Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kinder Morgan: MLPs, C-Corps & Dividends, Oh My!

Kinder Morgan, a leading U.S. energy company, has proposed consolidating its Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) under its parent company. If it happens, it would be the second largest energy merger in history (the Exxon and Mobil merger in 1998, estimated to be $110.1 billion in 2014 dollars, is still the top dog). 

Motley Fool details the deal this way:

Terms of the deal
The $71 billion deal is composed of $40 billion in Kinder Morgan Inc shares, $4 billion in cash, $27 billion in assumed debt. 

Existing shareholders of Kinder Morgan's MLPs will receive the following premiums for their units (based on friday's closing price):

  • Kinder Morgan Energy Partners: 12%
  • Kinder Morgan Management: 16.5%
  • El Paso Pipeline Partners: 15.4%
Existing unit holders of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners and El Paso Pipeline Partners are allowed to choose to receive payment in both cash and Kinder Morgan Inc shares or all cash. 
As I understand it, the exiting holders of the partnerships would have to pay taxes on the merger (this is partnership to a C-corp), but please, consult your tax professional.  
 
The goal here is said to be to increase dividend potential and use the C-corp structure to maximize opportunities that the MLP structure is now apparently less effective in generating.
 
I, for one, like that this company is seeking to generate income from real products, invest in new infrastructure, and pay dividends.  I'm no financial planner or investment consultant, but I like the idea of companies that offer dividend value rather than value to shareholders solely through increase share price. It seems to me it leads to better long term planning.  I am also intrgigued by the part of Richard Kinder story where he ended up not leading Enron.  As Forbes explained in 2012,
The most important man in the American Energy Boom wears brown slacks and a checkered shirt and sits in a modest corner office with unexceptional views of downtown Houston and some forgettable art on the wall. You would expect to at least see a big map showing pipelines stretching from coast to coast. Nope. “We don’t have sports tickets, we don’t have corporate jets,” growls Richard Kinder, 68, CEO of Kinder Morgan, America’s third-largest energy firm. “We don’t have stadiums named after us.”
I will be watching to see if this deal goes through, and I think the chance to have a big study in consolidating partnerships with a C-Corp could be a great teaching moment. Stay tuned! 
 
 

August 12, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Joshua P. Fershee, Merger & Acquisitions, Partnership, Teaching, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Does the US Chamber of Commerce Have the Cure for Investor “Information Overload?”

On June 5, 2014, SEC Commissioner Dan Gallagher commemorated the agency’s 80th anniversary by, among other things, repeating the criticisms of the various nonfinancial disclosures that companies are compelled to make by law or asked to make through shareholder proposals. In his view, “companies’ disclosure documents are being cluttered with non-material information that can drown out or obscure the information that is at the core of a reasonable investor’s investment decision.  The Commission is not spending nearly enough time making sure that our rules elicit focused, meaningful disclosures of material information.” I assume that he is referring to the various environmental, social and governance proposals (“ESG”) brought by socially responsible investors and others. I’m writing this blog post while taking a break from reviewing dozens of these proposals for an article that I am writing on how consumers and investors evaluate ESG disclosures and those required in other countries in the human rights context.

Citing Chair White’s quote about “information overload,” last week the US Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness released a list of relatively non-controversial recommendations on how the SEC can modernize the current disclosure regime so that it can better serve the investing public. For a great discussion of what led to this latest round of disclosure reform see here. Some of the recommendations concern items that technology can handle. Others concern repetition and relate to factors that the SEC does not require but are there to avoid litigation. The report, entitled “Corporate Disclosure Effectiveness: Ensuring a Balanced System that Informs and Protects Investors and Facilitates Capital Formation,” focuses on near-term improvements to Regulation S-K that the Chamber believes would likely garner widespread support. The report also discusses longer-term proposals, but does not discuss in any detail the kinds of issues that Chair Gallagher and others raise. You can also watch an entire webcast of the panel discussion releasing the report featuring, among others, two former SEC Commissioners, current SEC Director of the Division of Corporate Finance Keith Higgins, and issuers counsel, including my former colleague from Ryder, Flora Perez, here (start at minute 19:45).  

Full disclosure-- I was part of the working group that reviewed some of the recommendations and gave comments before the report’s release, and while I also oppose the conflict minerals disclosure because I don’t think it should be within the SEC’s purview and didn’t take into account some of the realities of the modern supply chain, I don’t have a complete aversion to corporate disclosure of ESG or other risk factors to investors and the public. The who, what, why, how, where and when are the key questions.

Below is a list of all of the recommendations for reform taken directly from the Chamber’s one-pager:  

Near Term Improvements:

 The requirement to disclose in a company’s Form 10-K the “general development” of a business, including the nature and results of any bankruptcy, acquisition, or other significant development in the lifecycle of a business (Item 101(a)(1) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose financial information for different geographic areas in which a company operates (Item 101(d) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose whether investors can obtain a hard copy of a company’s filings free of charge or view them in the SEC’s Public Reference Room (Items 101(e)(2) and (e)(4) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to describe principal plants, mines, and other materially important physical properties (Item 102 of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement that companies discuss material legal proceedings (Item 103 of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose which public market a company’s shares are traded on and the high and low share prices for the preceding two years (Items 201(a)(1)(i), (ii), (iii), and (iv) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose the frequency and amount of dividends for a company’s stock during the preceding two years (Item 201(c) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to display a graph showing the company’s stock performance over a period of time (Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose any changes in and disagreements with accountants (Item 304 of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose certain transactions with related parties (Item 404(a) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose the ratio between earnings and fixed charges (Item 503(d) of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to file certain exhibits (Item 601 of Regulation S-K)

 The requirement to disclose recent sales of unregistered securities and a description of the use of proceeds from registered sales (Item 701 of Regulation S-K)

Longer Term Improvements:

 Compensation Discussion & Analysis (CD&A)

 Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A)

 Repetition

 Risk Disclosure

 A Revised Delivery System

Take a look at the list, read the report which describes the Chamber's rationale, and if you have time watch the webcast, which provides some real-world context. What’s missing from the list? What shouldn’t be on the list? Have you seen anything in your practice or teaching that could inform the debate? I look forward to seeing your feedback on this site or via email at mnarine@stu.edu

.

 

August 7, 2014 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Crowdfunding: Are Crowds Wise or Idiots?

The new crowdfunding exemption in section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act will, once the SEC adopts the rules required to implement it, allow ordinary investors to invest in unregistered securities offerings. Will those unsophisticated investors go down in flames or will they be able to make rational investment choices?

Some proponents of crowdfunding argue that crowdfunding benefits from the so-called “wisdom of the crowd": that the collective, consensus choice that results from crowdfunding is better than what any individual could do alone, and often as good as expert choices. A recent study seems to support that view.

Two business professors—Ethan R. Mollick at the Wharton School and Ramana Nanda at Harvard—looked at crowdfunding campaigns for theater projects. They submitted those projects to people with expertise in evaluating theater funding applications and compared the expert evaluations to the actual crowdfunding results.

Mollick and Nanda found a strong positive correlation between the projects funded by the crowd and those rated highly by the experts. In other words, crowds were more likely to fund the campaigns the experts preferred. In addition, projects funded by the crowd that were not rated highly by the experts did just as well as the projects chosen by the experts.

Of course, theater projects aren’t the same as securities, but this study should certainly be of interest to those following the securities crowdfunding debate. The full study (44 pages) is available here. If you don’t have time to read the full study, a summary is available here.

July 28, 2014 in C. Steven Bradford, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dodd-Frank Grows Up- Or Does It?

As many have celebrated or decried, Dodd-Frank turned four-years old this week. This is the law that Professor Stephen Bainbridge labeled "quack federal corporate governance round II" (round I was Sarbanes-Oxley, as labeled by Professor Roberta Romano). Some, like Professor Bainbridge, think the law has gone too far and has not only failed to meet its objectives but has actually caused more harm than good (see here, for example).  Some think that the law has not gone far enough, or that the law as drafted will not prevent the next financial crisis (see here, for example). The Council on Foreign Relations discusses the law in an accessible manner with some good links here.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White has divided Dodd-Frank’s ninety-five mandates into eight categories. She released a statement last week touting the Volcker Rule, the new regulatory framework for municipal advisors, additional controls on broker-dealers that hold customer assets, reduced reliance on credit ratings, new rules for unregulated derivatives, additional executive compensation disclosures, and mechanisms to bar bad actors from securities offerings. 

Notwithstanding all of these accomplishments, only a little over half of the law is actually in place. In fact, according to the monthly David Polk Dodd-Frank Progress Report:

As of July 18, 2014, a total of 280 Dodd-Frank rulemaking requirement deadlines have passed. Of these 280 passed deadlines, 127 (45.4%) have been missed and 153 (54.6%) have been met with finalized rules. In addition, 208 (52.3%) of the 398 total required rulemakings have been finalized, while 96 (24.1%) rulemaking requirements have not yet been proposed.

Many who were involved with the law’s passage or addressing the financial crisis bemoan the slow progress. The House Financial Services Committee wrote a 97-page report to call it a failure. So I have a few questions.

1) When Dodd-Frank turns five next year, how far behind will we still be, and will we have suffered another financial blip/setback/recession/crisis that supporters say could have been prevented by Dodd-Frank?

2) How will the results of the mid-term elections affect the funding of the agencies charged with implementing the law?

3) What will the SEC do to address the Dodd-Frank rules that have already been invalidated or rendered otherwise less effective after litigation from business groups such as §1502, Conflict Minerals Rule (see here for SEC response) or §1504, the Resource Extraction Rule (see here for court decision)?

4) Given the SEC's failure to appeal after the proxy access litigation and the success of the lawsuits mentioned above, will other Dodd-Frank mandates be vulnerable to legal challenge?

5) Will the whistleblower provision that provides 10-30% of any recovery over $1 million to qualified persons prevent the next Bernie Madoff scandal? I met with the SEC, members of Congress and testified about some of my concerns about that provision before entering academia, and I hope to be proved wrong. 

Let's wait and see. I look forward to seeing how much Dodd-Frank has grown up this time next year.

July 24, 2014 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 14, 2014

More on Hobby Lobby and Disclosure

My post last week spawned more commentary than usual--on the BLPB site and off.  So, I am regrouping on the same issue for my post today and plan to push forward a bit on some of the areas of commentary.  Also, since The Conglomerate is running a Hobby Lobby symposium this week, I thought it might be nice to offer some thoughts on disclosure up here and (maybe) later chime in at The Conglomerate on this or other issues relating to the Hobby Lobby case later in the week . . . .

Continue reading

July 14, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

What Does Publicness Mean To You? What Should It Mean?

I have been working on a draft article for the University of Cincinnati Law Review based on a presentation that I gave this spring at the annual Corporate Law Symposium.  This year's topic was "Crowdfunding Regulations and Their Implications."  My draft article addresses the public-private divide in the context of the Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure Act--more commonly known as the CROWDFUND Act.  I am using two pieces coauthored by Don Langevoort and Bob Thompson (here and here), as well as three works written by Hillary Sale (here, here, and here) to engage my analysis.

I also will be participating in a discussion group at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools annual conference in August on the publicness theme.  That session is entitled "Does The Public/Private Divide In Federal Securities Regulation Make Sense?" and is scheduled for 3:00 pm on Augut 6th, for those attending the conference.  Michael Guttentag was good enough to recruit the group for this discussion.

All this work on publicness has my head spinning!  There are a number of unique conceptions of pubicness, some overlapping or otherwise interconnected, with different conceptions being useful in different circumstances.  I am attracted to a number of observations in both the Langevoort/Thompson and Sale bodies of work, but there's clearly a lot more to think about from the standpoint of both scholarship and teaching.

So, today I ask:  What does publicness mean to you?  Does there continue to be salient meaning in the distinction between piublic and private (offerings, companies, etc.)?  If so, what should publicness mean in these contexts?  I am curious to see what others think.

June 16, 2014 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Financial Markets, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pryor on Municipal Bankruptcy and Creditor Rights

My former colleague, Scott Pryor (Regent), recently posted an interesting article entitled Municipal Bankruptcy: When Doing Less is Best. In 2013 Professor Pryor was the Resident Scholar of the American Bankruptcy Institute.  His paper's abstract is below.  

The bankruptcy process takes as a given the pre-bankruptcy allocation of economic risk. Yet, the Bankruptcy Code permits this risk to be reallocated through the adjustment process so long as that reallocation is "fair and equitable," does not "discriminate unfairly," and is in the "best interests" of creditors. The first two look to bankruptcy law for their definitions; the third derives from state law.

Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code does not resolve any conflicts among these requirements. This uncertain state of affairs generates a powerful incentive among most parties to settle. So long as the court retains the power to dismiss the case and remit the conflicts to the vagaries of state adjudication, Chapter 9 functions to create an institutional game of Chicken driving stakeholders to consensus.

June 13, 2014 in Corporate Finance, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Complexity and Securities Regulation's "Reasonable Investor" Standard

Today, we finished two days of amazingly rich discourse on business law issues at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Workshop on Blurring Boundaries in Financial and Corporate Law in Washington, DC.  (Full disclosure:  I chaired the planning committee for this AALS midyear meeting.)  All of the proceedings have been phenomenally interesting.  I have learned so many things and been forced to think about so much . . . .  For those of you who couldn't be there, I tried to faithfully pick up a bunch of salient points from the talks and discussions on Twitter using #AALSBB2014.  Moreover, some of the meeting was recorded.  I will try to remember to let you know when, to whom, and how those recordings are being made available. (Feel free to remind me if I forget . . . .)

One idea shared at the workshop that I am particularly intrigued by is the use of a new standard in federal securities regulation, suggested by Tom Lin in his talk as part of this morning's plenary panel on "Complexity".  He argues for an "algorithmic investor" standard (working off/refining the concept of the reasonable investor) in light of the growth of algorithmic trading.  It's  predictable that I would be interested in this idea, given that I write about materiality in securities regulation (especially insider trading law, in articles posted here and here), in which the reasonable investor standard is central.  (In fact, Tom was kind enough to mention my work on  the resonable investor standard in his talk.)

Tom is not the first to argue for a securities regulation standard that better serves specific investor populations.  Memorable in this regard, at least for me, is Maggie Sachs's paper arguing for a standard focused on the "least sophisticated investor".  But many other fine works contending with materiality or the concept of the reasonable investor in securities regulation also question (among other things) the clarity and efficacy of the reasonable investor standard in specific contexts.

Continue reading

June 9, 2014 in Conferences, Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (5)

Corporate Impact Venturing: Using Investments to Enable Sustainable Value Creation

The following comes to us from Maximilian Martin, Ph.D., the founder and global managing director of Impact Economy, an impact investment and strategy firm based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the author of the report “Driving Innovation through Corporate Impact Venturing.”

In 2010, despite the then-recent economic downturn, an overwhelming majority of corporate CEOs in the UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability—93 percent—responded that sustainability will be critical to the future success of their companies. What’s more, they believed that a tipping point could be reached that fully meshes sustainability with core business within a decade, fundamentally transforming core business capabilities, processes, and systems throughout global supply chains and subsidiaries. Three years later, a new 2013 edition of the study argued that many corporate CEOs have found themselves stuck on the ascent towards sustainability.

Radical change in market structures and systems is needed, and a bolder path for industry transformation needs to be charted, at a time when the logic of value creation is changing. The days of traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR)—the bolt-on approach that is compliance driven, costs money, and produces limited reputational benefits—are fast coming to an end, because sustainability is now increasingly driving value creation itself. Assessing joint opportunities for financial and social returns is the way forward.

[CONTINUE AFTER THE BREAK]

Continue reading

June 9, 2014 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Other People's Houses--

I am generating my summer reading list--both business and pleasure. At the top of my list is Other People's Houses, by Jennifer Taub (Vermont Law School), which will be available from Yale Press on May 27th.   The official website for the book describes the project as:

Drawing on wide-ranging experience as a corporate lawyer, investment firm counsel, and scholar of business law and financial market regulation, Taub chronicles how government officials helped bankers inflate the toxic-mortgage-backed housing bubble, then after the bubble burst ignored the plight of millions of homeowners suddenly facing foreclosure.

Focusing new light on the similarities between the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s and the financial crisis in 2008, Taub reveals that in both cases the same reckless banks, operating under different names, received government bailouts, while the same lax regulators overlooked fraud and abuse. Furthermore, in 2013 the situation is essentially unchanged. The author asserts that the 2008 crisis was not just similar to the S&L scandal, it was a severe relapse of the same underlying disease. And despite modest regulatory reforms, the disease remains uncured: top banks remain too big to manage, too big to regulate, and too big to fail.

The following are a few excepts of the book review just posted on Kirkus:

Taub's narrative recounts a couple who "innocently" purchased a Dallas-area condo and were deemed “too small to save.” "Meanwhile, all the decision-makers who, in a dizzying series of transactions, fueled the Nobelman mortgage received government support, and very few suffered negative consequences."  With "5 million homes lost to foreclosure and another 10 million still left underwater," Taub "blisters the 'legal enablers' who, by their acts or omissions, failed to corral predatory practices and wild speculation."  The review concludes that Other People's Houses is "[m]eticulously argued and guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of the average American taxpayer."

That last line is the hook--guaranteed to raise my blood pressure?  Sign me up.  

Leave a comment if you have a book, business or pleasure, that is topping your list.  I would love to start a BLPB summer reading list... 

-Anne Tucker

May 7, 2014 in Anne Tucker, Books, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

ICYMI: Tweets From the Past Week (May 5, 2014)

May 4, 2014 in Business School, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Securities Regulation, Social Enterprise, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The New Face of Shareholder Activism

I am interested in the behavior of institutional investors, including defined benefit plans and large mutual funds, primarily because they trade in people's retirement savings.   Institutional investors and hedge funds are some of the only remaining investors under the big umbrella heading of "shareholders" that have the resources and incentive to act the way that corporate law theorizes shareholders should act.  They become the lab rats and the test case of governance experiments and debates.

Notably, the passivity of institutional investors has been described, empirically documented by number of initiated shareholder proposals and with voting records on such proposals, and debated at considerable length.  Alan Palmiter, Jill Fisch, Roberta Romano, as well as a recent article by Gilson & Gordon and many others have all grappled with the evidence for and against and provided theories that augment or diminish the view of passivity by institutional investors.

The New York Times DealB%k published an article yesterday, New Alliances in Battle for Corporate Control, describing the coordination between institutional investors (both pension funds and mutual funds) and hedge fund activists.  Drawing from industry sources, the article describes informal coordination of activists courting institutional investors' votes before shareholder meetings, which is just what we would expect and consistent with how we probably teach proxy contests and shareholder proposals to our students.  The article also adds new dimensions describing how institutional investors may solicit hedge fund investment in poorly performing companies providing them with investment ideas, targets and strategies.

"Periodically, we are approached by large institutions who are disappointed with the performance of companies they are invested in to see if we would be interested in playing an active role in effectuating change," said William A. Ackman, founder of the $13 billion hedge fund Pershing Square Capital, who is best known for his positions on J. C. Penney and Herbalife. Institutional investors even have an informal term for this: R.F.A., or request for activist.

Evidence of this successful strategy is found in the success rate of hedge fund proxy proposals of which over 20% succeed last year, up from 9% in 2011.

-Anne Tucker

 

March 19, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Financial Markets | Permalink | Comments (0)