Due to an increase in the number of enforcement actions resulting from an agency initiative during the year, the number of enforcement actions brought by the SEC against public companies was at the highest level in at least ten years, according to a recent report. The report, entitled “SEC Enforcement Activity: Public Companies and Subsidiaries Fiscal Year 2019 Update,” which can be found here, was prepared by the NYU Pollack Center for Law & Business and Cornerstone Research. According to the report, the agency’s public company enforcement action monetary recoveries during the fiscal year were consistent with long-term averages.  Cornerstone Research’s November 20, 2019 press release about the report can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Public Company Enforcement Actions Highest in Ten Years

In November, when the SEC released its annual enforcement activity report, the report showed that during the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2018 both the volume of the agency’s enforcement activity and the level of financial recoveries increased compared to the prior fiscal year. The agency’s report did not separate out its enforcement activity involving public companies. However, a new report from the NYU Pollack Center for Law & Business and Cornerstone Research breaks out the enforcement numbers for public companies. The new report show that SEC enforcement actions against public companies and subsidiaries “jumped substantially” in the second half of FY 2018, reversing a decline in filings that began in the second half of 2017 and continued through the first half of 2018.
Continue Reading SEC Enforcement Activity Against Public Companies Surges in FY 2018’s Second Half

stock marketThere is a long and venerable tradition of predicting the demise of the American public corporation. For example, back in 1989, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Jensen famously questioned whether we were seeing the “eclipse of the public corporation.” In a February 2017 paper entitled “Is the American Public Corporation in Trouble?” (here) University of Arizona finance professor Kathleen Kahle and Ohio State University finance professor René M. Stulz reexamine the question and suggest that in the years since Jensen’s landmark article, there have been “striking changes” in the landscape for American corporations. The relatively few remaining public companies are, in effect, “survivors,” and few “want to join their club,” as new enterprises prefer private equity and other non-public finance sources to the public securities markets. A March 24, 2017 summary of the authors’ paper on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation can be found here.
Continue Reading Are We Witnessing the Sunset of the U.S. Public Company?

green_stock_tickerAs I have noted previously on this site, there are many fewer publicly traded companies in the United States now than there were within past decades. I have noted this phenomenon primarily within the context of observing that while the annual number of securities class action lawsuits has remained broadly stable within a range, the number of public companies has declined, suggesting that the average likelihood of any company getting hit with a securities suit has increased over  time (as discussed here). This often-overlooked observation is important, but it doesn’t address the more fundamental question of why there are so many fewer publicly traded companies than there once were. A recent academic paper documents the decline in the number of publicly traded companies and suggests several possible reasons for the decline. I have my own thoughts, as well. As discussed further below, these decline in the number of listed companies has important implications for the economy generally and for the D&O insurance marketplace in particular.
Continue Reading Yes, But WHY Are There So Many Fewer Publicly Traded Companies?