Tag: Fair values


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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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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NASDAQ Shareholder Approval Rules

Janet T. Geldzahler is Of Counsel at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Ms. Geldzahler, Robert E. Buckholz, Melissa Sawyer, and Marc Trevino.

Last Wednesday [November 19, 2015], the NASDAQ Stock Market requested public comments on whether and how to improve its rules requiring shareholder approval before a NASDAQ-listed company issues securities in connection with certain acquisitions, changes of control, and certain private placements. The request for comments is being made in light of changes that have occurred in the capital markets, securities laws, and the nature and type of share issuances since the rules were adopted 25 years ago.

The comment period will run until February 15, 2016. The request for comment is available here.

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Private Control Premium and Option Exercises

Vyacheslav Fos is Assistant Professor of Finance at Boston College. This post is based on an article by Professor Fos and Wei Jiang, Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School.

In our paper, Out-of-the-Money CEOs: Private Control Premium and Option Exercises, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we examine the effects of proxy contests on CEOs’ option exercise policies. When faced with a challenge to insider control, we find that CEOs value company shares significantly more than the market due to the potentially decisive role their attendant voting rights could play in ex ante close proxy contests. By demonstrating that the strategic exercise of vested options is a potentially effective defensive tactic, we provide further support for the role of aggressive shareholder activism in market-based corporate governance.

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Rural/Metro Decision: Aiding and Abetting Liability

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 by Mr. Deckelbaum, Ross A. FieldstonJustin G. Hamill, Stephen P. Lamb, and Jeffrey D. Marell. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Supreme Court has issued its much anticipated opinion in RBC Capital Markets v. Joanna Jervis, affirming all of the principal holdings of the Court of Chancery’s series of decisions in In re Rural/Metro Corp. S’holder Litig. The opinion speaks to a multitude of issues, but we focus on the breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting liability claims in this post.

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Merion Capital: Merger Price as a Factor in Appraisal Action

William P. Mills is a partner in the New York Office of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. This post is based on a Cadwalader publication by Mr. Mills, Martin L. Seidel,  Gregory A. MarkelJoshua Apfelroth, and Brittany Schulman. 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 decision in an appraisal action, the Delaware Chancery Court reaffirmed the Court’s reluctance to substitute its own calculation of the “fair value” of a target company’s stock for the purchase price derived through arms-length negotiations, provided it resulted from a thorough, effective and disinterested sales process. The October 21, 2015 decision, Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP v. BMC Software, Inc., not only provides a comprehensive review of the fundamentals of appraisal actions, but also serves as a cautionary tale for merger arbitrageurs and other stockholders looking to seek appraisal remedies.

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Fair Price and Process in Delaware Appraisals

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, Gregory Beaman, and Carrie H. Lebigre. 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 21, 2015, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a post-trial opinion in an appraisal action in which it yet again found that the merger price was the most reliable indicator of fair value. Vice Chancellor Glasscock’s opinion in Merion Capital LP v. BMC Software, Inc., No. 8900-VCG (Del. Ch. Oct. 21, 2015), underscores, yet again, the critical importance of merger price and process in Delaware appraisal actions. In fact, as we have previously discussed, Merion is just the latest of several decisions by the Delaware Chancery Court over the past six months finding that merger price (following an arm’s length, thorough and informed sales process) represented the most reliable indicator of fair value in the context of an appraisal proceeding. See also LongPath Capital, LLC v. Ramtron Int’l Corp., No. 8094-VCP (Del. Ch. June 30, 2015); Merlin Partners LP v. AutoInfo, Inc., No. 8509-VCN (Del. Ch. Apr. 30, 2015).

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Delaware Court Refinement of Director Independence Analysis

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 by Mr. Deckelbaum, Justin G. Hamill, Stephen P. LambJeffrey D. Marell, Frances Mi, and Matthew D. Stachel. 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 Delaware County Employees Retirement Fund, et al. v. Sanchez, et al., the Delaware Supreme Court held that stockholder plaintiffs in a derivative action adequately alleged facts to support a pleading-stage inference that a director was not independent from an interested director due to their close, 50-year friendship and significant business relationships consistent with that friendship. The court thus reversed the Delaware Court of Chancery’s holding on the defendants’ motion to dismiss that the plaintiffs had failed to adequately plead demand excusal. The court emphasized that Delaware courts must analyze all the particularized facts pled by the plaintiffs “in their totality and not in isolation from each other.”

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In re Dole Food Company, Inc. and the Cost of Going Private

James Jian Hu is an associate in the corporate and mergers & acquisitions practice at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The views expressed in this post represent solely those of the author. 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 August 27, 2015, Vice Chancellor Laster authored a widely anticipated opinion providing valuable guidance on steering clear of a flawed process in a going-private transaction. David H. Murdock, the CEO and Chairman of Dole and a 40% shareholder, and C. Michael Carter, the General Counsel, President and COO of Dole and characterized as Murdock’s right-hand man, were found personally liable for $148 million to Dole shareholders. A number of considerations detailed in the court’s opinion serve as valuable reminders for practitioners guiding a controlling stockholder in a going-private process in the interest of minimizing post-closing litigation risk and liability exposure.

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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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