Tag: Shareholder suits


In re Lions Gate: Corporate Disclosure of Securities Enforcement

David M.J. Rein is a partner in the Litigation Group at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP . This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell memorandum by Mr. Rein and Jacob E. Cohen. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On January 22, 2016, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Judge John Koeltl) dismissed In re Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Securities Litigation, a putative securities fraud class action lawsuit, brought under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The complaint alleged that the company should have disclosed publicly the pendency of a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) investigation, the company’s intention to settle with the SEC and the company’s receipt of a so-called “Wells Notice”—i.e., a letter from the SEC Enforcement Division staff informing the company that it “has decided to recommend that the Commission bring an enforcement proceeding.”

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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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2015 Securities Law Developments

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, Paul F. RuganiKatherine L. Maco, Katie Lieberg Stowe, and Suzette Pringle.

On balance, the securities litigation landscape in 2015 offered a glass half-full/glass half-empty perspective for issuers and their officers, directors and advisors. Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), the major securities law decision of the 2015 Supreme Court term, afforded defendants relatively greater protection from liability based on public statements of opinion, as long as those opinions are honestly held and have a reasonable factual basis. The SEC suffered several notable setbacks, with some federal courts striking as unconstitutional the highly debated conflict minerals rule and the SEC’s method of appointing administrative law judges. The Second Circuit significantly restricted federal prosecutors’ ability to pursue downstream recipients of non-public information, resulting in a spate of overturned convictions and withdrawn guilty pleas. And although decisions from lower courts within the Second Circuit dismissing derivative lawsuits will be subject to less deferential review, both the Second Circuit and the Delaware Supreme Court reaffirmed that decisions of independent and disinterested boards to reject stockholder demands are entitled to business judgment rule protection, thereby precluding minority shareholder second guessing in private lawsuits. Yet the results were not uniformly favorable to the defense. The SEC took an expansive view of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower anti-retaliation provision, formalizing its view that such protections apply to whistleblowers who allege retaliation for reporting internally (as opposed to reporting to the SEC). The Second Circuit endorsed the SEC’s view shortly thereafter. And, the early returns from last year’s second Supreme Court decision in Halliburton suggest that rebutting the Basic presumption of reliance through price impact evidence will be a lofty hurdle for defendants at the class certification stage. Below is a roundup of key securities law developments in 2015 and trends for 2016.

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Compensation Season 2016

Michael J. Segal is senior partner in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Segal, Jeannemarie O’BrienAdam J. ShapiroAndrea K. Wahlquist, and David E. Kahan. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Paying for Long-Term Performance by Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried (discussed on the Forum here).

Boards of directors and their compensation committees will soon shift attention to the 2016 compensation season. Key considerations in the year ahead include the following:

  1. Say-on-Pay. If a company anticipates a challenging say-on-pay vote with respect to 2015 compensation, it should proactively reach out to large investors, communicate the rationale for the company’s compensation programs and give investors an opportunity to voice any concerns. Shareholder outreach efforts, and any changes made to the compensation program in response to such efforts, should be highlighted in the proxy’s Compensation Disclosure and Analysis. ISS FAQs indicate that one possible way to reverse a negative say-on-pay recommendation is to impose more onerous performance goals on existing compensation awards and to disclose publicly such changes on Form 8-K, though the FAQs further note that such action will not ensure a change in recommendation. Disclosure of prospective changes to the compensation program will demonstrate responsiveness to compensation-related concerns raised by shareholders.

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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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Failure-of-Oversight Claims Against Directors

John F. Savarese is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum by Mr. Savarese, Emil A. Kleinhaus, C. Lee Wilson, and Noah B. Yavitz. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of purported shareholder derivative claims alleging that directors of JPMorgan Chase, a Delaware corporation, failed to institute internal controls sufficient to detect Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Central Laborers v. Dimon, No. 14-4516 (2d Cir. Jan. 6, 2016) (summary order). The decision represents a forceful application of Delaware law holding that, when directors are protected by standard exculpation provisions in the corporate charter, they will not be liable for alleged oversight failures absent a particularized showing of bad-faith misconduct.

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Delaware Rules on “Without Cause” Director Removal

William Savitt is a partner in the Litigation Department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton firm memorandum, and is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Court of Chancery recently held that a corporation without a classified board or cumulative voting may not restrict stockholders’ ability to remove directors without cause. In re Vaalco Energy S’holder Litig., C.A. No. 11775-VCL (Dec. 21, 2015). The ruling gives rise to questions for the many companies with similar charter or bylaw provisions.

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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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The Dutch Poison Pill: How is it Different from an American Rights Plan?

Leonard Chazen is a Senior Counsel of Covington & Burling LLP, and a member of the New York Bar. Peter Werdmuller is the founding partner of Werdmuller & Co. B.V., and a member of the New York and Rotterdam (the Netherlands) Bar. This post is based on an article authored by Mr. Chazen and Mr. Werdmuller.

During the spring and summer of this year, the so-called “Dutch Poison Pill” made it to the front pages of the business sections of The New York Times [1] and The Wall Street Journal. [2] The Dutch Poison Pill received this extraordinary attention because of its use by Mylan N.V. (“Mylan”), a NASDAQ-quoted Dutch public limited liability company (or, “Dutch N.V.”) to ward off an unsolicited takeover bid by the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (“Teva”). Mylan, which had previously been a Pennsylvania corporation, became a Dutch N.V. in early 2015 through an inversion, which involved merging Mylan into a newly created Dutch acquisition vehicle that also acquired certain non-U.S. businesses of Abbott Laboratories.

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