On March 29, 2015, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (the “NAIC”) Private Equity Issues Working Group (the “PEI Working Group”) adopted a new section to be added to the NAIC’s Financial Analysis Handbook that provides a narrative guidance to state insurance regulators considering an application seeking approval to acquire control of a domestic insurance company (the “Guidance”). The Guidance draws from many of the practices that have recently been used by states such as New York and Iowa in approving the acquisition of control of domestic insurers by private equity firms, and, in the case of New York, recently … Read more
The negotiation of the “deal protection” package in a public company M&A transaction almost always involves the inevitable discussion as to the amount and percentage of the break-up fee. In general, the Delaware courts have upheld break-up fees within a range of 3% to 4% of equity value as reasonable and not preclusive. Delaware courts also have accepted somewhat higher break-up fees in certain deals (e.g., 4.3% in In re Topps Company Shareholder Litigation, and 4.4% in In re Answers Corporation Shareholder Litigation), depending on the circumstances.
Despite the contentious negotiations surrounding break-up fees and other deal protection … Read more
In addition to change-of-control benefits (“golden parachutes”), executives often negotiate for personal side-payment at the same time that they are bargaining with an acquirer over the sale of their firm. Side-payments differ from golden parachutes in that they are negotiated ex post in connection with a specific acquisition proposal, whereas golden parachutes are part of the executive’s employment agreement negotiated when she is hired. Side-payments are structured in a variety of different ways: by awarding a merger bonus (often structured as a non-compete agreement); augmenting parachute entitlements during deal negotiations; signing a post-merger consulting or employment contract; or granting ‘unscheduled’ … Read more
The ISS Report on the DuPont-Trian proxy contest calls attention to a number of important insights into ISS policies and practices and those of many of its institutional investor clients. Concomitantly, these policies illustrate the realities of the sharp increase in activist activity and the steps corporations can, and should, take to deal with the activist phenomena.
ISS and major institutional investors will be responsive to and support well-presented attacks on business strategy and operations by activist hedge funds on generally well managed major corporations, even those with an outstanding CEO and board of directors.
Trian Fund Management and its … Read more
The Delaware Rapid Arbitration Act (DRAA)—which provides a streamlined arbitration process that will allow for prompt, cost-effective resolution of business disputes—was passed by the Delaware House of Representatives on March 19, 2015, and the Delaware Senate on March 31, 2015, and was signed by Governor Jack Markell on April 3, 2015. The DRAA will become effective on May 4, 2015, and will be codified as new Chapter 58 of Title 10 of the Delaware Code. As summarized in more detail below, the DRAA offers a real alternative to the litigation process, providing companies with the chance to engage in a … Read more
A watershed moment is coming for shareholder activism and corporate governance generally, as the proxy contest brought by Trian Management Fund, seeking effectively to break up DuPont, enters its final stages (with the vote being less than a month away). Technically, the contest is to elect four Trian Fund nominees to the DuPont board, but, as a column in the New York Time’s Dealbook put it more bluntly, the real fight is over whether to break DuPont into three parts and “shut down DuPont’s central research labs.” Much about this contest is unusual: unlike other targets of activism, DuPont … Read more
Proposed amendments to the Delaware appraisal statute announced recently are expected to be adopted by the Delaware Legislature. The stated purpose of the amendments is to reduce the recent rise in the volume of appraisal petitions. If adopted, the amendments would apply to merger agreements entered into on and after August 1, 2015.
The proposed amendments.
- Option for companies to reduce interest cost (the “Interest Reduction Amendment”). This Amendment would provide an option for a company in an appraisal proceeding to pay a cash amount to the dissenting shareholders before the appraisal proceeding ends (an “Upfront Payment”). Statutory interest would
In an environment of escalating antitrust activity around the globe with ever increasing government sanctions and private litigation exposure, it pays to ensure that your antitrust compliance efforts evolve with changes in your business and the enforcement landscape and are road-tested through regular audits. In this briefing, we highlight some key areas of antitrust enforcement to be prepared for in 2015.
Aggressive Prosecution of Cartels Will Continue
With the proliferation of leniency programs and “amnesty plus” incentivizing companies to self-report cartel conduct, 2015 is likely to bring new cartel investigations and expansion of existing cases into related product markets. The … Read more
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”), a multi-agency U.S. regulatory body empowered to review transactions involving a foreign person and a U.S. business that may affect U.S. national security, recently delivered its unclassified Annual Report to Congress for the calendar year 2013 (“Annual Report”). In accordance with the legal prohibition against public disclosure of such information, the Annual Report contains no information with respect to specific transactions. Nonetheless, it remains a remarkable window into the reach and operation of CFIUS, and its impact on transactions involving U.S. businesses.
As in previous years, and as required … Read more
Delaware corporations and their advisers have been eagerly awaiting the response of the Delaware legislature to the recent surge in appraisal arbitrage and judicial pronouncements allowing this activity and suggesting that lawmakers should step in if they perceive a problem. It now appears based on a proposal released by the Delaware Corporation Law Council that the legislature may act as soon as this week. If the lawmakers follow the recommendations of the Council (which they usually do) the changes will likely disappoint Delaware corporations, make mergers and acquisitions in that important state more difficult, reduce deal flow, and lead to … Read more
A triad of recent decisions out of the Delaware Court of Chancery highlight the urgent need for legislative reform in Delaware to ameliorate the risk that appraisal arbitrage – now a multibillion dollar industry – poses to transactional vitality and shareholder value.
In two recent cases, In re Appraisal of Ancestry.com, Inc. (Ancestry I) and Merion Capital LP vs. BMC Software , Vice Chancellor Glasscock followed the literal interpretation of the Delaware appraisal statute adopted in 2007 by Chancellor Chandler in In re Appraisal of Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc. Before Transkaryotic, it was generally understood that … Read more
In two recent rulings, the New York Supreme Court rejected settlements arising from lawsuits in which plaintiff stockholders challenged the defendant public companies’ merger-related disclosures. The court in each case found that proposed supplemental disclosures that defendants would provide were immaterial as a matter of law and therefore the court declined to approve the settlements of the stockholders’ claims. The rulings provide helpful guidance on materiality in the context of merger disclosures and continue the trend of greater judicial scrutiny of so-called “merger tax” settlements. In light of that increased scrutiny, stockholder plaintiffs may choose to bring fewer … Read more
Acquisition financing activity was robust in 2014, as the credit markets accommodated increased demand from rising M&A activity. At over $749 billion, global 2014 M&A loan issuance was up approximately 40 percent year over year, the highest total since before the Great Recession. While the aggregate figures suggest a borrower-friendly market, the actual picture is more nuanced. Investment grade acquirors benefited from a consistently strong financing environment throughout 2014 and finished the year with a flourish (including a $36 billion commitment backing Actavis’ acquisition of Allergan), while leveraged acquirors encountered more volatility, as lenders responded quickly to regulatory changes and … Read more
Stockholders’ ability to sue to protect their interests plays a critical role in corporate governance. As described by the Delaware Court of Chancery: “Due to rational passivity, ‘it is likely that in a public corporation there will be less shareholder monitoring expenditures than would be optimum from the point of the shareholders as a collectivity.’ Incentivized by contingent fees, specialized law firms representing stockholder plaintiffs can ‘pursue monitoring activities that are wealth increasing for the collectivity (the corporation or the body of its shareholders).’ ‘In so doing, corporations are safeguarded from fiduciary breaches and shareholders thereby benefit.’ Understood from … Read more
On December 19, 2014, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a ruling reversing an order of the Court of Chancery granting a preliminary injunction that would have enjoined an agreed-to merger and required a mandatory post-signing 30-day go-shop period. In C&J Energy Services, Inc. v. City of Miami General Employees’ and Sanitation Employees’ Retirement Trust, No. 655/657 (Del. Dec. 19, 2014), the Supreme Court held, among other things, that the Court of Chancery had imposed a non-existent requirement that a selling company must engage in an active market process as a matter of law.
The Transaction. The transaction that … Read more
On December 8, 2014, the American Bankruptcy Institute (“ABI”) Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11 (the “Commission”) issued its Final Report and Recommendations (the “Report”). The Report proposes a number of important changes to Chapter 11.
The Commission was formed in 2012 to respond to shifts in the financial markets, corporate structures and credit and derivatives products since the Bankruptcy Code’s adoption in 1978 and is comprised of leading bankruptcy practitioners, professors and judges. The Report is the result of an in-depth, two-year review of Chapter 11 by the Commission and 13 separate Advisory Committees. The “Recommended Principles” … Read more
In In re Zhongpin Inc. Stockholders Litigation (Nov. 26, 2014), the Delaware Chancery Court found that the plaintiffs had pled sufficient facts to raise an inference that Xianfu Zhu, who was the company’s founder, Chairman and CEO, was a controlling stockholder, even though he owned only 17% of the company’s stock and had not controlled the directors’ decision relating to his going-private bid. Vice Chancellor Noble’s decision appears to have been based on a conclusion that the unusual degree to which Zhu was indispensable to the company as a practical matter precluded the special committee from functioning effectively because—without Zhu’s … Read more
Just five weeks after the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Flakeboard America had abandoned its plan to acquire a medium-density fiberboard (MDF) mill and two particleboard mills from SierraPine in the face of the Division’s competitive concerns, the Division has settled separate gun-jumping and Section 1 claims against the same parties relating to their conduct during the course of the Division’s review of the transaction.
This enforcement action is a reminder that parties to mergers and acquisitions – whether or not reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (“HSR Act”) regime – need to exercise care both … Read more
[On November 5, 2014,] the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”) approved a final rule (the “Final Rule”) implementing Section 622 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), which establishes a financial sector concentration limit (the “Section 622 Concentration Limit”). The Section 622 Concentration Limit generally prohibits insured depository institutions, bank holding companies, foreign banking organizations (“FBOs”) that are treated as bank holding companies, savings and loan holding companies, other companies that control an insured depository institution, as well as nonbank financial companies designated by the Financial Stability Oversight … Read more
In an October 14, 2014 decision on a motion to dismiss, the Delaware Court of Chancery (C Bouchard) held that business judgment review applied to breach of fiduciary duty claims asserted against directors in connection with a stock-for-stock sale of KKR Financial Holdings LLC (“KFN”) to KKR & Co. L.P. (“KKR”), an entity which held 1% of KFN’s stock and whose affiliate managed KFN’s day-to-day operations under a management agreement having terms making it difficult for KFN to sell to anyone other than KKR. The Court held business judgment to be the appropriate standard of review because (i) the … Read more