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.