Tussenbalans van een continue evenwichtsoefening: nieuw proefschrift over aandeelhoudersrechten in Nederland

Gisteren promoveerde Frans Overkleeft aan de Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam met een proefschrift over de positie van aandeelhouders in beurgesnoteerde vennootschappen.

Corporate governance in Nederland was zelden zo actueel. Deze blog berichtte nog maar net over het aandeelhoudersactivisme gericht tegen Akzo Nobel, nadat het een buitenlands bod afwees. Ook Unilever en PostNL schermden recent met buitenlandse kapers. Hierop ontstond een interessant politiek debat over hoe Nederlandse beursvennootschappen beter beschermd kunnen worden tegen ongewenste overnames.

Op een beter tijdstip kon het proefschrift van Frans Overkleeft niet verschijnen. In een even uitgebreide als grondige studie analyseert hij de positie van aandeelhouders in beursgenoteerde vennootschappen in Nederland. Zijn onderzoek naar de wisselwerking tussen wetten, rechtspraak en feiten in deze context, plaatst de recente evoluties in een interessant perspectief.

Continue reading “Tussenbalans van een continue evenwichtsoefening: nieuw proefschrift over aandeelhoudersrechten in Nederland”

€1,2 billion settlement in Fortis case rejected by Dutch Court

On 16 June 2017, the Court of Amsterdam refused to approve the settlement reached in a Dutch mass claims procedure between Ageas (Fortis’ legal successor) and four claimant organisations (VEB, Deminor, SICAF and Stichting FortisEffect) concerning allegedly false or misleading statements by Fortis during the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. The €1,2 billion settlement was the largest of its kind in Europe. The main rationale for the court’s decision? The court held that the distinction in compensation between “Active Claimants” (those who filed a legal procedure or registered with any of the claimant organisations) and “Non-Active Claimants” (those who didn’t) was unjustified and that the fees for claimant organisations were exorbitant.

This means that Ageas and the claimant organisations will have to renegotiate their settlement agreement and address the concerns of the Court, if they want to have an agreement that is binding on all potential claimants. Continue reading “€1,2 billion settlement in Fortis case rejected by Dutch Court”

Akzo Nobel: Activist Shareholders Hit Wall of Dutch Stakeholder Model

An analysis by Tom Vos & Thom Wetzer

An attempt at courtship has ended up in court. Over the past months, US paints and coatings giant PPG Industries (‘PPG’) has tried to woe the management and shareholders of Dutch rival Akzo Nobel (‘Akzo’) with friendly takeover offers. It has been rewarded by a consistently aloof response from Akzo’s boards, and especially its Chairman Antony Burgmans, who has so far refused to enter talks. On May 29, the Enterprise Chamber of Amsterdam (a Dutch commercial court) rejected efforts by some of Akzo’s shareholders, led by activist investor Elliott Management Corp. (‘Elliott’), to force a shareholder vote intended to oust Mr. Burgmans.

The case comes at a critical time in what has become an increasingly bitter exchange. Akzo has so far rejected three unsolicited friendly offers from PPG, arguing that they undervalue the company, do not make any serious commitments to its stakeholders, demonstrate a cultural lack of understanding, and entail significant risks and uncertainties (including lengthy reviews by the EU’s competition authority). Continue reading “Akzo Nobel: Activist Shareholders Hit Wall of Dutch Stakeholder Model”

Money (That’s What I Want). De invloed van de remuneratie van de advocaat op de actio mandati en minderheidsvordering

Corporate/Bankruptcy governance

In een aantal eerdere blogposten (zie hier en hier) werd reeds kort aangestipt dat de remuneratie van de curator invloed heeft op bankruptcy governance, en i.h.b. op het gedrag van de curator m.b.t. het instellen van bestuursaansprakelijkheidsvorderingen. De remuneratie zou moeten werken als een wortel die de belangen van de curator gelijkschakelt met die van zijn principaal, i.e. de gezamenlijke schuldeisers in de boedel. Helaas faalt het huidig Belgisch recht daarin (zie daarover F. DE LEO en D. CARDINAELS, “Het bureau voor rechtsbijstand is geen insolventieverzekeraar, maar wie dan wel? Over het prikkelend karakter van de remuneratie van de curator”, NjW 2017, te verschijnen).

In deze post wens ik kort in te gaan op een gelijkaardige situatie tijdens het leven van de onderneming: de invloed van de verloning van de advocaat op corporate governance, en i.h.b. op de actio mandati en minderheidsvordering (zie hierover de korte paragraaf in A. FRANCOIS, K. BYTTEBIER, K. FASTENAEKELS, T. VAN DE GEHUCHTE en L. VANDENBEMPT, “Omgaan met conflicten in vennootschappen: regeling van geschillen is meer dan geschillenregeling” in K. BYTTEBIER, A. FRANCOIS, E. JANSSENS, T. VAN DE GEHUCHTE (eds.), Omgaan met conflicten in de vennootschap, Antwerpen, Intersentia, 2009, (1) 85). Net zoals de curator de agent is van de gezamenlijke schuldeisers in de boedel als principaal (de residual risk bearers), is de advocaat de agent van de vennootschap, en – indien we aannemen dat het doel van het vennootschapsrecht winstmaximalisatie is voor de aandeelhouders – finaal van de gezamenlijke aandeelhouders (eveneens de residual risk bearers).

De verloning van de curator wordt niet bepaald door de schuldeisers als principaal, maar wel door het KB van 10 augustus 1998. Continue reading “Money (That’s What I Want). De invloed van de remuneratie van de advocaat op de actio mandati en minderheidsvordering”

The principal-cost theory: a revolution in the debate on corporate law and governance?

Zohar Goshen and Richard Squire develop a new model for corporate governance in the Columbia Law Review

In a recently published papaer (here and here), commented on the Oxford Business Law Blog, a new theory of corporate governance is offered, referred to as the principal-cost theory. The theory challenges the theoretical foundations of the traditional agency-cost theory, in particular their one-size-fits-all policy recommendations.

The authors claim that the principal-cost theory demonstrates that the governance structure reducing control costs varies by firm. Lawmakers therefore should avoid one-size-fits all solutions. Rather they should seek to grow the menu of governance-structure. Accordingly, each firm could establish a governance mechanism adapted to its specific needs.

Does that mean that the agency-cost theory should be neglected from now on? Not necessarily. According to the authors, agent costs and principal costs are two sides of the same coin:

Any reallocation of control rights between shareholders and managers decreases one type of bust, but will  increase the other,  The rate of substitution is firm-specific, driven by factors such as business strategy, industry, and the personal characteristics of the key parties.”

Only time will tell whether this theory of principal costs marks the end of an era dominated by a uniform  theory of “good” corporate governance.

 

Roel Verheyden

Not all shareholders are created equal – Snap goes public with non-voting stock

A post by guest blogger Vincent Chantillon

Snap’s IPO

Academics tend to say that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, yet this is what Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy did with Snap a few months ago. Continue reading “Not all shareholders are created equal – Snap goes public with non-voting stock”

Hit me baby one more time: does ‘ne bis in idem’ apply when company and representative are sanctioned for same offence?

ECJ judgement of April 5th 2017

Two Italian companies did not pay their VAT debt which amounted to over a million euro. In addition to a tax penalty for the companies, their legal representatives were prosecuted in their personal capacity on the ground that they failed to fulfill their responsibility to pay the VAT. The representatives protested, arguing that this would breach the ne bis in idem-principle, guaranteed by article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Continue reading “Hit me baby one more time: does ‘ne bis in idem’ apply when company and representative are sanctioned for same offence?”