Stealth Acquisitions and Product Market Competition

In a recent study, we examine whether firms structure their mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to avoid scrutiny from antitrust regulators as well as whether such deals reduce product market competition.

While M&A deals are often triggered to create value, they are scrutinized for antitrust violations in all of the world’s major economies. We find robust evidence of bunching in M&A transaction values just below the threshold required for submitting premerger notification filings for assessment of antitrust concerns by U.S. agencies. These “stealth acquisitions” entail contractual terms with lower deal premiums that facilitate avoidance of antitrust review, payoff functions that allow … Read more

Skadden Discusses FTC Moratorium on Early Terminations of HSR Waiting Periods

On Thursday, February 4, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with the concurrence of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ), announced that it had suspended the process by which requests for early termination of Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act) waiting periods are granted, potentially signaling a more aggressive approach to merger review.

Key Takeaways

  • For the foreseeable future, filing parties must in all cases wait for the full 30-day waiting period to expire before closing.
  • The rule applies to currently filed transactions and to any new filings.
  • The shift in practice by the FTC and the DOJ may preview a

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Skadden Discusses “The Year of the SPAC”

Transactions by special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, exploded in 2020, resulting in a 320% increase in the number of SPAC initial public offerings (IPOs) compared to 2019. SPACs have been around for 15 years and now are established as a legitimate alternative to a traditional merger or IPO. This is due in part to an evolution of the SPAC vehicle, which now offers enhanced investor protections and positions sophisticated managers as “sponsor teams” that guide the company through both the SPAC IPO and the de-SPAC process, as further described below. SPAC prevalence is set to continue through 2021, with … Read more

Goodwin Procter Discusses CFIUS Process for “Non-Notified Transactions”

Much has been reported in the media about the efforts of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to investigate — and, where appropriate, mitigate, or even divest — transactions that the parties did not submit to CFIUS for review before they were consummated (so-called “non-notified transactions”). A recent Wall Street Journal article called attention to this worrisome trend, noting the Committee’s growing sophistication, enhanced funding for this outreach, appetite for investigating years-old investments, and leveraging of both the intelligence community and publicly available resources.

Although CFIUS outreach has long been a risk factor for the investment … Read more

The Lost Lessons of Shareholder Derivative Suits

Many corporate law scholars watched in amazement as merger litigation exploded over the past 15 years.  In 2005, only 37 percent of mergers involving U.S. public companies and with a transaction size of at least $100 million were challenged in court.  Today, approximately 85 percent of such mergers are challenged in court.  And these suits look different from the merger suits of the past. Instead of money, for example, shareholders today typically receive additional disclosures about the merger that have little value.  Instead of being filed in Delaware and other state courts, more cases are brought in federal court.  And … Read more

Wachtell Lipton Discusses M&A Activity in 2020 and Expectations for 2021

Deal activity (or inactivity) for much of 2020 was driven first by the unprecedented uncertainty and massive global shutdown of the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and then propelled by rising markets and confidence as animal spirits anticipated the light at the end of the tunnel, even against a backdrop of political instability and record levels of infection and death.  Indeed, for M&A, 2020 was a tale of two halves:  the second lowest first-half global M&A volume in the last decade (approximately $1.2 trillion), followed by a 90% increase in the last six months (to approximately $2.4 trillion), for … Read more

Quinn Emanuel Discusses Director Liability for Successors’ Acts

A great deal of buzz has been generated by the recent decision from the Southern District of New York in In re: Nine West LBO Securities Litigation, No. 20 MD 2941 (JSR) 2020 WL 7090277 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 2020), with some commentators questioning whether the decision places directors who approve a leveraged buyout at risk of liability for the actions of subsequent boards that occur long after they cease to be directors, or expands directors’ duties beyond maximizing value for shareholders.  See, e.g., Sujeet Indap, Dealmakers warn of chilling effect on buyouts from US court ruling, Financial Times … Read more

Ropes & Gray Discusses UK’s National Security and Investment Bill

In November, the UK Government announced a significant and wide-ranging package of reforms that, if adopted, will both recalibrate and expand its existing powers to assess and intervene in mergers and acquisitions on the grounds of national security.

The proposed reforms are set out in the National Security and Investment Bill (the “Bill”) and addition to the Competition and Markets Authority’s mergers framework under the Enterprise Act 2002.

A new Investment Security Unit (the “Unit”), which will sit within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will be the point of contact for businesses with questions or wishing to … Read more

Cooley Discusses Delaware Chancery Case on MACs and Business Covenants During COVID

In the months following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a slew of parties filed lawsuits in US courts relating to M&A transactions that were signed prior to March 2020 and that buyers were seeking to terminate as a result of the pandemic. In these lawsuits, buyers commonly alleged one (or both) of the following as justification for their failure to close: (i) that the target suffered an MAE as a result of COVID-19’s impact on its business; or (ii) that target materially breached the conduct of business covenant by virtue of its actions (or inactions) in response to COVID-19. … Read more

Contract Design, Default Rules, and Delaware Corporate Law

Incomplete contract theory recognizes that parties have neither the interest, nor the time, nor the ability to anticipate and address every contingency in contracts. The more complex and time-sensitive the transaction, the more practical constraints force lawyers to limit the scope of drafting and broadly rely on legal defaults and open‑ended terms to plug holes and address contingencies.  In theory, this should explain why practitioners broadly choose Delaware as the preferred jurisdiction and forum for merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions and other high‑end corporate deals.  Lawyers appear to perceive Delaware as superior to other states both for its default rules … Read more

Quinn Emanuel Discusses COVID-19 M&A Litigation in Delaware

Many high-profile transactions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen apart between signing and closing, resulting in litigation – often in the Delaware Court of Chancery – focused on whether the buyer had an obligation to close.  Buyers backing out of transactions generally have asserted the occurrence of a “material adverse change” or “material adverse event” (“MAE”) and the failure of the to-be-acquired company to operate in the ordinary course of business.  Sellers generally have disputed that COVID-19 caused the failure of closing conditions, and have sued for specific performance of buyers’ obligations to close or damages.  As these cases … Read more

Are M&A Lawyers Really Better Than Other Transactional Lawyers at Contract Drafting?

In a series of papers over the past decade, the three of us have studied extensively the persistence of obsolete terms in sovereign debt contracting. (e.g., here, here and here).  Our interest was motivated by a puzzling observation: Transactional lawyers did not appear to reform their contract clauses promptly in response to changes in the external environment.  In a market with multi-billion dollar transactions, and with some of the most elite law firms in the world, the slow pace of innovation was surprising.  It was especially surprising given the conventional view that good transactional lawyers keep abreast of … Read more

Simpson Thacher Discusses UK Bill to Reform Review Process for Foreign Direct Investment

On November 11, 2020, the Parliament of the United Kingdom (“U.K.”) introduced the National Security and Investment Bill of 2020 (the “NSI Bill”) to modernize the U.K.’s foreign direct investment (“FDI”) screening process and strengthen its ability to investigate and intervene in transactions targeting U.K. businesses. The NSI Bill imposes mandatory notification requirements to the U.K. Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) for transactions involving investments in U.K. businesses operating in certain strategic sectors, a regime that will apply to investors from any foreign country.

In the broader context, the NSI Bill is reflective of a global trend … Read more

Fenwick & West Discusses Mitigating Class Action Litigation Risk for SPAC Transactions

Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) are increasingly being used as an alternate vehicle to traditional initial public offerings. Companies that go public through a traditional IPO process are often subject to shareholder securities class actions. Inevitably, securities class actions will be filed against companies that become publicly traded and file public reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a result of a merger with a SPAC.

One often-referenced advantage of the SPAC process as compared to a traditional IPO is the ability to directly communicate financial projections to the market. Such projections may become a greater area of … Read more

Morrison & Foerster Discusses the Private Side of Going Private Transactions

In this article, we follow up on our overview of going private transactions (available here) by focusing on an important but often overlooked workstream in these deals. Companies are frequently privatized by a group of significant shareholders, outside investors and sometimes members of senior management, and in these “club” or “consortium” deals, the buyer group members must negotiate their rights in the privatized target company against the backdrop of the complicated take-private process. Below, we address key considerations for these negotiations, including the interplay of this process with the going private process and documentation.

A Private Company Investment

Members … Read more

Gibson Dunn Discusses Stock-for-Stock Mergers During the Coronavirus Crisis

The widespread economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 poses distinct challenges for buyers and sellers seeking to identify M&A opportunities, as companies evaluate the impact of the pandemic on their businesses to date, and seek to predict its future impact. Continued volatility in the financial markets and the lack of visibility into how the pandemic will affect the global economy in the near or longer term, as well as the pace and scope of economic recovery, introduce elements of conjecture into the valuation process. Securing financing for a transaction is also likely to be difficult, as traditional credit providers may be … Read more

Paul Hastings Discusses Internal Document Review in M&A and the Amazon/Deliveroo Case

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of merger control rules throughout the world as well as policy changes in the field. As shown by Amazon’s experience in its recent 16% minority shareholding acquisition of the online restaurant delivery operator Deliveroo, this has led to new risks and challenges for merging companies, as well as significant timing issues (in big, worldwide transactions, it can now take as long as 18 months or more to get through all of the regulatory minefields). At least 130 jurisdictions in the world (of about 200) have rules which concern, directly or indirectly, merger … Read more

Davis Polk Discusses FTC’s Proposed Rules for Hart-Scott-Rodino Filings

On September 21, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) pertaining to pre-merger notification rules under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act that was supported by the Department of Justice.  The FTC proposes changing the definition of “person” under the HSR rules to include “associates,” and adding a new “de minimis” exemption to cover investments up to 10% where the acquiring person does not already have a “competitively significant relationship” with the issuer, such as being a competitor, officer or director, or vendor of the acquired person.  The FTC additionally published a blog post on September 23 modifying … Read more

Paul Weiss Discusses the Effect Of DOJ’s New Merger Remedy Guidance on Private Equity Purchasers

On September 3, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is publishing a Merger Remedies Manual. Significantly, the new manual recognizes that “in some cases a private equity purchaser may be [a] preferred” purchaser of divestiture assets. At the very least, according to the manual, the “Division will use the same criteria to evaluate both strategic purchasers and purchasers that are funded by private equity or other investment firms.”

To be sure, the Division will still evaluate proposed acquisitions of divestiture assets by private equity firms to ensure that the acquisition preserves competition. … Read more

M&A Breakups: The Trends and Reasons Behind Corporate Divorces

Though mergers and acquisitions bring companies together in expensive and thoroughly documented transactions, many end eventually in ruptured unions. In a recent study of 1,365 mergers and acquisitions by S&P 500 firms between 1983 and 2010, we found that 46 percent of corporate unions resulted in divorces, with up to 77 percent of the breakups representing failures of the parties to build lasting relationships. But what accounts for the unsuccessful bonds?

We answer this question and discover statistical trends by constructing a new and comprehensive data set of corporate divorces. To identify solid evidence about traceable mergers and acquisitions, we … Read more