Breakingviews

Wall Street owners finally get breakup bona fides

March 19, 2015

The SEC is allowing BofA shareholders to vote on whether to spin off Merrill Lynch. The watchdog previously muzzled similar requests at JPMorgan and elsewhere. Banks won’t like the scrutiny, but it’s a worthwhile debate to air publicly, as they’re running the numbers internally.

SEC gets tough on auditors and soft on China

February 9, 2015

Accounting firms will find it harder to keep paperwork on suspected Chinese fraudsters from the U.S. watchdog. Those that don’t try to help could face temporary bans. Yet the new approach leaves China plenty of scope to nix investigations. Investors are only a little better off.

U.S. insider trading cops risk pasting from bench

January 30, 2015

Prosecutors’ aggressive view of the law has already irked appeals judges, and the Supreme Court may be next. A case on the definition of an illegal tip could give Justice Scalia his long-sought chance to rein in Wall Street watchdogs. Their loss would be a win for clearer rules.

Twitter free-speech chirps carry overtone of risk

October 9, 2014

After its UK super-injunction tiff, the microblog is fighting to reveal secret U.S. demands for data. The two cases show that firms have power to resist being muzzled – or forced to speak. That’s a check on judicial and government overreach, but it could undermine regulation.

Guest view: Let sun shine on corporate donations

By Guest Contributor
May 29, 2014

Fresh from governance wins on dual-class shares and golden parachutes, Teamsters boss James Hoffa is taking aim at the growing role of companies in U.S. elections. Investors ought to know about these campaign contributions, he says. And it’s up to the SEC to force disclosure.

Rob Cox: Coke takes fizz out of shareholder spring

April 24, 2014

Just as investors seemed to break through entrenched boards’ barricades, Coca-Cola owners - shockingly led by Warren Buffett - turned to jelly. A failure to challenge the transfer of vast wealth to 6,400 Coke soda jerks shows the agency problem still plagues Corporate America.

Rob Cox: GE should put itself up for sale

April 1, 2014

April Fools’ Day joke? Nope. It’s a shareholder proposal on the ballot at GE’s annual meeting. Setting aside the absence of buyers for a $260 bln company, it illustrates the kind of shareholder democracy gone wild that many boards and an SEC commissioner would like to squelch.

Activists crash dealmaker party

March 25, 2014

Shareholder lawsuits, cross-border mergers and defender-in-chief Marty Lipton will play supporting roles at the annual New Orleans M&A confab. Aggressive investors shaking dozy boards are the headliners. Their increasing presence at the gathering reinforces a growing power.

A Goldman minnow finally lands in the SEC’s net

August 1, 2013

The jury verdict against Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre ends a losing streak at trial for the U.S. regulator. But the former trader played a minuscule role in Wall Street’s machinations during the financial crisis. The SEC’s win won’t absolve it from letting big fish get away.

“Fab” Tourre verdict can only make SEC look bad

July 30, 2013

The trial of the ex-Goldman CDO banker is ending. Tourre’s lawyers seem sure the U.S. regulator has blown it. If so, the SEC will seem inept. But even a win would only highlight the failure to bag a high-level boss. Stronger cases are needed to give the Wall Street watchdog bite.