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.