Friday, September 25, 2009

Common deadlines

One way to try to control unraveling of transaction dates is to specify, and try to enforce, particular times at which certain aspects of a market are allowed to unfold. Some examples:

National Letter of Intent for college athletic recruits: A Quick Reference Guide to the NLI

NALP Principles and Standards for hiring by law firms: PART V: GENERAL STANDARDS FOR THE TIMING OF OFFERS AND DECISIONS "Employers offering full-time positions to commence following graduation to candidates not previously employed by them should leave those offers open for at least 45 days following the date of the offer letter or until December 30, whichever comes first. Offers made after December 15 for full-time positions to commence following graduation should remain open for at least two weeks after the date of the offer letter. "

It turns out that this provision needs some enforcement in a recession. The AmLaw Daily reports: S&C vs. Harvard and the Relevance of NALP's 45-Day Rule
"Perhaps nothing epitomizes the anxiety of this recruiting season better than Sullivan & Cromwell's abandoned attempt to bypass a standard, set by NALP, that firms leave offers to students open for up to 45 days. In late July, S&C called several of the nation's top law schools and informed career services personnel at those schools that the firm would not be following the 45-day guideline, according to six sources with direct knowledge of the situation. All six spoke only on the condition that they not be identified publicly. Instead, S&C told the career services personnel, the firm would require prospects to respond yes or no in two weeks."... "S&C backed down quickly and promised to obey the 45-day standard, according to all six sources who spoke to us about the matter. But that doesn't mean the 45-day guideline is set in stone. James Leipold, executive director at NALP, says several firms (none of which he would name) have called the organization asking if they could skip the 45-day rule in some way this season. Several have asked for permission to keep offers open for 45 days or until they collect as many acceptances as they want--whichever comes first. "

Even theoretical physicists need to try to control their market: Theoretical High Energy Physics Groups Common Deadline for Postdoc Offers, signed by many physics departments in 2007.

My favorite is the April 15 resolution by the Council of Graduate Schools, signed by most universities, which is carefully designed to be fairly self-enforcing:
"Students are under no obligation to respond to offers of financial support prior to April 15; earlier deadlines for acceptance of such offers violate the intent of this Resolution. In those instances in which a student accepts an offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw that acceptance, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. ... It is further agreed by the institutions and organizations subscribing to the above Resolution that a copy of this Resolution should accompany every scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, and assistantship offer."

Note that the incentive to violate the agreement by insisting that applicants respond before April 15 is undercut by the fact that the resolution allows students to accept such offers, and then subsequently reject them if they get a better offer. That is, the resolution effectively de-fuses Exploding offers by making them non-binding.

1 comment:

Jon Baron said...

As grad chair of a department that followed this rule, I noticed another effect. We were free to assume that no reply by April 15 was a non-acceptance, so we were free to make other offers until midnight in order to fill our budget-induced quota. I usually go to bed early, but on this day, I usually stayed up late making offers by email. (Not to do my taxes.) April 15 became the effective date by which everything was settled. The only thing we could do after that was to make offers to students who had accepted no other offers.

I think it is still technically possible for this system to unravel if enough students simply did not reply by April 15, but it didn't happen.