Showing 259 posts in M&A.
Chancery Examines Director’s Personal Ties and Dismisses Duty of Loyalty Claim
In re Orbit/FR, Inc. S’holders Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0340-SG (Jan. 24, 2023)
This decision involved a stockholder challenge to a merger between Orbit and its controller, Microwave Vision. A certain director who served on a special committee was alleged to have breached his fiduciary duty of loyalty in approving the transaction, arising out of his alleged conflict as an employee beholden to the controller for his job. After admitting the allegation of an employment relationship was a mistake, the plaintiff shifted to alleging the director lacked independence based on his personal relationship with another director, who served on the boards of both Orbit and Microwave Vision. The two directors had been neighbors, their children were contemporaries, and they frequently went bicycling together years earlier. On a motion to dismiss, the Court of Chancery found that these "casual sharing of interests between neighbors” did not give rise to a conflict for the at-issue director and did not support a non-exculpated duty of loyalty claim against him.
Chancery Denies Motion to Dismiss Finding Primedia Argument Inapplicable
In Re Orbit/FR, Inc. Stockholders Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0340-SG (Del. Ch. January 9, 2023)
In In re Primedia, Inc. S’holders Litig., 67 A.3d 455 (Del. Ch. 2013), the Court examined whether a litigation asset being pursued derivatively was extinguished by the sale of the company to a third party that had no interest in pursuing the claim and had not valued the claim as an asset in the merger. Primedia sets forth certain stringent standards to assert a claim that the merger was unfair based on such a derivative claim. More ›
Chancery Finds SPAC’s Sponsor and Board Potentially Violated Fiduciary Duties by Depriving Public Stockholders of the Information Material to the Stock Redemption Decision
Delman v. GigAcquisitions3 LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0679-LWW (Del. Ch. January 4, 2023)
Delaware law establishes that fiduciaries of a corporation cannot be exempted from "their loyalty obligation and the attendant equitable standards of review that [the] court will apply to enforce it." In this case, following last year's Multiplan decision (discussed here), stockholders alleged that a SPAC's sponsor and board members breached their fiduciary duties by failing to disclose information material to the stockholders' decision on whether to redeem the stock prior to the de-SPAC transaction. This decision denies the defendants' motion to dismiss and finds that stockholders properly brought the lawsuit as a class action based on the fact that the alleged harm they suffered was individually compensable. More ›
Chancery Upholds Claims Post-Merger
Harris v. Harris, C.A. No. 2019-0736-JTL (Del. Ch. Jan. 6, 2023)
Delaware law allows for two exceptions to the continuous stock ownership rule for stockholders to bring and maintain standing to assert derivative claims that predate a transaction: (1) when the transaction, which would otherwise deprive the plaintiffs of standing, is essentially a reorganization that does not affect the plaintiff’s relative ownership in the post-merger enterprise; or (2) when a plaintiff stockholder loses standing based on a merger consummated for the purpose of depriving the stockholder of the ability to bring or maintain a derivative action. Stockholders with derivative claims that predate a transaction also may assert direct claims to challenge a merger by pleading that the value of the derivative claim is material in the context of the merger, that the acquirer did not assign value or provide additional consideration for the value of the derivative claim, and that the acquirer will not assert the derivative claim. More ›
Citing MFW, Court of Chancery Dismisses Merger Challenge
Smart Local Unions and Councils Pension Fund v. BridgeBio Pharma, Inc., C.A. No. 2021-1030-PAF (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2022)
Typically, the “entire fairness” standard of review applies to any transaction in which a controlling stockholder acquires the outstanding minority shares. But, under the MFW framework, the more lenient business judgment standard of review may apply if the controller can establish that, among other things, an independent, fully-empowered special committee met its duty of care to negotiate a fair price for the shares and also that an informed, uncoerced majority of the minority stockholders approved the transaction. More ›
Chancery Trims Contract Claims in Post-Merger Dispute
In Re P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC, Consol. C.A. 2021-0518-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 31, 2022)
Plaintiff Hudson Vegas Investment SPV, LLC asserted various claims after its minority interest in Defendant P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC was wiped out in a business combination between P3 and a SPAC. The Court of Chancery has issued several decisions in the case; this one dealt with Hudson’s various claims for breach of P3’s LLC agreement. More ›
Chancery Sustains M&A Fraud Claims Based On Near-Term EBITDA Projections
In re P3 Health Grp. Hldgs., LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0518-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 26, 2022)
This recent decision addresses three points of interest relevant to fraud claims.
First, while fraud claims generally involve statements of fact, future projections can support a fraud claim. The statement of future projection must be sufficiently specific, and the plaintiff must plead that the projection was fraudulently conceived. In this case, the Court of Chancery found plaintiff had sufficiently pleaded a fraud claim based on a specific EBITDA projection figure for the current year in which the statement was made. According to the plaintiff, the company missed the projected EBITDA number by roughly $52 million, with a projected EBITDA of $12.7 million and actual year-end results of negative $40 million. Because it was a near-term projection, and one reasonably conceivable inference from the large difference was that the defendant knowingly made a false representation, the Court found the plaintiff sufficiently pleaded a fraud claim based on the EBITDA projection. More ›
Chancery Grants Specific Performance For Release of Escrowed Funds, Rejects Sellers’ Representative’s Arguments to Withhold Funds As Inconsistent With Purchase Agreement’s Plain Language and the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
Am. Healthcare Admin. Services Inc. v. Aizen, C.A. No. 2019-0793-JTL (Del. Ch. Nov. 18, 2022)
Parties to acquisition agreements often have discretion concerning when to instruct an escrow agent to distribute funds post-closing, but any such discretion is limited by the plain language of the agreement and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This decision addresses the availability of an unclean hands defense to contract claims seeking equitable relief. More ›
Chancery Finds Asset Purchase Agreement Required Buyer to Indemnify Seller for Liability Under State Tobacco Settlement
ITG Brands LLC v. Reynolds Am., Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0129-LWW (Del. Ch. Sept. 30, 2022)
Plaintiff acquired four cigarette brands from the defendant under an asset purchase agreement. Prior to entering into the APA, the seller had been making annual payments to the State of Florida based on the annual volume of tobacco product sales under a preexisting settlement agreement. The purchaser did not join the settlement, and the seller stopped making payments to Florida. Florida sued both parties in a Florida court over the lack of payments and obtained a judgment that the seller must continue to make settlement payments based on the purchaser’s own sales of the acquired brands. The seller and purchaser brought claims against each other in the Court of Chancery to determine which party bore responsibility for the Florida judgment. More ›
Chancery Finds Personal Jurisdiction Over Individual Who Formed Delaware Entities in Connection with a Challenged Merger Transaction
In Re P3 Health Grp. Hldgs., LLC, Consol. C.A. No. 2021-0518-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 14, 2022)
The Court of Chancery rejected an individual defendant’s challenge to Delaware’s assertion of personal jurisdiction over him. Although the defendant portrayed himself as merely a shareholder of Delaware entities (which is not in itself a basis for personal jurisdiction), the Court found that he had transacted business in the state for purposes of Delaware’s Long Arm Statute because he also formed two entities as part of a planned merger. It did not offend due process to require the individual to defend litigation related to the merger in Delaware because there was a nexus between his contacts and the claims and because he should have reasonably anticipated that Delaware would exercise jurisdiction over him in litigation arising from the merger.
Chancery Concludes That Transaction Meets MFW Standard
In re Match Grp. Inc. Deriv. Lit., Cons. C.A. 2020-0505-MTZ (Del. Ch. Sep. 1, 2022)
Under the so-called MFW framework, a transaction with a controller is subject to business judgment review, rather than the more exacting entire fairness review, if the transaction satisfies all six procedural protections elaborated in Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp., 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014). In simple terms, the MFW framework mimics the two key protections that exist in a transaction with a third party by requiring an independent negotiating agent (i.e., a board committee) and approval by the majority of the non-controlling stockholders. But the standard can be difficult to meet because the failure to comply with a single condition is fatal. Nonetheless, here, the Court of Chancery concluded that the transaction satisfied all six elements of the MFW framework because the as-pled facts established that the special committee had necessary authority, that a majority of the special committee was sufficiently independent, that the special committee satisfied its duty of care in negotiating a fair price, and that the minority stockholders approved the transaction through an uncoerced and informed vote. Because the plaintiff did not plead any claim that would overcome the application of the business judgment rule, the Court dismissed the case.
Chancery Declines to Order Acquirer to Make Contingent Payments after Discontinuing Development of a Medical Product
Pavel Menn v. ConMed Corp., C.A. No. 2017-0137-KSJM (Del. Ch. June 30, 2022)
Plaintiff was a representative of stockholders who had entered into a stock purchase agreement (“SPA”), in which the defendant acquired a company engaged in developing a medical product. The SPA allocated the risk of continued development via a contingent payment structure, including milestone payments and earn-out payments. The defendant agreed to use “commercially best efforts” to maximize the payments, and to accelerate the payments to the stockholders if the defendant permanently discontinued development or sale of the product, except for certain reasons, including risk of injury to patients. After making several milestone payments, the defendant discontinued development due to concerns of the risk of injury to patients. The plaintiff demanded acceleration payments and brought claims when defendant declined to make these payments. More ›
Stockholder Lacks Standing to Enforce the Merger Agreement but May Be Able to Recover Lost Premium Through an Action for Damages
Crispo v. Musk, C.A. No. 2022-0666-KSJM (Del. Ch. Oct. 11, 2022)
Stockholders generally have standing as third-party beneficiaries of corporate contracts under only limited circumstances. As this decision notes, whether contractual language gives standing to stockholders can be “a thorny legal issue.” More ›
Delaware Supreme Court Explains Appraisal Rights and Finds Disclosure Violation Relating to Pre-Closing Dividend Contingent on a Merger
In re GGP, Inc. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0267 (Del. July 19, 2022)
Here, the defendants organized a merger so that a large majority of the total value of the merger would be granted as a pre-closing dividend to stockholders and that the remaining amount would be granted in return for the stockholder’s shares. In the resulting litigation, stockholders argued that the defendants’ structuring of the merger unlawfully denied or diluted the stockholders’ right to seek appraisal and that the defendants’ disclosures regarding the structuring were deficient. The defendants prevailed on a motion to dismiss before the Court of Chancery. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found that the dividend conditioned on the merger’s consummation was part of the merger consideration for appraisal purposes under Delaware law, that receipt of the dividend did not disqualify stockholders from seeking appraisal, and that plaintiff’s claim regarding the structure, therefore, was properly dismissed. But the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the related disclosure claim. The plaintiffs alleged that the director defendants, aided and abetted by the acquirer, had deprived stockholders of their appraisal rights by improperly describing what would be subject to appraisal. The Supreme Court agreed and held that the disclosures were confusing and materially misleading. The proxy stated that stockholders were entitled only to the amount that remained after the pre-closing dividend. But this was incorrect as a matter of Delaware law, as the stockholders were also entitled to appraisal for the pre-closing dividend. Two justices dissented from the majority’s holding regarding the disclosure claim.
Chancery Upholds Brophy Claim and Finds Post-Merger Direct Standing Based On Process Challenge
Goldstein v. Denner, C.A. No. 2020-1061-JTL (Del. Ch. June 2, 2022)
This motion to dismiss decision upholds a Brophy claim against an activist investor and director who was alleged to have concealed an eventual acquiror’s expression of interest while he leveraged that inside information to buy more stock and profit after the short-swing period’s expiration. The Court of Chancery found it was reasonable in the circumstances to infer materiality of the expression of interest, which represented a nearly 65% premium over the company’s trading price, and that the fiduciary was motivated to act upon it. The Court also found that a merger did not eliminate the plaintiff’s standing under the contemporaneous ownership requirement. The Court rejected the defendant's argument under Primedia regarding the asserted immateriality of the value of the plaintiff’s claims in the context of the merger. As the Court explained, under Parnes, a stockholder could may assert “a direct claim challenging a merger if the facts giving rise to what otherwise would constitute a derivative claim led either to the price or the process being unfair.” Here, the plaintiff’s allegations challenged the fairness of the sale process – a process that the activist allegedly delayed to serve his own interests at the expense of the Company running a better process or remaining independent.