Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Alexander on Cyberfinancing for Economic Justice

Cyberfinancing for Economic Justice, by Lisa T. Alexander, University of Wisconsin Law School, was recently posted on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article argues for the socially optimal regulation of online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and crowdfunding to advance economic justice in the United States. Peer-to-peer lending websites, such as Prosper.com or Kiva.org, facilitate lending transactions between individuals online without the involvement of a traditional bank or microfinance institution. Crowdfunding websites, such as Kickstarter.com, enable individuals to obtain financing from large numbers of contributors at once through an open online request for funds. These web-based transactions, and the intermediary organizations that facilitate them, constitute emerging cyberfinancing markets. These markets connect many individuals at once, across class, race, ethnicity, nationality, space, and time in an interactive and dynamic way. During a time of significant economic distress in the United States, these markets also represent an unprecedented economic development opportunity for historically marginalized economic actors. Yet, no legal scholar has addressed the implications of these developments for economic justice in the United States. Drawing from the fields of law and geography, social networking theory, and comparative institutional analysis, this Article conceptualizes these new markets as "cyberspaces," similar to geographic spaces, whose laws, norms, and rules will partially determine who will benefit from the economic opportunities that arise in these spaces. The recently enacted Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act does not facilitate substantial distributive justice in crowdfunding markets. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which produced a report in response to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act's mandate that it study the P2P lending industry, has also failed to recommend a regulatory structure that will facilitate economic justice. This Article recommends that a range of federal regulators such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury), should collaborate to implement a revised Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that would promote economic justice in these markets

April 27, 2013 in Law Review Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brams & Mitts on M&A Auctions

Mechanism Design in M&A Auctions, by Steven J. Brams, New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics, and Joshua Mitts, Yale Law School, was recently posted on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The recent controversy over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Waive” standstills in M&A practice highlights the need to apply mechanism design to change-of-control transactions. In this Essay, we propose a novel two-stage auction procedure that induces honest bidding among participants while potentially yielding a higher sale price than an open ascending, a sealed-bid first price, or a Vickrey second-price auction. Our procedure balances deal certainty with value maximization through the Nobel Prize-winning principle of incentive compatibility, making participation in the M&A auction and honest disclosure of reservation prices in the parties’ interests rather than relying solely on heavy-handed ex-post enforcement. Moreover, the social benefits of our two-stage auction mechanism - greater transparency regarding the distribution of bids, avoidance of the winner’s curse, certainty in the M&A auction environment, and fairness to buyers and sellers - justify reduced judicial scrutiny of transactions utilizing the procedure under Revlon and Chancellor Strine’s recent dicta in Ancestry.com.

April 27, 2013 in Law Review Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Heminway on Funding For-Profit Social Enterprises

To Be or Not to Be (a Security): Funding For-Profit Social Enterprises, by Joan MacLeod Heminway, University of Tennessee College of Law, was recently posted on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article explores the federal securities law status of financial interests in for-profit social enterprise entities. When analyzed through the lens of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, financial interests in social enterprise businesses raise both concerns and opportunities. Ultimately, the federal securities regulation status of interests in for-profit social enterprise ventures is important for choice-of-entity reasons (since the regulatory framework may impose different costs on interests in different structural business forms), for capital-structuring reasons within individual forms of entity, and for risk-management reasons at the entity level. In addition, an inquiry into the applicability of federal securities regulation to the funding of social enterprise serves as a catalyst for further thought on the optimal applicability of federal securities regulation to interests in business entities and projects.

April 27, 2013 in Law Review Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cunningham on Deferred Prosecution and Corporate Governance

Deferred Prosecutions and Corporate Governance: An Integrated Approach to Investigation and Reform, by Lawrence A. Cunningham, George Washington University Law School, was recently posted on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:


When evaluating how to proceed against a corporate investigative target, law enforcement authorities often ignore the target’s governance arrangements, while subsequently negotiating or imposing governance requirements, especially in deferred prosecution agreements. Ignoring governance structures and processes amid investigation can be hazardous and implementing improvised reforms afterwards may have severe unintended consequences — particularly when prescribing standardized governance devices. Drawing, in part, on new lessons from three prominent cases — Arthur Andersen, AIG and Bristol-Myers Squibb — this Article criticizes prevailing discord and urges prosecutors to contemplate corporate governance at the outset and to articulate rationales for prescribed changes. Integrating the role of corporate governance into prosecutions would promote public confidence in prosecutorial decisions to broker firm-specific governance reforms currently lacking and increase their effectiveness. The Article, therefore, contributes a novel perspective on the controversial practice: though substantial commentary urges prosecutors to avoid intruding into corporate governance, this Article explains the importance of prosecutors investing in it.

April 27, 2013 in Law Review Articles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Court Finds Windham Securities and Principal Misappropriated Clients' Funds

On April 25, 2013, a federal court in New York found defendants Joshua Constantin and Windham Securities, Inc. jointly and severally liable for over $2.49 million and defendant Brian Solomon liable for over $249,000 in disgorgement, pre-judgment interest, and civil penalties. In addition, the court found relief defendants Constantin Resource Group, Inc. (CRG) and Domestic Applications Corp. (DAC) jointly and severally liable with Constantin and Windham for over $760,000 and $532,000, respectively, of disgorgement and pre-judgment interest.

The SEC's complaint alleged that Windham, Windham's owner and principal Constantin, and former Windham managing director Solomon fraudulently induced investors to provide more than $1.25 million to Windham for securities investments. The complaint alleged that defendants made false claims to the investors about the intended use of the investors' funds and about Windham's investment expertise and past returns. Instead of purchasing securities for the investors, the defendants misappropriated the investors' funds and then provided false assurances to the investors to cover up their fraud.

On April 2, 2013, the court issued an opinion granting the SEC's motion for summary judgment in its entirety.  Based on the undisputed evidence, the court found that "[t]he litany of misrepresentations that Solomon and Constantin made to their clients is striking;" that Constantin "diverted [investors'] funds to his own purposes;" and that "both Solomon and Constantin provided clients with misleading documents to cover up the fraudulent nature of their investment scheme." On April 25, 2013, the court issued a supplemental order finding Windham, Constantin, Solomon, CRG, and DAC collectively liable for more than $2.74 million in disgorgement, pre-judgment interest, and civil penalties.

April 27, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SEC's May 1 Meeting Focuses on Security-Based Swaps

The SEC will hold an Open Meeting on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., in the Auditorium, Room L-002.  The subject matters of the Open Meeting will be:

Item 1:  The Commission will consider whether to propose new rules and interpretive guidance for cross-border security-based swap activities and to re-propose Regulation SBSR and certain rules and forms relating to the registration of security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants.
Item 2:  The Commission will consider whether to reopen the comment periods and receive new information for certain rulemaking releases and the policy statement applicable to security-based swaps proposed pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

April 27, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers: First Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation

The University of Illinois College of Law and the University of Richmond School of Law invite submissions for the First Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation. This workshop will be held on Friday, November 8, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois.

OVERVIEW: This annual workshop will bring together scholars focused on corporate and securities litigation to present their works-in-progress. Papers addressing any aspect of corporate and securities litigation or enforcement are eligible. Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to, securities litigation, fiduciary duty litigation, or comparative approaches to business litigation. We welcome scholars working in a variety of methodologies, including empirical analysis, law and economics, law and sociology, and traditional doctrinal analysis. Authors whose papers are selected will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by the University of Illinois College of Law in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday November 8, 2013. Local costs (lodging and workshop meals) will be covered. Participants are asked to pay for their own travel expenses. The workshop is designed to maximize discussion and feedback. All participants will have read the selected papers. The author will provide a brief introduction to the paper, but the majority of the individual sessions will be devoted to collective discussion of the paper involved.

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract of the paper you would like to present to Jessica Erickson at jerickso@richmond.edu not later than Friday, May 31, 2013. Please include your name, current position, and contact information in the e-mail accompanying the submission. Authors of accepted papers will be notified by Friday, June 28.

QUESTIONS: Any questions concerning the workshop should be directed to the organizers—Professor Verity Winship (vwinship@illinois.edu) and Professor Jessica Erickson (jerickso@richmond.edu).

April 27, 2013 in Professional Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 26, 2013

SEC Charges JOBS Act Scam

Perhaps the first JOBS Act scam?  The SEC announced fraud charges against a Spokane Valley, Wash., company and its owner for misleading investors with claims to raise billions of investment capital under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act and invest it exclusively in American businesses.

The SEC alleges that Daniel F. Peterson and his company USA Real Estate Fund 1 promised investors that they could reap spectacular returns from an upcoming offering in a “secured” product backed by prominent financial firms. Peterson repeatedly told investors that the 2012 JOBS Act would enable him to raise billions of dollars by advertising the offering to the general public, and produce big profits for early investors. He also promised to invest the proceeds of the offering in exclusively American businesses, and help assist in Washington State’s economic recovery. The SEC alleges that Peterson used investors’ money for personal expenses, and is continuing to solicit investors and may be preparing to tout the offering through investor seminars and public advertising.

 

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Spokane, Peterson sold common stock in USA Real Estate Fund from November 2010 to June 2012 to more than 20 investors in Washington and at least five other states. 

(Thanks to Jennifer Taub for calling this to my attention.) 

April 26, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

FINRA Withdraws Proposed Rule Change to Require Link to BrokerCheck on Broker Websites

FINRA withdrew a proposed rule change to Amend FINRA Rule 2267 (Investor Education and Protection) that would have required members to include a prominent description of and link to FINRA BrokerCheck on their websites, social media pages and any comparable internet presence.  The proposed rule change was published for comment on January 25, 2013, and the SEC received 24 comment letters.  No explanation was given for the withdrawal (Release No. 34-69440; File No. SR-FINRA-2013-002).

April 25, 2013 in Other Regulatory Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SEC' Aguilar Calls for Inquiry into Twitter Hoax

SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar said in an email to the Wall St. Journal that the SEC staff should look into yesterday's Twitter "hoax" that there were explosions at the White House and that the President was injured.  Although the story was quickly debunked, it caused the stock market to drop as a result of algorithmic trading. Mr. Aguilar said the SEC "needs to keep current on how technology is intersecting with, and effecting, the markets we regulate."  WSJ, SEC Official Seeks Inquiry Into Twitter Hoax

April 24, 2013 in News Stories, SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Capital One Settles SEC Charges of Understating Auto Loan Losses

The SEC charged Capital One Financial Corporation and two senior executives for understating millions of dollars in auto loan losses incurred during the months leading into the financial crisis. Capital One agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle the SEC’s charges. The two executives – former Chief Risk Officer Peter A. Schnall and former Divisional Credit Officer David A. LaGassa – also agreed to settle the charges against them.

An SEC investigation found that in financial reporting for the second and third quarters of 2007, Capital One failed to properly account for losses in its auto finance business when they became higher than originally forecasted. The profitability of its auto loan business was primarily derived from extending credit to subprime consumers. As credit markets began to deteriorate, Capital One’s internal loss forecasting tool found that the declining credit environment had a significant impact on its loan loss expense. However, Capital One failed to properly incorporate these internal assessments into its financial reporting, and thus understated its loan loss expense by approximately 18 percent in the second quarter and 9 percent in the third quarter.

 

Capital One’s material understatements of its loan loss expense and internal controls failures violated the reporting, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws, namely Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 12b-20 and 13a-13. Schnall and LaGassa caused Capital One’s violations of Section 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rule 13a-13 thereunder and violated Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1 by indirectly causing Capital One’s books and records violations.

Schnall agreed to pay an $85,000 penalty and LaGassa agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty to settle the SEC’s charges. Capital One and the two executives neither admitted nor denied the findings in consenting to the SEC’s order requiring them to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations of these federal securities laws.

April 24, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Agenda for May 14 Credit Ratings Roundtable Announced

The SEC has announced the agenda for its May 14 Credit Ratings Roundtable; speakers will be announced later.  The program consists of three panels:  Credit Rating Assignment System, Rule 17g-5 Program (Unsolicited Ratings), and Alternative Compensation Models.

April 23, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 22, 2013

CFPB Releases Report on Senior Designations

On April 18 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its report on Senior Designations for Financial Advisers.  Congress directed that its Office for Older Americans study the issue of "senior designation" titles used by financial advisers and make recommendations.  The Bureau

found that the use of senior designations is extremely confusing for consumers. There are more than 50 different senior designations currently used in today’s marketplace with senior designees recommending or selling a variety of products, such as securities, investment opportunities, financial products, and insurance products like annuities and long-term care insurance.

*    *    *

The recommendations in this report seek to reduce consumer confusion and protect consumers
by improving the: (1) dissemination of information and consumer education around senior
designations; (2) standards for the acquisition of senior designations; (3) standards for senior
designee conduct; and (4) enforcement related to the misuse of senior designations. The Bureau
believes that adoption of these recommendations will help older consumers avoid financial
advisers who would misuse their designations to sell inappropriate investment and financial
products.

April 22, 2013 in Other Regulatory Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SEC and Ralph Lauren Corp. Enter NPA over FCPA Violations in Argentina

The SEC announced a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with Ralph Lauren Corporation in which the company will disgorge more than $700,000 in illicit profits and interest obtained in connection with bribes paid by a subsidiary to government officials in Argentina from 2005 to 2009. The misconduct was uncovered in an internal review undertaken by the company and promptly reported to the SEC.

The SEC said it determined not to charge Ralph Lauren Corporation with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) due to the company's prompt reporting of the violations on its own initiative, the completeness of the information it provided, and its extensive, thorough, and real-time cooperation with the SEC's investigation.

The NPA is the first that the SEC has entered involving FCPA misconduct. NPAs are part of the SEC Enforcement Division's Cooperation Initiative, which rewards cooperation in SEC investigations. In parallel criminal proceedings, the Justice Department entered into an NPA with Ralph Lauren Corporation in which the company will pay an $882,000 penalty.

According to the NPA, Ralph Lauren Corporation's cooperation included:

Reporting preliminary findings of its internal investigation to the staff within two weeks of discovering the illegal payments and gifts.
Voluntarily and expeditiously producing documents.
Providing English language translations of documents to the staff.
Summarizing witness interviews that the company's investigators conducted overseas.
Making overseas witnesses available for staff interviews and bringing witnesses to the U.S.

According to the NPA, the bribes occurred during a period when Ralph Lauren Corporation lacked meaningful anti-corruption compliance and control mechanisms over its Argentine subsidiary. The misconduct came to light as a result of the company adopting measures to improve its worldwide internal controls and compliance efforts, including implementation of an FCPA compliance training program in Argentina.  Ralph Lauren Corporation's Argentine subsidiary paid bribes to government and customs officials to improperly secure the importation of Ralph Lauren Corporation's products in Argentina. The purpose of the bribes, paid through its customs broker, was to obtain entry of Ralph Lauren Corporation's products into the country without necessary paperwork, avoid inspection of prohibited products, and avoid inspection by customs officials. The bribe payments and gifts to Argentine officials totaled $593,000 during a four-year period.

Under the NPA, Ralph Lauren Corporation agreed to pay $593,000 in disgorgement and $141,845.79 in prejudgment interest.

April 22, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SEC Announces Co-Directors of Enforcement Division

SEC Chairman White is beginning to stamp her identity on the agency.  As expected, the SEC announced that Acting Director George Canellos and former federal prosecutor Andrew Ceresney have been named Co-Directors of the Division of Enforcement.  Mr. Ceresney has previously worked with Ms. White both at the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan and as a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton. 

Mr. Canellos has been serving as Acting Director since January, and previously had been the division’s Deputy Director since June 2012.

April 22, 2013 in SEC Action | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rep. Waters Introduces Investment Adviser Examination Improvement Act

Representative Maxine Waters (D-Cal.), along with Representative John Delaney (D-MD), again introduced legislation that would allow the SEC to charge user fees to fund examinations of investment advisers, the Investment Adviser Examination Improvement Act of 2013.  Currently, the SEC examines only about eight per cent of registered investment advisers each year.  Imposing user fees is a sensible solution, since the industry is opposed to the creation of an SRO for investment advisers and FINRA, which once appeared to want the job, now states it has no interest in becoming the SRO for investment advisers.  The proposed legislation also has the backing of a number of organizations including NASAA, which issued a supporting statement.  Nevertheless, the likelihood of action in the foreseeable future is remote.

InvNews, Waters introduces bill to fund investment adviser examinations

April 22, 2013 in News Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

FINRA Approves Proposed Rule Changes for Submission to SEC

The FINRA Board of Governors approved several proposed rule changes that will be submitted to the SEC for review and approval.

The Board approved a proposal to publicly disseminate 144A transactions in TRACE-eligible securities for those asset types currently subject to dissemination.  FINRA is taking this step after reviewing the comments submitted in response to its September 2012 Regulatory Notice and in light of JOBS Act provisions. FINRA believes that making this information publicly available will help market participants determine the quality of their executions and help firms comply with their regulatory obligations.

FINRA also approved two proposed rule changes related to securities arbitration:

Arbitration Panel Composition
The Board authorized FINRA to file with the SEC proposed amendments to FINRA Rule 12403 to simplify the panel selection rules. Rather than requiring the customer to elect a panel selection method, parties in all customer cases with three arbitrators would have the same selection method. Under this method, all parties would see lists of 10 chair-qualified public arbitrators, 10 public arbitrators and 10 non-public arbitrators. The rules would permit four strikes on each of the public arbitrator lists. However, any party could select an all-public arbitration panel by striking all of the arbitrators on the non-public list. Alternatively, if the parties leave on the non-public list one or more of the same non-public arbitrators, the parties could have a majority public panel—that is two public and one non-public arbitrator.

Discovery Guide Used in Investor Arbitration Proceedings
The Board authorized FINRA to file with the SEC proposed amendments to the Discovery Guide used in customer arbitration proceedings to provide general guidance on e-discovery issues and product cases, and to clarify existing provisions relating to affirmations. Specifically, FINRA would amend the Discovery Guide introduction to:

1.include guidelines for arbitrators to consider when deciding disputes relating to the form of e-discovery;
2.add guidance on product cases to explain, among other matters, that these cases are different from other customer cases and that the Document Production Lists may not provide all of the documents parties usually request in a product case; and
3.clarify that a party may request an affirmation when an opposing party makes a partial production.

 

April 22, 2013 in Other Regulatory Action, Securities Arbitration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)