Law and Finance — Overview
Forthcoming Subject Events
Wednesday 22 May 2013 Week 5
- Law and Finance Seminar Series
Executive Retirement Pay and Incentives
- Speaker: Robert Jackson, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
Oxford Law Faculty The Cube at 17:30
Monday 10 June Week 8
Conference on the Eurozone Banking Union
On 11 and 12 April 2013, the Oxford Law & Finance Group hosted a conference on ‘The Eurozone Banking Union – Messiah or Flight of Fancy?’ [more…]
Masters in Law and Finance Alumni Reunion 2013
Vancouver Alumni Tea Party
In conjunction with the University’s North American reception in Vancouver on 18 March 2013, the Faculty of Law hosted a tea party for Law alumni. Dr Dan Awrey, University Lecturer in Law and Finance, spoke on current developments in the Law Faculty including the Msc in Law & Finance and the appointment of Catherine Redgwell as the new Chichele Professor of Public International Law. As always with Law alumni gatherings, the event brought together alumni who studied law, as well as those who read another subject in Oxford and went on to practice law [more…]
New DPhil Scholarship in Law and Finance
The Faculty of Law has been selected as one of the first research hubs of the newly created Global Research Network on Law and Finance (GRNLF) sponsored by the Max Planck Society and the Institute for New Economic Thinking [more…]
Leading US scholars visit Law and Finance Programme
The Law and Finance programme was delighted to host two leading US scholars in recent weeks, Professor John Coates of Harvard Law School and Professor Jack Coffee of Columbia Law School [more…]
These self-sustaining groups are an essential part of the life of our graduate school. They are organised in some cases by graduate students and in others by Faculty members and meet regularly during term, typically over a sandwich lunch, when one of the group presents work in progress or introduces a discussion of a particular issue or new case. They may also encompass guest speakers from the faculty and beyond.
D Awrey, 'Toward a Supply-side Theory of Financial Innovation' (2013) 41:2 Journal of Comparative Economics 401
WG Ringe, 'Hedge Funds and Risk-Decoupling – The Empty Voting Problem in the European Union' (2013) 36 Seattle University Law Review 1027 [...]
Negative risk-decoupling, otherwise known as empty voting, is a popular strategy amongst hedge funds and other activist investors. In short, it is the attempt to decouple the economic risk from the share’s ownership position, retaining in particular the voting right without risk. This paper uses three perspectives to analyse the problems created by negative risk-decoupling: an agency costs approach, an analysis of information costs, and a perspective from corporate finance. It shows how risk-decoupling is a type of market behaviour that creates significant costs for market participants, in particular existing shareholders and potential investors. The paper then develops regulatory responses, envisaged particularly for EU level lawmaking, but also raises underlying issues on a more general level. Whilst several proposed regulatory tools are rejected, the paper prefers a solution that uses continuous transparency as the cornerstone. In addition, it suggests that in certain individual cases, national regulators should be empowered to suspend activists’ voting rights. The paper concludes by offering a concrete legislative proposal, amending the European Transparency Directive.
J Armour, BS Black and BR Cheffins, 'Is Delaware Losing its Cases?' (2012) 9 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 605 [...]
Delaware’s expert courts are seen as an integral part of the state’s success in attracting incorporation by public companies. However, the benefit that Delaware companies derive from this expertise depends on whether corporate lawsuits against Delaware companies are brought before the Delaware courts. We report evidence that these suits are increasingly brought outside Delaware. We investigate changes in where suits are brought using four hand-collected data sets capturing different types of suits: class action lawsuits filed in (1) large M&A and (2) leveraged buyout transactions over 1994–2010; (3) derivative suits alleging option backdating; and (4) cases against public company directors that generate one or more publicly available opinions between 1995 and 2009. We find a secular increase in litigation rates for all companies in large M&A transactions and for Delaware companies in LBO transactions. We also see trends toward (1) suits being filed outside Delaware in both large M&A and LBO transactions and in cases generating opinions; and (2) suits being filed both in Delaware and elsewhere in large M&A transactions. Overall, Delaware courts are losing market share in lawsuits, and Delaware companies are gaining lawsuits, often filed elsewhere. We find some evidence that the timing of specific Delaware court decisions that affect plaintiffs’ firms coincides with the movement of cases out of Delaware. Our evidence suggests that serious as well as nuisance cases are leaving Delaware. The trends we report potentially present a challenge to Delaware’s competitiveness in the market for incorporations.
J Armour, Audrey Hsu and Adrian Walters, 'The Costs and Benefits of Secured Creditor Control in Bankruptcy: Evidence from the UK' (2012) 8 Review of Law and Economics 101 [...]
The theoretical literature debates whether debtors should be permitted to contract with lenders over control rights in bankruptcy. Proponents point to coordination benefits from concentrating control rights; detractors point to inter-creditor agency costs. A recent reform of UK bankruptcy law provides an opportunity to test these theories. Until 2003, UK bankruptcy law permitted firms to give complete ex post control to secured creditors, through a procedure known as “receivership.” A bankruptcy reform then required firms to use a different procedure, “administration,” which confers greater control on unsecured creditors. We present empirical findings from a hand-coded sample of 340 bankruptcies from both before and after the change in the law. Whilst gross realizations have increased following the change in the law, these have tended to be eaten up by increased bankruptcy costs. We infer that dispersed and concentrated creditor governance in bankruptcy may be functionally equivalent.
M Kettunen and WG Ringe, 'Disclosure Regulation of Cash-Settled Equity Derivatives – an Intentions-Based Approach'  Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly 227 [...]
In capital markets around the world, calls for greater transparency regarding holdings of cash-settled equity derivatives (in particular Contracts for Difference, CfDs) have arisen due to the increased use of CfDs to gain control or to influence the management of prominent companies on all major European stock exchanges. They have been used in this manner due to an emerging practice that permits a CfD holder to capture the shares to which the CfD arrangement relates (without entering into any further express or implied agreements to do so), thereby acquiring a de facto control position in the target company. The UK was among the first countries to extend its shareholder disclosure regime to cover CfDs. Positions above the trigger threshold of 3 per cent must be disclosed as if they were shares enti-tling the holder to voting rights in the target company. Two alternatives were considered when pre-paring this new regulation: firstly, a general disclosure obligation of all economic long positions and secondly, a safe harbour regulation with exemptions from the requirement to disclose certain CfD transactions. Ultimately, the first option was preferred, yet not on the basis of its own merits but be-cause the safe harbour alternative was considered too complicated and difficult to enforce. This paper evaluates disclosure regulation of cash-settled equity derivatives and assesses the ef-fectiveness and suitability of the disclosure regulation under chapter 5 of Disclosure and Transparency Rules (DTR) in the UK with comparison to the relevant US rules and case law. We argue that the UK made the wrong choice of disclosure regime for CfDs. It fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the underlying problem relating to CfDs. As this article explains, the key problem related to CfDs is not the economic interest which CfDs convey per se, but rather the hedging structures that market participants have developed to facilitate the use of CfDs to acquire control of companies by stealth. This particular mischief would have been better targeted by an intentions-based disclosure regulation requiring disclosure of CfD positions only in cases where the CfD holder intends to launch a takeover or to otherwise influence the target company’s strategy and operations. Instead, the UK market is saddled with a general disclosure obligation with only very limited exceptions. This disclosure obligation is too wide in scope, places an undue burden on market partici-pants and ultimately acts as a deterrent to CfD transactions. This article argues that the UK should move away from the current general disclosure obligation towards intentions-based disclosure to re-move the current fetter on the CfD market, while still tackling the underlying mischief.
J Armour and W.-G. Ringe, 'European Corporate Law 1999-2010: Renaissance and Crisis' (2011) 48 Common Market Law Review 125 [...]
European corporate law has enjoyed a renaissance in the past decade. Fifteen years ago, this would have seemed most implausible. In the mid–1990s, the early integration strategy of seeking to harmonize substantive company law seemed to have been stalled by the need to reconcile fundamental differences in approaches to corporate governance. Little was happening, and the grand vision of the early pioneers appeared more dream than ambition. Yet since then, a combination of adventurous decisions by the Court of Justice, innovative approaches to legislation by the Commission, and disastrous crises in capital markets has produced a headlong rush of reform activity. The volume and pace of change has been such that few have had time to digest it: not least policymakers, with the consequence that the developments have not always been well coordinated. The recent financial crisis has yet again thrown many – quite fundamental – issues into question. In this article, we offer an overview that puts the most significant developments of this decade into context, alongside each other and the changing patterns of corporate structure in European countries. Such developments cover, for instance, corporate mobility, corporate freedom of establishment, golden shares case law, as well as the Commission’s Company Law Action Plan CLAP and Financial Services Action Plan FSAP. Harmonization of Member States’ company laws on the rules governing listed companies and the facilitation of cross-border restructuring are also examined.
J Armour, J. Jacobs and C. Milhaupt, 'The Evolution of Hostile Takeover Regimes in Developed and Emerging Markets: An Analytical Framework' (2011) 52 Harvard International Law Journal 219 [...]
n each of the three largest economies with dispersed ownership of public companies—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan—hostile takeovers emerged under a common set of circumstances. Yet the national regulatory responses to these new market developments diverged substantially. In the United States, the Delaware judiciary became the principal source and enforcer of rules on hostile takeovers. These rules give substantial discretion to target company boards in responding to unsolicited bids. In the United Kingdom, by contrast, a private body consisting of market professionals was formed to adopt and enforce the rules on hostile bids and defenses. In contrast to those of the United States, the U.K. rules give the shareholders primary decisionmaking authority in responding to hostile takeover attempts. The hostile takeover regime in Japan, which developed recently and is still evolving, combines substantive rules with elements drawn from both the United States (Delaware) and the United Kingdom, while adding distinctive elements, including an independent enforcement role for Japan’s stock exchange. This Article provides an analytical framework for business law development to explain the diversity in hostile takeover regimes in these three countries. The framework identifies a range of supply and demand dynamics that drives the evolution of business law in response to new market developments. It emphasizes the common role of subordinate lawmakers in filling the vacuum left by legislative inaction, and it highlights the prevalence of “preemptive lawmaking” to avoid legislation that may be contrary to the interests of important corporate governance players. Extrapolating from the analysis of developed economies, the framework also illuminates the current state and plausible future trajectory of hostile takeover regulation in the important emerging markets of China, India, and Brazil. A noteworthy pattern that the analysis reveals is the ostensible adoption—and adaptation—of “best practices” for hostile takeover regulation derived from Delaware and the United Kingdom in ways that protect important interests within each emerging market’s national corporate governance system.
B.R. Cheffins and J Armour, 'The Past, Present and Future of Shareholder Activism by Hedge Funds' (2011) 37 Journal of Corporation Law 51 [...]
The forthright brand of shareholder activism hedge funds deploy emerged by the mid-2000s as a major corporate governance phenomenon. This Article explains the rise of hedge fund activism and offers predictions about future developments. The Article begins by distinguishing the “offensive” form of activism hedge funds engage in from “defensive” interventions “mainstream” institutional investors (e.g. pension funds or mutual funds) undertake. Variables influencing the prevalence of offensive shareholder activism are then identified using a heuristic device, “the market for corporate influence.” The rise of hedge funds as practitioners of offensive shareholder activism is traced by reference to the “supply” and “demand” sides of this market, with the basic chronology being that, while there were direct antecedents of hedge fund activists as far back as the 1980s, hedge funds did not move to the activism forefront until the 2000s. The Article brings matters up-to-date by discussing the impact of the recent financial crisis on hedge fund activism and draws upon the market for corporate influence heuristic to predict that activism by hedge funds is likely to remain an important element of corporate governance going forward.
WG Ringe and A Hellgardt, 'An international dimension of issuer liability - Liability and choice of law from a transatlantic perspective' (2011) 31 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 23 [...]
The integration of the European capital markets makes progress and has led both issuers and investors being active on various markets on both sides of the Atlantic. In times of financial crises, this brings one question into the centre of attention which had not been discussed exhaustively before: In the situation of a securities liability towards investors in an international context, which is the applicable law to the liability claim? The harmonisation of private international law rules in Europe gives rise to new reflections on the problem of international issuer liability. In the United States, on the other hand, the Supreme Court has just granted certiorari in a ‘foreign-cubed’ securi-ties class action case and will thus rule for the first time on matters relating to the inter-national application of the US securities regulation soon. This paper understands the role of issuer liability in a broader context as a ‘corporate governance’ device and, from this starting point, develops a new approach to the legal problem of cross-border securities liability.
J Armour, S Deakin, V Mollica and M Siems, 'Law and Financial Development: What We are Learning from Time Series Evidence' (2010) Brigham Young University Law Review 1435 [...]
The legal origins hypothesis is one of the most important and influential ideas to emerge in the social sciences in the past decade. However, the empirical base of the legal origins claim has always been contestable, as it largely consists of cross-sectional datasets, which provide evidence on the state of the law only at limited points in time. There is now a growing body of data derived from techniques for coding crossnational legal variation over time. This time-series evidence is reviewed here and is shown to cast new light on some of the central claims of legal origins theory. Legal origins are shown to be of little help in explaining trends in the law relating to shareholder protection, although the classification of legal systems into English-, French-, and German origin “families” has greater explanatory force in the context of creditor rights. The widely-held view that increases in shareholder rights foster financial development is not supported by time-series analyses. More generally, the new evidence casts doubt on the suggestion that legal origins operate as an “exogenous” force, independently shaping both the content of laws and economic outcomes. It is more plausible to see legal systems as evolving in parallel with changes in economic conditions and political structures at national level.
D Awrey, 'The FSA, Integrated Regulation and the Curious Case of OTC Derivatives' (2010) 13:1 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law 101
J Armour, S Deakin, P Lele and M Siems, 'How Do Legal Rules Evolve? Evidence from a Cross-Country Comparison of hareholder, Creditor and Worker Protection' (2009) 57 American Journal of Comparative Law 579 [...]
Much attention has been devoted in recent literature to the claim that a country’s ‘legal origin’ may make a difference to its pattern of financial development and more generally to its economic growth path. Proponents of this view assert that the ‘family’ within which a country’s legal system originated, be it common law, or one of the varieties of civil law, has a significant impact upon the quality of its legal protection of shareholders, which in turn impacts upon economic growth, through the channel of firms’ access to external finance. Complementary studies of creditors’ rights and labour regulation have buttressed the core claim that different legal families have different dynamic properties. Specifically, common law systems are thought to be better able to respond to the changing needs of a market economy than are civilian systems. This literature has, however, largely been based upon cross-sectional studies of the quality of corporate, insolvency and labour law at particular points in the late 1990s. In this paper, we report findings based on newly constructed indices which track legal change over time in the areas of shareholder, creditor and worker protection. The indices cover five systems for the period 1970-2005: three ‘parent’ systems, the UK, France and Germany; the world’s most developed economy, the US; and its largest democracy, India. The results cast doubt on the legal origin hypothesis in so far as they show that civil law systems have seen substantial increases in shareholder protection over the period in question. The pattern of change differs depending on the area which is being examined, with the law on creditor and worker protection demonstrating more divergence and heterogeneity than that relationg to shareholders. The results for worker protection are more consistent with the legal origin claim than in the other two cases, but this overall result conceals significant diversity within the two ‘legal families,' with different countries relying on different institutional mechanisms to regulate labour. Until the late 1980s the law of the five countries was diverging, but in the last 10-15 years there has been some convergence, particularly in relation to shareholder protection.
The process of liberalisation of India's economy since 1991 has brought with it considerable development both of its financial markets and the legal institutions which support these. An influential body of recent economic work asserts that a country's 'legal origin'-as a civilian or common law jurisdiction-plays an important part in determining the development of its investor protection regulations, and consequently its financial development. An alternative theory claims that the determinants of investor protection are political, rather than legal. We use the case of India to test these theories. We find little support for the idea that India's legal heritage as a common law country has been influential in speeding the path of regulatory reforms and financial development. There is a complementarity between (i) India's relative success in services and software, (ii) the relative strength of its financial markets for outside equity, as opposed to outside debt, and (iii) the relative success of stock market regulation, as opposed to reforms of creditor rights. We conclude that political explanations have more traction in explaining the case of India than do theories based on 'legal origins'.
J Armour, S Deakin, P Sarkar, M Siems and A Singh, 'Shareholder Protection and Stock Market Development: An Empirical Test of the Legal Origins Hypothesis' (2009) 6 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 343 [...]
Using a panel data set covering a range of developed and developing countries, we show that common-law systems were more protective of shareholder interests than civil-law ones in the period 1995–2005. However, civilian systems were catching up, suggesting that legal origin was not much of an obstacle to formal convergence in shareholder protection law. We find no evidence of a positive impact of these legal changes on stock market development. Possible explanations are that laws have been overly protective of shareholders and that transplanted laws have not worked well in contexts for which they were not suited.
J Armour, R Kraakman, P Davies, L Enriques, H Hansmann, G Hertig and K Hopt, H Kanda, E Rock, The Anatomy of Corporate Law (Oxford University Press 2009)
J Armour, 'The Rise of the Pre-Pack: Corporate Restructuring in the UK and Proposals for Reform' in R.P. Austin and Fady J.G. Aoun (eds), Restructuring Companies in Troubled Times: Director and Creditor Perspectives (Ross Parsons Centre Sydney Law School 2012)
J Armour and B.R. Cheffins, 'Origins of Offensive Shareholder Activism in the United States' in J.G.S. Koppell (ed), Origins of Shareholder Advocacy (Palgrave Macmillan 2011) [...]
“Offensive shareholder activism” involves buying up sizeable stakes in underperforming companies and agitating for changes predicted to increase shareholder returns. Though hedge funds are currently highly publicized practitioners of this corporate governance tactic, there has been no analysis of the extent to which managers of U.S. public companies were faced with challenges of this nature during the first half of the 20th century. This paper correspondingly examines instances during this period where investors engaged in offensive shareholder activism, based on a hand collected dataset of proxy contests occurring between 1900 and 1949. Our findings indicate that offensive shareholder activism, while not commonplace, did occur and was considerably more prevalent in the 1930s and 1940s than in earlier decades. We explain our results by reference to a simple model of offensive shareholder activism and argue that the ebb and flow of takeover activity may have been the primary determinant of the trends we observe.
J Armour, 'Enforcement Strategies in UK Corporate Governance: A Roadmap and Empirical Assessment' in John Armour and Jennifer Payne (eds), Rationality in Company Law (Hart Publishing 2009) [...]
Shares in publicly-quoted UK companies are, similarly to those in their US counterparts, dispersed amongst many holders. The central problem of corporate governance for UK listed firms is therefore rendering managers accountable to shareholders. This paper investigates the way in which the mechanisms used to control these managerial agency problems are enforced. It provides a roadmap of the enforcement strategies employed, and a first approximation of their empirical significance. The results suggest three stylised facts about the UK corporate governance system. First, shareholder lawsuits are conspicuous by their absence. Formal private enforcement plays little or no role in controlling managers. Secondly, and contrary to leading accounts in the economic literature, it is public, rather than private, enforcement which dominates in relation to listed companies. However, the lion's share of the interventions by the relevant agencies - the Takeover Panel, the Financial Reporting Review Panel, and the Financial Services Authority - is of an informal character, not resulting in any legal action. Suasion, rather than sanction, is the order of the day. Thirdly, a simple divide between public and private enforcement fails fully to take account of the role played by institutional investors in the UK, who have engaged systematically in informal private enforcement activity. Strong informal private enforcement has historically therefore been the flipside, in the UK, of weak formal private enforcement.
J Armour, 'European Insolvency Proceedings and Party Choice: Comment' in L Gullifer, W-G Ringe and P Thery (eds), Current Issues in European Financial and InsolvencY Law (Hart Publishing 2009)
This collection of essays is a festschrift to honour Professor Dan Prentice who retired in 2008 from the Allen & Overy Professorship of Company Law in the University of Oxford. Dan Prentice has been deeply involved in corporate law from all perspectives: as a scholar, teacher, law reformer and practising member of Erskine Chambers. His interests have covered the full range of corporate law, finance and insolvency. The occasion of his retirement from his Professorship has afforded a number of leading corporate law experts from around the world, many of whom are his former students and colleagues, an opportunity to address some of the most important issues in corporate law today, in his honour. Corporate law has always been a fast-moving area, but the present pace of change seems quicker than ever. The Companies Act 2006, by some way the longest piece of legislation ever passed by the UK Parliament, is reshaping the landscape of domestic company law. At the same time, legislative and judicial developments at the European level in corporate and securities law are of unprecedented importance for corporate lawyers based in the UK. This outstanding series of papers addresses a number of the most important issues currently facing the subject, including the impact of the new Companies Act on directors' duties, shareholder litigation and capital maintenance; aspects of insolvency and banking regulation, the Capital Requirements Directive, and a new Convention on Intermediated securities. It will be essential reading for all those interested in the field.
The courses we offer in this field are:
This course lays out the foundations of Finance with a particular emphasis on the financial decisions taken by firms. We begin by developing a framework for the financial evaluation of investment decisions. We introduce the concept of discounting and the net present value as a tool for investment appraisal. The course then moves on to develop a measure of risk and presents a model that allows us to evaluate risk (the Capital Asset Pricing Model). We then introduce another important financial decision by the firm, namely through what source (debt, equity etc.) to fund its activities. We will use insights from the modelling of risk to understand how different sources of finance affect the riskiness and therefore the price of financial claims issued by the firm. The course then shows how the previous models and concepts can be used by firms to evaluate investment proposals and take optimal capital budgeting decisions. Finally, we will discuss tax implications and corporate governance issues related to firms’ financial decisions.
This course builds on and develops the concepts covered in Finance I. We consider asymmetric information and capital structure; dividend and share repurchase policy; issues in capital budgeting; the concept of adjusted present value; the nature and pricing of financial and real options, and the valuation of complex capital investment projects. Students are also expected to carry out a case analysis of payout policy.
This class builds the conceptual foundation required for the economic analysis of corporate financial policy, competitive asset markets and the regulation of both corporations and financial markets. The course?s lectures will focus on: rationality, the Coase Theorem, property rights, competitive markets, the market for risk, market failures, asymmetries of information, and aggregation of information.
This course, which runs during the Hilary and Trinity terms, gives students a toolkit for structuring common corporate transactions. It acts as the fulcrum for the programme as a whole. We begin with sessions on the economic theory of contracting: the nature of the agency, hold-up costs, and other strategic behaviour to be expected in a contracting relationship. We then move on to consider six practical applications to well-known corporate transactions. In each case, an overview of the relevant legal background is introduced in class, and students are then given document packs based on real transactions to work on in a group before presenting their work to the class and academics from the disciplines of law, finance and economics. Practitioners from the leading law firms who completed the transactions under review will then talk to students about the case studies, giving their views and explaining what happened in the real scenario.
Law and Finance teaching is organized by a Subject Group convened by:
John Armour: Hogan Lovells Professor of Law and Finance
in conjunction with:
Dan Awrey: University Lecturer in Law & Finance
Judith Freedman: Professor of Taxation Law
Louise Gullifer: Professor of Commercial Law
Jennifer Payne: Professor of Corporate Finance Law
John Vella: Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation
Also working in this field, but not involved in its teaching programme: