Justia Mergers & Acquisitions Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Mergers & Acquisitions
Shepard v. Employers Mutual Casualty Co.
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
Azarax, Inc. v. Syverson
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
Steves and Sons, Inc. v. JELD-WEN, Inc.
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
City of Fort Myers General Employees’ Pension Fund v. Haley
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
Chase v. First Federal Bank of Kansas City
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' putative class action against First Federal and former directors of Inter-State. Plaintiffs alleged that Inter-State's merger with First Federal was inequitable because Inter-State had $25 million more than First Federal in excess capital. Plaintiffs claimed that the surplus should have been distributed to Inter-State's members instead of becoming part of the merged entity, and that the decision to merge should have been decided by a vote of Intra-State's members.The court held that the district court correctly concluded, based on long-standing Supreme Court precedent, that Inter-State's members did not have an ownership interest in its surplus. Even assuming a provision in Inter-State's charter was unique and that this was a case of first impression, the court held that Inter-State's members would not have an ownership interest in the $25 million surplus based on the provision's plain language. Therefore, without an ownership interest, plaintiffs have not stated a claim against defendants and the district court properly dismissed their claims expressly premised on an ownership interest in the surplus. View "Chase v. First Federal Bank of Kansas City" on Justia Law
Federal Trade Commission v. Sanford Health
The FTC and the State of North Dakota moved to enjoin Sanford Bismarck's acquisition of Mid Dakota, alleging that the merger violated section 7 of the Clayton Act. The district court determined that plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing the acquisition would substantially lessen competition in four types of physician services in the Bismarck-Mandan area.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction, holding that the district court did not improperly shift the ultimate burden of persuasion to defendants and properly followed the analytical framework in U.S. v. Baker Hughes, Inc., 908 F.ed 981 (D.C. Cir. 1990); the district court did not clearly err in defining the relevant market; and the district court's finding on merger-specific efficiencies was not clear error. View "Federal Trade Commission v. Sanford Health" on Justia Law
Fasano v. Li
The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, based on forum non conveniens grounds, alleging claims for damages under federal and state law in connection with a ʺgoing private mergerʺ by which certain controlling defendants purchased American Depositary Shares (ADSs) from Dangdang's minority shareholders.The court held that the district court abused its discretion by failing to consider the forum selection clause contained in the relevant documents and its impact on the forum non conveniens analysis. The court rejected defendants' claim that plaintiffs waived their reliance on the forum selection clause by failing to raise the issue in the district court. The court also held that remand to the district court was necessary for the district court to consider the scope and enforceability of the forum selection clause. View "Fasano v. Li" on Justia Law
Pure Presbyterian Church v. Grace of God Presbyterian Church
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court entering an order enforcing a merger agreement between two churches, holding that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this dispute.The two churches in this case entered into a merger agreement memorializing a merger between the churches. When one of the churches (Defendant) decided it wished to withdraw from the “proposed” merger, the other church (Plaintiff), instituted this action. The jury returned a special verdict in favor of Plaintiff, finding that the parties had reached a merger agreement and that Plaintiff had performed its obligations under the merger agreement. The trial court entered a final order in accord with the merger agreement and the jury’s verdict. Defendant sought to vacate the trial court’s order, arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter it. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction either to adjudicate a breach of contract claim or to issue a declaratory judgment on the merger contract, and a pending bankruptcy did not foreclose the trial court’s adjudication of the merger contract. View "Pure Presbyterian Church v. Grace of God Presbyterian Church" on Justia Law
Athlon Sports Communications, Inc. v. Duggan
At issue in this dissenters’ rights case was the methods by which a trial court may determine the “fair value” of shares of a dissenting shareholder under Tennessee’s dissenters’ rights statutes, Tenn. Code Ann. 48-23-101, et seq.The Supreme Court overruled Blasingame v. American Materials, Inc., 654 S.W.2d 659 (Tenn. 1983), to the extent Blasingame implicitly mandates use of the Delaware Block method for determining the fair value of a dissenting shareholder’s stock and adopted the more open approach set forth in Weinberger v. UOP, Inc., 457 A.2d 701, 712-13 (Del. 1983), which departs from the Delaware Block method and permits fair value to be determined by using any technique or method that is generally acceptable in the financial community and admissible in court.Defendant minority shareholders were forced out of a corporation as a result of a merger. The corporation sought a determination as to the fair value of the minority shareholders’ stock. The trial court may have based its decision to discredit the testimony of the dissenting shareholders’ expert on the basis that Blasingame compelled use of the Delaware Block method to determine stock value. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court to reconsider its valuation determination in light of this decision to partially overrule Blasingame. View "Athlon Sports Communications, Inc. v. Duggan" on Justia Law
City of North Miami Beach General Employees’ Retirement Plan v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc.
At issue was the availability of appraisal rights under section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.Section 262 affords stockholders of Delaware corporations a statutory remedy for appraisal of their shares under certain circumstances. The statute provides that appraisal rights shall be available only for the shares of stock of a “constituent corporation” in a merger or consolidation, and the process for determining a stockholder’s entitlement to appraisal contemplates that the stockholder will relinquish its shares in the merger of consolidation. In the instant case, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. and Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. agreed to combine their businesses. Dr Pepper stated that Dr Pepper stockholders would not have appraisal rights under section 262 in connection with the proposed transaction. Two stockholder plaintiffs filed this action challenging that decision. The Court of Chancery held (1) the term “constituent corporation” as used in section 262 means an entity actually being merged or combined and not the parent of such an entity, and therefore, Dr Pepper’s stockholders do not have a statutory right to appraisal under section 262(b) because Dr Pepper is not a constituent corporation; and (2) Dr Pepper stockholders are not entitled to appraisal because they are retaining their shares in connection with the proposed transaction. View "City of North Miami Beach General Employees’ Retirement Plan v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc." on Justia Law