What is LDV ?

Who benefits from LDV?

LDV benefits all participants in the securities finance industry.  Lenders are better able to exercise their corporate governance responsibilities and, since lenders recall fewer loans, overall securities lending volume and revenue increase.  Loan, borrow, and collateral portfolios are more stable, allowing agents and brokers to more effectively manage investment, counterparty, and operational risks.  Corporate issuers receive more proxy votes from long-term investors, allowing them to reach quorum more quickly and at lower cost, and counterbalance votes of short-term activists.  Higher loan volumes also improve financial market liquidity and price discovery.


What is Lender-Directed Voting, or LDV?

LDV is a new process that matches securities lenders' loaned shares to broker securities that would otherwise go unvoted, enabling lenders to direct proxies without recalling loans.  It substantially improves existing market practices, which require lenders to recall loan in order to vote proxies.  Recalls are inefficient in that they reduce overall lending and borrowing revenue, and create instability in loan, borrow, and collateral portfolios. 

Why haven't lenders voted on loaned shares in the past?

Historically, institutional securities lenders had to forgo voting rights on loaned shares because there was no mechanism to vote without recalls.  Recent technology and transparency improvements in securities finance markets, however, enable loaned shares to be matched with broker shares that would otherwise go unvoted.  In particular, the Agent Lender Disclosure Initiative made apparent the direct counterparty relationship between lenders and broker-borrowers and provided brokers with detailed loan data necessary to include lenders in their proxy allocation routines.

Are there enough unvoted shares to cover lender voting interest?

Approximately 60 billion U.S. equities go unvoted each year[1], while roughly 15 billion shares are on loan[2], suggesting that sufficient votes could be available to meet lender vote demand.  However, it is unlikely that lender voting interest will be fully covered for all issues, such as those with particularly contentious proxy events or that are hard-to-borrow in securities lending markets. 

[1] www.broadridge.com/investor–communications /us/Broadridge_Proxy_Stats_2010.pdf
[2] Data from RMA securities lending composite, assuming $20 average stock price

Does the broker have the lender’s shares on the proxy record date?

1.  U.S. Federal Reserve Regulation T (“Reg T”) defines the permitted purposes for the extension of credit in the borrowing and lending of securities. In general, all of these purposes involve settling trades through re-delivery of the borrowed securities. Most often, the broker’s need to borrow has arisen after failing to receive securities required for an impending trade settlement, either as the result of an operational breakdown or after a short sale.

2.  Given the broker-borrower’s mandatory compliance with Reg T, it can be argued that borrowed shares, which are re-delivered in the settlement of a trade, are not available on the broker’s books (as a technical matter, the position would be held at DTCC) in order to earn voting rights on the proxy record date. However, this argument would only be true per se if the settlement took place on the proxy record date, because an analysis of the ongoing process reveals that the proxy votes, not just the entitled shares, are properly treated as fully fungible on the broker-borrower’s books.

3.  Reg T does not require that the borrowed shares be returned to the original lender when a subsequent receipt of securities is used to offset the original failure-to-receive. At that point, the borrower can certainly return the securities to the original lender. Yet, an active borrower can also compliantly decide to close a loan of the same securities with a different institutional lender whose terms may have become less attractive or from another broker-dealer lender who may be viewed as more likely to recall shares at an inconvenient time in the future, especially if the shares were borrowed for an ongoing short position. Still another reason may exist to hold the securities if the broker considers the return on its cash collateral, received through a rebate from the lender, to be very attractive compared with other investment options. In all those cases, as well as for actively traded issues where there may be a high risk of ongoing settlement failures, the broker can simply keep the newly-received shares in its inventory, balanced against its obligation to the lender.

4. As a result of efficient management of its settlement obligations, a broker – perhaps all brokers – may well have borrowed positions on their books on proxy record dates. The brokers would have gained the right to assign proxies or even to vote at the next corporate meeting as a direct result of the original loans from institutional lenders. In effect, the proxies are fungible on the brokers’ books, along with the borrowed shares themselves subject, of course, to an equitable assignment of proxy rights in compliance with stock exchange rules. Yet, brokers are not expressly permitted to assign proxies to their institutional lenders. At this point, the Lender Directed Voting (“LDV”) argument gains relevance and substance.

5. As noted, in addition to holding the shares cum voting rights, the broker also retains an obligation to its original lender. Indeed, one could argue that an institutional lender's ownership rights are stronger than those of other “beneficial owners” to whom the broker owes shares in the same securities. That is partly due to the distinction that can be drawn between the institutional lenders, who do not receive proxy assignments, and the broker’s own margin customers and hedge fund clients, who do receive proxy assignments. The distinction resides in the timeline of their property rights: the former owned the shares fully prior to lending them to the broker, while the latter required broker-financing in order to acquire their positions. Although we have seen that the institution’s shares may now be on the broker’s books, it is very likely that the financing customers’ shares are out on loan, i.e., hypothecated as collateral to source the broker’s own funding needs. And, in such cases, those positions are truly not in the brokers’ DTC account, although the brokers may well be assigning proxy rights to their accountholders. One can ably argue that those proxies would more equitably be assigned to the institutional lenders.

How can lenders instruct broker shares?

Brokers administer proxy allocation routines to distribute proxies to their customers.  Since broker shares are held in fungible bulk and lenders have beneficial ownership to loaned shares, brokers can include lenders in their allocation routines.  After brokers allocate proxies to lenders, standard proxy processes are followed to garner and submit voting instructions and submit them to corporate issuers.  For example, proxies are assigned to Broadridge accounts designated for the lenders, then are instructed by lenders or ISS on the lenders' behalf.

Could lenders also instruct custodians' unvoted shares?

Regulatory and operational considerations may pose challenges to matching custodians' unvoted shares with lenders’ loan positions.  In particular, custodian shares are not held in fungible bulk, as are broker shares, which presents difficulties when considering custodial allocation of proxies across lender accounts. Furthermore, custodians are not counterparties on loans, so the lenders are not beneficial owners to any of the custodians’ unvoted shares.

Does LDV contribute to “over-reporting,” since lenders’ shares were delivered to new buyers who now have the associated voting rights?

Existing proxy reconciliation processes are sufficient to address any potential "over-reporting" issues.  For example, brokers already use post-reconciliation processes to mitigate the risk of over-reporting that may arise from assigning proxies to margin customers whose shares may have been loaned or rehypothecated.

How do brokers decide which lender(s) are assigned proxies?

Beneficial owners and regulators have expressed concerns about voting opportunities being directed to preferred lenders or leveraged for beneficial loan terms.  In the same way that agent lending queues are designed so that lenders get equitable access to borrower demand, brokers need pre-defined and algorithmic “proxy queues” to ensure equitable assignment of voting opportunities.  Furthermore, on-going auditing and validation of proxy assignments may be needed to ensure against development of a “market for votes.” 

What if proxies are not available from a lender's borrower, but are from another broker?

Reallocation of the loans to brokers with available proxies would increase overall lender voting opportunities.  However, numerous other loan factors would need to be taken into account, such as counterparty risk assessments and credit limits, loan prices, and collateral types and quantity.  Considering these factors, loan reallocations may not be in the overall best interest of lenders and borrowers, and will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

How can lenders know, before record date, how many proxies they will be assigned?

To the extent that lenders receive proxies through LDV, they will not have to recall loans to regain voting rights.  However, broker holdings change daily and varying numbers of investors vote, so the number of proxies that can be assigned to lenders cannot be known with certainty until just before the meeting date, which is typically two months after lenders must make record date recall decisions.   The number of available proxies must therefore be forecasted, taking into account factors such as each broker's customer base, the scarcity of shares in the securities lending market, and the expected materiality of proxy ballot items.

Corporate Governance Blog

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Systems Experts Set the Bar for Blockchain in Securities Finance

“Hype and Reality for Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies” at Institutional Securities Lenders’ Meeting

February 6, 2019 —Systems entrepreneurs - Armeet Sandhu, Sal Giglio, and Ed Blount - engaged in a lively brainstorming session with Chris Ferris, IBM’s Distinguished Engineer for Open Source Technologies, at IMN's 25th Annual International Securities Finance and Collateral Management Conference. Key take-aways from the panel discussion were:
  • Private blockchains are no more complex than web servers, but creating the design and consortium is challenging; 
  • IBM has tools to preserve confidentiality in shared ledgers while guaranteeing accountability;
  • Off-chain lifecycle event processing can link to the blockchain and prove to the shared ledger; 
  • Shared ledgers can help lenders comply with the Securities Finance Transaction Repository (SFTR) mandate;
  • Blockchains can help track loans for principals and service providers in peer-to-peer (P2P) lending programs. 
To set the bar, the CSFME’s Ed Blount pointed out that the February 5th regulatory panel, which Blount had moderated, identified several compliance challenges for the industry. Therefore, he said, the question naturally arises: “If Blockchain is such a transformative solution, can it help to solve these problems in securities finance?” After presenting a listing of notable use cases, Blount said it was quite clear that, “Something important is happening here, because these are significant names in finance.” 
Hype and Reality for Blockchain



If Blockchain is the Solution, What's the Problem?

Reviewing the sponsors of the selected use cases, Blount added that several had released white papers on their experiences and expectations. For instance, a recent paper by JPMorgan included a section on "Myth and Fact," in which the bank downplayed the perceived complexity of the technology and projected that blockchain will move through four stages of development, from information sharing to a (potential) reconstruction of the entire capital markets system.


If this transformation is inevitable, asked Blount for arguments’ sake, then "How will shared ledgers first gain traction in securities finance?” To guide the discussion, he then presented a simplified network diagram of typical contracting parties in the current securities finance process, followed by conceptual diagrams of a hypothetical shared ledger and smart contracts.
As an opening premise, Armeet Sandhu, Stonewain Systems CEO, acknowledged the value of blockchain, as shown, for post-trade services by Street providers, but asked where the value for beneficial owners might be. Sandhu agreed that monitoring the lending program's activity in real time — being better informed about the operations of their agents and borrowers — might be one possible benefit, since all of them would be co-operating with the same version of truth, i.e., the shared ledger. But he expressed concerns about confidentiality. 


Christopher Ferris of IBM began his presentation by explaining the differences between public blockchains, like Bitcoin, and private, permissioned blockchains. In the latter, particular consideration must be given to designing controls which allow access on a selective basis to stakeholders and regulators. In effect, the challenge to the developer is, "How do we achieve the transparency benefits [of the shared ledger] while preserving the confidentiality of the participants?" 
“Part of that involves teasing apart the on-chain and off-chain information,” explained Ferris. "For example, you can have a pair-wise exchange of information between the transacting parties and then just record the fact of the transaction on the blockchain.” In other instances, "zero-knowledge proofs" can be used to validate the transaction without revealing the confidential details to others in the blockchain. 
Not every project is a good candidate for distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain. As use cases have developed, said Ferris, some sponsors have decided that the potential cost of an optimization, especially after integrating with the existing systems, exceeds its expected benefits. More successful use cases have been those which dealt with problems for which there was no previous solution. 


Ferris told the story of the removal and destruction of lettuce that resulted from recent poisoning incidents with tainted romaine lettuce. It took days for supermarkets to identify the farm which produced the bad lettuce. To prevent similar crises, Walmart and other retailers created a consortium, saying we have to fix this. Now, by using IBM’s Food Trust blockchain, participating retailers can track shipments and identify the possible sources of contamination in minutes instead of days. 
"How do they do that?”, asked Blount. 
“Using the internet of things - IOT" said Ferris. "There’s an ID tag on the shipping box." 
The problem solved by shipping company Maersk, sponsor of IBM's TradeLens blockchain, is to accelerate a match of the paperwork, which must be sent independently and in advance, to the shipment upon arrival of the container. Too often, shipments have had to be stored until a match could be completed. Now, using TradeLens, Ferris said, logistics providers can share information more efficiently with the customs houses and other regulators. That efficiency, for which there was no previous solution, is saving the shipping industry a great deal of money. Wastage is reduced because the goods can be moved off the docks faster.  
Several important lessons have been learned since 2016, said Ferris, when “Everyone had their hair on fire over blockchain, thinking they’d win by disrupting their industry.” One of the main lessons is that “Blockchain is a team sport.” In order for the blockchain to be successful, everone has to participate. "You also have to get together even with your systems vendors. Building a consortium in any industry is not always easy," said Ferris, "because the members are always very competitive.” Mr.Ferris, one of a handful of IBM Distinguished Engineers, backed up his examples, before and during the panel, referring to his experiences in retail, insurance and banking technology.




Sandhu added that any consortium in securities finance would have to be trusted not just by all members, but also by the regulators. “One challenge is that not every [loan] contract comes from an execution platform. We still have a lot of loans that come from email or from phone calls. How do we get those loans onto the blockchain, and how do we insure that each copy is correct?” 
“Information in the blockchain is only as good as the information that’s put into it,” said Ferris. "You know, the GIGO problem [Garbage In; Garbage Out]. With the Food Trust, we had to instrument the farmers with smartphones so they could record the labels on the shipping crates.” 
Sandhu, whose company provides record keeping and reporting solutions to lenders and their agents, said that not every loan is later remembered the same way by the parties, and that other differences can appear over the full lifecycle of a trade
Ferris said that it’s likely that the blockchain would have to be engaged from the point of proposal to the executed loan order. Therefore, smart contracts would function as the origination of the information for the shared ledger as well as its validation.




Sal Giglio, whose company GLMX provides an execution facility for repo traders, asked for questions from the audience and got an immediate hit with, “Why is blockchain better than the databases that are already out there? There are other ledgers, shared ledgers that we all use. There’s Loanet, Equilend … we all use those and we agree with those ledgers. Why is blockchain better?” 
Ferris responded by saying that not all applications may be suitable for blockchain, but that even central authorities such as DTCC and CME are also investigating how their own roles might change under a blockchain platform. They have an existing advantage in that, "The hardest part is not the technology. It’s creating a consortium.”
“But what is the advantage that this technology provides to us?” asked Sandhu. "Does it increase our revenue or lower our risks?”



Blount recalled that attorneys on the regulatory panel advised that, starting in 2020, European Union regulations will mandate that all securities financing transactions involving EU-regulated entities will have to be reported to an approved transaction repository. Among other providers, post-trade settlement utilities such as DTCC are offering a utility service to facilitate SFTR reporting for their members. While the DTCC is certainly a broad consortium, Blount noted, it is also a Street-level utility that typically doesn’t include end-lenders or end-borrowers, nor does it initiate lifecycle events for outstanding loan positions. As a result, noted earlier by Sandhu, a significant number of loans (and lifecycle events) are processed outside the central systems infrastructure.
Securities Finance Shared Ledger
Today, no central ledger tracks a complete securities financing transaction from edge to edge. Therefore, Blount said, one possible blockchain opportunity might be an agent- or dealer-sponsored SFTR facility to track all loans and lifecycle events, and then to interoperate with DTCC or other central clearing utilities for compliance with the policy-mandated SFTR. 
Sponsored SFTR linkages to the DTCC utility might also help to solve jurisdictional scope issues, such as resistance by state treasurers or trustees of public pension funds, who may not want the U.S. federal government shadowing their lending policies. Similarly, hedge funds on the borrowing end of the trade don’t want anyone in their business. So, from an agent’s standpoint, asked Blount, how do you provide a holistic ledger while still protecting the confidentiality of the participants? "Does everyone get a different private key?” he asked.
Ferris described how the transactions can be revealed to authorities on a selective basis. “You query the blockchain and it works its way backward, but you don’t allow everyone to see the results.” 
Returning to the question of existing databases, Ferris conceded that, “There are existing systems that are perfectly fine. 'If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.' We could have put the food trust out there as a service, but there is value in providing the participants with a copy of the ledger that they can trust.” There’s no reason to replace systems that work, unless there’s a value in having a single trusted record of the ledger that can be useful to each of the participants, so they can do with it as they wish. 




Blount pointed out that a lot of discussion at the conference concerned institutions lending directly to principal borrowers, at least for government-collateral repo trades, but an equal set of concerns had been raised about the need to maintain the infrastructure that’s already been created. Practitioners ask, Do you link to their on-site data centers?
Securities Finance Smart
Sandhu pointed out that linking to the existing systems may not be that helpful. For instance, there are quality issues in the existing transaction flow. As the various blockchain participants react to the creation of a new loan entry, there must be a high level of trust in the quality of the data.  “That’s been a challenge for our industry,” said Sandhu. Errors and omissions are an ongoing problem. Blount added that beneficial owners in earlier panels said they don’t have staff to work with quality issues. Nevertheless, Sandhu said, "There’s a responsibility that comes along with having real-time information about the trading process. And there’s a potential liability, so is there more revenue or better safety that comes with the blockchain?”




According to Chris Ferris, "The technology is still maturing. Look for the small things that can be done. In our company, IBM provides financing to channel partners. At the end of every month, there’s $100 million in dispute. It takes 44 days on average to resolve those disputes. We created a shadow ledger to provide a reference point. So if there’s a dispute, we can say, 'Maybe your system dropped something on the floor, but we recorded it here in the shared ledger.’ As a result of blockchain, we reduced the resolution from 44 days to 10 days. It’s put $60 million back in IBM’s coffers." 
Another questioner asked, "How much data storage is required?” 
Ferris said that it depends on the industry and application. "We’re working on ways to prune the history, using a genesis block in the chaincode where we can prove the history but we don’t have to maintain it."
A final question from the audience: "How difficult is it to establish and maintain that shadow ledger?”
"Permissioned blockchains don’t require mining,” said Ferris, "so they’re not resource intensive. For instance, Hyperledger and R3’s Corda use Byzantine fault tolerance algorithms for validation. It’s no different from running a web server.” 

Corporate Outreach Milestones


May 8, 2014: Council of Institutional Investors; - CII Elects New Board, Names Jay Chaudhuri Board Chair. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-31/north-carolina-treasurer-may-cede-pension-control-5-questions.html )

February 2014:  Swiss Minder Initiative implies the value of LDV. http://www.ipe.com/switzerlands-minder-initiative-will-cripple-securities-lending-experts-warn/10000947.article.

January 2014FL SBA begins their SecLending Auction Program with eSecLending.

November 27, 2013 – CSFME staff call with Glass Lewis Chief Operating Officer. He gave his commitment for cooperation and support for LDV, and most importantly, he suggested that perhaps we should discuss with a Broadridge/State Street/Citi the scenario that permits Citi to forward an “Omnibus Ballot” of proxies to State Street, which State Street would then take and assign the proxies to their pension lenders/LDV participants, which would then be incorporated into a single ballot and sent to Broadridge. This eliminates the secondary ballot issue. While this description is oversimplified, Glass Lewis was fairly certain the parties involved could operationally create such a combined ballot. Responding to the question on cost, the Glass Lewis executive stated that the cost depends on the number of voting policies a fund has. Most funds have one policy; therefore, depending on the client, the cost would be $.75 – $2.00 per ballot.

October 21, 2013 – CSFME staff call with ISS Chief Operations Officer. He committed his cooperation and support to advance LDV’s implementation into the markets. He responded to the question about cost: “It depends on the client and the services they use. $6-7 per ballot on average.”

June 25-28, 2013 – CSFME staff attended ICGN Annual Conference in NY, NY. Spoke with executives of CalSTRS; ICGN Chair and Blackrock about LDV.  We received favorable comments and encouragement from each.

June 6, 2013: CSFME meets with Chief Investment Officer for NYC Pension Funds. While very much in favor of the LDV concept, the comments that the NYC Pension Fund Boards are for the most part followers in new initiatives and would prefer a roll-out by other funds first.

April 5, 2013: ‘SEC gives CSFME limited approval for LDV going forward’ providing brokers assign proxies only from their proprietary shares.

March 26, 2013 – CSFME and its legal team presented the case for LDV to SEC Commissioner Dan Gallagher. Present by phone and speaking on behalf of LDV were representatives of FL SBA who spoke about the difficulty of timely recall of shares on loan following release of record date and issues on agenda; and a representative from CalSTRS who spoke about their recall policy affecting income.

March 13, 2013 – CSFME meet staff of Senator Rob Portman and Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio. These meetings were for the purpose of lining up political support, should the SEC resist the LDV concept. We also met and spoke with CII Deputy Director Amy Borrus for one hour and 15 minutes for a scheduled 30 minute meeting.  She expressed great interest in the value of LDV to long-term beneficial owners.

January 17, 2013 – CSFME conference call with CoPERA Director of Investments.  Among CoPERA’s concerns were: (1) How are agents/brokers notified re: LDV? (2) Who moves or approaches first lender to agent or agent to lender? CSFME responds  that a side letter is needed between lender, agent and broker.

November 8, 2012 – CSFME conference call with Council of Institutional Investors (CII) detailing LDV. Some in attendance were opposed to securities lending because of their desire to vote 100% of recall. This position would be irrelevant giving CalSTRS’ change to policy on proxy recall.

October 24, 2012, 2PM – CSFME presents LDV to Broadridge Institutional Investor Group. At this meeting, a representative of CalSTRS states: “We would view brokers willing to provide proxies more favorably than those who would not.” We were also informed by CalSTRS that they were looking to change their 100% recall policy. A representative of SWIB led a discussion on International Voting Issues, and apparently was chairing 3 meetings to determine the following: 1. who is voting internationally? 2. What are the issues in the international markets? 3. How do we increase and improve international processes?

October 24, 2012, 11AM – EWB/KT conference call with ICGN.  Executives stated that the argument for LDV may not be as strong in a non-record date market, and asked what would be the cost for LDV.  They further stated that they would like to see the U.S. go with LDV first and would need more information and operational detail.

October 13, 2012 email note from Elizabeth Danese Mozely to Broadridge’s Institutional Investor Working Group: “TerriJo Saarela, State of Wisconsin Investment Board, will provide commentary on their fund’s interest in international voting and an update on her participation in the Council of Institutional Investors’ working group on international voting.  Our discussion will include the differences in process for voting abroad, share blocking, attendance at the meeting via proxy or Power of Attorney (POA), best practices available through the various laws and regulations, etc.”

September 18, 2012: CSFME contacts Blackrock/ICGN Chair for a brief on LDV.

August 13, 2012 – CSFME conference call with OTPP.  Discussion of LDV was not timely in that their SecLending Program stopped lending securities through agents in mid-2006. State Street is their custodian and they were using a tri-party repo through Chase to Lehman, until the Lehman collapse. All the assets sat at Chase. It was not clear who had voting rights. At the time of this discussion in August 2012, OTPP was thinking formulating an SLA because they do not have the capacity to lend securities on their own. We have had no discussion with them since.

August 2, 2012 – CSFME contacts Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) regarding LDV.

March 19, 2012 – CSFME conference call with executive in charge of securities lending for Franklin Templeton

February 22, 2012ICGN sends LDV letter of support to the SEC, signed by Chairman of the ICGN Board of Governors.

September 30, 2011CalSTRS sends LDV letter of support to the SEC, signed by Director of Corporate Governance Anne Sheehan.

July 18, 2011Florida SBA sends LDV letter of support to the SEC, signed by Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer.

November 2011 – CSFME introduces Council of Institutional Investors editor to LDV.

July 5, 2011 – CSFME sends a Comment Letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding LDV.

October 2010 – CSFME releases report: Borrowed Proxy Abuse: Real or Not? This report and the SEC’s Securities Lending and Short Selling Roundtable prompted the question from beneficial owners and regulators regarding the need to recall shares on loan to vote proxies, why can’t lenders receive proxies for shares on loan when we get the dividends? From this question, the idea for Lender Directed Voting was born.

January 2010 – SEC issues rules that brokers no longer have the discretion to vote their customers’ shares held in companies without receiving voting instructions from those customers about how to vote them in an election of directors. http://www.sec.gov/investor/alerts/votingrules2010.htm. The rule, periodically, contributed to the difficulty of corporate meetings attaining a quorum.

Fall 2009/2010 – Four public pension funds join CSFME in Empty Voting studies/LDV initiative; FL SBA, CalSTRS, SWIB and CoPERA.

September 29-30, 2009 - SEC Announces Panelists for Securities Lending and Short Sale Roundtable; http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2009/2009-207.htm