Companies and their investors have been battling over the value of representative shareholder litigation since at least the 1940’s. Investors argue that managerial agency costs are high and that class actions and derivative suits are key shareholder monitoring mechanisms that they can deploy to keep managers in line. Companies believe that representative litigation claims are lawyer-driven, reflecting the agency costs that arise out of contingency fee suits that make the lawyer the real party in interest in these cases. Over the decades, there have been numerous skirmishes between these two sets of actors. Yet, even though one side or the other may temporarily gain the upper hand, the war continues today unabated.
The latest round of this extended fight comes over multijurisdictional deal litigation. Many M&A transactions attract shareholder litigation challenging the fairness of the economic terms of the deal for the target shareholders. Since the end of the financial crisis, however, there has been a documented increase in the number of jurisdictions in which each individual transaction is attacked. The potential for multijurisdictional litigation over a single deal arises because shareholders that wish to challenge the proposed terms of an M&A transaction can, under existing rules of civil procedure, choose to do so either in a state court in the target corporation’s state of incorporation, in a state court in the location of the company’s headquarters (assuming the defendants have the necessary presence in the jurisdiction), or in a federal court in one of those two jurisdictions.