SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
|ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
|For the fiscal year ended:||December 31, 2021|
|TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934|
|For the transition period from to|
|Commission file number:||001-34516|
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
|(State or other jurisdiction of|
incorporation or organization)
| ||(I.R.S. Employer|
599 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York 10022
(Address, including zip code, and telephone number, including area code, of registrant's principal executive office)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of Each Class|| ||Trading Symbol||Name of Exchange on Which Registered|
|Class A Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share|| ||COWN||The Nasdaq Global Market|
|7.75% Senior Notes due 2033||COWNL||The Nasdaq Global Market|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," and "smaller reporting company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer||☒||Accelerated filer||☐||Non-accelerated filer|
(Do not check if a smaller
|☐||Smaller reporting company||☐||Emerging growth company||☐|
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
The aggregate market value of Class A common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2021, the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second fiscal quarter, based upon the closing sale price of the Class A common stock on the NASDAQ Global Market on that date was $1,142,196,218.
As of February 28, 2022 there were 27,458,549 shares of the registrant's Class A common stock outstanding.
Documents incorporated by reference:
Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K incorporates by reference information (to the extent specific sections are referred to herein) from the Registrant's Proxy Statement for its 2022 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
We have included or incorporated by reference into our Annual Report on Form 10-K (the "Annual Report"), and from time to time may make in our public filings, press releases or other public documents, certain statements, including (without limitation) those under Item 1—"Business," Item 1A—"Risk Factors," Item 3—"Legal Proceedings," Item 7—"Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and Item 7A—"Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk" that may constitute "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. In some cases, you can identify these statements by forward-looking terms such as "may," "might," "will," "would," "could," "should," "expect," "plan," "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "predict," "project," "possible," "potential," "intend," "seek" or "continue," the negative of these terms and other comparable terminology or similar expressions. In addition, our management may make forward-looking statements to analysts, representatives of the media and others. These forward-looking statements represent only the Company's beliefs regarding future events (many of which, by their nature, are inherently uncertain and beyond our control) and are predictions only, based on our current expectations and projections about future events. There are important factors that could cause our actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. In particular, you should consider the risks outlined under Item 1A—"Risk Factors" in this Annual Report.
Although we believe the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, level of activity, performance or achievements. Moreover, neither we nor any other person assumes responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any of these forward-looking statements. You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. We undertake no obligation to update any of these forward-looking statements after the date of this filing to conform our prior statements to actual results or revised expectations.
When we use the terms "we," "us," "Cowen" and the "Company," we mean Cowen Inc., a Delaware corporation, its consolidated subsidiaries and entities in which it has a controlling financial interest, taken as a whole, as well as any predecessor entities, unless the context otherwise indicates.
Item 1. Business
Cowen Inc., a Delaware corporation formed in 2009, is a diversified financial services firm that, together with its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, "Cowen" or the "Company"), provides investment banking, research, sales and trading, prime brokerage, global clearing, securities financing, commission management services and investment management through its two business segments: the Operating Company ("Op Co") and the Asset Company ("Asset Co").
The Op Co segment consists of four divisions: the Cowen Investment Management ("CIM") division, the Investment Banking division, the Markets division (which includes sales and trading, prime brokerage, global clearing, securities financing and commission management services) and the Research division. The Company refers to the Investment Banking division, the Markets division and the Research division collectively as its investment banking businesses. Op Co's CIM division includes advisers to investment funds (including private equity structures and privately placed hedge funds), and registered funds. Op Co's investment banking businesses offer industry focused investment banking for growth-oriented companies including advisory and global capital markets origination, domain knowledge-driven research, sales and trading platforms for institutional investors, global clearing, commission management services and also a comprehensive suite of prime brokerage services.
The CIM division is the Company's investment management business, which operates primarily under the Cowen Investment Management name. CIM offers innovative investment products and solutions across the liquidity spectrum to institutional and private clients. The predecessor to this business was founded in 1994 and, through one of its subsidiaries, has been registered with the United States ("U.S.") Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the "Advisers Act") since 1997. The Company's investment management business offers investors access to a number of strategies to meet their specific needs including healthcare investing, sustainable investing, healthcare royalties, merger arbitrage and activism. A portion of the Company’s capital is invested alongside the Company's investment management clients. The Company has also invested capital in its insurance and reinsurance businesses.
Op Co's investment banking businesses include investment banking, research, sales and trading, prime brokerage, global clearing and commission management services provided primarily to companies and institutional investor clients. Sectors covered by Op Co's investment banking business include healthcare, technology, media and telecommunications, consumer, industrials, tech-enabled and business services, and energy. We provide research and brokerage services to over 6,000 domestic and international clients seeking to trade securities and other financial instruments, principally in our sectors. The investment banking businesses also offer a full-service suite of introduced prime brokerage services targeting emerging private fund managers. Historically, we have focused our investment banking efforts on small to mid-capitalization public companies as well as private companies. From time to time, the Company invests in private capital raising transactions of its investment banking clients.
The Asset Co segment consists of the Company's private investments, private real estate investments and other legacy investment strategies. The focus of Asset Co is to drive future monetization of the invested capital of the segment.
Principal Business Lines
Our investment banking department provides strategic advisory and capital raising services to U.S. and international public and private companies, private equity and venture capital firms, and family offices. Our clients are primarily focused on our sectors. Our strategic advisory services include, among other things, acquisitions, divestitures, fairness opinions, de-SPACs, spin-offs, and partnerships. Our capital markets group consists of two groups: (i) equity capital markets (including convertible securities), which focuses on raising equity capital in the public markets, and (ii) private capital solutions, which focuses on providing clients with alternative sources of capital, including private equity, venture capital, family offices, and various forms of non-dilutive financing. A significant amount of our investment banking revenue has been earned from high-growth small and mid-capitalization companies. From time to time, the Company invests in private capital raising transactions of its clients.
Our team of brokerage professionals serves institutional investor clients in the U.S. and internationally. We trade common stocks, listed options, equity-linked securities and other financial instruments on behalf of our clients and offer a full-service suite of introduced prime brokerage services targeting emerging private fund managers. We provide our clients with an electronic execution suite. We provide global, multi-asset class algorithmic execution trading models to both buy side and sell side clients and also offer execution capabilities relating to these trading models through ATM Execution LLC ("ATM Execution"). We also provide our clients with commentary on political, economic and market conditions. We have relationships with over 6,000 institutional investor clients. Our brokerage team is comprised of experienced professionals dedicated to our sectors, which allows us to develop a level of knowledge and focus that we believe differentiates our brokerage capabilities from those of many of our competitors. We tailor our account coverage to the unique needs of our clients. We believe that our sector traders are able to provide superior execution because of their knowledge of the interests of our institutional investor clients in specific companies in our sectors.
In connection with the brokerage services we provide, our sales professionals also provide our institutional investor clients with corporate access to management teams of public and private companies outside the context of financing transactions. These meetings are commonly referred to as non-deal road shows. Non-deal road shows allow companies to increase their visibility within the institutional investor community while providing our institutional investor clients with the opportunity to further educate themselves on companies and industries through meetings with management. We believe our deep relationships with company management teams and our sector-focused approach provide us with broad access to management teams for the benefit of our institutional investor clients.
As of December 31, 2021, we had a research team of 60 senior analysts covering 965 stocks. Within our equity coverage universe, approximately 36% are healthcare companies, 25% are TMT (technology, media and telecom) companies, 12% are energy companies, 10% are capital goods, industrial and basic materials companies, and 14% are consumer companies. Our approach to research, underpinned by our marquee Ahead Of The Curve® Series reports, focuses our analysts' efforts toward delivering differentiated investment ideas and de-emphasizes maintenance research. We place significant emphasis on analyst collaboration, both within and between sectors. We sponsor a number of conferences every year that are focused on our sectors and sub-sectors. During these conferences we highlight our investment research and provide significant investor access to corporate management teams. We provide research solely through our broker-dealers in connection with our provision of brokerage services.
Investment Management Strategies
The Company's investment management business, within the Op Co segment, focuses on addressing the needs of institutional investors and high net worth individuals to preserve and grow allocated capital. The Company and its related investment advisors offer a variety of investment management products that provide access to a number of strategies, including healthcare investing, sustainable investing, healthcare royalties, merger arbitrage and activism.
The Company's investment management business, within the Asset Co segment, consists of the Company's private investments, private real estate investments and other legacy investment strategies. Certain multi-strategy hedge funds managed by the Company are currently in wind-down. The majority of assets remaining in these hedge funds include investments in private companies.
Information About Geographic Areas
We are principally engaged in providing investment management services to global institutional investors and investment banking sales and trading and research services to corporations and institutional investor clients primarily in the United States and Europe. We provide brokerage services to companies and institutional investor clients in Europe through our broker-dealers located in the United Kingdom ("U.K.") Cowen International Limited ("Cowen International Ltd") and Cowen Execution Services Limited ("Cowen Execution Ltd"). Cowen and Company (Asia) Limited ("Cowen Asia") is registered with and subject to the financial resources requirements of the Securities and Futures Commission ("SFC") of Hong Kong.
We believe a strong connected culture is what empowers our team members to help each other and our clients outperform. We do this by viewing what we do through the lens of our core values of vision, empathy, sustainability, and tenacious teamwork.
During our history we have built and maintained long term relationships with our clients and continue to do so for our colleagues as evidenced by our 2021 voluntary turnover rate of 10%.
Collaboration and teamwork are standard operating procedures for our employees across the globe. As of December 31, 2021, we employed 1,534 employees: 1,264 in the U.S., 259 in Europe, and 11 in Asia (or Hong Kong). We strive to attract individuals who are smart, ambitious, work collaboratively and most importantly share our core values.
Our client facing professionals create annual business plans at the beginning of each year and are given feedback and developmental support to help deliver on those plans. We offer certain employees who show high potential work with performance coaches to develop leadership skills. Our Investment Banking Summer Analyst program is highly competitive and consists of two of weeks of formal training followed by eight weeks working within an Investment Banking group. This program is the main feeder to our Full-Time Investment Banking Analyst Program where the individual receives five weeks of formal training: the Investment Banking Class of 2021 (Full-time Analyst Program) is expected to have approximately 80% of those analysts who participated in our 2020 Investment Banking Summer Program.
We recognize the importance of insuring that our employees in all of our businesses have the opportunity to learn and develop in their careers. Investment banking analyst training and training for our research associates covers financial analysis, modeling and other relevant topics. We also provide our employees with test preparation for the licenses required to work in the securities industry as well as ongoing training to maintain these licenses. We encourage our employees to attend job-related seminars, other continuing education courses and provide tuition reimbursement to our full-time employees.
We reward and recognize our employees with competitive health, wellness and compensation programs and for the second year issued COWN shares to every employee in appreciation for their efforts to live our values and to provide all our colleagues with an ownership stake in the firm. Examples of our health and wellness benefits include subsidized health club memberships, emergency back up elder and childcare, transgender services, fertility support, gender neutral caregiver leave, generous parental leave and working parent support services. When the COVID-19 crisis hit in the first quarter of 2020, we moved rapidly to protect the health and safety of our team as we transitioned to operating remotely while continuing to serve our clients. We are approaching the structure of our future workplace with flexibility and considering individual challenges our team members face.
We are committed to Diversity and Inclusion and our Business Resource Groups (“BRGs”) collaborate with the Inclusion & Diversity and Human Resources teams to promote a sense of community, belonging and inclusion at Cowen. Our BRGs are employee led organizations empowered to promote our diverse communities, provide recruiting and professional development strategy, and make a significant impact in our workplace and society. Employees are encouraged to participate as allies to develop empathy, learn and collaborate with their colleagues.
We have partnered with several non-profit organizations focused on helping to provide career and educational opportunities to the underserved and underrepresented to further promote diversity and inclusion in the recruiting process.
Our CEO has signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion in support of creating a more inclusive workplace for our employees, our communities and society at large. We partner with organizations to recruit and develop underserved students and established a program to attract women who outperform. We advance our Diversity and Inclusion efforts in several ways, including by listening and acting on feedback received from employees, engaging senior management in D&I efforts and creating commitment on the divisional and firm-wide level.
Through our Cowen Cares platform, we have created a culture of charitable giving through our Matching Gift Program and encourage service through the Volunteer Committee at local, national and global levels.
We compete with many other firms in all aspects of our business, including raising funds, seeking investment opportunities and hiring and retaining professionals, and we expect our business will continue to be highly competitive. The investment management and investment banking industries are currently undergoing contraction and consolidation, reducing the number of industry participants and generally resulting in the larger firms being better positioned to retain and gain market share. We compete in the United States and globally for investment opportunities, investor capital, client relationships, reputation and talent. We face competitors that are larger than we are and have greater financial, technical and marketing resources. Certain of these competitors continue to raise additional amounts of capital to pursue investment strategies that may be similar to ours. Some of these competitors may also have access to liquidity sources that are not available to us, which may pose challenges for us with respect to investment opportunities. In addition, some of these competitors may have higher risk tolerances or make different risk assessments than we do, allowing them to consider a wider variety of investments and establish broader networks of business relationships. Our competitive position depends on our reputation, our investment performance and processes, the breadth of our business platform and our ability to continue to attract and retain qualified employees while managing compensation and other costs. For additional information regarding the competitive risks that we face, see "Item 1A Risk Factors."
Regulation and Compliance
Our businesses, as well as the financial services industry generally, are subject to extensive regulation, including periodic examinations by governmental and self-regulatory organizations, in the United States and the jurisdictions in which we operate
around the world. As a publicly traded company in the United States, we are subject to the U.S. federal securities laws and regulation by the SEC. Through our investment management and/or investment bank businesses we are subject to regulation by the SEC, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC"), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. ("FINRA") the National Futures Association ("NFA"), other self-regulatory organizations and exchanges related to the financial services industry and the fifty state securities commissions in the U.S. and by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority ("FCA") and the Securities and Finance Commission ("SFC") of Hong Kong.
Virtually all aspects of our business are subject to various laws and regulations both inside and outside the U.S., some of which are summarized below. Regulatory bodies in the United States and the rest of the world are charged with safeguarding the integrity of the securities and other financial markets and protecting the interests of customers participating in those markets. Governmental authorities in the United States and in the other countries in which we operate from time to time propose additional disclosure requirements and regulations covering our broker-dealers and investment management businesses. The rules governing the regulation of the various aspects of our business are very detailed and technical. Accordingly, the discussion below is general in nature, does not purport to be complete and is current only as of the date of this report.
Our businesses have operated for many years within a legal framework that requires us to be able to monitor and comply with a broad range of legal and regulatory developments that affect our activities both in the United States and abroad. As noted above, certain of our businesses are subject to compliance with laws and regulations of United States federal and state governments, foreign governments, their respective agencies and/or various self-regulatory organizations or exchanges, and any failure to comply with these regulations could expose us to liability and/or reputational damage. Additional legislation, changes in rules promulgated by the SEC, our other regulators and self-regulatory organizations or changes in the interpretation or enforcement of existing laws and rules, either in the United States or elsewhere, may directly affect the mode of our operation and profitability. The United States and non-United States government agencies and self-regulatory organizations, as well as state securities commissions in the United States, are empowered to conduct administrative proceedings that can result in censure, fine, the issuance of cease-and-desist orders or the suspension or expulsion or deregulation of a broker-dealer, an investment advisor or its directors, officers or employees.
Rigorous legal and compliance analysis of our businesses and investments is important to our culture and risk management. We conduct regular training of our personnel regarding the laws and regulations governing our business and applicable to our clients as well as with our company's policies and procedures. In addition, we have adopted and implemented disclosure controls and procedures and internal controls over financial reporting, which have been documented, tested and assessed for design and operating effectiveness in compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 ("Sarbanes-Oxley Act"). We strive to maintain a culture of compliance through the use of policies and procedures such as oversight compliance, codes of conduct, compliance systems, communication of compliance guidance, conduct of annual compliance reviews and on-going employee education and training. Our corporate risk management function further analyzes our business, investment and other key risks, reinforcing their importance in our environment. We have a compliance group that monitors our compliance with all of the regulatory requirements to which we are subject and manages our compliance policies and procedures. Our General Counsel supervises our compliance group, which is responsible for addressing all regulatory and compliance matters that affect our activities. Our compliance policies and procedures address a variety of regulatory and compliance risks such as the handling of material non-public information, position reporting, personal securities trading, valuation of investments, document retention, potential conflicts of interest and the allocation of investment opportunities. Our compliance group also monitors the information barriers that we maintain between those of our different businesses that we are required to conduct separately or which present conflicts of interest, which we address through the use of physical and systematic information barriers. We believe that our various businesses' access to the intellectual capital, contacts and relationships benefit all of our businesses. However, in order to maximize that access without compromising our legal and contractual obligations, our compliance group oversees and monitors the communications between or among our different businesses to ensure that we maintain material non-public information, client information and other confidential information in strict confidence. All parts of our business from time to time are subject to regulatory exams, investigations and proceedings, and our broker-dealers have received fines and penalties for infractions of various regulations relating to our activities. For additional information regarding the regulatory and compliance risks that we face, see "Item 1A Risk Factors."
The investment advisers responsible for the Company's investment management businesses are all registered as investment advisers with the SEC or rely upon the registration of an affiliated adviser, and all are currently exempt from registration as Commodity Pool Operators and Commodity Trading Advisors.
Registered investment advisers are subject to the requirements of the Advisers Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder. Such requirements relate to, among other things, fiduciary duties to clients, maintaining an effective compliance program, operational and marketing requirements, disclosure obligations, conflicts of interest, fees and prohibitions on fraudulent activities.
The investment activities of our investment management businesses are also subject to regulation under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the "Exchange Act"), the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended ("the Investment Company Act") and various other statutes, as well as the laws of the fifty states and the rules of various United States and non-United States securities exchanges and self-regulatory organizations, including laws governing trading on inside information, market manipulation and a broad number of technical requirements (e.g., options and futures position limits, execution requirements and reporting obligations) and market regulation policies in the United States and globally. Congress, regulators, tax authorities and others continue to explore and implement regulations governing all aspects of the financial services industry. Pursuant to systemic risk reporting requirements adopted by the SEC, the Company's affiliated registered investment advisers with private investment fund clients are required to report certain information about their investment funds to the SEC.
In addition, certain of our investment advisers may act as a "fiduciaries" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") and similar state laws with respect to private and public benefit plan clients. As such, the advisers, and certain of the investment funds they advise, may be subject to ERISA and similar state law requirements and to regulations promulgated thereunder. ERISA, similar state laws and applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the "IRC"), which regulate services provided to individual retirement accounts, impose duties on persons who are fiduciaries and other types of service providers to benefit plans and individual retirement accounts under ERISA, such state laws and the IRC, prohibit specified transactions involving IRA and benefit plan clients subject to ERISA or similar state laws (absent the availability of specified exemptions) and provide monetary penalties for violations of these prohibitions.
Enacted on July 21, 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the "Dodd-Frank Act") was expansive in scope and led to the adoption of extensive regulations by the CFTC, the prudential regulators, the SEC and other governmental agencies. Since its adoption, the Dodd-Frank Act has had an impact on the costs associated with derivatives trading by the Company and its clients, including as a result of requirements that transactions be margined, trade reported and, in some cases, centrally cleared.
The Dodd-Frank Act established the Financial Services Oversight Council (the "FSOC") to identify threats to the financial stability of the United States, promote market discipline, and respond to emerging risks to the stability of the United States financial system. The FSOC is empowered to determine whether the material financial distress or failure of a non-bank financial company would threaten the stability of the United States financial system, and such a determination can subject a non-banking finance company to supervision by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the imposition of standards and supervision including stress tests, liquidity requirements and enhanced public disclosures including the authority to require the supervision and regulation of systemically significant non-bank financial companies. We do not believe we are at risk of being considered a systemically significant non-bank financial company.
The regulation of swaps and derivatives under the Dodd-Frank Act directly affects the manner by which our investment management businesses utilizes and trades swaps and other derivatives, and has generally increased the costs of derivatives trading conducted on behalf of our clients. The European Union ("EU") (and some other countries) are now in the process of implementing similar requirements that will affect derivatives transactions with a counterparty organized in that country or otherwise subject to that country's derivatives regulation. The mandatory minimum margin requirements for bilateral derivatives adopted by the U.S. government and the EU came into effect in March 2017 with respect to variation margin and will be implemented through a phase-in compliance in respect to initial margin with the next compliance date set for October 6, 2021. Required margining of derivatives has affected our investment management businesses as these requirements generally increase costs associated with derivatives transactions and makes derivatives transactions more expensive.
Given our investment and insurance activities are carried out around the globe, we are subject to a variety of regulatory regimes that vary country by country. Our captive insurance and reinsurance companies are regulated by both the New York State Department of Finance and the Luxembourg Commissariat aux Assurances, respectively. EU financial reforms included a number of initiatives to be reflected in new or updated directives and regulations, the most significant of which is the amendment to the pan-European regulatory regime, the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive ("MiFID II"), which went into effect in January 2018. MiFID II regulates the provision of investment services and activities throughout the European Economic Area. MiFID II requires that investment managers and investment advisers located in the EU "unbundle" research costs from commissions. As a result, investment firms subject to MiFID II may no longer pay for research using client commissions or "soft dollars." Going forward, such costs must be paid directly by the investment firm or through a research payment account funded by clients and governed by a budget that is agreed by the client. In the U.S., our investment management businesses expect to continue to pay for research using soft dollars consistent with applicable law. The change in regulations has also impacted the provisions of research by our U.S. broker-dealers. Because the acceptance of hard dollar payments would, under U.S. law, require registration as an investment adviser, our broker-dealers are requiring clients to continue to pay for research on a soft dollar basis unless the client is subject to MiFID II and we can rely on SEC no-action relief so as not to have to register as an investment adviser. The SEC no-action relief expires on July 3, 2023, unless further extended.
Cowen and Company, LLC ("Cowen and Company"), ATM Execution LLC ("ATM Execution"), and Westminster Research Associates LLC ("Westminster") are registered as broker-dealers with the SEC and are members in good standing with FINRA. All broker-dealers are registered with various U.S. states and territories except for ATM Execution. In addition to FINRA, some of these Cowen broker-dealers are also members of other self-regulatory organizations, including various registered securities exchanges. Self-regulatory organizations adopt and enforce rules governing the conduct and activities of their member firms. As of June 30, 2021, Cowen Prime Services LLC (“Cowen Prime”) and Cowen and Company were granted regulatory approval to merge from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. The companies completed the merger on September 1, 2021 with Cowen and Company being the surviving entity. As a result of the merger, Cowen Prime withdrew its status as a registered broker-dealer on October 19, 2021 and such withdrawal was approved by the SEC on November 15, 2021. Accordingly, Cowen and Company, ATM Execution, and Westminster are subject to regulation and oversight by the SEC, the U.S. states and territories in which they are registered, and FINRA and the other self-regulatory organizations of which they are members. Cowen and Company is also registered with the CFTC and is a member of the NFA as an introducing broker and, consequently, is subject to regulation and oversight by them. Additionally, Cowen International Ltd and Cowen Execution Ltd are primarily regulated in the U.K. by the FCA and Cowen and Company Asia is registered with and subject to the financial resources requirements of the SFC of Hong Kong.
Broker-dealers are subject to regulations that cover all aspects of the securities business, including sales methods, trade practices among broker-dealers, use and safekeeping of customers' funds, conflicts of interest, securities and information, capital structure, research/banking interaction, record-keeping, the financing of customers' purchases and the conduct and qualifications of directors, officers and employees. In particular, as registered broker-dealers and members of various self-regulatory organizations, Cowen and Company, ATM Execution, and Westminster are subject to the SEC's uniform net capital rule 15c3-1 ("SEC Rule 15c3-1"). SEC Rule 15c3-1 specifies the minimum level of net capital a broker-dealer must maintain and also requires that a significant part of a broker-dealer's assets be kept in relatively liquid form. The SEC and various self-regulatory organizations impose rules that require notification when net capital falls below certain predefined criteria, limit the ratio of subordinated debt to equity in the regulatory capital composition of a broker-dealer and constrain the ability of a broker-dealer to expand its business under certain circumstances. Additionally, SEC Rule 15c3-1 requires us to give prior notice to the SEC for certain withdrawals of capital. As a result, our ability to withdraw capital from our broker-dealer subsidiaries may be limited.
The Dodd-Frank Act contains provisions that require the registration of all swap dealers, major swap participants, security-based swap dealers, and/or major security-based swap participants. The CFTC has finalized rules establishing capital requirements and financial reporting requirements for CFTC registered swap dealers not subject to regulation by a banking regulator. The SEC has finalized rules establishing similar standards for an entity registering as a standalone securities-based swaps dealer. On October 6, 2021, Cowen Financial Products LLC (“CFP”) became subject to the SEC’s standalone securities-based swap regulatory requirements. CFP registered as a securities-based swap dealer with the SEC with an effective date of November 1, 2021. Under the rules there is a minimum net capital requirement for, among others, an entity that acts as a dealer in security-based swaps, which is the greater of $20 million or 2% of risk margin amount. The risk margin amount means the sum of (i) the total initial margin required to be maintained by the SEC securities-based swaps dealer at each clearing agency with respect to securities-based swaps transactions cleared for securities-based swap customers and (ii) the total initial margin amount calculated by the SEC securities-based swaps dealer swaps dealer with respect to non-cleared securities-based swaps under new SEC rules.
The effort to combat money laundering and terrorist financing is a priority in governmental policy with respect to financial institutions. The Bank Secrecy Act ("BSA"), as amended by Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and its implementing regulations ("Patriot Act"), requires broker-dealers and other financial services companies to maintain an anti-money laundering compliance program that includes written policies and procedures, designated compliance officer(s), appropriate training, independent review of the program, standards for verifying client identity at account opening and obligations to report suspicious activities and certain other financial transactions. Through these and other provisions, the BSA and Patriot Act seek to promote the identification of parties that may be involved in financing terrorism or money laundering. We must also comply with sanctions programs administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control, which may include prohibitions on transactions with designated individuals and entities and with individuals and entities from certain countries.
Anti-money laundering laws of certain countries outside the United States contain similar diligence and verification provisions. The obligation of financial institutions, including ours, to identify their customers, watch for and report suspicious transactions, respond to requests for information by regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies, and share information with other financial institutions, has required the implementation and maintenance of internal practices, procedures and controls that have increased, and may continue to increase, our costs. Any failure with respect to our programs in this area could subject us to serious regulatory consequences, including substantial fines, and potentially other liabilities.
Certain of our businesses are subject to laws and regulations enacted by U.S. federal and state governments, the EU or other non-U.S. jurisdictions and/or enacted by various regulatory organizations or exchanges relating to the privacy of the information
of clients, employees or others, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”), the California Consumer Privacy Act (the “CCPA”), and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (the “GLBA”). In the U.S. and elsewhere, additional privacy legislation has been proposed and may be passed, changes in existing regulations may be made or changes in the interpretation or enforcement of existing laws and rules may be made.
We routinely file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other information required by the Exchange Act with the SEC. Our SEC filings also are available to the public from the SEC's internet site at http://www.sec.gov.
We maintain a public internet site at http://www.cowen.com and make available free of charge through this site our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, Proxy Statements and Forms 3, 4 and 5 filed on behalf of directors and executive officers, as well as any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. We also post on our website the charters for our Board of Directors' Audit Committee, Compensation Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, as well as our Corporate Governance Guidelines, our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics governing our directors, officers and employees and other related materials. The information on or accessible through our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
SUMMARY RISK FACTORS
Some of the factors that could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects include the following:
Market, Strategy and Industry Risk
a.Market volatility could have an adverse effect on our businesses, results of operations and financial condition.
b.The COVID-19 pandemic could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, including as a result of employees spending a substantial amount of time working remotely.
c.Our inability to successfully identify, manage and execute future acquisitions, investments and strategic alliances could adversely affect our results of operations.
d.Volatility in the value of our assets and liabilities could adversely affect our results of operations and statement of financial condition.
e.Our Linkem investment may not be successful and may adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition.
Human Capital Risk
a.The loss of key senior personnel would have a material adverse effect on our businesses.
b.Employee misconduct could harm investor retention and could cause legal liability, reputational harm and loss of revenue.
a.Deteriorations in the business environment in sectors focused on by our investment banking businesses could materially affect our business and cause substantial fluctuations in financial results from period-to-period.
b.Our capital markets and strategic advisory engagements do not generally provide for subsequent engagements and can lead to payment risk.
c.Larger and more frequent capital commitments in our trading and underwriting businesses increase the potential for significant losses.
d.The market structure in which our market-making business operates may make sustained profitability difficult.
e.Electronic trading and new trading technology may adversely affect this business and may increase competition.
f.We are subject to potential losses and default risks as a result of our clearing and execution activities.
g.Our securities business and related global clearing operations expose us to material liquidity risk, including as a result of international market events, decreases in equity trading activity and declining securities prices.
h.Failures by our third-party clearing agents could materially impact our business and operating results.
i.Our ability to increase revenues and improve profitability will depend on increasing assets under management in existing investment strategies and marketing new investment products and strategies.
j.Certain of our investment funds may invest in relatively high-risk, illiquid assets, and we may fail to realize any profits from these activities.
k.We may be unable cover our exposure if a counterparty defaults under one of our derivative or non-derivative contracts.
l.We may suffer losses in connection with the insolvency of agents whose services we use and who may hold our investment funds’ assets.
m.Risk management activities may materially adversely affect the return on our investment funds' investments.
n.Our third party reinsurance business could expose us to losses.
a.Operational risks relating to the failure of data processing systems and other information systems and technology or other infrastructure may disrupt our business and result in losses or limit our operations and growth.
b.Any cyber attack or other security breach of or vulnerability in our technology systems, or those of our clients or other third party vendors we rely on, could have operational impacts, subject us to significant liability and harm our reputation.
a.We rely upon our subsidiaries for cash flows and servicing our debt and funding our necessary capital expenditures requires a significant amount of cash, and we may not have sufficient cash flow from our business to pay our substantial debt or to fund our necessary capital expenditures.
b.The terms of the credit agreement governing our revolving credit facility and term loan may restrict our current and future operations, particularly our ability to respond to changes or to take certain actions.
c.We will be required to use a significant amount of cash to redeem our Series A Cumulative Perpetual Convertible Preferred Stock, which could adversely affect our liquidity position and could make it more difficult for us to elect to redeem these securities.
Litigation and Regulatory Risk
a.Our subsidiaries may become subject to additional regulations which could increase the costs and burdens of compliance or impose additional restrictions.
b.We are subject to third party litigation risk and regulatory risk which could result in significant liabilities and reputational harm.
c.A failure to appropriately identify and deal with conflicts of interest could adversely affect our businesses.
d.Increased regulatory focus could result in regulation that limits how we invest.
Other Risks to Our Stockholders
a.We could change our existing dividend policy in the future.
b.The terms of our Series A Convertible Preferred Stock contain certain restrictions on our ability to pay dividends and repurchase our capital stock, and, under certain circumstances, provides the holders thereof the right to elect two additional directors to our Board of Directors.
c.Our failure to maintain effective internal controls over financial reporting could have a material adverse effect on our business.
d.Certain provisions in our organizational documents could deter an acquisition by a third party.
e.The change in accounting guidance for our outstanding Series A Cumulative Perpetual Convertible Preferred Stock may have an adverse effect on our diluted earnings per share in future periods.
Risks Related to the Company's Businesses and Industry
For purposes of the following risk factors, references made to the Company's investment funds include the various investment management products advised by the Company's investment management business and the investment funds through which the Company invests its own capital. The Company's investment banking businesses include the Investment Banking division, the Markets division and the Research division.
Market, Strategy and Industry Risk
Difficult market conditions, market disruptions and volatility have adversely affected, and may in the future adversely affect, the Company's businesses, results of operations and financial condition.
The Company's businesses, by their nature, do not produce predictable earnings, and all of the Company's businesses have in the past been, and may in the future be affected by conditions in the global financial markets and by global economic conditions, such as interest rates, the availability of credit, inflation rates, economic uncertainty, changes in laws, commodity prices, asset prices (including real estate), currency exchange rates and controls and national and international political circumstances (including wars, terrorist acts, protests or security operations). Challenging market conditions have in the past affected and in the future could affect the level and volatility of securities prices and the liquidity and the value of investments in the Company's investment funds or other investments in which the Company has investments of its own capital, and the Company may not be able to effectively manage its investment management business's exposure to challenging market conditions. Challenging market conditions have in the past adversely affected and in the future could also adversely affect the Company's investment banking business as increased volatility and lower stock prices can make companies less likely to conduct transactions.
In addition, global economic conditions and global financial markets remain vulnerable to the potential risks posed by certain events, which could include, among other things, political and financial uncertainty in the United States and the European Union, renewed concern about China's economy, complications involving terrorism and armed conflicts around the world, or other challenges to global trade or travel, such as have occurred or might occur in the event of a worldwide pandemic such as the COVID-19 pandemic. More generally, because our businesses are closely correlated to the general economic outlook, a significant deterioration in that outlook or realization of certain events would likely have an immediate and significant negative impact on our businesses and overall results of operations.
The effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 have negatively affected the global economy, the United States economy and the global financial markets, and have disrupted and may further disrupt our operations and our clients' operations. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could in future periods have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The ongoing effects of COVID-19 remain challenging to predict due to multiple uncertainties, including the transmissibility, severity, duration and resurgences of the outbreak; new virus variants and their spread; the application and effectiveness of health and safety measures that are voluntarily adopted by the public or required by government or public health authorities, including vaccines and treatments; the speed and strength of an economic recovery; and the impact to our employees and our operations, our clients’ operations, suppliers and business partners. Impacts to our businesses could include the following:
•Employees contracting COVID-19
•Reductions in our operating effectiveness as our employees work from home or disaster-recovery locations
•Unavailability of key personnel necessary to conduct our business activities
•Unprecedented volatility in global financial markets
•Reductions in revenue across our operating businesses
•Declines in collateral value
•Declines in demand for our products or services
•Unavailability of critical services provided to us by third parties
•Operational failures due to changes in our normal business practices
We are taking precautions to protect the safety and well-being of our employees. However, no assurance can be given that the steps being taken will be deemed to be adequate or appropriate, nor can we predict the level of disruption which will occur to our employee's ability to service our clients and provide support for our businesses, particularly if the COVID-19 pandemic persists for a long period of time. Furthermore, our future success and profitability substantially depends on the management skills of our executive officers and directors, many of whom have held officer and director positions with us for many years. The unanticipated loss or unavailability of key employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic could harm our ability to operate our businesses or execute our business strategy. We may not be successful in finding and integrating suitable successors in the event of key employee loss or unavailability.
In the event that the COVID-19 pandemic persists and leads to increased volatility and lower stock prices for many companies, our investment banking activity could be materiality disrupted.
In addition, a sustained and continuing market downturn could lead to or exacerbate declines in the number of security transactions executed for customers and, therefore, to a decline in the revenues we receive from commissions and spreads.
In addition, revenues from our investment management businesses could be negatively impacted by decreased securities prices, as well as widely fluctuating securities prices. Because our investment management businesses hold long and short positions in securities, changes in the prices of these securities, as well as any decrease in the liquidity of these securities, may adversely affect our revenues from investment management.
Any one or more of these developments could cause, contribute to or exacerbate the other risks and uncertainties discussed in this Annual Report. Furthermore, such developments may remain prevalent for a significant period of time and may in the future adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.
We may incur losses as a result of unforeseen or catastrophic events, including the emergence of a pandemic, terrorist attacks, extreme weather events or other natural disasters.
The occurrence of unforeseen or catastrophic events, including the emergence of a pandemic, such as COVID-19, or other widespread health emergency (or concerns over the possibility of such an emergency), terrorist attacks, extreme terrestrial or solar weather events or other natural disasters, could create, and in the case of COVID-19 have created, and may continue to create, economic and financial disruptions, and in the case of COVID-19 have led to, and other future events could lead to, operational difficulties (including travel limitations) that may impair our ability to manage our businesses.
Our businesses have traditionally relied on collaboration among our employees, particularly in our markets business. While our employees have been able to work remotely since March 2020, we do not know how a continuing and prolonged period of remote working by our employees will impact our ability to collaborate. Accordingly, our business could be adversely affected by a prolonged period of employees working remotely.
Our business has traditionally relied on collaboration among our employees. In particular, the trading floor environment in our markets business facilitates idea generation and is more conducive to active trading. While we have been able to continue to operate all of our businesses, including our markets business, with our employees primarily working remotely since March 2020,we do not know how a continuing and prolonged period of remote working by our employees will impact our ability to collaborate. Accordingly, our businesses could be adversely affected by a continuing and prolonged period of employees working remotely.
The Company may be unable to successfully identify, manage and execute future acquisitions, investments and strategic alliances, which could adversely affect our results of operations.
We intend to continually evaluate potential acquisitions, investments and strategic alliances to expand our business. In the future, we may seek additional acquisitions, investments, strategic alliances or similar arrangements, which may expose us to risks such as:
•the difficulty of identifying appropriate acquisitions, investments, strategic allies or opportunities on terms acceptable to us;
•the possibility that senior management may be required to spend considerable time negotiating agreements and monitoring these arrangements;
•potential regulatory issues applicable to the financial services business;
•the loss or reduction in value of the capital investment;
•our inability to capitalize on the opportunities presented by these arrangements; and
•the possibility of insolvency of a strategic ally.
Furthermore, any future acquisitions of businesses could entail a number of risks, including:
•problems with the effective integration of operations;
•inability to maintain key pre-acquisition business relationships;
•increased operating costs;
•exposure to unanticipated liabilities; and
•difficulties in realizing projected efficiencies, synergies and cost savings.
There can be no assurance that we would successfully overcome these risks or any other problems encountered with these acquisitions, investments, strategic alliances or similar arrangements.
The Company's future results will suffer if the Company does not effectively manage its expanded operations.
The Company may continue to expand its operations through new product and service offerings and through additional strategic investments, acquisitions or joint ventures, some of which may involve complex technical and operational challenges. The Company's future success depends, in part, upon its ability to manage its expansion opportunities, which pose numerous risks and uncertainties, including the need to integrate new operations into its existing business in an efficient and timely manner, to combine accounting and data processing systems and management controls and to integrate relationships with customers and business partners. In addition, future acquisitions or joint ventures may involve the issuance of additional shares of common stock of the Company, which may dilute the ownership of the Company's stockholders.
Volatility in the value of the Company's investments and securities portfolios or other assets and liabilities, including investment funds, or negative returns from the investments made by the Company have in the past and could in the future adversely affect the Company's results of operations and statement of financial condition.
The Company invests a significant portion of its capital base to help drive results and facilitate growth of its investment management and investment bank businesses. As of December 31, 2021, the Company's invested capital amounted to a net value of $856.0 million (supporting a long market value of $693.5 million), representing approximately 84% of Cowen's stockholders' equity presented in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America ("US GAAP"). In accordance with US GAAP, we define fair value as the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date. US GAAP also establishes a framework for measuring fair value and a valuation hierarchy based upon the transparency of inputs used in the valuation of an asset or liability. Changes in fair value are reflected in the statement of operations at each measurement period. Therefore, continued volatility in the value of the Company's investments and securities portfolios or other assets and liabilities, including investment funds, will result in volatility of the Company's results. We have experienced this type of volatility in prior periods. In addition, the investments made by the Company may not generate positive returns. As a result, changes in value or negative returns from investments made by the Company may have an adverse effect on the Company's financial condition or operations in the future.
Our investment in Linkem may not prove to be successful and may adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition.
As of December 31, 2021, we had an approximately $83.5 million investment in Linkem S.p.A. ("Linkem"), the largest fixed wireless broadband service provider in Italy. Many factors, most of which are outside of our control, can affect Linkem's business, including the state of the Italian economy and capital markets in general, competition in the Italian telecommunications markets and other factors that directly and indirectly affect the results of operations, including the sales and profitability of Linkem, and consequently may adversely affect our results of operations or financial condition.
The Company faces strong competition from larger firms.
The research, brokerage and investment banking industries are intensely competitive, and the Company expects them to remain so. The Company competes on the basis of a number of factors, including client relationships, reputation, the abilities of the Company's professionals, market focus and the relative quality and price of the Company's services and products. The Company has experienced intense price competition in some of its businesses, including trading commissions and spreads in its brokerage business. In addition, pricing and other competitive pressures in investment banking, including the trends toward multiple book runners, co-managers and financial advisors, and a larger share of the underwriting fees and discounts being allocated to the book-runners, could adversely affect the Company's revenues from its investment bank business.
The Company is a relatively small investment bank. Many of the Company's competitors in the research, brokerage and investment banking industries have a broader range of products and services, greater financial resources, larger customer bases, greater name recognition and marketing resources, a larger number of senior professionals to serve their clients' needs, greater global reach and more established relationships with clients than the Company has. These larger competitors may be better able to respond to changes in the research, brokerage and investment banking industries, to compete for skilled professionals, to finance acquisitions, to fund internal growth and to compete for market share generally.
The scale of our competitors in the investment banking industry has increased in recent years as a result of substantial consolidation among companies in the research, brokerage and investment banking industries. In addition, a number of large commercial banks and other broad-based financial services firms have established or acquired underwriting or financial advisory practices and broker-dealers or have merged with other financial institutions. These firms have the ability to offer a wider range of products than the Company does which may enhance their competitive position. They also have the ability to support their investment banking and advisory groups with commercial banking and other financial services in an effort to gain market share, which has resulted, and could further result, in pricing pressure in the Company's businesses. If we are unable to compete
effectively with our competitors in the investment banking industry, the Company's business and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Human Capital Risk
Our businesses are heavily dependent on our personnel so any adverse effects on their well-being or morale could adversely affect our business.
COVID-19 presents a significant threat to our employees’ well-being and morale and the longer the pandemic persists the more significant the challenges could be to our employees' morale. While we have implemented a business continuity plan to protect the health of our employees, our business continuity plan cannot anticipate all scenarios and we may experience potential loss of productivity or a delay in the roll out of certain strategic plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Company depends on its key senior personnel and the loss of their services would have a material adverse effect on the Company's businesses and results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
The Company depends on the efforts, skill, reputations and business contacts of its principals and other key senior personnel, the information and investment activity these individuals generate during the normal course of their activities and the synergies among the diverse fields of expertise and knowledge held by the Company's senior professionals. Accordingly, the Company's continued success will depend on the continued service of these individuals. Key senior personnel may leave the Company in the future, and we cannot predict the impact that the departure of any key senior personnel will have on our ability to achieve our investment and business objectives. The loss of the services of any of them could have a material adverse effect on the Company's revenues, net income and cash flows and could harm our ability to maintain or grow assets under management in existing investment funds or raise additional funds in the future. Our senior and other key personnel possess substantial experience and expertise and have strong business relationships with the investors in its investment funds, clients and other members of the business community. As a result, the loss of such personnel could have a material adverse effect on the Company's businesses and results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
The Company's ability to retain its senior professionals is critical to the success of its businesses, and its failure to do so may materially affect the Company's reputation, business and results of operations.
Our people are our most valuable resource. Our success depends upon the reputation, judgment, business generation capabilities and project execution skills of our senior professionals. Our employees' reputations and relationships with our clients are critical elements in obtaining and executing client engagements. The Company may encounter intense competition for qualified employees from other companies inside and outside of their industries. From time to time, the Company has experienced departures of professionals. Losses of key personnel have occurred and may occur in the future. Moreover, if any of our client-facing employees or executive officers were to join an existing competitor or form a competing company, some of our clients could choose to use the services of that competitor instead of the services of the Company.
The success of our businesses is based largely on the quality of our employees and we must continually monitor the market for their services and seek to offer competitive compensation. In challenging market conditions, which occurred in recent years, it may be difficult to pay competitive compensation without the ratio of our compensation and benefits expense to revenues becoming higher. In addition, for our investment professionals whose performance-based compensation represents substantially all of the compensation the professional is entitled to receive in any year, negative performance which results in the professional not being entitled to receive any performance-based compensation could incentivize the professional to join a competitor.
Employee misconduct could harm the Company by, among other things, impairing the Company's ability to attract and retain investors and subjecting the Company to significant legal liability, reputational harm and the loss of revenue from its own invested capital.
It is not always possible to detect and deter employee misconduct. The precautions that the Company takes to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in all cases, and we may suffer significant reputational harm and financial loss for any misconduct by our employees. The potential harm to the Company's reputation and to our business caused by such misconduct is impossible to quantify.
There is a risk that the Company's employees or partners could engage in misconduct that materially adversely affects the Company's business, including a decrease in returns on its own invested capital. The Company is subject to a number of obligations and standards arising from its businesses. The violation of these obligations and standards by any of the Company's employees could materially adversely affect the Company and its investors. For instance, the Company's businesses require that the Company properly deal with confidential information. If the Company's employees were to improperly use or disclose confidential information, we could suffer serious harm to our reputation, financial position and current and future business relationships. If one of the Company's employees were to engage in misconduct or were to be accused of such misconduct, the business and reputation of the Company could be materially adversely affected.
The Company's investment banking businesses focus principally on specific sectors of the economy, and deterioration in the business environment in these sectors or a decline in the market for securities of companies within these sectors could materially affect our investment banking businesses.
Volatility in the business environment in the Company's sectors or in the market for securities of companies within these sectors could substantially affect the Company's financial results. The business environment for companies in these sectors has been subject to substantial volatility, and the Company's financial results have consequently been subject to significant variations from year to year. The market for securities in each of the Company's sectors may also be subject to industry-specific risks. For example, changes in policies of the United States Food and Drug Administration, along with changes to Medicare and government reimbursement policies, may affect the market for securities of healthcare companies. In addition, increased antitrust enforcement, in both the United States and internationally, and changes to how governments review foreign acquisitions of domestic companies may calm merger and acquisition activity and may make executing merger and acquisition transactions more difficult. In addition, revenue generated by the Company in its consumer sector could be adversely affected by changes in law or regulatory action with respect to companies that are in cannabis related businesses.
As an investment bank which focuses primarily on specific growth sectors of the economy, the Company also depends significantly on private company transactions for sources of revenues and potential business opportunities. To the extent the pace of these private company transactions slows or the average size declines due to a decrease in private equity financings, difficult market conditions in the Company's sectors or other factors, the Company's business and results of operations may be adversely affected.
The financial results of the Company's investment banking businesses may fluctuate substantially from period to period.
The Company has experienced, and we expect the Company to experience in the future, significant periodic variations in its revenues and results of operations. These variations may be attributed in part to the fact that its investment banking revenues are typically earned upon the successful completion of a transaction, the timing of which is uncertain and beyond the Company's control. In most cases, the Company receives little or no payment for investment banking engagements that do not result in the successful completion of a transaction. As a result, our investment bank business is highly dependent on market conditions as well as the decisions and actions of its clients and interested third parties. For example, a client's acquisition transaction may be delayed or terminated because of a failure to agree upon final terms with the counterparty, failure to obtain necessary regulatory consents or board or stockholder approvals, failure to secure necessary financing, adverse market conditions or unexpected financial or other problems in the client's or counterparty's business. If the parties fail to complete a transaction on which the Company is advising or an offering in which the Company is participating, we will earn little or no revenue from the transaction, and we may incur significant expenses that may not be recouped. This risk may be intensified by the Company's focus on growth companies in its sectors as the market for securities of these companies has experienced significant variations in the number and size of equity offerings. Many companies initiating the process of an IPO are simultaneously exploring other strategic alternatives, such as a merger and acquisition transaction. The Company's investment bank revenues would be adversely affected in the event that an IPO for which it is acting as an underwriter is preempted by the company's sale if the Company is not also engaged as a strategic advisor in such sale. As a result, our investment banking businesses are unlikely to achieve steady and predictable earnings on a quarterly basis.
Pricing and other competitive pressures may impair the revenues of the Company's brokerage business.
The Company's brokerage business accounted for approximately 27.7% of the Company's revenues during 2021. Along with other firms, the Company has experienced price competition in this business in recent years. In particular, the ability to execute trades electronically and through alternative trading systems has increased the pressure on trading commissions and spreads. We expect to continue to experience competitive pressures in these and other areas in the future as some of our competitors in the investment banking industry seek to obtain market share by competing on the basis of price or use their own capital to facilitate client trading activities. In addition, the Company faces pressure from larger competitors, who may be better able to offer a broader range of complementary products and services to clients in order to win their trading or prime brokerage business. We are committed to maintaining and improving the Company's comprehensive research coverage to support its brokerage business and the Company may be required to make additional investments in the Company's research capabilities.
Further, fund investors and shareholders are increasingly focused on ESG matters and certain fund investors consider ESG factors in determining whether to invest in our funds and our common stock. In addition, some fund investors use third-party benchmarks or scores to measure our ESG practices and decide whether to invest in our funds, and capital commitments to us and may condition capital commitments on taking or refraining from taking certain actions. Investors and stockholders may choose not to invest in our funds or exclude our common stock from their investments if our ESG practices do not fit their investment profiles, or if we fail to demonstrate progress towards our ESG goals, which could adversely impact our reputation or our ability to raise capital and could cause the price of our common stock to decrease.
The Company's capital markets and strategic advisory engagements are singular in nature, do not generally provide for subsequent engagements and can lead to payment risk.
The Company's investment banking clients generally retain the Company on a short-term, engagement-by-engagement basis in connection with specific capital markets or mergers and acquisitions transactions, rather than on a recurring basis under long-term contracts. As these transactions are typically singular in nature and the Company's engagements with these clients may not recur, the Company must seek out new engagements when its current engagements are successfully completed or are terminated. As a result, high activity levels in any period are not necessarily indicative of continued high levels of activity in any subsequent period. If the Company is unable to generate a substantial number of new engagements that generate fees from new or existing clients, the Company's investment bank business and results of operations would likely be adversely affected. In addition, investment banking clients may on occasion refuse to pay investment banking fees owed pursuant to the terms of our engagement and we may need to expend resources to enforce our contracts. Any failure to pay the investment banking fees owed to us could adversely affect our results of operations.
Larger and more frequent capital commitments in the Company's trading and underwriting businesses increase the potential for significant losses.
There has been a trend toward larger and more frequent commitments of capital by financial services firms in many of their activities. For example, in order to compete for certain transactions, investment banks may commit to purchase large blocks of stock from publicly traded issuers or significant stockholders, instead of the more traditional marketed underwriting process in which marketing is completed before an investment bank commits to purchase securities for resale. To the extent the total net capital of the Company's broker-dealers allows it, the Company anticipates participating in this trend and, as a result, the Company will be subject to increased risk as it commits capital to facilitate business. Furthermore, the Company may suffer losses as a result of the positions taken in these transactions even when economic and market conditions are generally favorable for others in the industry.
The Company may enter into large transactions in which it commits its own capital as part of its trading business to facilitate client trading activities. The number and size of these large transactions may materially affect the Company's results of operations in a given period. Market fluctuations may also cause the Company to incur significant losses from its trading activities. To the extent that the Company owns assets (i.e., has long positions), a downturn in the value of those assets or in the markets in which those assets are traded could result in losses. Conversely, to the extent that the Company has sold assets it does not own (i.e., has short positions), in any of those markets, an upturn in the value of those assets or in markets in which those assets are traded could expose the Company's investment banking businesses to potentially large losses as they attempt to cover short positions by acquiring assets in a rising market.
The market structure in which our market-making business operates may make it difficult for this business to maintain profitability.
Market structure changes have had an adverse effect on the results of operations of our market-making business. These changes may make it difficult for us to maintain and/or predict levels of profitability of, or may cause us to generate losses in, our market-making business.
The growth of electronic trading and the introduction of new technology in the markets in which our market-making business operates may adversely affect this business and may increase competition.
The continued growth of electronic trading and the introduction of new technologies is changing our market-making business and presenting new challenges. Securities, futures and options transactions are increasingly occurring electronically, through alternative trading systems. It appears that the trend toward alternative trading systems will continue to accelerate. This acceleration could further increase program trading, increase the speed of transactions and decrease our ability to participate in transactions as principal, which would reduce the profitability of our market-making business. Some of these alternative trading systems compete with our market-making business and with our algorithmic trading platform, and we may experience continued competitive pressures in these and other areas. Significant resources have been invested in the development of our electronic trading systems, which includes our ATM business, but there is no assurance that the revenues generated by these systems will yield an adequate return on the investment, particularly given the increased program trading and increased percentage of stocks trading off of the historically manual trading markets.
We are subject to potential losses and default risks as a result of our clearing and execution activities.
As a clearing member firm providing services to certain of our brokerage customers, we are ultimately responsible for their financial performance in connection with various securities transactions. Our clearing operations require a commitment of our capital and involve risks of losses due to the potential failure of our customers to perform their obligations under these transactions. We are required to finance customers' unsettled positions from time to time, and we could be held responsible for the defaults of those customers. If customers default on their obligations, we remain financially liable for such obligations, and while
some of these obligations may be collateralized, we are still subject to market risk in the liquidation of customer collateral to satisfy those obligations. While we have risk management procedures designed to mitigate certain risks, there can be no assurance that our risk management procedures will be adequate. Although we regularly review our credit exposure to customers, default risk may arise from events or circumstances that may be difficult to detect or foresee. Default by our customers may also give rise to the Company incurring penalties imposed by execution venues, regulatory authorities and clearing and settlement organizations. Any liability arising from clearing operations could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are also exposed to credit risk from third parties that owe us money, securities or other obligations, including our trading counterparties. These parties may default on their obligations to us due to bankruptcy, lack of liquidity, operational failure or other reasons, and we could be held responsible for such defaults. In addition, customer trading errors may cause us to incur financial losses, which customers may be unable or unwilling to cover. Volatile securities markets, credit markets and regulatory changes may increase our exposure to our customers' and counterparties' credit profiles, which could adversely affect our financial condition and operating results. Our review of the credit risk of customers and trading counterparties may not be adequate to provide sufficient protection from these risks.
Our securities business and related clearing operations expose us to material liquidity risk.
We may be required to provide considerable additional funds with clearing and settlement organizations of which we are members, such as the National Securities Clearing Corporation ("NSCC") or Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation in the U.S., especially during periods of high market volatility or when we are obligated to clear large notional amounts of securities that are not eligible for settlement through the NSCC's Continuous Net Settlement system and, consequently, may be subject to higher margin requirements. In addition, regulatory agencies have recently required these clearing and settlement organizations to increase the level of margin deposit requirements, and they may continue to do so in the future. We rely on our excess cash, certain established credit facilities and the use of outsourced clearing arrangements to meet or reduce these demands. While we have historically met requests for additional margin deposits, there is no guarantee that our excess cash and our established credit facilities and clearing arrangements will be sufficient for future needs, particularly if there is an increase in requirements. There is also no guarantee that these established credit facilities will be extended beyond their expiration.
As a clearing member firm of securities clearing houses in the U.S., we are also exposed to clearing member credit risk. Securities clearing houses require member firms to deposit cash and/or government securities to a clearing fund. If a clearing member defaults in its obligations to the clearing house in an amount larger than its own margin and clearing fund deposits, the shortfall is absorbed pro rata from the deposits of the other clearing members. The clearing houses of which we are members also have the authority to assess their members for additional funds if the clearing fund is depleted. A large clearing member default could result in a substantial cost to us if we are required to pay such assessments.
In certain jurisdictions we are dependent on third-party clearing agents and any failures by such clearing agents could materially impact our business and operating results.
In certain jurisdictions we are dependent on agents for the clearing and settlement of securities transactions. If our agents fail to properly facilitate the clearing and settlement of our customer trades, we could be subject to financial, legal and regulatory risks and costs that may impact our business and operating results. In addition, it could cause our clients to reduce or cease their trading with us, which would adversely affect our revenues and financial results.
Moreover, certain of the clearing agreements provide our clearing agents with rights to increase our deposit requirements or to terminate the agreements upon short notice. There is no guarantee we will be able to satisfy any increased deposit requirements within the time frames demanded by our clearing agents, and if we fail to satisfy such demands on a timely basis, it could constitute a default under our clearing agreements. If our clearing agents terminate a clearing agreement on short notice, there is no guarantee that we could obtain alternative services in a timely manner and any interruption of the normal course of our trading and clearing operations could have a material impact on our business and results of operations.
Our clearing and execution operations are global and international market events could adversely impact our financial results.
Because we offer brokerage products and services on a global basis, our revenues derived from non-U.S. operations are subject to risk of loss from social or political instability, changes in government policies or policies of central banks, downgrades in the credit ratings of sovereign countries, expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and unfavorable legislative and political developments in such non-U.S. jurisdictions. Revenues from the trading of non-U.S. securities may be subject to negative fluctuations as a result of the above factors. The impact of these fluctuations on our results could be magnified because generally non-U.S. trading markets, particularly in emerging market countries, are smaller, less liquid and more volatile than U.S. trading markets.
Decreases in equity trading activity by active fund managers and declining securities prices could harm our business and profitability.
Declines in the trading activity of active fund managers generally result in lower revenues from our brokerage products and services. In addition, securities' price declines adversely affect our trading commissions outside North America, which are based on the value of transactions. The demand for our brokerage products and services is directly affected by factors such as economic, regulatory and political conditions that may lead to decreased trading activity and prices in the securities markets in the U.S. and in all of the foreign markets we serve. Significant flows of investments out of actively managed equity funds have curtailed their trading activity, which has weighed on our buy-side trading volumes and the use of some of our higher value services. Volatility levels also impact the amount of trading activity. Sustained periods of low volatility can result in lower levels of trading activity and trading activity tends to decline in periods following extreme levels of volatility. In addition, any substantial shift from active fund management to passive fund management could have an adverse effect on our trading commissions.
The Company's revenues and, in particular, its ability to earn incentive and investment income, would be adversely affected if there are reversals to previously accrued incentive fees or if its investment funds fall beneath their "high-water marks" as a result of negative performance.
For our private equity funds, the incentive fee crystallizes upon realization of the investment. In those circumstances, until the investment is realized, the accrued incentive fees are subject to reversal even if those accruals were made in prior years. The Company's incentive allocations are also subject, in some cases, to performance hurdles or benchmarks. To the extent the Company's investment funds experience negative investment performance, the investors in or beneficial owners of these investment funds would need to recover cumulative losses before the Company can earn investment income at the end of the performance period with respect to the investments of those who previously suffered losses. With respect to our hedge fund products, incentive income, is, in most cases, subject to "high-water marks" whereby incentive income is earned by the Company only to the extent that the net asset value of an investment advisory product at the end of a measurement period exceeds the highest net asset value as of the end of a preceding measurement period for which the Company earned incentive income. The Company recognizes incentive income charged to the Company's hedge funds based on the net profits of the hedge funds. For a majority of the hedge funds, the incentive fee crystallizes annually when the high-water mark for such hedge funds is reset, which delays recognition of the incentive fee until year end. As a result, negative performance could adversely affect the Company’s incentive and investment income from both its private equity and hedge fund products.
The Company's ability to increase revenues and improve profitability will depend on increasing assets under management in existing investment strategies and developing and marketing new investment products and strategies, including identifying and hiring or affiliating with new investment teams.
The Company's investment management business generates management and incentive fee income based on its assets under management. If the Company is unable to increase its assets under management in its existing products it may be difficult to increase its revenues. The Company may launch new investment management products and hire or affiliate with new investment teams focusing on new investment strategies. If these products or strategies are not successful, or if the Company is unable to hire or affiliate with new investment teams, or successfully manage its relationships with its affiliated investment teams, the Company's profitability could be adversely affected.
Certain of the Company's investment funds may invest in relatively high-risk, illiquid assets, and the Company may fail to realize any profits from these activities for a considerable period of time or lose some or all of the principal amounts of these investments.
Certain of the Company's investment funds invest a significant portion of their assets in securities that are not publicly traded. In many cases, they may be prohibited by contract or by applicable securities laws from selling such securities for a period of time or there may not be a public market for such securities. Even if the securities are publicly traded, large holdings of securities can often be disposed of only over a substantial length of time, exposing the investment returns to risks of downward movement in market prices during the disposition period. Accordingly, under certain conditions, the Company's investment funds may be forced to either sell securities at lower prices than they had expected to realize or defer, potentially for a considerable period of time, sales that they had planned to make. Investing in these types of investments can involve a high degree of risk, and the Company's investment funds may lose some or all of the principal amount of such investments, including our own invested capital.
The due diligence process that the Company's investment management business undertakes in connection with investments by the Company's investment funds is inherently limited and may not reveal all facts that may be relevant in connection with making an investment.
Before making investments, particularly investments in securities that are not publicly traded, the Company endeavors to conduct a due diligence review of such investment that it deems reasonable and appropriate based on the facts and circumstances applicable to each investment. When conducting due diligence, the Company is often required to evaluate critical and complex
business, financial, tax, accounting, environmental and legal issues. Outside consultants, legal advisors, accountants, investment bankers and financial analysts may be involved in the due diligence process in varying degrees depending on the type of investment. Nevertheless, when conducting due diligence and making an assessment regarding an investment, the Company is limited to the resources available, including information provided by the target of the investment and, in some circumstances, third party investigations. The due diligence investigation that the Company conducts with respect to any investment opportunity may not reveal or highlight all relevant facts that may be necessary or helpful in evaluating such investment opportunity. Moreover, such an investigation will not necessarily result in the investment being successful, which may adversely affect the performance of the Company's investment funds and the Company's ability to generate returns on its own invested capital from any such investment.
Investors and beneficial owners in the Company's hedge funds can generally redeem investments with prior notice. The rate of redemptions could accelerate at any time. Historically, redemptions have created difficulties in managing the liquidity of certain of the Company's hedge funds, reduced assets under management and adversely affected the Company's revenues, and may do so in the future.
Investors and beneficial owners in the Company's hedge funds may generally redeem their investments with prior notice, subject to certain initial holding periods. Investors may reduce the aggregate amount of their investments, or transfer their investments to other hedge funds or asset managers with different fee rate arrangements, for any number of reasons, including investment performance, changes in prevailing interest rates and financial market performance. Furthermore, investors in the Company's hedge funds may be investors in products managed by other asset managers where redemptions have been restricted or suspended. Such investors may redeem capital from Company's hedge funds, even if the Company's hedge funds' performance is superior, due to an inability to redeem capital from other managers. Increased volatility in global markets could accelerate the pace of redemptions. Redemptions of investments in the Company's hedge funds could also take place more quickly than assets may be sold by those hedge funds to meet the price of such redemptions, which could result in the relevant hedge funds and/or the Company being in breach of applicable legal, regulatory and contractual requirements in relation to such redemptions, resulting in possible regulatory and investor actions against the Company and/or the Company's hedge funds. If the Company's hedge funds underperform, existing investors may decide to reduce or redeem their investments or transfer asset management responsibility to other asset managers and the Company may be unable to obtain new investment management business. Any such action could potentially cause further redemptions and/or make it more difficult to attract new investors.
The redemption of investments in the Company's hedge funds could also adversely affect the revenues of the Company's investment management business, which are substantially dependent upon its assets under management. If redemptions of investments cause revenues to decline, they would likely have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition. If market conditions, negative performance or other factors cause an increased level of redemption activity returns, it could become more difficult to manage the liquidity requirements of the Company's hedge funds, making it more difficult or more costly for the Company's hedge funds to liquidate positions rapidly to meet redemption requests or otherwise. This in turn may negatively impact the Company's returns on its own invested capital.
In addition to the impact on the market value of assets under management, illiquidity and volatility of the global financial markets could negatively affect the ability of the Company's investment management business to manage inflows and outflows from the Company's hedge funds. A number of asset management firms, including the Company's investment management business, have in the past exercised, and may in the future exercise, their rights to limit, and in some cases, suspend, redemptions from the investment management products they advise. The Company's investment management business has also negotiated, and may in the future negotiate, with investors or exercise such rights in an attempt to limit redemptions or create a variety of other investor structures to bring assets and liquidity requirements into a more manageable balance. To the extent that the Company's investment management business has negotiated with investors to limit redemptions, it may be likely that such investors will continue to seek further redemptions in the future. Such actions may have an adverse effect on the ability of the Company's hedge funds to attract new capital or to develop new investment platforms. Poor performance relative to other asset management firms may result in reduced investments in the Company's hedge funds and increased redemptions. As a result, investment underperformance would likely have a material adverse effect on the Company's results of operations and financial condition.
Investments made by investment funds, including the investments of the Company's own capital in the Company's investment funds, are subject to other additional risks.
Investments by the Company's investment funds are subject to certain risks that may result in losses. Decreases to assets under management as a result of investment losses or client redemptions may have a material adverse effect on the Company's revenues, net income and cash flows and could harm our ability to maintain or grow assets under management in existing investment funds or raise additional funds in the future. Additional risks include the following:
•Generally, there are few limitations on investment funds' strategies, which are often subject to the sole discretion of the management company or the general partner of such funds.
•Investment funds may engage in short selling, which is subject to a theoretically unlimited risk of loss because there is no limit on how much the price of a security sold short may appreciate before the short position is closed out. An investment fund may be subject to losses if a security lender demands return of the lent securities and an alternative lending source cannot be found or if the investment fund is otherwise unable to borrow securities that are necessary to hedge its positions. Furthermore, the SEC and other regulatory authorities outside the United States have imposed reporting requirements on short selling, which in certain circumstances may impair an investment fund's ability to use short selling effectively.
•The efficacy of investment and trading strategies depend largely on the ability to establish and maintain an overall market position through a combination of financial instruments. An investment fund's trading orders may not be executed in a timely and efficient manner due to various circumstances, including systems failures or human error. In such event, the investment fund might only be able to acquire some but not all of the components of the position, or if the overall position were in need of adjustment, the investment fund might not be able to make such an adjustment. As a result, an investment fund would not be able to achieve the market position selected by the management company or general partner of such fund, and might incur a loss in liquidating its position.
•Credit risk may arise through a default by one of several large institutions that are dependent on one another to meet their respective liquidity or operational needs, so that a default by one institution causes a series of defaults by the other institutions. This "systemic risk" may adversely affect the financial intermediaries (such as clearing agencies, clearing houses, banks, securities firms, other counterparties and exchanges) with which the investment funds interact on a daily basis.
•Investment funds are subject to risks due to the potential illiquidity of assets. Investment funds may make investments or hold trading positions in markets that are volatile and which may become illiquid. The timely sale of trading positions can be impaired by decreased trading volume, increased price volatility, concentrated trading positions, limitations on the ability to transfer positions in highly specialized or structured transactions to which they may be a party, and changes in industry and government regulations. It may be impossible or highly costly for investment funds to liquidate positions rapidly to meet margin calls, redemption requests or otherwise, particularly if there are other market participants seeking to dispose of similar assets at the same time, if the relevant market is otherwise moving against a position or in the event of trading halts or daily price movement limitations on the market. In addition, increased levels of redemptions may result in increased illiquidity as more liquid assets are sold to fund redemptions.
•Investment fund assets are subject to risks relating to investments in commodities, futures, options and other derivatives, the prices of which are highly volatile and may be subject to the theoretically unlimited risk of loss in certain circumstances. Price movements of commodities, futures and options contracts and payments pursuant to swap agreements are influenced by, among other things, interest rates, changing supply and demand relationships, trade, fiscal, monetary and exchange control programs and policies of governments and national and international political and economic events and policies. The value of futures, options and swap agreements also depends upon the price of the commodities underlying them. In addition, investment funds' assets are subject to the risk of the failure of any of the exchanges on which their positions trade.
•Investment fund assets that are not denominated in the U.S. dollar are subject to the risk that the value of a particular currency will change in relation to one or more other currencies. Among the factors that may affect currency values are trade balances, the level of short-term interest rates, differences in relative values of similar assets in different currencies, long-term opportunities for investment and capital appreciation and political developments. Officials in foreign countries may, from time to time, take actions in respect of their currencies that could significantly affect the value of an investment fund's assets denominated in those currencies or the liquidity of such investments. For example, a foreign government may unilaterally devalue its currency against other currencies, which would typically have the effect of reducing the U.S. dollar value of investments denominated in that currency. A foreign government may also limit the convertibility or repatriation of its currency or assets denominated in that currency. While the Company generally expects to hedge its exposure to currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and may do so through foreign currency futures contracts and options thereon, forward foreign currency exchange contracts, swaps or any combination thereof, but there can be no assurance that such hedging strategies will be implemented, or if implemented, will be effective. While an investment fund may enter into currency hedging transactions to seek to reduce risk, such transactions may result in a poorer overall performance than if it had not engaged in such hedging transactions. For a variety of reasons, the Company may not seek to establish a perfect correlation between the hedging instruments utilized and the portfolio holdings being hedged. Such an imperfect correlation may prevent the Company from achieving the intended hedge or expose an investment fund to risk of loss.
•Investment funds are also subject to the risk that war, terrorism, and related geopolitical events may lead to increased short-term market volatility and have adverse long-term effects on the U.S. and world economies and markets generally, as well as adverse effects on issuers of securities and the value of investments. War, terrorism, and related geopolitical events have led, and in the future may lead, to increased short-term market volatility and may have adverse long-term effects on U.S. and non-U.S. economies and markets generally. Those events, as well as other changes in U.S. and non-U.S. economic and political conditions, also could adversely affect individual issuers or related groups of issuers, securities markets, interest rates, credit ratings, inflation, investor sentiment and other factors affecting the value of the investment fund's assets.
If the Company's investment fund's counterparty for any of its derivative or non-derivative contracts defaults on the performance of those contracts, the Company may not be able to cover its exposure under the relevant contract.
The Company's investment funds enter into numerous types of financing arrangements with a wide array of counterparties around the world, including loans, hedge contracts, swaps, repurchase agreements and other derivative and non-derivative contracts. The terms of these contracts are generally complex and often customized and generally are not subject to regulatory oversight. The Company is subject to the risk that the counterparty to one or more of these contracts may default, either voluntarily or involuntarily, on its performance under the contract. Any such default may occur at any time without notice. Additionally, the Company may not be able to take action to cover its exposure if a counterparty defaults under such a contract, either because of a lack of the contractual ability or because market conditions make it difficult to take effective action. The impact of market stress or counterparty financial condition may not be accurately foreseen or evaluated and, as a result, the Company may not take sufficient action to reduce its risks effectively.
Counterparty risk is accentuated where the investment management product has concentrated its transactions with a single or small group of counterparties. Generally, investment funds are not restricted from concentrating any or all of their transactions with one counterparty. Moreover, the Company's internal review of the creditworthiness of their counterparties may prove inaccurate. The absence of a regulated market to facilitate settlement and the evaluation of creditworthiness may increase the potential for losses.
In addition, these financing arrangements often contain provisions that give counterparties the ability to terminate the arrangements if any of a number of defaults occurs with respect to the Company's investment funds, including declines in performance or assets under management and losses of key management personnel, each of which may be beyond our control. In the event of any such termination, the Company's investment funds may not be able to enter into alternative arrangements with other counterparties and our business may be materially adversely affected.
The Company may suffer losses in connection with the insolvency of prime brokers, custodians, administrators and other agents whose services the Company uses and who may hold assets of the Company's investment funds.
Most of the Company's investment funds use the services of prime brokers, custodians, administrators or other agents to carry out certain securities transactions and to conduct certain business of the Company's investment funds. In the event of the insolvency of a prime broker and/or custodian, the Company's investment funds might not be able to recover equivalent assets in full as they may rank among the prime broker's and custodian's unsecured creditors in relation to assets which the prime broker or custodian borrows, lends or otherwise uses. In addition, the Company's investment funds' cash held with a prime broker or custodian (if any) may not be segregated from the prime broker's or custodian's own cash, and the investment funds will therefore rank as unsecured creditors in relation thereto.
Risk management activities may materially adversely affect the return on the Company's investment funds' investments if such activities do not effectively limit exposure to decreases in investment values or if such exposure is overestimated.
When managing the Company's investment funds' exposure to market risks, the relevant investment management product may use forward contracts, options, swaps, caps, collars and floors or pursue other strategies or use other forms of derivative financial instruments to limit its exposure to changes in the relative values of investments that may result from market developments, including changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates and asset prices. The success of such derivative transactions generally will depend on the Company's ability to accurately predict market changes in a timely fashion, the degree of correlation between price movements of a derivative instrument, the position being hedged, the creditworthiness of the counterparty and other factors. As a result, these transactions may result in poorer overall investment performance than if they had not been executed. Such transactions may also limit the opportunity for gain if the value of a hedged position increases. A perfect correlation between the instruments used in a hedging or other derivative transaction and the position being hedged may not be attained. An imperfect correlation could give rise to a loss. Also, it may not be possible to fully or perfectly limit exposure against all changes in the value of an investment because the value of an investment is likely to fluctuate as a result of a number of factors, many of which will be beyond the Company's control or ability to hedge.
Our third party reinsurance business could expose us to losses.
We provide third party reinsurance coverage through our Luxembourg subsidiary, Cowen Reinsurance S.A (formerly “Hollenfels Re S.A.”) ("Cowen Re"). We have written polices relating to property and casualty, workers' compensation, general liability and construction performance bonds and may issue reinsurance policies relating to other types of insurance. Because we write reinsurance, the success of our underwriting efforts depends, in part, upon the policies, procedures and expertise of the ceding companies making the original underwriting decisions. We face the risk that these ceding companies may fail to accurately assess the risks that they assume initially, which, in turn, may lead us to inaccurately assess the risks we assume. If we fail to establish and receive appropriate premium rates or the claims we receive exceed the premiums and retrocession recoverables we are able to collect, we will suffer losses.
We may be unable to purchase retrocession reinsurance and our retrocession agreements subject us to third-party credit risk.
We may enter into retrocession agreements with third parties in order to limit our exposure to losses from the reinsurance coverage provided by Cowen Re. Changes in the availability and cost of retrocession reinsurance, which are subject to market conditions that are outside of our control, may reduce to some extent our ability to use retrocession reinsurance to balance exposures across our reinsurance operations. Accordingly, we may not be able to obtain our desired amounts of retrocession reinsurance. In addition, even if we are able to obtain such reinsurance, we may not be able to negotiate terms that we deem appropriate or acceptable or obtain such reinsurance from entities with satisfactory creditworthiness. While we seek to do business with creditworthy counterparties, if the parties who provide us with retrocession are not able to meet their obligations to us or fail to make timely payments under the terms of our retrocession agreements, we could be materially and adversely affected because we may remain liable under the terms.
The Company may incur losses in the future.
The Company may incur losses in any of its future periods. Future losses may have a significant effect on the Company's liquidity as well as our ability to operate. In addition, we may incur significant expenses in connection with any expansion, strategic acquisition or investment with respect to our businesses. Specifically, we have invested, and will continue to invest in, and hire senior professionals to expand our investment banking businesses. Accordingly, the Company will need to increase its revenues at a rate greater than its expenses to achieve and maintain profitability. If the Company's revenues do not increase sufficiently, or even if its revenues increase but it is unable to manage its expenses, the Company will not achieve and maintain profitability in future periods. As an alternative to increasing its revenues, the Company may seek additional capital through the sale of additional common stock or other forms of debt or equity financing. The Company cannot be certain that it would have access to such financing on acceptable terms.
We have taken steps to protect our businesses from cybersecurity attacks while our employees have been working remotely, but remote working environments may be less secure and more susceptible to cybersecurity attacks which could adversely affect our ability to securely process transactions and maintain confidential financial, personal and other information.
The Company's businesses are highly dependent on our ability to process, on a daily basis, a large number of transactions across diverse markets, and the transactions that the Company processes have become increasingly complex. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic virtually all of our employees, including those who process our transactions, are spending a substantial amount of time working remotely. While we have implemented risk management and contingency plans and taken other precautions with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, such measures may not adequately protect our businesses from the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as remote working environments may be less secure and more susceptible to hacking attacks, including phishing and social engineering attempts that seek to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, if our systems are breached as a result of a cybersecurity attack that takes advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, our ability to securely process transactions and maintain confidential financial, personal and other information could be adversely affected.
In addition, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including remote working arrangements for employees, may also impact our financial reporting systems and internal control over financial reporting, disclosure controls and procedures, however, to date, these arrangements have not materially affected our ability to maintain our business operations.
Our information and technology systems are critical components of our business and operations, and a failure of those systems or other aspects of our business operations may disrupt our business, cause financial loss, increase our legal liability and constrain our growth.
Our operations rely extensively on the secure processing, storage and transmission of confidential financial, personal and other information in our computer systems and networks. Although we take protective measures and devote significant resources to maintaining and upgrading our systems and networks with measures such as intrusion and detection prevention systems, monitoring firewalls to safeguard critical business applications and supervising third party providers that have access to our systems, our computer systems, software and networks may be vulnerable to unauthorized access, computer viruses or other malicious code, and other events that could have a security impact. Additionally, if a client's computer system, network or other
technology is compromised by unauthorized access, we may face losses or other adverse consequences by unknowingly entering into unauthorized transactions. If one or more of such events occur, this potentially could jeopardize our or our clients' or counterparties' confidential and other information processed and stored in and transmitted through our computer systems and networks. Furthermore, such events may cause interruptions or malfunctions in our, our clients', our counterparties' or third parties' operations, including the transmission and execution of unauthorized transactions. We may be required to expend significant additional resources to modify our protective measures or to investigate and remediate vulnerabilities or other exposures, and we may be subject to litigation and financial losses that are either not covered or not fully covered through our insurance. The increased use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as well as cloud computing may also heighten these and other operational risks. Similar to other firms, we and our third party providers continue to be the subject of attempted unauthorized access, computer viruses and malware, and cyber attacks designed to disrupt or degrade service or cause other damage and denial of service. Additional challenges are posed by external parties, including foreign state actors. There can be no assurance that such unauthorized access or cyber incidents will not occur in the future, and they could occur more frequently and on a larger scale. We are also subject to laws and regulations relating to the privacy and security of the information of our clients, employees or others, and any failure to comply with these regulations could expose us to liability and/or reputational damage.
Operational risks relating to the failure of data processing systems and other information systems and technology or other infrastructure may disrupt the Company's business and result in losses or limit our operations and growth in the industry.
The Company's business is highly dependent on its ability to process, on a daily basis, a large number of transactions across diverse markets, and the transactions that the Company processes have become increasingly complex. The inability of the Company's systems to accommodate an increasing volume of transactions could also constrain the Company's ability to expand its business. If any of these systems do not operate properly or are disabled, or if there are other shortcomings or failures in the Company's internal processes, people or systems, the Company could suffer impairments, financial loss, a disruption of its business, liability to clients, regulatory intervention or reputational damage.
The Company has outsourced certain aspects of its technology infrastructure including data centers and wide area networks, as well as some trading applications. The Company is dependent on its technology providers to manage and monitor those functions. A disruption of any of the outsourced services would be out of the Company's control and could negatively impact our business. The Company has experienced disruptions on occasion, none of which has been material to the Company's operations and results. However, there can be no guarantee that future material disruptions with these providers will not occur.
The Company also faces the risk of operational failure of or termination of relations with any of the clearing agents, exchanges, clearing houses or other financial intermediaries that the Company uses to facilitate its securities transactions. Any such failure or termination could adversely affect the Company's ability to effect transactions and to manage its exposure to risk.
In addition, the Company's ability to conduct its business may be adversely impacted by a disruption in the infrastructure that supports Company and the communities in which we are located. This may affect, among other things, the Company's financial, accounting or other data processing systems. This may include a disruption involving electrical, communications, transportation or other services used by us or third parties with which the Company conducts business, whether due to fire, other natural disaster, power or communications failure, act of terrorism or war or otherwise. Nearly all of our employees in our primary locations in New York, Boston, San Francisco and London work in close proximity to each other. Although the Company has a formal disaster recovery plan in place, if a disruption occurs in one location and our employees in that location are unable to communicate with or travel to other locations, the Company's ability to service and interact with its clients may suffer, and the Company may not be able to implement successfully contingency plans that depend on communication or travel.
Our business also relies on the secure processing, storage and transmission of confidential and other information in its computer systems and networks. The Company's computer systems, software and networks may be vulnerable to unauthorized access, computer viruses or other malicious code and other events that could have a security impact. If one or more of such events occur, this could jeopardize our or our clients' or counterparties' confidential and other information processed and stored in, and transmitted through, the Company's computer systems and networks, or otherwise cause interruptions or malfunctions in our business', its clients', its counterparties' or third parties' operations. The Company may be required to expend significant additional resources to modify its protective measures, to investigate and remediate vulnerabilities or other exposures or to make required notifications, and the Company may be subject to litigation and financial losses that are either not insured against or not fully covered through any insurance maintained by the Company.
Any cyber attack or other security breach of or vulnerability in our technology systems, or those of our clients or other third party vendors we rely on, could have operational impacts, subject us to significant liability and harm our reputation.
Our operations rely heavily on the secure processing, storage and transmission of sensitive and confidential financial, personal and other information in our computer systems and networks. There have been several highly publicized cases involving financial services companies reporting the unauthorized disclosure of client or other confidential information in recent years, as well as cyber attacks involving theft, dissemination and destruction of corporate information or other assets, in some cases as a
result of failure to follow procedures by employees or contractors or as a result of actions by third parties. Like other financial services firms, we have been the target of attempted cyber attacks. Cyber attacks can originate from a variety of sources, including third parties affiliated with foreign governments, organized crime or terrorist organizations and malicious individuals both outside and inside a targeted comapny. Malicious actors may also attempt to compromise or induce our employees, clients or other users of our systems to disclose sensitive information or provide access to our data, and these types of risks may be difficult to detect or prevent. Although cybersecurity incidents among financial services firms are on the rise, we are not aware of any material losses relating to cyber attacks or other information security breaches. However, the techniques used in these attacks are increasingly sophisticated, change frequently and are often not recognized until launched. Although we monitor the changing cybersecurity risk environment and seek to maintain a robust suite of authentication and layered information security controls, these controls could fail to detect, mitigate or remediate these risks in a timely manner. Despite our implementation of protective measures and endeavoring to modify them as circumstances warrant, our computer systems, software and networks may be vulnerable to human error, natural disasters, power loss, spam attacks, unauthorized access, distributed denial of service attacks, ransomware, computer viruses and other malicious code, and other events that could damage to our reputation, and have an ongoing impact on the security and stability of our operations and expose us to class action lawsuits and regulatory investigation, action and penalties and significant liability.
We also rely on numerous third-party service providers to conduct other aspects of our business operations, and we face similar risks relating to them. While we regularly conduct security assessments on these third-party vendors, we cannot be certain that their information security protocols are sufficient to withstand a cyber attack or other security breach. In addition, in order to access our products and services, our customers may use computers and other devices that are beyond our security control systems and processes.
Notwithstanding the precautions we take, if a cyber attack or other information security breach were to occur, this could jeopardize the information we confidentially maintain, or otherwise cause interruptions in our operations or those of our clients and counterparties, exposing us to liability. As attempted attacks continue to evolve in scope and sophistication, we may be required to expend substantial additional resources to modify or enhance our protective measures, to investigate and remediate vulnerabilities or other exposures or to communicate about cyber attacks to our customers. Though we have insurance against some cyber risks and attacks, we may be subject to litigation and financial losses that exceed our policy limits or are not covered under any of our current insurance policies. A technological breakdown could also interfere with our ability to comply with financial reporting and other regulatory requirements, exposing us to potential disciplinary action by regulators. Additionally, the SEC issued guidance in February 2018 stating that, as a public company, we are expected to have controls and procedures that relate to cybersecurity disclosure, and are required to disclose information relating to certain cyber attacks or other information security breaches in disclosures required to be made under the federal securities laws. Further, successful cyber attacks at other large financial institutions or other market participants, whether or not we are affected, could lead to a general loss of customer confidence in financial institutions that could negatively affect us, including harming the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures or the financial system in general, which could result in a loss of business.
Further, in light of the high volume of transactions we process, the large number of our clients, partners and counterparties, and the increasing sophistication of malicious actors, a cyber attack could occur and persist for an extended period of time without detection. We expect that any investigation of a cyber attack would take substantial amounts of time and resources, and that there may be extensive delays before we obtain full and reliable information. During such time we would not necessarily know the extent of the harm or how best to remediate it, and certain errors or actions could be repeated or compounded before they are discovered. All of which would further increase the costs and consequences of such an attack.
We may also be subject to liability under various data protection laws including, the GDPR and the CCPA. We are subject to numerous laws and regulations designed to protect personal information. These laws and regulations are increasing in complexity and number. If any person, including any of our associates, vendors or other service providers, negligently disregards or intentionally breaches our established controls with respect to sensitive or confidential client, employee or other data, or otherwise mismanages or misappropriates such data, we could be subject to significant monetary damages, regulatory enforcement actions, fines and/or criminal prosecution. In addition, unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential client, employee or other data, whether through system failure, vendor fault, employee negligence, fraud or misappropriation, could damage our reputation and cause us to lose clients and related revenue. Potential liability in the event of a security breach of sensitive or confidential data could be significant. Depending on the circumstances giving rise to the breach, this liability may not be subject to a contractual limit or an exclusion of consequential or indirect damages.
The soundness of other financial institutions may adversely affect Cowen.
Financial services institutions are interrelated as a result of trading, clearing, counterparty or other relationships. Cowen has exposure to many different industries and counterparties and routinely executes transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including commercial banks, brokers and dealers, investment banks and institutional clients. Many of these
transactions expose Cowen to credit risk in the event of a default by a counterparty or client. In the past, defaults by, or even speculation about, one or more financial services institutions or the financial services industry generally during moments of economic crisis have led to market-wide liquidity problems. The economic volatility resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic could, as similar events in the past have, result in similar defaults and, as a result, impair the confidence of our counterparties and ultimately affect our ability to effect transactions. In addition, Cowen’s credit risk may be exacerbated when the collateral held by Cowen cannot be realized upon or is liquidated at prices not sufficient to recover the full amount of the credit exposure due to Cowen. Any such losses could have an adverse effect on Cowen’s financial condition and results of operations.
Higher volumes and price volatility in the markets due to COVID-19 and other factors could lead to higher cash requirements relating to our clearing activities, which could adversely affect our liquidity position.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the capital markets have experienced a higher level of stress due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Higher volumes and price volatility have led to increased margin requirements at clearing corporations and exchanges, along with increased levels of fails due to operational friction in the financial system. Certain of these higher cash requirements have required us, and may continue to require us, to use more liquidity relating to our clearing activities and our overall liquidity could, in the future, be adversely affected as a result.
Limitations on access to capital by the Company and its subsidiaries could impair its liquidity and its ability to conduct its businesses.
Liquidity, or ready access to funds, is essential to the operations of financial services firms. Failures of financial institutions have often been attributable in large part to insufficient liquidity. Liquidity is of particular importance to our trading business and clearing activities and perceived liquidity issues may affect the willingness of the Company's clients and counterparties to engage in brokerage transactions with us. Our liquidity could be impaired due to circumstances that the Company may be unable to control, such as a general market disruption or an operational problem that affects the Company, its trading clients or third parties. Furthermore, the Company's ability to sell assets may be impaired if other market participants are seeking to sell similar assets at the same time.
The Company primarily depends on its subsidiaries to fund its operations. Cowen and Company, ATM Execution, CFP and Westminster are subject to the net capital requirements of the SEC and various self-regulatory organizations of which they are members. These requirements typically specify the minimum level of net capital a broker-dealer must maintain and also mandate that a significant part of its assets be kept in relatively liquid form. Cowen International Ltd, and Cowen Execution Ltd. are also subject to capital requirements in the U.K. by the FCA. Any failure to comply with these capital requirements could impair the Company's ability to conduct its investment banking businesses.
We are a holding company and rely upon our subsidiaries for cash flow to make payments of principal and interest on our outstanding indebtedness.
We are a holding company with no business operations or assets other than the capital stock of our direct and indirect subsidiaries. Consequently, we are dependent on dividends, distributions, loans and other payments from these subsidiaries to make payments of principal and interest on all of our indebtedness including our senior notes due 2024 (the "2024 Notes") and our senior notes due 2033 (the "2033 Notes") and together with the 2024 Notes, (the "Notes") and under our term loan B (“Term Loan”) under our Credit Agreement. The ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends and make other payments to us will depend on their cash flows and earnings, which, in turn, will be affected by all of the factors discussed in this annual report. The ability of our direct and indirect subsidiaries to pay dividends and make distributions to us may be restricted by, among other things, applicable laws and regulations and by the terms of any debt agreements or other agreements into which they enter. If we are unable to obtain funds from our direct and indirect subsidiaries as a result of restrictions under their debt or other agreements, applicable laws and regulations or otherwise, we may not be able to pay cash interest or principal on the Notes or Term Loan when due.
Servicing our debt and funding our necessary capital expenditures requires a significant amount of cash, and we may not have sufficient cash flow from our business to pay our substantial debt or to fund our necessary capital expenditures.
Our ability to make scheduled payments of the principal and to pay interest on or to refinance our indebtedness, including the Notes and Term Loan depends on our future performance, which is subject to economic, financial, competitive and other factors beyond our control. Our business may not continue to generate cash flow from operations in the future sufficient to service our debt and make necessary capital expenditures. If we are unable to generate such cash flow, we may be required to adopt one or more alternatives, such as selling assets, restructuring debt or obtaining additional equity capital on terms that may be onerous or highly dilutive. Our ability to refinance our indebtedness will depend on the capital markets and our financial condition at such time. We may not be able to engage in any of these activities or engage in these activities on desirable terms, which could result in a default on our debt obligations.
Furthermore, to the extent that businesses are unable to generate cash flows sufficient to fund necessary capital expenditures during the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be required to seek additional capital through issuances of debt or equity securities; however, we may be unable to complete any such transactions on favorable terms to us, or at all.
Despite our current consolidated debt levels, we may incur substantially more debt or take other actions which would intensify the risks discussed above.
We may be able to incur substantially more debt in the future, including secured debt. Although the Notes and the Credit Agreement contain restrictions on the incurrence of additional debt, these restrictions are subject to a number of qualifications and exceptions, including with respect to our ability to incur additional senior secured debt, securing existing or future debt or recapitalizing our debt. The additional debt we may incur in compliance with these restrictions could be substantial. Additionally, we have the option to raise incremental term loans or increase commitments under the Credit Agreement by certain amounts pursuant to the terms thereof. Any such increases would be secured debt. These actions that could diminish our ability to make payments on the Term Loan or the Notes, or to make repayments of any revolving borrowings under our Credit Agreement.
The terms of the credit agreement governing our revolving credit facility and term loan may restrict our current and future operations, particularly our ability to respond to changes or to take certain actions.
We are party to a credit agreement (the "Credit Agreement") pursuant to which the lenders party thereto made available to us an initial term loan B in an aggregate principal amount of $300 million (the “Initial Term Loan”), an incremental term loan B in an aggregate principal amount of $150 million, fungible with the Initial Term Loan (the “Incremental Term Loan” and, together with the Initial Term Loan, the “Term Loan”) and a revolving credit facility with aggregate commitments of $25 million (with a $5 million sub-limit for the issuance of letters of credit) . As of December 31, 2021, the revolving credit facility was unfunded and $450 million was drawn under the Term Loan. The terms of the Credit Agreement contain a number of restrictive covenants that impose significant operating and financial restrictions on us and our restricted subsidiaries and may limit our ability to engage in actions that may be in our long-term best interest. The restrictive covenants include (subject to customary exceptions, thresholds, qualifications and “baskets”) restrictions on our ability to:
• incur additional indebtedness and guarantee indebtedness;
• pay dividends or make other distributions or repurchase or redeem capital stock;
• prepay, redeem or repurchase certain indebtedness;
• issue certain preferred stock or similar equity securities;
• make loans and investments;
• dispose of assets;
• incur liens;
• enter into transactions with affiliates;
• alter the businesses we conduct;
• enter into agreements restricting our subsidiaries’ ability to pay dividends;
• engage in sale and leaseback transactions; and
• consolidate, merge or sell all or substantially all of our assets.
The restrictive covenants in the Credit Agreement also require us to comply with a financial maintenance covenant, consisting of a maximum total net leverage ratio of no greater than 3.35 to 1.00, measured as of the last day of each fiscal quarter on which outstanding borrowings under the revolving credit facility exceed 35.0% of the commitments thereunder (excluding certain letters of credit).
In addition, our obligations under the Credit Agreement are guaranteed by certain of our wholly-owned domestic subsidiaries (excluding our broker-dealer subsidiaries) (the “Guarantors”) and secured by substantially all of our and our Guarantors’ assets, subject in each case to certain customary exceptions.
A breach of the covenants or restrictions under the Credit Agreement could result in an event of default. An event of default would allow the lenders to accelerate the indebtedness under the Credit Agreement, and could result in the acceleration of any other indebtedness to which a cross-acceleration or cross-default provision applies. In addition, an event of default would permit the lenders under our revolving credit facility to terminate all commitments to extend further credit under that facility. Furthermore, if we were unable to repay the amounts due and payable under our Credit Agreement, those lenders could proceed against the collateral granted them to secure that indebtedness. In the event our lenders accelerate the repayment of our borrowings, we and our subsidiaries may not have sufficient assets to repay that indebtedness. As a result of these restrictions, we may be:
• limited in how we conduct our business;
• unable to raise additional debt or equity financing to operate during general economic or business downturns; and