Posts Tagged ‘Fiduciary duties’

Delaware in 2014: Increasing Deference to Directors’ Decision

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday February 3, 2015 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David N. Shine, partner and co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and is based on a Fried Frank publication by Mr. Shine, Steven Epstein, Philip Richter and Gail Weinstein. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

A foundational premise of Delaware jurisprudence has been the courts’ deference to decisions made by independent and disinterested directors. Over the last year, the Delaware courts have continued a trend in their opinions toward increased judicial deference to the decisions of independent and disinterested directors. Thus, for example, the Delaware Supreme Court’s seminal MFW decision provides a roadmap to business judgment review even of controller transactions (which used to be reviewed under an entire fairness standard).

Other than MFW, however, the courts have not changed the fundamental ground rules for review of a sale process. Thus, as in the past:

…continue reading: Delaware in 2014: Increasing Deference to Directors’ Decision

Delaware Supreme Court Holds That Revlon Does Not Require Active Market Check

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday January 24, 2015 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jason M. Halper, partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper, Peter J. Rooney, Christin Joy Hill, and Christine M. Smith. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On December 19, 2014, the Supreme Court of Delaware reversed the Delaware Court of Chancery’s November decision (discussed on the Forum here) to preliminarily enjoin for 30 days a vote by C&J Energy Services stockholders on a merger with Nabors Red Lion Limited, to allow time for C&J’s board of directors to explore alternative transactions. The Supreme Court decision clarifies that in a sale-of-control situation, Revlon and its progeny require an effective, but not necessarily active, market check, and there is no “specific route that a board must follow” in fulfilling fiduciary duties.

The decision also reaffirms the type of record that must be made to support a mandatory preliminary injunction, a type of injunction that requires parties to take affirmative actions as opposed to merely maintaining the status quo. The Court found that the Chancery Court “blue penciled” the merger agreement, and in the process stripped Nabors of its contractual rights, by effectively inserting a go-shop provision into the contract where the parties never agreed to one. Moreover, the Chancery Court improperly did so without finding that Nabors aided and abetted a fiduciary duty breach and based its holding only on disputed facts that were not adjudicated following a trial. While the decision does not break new ground, it is significant in better defining directors’ duties when selling control and articulating the limits of a court’s ability to issue mandatory preliminary injunctions.

…continue reading: Delaware Supreme Court Holds That Revlon Does Not Require Active Market Check

Delaware Court Reverses Preliminary Injunction Requiring Go-Shop

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday January 13, 2015 at 9:13 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David L. Caplan, partner and global co-head of the mergers and acquisitions practice at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On Friday, December 19, 2014, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed a preliminary injunction entered by the Delaware Court of Chancery which had (a) barred, for 30 days, a stockholder vote to approve the combination of C&J Energy Services, Inc. and a division of Nabors Industries Ltd., (b) required C&J to conduct a “go-shop” during that period and (c) preemptively declared that such “go-shop” did not constitute a breach of the “no-shop” or other deal-protection provisions in the Nabors/C&J merger agreement. In reversing the injunction, the Supreme Court held that the C&J board likely satisfied its Revlon duties (to the extent such duties applied), notwithstanding the lack of a pre-signing market check, given that “[w]hen a board exercises its judgment in good faith, tests the transaction through a viable passive market check, and gives its stockholders a fully informed, uncoerced opportunity to vote to accept the deal, [Delaware courts] cannot conclude that the board likely violated its Revlon duties.”

…continue reading: Delaware Court Reverses Preliminary Injunction Requiring Go-Shop

Delaware Court: 17.3% Stockholder/CEO may be a Controlling Stockholder

Posted by Toby S. Myerson, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on Monday January 5, 2015 at 2:08 pm
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Editor’s Note: Toby Myerson is a partner in the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and co-head of the firm’s Global Mergers and Acquisitions Group. The following post is based on a Paul Weiss memorandum. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In In re Zhongpin Inc. S’holders Litig., the Delaware Court of Chancery denied motions to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty claims against an alleged controlling stockholder and members of the company’s board of directors, holding that the plaintiffs had raised reasonable inferences that (i) although the stockholder held only 17.3% of the company’s outstanding common stock, as CEO and Chairman of the Board, he possessed “both latent and active control” over the company, and (ii) the sales process was not entirely fair.

…continue reading: Delaware Court: 17.3% Stockholder/CEO may be a Controlling Stockholder

Shareholder Litigation Without Class Actions and The “Semi-Circularity Problem”

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday December 23, 2014 at 9:09 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David H. Webber of Boston University Law School.

What would happen to shareholder litigation if the class action disappeared? In my article, Shareholder Litigation Without Class Actions, forthcoming in the Arizona Law Review as part of its symposium on Business Litigation and Regulatory Agency Review in the Era of the Roberts Court, I sketch out some possible futures of post-class action shareholder litigation. For now, such litigation persists despite recent existential challenges, most notably the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton. While these actions may continue in their current form, sustained criticism from sectors of the academy, and from business lobbies, suggest that existential threats to these suits will continue. Such threats have already re-emerged in the form of mandatory arbitration provisions and “loser pays” (more accurately, “plaintiff pays”) fee-shifting provisions in corporate bylaws or certificates of incorporation. While it is possible that such provisions will not spread widely—perhaps because of organized shareholder opposition—the rapid adoption of fee-shifting provisions suggests the possibility that mandatory arbitration or “plaintiff pays” or both could become ubiquitous. If so, either type of provision could eliminate the shareholder class action, or at least drastically reduce its prevalence. As I describe in greater detail in the article, mandatory arbitration provisions requiring bilateral arbitration of claims and barring consolidation of such claims would eliminate the class action in either litigation or arbitration form. (Importantly, even if Delaware were to try to curb arbitration provisions, such action could be preempted by federal law under the Supreme Court’s recent Federal Arbitration Act decisions). Similarly, fee-shifting provisions would greatly increase the risk to plaintiffs generally, and to entrepreneurial plaintiffs’ lawyers in particular, who bear the risks and costs of this litigation, potentially threatening the existence of the plaintiffs’ bar itself and restricting class actions to only a small handful of the most egregious cases. I discuss arbitration and fee shifting provisions in the article, and in the summary below, but I do not confine my analysis to these provisions. Rather, my focus is to assess what would happen to shareholder litigation if the class action disappeared, regardless of the particular mechanism of its demise.

…continue reading: Shareholder Litigation Without Class Actions and The “Semi-Circularity Problem”

Delaware Court Provides Guidance in a Sale-of-Control Situation

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday December 10, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jason M. Halper, partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper, Penelope A. Graboys Blair, Peter J. Rooney, and Katherine L. Maco. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On November 25, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a decision in In Re Comverge, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, which: (1) dismissed claims that the Comverge board of directors conducted a flawed sales process and approved an inadequate merger price in connection with the directors’ approval of a sale of the company to H.I.G. Capital LLC; (2) permitted fiduciary duty claims against the directors to proceed based on allegations related to the deal protection mechanisms in the merger agreement, including termination fees potentially payable to HIG of up to 13% of the equity value of the transaction; and (3) dismissed a claim against HIG for aiding and abetting the board’s breach of fiduciary duty.

The case provides important guidance to directors and their advisors in discharging fiduciary duties in a situation where Revlon applies and in negotiating acceptable deal protection mechanisms. The decision also is the latest in a series of recent opinions addressing and defining the scope of third party aiding and abetting liability.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Provides Guidance in a Sale-of-Control Situation

Determining the Likely Standard of Review in Delaware M&A Transactions

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday December 8, 2014 at 9:12 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Robert B. Little, partner in the Mergers and Acquisitions practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Little, Chris Babcock, Michael Q. Cannon, and Katherine Cournoyer; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

M&A practitioners are well aware of the several standards of review applied by Delaware courts in evaluating whether directors have complied with their fiduciary duties in the context of M&A transactions. Because the standard applied will often have a significant effect on the outcome of such evaluation, establishing processes to secure a more favorable standard of review is a significant part of Delaware M&A practice. The chart below identifies fact patterns common to Delaware M&A and provides a preliminary assessment of the likely standard of review applicable to transactions fitting such fact patterns. However, because the Delaware courts evaluate each transaction in light of the transaction’s particular set of facts and circumstances, and due to the evolving nature of the law in this area, this chart should not be treated as a definitive statement of the standard of review applicable to any particular transaction.

…continue reading: Determining the Likely Standard of Review in Delaware M&A Transactions

Delaware Court Preliminarily Enjoins Merger Due to Flawed Sales Process

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Sunday December 7, 2014 at 9:06 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Jason M. Halper, partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper, Peter J. Rooney, Christin Joy Hill, and Christine M. Smith. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On November 24, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery preliminarily enjoined for thirty days a vote by C&J Energy Services stockholders on a merger with Nabors Red Lion Limited, to allow time for C&J’s board of directors to explore alternative transactions. In a bench ruling in the case, City of Miami General Employees’ & Sanitation Employees’ Retirement Trust v. C&J Energy Services, Inc., Vice Chancellor Noble concluded that “it is not so clear that the [C&J] board approached this transaction as a sale,” with the attendant “engagement that one would expect from a board in the sales process.” Interestingly, the Court called the issue a “very close call,” and indicated it would certify the question to the Delaware Supreme Court at the request of either of the parties (at this time it does not appear either party has made a request). The decision provides guidance regarding appropriate board decision-making in merger transactions, particularly where one merger party is assuming minority status in the combined entity yet also acquiring management and board control.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Preliminarily Enjoins Merger Due to Flawed Sales Process

New York Appeals Court Applies Business Judgment Rule to Going Private Transaction

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday November 26, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Tariq Mundiya, partner in the litigation department of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and is based on a Willkie client memorandum by Mr. Mundiya, Sameer Advani, and Benjamin McCallen.

On November 20, 2014, the New York Appellate Division, First Department, in a case of first impression under New York law, ruled in favor of Kenneth Cole in a litigation where minority shareholders had challenged the fashion designer’s transaction to take private Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. Mr. Cole controlled approximately 89% of KCP’s voting power and owned a 46% economic interest in KCP. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP represented Mr. Cole in the transaction and the class action litigation.

The Appellate Division found that the business judgment standard of review—and not the heightened entire fairness standard—applied to judicial review of breach of fiduciary claims because the transaction had been structured at the outset with dual protections of an independent special committee review and the vote of a “majority of the minority” (that is, non-Cole) shareholders. The judicial standard of review can have important litigation consequences, as cases governed by the business judgment rule can be dismissed at an early stage, as occurred here, whereas transactions governed by the “entire fairness” standard generally require discovery and further proceedings, which can be burdensome and expensive.

…continue reading: New York Appeals Court Applies Business Judgment Rule to Going Private Transaction

Pontiac General Employees Retirement System v. Healthways, Inc.

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Monday November 17, 2014 at 9:15 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Alexandra D. Korry, John E. Estes, S. Neal McKnight, and William J. Magnuson. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In a bench ruling [1] issued on October 14, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Laster) declined to dismiss fiduciary duty claims against the directors of Healthways, Inc. (“Healthways”) and an aiding and abetting claim against SunTrust Bank (“SunTrust”), the lender administrative agent, for entering into a credit facility of Healthways that has a dead hand “proxy put” provision. The provision at issue allows the lenders to declare an event of default and accelerate the debt in the event that a majority of the Healthways board during a period of 24 months is comprised of “non-continuing” directors, including directors initially nominated as a result of an actual or threatened proxy contest. Rejecting the director defendant claims that the fiduciary duty claims were not ripe, the Court stated that Healthways’ stockholders may presently be “suffering a distinct injury” from the deterrent effect of the “proxy put” and the fact that the dissident directors are non-continuing directors under the “proxy put.” In addition, in a further significant development, the Court stated that its prior holdings on the “entrenching” nature of “proxy puts” placed SunTrust on notice that a borrower’s board runs the risk of breaching their fiduciary duties if they accept dead hand “proxy puts” in the borrower’s debt documentation without negotiating significant value in return. Because the dead hand “proxy put” was included in Healthways’ credit agreement shortly after the threat of a proxy contest had occurred, the Court found that there was sufficient “knowing participation” pled to survive a motion to dismiss the aiding and abetting claim against SunTrust.

…continue reading: Pontiac General Employees Retirement System v. Healthways, Inc.

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