In Larkin v. Shah, issued on August 25, the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed a stockholder challenge to a merger due to the cleansing effect of fully informed stockholder approval, applying the Delaware Supreme Court’s recent Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC decision (which held that fully informed and uncoerced stockholder approval of a merger not subject to entire fairness review invokes the business judgment rule rather than heightened scrutiny under Revlon). The Larkin opinion confirms that, other than with respect to transactions to which entire fairness applies ab initio (i.e., transactions involving a conflicted controlling stockholder or group), … Read more
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2002 in the aftermath of a series of corporate scandals. It aims to strengthen investor protection by promoting better corporate governance and auditor independence. In particular, Sections 302 and 404 require top management to assess and certify the effectiveness of internal controls over financial reporting and an external auditor to attest to the validity of management’s assessment. Firms that cannot do so must disclose the existence and nature of their internal control weaknesses (ICWs). While a number of academic studies have documented associations between ICWs and suboptimal corporate behaviors … Read more
Since 2010, 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation authorizing for-profit “public benefit corporations” (“PBC”), known in many states just as “benefit corporations.” Although these laws vary slightly by state, each requires the board of directors of a PBC to consider the public benefit, in addition to shareholder return on investment, in their decision-making. Although state corporate law statutes and the tax code treat PBCs as for-profit enterprises, the legal focus of this new corporate model contrasts with that of traditional corporations, which focuses solely on maximizing shareholder wealth. The PBC laws are designed to empower … Read more
2015 and 2016 mark the 30th anniversaries of the Delaware Supreme Court’s landmark decisions in Unocal Corp. v. Mesa Petroleum Co. and Revlon, Inc. v. Macandrews & Forbes Holdings, Inc. Those cases and their progeny called for enhanced scrutiny standards to be applied to negotiated change of control transactions as well as to deal protection devices. During the past three decades, however, it has not been smooth sailing in the courts’ application of these standards. In fact, I have previously argued that the Delaware courts have shifted away from both the Unocal and Revlon enhanced scrutiny standards.… Read more
In 2010, after considering 400 possible targets, Indiana-based funeral casket manufacturer Hillenbrand Inc. announced a plan to acquire K-Tron International Inc., a Pitman, New Jersey firm which makes industrial coal crushers and feeding equipment (including a machine to shoot raisins into breakfast cereal). Despite the considerable difference in product lines, K-Tron provided Hillenbrand CEO Kenneth Camp with a unique benefit. Camp was raised in Pitman and his mother Edith still lived nearby in his childhood home. Although Camp said the location in Pitman had no influence on his decision to buy the company, he acknowledged: “When I heard it … Read more
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) brought over 400 enforcement actions in the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2016, and is on pace to surpass its record of 807 enforcement actions in a single fiscal year, set in FY 2015.
The SEC brought the vast majority of these enforcement actions as administrative proceedings (APs). On May 16, 2016, the NYU Pollack Center for Law & Business (NYU) and Cornerstone Research (Cornerstone) issued a report (Cornerstone Report) that found that in the first half of FY 2016, the SEC brought 88% of actions … Read more
Merger activity seems to rise in step with the market. Academic papers suggest this may be due to bidders exploiting overvalued shares, a pro-cyclicality of merger economies of scale or available capital for deals, or simply the behavioral pressures of a “me too” mindset among CEOs. But this positive association is not altogether intuitive, as practitioners and academics alike ask “why do we not see merger waves during bear markets in which acquirers are bargain-hunting for undervalued firms.”
In our working paper “Merger Activity, Stock Prices, and Measuring Gains from M&A” we offer a fresh take on the positive … Read more
The UK voters’ decision to exit the EU came as a surprise to many observers, as well as the markets, with the “Leave” campaign even hinting at defeat as the polls closed. The Wall Street echo chamber view that it would make no sense in the end for the UK to leave was just that. The vote has unleashed political, economic, and financial uncertainty that will play out over the months ahead with attendant risk premia rising for affected currencies, equity and fixed income markets, sectors, and individual firms. Market values for banks, insurance companies, and asset managers dropped Friday … Read more
Entrepreneurship—a process of organizing, managing, and assuming the risks of a business or enterprise—has long been viewed as important for sustained economic activity. But the state of the economy, especially booms and downturns referred to business cycles, can itself affect entrepreneurship. A better understanding of the nexus between the two can, therefore, help improve public policy towards entrepreneurship and generate benefits for society.
A key challenge for the analysis is that entrepreneurship cannot be easily captured by a single measure. One could, for example, use business ownership as a measure but it does not distinguish between growth-oriented highly innovative activity … Read more
It’s been almost seven years since the Delaware chancery court issued its initial opinion in the Trados litigation and instigated a flood of law firm memos, law review articles, and changes to the way deals get done in Silicon Valley. The dust still hasn’t settled.
By way of review, Trados involved claims against the board of a startup company that was sold in a merger transaction. Plaintiffs, who held common stock of the company, alleged that board members affiliated with the company’s VC investors were conflicted in approving the transaction. The VC investors held preferred stock that provided for a … Read more
Corporate expatriations – transactions that lead a U.S. company to become the subsidiary of a foreign parent – present two problems for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.). First, they give expatriated companies the opportunity to use tax minimization strategies to avoid taxes; second, they erode the U.S. corporate tax base. Though both actions are driven by idiosyncrasies in U.S. tax treatment of foreign income, they spring from different motivations, and lead to different kinds of harm. Tax minimization involves exploiting differences in national tax laws to shield income from arguably legitimate U.S. tax obligations, while tax base erosion involves … Read more
On May 6, 2016, in Singh v. Attenborough, No. 645, the Delaware Supreme Court strengthened the defenses available to directors by clarifying a roadmap for effectively dismissing post-closing claims for breach of fiduciary duty. A fully informed, uncoerced vote of the majority of disinterested stockholders, and a well-run sale process with any deficiencies either avoided or disclosed in advance of the stockholder approval are key to invoking director-favorable protections against post-closing liability for breach of fiduciary duty in merger transactions.
The Supreme Court issued the Order upon reviewing Chancery Court’s dismissal of stockholder-plaintiffs’ claims for breach of fiduciary duty … Read more
Over the last twelve months, over fifty US publicly traded companies with a market capitalization of over $1 billion have announced plans to spin-off lines of business into independent companies. During that period, companies such as Starwood Hotels, ConAgra Foods, and Citrix Systems have announced spin-offs of one or more businesses.
Spin-offs are motivated by various reasons, but the common theme in these transactions is that the spun-off entity and the remaining corporation should perform better and achieve better market valuation on a stand-alone basis.
A spin-off is effected by reorganizing a line of business, contributing its assets and liabilities … Read more
The Delaware Supreme Court’s recent decision in Singh v. Attenborough (May 6, 2016, en banc, “Zale III”), written by Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., is consistent with the trend of Delaware decisions that, as a practical matter, have significantly narrowed the risk of directors being found to have breached fiduciary duties in M&A transactions. The decision is most notable, however, for apparently reversing the momentum of recent Delaware decisions that have been interpreted as potentially expanding the risk of aiding and abetting liability for M&A financial advisors.
- Lower risk of aiding and abetting liability for bankers.
Target firms typically employ either an auction or a negotiation method during merger negotiations. In auction deals, the pre-public takeover process involves contacting several potential bidders, signing confidentiality/standstill agreements and accepting private bids. In negotiation deals however, the target engages with only one bidder in the pre-public takeover process. Using either selling method, the target board negotiates with the bidder(s) and if an acceptable price is obtained from a bidder, a definitive merger agreement is signed and a public announcement is made. Typically, after the public announcement of a merger agreement, target boards do not actively solicit new bids although … Read more
After the July 4th weekend, Reynolds Holding will be taking over as the fourth editor-at-large of the CLS Blue Sky Blog. It has been a remarkable year and a half, and I am confident our Blog will continue to grow in the coming years. I am grateful to the faculty committee (Professors Jack Coffee, Ed Greene, Robert Jackson and Kate Judge), the student editors (Jennifer Barrows, AJ Farkas and John Knight) as well as Columbia Law School for providing opportunity and support. I intend to continue writing as time allows and invite you to visit my webpage. I believe … Read more
On May 6, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Delaware Chancery Court’s ruling that Zale Corporation’s sale to Signet Jewelers withstood scrutiny under the business judgment rule because the transaction was approved by a fully-informed, uncoerced vote of the disinterested stockholders, and that an aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty claim against Zale’s financial advisor failed as a matter of law where the plaintiff failed to establish that the Zale board had acted with gross negligence. In so holding, the Court reaffirmed its holding in Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC, 125 A.3d 304 (Del. 2015), that … Read more
|Rank||Name||School||Citations||Age in 2016|
|1||John Coffee, Jr.||Columbia University||1470||72|
|2||Lucian Bebchuk||Harvard University||1130||61|
|3||Stephen Bainbridge||University of California, Los Angeles||1010||58|
|4||Reinier Kraakman||Harvard University||820||67|
|5||Stephen Choi||New York University||780||50|
|6||Donald Langevoort||Georgetown University||770||65|
|7||Ronald Gilson||Columbia University||760||70|
|8||Lynn Stout||Cornell University||750||59|
|9||Roberta Romano||Yale University||730||64|
|10||Henry Hansmann||Yale University||720||71|
|11||Bernard Black||Northwestern University||630||63|
|12||James Cox||Duke University||620||73|
The rise of shareholder activism has become a global phenomenon. Shareholder activists are not only present–as they started–in the US, but also in European and Asian Markets. This situation has generated a vast literature about the desirability (or not) of shareholder activism.  In essence, there are two main positions: (i) those who argue that shareholder activists improve the corporate governance of the firm, and therefore they help increase the value of the firm; and (ii) those who claim that shareholder activists only improve the value of the firm in the short-term, and they encourage managers to cut … Read more
The corporate board is commonly seen as a crucial governance device that operates to both monitor corporate management and provide strategic advice. Recent corporate governance research has discovered a broad range of evidence of internal board monitoring and advisory activities; but relatively little on the impact of the board’s interactions and connections with different external agents on firm value and corporate decisions. Yet, board members are typically experienced and powerful businessmen, and well embedded in the center of important business and social networks. Does it matter?
Yes, substantially. In our recent paper “Directors as Connectors: The Impact of the External … Read more