Plaintiffs’ bid for a US$5 million mootness fee in In re Oracle Corp. Derivative Litigation, C.A. No. 2017-0337-SG was denied by Vice Chancellor Glasscock, who noted that “not even great counsel can wring significant stockholder value from litigation over an essentially loyal and careful sales process.”
When an M&A deal closes, is it done? Not always. More and more disputes are arising after closing, which results in lost time and expense for both buyers and sellers as they realize they don’t actually have a done deal. Not all disputes after closing can be avoided, but their effects can be minimized with the right due diligence, transparency in the process, and knowing the mechanisms for resolving them efficiently.
Sidley is pleased to share the December 2023 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.
In an October 31, 2023 decision sure to spook practitioners, the Court of Chancery called into doubt the enforceability of “Con Ed provisions.” Con Ed provisions, so-named for the 2005 Second Circuit decision prohibiting stockholders from pursuing a $1.2 billion merger premium damages claim, create a path for the target’s recovery of lost merger premium if the buyer breaches and a deal fails.
Litigants before the Delaware Court of Chancery appreciate that the court scrutinizes its jurisdiction as a court of equity. One recent example, Buescher v. Landsea Homes Corp., focused on two questions. First, whether an alternative claim for specific performance can support equity jurisdiction when it is duplicative of a statutory claim for declaratory judgment. Second, whether a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation (a form of equitable fraud) can establish jurisdiction when the court believes such a claim to be unviable and likely merely a pretext for jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, the court concluded no to both questions. But it did so in the context of claims to an escrow fund established through an M&A transaction that may be surprising to some practitioners.
The Annual Survey Working Group of the M&A Jurisprudence Subcommittee, Mergers and Acquisitions Committee, of the ABA Business Law Section reports annually on judicial decisions of significance to mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”) practitioners. The topics covered in the 2023 survey include contractual interpretation, fiduciary duties, and statutory constructs.
The path to a mootness fee is well-worn. A stockholder plaintiff sues alleging that a company’s disclosures or other decisions were inadequate or improper. The company responds by issuing disclosures or taking actions that moot the plaintiff’s claims. This, laudably, avoids the expense and distraction of litigation.
In a recent decision, Vice Chancellor Will refused to award expectation damages based on a buyer’s “speculative” synergistic cash flow resulting from a merger. The opinion demonstrates the rigorous approach that the Delaware Court of Chancery takes to calculating damages related to M&A transactions even with strong evidence of fraud, and offers valuable insight to companies calculating damages from lost synergies in M&A transactions.
A recent Delaware Court of Chancery decision offers an important lesson on the limits of court review of an arbitration award, particularly when parties forego a fully reasoned award. Even though Vice Chancellor Glasscock found that “[t]he arbitration proceeding and the resulting award [were] flawed,” the court refused to overturn the award that appeared to find a contractual nonparty jointly and severally liable for breaches of the representations and warranties in a purchase agreement. The risk parties sometimes take when they contract for arbitration, the court found, is “receiving an arbitral decision that is questionable under the law and facts, but that is nonetheless—not coming within the narrow window of judicial oversight—not reviewable.”
In a recent decision, Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of the Delaware Chancery Court examined what constitutes a sale of “substantially all” of a selling company’s assets for purposes of Section 271 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL), granting a company’s motion to dismiss a stockholder’s lawsuit alleging that a sale of the “crown jewel” of the company amounted to a sale of substantially all of its assets and accordingly required stockholder approval. Altieri v. Alexy, No. 2021-0946-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 22, 2023).