Even as the Delaware appraisal rights landscape continues to evolve, dealmakers should not assume that the issues and outcomes will be the same in transactions involving companies incorporated in other states. Although once an afterthought on the M&A landscape, in recent years appraisal rights have become a prominent topic of discussion among dealmakers. In an earlier M&A Update (discussed on the Forum here) we discussed a number of factors driving the recent uptick in shareholders exercising statutory appraisal remedies available in cash-out mergers. With the recent Delaware Supreme Court decision in CKx and Chancery Court opinion in Ancestry.com, both determining that the deal price was the best measure of fair price for appraisal purposes, and the upcoming appraisal trials for the Dell and Dole going-private transactions, the contours of the modern appraisal remedy, and the future prospects of the appraisal arbitrage strategy, are being decided in real-time. These and almost all of the other recent high-profile appraisal claims have one thing in common—the targets in question were all Delaware corporations and the parties have the benefit of a well-known statutory scheme and experienced judges relying on extensive (but evolving) case law. But, what if the target is not in Delaware?
Posts Tagged ‘Fair values’
In a pair of memorandum opinions written by Vice Chancellor Glasscock and decided on January 5, 2015, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, in In Re Appraisal of Ancestry.com, Inc. and Merion Capital LP v. BMC Software, Inc., found that neither the beneficial owner nor the record owner of shares for which appraisal is sought under Section 262 of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware is required to show that the specific shares for which it seeks appraisal have not been voted in favor of the merger in question by previous stockholders. The findings follow the analysis applied in In Re Appraisal of Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc., a 2007 case which preceded an amendment to Section 262(e) later that year permitting beneficial owners to petition for appraisal in their own name. The decisions support the practice known as “appraisal arbitrage”—a practice which has contributed to the more than tripling of incidents of appraisal petition filings in eligible deals over the past 10 years—for investors who buy stock in target companies following the record date for stockholder votes on mergers and highlight public policy considerations concerning the role of Delaware’s appraisal statute in merger transactions.
The volume of Court of Chancery decisions has been proceeding apace. We have culled out two that we believe are worthy of your attention:
Cigna Health & Life Ins. Co. v. Audax Health Solutions, 2014 WL 6784491 (Del. Ch.).
This is a “must read” for all M&A and Private Equity practitioners and professionals, given the use of certain of the deal devices found to be invalid in the specific circumstances of this case.
Cigna, a large stockholder of Audax, the acquired company, sued to invalidate certain conditions of an arm’s length negotiated cash-out merger of Audax into United. Essentially, the defendant merging corporations conditioned receipt of the merger consideration not only upon surrender of the (to-be-cancelled) shares, but also upon the execution of a Letter of Transmittal, wherein each surrendering stockholder agreed to the “Obligations” set forth therein. Cigna refused to execute a Letter of Transmittal, and in response the defendants refused to pay Cigna the merger consideration. Cigna sued in the Court of Chancery for a judgment declaring the Obligations invalid and mandating payment of the merger consideration to Cigna. The Court of Chancery (V.C. Parsons) held the obligations invalid under 8 Del. C. §251 and (relatedly) for lack of consideration.
Numerous commentators and academics have written about the growth of M&A litigation over the last several years. Less noticed, but perhaps more significant, has been the growing tendency of institutional and other large investors to exercise their appraisal rights under Delaware law. Investors in several recent high-profile mergers have announced their intention to, or sought to, exercise their appraisal rights, including in deals involving Dell, Dole Food Company, and 3M/Cogent.
In many of these situations, an even more novel phenomenon is occurring: hedge funds, arbitrageurs, and other money managers are buying the stock of target companies even after a deal is announced to have the option to exercise appraisal rights. Some funds even have been created expressly for this purpose, perhaps with the view that the risks in an appraisal proceeding may be far greater to the target company than to the shareholder.
One such risk is that historically the definition of “fair value” in an appraisal proceeding under Delaware law provides wide discretion to the court to “take into account all relevant factors” beyond the price paid in the underlying merger, even where that price was the result of an arms-length transaction. The practical impact of this standard is that the court’s determination of value may get reduced to a “battle of the experts,” while the experts’ own analyses may be based on future projections and/or other financial information that is, by definition, uncertain. As a result, there is often little hard data to predict what the value of an entity in an appraisal proceeding could be.
Many academic researchers, policy makers, and other practitioners have concluded that fair value accounting can lead to suboptimal real decisions by firms, particularly financial institutions, and result in negative consequences for the financial system. This conclusion is sustained by the belief that fair value accounting was a major factor contributing to the 2008-2009 financial crisis by causing financial institutions to recognize excessive losses, which in turn caused excessive sales of assets and repayment of debt, thereby leading to procyclical accounting leverage. Leverage is procyclical when it decreases during economic downturns and increases during economic upturns. In our paper, Does Fair Value Accounting Contribute to Procyclical Leverage?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we examine whether there exists any link between fair value accounting and procyclical accounting leverage.
To address this question, we develop a model of commercial bank actions taken in response to economic gains and losses on their assets throughout the economic cycle to meet regulatory leverage requirements. We focus on commercial banks because of the central role they play in the financial system and the allegation that their actions in response to fair value losses contributed to the financial crisis. Our model and empirical tests based on the model establish that procyclical accounting leverage for commercial banks only arises because of differences between regulatory and accounting leverage, and not because of fair value accounting.
In a thoughtful and well-reasoned decision, the Delaware Court of Chancery held last week that the merger price produced by a “throrough, effective” sales process, “free from any spectre of self-interest or disloyalty,” can be the most reliable indicator of the value of shares in an appraisal proceeding. Huff Fund Investment Partnership v. CKx, Inc., No. 6844-VCG (Del. Ch. Nov 1, 2013).
CKx was a publicly traded corporation with interests in iconic entertainment properties, including the American Idol television show, Elvis Presley Enterprises, and Muhammad Ali Enterprises. In 2011, following an attempted go-private transaction and faced with uncertainty related to the network renewal of American Idol, CKx received several unsolicited bids to purchase the Company for cash. The CKx board retained an independent financial advisor and conducted an expedited process to explore a sale of the Company. Interested bidders were given three weeks to conduct diligence and negotiate a transaction. The Company ultimately received an offer of $5.50 per share from Apollo and an offer of $5.60 from a competing private equity firm. The $5.60 bid, while nominally higher, was not supported by financing commitments and the bidder refused to provide documentation that would have allowed CKx to verify its representations as to financing. In light of the uncertainty surrounding the $5.60 bid, CKx accepted the offer from Apollo notwithstanding its nominally lower purchase price.
Measurement concepts in financial reporting are sorely needed. A key role of accounting is to depict economic phenomena in numbers, i.e., to develop measurements to report in financial statements. It is shameful that neither is there a conceptual definition of accounting measurement nor are there concepts guiding standard setters’ choice of measurement base. The Framework has a glaring hole until these concepts are developed. In the paper, Measurement in Financial Reporting: The Need for Concepts, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, I offer a starting point for developing such concepts by focusing on how the objective of financial reporting, qualitative characteristics of useful financial information, and the asset and liability definitions can be applied to measurement. The Framework should be a coherent whole and, thus, any measurement concepts should flow from, be consistent with, and embody these concepts.
To date the focus of measurement in standard setting has been on individual assets and liabilities, and the lack of concepts for these measurements is obvious. However, aggregate amounts are also fundamental to financial reporting—financial reports include key aggregate amounts such as total assets, total liabilities, and net income. Changes in measurements of assets and liabilities during the reporting period also are fundamental because they determine items of income and expense as well as comprehensive income itself. Thus, if financial reports are to achieve their objective, measurement concepts need to deal with aggregate amounts and changes in measurements, as well as the implications of the measurements for the information revealed in a set of financial statements taken together.
Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Ron Shalev of the Department of Accounting at New York University, Ivy Zhang of the Department of Accounting at the University of Minnesota, and Yong Zhang of the School of Accounting and Finance at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
In our paper, CEO Compensation and Fair Value Accounting: Evidence from Purchase Price Allocation, forthcoming in the Journal of Accounting Research, we investigate the influence of bonus intensity (i.e., the relative importance of bonus in CEO pay) and alternative accounting performance measures used in bonus plans on the allocation of purchase price post acquisitions. Upon the completion of an acquisition, the acquirer is required to allocate the cost of acquiring the target to its tangible and identifiable intangible assets and liabilities based on their individually estimated fair values. The remainder, namely, the difference between the purchase price and the fair value of net identifiable assets, is recorded as goodwill. The recognition of goodwill has different implications for subsequent earnings than that of other assets. Tangible and identifiable intangible assets with finite lives, such as developed technologies, are depreciated or amortized, depressing earnings on a regular basis. In contrast, goodwill is unamortized and subject to a periodic fair-value-based impairment test. As write-offs of goodwill impairment are infrequent (Ramanna and Watts, 2009), recording more goodwill generally leads to higher post-acquisition earnings.
In our paper, Fair Value Accounting for Financial Instruments: Does it improve the Association between Bank Leverage and Credit Risk?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we contribute to the debate on whether financial instruments should be measured at fair value in financial statements. Accounting standard setters have been deliberating the role of fair values for financial instruments for decades. A fair value is the price at which two willing parties would exchange an asset or settle a liability. Starting after the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has increased the extent to which financial instruments are recognized at fair value (see Godwin, Petroni, and Wahlen 1998). In 2010, the FASB proposed to require that all financial instruments be recognized at fair value, with limited exceptions for receivables and payables and some companies’ own debt (FASB 2010). The proposal was controversial, with over 2,800 comment letters submitted, the vast majority of which objected to the fair value measurement of loans, deposits, and financial liabilities. The FASB is redeliberating this project and has tentatively decided that all financial instruments should be measured at fair value except certain debt financial assets and most financial liabilities (including deposits), which would be measured at amortized cost (FASB 2011).
To empirically provide insight on the controversy, we assess whether a fair value leverage ratio can explain measures of a bank’s credit risk better than a leverage ratio based on a mixture of fair values and historical costs consistent with the mixed-attribute model of US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and a leverage ratio based on even fewer fair values than GAAP, which is consistent with regulatory Tier 1 capital. We focus on balance sheet leverage because it is very commonly used for assessing firm risk. We define a bank’s credit risk as the risk that the bank defaults on its obligations, and we focus on credit risk because understanding a bank’s credit risk is essential to understanding its financial condition.
In Americas Mining Corporation the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s decision in the Southern Peru Copper litigation in which the Court of Chancery awarded damages of $2 billion and $300 million in attorneys’ fees.
While the damage and fee levels were unprecedented, the Delaware Supreme Court found that the Court of Chancery followed existing precedent and exercised its discretion appropriately in awarding such amounts after the plaintiffs had prevailed in showing that Southern Peru Copper had overpaid to acquire an asset owned by its controlling stockholder. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s calculation of the damages award based on the difference between the fair value of the asset and the amount paid. Further, the Delaware Supreme Court found that the Court of Chancery properly used its discretion in awarding the attorneys’ fee as a percentage of the damages award.