Securities Litigation Against Life Sciences Companies: Eleven Takeaways from 2021

Securities class actions against life sciences companies are almost always second-order problems.  The first-order problem is a business or regulatory setback that, when disclosed by the company or a third party, is followed by a stock price drop.  Following the decline, plaintiffs’ class-action attorneys will search the company’s previous public statements in search of inconsistencies between past positive comments and the current negative development.  In most cases, plaintiffs’ attorneys will seek to show that any arguable inconsistency amounts to fraud—that is, they will claim that the earlier statement was knowingly or recklessly false or misleading.  Where a company makes the challenged statement in a public offering document (that is, a registration statement or prospectus), plaintiffs need only show that the statement was materially false or misleading, not that it was made with scienter, i.e., the requisite state of mind.

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The Refined Demand Futility Standard Takes Shape

Over the past several months, a number of decisions released by the Delaware courts have begun to grapple with the new Zuckerberg three-part demand futility standard announced by the Delaware Supreme Court in September. Many cases spotlight the need to assess demand futility on a director-by-director basis. But at least one recent decision has highlighted another aspect of the test, and instead turns on the need to assess demand futility on a transaction-by-transaction basis. In In re Vaxart, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Vice Chancellor Fioravanti dismissed several claims from a shareholder derivative suit purportedly filed on behalf of Vaxart, Inc. because the plaintiffs failed to allege that a majority of the directors received a material personal benefit or faced a substantial likelihood of liability from the specific transaction that would have been the subject of the pre-suit demand. (more…)

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Sidley Perspectives on M&A and Corporate Governance

Sidley is pleased to share the June 2021 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.

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“Chalking Up a Victory for Deal Certainty,” Delaware Court of Chancery Orders That Contested Merger Close

Last Friday, soon-to-be Chancellor McCormick issued a decision in Snow Phipps Group, LLC v. KCake Acquisition, Inc. that ordered the defendant buyers to specifically perform their agreement to acquire DecoPac Holdings, Inc. (“DecoPac” or the Company), which sells cake decorations and technology for use in supermarket bakeries. The 125-page decision, which opens with a quote from the incomparable Julia Child (“A party without cake is just a meeting”), and is rightly described by the Court as a “victory for deal certainty,” offers a detailed analysis of several common contractual provisions in the time of COVID-19. Despite its length, it is a must-read for those interested in the drafting and negotiation of M&A agreements generally, and their operation during the COVID-19 pandemic specifically.

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Securities Litigation Against Life Sciences Companies: 2020

Securities class actions against life sciences companies are almost always second-order problems. The first-order problem is a business or regulatory setback that, when disclosed by the company or a third party, triggers a stock price decline. Following the decline, plaintiffs’ class-action attorneys will search the company’s previous public statements and seek to identify inconsistencies between past positive comments and the current negative development. In most cases, plaintiffs’ attorneys will seek to show that any arguable inconsistency amounts to fraud — that is, they will claim that the earlier statement was knowingly or recklessly false or misleading. Where a company makes the challenged statement in a public offering document — a registration statement or prospectus — plaintiffs need only show that the statement was materially false or misleading, not that it was made with scienter.

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Creative Deal Structures: Energizing the M&A Market Post-Crisis

Sidley and Mergermarket are pleased to present Creative Deal Structures: Energizing the M&A Market Post-Crisis.

Creative structures have become increasingly important in bridging the gap between sellers’ expectations and buyers’ willingness to pay. Based on interviews with 150 respondents from U.S. corporates and private equity firms, this report analyzes the ways in which M&A is moving forward in spite of the pandemic.

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Webinar: Hostile Takeovers and Shareholder Activism in a COVID-19 World

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.

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Sidley Perspectives on M&A and Corporate Governance

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.

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Finally, Some COVID-19-Related M&A Guidance: Court of Chancery Issues Decision Analyzing MAE and Ordinary Course Provisions During COVID-19

The Court of Chancery recently allowed a buyer to walk away from an acquisition due to, among other things, the seller’s failure to satisfy the ordinary course covenant because of changes made to the operating business in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The opinion, penned by Vice Chancellor Laster, is the first decision offering post-trial guidance as to the application of material adverse effect (MAE) and ordinary course provisions during the pandemic. Its guidance on the application of these provisions should be of interest for all negotiating M&A deals and other commercial agreements generally, and during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular.

In AB Stable VIII LLC v. Maps Hotels and Resorts One LLC, plaintiff sought to sell a subsidiary that owned an approximately US$5.8 billion portfolio of luxury hotels. The deal was signed in September 2019, and was slated to close in April 2020. Due to COVID-19, shortly before the planned closing, the seller made material changes to its business. These included closing two hotels entirely, gutting operations at 13 others, terminating or furloughing staff, and cutting spending on marketing and capital expenditures. The seller filed a complaint seeking specific performance to force a closing; the buyer responded with counterclaims contending, among other things, that it had no obligation to close because an MAE occurred, and the seller breached the ordinary course provision. The Court’s rulings on both of these points are highly instructive.

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