Tag: Acquisition agreements


Negotiation in Good Faith—SIGA v. PharmAthene

Philip Richter 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 by Mr. Richter, Peter Simmons, and Gail Weinstein. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in SIGA Technologies Inc. v. PharmAthene Inc. (Dec. 23, 2015) has increased the risk associated with entering into a “preliminary agreement”—i.e., an agreement to negotiate in good faith a definitive agreement based on, for example, a term sheet or letter of intent, where some material terms have been set forth and others remain to be negotiated.

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PECO v. Walnut: Firm Valuation

Steven J. Steinman is partner and co-head of the Private Equity Transactions Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank memorandum by Mr. Steinman, Aviva F. Diamant, Christopher Ewan, and Gail Weinstein. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In PECO v. Walnut (Dec. 30, 2015), the Delaware Court of Chancery refused to review a valuation firm’s determination of the value of an LLC’s preferred units when the LLC agreement provided that the value as determined by an independent valuation firm would be binding on the parties. While PECO related to the valuation of LLC units in connection with the exercise of a put right, the decision presumably would apply more broadly—including to post-closing adjustments and other valuations.

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SEC Guidance on Unbundling in M&A Context

Nicholas O’Keefe is a partner in the Corporate Department at Kaye Scholer LLP. This post is based on a Kaye Scholer memorandum authored by Mr. O’Keefe. The complete publication, including Annex, is available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about bundling includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar (discussed on the Forum here).

On October 27, 2015, the SEC issued new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (the 2015 C&DIs) regarding unbundling of votes in the M&A context. The 2015 C&DIs address the circumstances under which either a target or an acquiror in an M&A transaction must present unbundled shareholder proposals in its proxy statement relating to provisions in the organizational documents of the public company that results from the deal. The 2015 C&DIs replace SEC guidance given in the September 2004 Interim Supplement to Publicly Available Telephone Interpretations (the 2004 Guidance). According to public statements of the SEC, and contrary to perceptions created by the news media, [1] the 2015 C&DIs represent a slight change from, and clarification to, the 2004 Guidance. The following is a brief overview of the unbundling rules, a summary of key differences between the 2015 C&DIs and the 2004 Guidance, and some observations about the practical implications of the changes.

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Delaware Supreme Court on Potential Financial Advisor Liability

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, Peter J. Rooney, and Gregory Beaman. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In November 30, 2015, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a 107-page opinion affirming the Court of Chancery’s post-trial decisions in In re Rural/Metro Corp. Stockholders Litigation (previously discussed on the Forum here). In the lower court, Vice Chancellor Laster found a seller’s financial advisor (the “Financial Advisor”) liable in the amount of $76 million for aiding and abetting the Rural/Metro Corporation board’s breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s sale to private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC. See RBC Capital Mkts., LLC v. Jervis, No. 140, 2015, slip op. (Del. Nov. 30, 2015).The Court’s decision reaffirms the importance of financial advisor independence and the courts’ exacting scrutiny of M&A advisors’ conflicts of interest. Significantly, however, the Court disagreed with Vice Chancellor Laster’s characterization of financial advisors as “gatekeepers” whose role is virtually on par with the board’s to appropriately determine the company’s value and chart an effective sales process. Instead, the Court found that the relationship between an advisor and the company or board primarily is contractual in nature and the contract, not a theoretical gatekeeping function, defines the scope of the advisor’s duties in the absence of undisclosed conflicts on the part of the advisor. In that regard, the Court stated: “Our holding is a narrow one that should not be read expansively to suggest that any failure on the part of a financial advisor to prevent directors from breaching their duty of care gives rise to” an aiding and abetting claim. In that (albeit limited) sense, the decision offers something of a silver lining to financial advisors in M&A transactions. Equally important, the decision underscores the limited value of employing a second financial advisor unless that advisor is paid on a non-contingent basis, does not seek to provide staple financing, and performs its own independent financial analysis.

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SEC’s “Unbundling Rule” Interpretation

Philip E. Richter is partner and co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice and Gail Weinstein is of counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. The following post is based on a Fried Frank publication.  Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Bundling and Entrenchment by Lucian Bebchuk and Ehud Kamar (discussed on the Forum here).

The SEC has issued two new compliance and disclosure interpretations on the so-called “Unbundling Rule.” The SEC appears to have been motivated to issue the CDIs as part of the political reaction against, and desire to deter, inversion transactions.

The CDIs relate to proposed M&A transactions in which an acquiror would be issuing its equity securities to the target stockholders and the transaction agreement requires the acquiror to make material changes to its organizational documents (such as corporate governance changes). The SEC staff has established a new requirement for separate, precatory (i.e., non-binding) target stockholder votes on material changes to the acquiror’s organizational documents (“unbundled” from the target vote on the transaction itself)—which is designed to heighten the visibility to target stockholders of proposed acquiror corporate governance changes.

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Delaware Court: Seating Board Designee Subject to Reasonable Conditions Not a Breach

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 Partners Healthcare Solutions Holdings, L.P. v. Universal American Corp. (June 17, 2015), the Delaware Chancery Court granted summary judgment to defendant Universal American Corp. (“UAM”), rejecting the contentions of one of UAM’s largest stockholders, Partners Healthcare Solutions Holdings (“Partners”), that UAM had breached a board seat agreement by imposing conditions on the seating of Partners’ designee to the UAM board that were not provided for in the agreement. Partners, a subsidiary of a private equity firm, acquired its stake in UAM through, and the board seat agreement had been entered into in connection with, UAM’s acquisition of a subsidiary of Partners (the “Portfolio Company”). The dispute relating to the seating of Partners’ board designee arose at the same time that UAM and Partners were involved in a separate fraud litigation arising from the Portfolio Company’s performance after the merger.

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Integration Clauses and Letters of Intent

John A. Fisher is counsel in the Mergers & Acquisitions group at Sidley Austin LLP. This post is based on a Sidley update by Mr. Fisher, Sharon R. Flanagan, and Jack B. Jacobs. 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.

Shareholders of an acquired company in a merger transaction sued the purchaser, arguing that certain provisions of a pre-merger letter of intent survived the merger. The Supreme Court of Delaware held that although the merger agreement provided for the survival of portions of the letter of intent, the integration clause of the merger agreement did not transform non-binding provisions of the letter of intent into binding obligations of the purchaser.

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Lazard v. Qinetiq: Important Lessons for Structuring Earn-Outs

David W. Healy and Douglas N. Cogen are partners and co-chairs of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Fenwick & West LLP. The following post is based on a Fenwick publication by Mr. Healy and Mr. Cogen. 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 recent Delaware Supreme Court case authored by Chief Justice Strine upholds the literal meaning of an earn-out provision that limited the buyer from taking action “intended to reduce or limit an earn-out payment.” The court rejected the argument that buyer’s actions, which it likely knew would reduce the likelihood of an earn-out payment, met the intent-based standard the parties had agreed on in lieu of various affirmative post-closing covenants that had been rejected by the buyer. The court also rejected the seller’s argument that it could rely on the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing to impose an objective standard and thereby avoid the burden to prove that the buyer intentionally violated such provision. The case has implications for buyers’ and seller’s negotiating strategies around post-closing operations covenants related to earn-outs and as to the impact of such covenants on the interpretation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The case is Lazard Technology Partners, LLC, v. Qinetiq North America Operations LLC, April 23, 2015, Strine, L., 2015 WL 1880153, and it can be found at http://business.cch.com/srd/LazardTechnology-v-Qinetiq.pdf.

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Freeing Trapped Cash in Cross-Border Deals

John Olson is a founding partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C. office and a visiting professor at the Georgetown Law Center. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn alert.

In private company transactions, dealmakers often spend significant amounts of time talking about how to treat the cash held by an acquisition target. For example, if the buyer and the seller are negotiating price on the assumption that the target will be sold on a cash-free, debt-free basis, how does the purchase price get adjusted for cash that the target continues to hold at the time of closing? If the deal includes a working capital adjustment, how will cash and cash equivalents be taken into account? What are the procedures for measuring how much cash the target holds at closing?

In cross-border deals, the issues about how to deal with target cash often become significantly more complex. Businesses that operate around the world may have cash in several different countries. Regulatory and tax concerns may limit both the seller’s and the buyer’s ability to transfer cash held by the target from one country to another. Questions about how to deal with the target’s cash must be answered with these constraints in mind.

The balance of this post discusses some of the solutions that buyers and sellers use to resolve trapped cash issues in cross-border deals.

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A Modest Strategy for Combatting Frivolous IPO Lawsuits

Boris Feldman is a member of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C. The views expressed in this post are those of Mr. Feldman and do not reflect those of his firm or clients.

With a minor change to the customary lock-up agreement, issuers and underwriters may be better able to fight frivolous IPO lawsuits. By allowing non-registration statement shares to enter the market, underwriters may prevent Section 11 strike-suiters from “tracing” their shares to the IPO. This could enable ’33 Act defendants to knock out the lawsuits against them.

Basics of Section 11 Standing and Tracing

Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S. Code § 77k, provides a private remedy for those who purchase shares issued pursuant to a registration statement that is materially false or misleading. The remedy applies to “any person acquiring such security.” Section 11(a). That is, a person may assert a claim with respect to shares issued pursuant to the particular registration statement.

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