Uneasy Execs

Executives may have been biting their nails this proxy season, thanks to relatively new say-on-pay- provisions that allow shareholders to cast advisory votes on top executives’ pay packages. They needn’t have worried.

According to a new executive compensation survey from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom the vast majority of proposals passed with more than 70 percent support.

70% Say-on-pay proposals that passed with more than 90 percent support

21% Proposals that passed with between 70.1 percent and 90 percent support

7% Proposals that passed with between 50 percent and 70 percent support

2% Proposals that got less than 50 percent support

Soaring Settlements

Even though class action settlements are down industry wide, some law firms still managed to rake in impressive profits last year, according to a new report from Institutional Shareholders Services Inc.

This seeming paradox is explained by the “increased concentration” of plaintiffs firms: The top securities class action firms—Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Labaton Sucharow—accounted for more than half of all securities class action settlements last year.  

13 Total number of cases that Bernstein Litowitz settled as lead or co-lead counsel in 2011

$1.37 billion Total earnings for the firm’s investors from those cases, an increase of 37 percent from 2010

$300 million Attorneys’ fees and expenses resulting from those cases

$1.4 billion Total securities class action settlement funds in 2011—the lowest in 10 years—according to Cornerstone Research


More Mergers

Companies continue to predict that 2012 will be a big year for mergers, but smaller deals and strategic alliance transactions are even more popular, according to a new report from Deloitte. The professional services firm notes that businesses are less enthused about divestitures, leading them to miss out on valuable deals.

The report also noted the following statistics:

20% Companies that are actively pursuing major transactions, according to CFOs

46% Respondents who expect an increase in M&A activity

54% Respondents who expect an uptick in strategic alliance transactions over the next two years

40% Companies that regularly review their portfolios for divestiture opportunities

Looming Legislation

Within the year, a forthcoming Canadian anti-spam law could spell a $10 million fine for any company that sends an unsolicited commercial email to our northern neighbors. But according to a new report from Canadian law firm Fasken Martineau, few U.S. companies are aware of the legislation and its potential consequences.

57.6% Respondents who were unaware of the new law

23.6% Respondents who were aware of the law, but did not know about the potential penalties

27% Respondents who knew that companies who comply with U.S. Do Not Call laws are not necessarily compliant with Canadian legislation

75% Respondents who believe the new law will affect their companies’ external email marketing

Climbing Corruption

Desperate economic times call for desperate measures, but hopefully not illegal ones. Ernst & Young’s 2012 Global Fraud study reports that corruption is still widespread in many countries, and that respondents reported a slight uptick in acceptance of bribery and fraud.

The study also examined ways that companies can combat unethical practices, for example, through increased scrutiny of third parties. 

39% Respondents who said that bribery or corrupt practices occur frequently in their countries

15% Respondents who are willing to pay bribes to retain business (up from 9 percent in the last survey)

39% Respondents who believe that companies and third-party agents share joint liability for the third-parties’ actions

59% Companies who monitor third-party relationships by approving supplier databases (followed by 56 percent who conduct background checks)

Shifting Sentiments

The recession has changed the complexion of law firms nationwide, and those changes are likely here to stay, according to the law firm leaders surveyed in a new Altman Weil study.

Since the survey began in 2009, managing partners and chairs have undergone a major outlook shift, accepting practices and trends that they once saw as fleeting.

92% Respondents who believe that there will be more price competition in the long-term, a whopping 50 percent increase from 2009

80% Respondents who think more firms will adopt non-hourly billing, up from 28 percent in 2009

68% Respondents who expect there to be fewer equity partners in law firms, up from 23 percent in 2009

46% Respondents who anticipate that outsourcing legal work will be a permanent fixture, up from 12 percent in the inaugural survey