Tag: Merger litigation


2015 Year-End Securities Litigation Update

Jonathan C. Dickey is partner and Co-Chair of the National Securities Litigation Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn publication.

The year was yet another eventful one in securities litigation, from the Supreme Court’s game-changing opinion in Omnicare regarding liability for opinion statements, to several significant opinions out of the Delaware courts regarding, among other things, financial advisor liability and the apparent end to disclosure-only settlements. This post highlights what you most need to know in securities litigation developments and trends for the last half of 2015:

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Chancery Court on Disclosure-Only Settlements

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.

It’s a familiar story in M&A transactions. A merger is announced and, within days, the plaintiffs’ bar scrambles to file suits on behalf of the selling company’s stockholders, alleging that the seller’s board agreed to an inadequate price and made misleading disclosures about the deal. After going through “the motions”—the plaintiffs file a motion for preliminary injunction and the defendants produce certain agreed-upon documents—a settlement is reached whereby the plaintiffs give defendants a broad release in exchange for (often immaterial and unhelpful) supplemental disclosures and the defendants’ agreement to pay (and not to oppose court approval of) a “six-figure” fee award to plaintiffs’ counsel. According to the Trulia Court, the result is tantamount to a deal “tax” on M&A transactions.

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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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Delaware Court Guidance on Merger Litigation Settlements

Theodore N. Mirvis is a partner in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton publication by Mr. Mirvis, 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.

In an opinion last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery rejected a disclosure-only settlement of a putative stockholder class-action lawsuit challenging a merger. In re Trulia, Inc. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 10020-CB (Del. Ch. Jan. 22, 2016). Continuing and perhaps completing its recent reevaluation of merger litigation settlement practice, the Court made clear that it “will be increasingly vigilant in scrutinizing” such settlements in the future and that disclosure claims should be litigated (if at all) outside the settlement context.

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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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A Busy Year in U.S. M&A Antitrust Enforcement

Ilene Knable Gotts is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum authored by Ms. Gotts and Franco Castelli.

As M&A activity reached an unprecedented level in 2015, the U.S. antitrust agencies continued to actively investigate and pursue enforcement actions impacting transactions in many sectors of the economy. The overall level of merger enforcement was roughly in line with the aggressive levels of the past few years, with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice on a combined basis initiating court challenges to block seven proposed deals and requiring remedies in 23 more. In addition, companies abandoned four transactions due to opposition from the antitrust agencies.

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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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U.S. Antitrust Agencies and Challenges to Mergers

David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and activism, and crisis management at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Katz, Joseph D. Larson, and Nelson O. Fitts.

Yesterday [December 7, 2015] was a busy day for antitrust enforcement, as the United States Federal Trade Commission sued to block the proposed merger of Staples, Inc. with Office Depot, Inc., and the Department of Justice announced that AB Electrolux and General Electric Company have abandoned their proposed transaction after five months of litigation with the DOJ. These events highlight aggressive positions the FTC and DOJ are taking with respect to market definition and competitive effects at the end of President Obama’s second term, leading to a number of court challenges seeking to block proposed deals.

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Putting RBC Capital In Context

John C. Coates is the John F. Cogan, Jr. Professor of Law and Economics at Harvard Law School. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In a recent decision, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld Chancery Court decisions requiring RBC Capital—a unit of the Royal Bank of Canada—to pay $76 million to Rural/Metro shareholders based on RBC Capital’s advisory work for Rural/Metro in its 2011 sale to Warburg Pincus. RBC Capital sought a buy-side financing role for Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm, while giving Rural/Metro sell-side advice, and sought to leverage its role in the Rural/Metro deal for work in an unrelated deal without disclosing that fact to Rural/Metro’s board. As a result, under the Revlon standard the Court applied to the case, RBC Capital “aided and abetted breaches of fiduciary duty by former directors of Rural/Metro Corporation,” said the Court, even as it sought to limit the holding by stating that “a board is not required to perform searching and ongoing due diligence on its retained advisors … to ensure that the advisors are not acting in contravention of the company’s interests….”

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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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