Justia Mergers & Acquisitions Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156C, 60(b) provides the exclusive remedy for dissenting members of a limited liability company that has voted to merge, so long as the merger is undertaken in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156C, 59-63.In this case, a member of a limited liability company (LLC) conducted a merger in breach of his fiduciary and contractual duties. The judge granted equitable relief. At issue was whether distribution of dissenting members’ interest in the LLC is the exclusive remedy of minority shareholders who objected to the merger and whether the judge erred in declining to rescind the merger. The Supreme Court held (1) where, as here, a merger was not conducted in compliance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156C, 63, the remedy provided by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156C, 60(b) providing for distribution of dissenting members’ interest is not exclusive; (2) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in fashioning an equitable remedy in this case, as rescission of the merger would be complicated and inequitable; and (3) the portion of the trial judge’s decision that increased Plaintiff’s interest in the merged LLC to five percent is remanded because there was no basis in the record for that figure. View "Allison v. Eriksson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the circuit court denying Petitioners’ motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and dismissing their pending amended complaint, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that, under controlling Delaware law, Petitioners lacked standing to pursue a derivative shareholder suit.Petitioners filed a derivative lawsuit alleging claims of breach of fiduciary duties against Massey Energy Company’s Board of Directors and corporate officers. Subsequently, faced with a potential merger between Massey and Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., Petitioners filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint seeking to add individual and class action claims on behalf of the shareholders themselves. After the merger, Respondents moved oi dismiss Petitioners’ amended complaint and motion for leave to file the proposed second amended complaint, arguing that, after the merger, Petitioners were no longer Massey shareholders and lacked standing to assert derivative claims, and that amending their complaint a second time would be futile. The circuit court dismissed the amended complaint and denied the motion for leave to file the second amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s order because Petitioners were no longer Massey shareholders. View "California State Teachers' Retirement System v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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In this action arising out of a reclassification of the shares of NRG Yield, Inc. (“Yield”), a stockholder alleged that members of the Yield board breached their fiduciary duties by approving the reclassification and that NRG Energy, Inc. (“NRG”), which managed Yield’s daily affairs, breached its fiduciary duty by causing Yield to undertake the reclassification. The Court of Chancery dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, holding (1) the reclassification was a conflicted transaction subject to entire fairness review; (2) the analytical framework articulated in Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp., 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014), applied to the reclassification; and (3) that framework was satisfied in this case from the face of the pleadings. View "IRA Trust FBO Bobbie Ahmed v. Crane" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a verified complaint against West to inspect its books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL). The Delaware Court of Chancery held in this post-trial opinion that plaintiff has demonstrated, by a preponderance of the evidence, a credible basis from which the court can infer that wrongdoing related to the merger may have occurred. The court rejected West's argument that the Corwin doctrine would stand as an impediment to an otherwise properly supported demand for inspection under Section 220. The court explained that any contrary finding would invite defendants improperly to draw the court into adjudicating merits defenses to potential underlying claims in order to defeat otherwise properly supported Section 220 demands. Furthermore, the court should not prematurely adjudicate a Corwin defense when to do so might deprive a putative stockholder plaintiff of the ability to use Section 220 as a means to enhance the quality of his pleading. Therefore, the court ordered a judgment entered in favor of plaintiff and directed West to allow inspection of the books and records at issue. View "Lavin v. West Corp." on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery dismissed a case brought by Plaintiff, a stockholder in The Fresh Market, alleging a breach of fiduciary duty by the Market’s directors and that Brett Berry, a former CEO and former vice chairman of the company’s board, aided and abetted that breach of fiduciary duty. The Market was acquired by an entity controlled by a private equity firm, and the founder of the Market rolled his equity ownership in the Market into the acquirer as part of the deal. The court held that because there was no coercion applied to the fully informed vote of the common stockholders ratifying the decision of the directors that the merger was in the stockholders’ best interest and the vote was adequately informed so as to serve as a ratification of the board’s decision, the matter must be dismissed. View "Morrison v. Berry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the court of appeals’ reversal of the district court’s grant of Company’s motion to dismiss Shareholder’s class action challenge to a merger transaction. The district court concluded (1) some claims were derivative, rather than direct, and were therefore subject to the demand and pleading requirements of Minn. R. Civ. P. 23.09; and (2) Shareholder failed to comply with Rule 23.09. The court of appeals reversed with the exception of one claim, concluding that most of the claims were direct, and therefore, Rule 23.09 did not apply. The Supreme Court clarified the test for distinguishing between direct and derivative claims and held that the district court did not err in dismissing some claims but erred in dismissing others. View "In re Medtronic, Inc. Shareholder Litigation" on Justia Law

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DFC Global Corporation (“DFC”) provided alternative consumer financial services, predominately payday loans. The 2014 transaction giving rise to this appraisal action resulted in DFC being taken private by Lone Star, a private equity firm. DFC was a highly leveraged company. Its capital structure was comprised of about $1.1 billion of debt as compared to a $367.4 million equity market capitalization, 20 resulting in a debt-to-equity ratio of 300% and a debt-to-total capitalization ratio of 75%. In the years leading up to the merger, DFC faced heightened regulatory scrutiny in the US, UK and Canada. The parties challenged DFC’s valuation for merger purposes. The Delaware Supreme Court surmised DFC wanted the Court to establish a presumption that in certain cases involving arm’s-length mergers, the price of the transaction giving rise to appraisal rights was the best estimate of fair value. The Supreme Court declined to do so, which in the Court’s view had no basis in the statutory text, which gave the Court of Chancery in the first instance the discretion to “determine the fair value of the shares” by taking into account “all relevant factors.” The Supreme Court must give deference to the Court of Chancery if its determination of fair value has a reasonable basis in the record and in accepted financial principles relevant to determining the value of corporations and their stock. Ultimately, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed and remanded the Court of Chancery’s valuation, remanding for the Chancellor to reassess the weight he chooses to afford various factors potentially relevant to fair value, and he may conclude that his findings regarding the competitive process leading to the transaction, when considered in light of other relevant factors, such as the views of the debt markets regarding the company’s expected performance and the failure of the company to meet its revised projections, suggest that the deal price was the most reliable indication of fair value. View "DFC Global Corporation v. Muirfield Value Partners, L.P., et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a merger agreement under which two companies involved in the gas pipeline business, Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (“ETE”), agreed to acquire the assets of The Williams Companies, Inc., (“Williams”). The Merger Agreement signed by Williams and ETE contemplated two steps: (1) Williams would merge into a new entity, Energy Transfer Corp LP (“ETC”); and (2) the transfer of Williams’ assets to ETE in exchange for Class E partnership units “would” be a tax-free exchange of a partnership interest for assets under Section 721(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. After the parties entered into the Agreement, the energy market suffered a severe decline which caused a significant loss in the value of assets of the type held by Williams and ETE. This caused the transaction to become financially undesirable to ETE. This issue ultimately led to ETE’s tax counsel, Latham & Watkins, LLP (Latham) being unwilling to issue the 721 opinion. Since the 721 opinion was a condition of the transaction, ETE indicated that it would not proceed with the merger. Williams then sought to enjoin ETE from terminating the Merger Agreement. The Court of Chancery rejected Williams’ arguments. After review, the Supreme Court found the Court of Chancery adopted an unduly narrow view of the obligations imposed by the covenants in the Agreement. The Supreme Court agreed with Williams that if a proper analysis of ETE’s covenants led to a conclusion that ETE breached those covenants, the burden would have shifted to ETE to prove that its breaches did not materially contribute to the failure of the closing condition. Since the facts as found by the Court of Chancery were that ETE’s lack of conduct did not contribute to Latham’s decision not to issue the 721 opinion, the Supreme Court was satisfied that when the burden of proving that ETE’s alleged breach of covenants is properly placed on it, ETE did meet its burden of proving that any alleged breach of covenant did not materially contribute to the failure of the Latham condition. The Court also agrees with the Court of Chancery’s finding that ETE was not estopped from terminating the Agreement. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Chancery was affirmed. View "Williams Companies, Inc. v. Energy Transfer Equity, L.P." on Justia Law

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IBM's proposed purchase of Merge Healthcare was supported by a vote of close to 80% of Merge stockholders. Former Merge stockholders sought post-closing damages against the company’s directors for what they alleged was an improper sale process. Merge did not have an exculpation clause in its corporate charter, so its directors have potential liability for acts violating their duty of care, in the context of an allegedly less-than-rigorous sales process. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed. Demonstrating such a violation of the duty of care is not trivial: it requires a demonstration of gross negligence, but it is less formidable than showing disloyalty. Regardless of that standard, the uncoerced vote of a majority of disinterested shares in favor of the merger cleansed any such violations, raising the presumption that the directors acted within their proper business judgment. View "In Re Merge Healthcare Inc. Stockholder Litigation" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a contract dispute between the purchaser (Purchaser) and the seller (Seller) of a corporation pursuant to a corporative merger agreement. The agreement provided for three different liability limitations (damage caps) in the event of Seller’s breaches. Seller breached several requirements of the agreement by failing to use certain accounting principles to accurately establish the financial condition of Seller’s corporation and, accordingly, the appropriate adjustment to the consideration to be paid by Purchaser. The amount of the adjustment was controlled by the indemnity Purchaser was entitled to receive under the relevant damage caps. The circuit court entered final judgment for Purchaser. The agent for the stockholders of Seller and former stockholders of Seller appealed, arguing that the circuit court improperly construed the merger agreement as to which damage cap was controlling under the facts of the case. The Supreme Court agreed with Appellants and reversed, holding that the circuit court applied the incorrect damage cap. View "Shareholder Representative Services v. Airbus Americas, Inc." on Justia Law