In M&A litigation, plaintiffs’ lawyers see actual or perceived conflicts of interest as gold. Conflict allegations can take many forms and arise in a variety of contexts: for example, a board member of a target company who is offered employment by the would-be acquirer, or a controlling stockholder who sits on both sides of a transaction. Another common example, and the focus of this post, is a board member or stockholder whose financial interests are alleged to diverge from other stockholders because of a need or desire to quickly liquidate holdings (referred to as a “liquidity-based conflict”). (more…)
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…)
According to Cornerstone’s midyear report on federal and state securities class actions, new securities case filings have continued a substantial downward trend in the first half of 2021.
Plaintiffs filed 112 class action securities cases in the first half of 2021, down 25% from 150 in the second half of 2020 and 38% compared to the 182 cases filed in the first half of 2020, following a marked trend that has emerged since 2019. That trend continues to be animated in large part by significant declines in M&A-related federal filings, which fell to just 12 during the period, a 66% reduction (or 83% relative to the semiannual average of 70 during the last five years). (more…)
In Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. Albertsons Cos., the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss claims that a buyer intentionally avoided an earnout payment by misleading the seller about its plans to operate the acquired business after closing. The case provides additional guidance in the ever-growing body of case-law addressing “business conduct” clauses in earnout agreements.
In a matter of first impression, Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III recently concluded in Manichaean Capital, LLC v. Exela Technologies, Inc. that Delaware law permits a claim for “reverse” veil-piercing — that is, going after the assets of a subsidiary as opposed to a parent corporation. The decision provides a limited yet potentially powerful tool for those seeking to enforce judgments in the context of complex corporate structures, particularly where a corporate family has taken steps to limit assets flowing through the subsidiary that is liable. It also provides occasion to remind business entities of the attendant risks of failing to respect corporate separateness and form.
The Delaware Court of Chancery recently held that a stockholder plaintiff pleaded facts sufficient to support a reasonable inference that a target company’s board of directors could have achieved a higher deal price had the company’s financial advisor not, unbeknownst to the board, tipped the buyer about the price of another bid during the sale process.
On December 29, 2020, in a 76-page memorandum opinion, the Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty claims against National Amusements, Inc. (NAI), Viacom Inc.’s controlling stockholder; Shari Redstone, the director, president, and controlling stockholder of NAI; and four individual NAI directors. All were sued for their roles in the Viacom/CBS Corp. merger in a decision that is important for mergers in which a controlling party stands on both sides of a transaction and receives nonratable benefits that are measured in terms of control, rather than based on merger consideration.
The Court of Chancery recently allowed to proceed post-closing claims that a merger was completed at an inadequate price, premised largely on allegations that the Company’s CEO and chairman was conflicted and tilted the process in favor of the buyer. This decision serves as a reminder for fiduciaries considering end stage transactions — including the Court’s reminder that “the sins of just one fiduciary can support a viable Revlon claim.”
The Delaware Supreme Court held that the Chancery Court erred in finding that a proposed compensation package that would substantially increase a CEO’s compensation post-merger was not material to the other directors’ approval of the merger.