On January 24, 2024, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted final rules relating to special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and de-SPAC transactions. While the final rules substantially track the rules originally proposed in March 2022, the SEC elected not to adopt two provisions that had received significant attention and changed market behavior. The final rules also modified the SEC’s guidance and requirements for the inclusion of projections in all SEC filings by both SPAC and non-SPAC issuers.
This blog frequently has covered SPAC-related litigation (recently, here, here, and here), and the potential consequences of the Delaware Court of Chancery’s rulings in the MultiPlan and Gig3 cases. As discussed previously, the decisions in Multiplan and Gig3, among others, may portend increased litigation surrounding de-SPAC transactions, and particular focus by the plaintiffs’ bar on any actual or perceived conflicts of interest. A relatively recent complaint filed in the Court of Chancery targeting the Lottery.com SPAC deal may represent plaintiffs’ attorneys further widening the net of liability: the case targets not only the SPAC fiduciaries themselves but also the independent financial advisor that purportedly conducted due diligence in connection with the de-SPAC transaction. Financial advisors often are intimately involved in the SPAC process: they help screen which companies are attractive targets for a SPAC merger and, once a target is chosen, conduct diligence to determine that the target is a genuinely good merger partner. The Lottery.com complaint focuses on the financial advisors’ due diligence and on an allegedly conflict-prone compensation structure for those advisors, and alleges liability against an additional (and often deep-pocketed) class of defendant.
On February 21, 2023, Vice Chancellor Will of the Delaware Court of Chancery issued an opinion in the In re Lordstown Motors Corp. case explaining the court’s grant of Lordstown Motor Corporation’s (Lordstown) petition under 8 Del. C. § 205 validating an amendment to the Lordstown certificate of incorporation that increased the corporation’s authorized share count as well as the shares issued pursuant to that amended certificate of incorporation. In six sequential hearings the day before the opinion was issued, the court granted from the bench the Lordstown petition and petitions filed by five other companies that had merged with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) using a transaction structure for so-called “de-SPAC mergers” (through which the SPAC acquires a target) that has been widely used over the past few years.
The recent Court of Chancery decision in Delman v. GigAcquisitions3 offers some interesting insights into the circumstances in which “entire fairness” review applies, and where “Corwin cleansing” can be used to achieve a lesser review standard.
The Delaware Court of Chancery recently held that BuzzFeed was not required to arbitrate stock conversion claims brought by its former employees following Buzzfeed’s 2021 SPAC merger. Vice Chancellor Zurn granted BuzzFeed and its officers and directors an anti-arbitration injunction and rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that the Court of Chancery lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims. In doing so, the court offered a thoughtful application of contract law and law on arbitrability to a post-SPAC transaction dispute.
As previously covered in this blog, the recent increase in litigation arising out of de-SPAC mergers has left some open questions as to how courts will apply traditional legal principles to the unique SPAC structure. The Delaware Court of Chancery, for example, stated in Lordstown Motors that SPAC litigation “raises emerging issues of Delaware law,” while at the same time cautioning in MultiPlan that “well-worn fiduciary principles” generally apply to claims for breach of fiduciary duty in a de-SPAC merger. There understandably is some uncertainty in this space — particularly given the recent stipulation of settlement filed in the MultiPlan litigation, which some commentators had hoped would provide further insights. Thankfully, the Delaware Court of Chancery has recently provided some potentially helpful guidance in the ongoing P3 Health Group Holdings litigation. There, Vice Chancellor Laster addressed claims for breach of a limited liability company agreement related to a de-SPAC merger. In granting in part and denying in part defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Vice Chancellor provided some clarity on how to assess the nature of the pre- and post-de-SPAC merger entities, and in doing so adhered closely to standard principles of Delaware contract law.
Over the last year and a half we have seen an increased volume of complaints filed against SPAC boards in the Delaware Court of Chancery, challenging their decisions regarding de-SPAC mergers. In this article, Charlotte Newell, James Heyworth, and Josh DuClos discuss the increased scrutiny. (more…)
Delaware Section 220 corporate books and records inspection demands have long been a precursor to stockholder litigation. Companies often challenge the propriety and scope of inspection demands and, even when companies ultimately produce books and records for inspection, they routinely do so subject to a confidentiality agreement. However, a February 28, 2022 letter decision in In re Lordstown Motors Corp., Stockholder Litigation illustrates how confidentiality agreements may not fully protect the information in those books and records from public disclosure or use in other litigation.
On March 30, 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued proposed rules and amendments relating to special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), shell companies and the use of projections in SEC filings that, if adopted, would significantly rewrite the playbook for SPAC initial public offerings (IPOs) and acquisitions of private operating companies by SPACs (or “de-SPAC” transactions).1 In particular, the proposed rules (i) would require enhanced disclosures and increase potential liability under the federal securities laws for shell companies (including SPACs), target companies and investment banks participating in de-SPAC transactions, (ii) provide updated guidance regarding the use of projections in all SEC filings and (iii) propose a new safe harbor for SPACs under the Investment Company Act of 1940.
Sidley is pleased to share the March 2022 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. (more…)