Financial Regulatory Forum

UK tax migration hits reverse under temporary exemption rules

By Christopher Elias

LONDON, Aug. 24 (Business Law Currents) – The UK offshore migration hit reverse recently when London-listed Bermudan reinsurer Lancashire Holdings decided that UK tax changes had made going offshore unnecessary.

Sailing home to Blighty was Lancashire, who recently announced that it intended to move to a UK tax residency from its current offshore Bermuda location, as the UK’s Controlled Foreign Companies (CFCs) rules introduce a temporary period of exemption. (more…)

Two hats or one: revisiting the role of board chair in Canada

By John Mackie

TORONTO, Aug. 23 (Business Law Currents) For institutions, regulators and investors, executives who wear two hats, such as CEO and chairman, are in an inherent conflict of interest. The situation is complicated further when roles are shared, such as in cases of co-chairs or co-CEOs.

One company that has been the center of this ongoing debate in Canada is Waterloo-based Research in Motion (RIM). In RIM’s case, the complexity is taken to an extreme, with co-CEOs who are also co-chairs. (more…)

SEC’s new whistleblower website – ‘winning’ Dodd-Frank style

By John Sutton

Aug. 17  (Business Law Currents) – As the fabled story goes, almost a decade passed between the time that fraud investigator Harry Markopolos first submitted evidence of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme to the SEC’s Boston office and his arrest in late 2008.

With the adoption of the new whistleblower program under Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act and the release of the program’s related website specifically designed for whistleblowers to provide tips, the SEC is now able to get serious about following up on whistleblower leads. (more…)

from The Great Debate:

Merkel and Sarkozy are right about a Tobin tax

By Mark Thoma
All opinions expressed are his own.

The financial transactions tax is back in the news today. According to reports, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will propose a financial transactions tax in September.

Is this a good idea? It would certainly provide needed revenue to cash strapped governments, but at what cost? Governments must raise revenue somehow, but is this the best way to get the cash they need? Some taxes have a large distortionary effect on economic activity -- with a financial transactions tax, the worry is that investment activity will be curtailed-- and others have a much smaller effect. Some taxes can even make markets work better, e.g. taxes that force firms to internalize pollution costs and other externalities improves the decisions firms make. From society's point of view, they are more, not less efficient. Thus, in designing a tax system, we should look for taxes that provide the most revenue at the least cost.

So is a financial transactions tax a highly distortionary, costly tax? The answer is no. The tax would discourage short-term speculative activity, but much of this activity provides little social value. It pushes money around among winners and losers, and traders like it for that reason, but if this activity is discouraged through taxation it would have little effect on long-term investment decisions by firms. For example, one thing this would discourage is high frequency computer trading to exploit minute differences in prices. Does it really matter for long-term investment if these differences persist for a few seconds or minutes more?

New Canadian compensation rules make work for issuers in coming proxy season

By John Mackie

Aug. 16  (Business Law Currents) With the recent announcement by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) that changes in executive disclosure requirements will apply for financial years ending on or after October 31, Canadian issuers may want to do some advance planning in order to avoid last minute scrambling in the New Year.

The proposed amendments to Form 51-102F6 – Statement of Executive Compensation range from simple drafting changes and clarifications to new substantive requirements, and reflect both the proposal issued last November and the comments received in response.

Perhaps the biggest changes contemplated by the new form are the obligation to disclose an issuer’s risk management practices vis-à-vis compensation policies and practices, and the emphasis placed on discussions of performance targets. For issuers, the former may require stepping onto unfamiliar ground, and the latter may test their willingness to share financial planning data with the street at large.

Start-up rating agencies urge national regulators to promote competition, change

By Rachel Wolcott

Aug. 15  (Thomson Reuters Accelus) –  Even as national governments cry foul over recent sovereign ratings downgrades, new rules and regulation aimed at rating agencies is making it harder for newcomers to break into the ratings market. Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings may have come under renewed fire because of the sovereign debt crisis, but rules set out in the United States’ 2006 Credit Rating Agency Reform Act and the Dodd-Frank Act have yet to open up the market as hoped.

The European Union, via the European Securities and Markets Authority, has also taken steps to clamp down on ratings agencies, but there again the ratings oligopoly remains largely unchallenged. Now, new entrants to the ratings market are urging regulators and legislators on both sides of the Atlantic to focus their efforts on promoting competition in the sector.

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Shorting bans: What the four European regulators are prohibiting (and what they’re not)

By Peter Elstob

LONDON, Aug. 15 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The bans on short-selling the shares in a number of banks and insurance companies (and one stock exchange) that four member states imposed on Friday did not bring the single European rulebook any closer.

However, the European Commission will be hoping that the separate initiatives by the Belgian, French, Italian and Spanish market regulators, which came out of “coordinated discussions” during a conference call on Thursday evening involving all 27 members of the European Securities and Markets Authority, do not put it further away.

Some of the details of each national action are set out below, and they do indeed appear to be harmonised, at least to an extent. More detail, and also any updates to the lists of issuers included, should be sought on the respective regulators’ websites.

Chinese reverse-merger firms delisted in U.S. may go private, lawyers say

By Patricia Lee

SINGAPORE, Aug. 5 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Chinese reverse merger companies recently suspended or delisted from U.S. stock exchanges for various breaches may find it more viable to go private than to re-list in the U.S. or elsewhere,  lawyers said. The protracted investigations by U.S. regulators and the potential costs involved in settling the lawsuits mean that, for some companies, selling their entities would be a better strategy.

When the benefits of listing are outweighed by the time and expense, some companies might choose not to re-gain listing in the U.S. or in other jurisdictions, Barry Genkin, partner at Blank Rome and chair of the firm’s Asia capital market practice told Thomson Reuters.  ”In other situations, from a strategic prospective, it may make sense for the company to be sold,” he added. (more…)

Recent corporate disclosures reflect unease over U.S. debt ceiling impasse

By Thomson Reuters Accelus – Staff

NEW YORK, July 29 (Business Law Currents) The U.S. debt ceiling debate may be a lot of noise to some of  the public, but for companies and investment funds, the governmental standoff has real consequences. The ripple effect through the markets should the government of the United States default on its obligations can’t be fully appreciated. The inevitable credit ratings hit will drive up the already high cost of borrowing for taxpayers. For many companies, who are starting to discuss the debt-ceiling debate in their regulatory filings, it is not only credit markets that will be affected. Independent government contractors may also get stiffed, not to mention lose future business. (more…)

Canada’s Anti-Bribery Cops Reel One In

By John Mackie

TORONTO, July 22 (Business Law Currents) – Though Canada has had foreign bribery legislation in effect for over a decade, prosecutions have proven very few and very far between. So it remains to be seen whether the recent guilty plea by Calgary’s Niko Resources under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act marks a scaling-up of Canadian efforts on this front, or just another blip on the radar screen.

Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) entered into force on February 14, 1999. The Act contemplates prosecutions in respect of three offences: bribing a foreign public official, laundering property and proceeds, and possession of property and proceeds. In addition, the CFPOA enables prosecutions for conspiracy, aiding and abetting, counselling, and the like.

One aspect of the CFPOA that has attracted criticism from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Transparency International is that there must be a “real and substantial link” between the offence and Canada. While a bill has been introduced to eliminate this requirement, it has not passed into law, and arguably remains a significant barrier to investigations.

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