Please join us for an exclusive discussion on the current state of hostile M&A and shareholder activism. The leaders of Sidley’s Shareholder Activism practice will discuss the evolution of hostile M&A and shareholder activism in the COVID era, what to expect in the 2021 proxy season, and how to stay on the front foot in the current environment.
In 2020, a new acronym burst into the mainstream business lexicon: SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies.
In the simplest sense, SPACs offer a faster, cheaper way of taking a company public. By sidestepping the expensive underwriting fees, arduous road shows, and unpredictable market pricing associated with initial public offerings (IPOs), SPACs have emerged as an attractive alternative strategy for investors and business owners alike.
Sidley is pleased to share the December 2020 issue of Sidley Perspectives on M&A and Corporate Governance, a quarterly newsletter designed to keep you current on what we consider to be the most important legal developments involving M&A and corporate governance matters.
On August 31, 2020, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster of the Delaware Chancery Court issued his long-awaited resolution of the prolonged litigation involving the failed merger of Anthem, Inc. and Cigna Corporation — two of the nation’s largest health insurance companies. As Vice Chancellor Laster found and detailed in the 311-page opinion, no party won this protracted battle, no merger was consummated, and no damages were awarded to either side.1 See In re Anthem-Cigna Merger Litigation, Case No. 2017-0114-JTL, at 305-06 (Del. Ch. 2020).
The Delaware Chancery Court recently denied a motion to dismiss a shareholder derivative suit against directors and officers of Kandi Technologies Group, Inc., a publicly traded Delaware corporation based in China. Hughes v. Hu (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2020). The company had persistent problems with financial reporting and internal controls, encountering particular difficulties with related-party transactions dating back to 2010. In March 2014, the company disclosed material weaknesses in financial reporting and oversight, including a lack of audit committee oversight and a lack of internal controls for related-party transactions. The company pledged to remediate these problems. However, in March 2017, the company disclosed that its preceding three years of financial statements needed to be restated and that it continued to lack sufficient expertise and/or controls relating to accounting and SEC reporting.
On March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court, in Salzberg v. Sciabacucchi, upheld the validity under Delaware law of “federal-forum provisions,” in which Delaware corporations mandate that claims brought under the Securities Act of 1933 be filed in a federal court.
The highly anticipated opinion, reversing a Chancery Court decision, underscores Delaware’s preference for private ordering and confirms that corporate managers and stockholders have significant latitude in choosing the fora for certain types of litigation. While the decision confirms the facial validity of this particular type of forum provision, other ramifications of this decision remain unclear, and this topic will undoubtedly be the subject of further litigation or possibly legislative action.
The Delaware Chancery Court recently held that, for a transaction involving a majority-conflicted board to be entitled to business judgment review (rather than the entire fairness standard), the special committee that approved the transaction must have been sufficiently constituted and authorized ab initio (i.e., “from the beginning”). Salladay v. Lev (Del. Ch. Feb. 27, 2020). In doing so, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III borrowed from the framework used to cleanse a controlling stockholder transaction under Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp. (MFW), 88 A.3d 624 (Del. 2014). Under MFW, a controlling stockholder transaction is entitled to business judgment review if the controller conditions the transaction ab initio on both the approval of an independent special committee and the uncoerced, informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders.