In a recent series of landmark decisions, the Delaware Supreme Court has constructed an orderly doctrinal framework designed to reduce wasteful post-closing merger litigation. These cases recognize that the market’s judgment is usually sound and that the costs of intensive litigation regarding transactions approved by informed and self-interested stockholders generally outweigh the benefits. A compelling corporate law question for 2019—and a practical challenge for transaction planners—is how that doctrinal framework will be implemented in the face of sustained attack by the class action plaintiffs’ bar.
A recent spate of appraisal decisions signals that the Delaware courts will be skeptical of claims that the “fair value” of a company’s stock, as determined in a judicial proceeding brought by a dissenter from the merger, will be higher than the price paid in the transaction. To the contrary, in the context of strategic transactions—which may include synergy value to which dissenting stockholders are not entitled under the appraisal statute—Delaware has made clear that the appraised value may well be less than the deal price.
These decisions follow the important and welcome rulings of the Delaware Supreme Court in … Read more
In an important ruling last week, the Delaware Supreme Court reaffirmed that control of Delaware companies lies in the boardroom and held that the deferential business judgment rule is the “appropriate standard of review for a post-closing damages action” when a third-party merger “has been approved by a fully informed, uncoerced majority of the disinterested stockholders.” Corwin v. KKR Fin. Holdings LLC, No. 629, 2014 (Del. Oct. 2, 2015) (en banc).
In a recent paper, Professors Lucian Bebchuk and Robert Jackson have extended Professor Bebchuk’s extreme and eccentric campaign against director-centric governance into a new realm—that of the Constitution of the United States. They claim that “serious questions” exist about the constitutionality of the poison pill—or, more precisely, “about the validity of the state-law rules that authorize the use of the poison pill.” It is likely, they argue, that these state-law rules violate the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, and are thus preempted, because they frustrate the purposes of the Williams Act, the 1968 federal statute that governs tender-offer timing … Read more
Last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled that an acquiring merger party obtains legal control of all of a target’s attorney-client communications, absent an express provision in a merger agreement to the contrary. Great Hill Equity Partners IV, LP v. SIG Growth Equity Fund I, LLLP, C.A. No. 7906-CS (Del. Ch. Nov. 15, 2013). In so ordering, the Delaware court declined to follow a decision of the New York Court of Appeals, Tekni-Plex, Inc. v. Meyner & Landis, 89 N.Y.2d 123 (1996), which held that a selling party retains control of those privileged pre-merger communications that … Read more
In a series of recent rulings, the Delaware Court of Chancery has provided guidance for boards coping with dissident directors. Kalisman v. Friedman, C.A. No. 8447-VCL.
OTK Associates, LLC is the largest stockholder of Morgans Hotel Group Co. Jason Kalisman is a founding member of OTK and a member of the Morgans board and, since late 2011, was a member of a special committee of the Morgans board tasked with evaluating the company’s strategic alternatives. In mid-March 2013, OTK announced that it intended to run a proxy contest for control of Morgans at its next annual meeting, then scheduled for … Read more
The Delaware Court of Chancery this week held that the use of both an independent special committee and a majority-of-the-minority vote condition in a go-private merger between a controlled company and its controlling stockholder will result in application of the deferential business judgment rule standard of review rather than the onerous entire fairness standard. In re MFW S’holders Litig., C.A. No. 6566-CS (Del. Ch. May 29, 2013).
The case arose out of a stockholder challenge to a merger in which MacAndrews & Forbes acquired the 57% of M&F Worldwide it did not already own. The transaction was subject to … Read more
This year, the practice of activist hedge funds engaged in proxy contests offering special compensation schemes to their dissident director nominees has increased and become even more egregious. While the terms of these schemes vary, the general thrust is that, if elected, the dissident directors would receive large payments, in some cases in the millions of dollars, if the activist’s desired goals are met within the specified near-term deadlines.
These special compensation arrangements pose a number of threats, including:
- undermining Board prerogatives to set director pay and select the timeframe over which corporate goals are to be achieved;
- creating a
NYSE Euronext, the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals and the National Investor Relations Institute have jointly filed a rulemaking petition with the SEC, seeking prompt updating to the reporting rules under Section 13(f) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as well as supporting a more comprehensive study of the beneficial ownership reporting rules under Section 13. The petitioners urge the SEC to shorten the reporting deadline under Rule 13f-1 from 45 days to two business days after the relevant calendar quarter, and also suggests amending Section 13(f) itself to provide for reporting on at least a monthly, … Read more
In a second Chancery transcript ruling on the subject in recent weeks, Chancellor Leo E. Strine, Jr. has made clear that Delaware has no per se rule against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Waive” standstill provisions (which prohibit a party subject to a standstill, including a losing bidder in an auction, from requesting a waiver from its standstill obligations). The Chancellor also provided guidance for using such a provision as an “auction gavel” to secure the best price reasonably available to a target company involved in a sales process. Last week’s ruling in In Re Ancestry.com is a welcome clarification that will … Read more