Commercial Lawsuit Financing

Commercial lawsuit financing is an increasingly popular new source of financing available to business owners. Commercial lawsuit financing is also referred to as lawsuit loan or lawsuit funding. The one good thing about commercial lawsuit financing is that you need not pay back the money unless the case is won. It is for this reason that they are also referred to as ‘no risk loans’.

Lawsuits can sometimes drag on forever. The claimants, in this case commercial establishments or businesses, may no longer be in actual business. They could be in a position where they are no longer able to afford fighting a case. Mounting legal expenses and severe financial crunch sometimes make businesses settle for a lesser settlement amount. Thanks to the advent of commercial lawsuit financing, things are no longer looking bleak for commercial establishments. Commercial clients can now sustain themselves and give their attorney the time required to get their rightful claim, with the help of commercial lawsuit financing.

Another advantage with commercial lawsuit financing companies is that they do not usually ask for a security. They are useful in situations where commercial litigants require financial assistance prior to a settlement. Commercial lawsuit financing is applicable to cases like personal injury claims, wrongful termination, discrimination, and motorized collision, to mention only a few. Although the rules or policies of companies may differ ever so slightly, they are available across most of the U.S.

There are lawsuit funding companies which provide funding only to commercial litigants. Commercial lawsuit finance companies usually finance up to 15% of the potential settlement amount. Before you want to go in for commercial lawsuit funding, it is better that you do thorough homework on the various intricacies involved. You can go through scores of web sites which offer extensive information on commercial lawsuit financing. You can also consult your friends, who may have availed these loans before you. One person who will be of immense help could be your financial advisor.

And don’t forget your attorney. They are probably best placed to give you the required information. They may also suggest you a good company from which to get the funding for fighting the case.

Business Acquisition Financing – Beware of Advisors

Business acquisition financing is right up there with your basic root canal. It may be necessary but it most certainly is not fun.

In fact the overall process for acquiring an ongoing business can be a mind sucking affair, very expensive,and in the end unfruitful.

Why is the process so frustrating?

The answer in many cases is the advisors involved.

That’s right, the very people that are paid to complete the deal, are the same ones that kill it.

Let me explain.

All deals have two sides, a buyer and a seller. Both sides have to rely on their third party advisors for advise on such things as legal, valuation, taxation, finance, etc.

Unfortunately, the business acquisition financing issues do not tend to be dealt with in the construction of the purchase and sale agreement, creating sometimes unworkable issues for potential lenders.

When buyers and sellers rely heavily on advisors, there is automatically less chance for the deal to succeed. Why? Because it can be impossible for both sides to agree or reconcile issues between the advisors without great cost and time delays.

The advisors are commissioned by their clients to protect the client’s best interest. But in this process of protection, it can be very difficult to get both sides to agree on all issues as both groups of advisors are coming at each issue from the opposite point of view. The result is a deal between buyer and seller in principal that can’t get closed.

Even when the purchase and sale agreement does get finalized, there may be terms and conditions that are now not acceptable to your source or sources of business acquisition financing.

If the agreement has to be reworked for the lender, this can be the beginning of the end as it may have already taken the powers of heaven and earth to get everything agreed to and signed off the first time. Making revisions can be like opening Pandora’s box with no hope of ever getting it closed again.

If this all sounds bleak and depressing, it certainly can be.

The stark reality is that if you’re going to buy or sell a small business you need to self educate yourself to some degree before you get started.

Here are some points to consider:

>>> Approach the deal on a Win – Win basis. Too often in deal making, one side is trying to pull a fast one on the other and try to come out better that they otherwise would have.

This is a dangerous strategy because no matter what you and the other party agree to in principle, the advisors will weigh in at some point and likely uncover any inequity that was created in the negotiations. Not only does the deal now become more complicated as a new basis for agreement needs to be established, but there may also be distrust forming between the parties, either of which could end up killing the deal.

>>> Be the decision maker. There is nothing wrong with getting advise from advisors when trying to close a deal and arrange business acquisition financing. Just don’t turn all the decision making authority over to the advisors. Take all the counsel as input and then decide for yourself what issues to bend on and which issues are sacred cows.

>>> Select Deal Makers. Make sure that advisors you chose to work with (lawyers, accountants, business consultants) are deal makers not deal breakers. A working definition of a deal maker is simply someone who has a lengthy track record for closing the type of deal you are trying to consummate. These individuals have a combination of the right technical ability, relevant experience, and ego control necessary to truly add value for the money you’re going to have to pay them if the deal closes or not.

>>> Pre-Qualify the business acquisition financing requirements. Make sure that the buyer has the means to acquire financing. The buyer typically needs to have 1/3 to 1/2 the purchase price as a down payment, depending on the industry and the hard assets being acquired. Good credit and a solid net worth can also be requirements for suitable financing. The seller needs to be prepared to work with different financing options before getting too deep into due diligence. Will a vendor take back be required? How long is the vendor willing to assist with the business after sale? How much working capital is the vendor draining out of the business?

>>> Consult with a financing consultant. Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there is great value to talking the potential deal over with a financing consultant before your accountant and lawyer start running up their tab respective tabs.

From the seller’s point of view, a financing consultant can be invaluable in providing insight as to how to get the business in a financial position. From the buyer’s point of view, a financing consultant can provide guidelines as to lender requirements. In either case, there is no sense going through all the potential aggravation of closing a deal if its unlikely to attract the necessary business acquisition financing capital.

>>> Become blood brothers (or sisters) with the other side. A close working relationship between the buyer and the seller can stop the deal from going down bunny trails and sitting unnecessarily on an advisor’s desk. Always listen to your chosen advisors, but remember that as buyer and seller, its your collective deal, and you’re the one’s who will make or break it when the issues are cloudy and the timelines are dragging on.

>>> Set a realistic time frame. Negotiating the deal, going through due diligence, getting advisor input, writing up the deal, and getting financing in place normally takes more time than first estimated.

If the change of control is time dependent due to the business sales cycle, year end, etc., then make sure you have sufficient time to get the deal done before you start, otherwise the only people that will be making any money will be the advisors when the deal can’t get closed on time.

Behavioural Finance: Focus on Intrinsic Value

INTRODUCTION

The volume of research in the field of Behavioural Finance has grown over the recent years. The field merges the concepts of finance, economics and psychology to understand the human behaviour in the financial markets, to form winning investment strategies.

THE CONCEPT OF BEHAVIOURAL FINANCE

Behavioural finance is the study of the influence of psychology on the behaviour of financial practitioners and the subsequent effect on markets. Principal objective of an investment is to make money. We usually assume that investors always act in a manner that maximizes their return rationally. The Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH), the central proposition of finance for the last thirty five years rests on assumption of rationality. But it has been proved that people are ruled as much by emotion as by cold logic and selfishness. While the emotions such as fear and greed often play an important role in poor decisions, there are other causes like cognitive biases, heuristics (shortcuts) that take investors to incorrectly analyse new information about a stock or currency and thus overreact or under react. Behavioural Finance is the study of how these mental errors and emotions can cause stocks or currency to be overvalued or undervalued, and to create investment strategies that gives a winning edge over the others investors.

I would like to bring out the behaviour pattern of a rational investor. This rational investor is assumed to act rationally in following ways:

o Makes decisions to maximize the expected utility.

o Fully informed with unbiased information.

o Absence of any distortion of judgement based on emotions.

It is to be kept in mind that risk resides not only in the price movements of dollars, gold, oil, commodities, companies and bonds. It also lurks inside us – in the way we misinterpret information, fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we do, and overreact to market swings. Information is useless if we misinterpret it or let emotions sway our judgement. Human beings are irrational about investing. Correct behaviour patterns are absolutely essential to successful investing – so to be financially successful one has to overcome these tendencies. if we can recognise these destructive urges, we can avoid them. Behavioural Finance combines the disciplines of economics and psychology specifically to study this phenomenon.

THE CONCEPT OF BUBBLES IN STOCK MARKET

A speculative bubble occurs when actions by market participants’ results in stock prices to deviate from their fundamental valuation over a prolonged period of time. Speculative bubbles are difficult to explain by rational trading behaviour, and theories have been put forward to explain market psychology through behavioural finance1. They propose that when significant proportion of trading activity in the market is characterized by positive feedback behaviour, it may result in asset prices to shift away from their fundamental valuation. This price deviation encourages rational investors to trade in the same direction.

Speculative trades are based upon investors’ private information held today, and are designed to provide investors with higher returns in the next period when that private information is fully revealed to the market. This implies a positive correlation in returns as market incorporate the information into prices. Trades due to portfolio rebalancing, or hedging, is not information based, and occurs when a trader may increase (or decrease) his stock holding by buying (or selling) a portion of his stock holding. This will be accomplished by increasing (or decreasing) the stock price to induce the opposite side of the trade.

FOCUS ON INTRINSIC VALUE

What are the implications for corporate managers? It is believed that such market deviations make it even more important for the executives of a company to understand the intrinsic value of its shares. This knowledge allows it to exploit any deviations, if and when they occur, to time the implementation of strategic decisions more successfully. Here are some examples of how corporate managers can take advantage of market deviations:

o Issuing additional share capital when the stock market attaches too high a value to the company’s shares relative to their intrinsic value.

o Repurchasing shares when the market under-prices them relative to their intrinsic value.

o Paying for acquisitions with shares instead of cash when the market overprices them relative to their intrinsic value.

Two things must be kept in mind as regards this aspect of market deviations.

Firstly, these decisions must be grounded in a strong business strategy driven by the goal of creating shareholder value.

Secondly, managers should be cautious of analyses claiming to highlight market deviations. Furthermore, the deviations should be significant in both size and duration. Provided that a company’s share price eventually returns to its intrinsic value in the long run, managers would benefit from using a discounted-cash-flow approach for strategic decisions.

It can thus be summarized that for strategic business decisions, the evidence strongly suggests that the market reflects intrinsic value.

INVESTING IRRATIONALITIES

Often turbulence in the market isn’t linked to any perceivable event but to investor psychology. A fair amount of portfolio losses can be traced back to investor choices and reasons for making them. I would like to point out some of the ways by which investors unthinkingly inflict problems on themselves :

Herding

This is a cardinal sin in investing and this tendency to follow the crowd and depend on the direction of others is exactly how problems in the stock market arise. There are two actions that are caused by herd mentality:

o Panic buying

o Panic selling

Holding Out for a rare treat

Some investors, praying for a reversal for their stocks, hold onto them, other investors, settling for limited profit, sell stock that has great long-term potential. One of the big ironies of the investing world is that most investors are risk averse when chasing gains but become risk lovers when trying to avoid a loss.

If we are shifting our non-risk capital into high-risk investments, we are contradicting every rule of prudence to which the stock market ascribes and asking for further problems.

ISSUES

One of the most important issues in Behavioural Finance is whether the assumptions of investor rationality are realistic or not.

The concept can be explained with the help of an example. Let’s assume that Mr. X invests and manages his portfolio in an efficient market. Here only seconds are available for a response to the news. There are a great number of factors that affect the decision of Mr. X. Further, these factors can affect each other. How can Mr. X draw the right judgements when the information is updated very frequently? Probably Mr. X works on a computer, through out the day, on which a utility function program is installed for his work. Every decision Mr. X is based on the calculation given by his computer. As soon as the portfolio is rebalanced, the computers utility function program analyses new alternatives. This process goes on and on over the course of the day. Obviously, Mr X does not show any joy, when he wins and no panic when he looses. Can a human brain behave like this? We know that a human brain can master only seven pieces of information at any one time.

So, how could one possibly absorb all the relevant information and process it correctly? People use simplifying heuristics (shortcuts) in order to control the complexity of information received. Psychological research has shown that the human brain often uses shortcuts to solve complex problems. These heuristics are rules or strategies for information processing, which help to find a quick, but not necessary optimal, solution. Once the information is simplified to manageable level, people use judgement heuristics. These shortcuts are needed to resolve the decision making as quickly as possible. Heuristics are also used to arrive at a quick judgement, they can, however, also systematically distort judgement in certain situations.

SIMPLIFICATION BIAS

The first step in reducing complexity is to simplify the decision. However it also adds the risk of arriving at a non-rational conclusion, unless one is careful.

MENTAL ACCOUNTING

People focus on one account (say purchase of share x) in particular when weighing things, relationship with other commitments or accounts (say purchase of share y) are usually ignored. I would like to explain this with the help of an illustration. For instance, Company A produces bathing costumes, and company B produces raincoats. Both companies are new, extremely efficient and innovating, so that purchasing shares in these companies would be a profitable proposition. A financial gain, however depends to a large extent on the whether in both cases, Company A will produce huge profits if the weather is fine, while Company B will make a loss, even though this is kept to a minimum, thanks to its efficient management. The situation is reversed in the case of bad weather. With mental accounting, either investment is risky when seen in isolation. But if we take into account the mutual effect of the uncertainty factor, i.e. the weather, then a combination of both shares become a lucrative, and at the same time secure investment.

AVAILABILITY CONSTRAINT

Not everybody has same degree of information. Some people prefer to see business news on CNBC TV 18, NDTV PROFIT. But others may like to see the serials on STAR PLUS. Obviously the first one may have more information, as compared to second.

REPRESENTATIVENESS

This is one of the mental shortcuts that make it hard for investors to correctly analyse new information. It helps the brain organise and quickly process large stock of data, but can cause investors to overreact to old information. For example, if a company is repeatedly giving losses, investors will become disillusioned with this past data, and thus may overreact to past information by ignoring valid signs of recovery. Thus, the stock of the company is undervalued because of this bias.

CHLALLENGES

Under the paradigm of traditional financial economics, decision makers are considered to be rational and utility maximizing. The assumption of rational expectations is simply an assumption – an assumption that could turn out not to be true.

Behavioural Finance has the potential to be a valuable supplement to the traditional financial theories in making investment decisions. The following fundamentals of behavioural finance give us a glimpse of the pitfalls to be avoided. These are the challenges which need to be overcome and addressed.

1. Hubris hypothesis: it is the tendency to be over optimistic. It results from psychological biases. The investor gets swayed by the momentum generated in the markets in recent past.

2. Sheep theory: it is a phenomenon where all the investors are running in the same direction. They follow the herd – not voluntarily, but to avoid being trampled.

3. Loss aversion: it says that investors take more risk when threatened with a loss. Thus mental penalty associated with a given loss is greater than the mental reward from a gain of the same size.

4. Anchoring: this causes investors to under react to new information. This can lead to investors to expect a company’s earning to be in line with historical trends, leading to possible under reaction to trend changes.

5. Framing: this states that the way people behave depends on their way decision problems are framed. Even the same problem framed in different ways can cause people to make different choices.

6. Overconfidence: this is what leads people to think that they know more than they do. It leads investors to overestimate their predictive skills and believe they can time the market.

RELEVANCE TO INDIAN STOCK MARKETS

Behavioural finance holds definite clues and appears apt in the current IPO craze as regards Indian markets are concerned. The herd mentality is evident in the scramble for shares. As the positive information of excess subscriptions comes, more investors enter the bandwagon. When Prices of the stocks start soaring, everyone one is thinking of the same thing: I am going to sell on listing and book the profits. Can money making be so simple? Is life and the financial markets so predictable? One will see investors selling the stocks as soon as they get the allotments. Herd mentality will be at work with people trying to sell faster than the neighbour, thus eroding stock values at a faster rate. Greed thus becomes the graveyard. One needs to understand that there are no shortcuts to earning money. One has to work hard and have patience.

It is believed that perfect application of Behavioural finance can make an Indian investor successful, making fewer mistakes. Even if we learn to identify some common psychological and cognitive errors that plague even the wisest investment professional, it may be enough. To put it in Simple words, economic theory starts with a flawed basic premise that the investor is a rational being who will always act to maximise his financial gain. Yet, we are not rational beings, we are human beings.

In stock markets, behavioural finance can help explain situations such as why we hold on to stocks that are crashing, foolishly sell stocks that are rising, ridiculously overvalue stocks, jump in late and never find our right price to buy and sell stocks.

Let’s take the example of the recent discovery of gas by Reliance industries. The stock starts spurting as everyone starts buying on this news. Newspapers start flashing stories as to the size of such a discovery.

But let us analyse the situation without becoming a prey to mental heuristics. Gas has been discovered but the same needs to be drilled which takes a lot of time and money. What is the quality of the gas? How many wells would be needed for drilling? How much time will it take? How much money would be required and what are the plans to finance the same? How easy it is going to be to extract the same? These are all important and pertinent questions. In this time lag there are so many uncertainties the company will have to go through, before the profits are reaped. However, analysts have started predicting the future profitability of Reliance and on such hopes investors start buying the stock at rising prices.

This is how mental heuristics work when the brain takes a shortcut in processing information and does not process the full information and its implications. Thus behavioural finance has a pivotal role to play in Indian Capital market.

CONCLUSION

Knowing the heuristics shall help the investors to which they are susceptible and this will help them in neutralizing to some extent the distortions in the perception and assimilation of information. This will in turn, help the investor to take a rational decision and get a cutting edge over the other not-so-rational investors.

More research on behavioural finance should take place not only in asset pricing but also in areas like project appraisal & investment decisions and other areas of corporate finance, so that managers can avoid the decision traps. Psychology and irrational behaviour matter on financial markets. Behavioural finance is relevant in many ways. It educates investors about how to avoid biases, designing long and short term strategies to exploit biases; and being aware that decision-makers in financial markets are human beings with biases. We also need to realize that an implicit assumption of behavioural finance is that their findings at individual level are scalable to market level.