The Board’s Role in Share Repurchases [MITSloan Management Review]

In many companies, decisions about the level and timing of share repurchases are left mainly to the management. But given their importance, corporate directors should probably pay closer attention.

Capital allocation is a significant function for company directors. How much of the company’s profits gets reinvested in the business rather than distributed to shareholders through cash dividends or share repurchases is a critical decision companies must make. Boards of directors typically approve a dividend policy and precise amounts for each quarter: Everyone knows that cutting the dividend will result in a sharp decline in the share price.

Read the rest at sloanreview.mit.edu…

How to increase retirement savings of 60 million employees [Pensions & Investments]

Senate Republicans are voting to repeal the Labor Department’s recent rules that would have expressly allowed states and cities to sponsor a type of individual retirement account, called an automatic IRA. These votes will rescind those rules, because they already have been rejected by House Republicans and the administration supports rescinding them.

While Republicans objected to a patchwork of state-sponsored retirement plans, Congress should promptly pass a federal automatic IRA invested by the private sector. This vehicle, developed by conservatives, is the most feasible way of substantially increasing retirement savings in the U.S.

About a third of all Americans have no retirement savings, and most don’t have enough to retire comfortably. The main reason: More than 60 million American employees have no retirement plan offered to them by an employer.

Read the rest at pionline.com…

President Trump Can Actually Pass Corporate Tax Reform [Fortune]

While the Congressional efforts to reform America’s health care system fell apart last month, the Trump Administration can learn important lessons for its next legislative battle: corporate tax reform. Here are five key guidelines.

First, don’t trust House Republicans to draft a bill.

House Republicans could not muster a majority of their own party for their healthcare bill, so the White House should draft its own corporate tax bill — without the border adjustment tax (BAT) that House Speaker Paul Ryan has advocated. Although the BAT would exempt from US corporate taxes all exports by US companies, it would be fiercely opposed by US retailers and local manufacturers, since it would end their ability to deduct the cost of imported goods or services from their corporate tax payments. What’s more, these opponents do not believe the economists who claim that the BAT would send the price of imports downward by 20% — because these economists predict the US dollar will appreciate by an equivalent amount.

Read the rest at fortune.com…

These changes to quarterly reports would benefit companies and investors [MarketWatch]

Jay Clayton, the newly nominated chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is slated to appear before the Senate Banking Committee on March 23 to begin his confirmation process. He should resist the rising clamor to stop quarterly reporting by U.S. companies, despite the efforts by some politicians and investment professionals.

Critics of quarterly reporting argue that it unduly focuses corporate executives on maximizing profits over the short term — usually defined as the next three months. Instead, these critics argue that shifting to semi-annual reporting would lead corporate executives to make longer-term business investments — usually defined as three to five years.

These arguments are not supported by our empirical study of the most relevant “natural experiment” — when, in 2007, the U.K. requirement moved to quarterly from semi-annual reports. Our study found that shifting the frequency of reporting by U.K. companies did not have any statistically significant impact on their business investments.

Read the rest at marketwatch.com…

Paul Ryan preps bold corporate tax plan [Boston Herald]

While almost everyone agrees that the current U.S. system for taxing foreign profits of American corporations is counterproductive, there has been heated partisan debate about what should be done. Now, with Republican dominance of Congress and the White House, we should look carefully at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s path-breaking plan for corporate tax reform

Under current law, foreign profits of American corporations are legally subject to a 35 percent U.S. tax — the highest corporate tax rate among industrialized countries. In fact, American corporations do not pay this tax unless and until they bring these foreign profits back to the U.S.

Thus, the current system mainly benefits tax lawyers and accountants.

U.S. companies hold abroad approximately $2.5 trillion in past foreign profits. The U.S. Treasury collects little revenue from foreign profits, and U.S. corporations are discouraged from investing those profits back in this country.

Read the rest at bostonherald.com…

Trump’s tax: one budget buster and one revenue raiser [Financial Times]

Donald Trump’s campaign to become the next president of the U.S. has thrown up two far-reaching proposals to reform the taxation of corporate profits: reducing the tax rate on domestic profits to 15 per cent, and taxing foreign profits of U.S. corporations at 15 per cent each year.

The first proposal, a budget buster, is a poorly designed way to tax business; the second proposal, a revenue raiser, is a reasonable way to fix the current system for taxing foreign profits.

The current tax rate of 35 per cent is almost the highest in the world, so it should be lowered to make the U.S. a more competitive location for corporate facilities and jobs.

Read the rest at brookings.edu…

A Nobel Idea to Pay CEOs What They’re Actually Worth [Wall Street Journal]

Next month, Bengt Holmstrom, a professor at MIT, is slated to accept a Nobel Prize in Economics for his pathbreaking contributions to contract theory. Congressmen and corporate boards might want to take note: Mr. Holmstrom’s innovative proposal for indexed stock options, which aren’t yet widely used, could be one solution in the running political debate over whether CEOs are fairly paid for performance.

Almost all stock options today have a fixed exercise price: The holder buys the company’s stock at the market price on the day the options were granted. The idea is to align the interests of CEOs and their shareholders. If the stock rises, the executive buys at the old price and makes a profit. On the other hand, if the company’s stock is flat or down, the options become worthless.

Unfortunately, as Mr. Holmstrom pointed out in 1979, fixed-price options can easily reward poorly performing executives during times of rising markets. Suppose a drug company grants 50,000 options to its CEO with an exercise price of $100 a share. If in three years the stock rises by 30%—to $130 a share—the CEO exercising his options would make a profit of $1.5 million.

Sure, sometimes this profit might reflect the outstanding work of this CEO. But suppose the stock prices of comparable drug companies rose by 60% on average during the same three years. Suddenly the CEO’s options look like a windfall instead of a reward for his superior managerial skills.

Read the rest at brookings.edu…

In defense of corporate quarterly reports

Executives, fund managers and even politicians have criticised publicly traded companies’ undue focus on generating profits in the next quarter instead of making investments with good five-year prospects.

To encourage these companies to take a longer-term perspective, several regulators have shifted corporate reporting requirements from quarterly to semi-annually.

Most prominently, in 2013 the European Commission amended its Transparency Directive to abolish the requirement for quarterly reports by publicly traded companies in favour of semi-annual reports.

After an impact assessment, the commission concluded that “quarterly financial information is not necessary for investor protection”.

But a recent study severely undermines the commission’s conclusions.

Read the rest at brookings.edu…