Cadwalader discusses Delaware Supreme Court Decision Upholding Business Judgment Rule Review for Certain Controlling Stockholder Transactions with Dual Minority Protections

On March 14, 2014, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld the Court of Chancery’s 2013 decision in In re MFW Shareholders Litigation , holding that in going-private mergers where there is a controlling stockholder, the use of both a truly independent special committee and a majority of the minority stockholder vote, allows for judicial review under the deferential business judgment standard.

Background

In mid-2011, Ronald Perelman’s wholly-owned holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes, a 43% stockholder of M&F Worldwide (MFW), made a proposal to take MFW private by acquiring the minority shares at $24 per share. In its initial proposal, MacAndrews & … Read more

Weil Gotshal discusses SEC Speaks 2014: Charting a New Course for Enforcement Efforts

This year’s “SEC Speaks” conference in Washington, D.C., was most notable for an obvious shift in the SEC’s enforcement priorities. Several significant issues and efforts that had been the subject of extensive discussion last year – including financial crisis and insider-trading cases and the task force devoted to new and structured products, among others – received little or no attention this year. On the other hand, several new initiatives received very substantial emphasis, including principally the Commission’s new efforts in the public company accounting and financial statements area, and in the microcap fraud area. SEC Chair Mary Jo White highlighted … Read more

Wachtell responds to Bebchuk and Jackson’s Toward a Constitutional Review of the Poison Pill

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

Majority-of-the-Minority Voting and Fairness in Freezeout Mergers

In a landmark decision now on appeal, In re MFW Shareholders Litigation, the Delaware Chancery Court ruled that a freezeout merger negotiated by an independent special negotiating committee (SNC) and conditioned in advance on approval by a majority-of-the-minority (MOM) vote should be reviewed under the business judgment rule. Before MFW, the practice was to review all such mergers for entire fairness, albeit with the burden on the plaintiff if the merger is either negotiated by an independent SNC or ratified in a fully-informed MOM vote. In contrast, review under the business judgment rule requires plaintiffs to plead and prove their … Read more

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Wachtell Lipton on Acquisition Financing: the Year Behind and the Year Ahead

Following a robust 2012, the financing markets in 2013 continued their hot streak. Syndicated loan issuances topped $2.1 trillion, a new record in the United States. However, as in 2012, financing transactions in the early part of 2013 were devoted mostly to refinancings and debt maturity extensions rather than acquisitions.  In fact, new money debt issuances were at record lows during the first half of 2013.  The second half of 2013, though, saw an increase in M&A activity generally, and acquisition financing in the fourth quarter and early 2014 increased as a result.
Investment Grade Acquirors

Debt markets have been … Read more

Cleary Gottlieb discusses U.S. Supreme Court’s Sharp Limits on General Jurisdiction Over Corporate Defendants

On January 14, the U.S. Supreme Court issued Daimler AG v. Bauman, further clarifying—and significantly narrowing—the constitutional limitations on a court’s assertion of general jurisdiction over a corporate defendant. Bauman carries significant implications for how corporate defendants should evaluate their amenability to the general jurisdiction of U.S. courts.

Where a court possesses “general” or all-purpose jurisdiction over a defendant, it has personal jurisdiction in any lawsuit against that defendant, regardless of whether the suit arises out of the defendant’s contacts with the forum. If no general jurisdiction exists, a court still may exercise “specific” jurisdiction over a corporate defendant where

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Rise of IntercontinentalExchange and Implications of its Merger with NYSE Euronext

The following comes to us from Latoya C. Brown, a practicing attorney in Florida and a former intern at the US Securities & Exchange Commission. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Commission.

On November 8, 2013, NYSE Euronext (“NYSE”) announced the timeline for the completion of its acquisition by IntercontinentalExchange (“ICE”).  As discussed in my recent article, Rise of IntercontinentalExchange and Implications of its Merger with NYSE Euronext, the combination of these two companies exemplifies a trend toward the creation of mega-exchanges that permit electronic trading of broad groups of … Read more

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The Dwindling of Revlon

In this blog post, I trace why my co-author Rob Ricca and I have concluded that the landmark 1986 Revlon ruling is, today, an insipid and remedially insignificant doctrine.  Its overly exalted place in M&A law endures because it is wrongly regarded in narrow, silo-like doctrinal isolation, even though it can only be understood as one part of a legal landscape that has dramatically changed since the mid-1980s.

The iconic Revlon doctrine has been an assumed, accepted, and integral part of M&A law for almost three decades.  In Revlon, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that, in a corporate break-up sale, … Read more

Delaware Court Confirms High Bar To Escape Deal

The following post is based on a memo originally published by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP on November 14, 2013 which can be found here.

Two recent Delaware Chancery Court opinions, issued on October 25 and November 9, 2013, illustrate the high bar that buyers and sellers must clear to escape an unfavorable deal or obtain a  court order requiring a deal to close.

Background

In June 2013, Apollo Tyres agreed to acquire Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. for $35 per share in a  $2.5 billion transaction. Within weeks, commentators have suggested, buyer’s remorse set in. In  July, Apollo’s … Read more

The Underappreciated Importance of Personal Jurisdiction in Delaware’s Success

In an article to be published this Spring in the DePaul Law Review, I argue that Delaware’s position as the center of corporate litigation has been rooted in two unique but unconstitutional approaches to personal jurisdiction over fiduciaries. Until Delaware addresses serious problems with its personal jurisdiction statute, its other attempts to retain caseflow will ultimately be ineffective.

It is no secret that the Court of Chancery judges are worried and angry. The lifeblood of that court, stockholder litigation, is migrating out of Delaware to other states. If Delaware continues to lose caseflow, it risks losing its dominance in corporate … Read more

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Independent Directors as a Handy Political Tool

Boards of public corporations have more independent directors than ever before. Sixty percent of boards of S&P 500 companies are not only majority independent, but have a single insider on the board: the CEO. While Jamie Dimon is still CEO as well as chair of J.P. Morgan’s board, despite attempts to unseat him, this is becoming increasingly rare. Over the last 15 years, the percentage of S&P 500 firms with separated positions has risen from 16% to 45%.

Director independence has been pushed by institutional investors, exchanges, and also government regulators. The push for independence has continued despite, at best, … Read more

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Wachtell discusses Delaware Chancery Court’s Holding that Control over All Privileged Communications Passes to the Surviving Corporation in a Merger

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

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Willful Blindness as Boardroom “Bad Faith”

The recent increase in the frequency and success with which “willful blindness” theories have been asserted in litigation may have long term implications for the corporate director’s liability profile.

Willful blindness is an aggressive liability theory that seeks to expand the definition of “knowledge” to include situations in which institutions or individuals “turn a blind eye” when there is a high probability that a particular, troubling, fact or circumstance exists.  Assessing   willful blindness involves a highly subjective analysis, and can be especially troublesome for defendants in cases where bad facts, and real harm, may be present.  As such, it is … Read more

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Empiricism and Experience; Activism and Short-Termism; the Real World of Business

Harvard Law School Professor Lucian Bebchuk believes that shareholders should be able to control the material decisions of the companies they invest in.  Over the years, he has written numerous articles expressing this view, including a 2005 article urging that shareholders should have the power to initiate a shareholder referendum on material corporate business decisions.  In addition to his writings and speeches, Prof. Bebchuk has established and directs the Shareholder Rights Project at Harvard Law School for the purpose of managing efforts to dismantle classified boards and do away with other charter or bylaw provisions that restrain or moderate shareholder … Read more

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Death of the Top-Up Option in Two-Step Transactions

James Matarese and Danielle Lauzon are M&A partners at Goodwin Procter LLP whose practices focus on technology and life sciences companies. Their recent representations include Onyx Pharmaceuticals in its merger with Amgen in a transaction valued at $10.4 billion.  

On October 1, 2013, Amgen Inc. (“Amgen”) announced the completion of its acquisition of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Onyx”).  The transaction was structured as a two-step acquisition – a tender offer by Arena Acquisition Company (the “Purchaser”), a Delaware corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Amgen, for all outstanding shares of Onyx, followed by a “back-end” merger of the Purchaser with and into … Read more

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The Government Shutdown Could Affect Your Transaction

The US antitrust authorities will cease certain of their operations during the pending government shutdown and your transaction may be affected.

The US antitrust agencies receive an average of 25 Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) filings per week. During the current government shutdown, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“Antitrust Division”) have indicated they will continue to accept HSR filings, and the FTC’s Premerger Notification Office will be open but with a very limited staff. We see three consequences that transacting parties should take into consideration:

First, given the limited staff likely to be on hand … Read more

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Greenberg Traurig Summarizes the 2013 Amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law

Recently, the Delaware legislature adopted and Delaware’s Governor signed into law several substantive amendments to the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the DGCL), 8 Del. C. §§ 101 et seq.

New Provisions

Ratification of Defective Corporate Acts, Transactions and Stock (§§ 204 and 205) → These new Sections provide a procedure to ratify defective corporate acts, transactions and stock and vest the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (the Court of Chancery) with jurisdiction over disputes regarding such ratification, the validity of any corporate act, transaction or stock and the modification or waiver of … Read more

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Sullivan & Cromwell discusses Shuanghui International’s CFIUS Clearance for its Purchase of Smithfield Foods

Shuanghui International Holdings Limited (“Shuanghui”) and Smithfield Foods, Inc. (“Smithfield”) announced on Friday that the companies have received notice from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) that its national security review of the proposed acquisition by Shuanghui of Smithfield is complete. Although the CFIUS process has concluded, the acquisition, which would be the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese investor to date, remains subject to other conditions to closing, including the approval of Smithfield shareholders.

Shuanghui, a Hong Kong-based company that owns a variety of businesses in the food and logistics sectors, including

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What to Do When an Activist Comes Knocking

The following comes to us from Charles M. Nathan, Partner and Head of Corporate Governance Practice at RLM Finsbury.

Activist investors are currently the darlings of the equity markets and the financial media.  Many of the leading activist investors (Bill Ackman, Dan Loeb, Nelson Peltz and Carl Icahn, to name a few) appear regularly on business news channels, have their investment forays avidly covered by the media and are literally household names.  In part due to (mostly fawning) press coverage and a perceived track record of success, activist investing has emerged as a well-recognized and growing alternative asset class, … Read more

The Going-Private Freeze-Out: A Unique Danger for Investors in Publicly Traded Delaware LPs and LLCs

The following post comes to us from Brent J. Horton, assistant professor at Fordham University Gabelli School of Business.

In my recent article, The Going-Private Freeze-Out: A Unique Danger for Investors in Delaware Non-Corporate Business Associations,[1] I examine the agreements of 86 publicly traded, non-corporate business associations (i.e., limited partnerships (“LPs”) and limited liability companies (LLCs)) for provisions that modify the fiduciary duties of management in the context of going-private freeze-outs.

One danger of investing in a public company—whether in the corporate or non-corporate context—is the going-private freeze-out.  In such a transaction, public ownership is eliminated—“cashed-out”—and … Read more

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