Justia Mergers & Acquisitions Opinion Summaries

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The case revolves around a dispute concerning a 2018 merger between FanDuel Ltd. and the U.S. assets of nonparty Paddy Power Betfair plc. The plaintiffs, founders and shareholders of FanDuel, alleged that the defendants, including FanDuel's board of directors and certain shareholders, deliberately undervalued FanDuel's assets during the merger negotiations, resulting in the preferred shareholders receiving all the benefits of the merger while the common shareholders received nothing. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by failing to obtain a fair valuation of the merger consideration and by promoting their own interests at the expense of the common shareholders.The Supreme Court of New York County partially granted and partially denied the defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint. The court held that New York law applied to the plaintiffs' claims because the internal affairs doctrine was inapplicable where the defendants were not current officers, directors, and shareholders at the time of the lawsuit. The court further held that the plaintiffs adequately stated their claims for breach of fiduciary duty under New York law.The Appellate Division reversed the order of the Supreme Court, holding that Scots law applied to the plaintiffs' claims under the internal affairs doctrine. The court stated that the directors of a company generally owe duties only to the company as a whole rather than to the shareholders, except in special factual circumstances not present in this case. Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty under Scots law.The Court of Appeals of New York reversed the order of the Appellate Division, holding that while Scots law applied to the plaintiffs' claims, the plaintiffs' allegations could give rise to a possible inference that special circumstances were present, which could give rise to a cognizable fiduciary duty claim under Scots law. Therefore, the court held that the Appellate Division erroneously granted the defendants' motions to dismiss the first, second, and fourth causes of action. View "Eccles v Shamrock Capital Advisors, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of pension funds (plaintiffs) who filed a lawsuit against Inovalon Holdings, Inc., and its board of directors (defendants), challenging an acquisition of Inovalon by a private equity consortium led by Nordic Capital. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties and unjustly enriched themselves through the transaction. They also alleged that the company's charter was violated because the transaction treated Class A and Class B stockholders unequally.In the lower court, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, the defendants moved to dismiss the case. They argued that the transaction satisfied the elements of a legal framework known as MFW, which would subject the board's actions to business judgment review. The Court of Chancery granted the defendants' motions to dismiss in full.On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware reversed the decision of the Court of Chancery. The Supreme Court found that the lower court erred in holding that the vote of the minority stockholders was adequately informed. The Supreme Court determined that the proxy statement issued to stockholders failed to adequately disclose certain conflicts of interest of the Special Committee’s advisors. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that the transaction did not comply with the MFW framework, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Sarasota Firefighters' Pension Fund v. Inovalon Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves 21 U.S. citizens and the family of a deceased U.S. citizen who were victims of rocket attacks by the Hizbollah terrorist organization in Israel in 2006. The plaintiffs allege that the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) provided financial services to Hizbollah, including facilitating millions of dollars in wire transfers through a New York-based correspondent bank. In 2011, LCB and Société Générale de Banque au Liban SAL (SGBL), a private company incorporated in Lebanon, executed a purchase agreement where SGBL acquired all of LCB's assets and liabilities. In 2019, the plaintiffs brought similar claims against SGBL, as LCB's successor, in the Eastern District of New York for damages stemming from the 2006 attacks.The federal district court dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction over SGBL. The court interpreted several Appellate Division and federal decisions to allow imputation of jurisdictional status only in the event of a merger, not an acquisition of all assets and liabilities. On appeal, the Second Circuit certified two questions to the New York Court of Appeals, asking whether an entity that acquires all of another entity's liabilities and assets, but does not merge with that entity, inherits the acquired entity's status for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction, and under what circumstances the acquiring entity would be subject to specific personal jurisdiction in New York.The New York Court of Appeals answered the first question affirmatively, stating that where an entity acquires all of another entity's liabilities and assets, but does not merge with that entity, it inherits the acquired entity's status for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction. The court declined to answer the second question as unnecessary. The court reasoned that allowing a successor to acquire all assets and liabilities, but escape jurisdiction in a forum where its predecessor would have been answerable for those liabilities, would allow those assets to be shielded from direct claims for those liabilities in that forum. View "Lelchook v Société Générale de Banque au Liban SAL" on Justia Law

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In 2020, Illumina, a for-profit corporation that manufactures and sells next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms, which are crucial tools for DNA sequencing, entered into an agreement to acquire Grail, a company it had initially founded and then spun off as a separate entity in 2016. Grail specializes in developing multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests, which are designed to identify various types of cancer from a single blood sample. Illumina's acquisition of Grail was seen as a significant step toward bringing Grail’s developed MCED test, Galleri, to market.However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) objected to the acquisition, arguing that it violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions that may substantially lessen competition. The FTC contended that because all MCED tests, including those still in development, relied on Illumina’s NGS platforms, the merger would potentially give Illumina the ability and incentive to foreclose Grail’s rivals from the MCED test market.Illumina responded by creating a standardized supply contract, known as the "Open Offer," which guaranteed that it would provide its NGS platforms to all for-profit U.S. oncology customers at the same price and with the same access to services and products as Grail. Despite this, the FTC ordered the merger to be unwound.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the FTC had applied an erroneous legal standard in evaluating the impact of the Open Offer. The court ruled that the FTC should have considered the Open Offer at the liability stage of its analysis, rather than as a remedy following a finding of liability. Furthermore, the court determined that to rebut the FTC's prima facie case, Illumina was not required to show that the Open Offer would completely negate the anticompetitive effects of the merger, but rather that it would mitigate these effects to a degree that the merger was no longer likely to substantially lessen competition.The court concluded that substantial evidence supported the FTC’s conclusions regarding the likely substantial lessening of competition and the lack of cognizable efficiencies to rebut the anticompetitive effects of the merger. However, given its finding that the FTC had applied an incorrect standard in evaluating the Open Offer, the court vacated the FTC’s order and remanded the case for further consideration of the Open Offer's impact under the proper standard. View "Illumina v. FTC" on Justia Law

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In this case surrounding the acquisition of Twitter Inc., the Court of Chancery denied Plaintiff's motion for mootness fees, holding that Plaintiff's claim was without merit.Defendants Elon R. Musk, X Holdings I, Inc., and X Holdings II, Inc. agreed to acquire Twitter Inc. pursuant to an agreement and plan of merger (merger agreement). After Defendants' counsel sent a letter to Twitter claiming to terminate the merger agreement Twitter filed a complaint seeking specific enforcement. Thereafter, the deal closed on the original terms of the merger agreement. Plaintiff, who held 5,500 shares of Twitter common stock, brought suit seeking specific performance and damages, claiming that Elon Musk breached his fiduciary duties as a controller of Twitter and that Defendants breached the merger agreement. This Court issued a memorandum opinion dismissing most of Plaintiff's complaint, leaving open the possibility that the damages provision in the merger agreement conveyed third-party beneficiary status to stockholders claiming damages for breach of the agreement. Months later, Plaintiff claimed partial credit for the consummation of the deal and petitioned for mootness fees in the amount of $3 million. The Court of Chancery denied Plaintiff's motion for mootness fees, holding that Plaintiff's claim was not meritorious when filed. View "Crispo v. Musk" on Justia Law

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Joy Global and Komatsu agreed to merge. Joy sent its investors disclosures required under the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78n. Subsequent suits contended that Joy violated the Act by not disclosing some internal projections of Joy’s future growth that could have been used to negotiate a higher price, rendering the proxy statements fraudulent, and that Joy’s directors violated their state law duties by not maximizing the price for the shareholders. The suits settled for $21 million.The district court held that the $21 million loss is not covered by insurance. The policies do not require indemnification for “any amount of any judgment or settlement of any Inadequate Consideration Claim other than Defense Costs.” An “inadequate consideration claim” is that part of any Claim alleging that the price or consideration paid or proposed to be paid for the acquisition or completion of the acquisition of all or substantially all the ownership interest in or assets of an entity is inadequate.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The suits assert the wrongful act of failing to disclose documents that could have been used to seek a higher price and are within the definition of “inadequate consideration claim.” The claims do not identify any false or deficient disclosures about anything other than the price. The only objection to this merger was that Joy should have held out for more money, and that revealing this would have induced the investors to vote “no.” View "Joy Global Inc. v. Columbia Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint brought by plaintiff against Employers Mutual and Defendant Kelley, asserting a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. Plaintiff was a minority shareholder of EMC, a spin-off from Employers Mutual. Defendant Kelley was the CEO and director of both EMCI and Employers Mutual. Plaintiff alleges that Employers Mutual structured EMCI as a shell company, preventing it from becoming a valuable company or acting independently from Employers Mutual. Plaintiff alleged in the complaint that, in the years leading up to the squeeze-out merger initiated by Employers to purchase EMCI's remaining shares, defendants breached fiduciary duties owed to him as a minority shareholder of EMCI.The court concluded that plaintiff's claim did not arise in the context of a contractual relationship; his alleged injury arose only from his status as a shareholder of EMCI; and this was insufficient under Iowa law to plausibly plead a special duty arising out of a contractual relationship. Furthermore, plaintiff did not adequately plead that his injury arose from a special duty. The court also concluded that plaintiff did not allege that his voting rights were ever affected by Employers Mutual and Kelley's alleged mismanagement. Even if this were Iowa law, plaintiff would not meet this exception.Accordingly, because plaintiff's claim is derivative in nature, he must satisfy federal and Iowa requirements for a filing a derivative action, which he has failed to do so. In this case, the complaint did not state with particularity plaintiff's efforts to enforce minority shareholder rights in the years leading up to the squeeze out. Furthermore, the complaint did not allege that he petitioned the directors or other shareholders in writing, or that 90 days have expired since delivery of the demand and EMCI rejected his request, or irreparable injury would result by waiting for the expiration of the ninety days. View "Shepard v. Employers Mutual Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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Azarax filed suit against defendant and his law firm, alleging legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. Azarax claimed that defendant and his firm were negligent in their representation of Convey Mexico and that Azarax had claims against defendant and his firm as a successor by merger to Convey Mexico.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and agreed with the district court that Azarax was not a valid successor in interest to Convey Mexico. In this case, the summary judgment record established that the shareholders of Convey Mexico did not unanimously provide written consent for the merger with Azarax Holding, so the merger was not valid. Therefore, Azarax lacked standing to sue defendant and his law firm. The court modified the judgment to dismiss the complaint without prejudice. View "Azarax, Inc. v. Syverson" on Justia Law

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JELD-WEN's customers, Steves and Sons, filed suit challenging JELD-WEN's acquisition of a competitor. After a jury found that the merger violated the Clayton Antitrust Act and that Steves and Sons was entitled to treble damages, the district court granted Steves and Sons' request to unwind the merger and plans to hold an auction for the merged assets after this appeal. The district court then held another trial before a different jury on JELD-WEN's countersuit against Steves and Sons for trade secret misappropriation, allowing three individuals to intervene in the case. The jury ruled in favor of Steves and Sons on most of JELD-WEN's claims and entered judgment for the intervenors.The Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court properly declined to grant JELD-WEN judgment as a matter of law on whether Steves and Sons demonstrated antitrust injury; the district court acted within its discretion by excluding certain evidence from the antitrust trial and by ordering JELD-WEN to unwind the merger, rejecting JELD-WEN's laches defense in the process; the district court properly found that equitable relief under the Clayton Act was appropriate because the merger created a significant threat that Steves and Sons will go out of business in 2021; and JELD-WEN has not shown that the district court's jury instructions in the trade-secrets trial were improper.However, the court vacated the jury's award of future lost profits to Steves and Sons in the antitrust trial because the issue is not ripe. The court explained that the injury on which the future lost profits award was premised cannot occur until September 2021, and the Clayton Act requires a plaintiff seeking damages—as opposed to equitable relief—to "show actual injury." The court also vacated the district court's entry of judgment for the intervenors in the trade-secrets case because JELD-WEN brought no claims against them. View "Steves and Sons, Inc. v. JELD-WEN, Inc." on Justia Law

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Towers Watson & Co. (“Towers”) and Willis Group Holdings Public Limited Company (“Willis”) executed a merger agreement with closing conditioned on the approval of their respective stockholders. Although Towers had stronger performance and greater market capitalization, Willis stockholders were to receive the majority (50.1 percent) of the post-merger company. Upon the merger’s public announcement, several segments of the investment community criticized the transaction as a bad deal for Towers and a windfall for Willis. Towers’ stock price declined and Willis’s rose in reaction to the news. Proxy advisory firms recommended that the Towers stockholders vote against the merger, and one activist stockholder began questioning whether Towers’ management’s incentives were aligned with stockholder interests. Also, after announcing the merger, ValueAct Capital Management, L.P. (“ValueAct”), an institutional stockholder of Willis, through its Chief Investment Officer, Jeffrey Ubben, presented to John Haley, the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and Chairman of Towers who was spearheading the merger negotiations, a compensation proposal with the post-merger company that would potentially provide Haley with a five-fold increase in compensation. Haley did not disclose this proposal to the Towers Board. In light of the uncertainty of stockholder approval, Haley renegotiated the transaction terms to increase the special dividend. Towers eventually obtained stockholder approval of the renegotiated merger. The transaction closed in January 2016, and the companies merged to form Willis Towers Watson Public Limited Company (“Willis Towers”). Haley became the CEO of Willis Towers and was granted an executive compensation package with a long-term equity opportunity similar to ValueAct’s proposal. At issue were stockholder suits filed in early 2018. Here, Towers stockholders alleged that Haley breached his duty of loyalty by negotiating the merger on behalf of Towers while failing to disclose to the Towers Board the compensation proposal. The Court of Chancery dismissed the claims, holding that the business judgment rule applied because “a reasonable board member would not have regarded the proposal as significant when evaluating the proposed transaction,” and further holding that plaintiffs had failed to plead a non-exculpated bad faith claim against the Towers directors. To the Delaware Supreme Court, plaintiffs argued the Court of Chancery erred in holding the executive compensation proposal was not material to the Towers Board. To this, the Supreme Court concurred, reversed the Court of Chancery, and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Fort Myers General Employees' Pension Fund v. Haley" on Justia Law