It was hoped that the OFR would serve as an “early warning system” that would detect emerging systemic risks through data collection and analysis, but the OFR never really had the opportunity to live up to its promise.  During the Obama administration, it suffered from an unsupportive Treasury Department and pushback from other federal financial regulatory agencies; under the Trump administration, the staff and … Read more

Enforcement Against the Biggest Banks

My article, Enforcement Against the Biggest Banks, takes a census of the hundreds of enforcement actions by American regulators against the world’s largest banks between the passage of Dodd-Frank in July 2010 and December 31, 2016, near the end of the Obama administration.  The effort allows us to characterize the nature of contemporary American bank enforcement.

Enforcement against big banks can be “cumulative” – increasingly, multiple agencies penalize banks for the same misconduct. One regulator might view the misconduct as, say, a violation of public disclosure duties, but another regulator might see it as a problem with the safety … Read more

Presidential Pendulums in Finance

While much attention has been paid to President Trump’s deregulatory efforts and intentions, presidential involvement in the work of the administrative agencies is not new.  Past presidents including Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have acted up to – and at – the limits of presidential power in efforts to ratchet-up, or ratchet-down, regulation.[1]

My recently published article, Presidential Pendulums in Finance, examines the past decade of presidential involvement in financial regulation in particular.  As the paper explains, presidential involvement in financial regulation over the past 10 years stands to quicken the rate at which regulatory cycles … Read more

The Deterrent Effect of Whistleblowing on Insider Trading

One of the many significant reforms enacted in The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 was the creation of a whistleblower bounty program within the SEC. The program increased monetary rewards for whistleblowing and provided protections from retaliation with the goal of encouraging more whistleblowers to report their information to the SEC. While there is a growing literature investigating the effects of many facets of Dodd-Frank, an unanswered question is whether the whistleblower program affected illegal insider trading – an activity that is traditionally hard for the SEC to detect and prosecute. In my recent paper, … Read more

Banking Bailout Law

Bank bailouts during periodic financial crises aim to stop financial panic and restore the stability of the financial system. Even if they are undesirable, future bank bailouts are unavoidable due to political and political economy reasons, whether or not they are regulated or economically efficient. In a new book, I build on existing literature to examine the different bank bailout and resolution techniques and tools through carefully selected case studies from the U.S., the E.U., the U.K., Spain, and Hungary. The pros and cons of the different legal and regulatory options are identified in order to reconstruct a regulatory framework … Read more

Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto Discusses Changes to SEC Whistleblower Rules

On September 23, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved changes to its highly successful Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower program in a 3-2 vote [1]. The program has resulted in over $2.5 billion in penalties against public companies, $750 million returned to investors, and $500 million paid in rewards.  Paying corporate whistleblowers mandatory monetary rewards of between 10-30 percent of all penalties obtained from commission enforcement proceedings triggered by their allegations has been a highly controversial law from the start.  These controversies all played out during the commission’s prolonged whistleblower rulemaking proceeding.

The whistleblower advocacy community strongly opposed the major … Read more