Caveat Emptor Still Rules The Day For MLPs
Just as a $700 million damages award and its accompanying sharp criticism of legal opinions garner headlines, so does reversal of that ruling. The Delaware Supreme Court closed out 2022 with its decision in Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP v. Bandera Master Funds LP, reversing the Court of Chancery’s sizeable post-trial award on narrow contractual grounds. The reversal is a substantial victory for the defendants. But for non-parties, of note was the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision to leave intact the trial court’s conclusions regarding law firm opinions. Taken together, both courts’ rulings offer meaningful guidance for parties and counsel negotiating complex transactions and considering inclusion of opinion of counsel conditions (or, attempting to satisfy such conditions in existing contracts).
Extraordinary Times May Still Call for Ordinary Measures: Delaware Supreme Court Affirms Buyer’s Termination of $5.8 Billion Transaction
The Delaware Supreme Court recently affirmed Vice Chancellor Laster’s much talked of AB Stable post-trial decision, holding that the buyer of a $5.8 billion hotel portfolio could terminate the transaction due to, among other things, the seller’s breach of an ordinary course covenant by making operational changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court’s affirmance provides critical guidance for the interpretation and navigation of such provisions, particularly in extraordinary times. (more…)
Court of Chancery Awards $700M In Opinion Highlighting Opinion Of Counsel Risks And Power Of Contra Proferentem Doctrine
Once in a while, a court decision provides not just guidance for participants in corporate transactions but also can serve as a wakeup call for the players’ legal advisors. Such is the case with the post-trial decision in Bandera Master Fund LP et al v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP, in which Vice Chancellor Laster resolved various disputes regarding a transaction through which Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP (“Boardwalk”) was taken private by its controller, Loews Corporation (“Loews”). The resulting $700 million damages award, and sharp criticism of the legal opinions provided in support of the transaction, has garnered headlines, but the decision is also notable for its review of several long-standing principles of Delaware law that provide guidance for contract negotiations and litigation alike. (more…)
A Delaware Corporate and M&A Checklist: 11 Cases That Every Practitioner Should Know
As regular readers know, this blog typically covers the latest developments and trends emerging from the Delaware Court of Chancery. For this post, however, we revisit first principles and remind our readers of the bedrock decisions of modern Delaware M&A practice, and highlight 11 key decisions with which every practitioner should be familiar. (more…)
In Case of Emergency, Break Glass: Litigation and Drafting Guidance From Delaware Chancery Court Opinion on “Material Adverse Effect” Clauses
The Delaware Chancery Court recently issued an opinion that confirms the difficulty of successfully invoking a “Material Adverse Effect” (“MAE”) clause in a merger agreement. In particular, the decision underscores the challenges of proving up an MAE — particularly when the target company is in a highly regulated industry — and provides useful guidance for drafting disproportionality exclusions in an MAE clause.
“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.
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.