Posts Tagged ‘Fiduciary duties’

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.

Delaware Court Holds M&A Financial Advisor Liable For $76 Million

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday November 4, 2014 at 9:15 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 authored by Mr. Halper, Peter J. Rooney, and Louisa S. Irving. 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 October 10, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a decision awarding nearly $76 million in damages against a seller’s financial advisor. In an earlier March 7, 2014 opinion in the case, In re Rural/Metro Corp. Stockholders Litigation, Vice Chancellor Laster found RBC Capital Markets, LLC liable for aiding and abetting the board’s breach of fiduciary duty in connection with Rural’s 2011 sale to private equity firm Warburg Pincus for $17.25 a share, a premium of 37% over the pre-announcement market price. The recent decision reinforces lessons from the March 7 decision and provides new guidance for directors and their advisors in M&A transactions and related litigation.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Holds M&A Financial Advisor Liable For $76 Million

The Duty to Maximize Value of an Insolvent Enterprise

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Thursday October 9, 2014 at 9:07 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Brad Eric Scheler, senior partner and chairman of the Bankruptcy and Restructuring Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and is based on a Fried Frank M&A Briefing authored by Mr. Scheler, Steven Epstein, Robert C. Schwenkel, 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.

In Quadrant Structured Products Company, Ltd. v. Vertin (October 1, 2014), Vice Chancellor Laster clarified the Delaware Chancery Court’s approach to breach of fiduciary duty derivative actions brought by creditors against the directors of an insolvent corporation. Importantly, the Vice Chancellor applied business judgment rule deference to the non-independent directors’ decision to try to increase the value of the insolvent corporation by adopting a highly risky investment strategy—even though the creditors bore the full risk of the strategy’s failing, while the corporation’s sole stockholder would benefit if the strategy succeeded. By contrast, the court viewed the directors’ decisions not to exercise their right to defer interest on the notes held by the controller and to pay above-market fees to an affiliate of the controller as having been “transfers of value” from the insolvent corporation to the controller, which were subject to entire fairness review.

…continue reading: The Duty to Maximize Value of an Insolvent Enterprise

Illinois Court Approves Single-Bidder Sale Strategy

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday October 8, 2014 at 10:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from William Savitt, partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savitt, David C. Karp, and Adam S. Hobson. 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.

The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois yesterday [October 2, 2014] confirmed that a Delaware board may employ a single-bidder process in a cash sale governed by the Revlon standard. Keating v. Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc., No. 11-CH-28854 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Ch. Div. Oct. 2, 2014).

The case arose from the 2011 transaction in which Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $40 per share in cash. The transaction elicited the now-conventional multiforum litigation in both Delaware (Motorola Mobility’s place of incorporation) and Illinois (its principal place of business). But the stockholder plaintiffs in Delaware dismissed their case and so only the Illinois action proceeded. Even though the merger price represented a 63% premium for Motorola Mobility’s shares and over 99% of the Motorola Mobility shares voting approved the merger, these plaintiffs attacked the deal, principally on the ground that the Motorola Mobility board should have conducted a broad auction rather than confidentially negotiate the deal with Google.

…continue reading: Illinois Court Approves Single-Bidder Sale Strategy

Delaware Court Declines to Dismiss Claims Against Disinterested Directors

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Tuesday September 30, 2014 at 9:02 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 authored by Alexandra D. Korry, Melissa Sawyer, 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 an opinion [1] issued on September 9, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Glasscock) held that in a controlling stockholder freeze-out merger subject to entire fairness review at the outset, disinterested directors entitled under a company’s charter to exculpation for duty of care violations cannot prevail in a motion to dismiss even though the claims against them for breach of fiduciary duty are not pled with particularity; instead, the issue of whether they will be entitled to exculpation must await a developed record, post-trial. The decision once again highlights the litigation cost that will be imposed on companies engaged in controlling stockholder freeze-out mergers for failing to employ both of the safeguards that Delaware has endorsed to ensure business judgment, instead of entire fairness, review—(1) an up-front non-waivable commitment by the controller to condition the transaction on an informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders and (2) approval of the transaction by a well-functioning and broadly empowered special committee of disinterested directors. At the motion to dismiss stage, disinterested directors effectively will be treated in the same manner as controllers and their affiliated directors.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Declines to Dismiss Claims Against Disinterested Directors

Radical Shareholder Primacy

Posted by June Rhee, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday September 24, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from David Millon, the J.B. Stombock Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University.

My article, Radical Shareholder Primacy, written for a symposium on the history of corporate social responsibility, seeks to make sense of the surprising disagreement within the corporate law academy on the foundational legal question of corporate purpose: does the law require shareholder primacy or not? I argue that disagreement on this question is due to an unappreciated ambiguity in the shareholder primacy idea. I identify two models of shareholder primacy, the “radical” and the “traditional.” Radical shareholder primacy makes strong claims about both shareholder governance rights, conceiving of management as the shareholders’ agent, and also about corporate purpose, insisting that corporate law mandates shareholder wealth maximization. Because there is no legal basis for either of these claims, those who deny that shareholder primacy is the law are correct at least as to this model. However, the traditional version of shareholder primacy accords to shareholders a special place in the corporation’s governance structure vis-à-vis the corporation’s nonshareholder stakeholders, for example, with respect to voting rights and the right to bring derivative suits. Beyond this privileged position in the horizontal dimension, there is no maximization mandate and corporate law does very little to provide shareholders with the tools necessary to exercise governance powers; there is no primacy in the vertical dimension or on the question of corporate purpose. Nevertheless, this conception of shareholder primacy—modest as it is—is enshrined in corporate law. Those who deny that shareholder primacy is the law need to acknowledge this fact, but once it is understood that traditional shareholder primacy has little in common with the radical version there is no reason to be reluctant to do so.

…continue reading: Radical Shareholder Primacy

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