The Delaware Law Series


Delaware Court Awards Damages to Option Holders

Jason M. Halper is a partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. This post is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper and Peter J. Rooney. 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 July 28, 2015, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a post-trial opinion in which it criticized in particularly strong terms the analysis performed by a financial firm that was retained to value companies that were being sold to a third party or spun off to stockholders (the “valuation firm”). See Fox v. CDX Holdings Inc., C.A. No. 8031-VCL (Del Ch. July 28, 2015)CDX is just the latest decision in which the Chancery Court has awarded damages and/or ordered injunctive relief based in part on a financial firm’s failure to discharge its role appropriately. Calling the valuation firm’s work “a new low,” Vice Chancellor Laster’s opinion is another chapter in this cautionary tale that lays bare how financial firms can be exposed not only to potential monetary liability but, as importantly, significant reputational harm from flawed sell side work on M&A transactions.

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An Interview with Chief Justice Strine

Judy Warner is editor-in-chief of NACD Directorship. This post is based on an interview between Ms. Warner and Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. The full interview is available here. Research by Chief Justice Strine recently issued by the Program on Corporate Governance includes A Job is Not a Hobby: The Judicial Revival of Corporate Paternalism, discussed on the Forum here; and Can We Do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law, discussed on the Forum 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.

As your predecessor Chief Justice Myron Steele was stepping down in 2013, Directorship asked him if he had any words of advice for his successor. Chief Justice Steele suggested that his successor be prepared for crisis management because you never know what’s going to happen. So, I’m curious: have you had a crisis so far?

We’ve had a crisis. For example, we’re dealing very much this week with an emerging development that’s affecting our entire state government around the cost of health insurance for our employees. There are very tough choices that have to be made, that regardless of which choice is going to be made, it’s going to have an influence on the ability of our government to fund other priorities.

What you have to do in all these things is understand that life is sort of a series of planned emergencies. What we have tried to do is identify a set of priorities for future action that builds on existing achievements. I’m very fortunate I had a wonderful predecessor and friend in Myron Steele, who cares very much about our judiciary and worked very hard. I had a very high-quality predecessor, and I can build off that platform of making a very good organization.

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New Guidance on Advance Notice By-Laws

Alexander M. Kaye is the Practice Group Leader of the Global Corporate Group of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP and is a partner resident in the New York office. This post is based on a Milbank client alert by Mr. Kaye, Dean W. Sattler, and Monica Arduini. 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.

Hill International, Inc. (“Hill”), a publicly traded company, and one of its stockholders, Opportunity Partners L.P. (“Opportunity”), recently engaged in a dispute regarding whether Opportunity had timely submitted two proposals for items of business for consideration and two director nominations for election at Hill’s 2015 annual meeting. On appeal from the Delaware Chancery Court, the Delaware Supreme Court was called on to analyze the interpretation and application of Hill’s advance notice by-law.

On July 2, 2015, in Hill International, Inc. v. Opportunity Partners L.P., [1] the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s holding that: (i) Hill’s board of directors only set the date of its annual meeting of stockholders when it announced the actual date of its annual meeting in its 2015 proxy statement, rather than a range of possible dates provided in Hill’s proxy statement from the preceding year, and (ii) Opportunity’s proposals were timely submitted in compliance with Hill’s advance notice by-law.

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Court of Chancery Upholds Customary Release in Spin-Off Transactions

David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton publication by Mr. Katz, William Savitt, and Ryan A. McLeod. 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 Delaware Court of Chancery last week validated a release of liability that extinguished certain claims a recently spun-off company may have had against its former parent and its directors. In re AbbVie Inc. Stockholder Derivative Litig., C.A. No. 9983-VCG (Del. Ch. July 21, 2015). The decision confirms that the mutual releases customary in spin-off arrangements are presumptively appropriate and enforceable.

Abbott Laboratories spun off AbbVie, its research-based pharmaceutical subsidiary, in January 2013. Before the spin, Abbott was a defendant in a False Claims Act action alleging unlawful off-label marketing of an AbbVie product. As part of the spin-off, AbbVie broadly released all claims it might have against Abbott or any Abbott affiliate relating to assets transferred to AbbVie, including liability for the False Claims Act claim.

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Binding Spincos to Parent Obligations Requires Specificity

Matt Salerno is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum by Mr. Salerno, Christopher Condlin, and Christina Prassas. 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 Miramar Police Officers’ Retirement Plan v. Murdoch [1] the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed plaintiff’s claims, refusing to hold that an “unambiguous” boilerplate successors and assigns clause operated to bind a spun-off company to the terms of a contract entered into by its former parent company. The contract at issue generally restricted the former parent company from adopting a poison pill with a term of longer than one year without obtaining shareholder approval. The decision will serve as a reminder to practitioners to carefully consider the impact that significant corporate transactions could have on their clients’ contractual rights and obligations.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Rejects M&A Litigation Settlement

Ariel J. Deckelbaum is a partner and deputy chair of the Corporate Department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss 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.

In Acevedo v. Aeroflex Holding Corporation, in connection with a stockholder suit that challenged the sale of a company with a controlling stockholder to a third party, the Delaware Court of Chancery rejected a settlement which provided a global release of claims in exchange for a reduced termination fee and a shortening of the matching-rights period by one day, holding that these deal protections were not impediments to competing bidders and therefore were insufficient to support a global release.

In 2014, Aeroflex agreed to sell itself to a third-party and a class-action challenging the transaction was subsequently commenced. After engaging in discovery and consulting with third-party experts, the plaintiff concluded that the consideration offered to the Aeroflex stockholders fell within a range of reasonable value for Aeroflex’s shares, but that the proxy omitted certain material facts. The parties agreed to a settlement where the plaintiff granted the defendants a global release of all possible claims in exchange for modifying the deal protections by (i) reducing the termination fee by over 40% from $32 million to $18 million, and (ii) shortening the matching rights period from four business days to three business days. Additionally, the defendants agreed to make certain supplemental disclosures in the proxy.

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Appraisal Arbitrage—Is There a Delaware Advantage?

Gaurav Jetley is a Managing Principal and Xinyu Ji is a Vice President at Analysis Group, Inc. This post is based on a recent article authored by Mr. Jetley and Mr. Ji. 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.

Market observers have devoted a fair amount of attention to possible reasons underlying the recent increase in appraisal rights actions filed in the Delaware Chancery Court. A number of commentators have connected such an increase to recent rulings reaffirming appraisal rights of shares bought by appraisal arbitrageurs after the record date of the relevant transactions. Other reasons posited for the current increase in appraisal activity include the relatively high interest rate on the appraisal award and a belief that the Delaware Chancery Court may feel more comfortable finding fair values in excess of, rather than below, the transaction price.

In our paper Appraisal Arbitrage—Is There a Delaware Advantage?, we examine the extent to which economic incentives may have improved for appraisal arbitrageurs in recent years, which may help explain the increase in appraisal activity. We investigate three specific issues.

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Delaware Court Relies Exclusively on Merger Price in Appraisal Action

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 authored by Matthew W. Abbott, Angelo Bonvino, Justin G. Hamill, and Jeffrey D. Marell. 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 recent appraisal proceeding, the Delaware Court of Chancery concluded that the company had engaged in a thorough sales process, and therefore found that it was appropriate to determine fair value of the company’s stock by relying exclusively on the merger price less net synergies. The court found that a discounted cash flow (or “DCF”) analysis was an inappropriate method to value the company’s stock in this instance, as the DCF analyses relied upon by the parties were derived from unreliable management projections.

In Longpath Capital, LLC v. Ramtron International Corporation, Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (“Cypress”) issued a bear hug letter to acquire all of the shares of Ramtron International Corporation (“Ramtron”), a semiconductor company, for $2.48 per share. After the Ramtron board rejected this offer as inadequate, Cypress initiated a tender offer for Ramtron’s shares at $2.68 per share (which it later raised to $2.88 per share). During the time that Cypress pursued its tender offer, Ramtron authorized its financial advisor to market the company. The advisor contacted twenty-four potential buyers and Ramtron executed nondisclosure agreements with six of those potential buyers. Ultimately, however, none of the potential buyers made a firm bid for Ramtron. Eventually, Ramtron and Cypress engaged in active negotiations, which resulted in Cypress raising its offer price twice before the parties settled on a final transaction price of $3.10 per share. Approximately two months following the signing of the merger agreement, the merger was approved by a vote of Ramtron’s stockholders. Longpath Capital, LLC (“Longpath”), a Ramtron stockholder, properly demanded appraisal of the fair value of its Ramtron stock under Section 262 of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware and filed an appraisal action in the Court of Chancery against Ramtron.

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Custodial Bank’s Technical Failure Results in Dell Stockholders Losing Appraisal Rights

Steven Epstein is a partner and Co-Head of the Mergers & Acquisitions practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Epstein, Robert C. Schwenkel, John E. Sorkin, 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 In re Appraisal of Dell (July 13, 2015), Vice Chancellor Laster, stating that he was compelled by Delaware Supreme Court precedent, applied a “strict” interpretation of the “Continuous Holder Requirement” of the Delaware appraisal statute. The Vice Chancellor, granting summary judgment in favor of Dell, Inc., held that the funds seeking appraisal of almost one million Dell shares (acquired by them after announcement of the Dell going-private transaction) had not met the Continuous Holder Requirement and so had lost their right to appraisal.

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Merger Price and Process Win the Day Yet Again In Delaware Appraisal Action

Jason M. Halper is partner in the Securities Litigation & Regulatory Enforcement Practice Group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. This post is based on an Orrick publication by Mr. Halper and Gregory Beaman. 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 June 30, 2015, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a post-trial opinion in which it yet again rejected a dissenting shareholder’s attempt to extract consideration for its shares above the merger price through appraisal rights. See LongPath Capital, LLC v. Ramtron Int’l Corp., Slip. Op. June 30, 2015, C.A. No. 8094-VCP (Del. Ch. June 30, 2015). LongPath is just the latest decision in which the Chancery Court has upheld merger price as the most reliable indicator of fair value where it was the result of a fair and adequate process. Vice Chancellor Parsons’ opinion reaffirms the importance of merger price and process in Delaware appraisal actions, and offers helpful guidance to companies, directors and their counsel in defending against claims that the company was sold at too low a price.

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