Monday, November 28, 2016

Last Class? Coggins to the Rescue!

Today, I share a quick teaching tip/suggestion.

I taught my last classes of the semester earlier today.  For my Business Associations class, which met at 8:00 am, I was looking for a way to end the class meeting, tying things from the past few classes up in some way.  I settled on using the facts from a case that I used to cover in a former casebook that is not in my current course text:  Coggins  et al. v. New England Patriots Football Club, Inc., et al.  Here are the facts I presented:

  • New England Patriots Football Club, Inc. (“NEPFC”), the corporation that owns the New England Patriots, has both voting and nonvoting shares of stock outstanding.
  • The former president and owner of all of the voting shares of NEPFC, Sullivan, takes out a personal loan that only can be repaid if he owns all of the NEPFC stock outstanding.
  • The board and Sullivan vote to merge NEPFC with and into a new corporation in which Sullivan would own all the shares.
  • In the merger, holders of the nonvoting shares receive $15 per share for their common stock cashed out in the merger.

From this, I noted that three legal actions are common when shareholders are discontented with a cash-out merger transaction: appraisal actions, derivative actions for breach of fiduciary duty, and securities fraud actions.  Shareholders in NEPFC brought all three types of action.  (Footnote 9 of the Coggins case and the accompanying text explain that.)  

Having just covered business combinations, including approval and appraisal rights, and wanting to address some new information about the process of derivative litigation, the facts from the case worked well.  I am sure there are other cases or materials that also could have done the job.  (Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.)  But adding a little football and conflicting interests to the last class seemed like the right idea . . . .

 

 

November 28, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporations, Joan Heminway, M&A, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Patagonia, Black Friday, and Social Enterprise

It is not secret that Patagonia is one of the companies that I admire most; it may be my favorite company and is certainly in my top-five.

Patagonia's decision regarding its Black Friday sales adds to the reason I like the company. Patagonia will donate 100% of its Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental groups.

As I read it, the donations will be 100% of revenue, not profits, and the donations are estimated to be millions of dollars.

Patagonia is both a California benefit corporation and B corporation certified, but unlike many social enterprises, Patagonia often does things like the above that don't appear to be done just for the PR, and may actually hurt the company in the very short-term.

That said, Patagonia definitely has a good PR team and is probably getting millions of dollars of exposure out of this decision. And their apparel is quite expensive, so they may be able to afford to do things like this, based, in part, on the margins and goodwill built over time.  

November 25, 2016 in Business Associations, CSR, Haskell Murray, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Can/Should We Focus Capital on the Long Term?

I have been thinking about the long-short term investment horizon debate, definitions, empirics and governance design consequences for some time now (see prior BLPB post here and also see Joshua Fershee's take on the topic).  This has been on mind so much  that I am now planning a June, 2017 conference on that very topic in conjunction with the Adolf A. Berle Jr. Center on Corporations, Law & Society (founded by Charles “Chuck” O’Kelley at Seattle University School of Law). In planning this interdisciplinary conference where the goal is to invite corporate governance folks, finance and economics scholars, and psychologists and neuroscientist, I have had the pleasure of reading a lot of out-of-discipline work and talking with the various authors.  It has been an unexpected benefit of conference planning.   I also want some industry voices represented so I have reached out to Aspen Institute, Conference Board and a new group, Focusing Capital on the Long Term (FCLT), which I learned about through this process.

I share this with BLPB readers for several reasons.  The first is that the FCLT, is a nonprofit organization, a nonprofit organization for BUSINESS issues created and funded by BUSINESSES.  In July 2016, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, McKinsey & Company together with BlackRock, The Dow Chemical Company and Tata Sons founded FCLT. Other asset managers, owners, corporations and professional services firms (approximately 20) have joined FCLT as members.  Rather than the typical application of a chamber of commerce style organization or trade industry group, here the stated missing of FCLT is to “actively engage in research and public dialogue regarding the question of how to encourage long-term behaviors in business and investment decisions.” 

Second, FCLT has access to otherwise proprietary information—like C-suite executive surveys---and is conducting original research and publishing white papers and research reports on the issues of management pressures, and governance designs that may promote a long-term time horizon.

I know for some folks reading, especially those strongly aligned with a shareholder rights camp, will view this with skepticism as a backdoor campaign to promote executive/management power and bolster the reputation of professional service firms hired by those managers.**  For me, though the anecdotal experience is a valuable component to considering all sides to the debate.  It also helps articulate why and how the feedback loop of short-term pressures—even if it is only perceived rather than structurally quanitifable—may exist. 

Third, I found some of the materials, particularly the Rising to the Challenge of Short-termism, written by Dominic Barton, Jonathan Bailey, and Joshua Zoffer in 2016 to be a useful reading for my corporate governance seminar.  It helped to explain the gap between the law and the pressure of short-termism.  It also helped provide a window into at least some aspects of decision making and payoffs in the governance setting. It can be quite hard to give students a window in the C-suite and BOD dynamics that they are naturally curious about while in law school.  Even if you ideologically or empirically disagree with the claim of short-termism when trying to structure balanced reading materials that provide an introduction to the full scope of measures, these are resources worth considering. 

Rising to the Challenge of Short-termism, written by Dominic Barton, Jonathan Bailey, and Joshua Zoffer in 2016, draws upon a McKinsey survey of over 1,000 global C-Suite executives and board members.  The report describes increasing pressures on executives to meet short-term financial performance metrics and that the window to meet those metrics was decreasing.   The shortening time horizon shapes both operations decisions as well as strategic planning where the average plan has shrunk to 2 years or less.  Culture matters.  Firms with self-reported long-term cultures reported less willingness to take actions like cut discretionary spending or delay projects when faced with a likely failure to meet quarterly benchmarks compared with firms that didn’t self-report a long-term culture.  Sources of the pressure are perceived to come from within the board and executives, but also cite to greater industry-wide competition, vocal activist investors, earning expectations and economic uncertainty.  The article concludes with 10 elements of a long-term strategy as a mini action plan.

Straight talk for the long term: How to improve the investor-corporate dialogue published in March 2015.

Investing for the future: How institutional investors can reorient their portfolio strategies and investment management to focus capital on the long term, published in March 2015.  The paper identifies 5 core action areas for institutional investors focusing on investment beliefs, risk appetite statement, bench-marking process, evaluations and incentives and investment mandates to evaluate investment horizons.

A roadmap for focusing capital on the long term: A summary of ideas for asset owners, asset managers, boards of directors, and corporate management to focus on long-term value creation, published March 2015.

Long-term value summit in 2015 with a published discussion report made available February 2016.  “120 executives, investors, board members, and other leaders from around the world gathered in New York City for the Long-Term Value Summit. Their mandate: to identify the causes and mechanisms of the short-term thinking that has come to pervade our markets and profit-seeking institutions and, more importantly, to brainstorm actionable solutions”

**The initial board of directors, announced on September 28, 2016 at the first board meeting, include some well positioned folks within BlackRock (Mark Wiseman), McKinsey & Co. (Dominic Barton), Dow Chemical (Andrew Liveris), Unilever (Paul Polman) and more. The BOD will be advised by Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, as well.

 

-Anne Tucker

November 23, 2016 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Financial Markets, Joshua P. Fershee, Management, Shareholders | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Still Worried About Teaching Business Associations . . . .

Thanks to all who responded to my query two weeks ago on teaching corporate fiduciary duties.  I continue to contemplate your suggestions as I recover from the cold that has consumed me now for a week.  Don't catch this version of the common cold!  It's a bear.

Anyway, the weekend after I published that post, I presented at a super symposium on shareholder rights at the University of Oklahoma College of Law--"Confronting New Market Realities: Implications for Stockholder Rights to Vote, Sell, and Sue," hosted by the Oklahoma Law Review.  (I spoke on rights to sell securities purchased in an offering exempt from registration under the CROWDFUND Act, Title III of the JOBS Act.)  Although it was not part of the formal agenda for the symposium, I got a chance to chat informally with a group of folks at and after the conference, including our host, Megan Shaner, along with Jessica Erickson, Gordon Smith, and Vice Chancellor Travis Laster from the Delaware Chancery Court (among others) about fiduciary duty complexity.  All, even the Vice Chancellor, had sympathy, offering ideas for simplifying corporate fiduciary duty law (as opposed to merely the teaching of it) that made sense.  And it seems that among those of us in the academy, there are many ways this material currently is taught in an introductory Business Associations/Organizations or Corporations course.

Of course, I am not the only one worried about teaching the law of business associations.  In extended discussions on the topic, co-blogger Marcia Narine raised a great question.  In general, she asked how one might teach business associations law to a relatively small class.  I understand that she in the past has taught 60-75 students in a four-credit-hour course.  That's similar to my situation at UT Law.  I typically teach up to 72 students (although I teach a three-credit-hour-course).  But in the future, Marcia may teach as few as 30 students in her four-credit-hour offering.  

She noted that she doesn't want to overburden the students or herself, but she wants to think about doing things differently.  She floated the idea of more peer grading.  I suggested in response that my oral midterm exam becomes more palatable in a smaller class.  I also noted that I would generally use more skills training in that environment and maybe even introduce current events or group presentations (2-3 students in each group) over the course of the semester.  But I also allowed as how I wouldn't try too many things all at once.  In fact, I noted that she might be better off just deepening what she already does that works.

What ideas do you have?  Do some of you teach a Business Associations class that includes as few as 30 students?  Do you use any specific pedagogies or tools that may be especially useful in a course like Business Associations/Organizations--a basic doctrinal upper-division course--when taught to a 30-student class?  Do you have any tricks of the trade you would feel comfortable offering?  If so, please post them in the comments.

In other Business Associations teaching news, I requested and have received permission to increase my Advanced Business Associations offering to three credit-hours from two.  This is great news.  I use this course to focus in more on publicly held and closely held firms, business combinations, derivative and securities litigation, and social enterprise and corporate social responsibility topics.  I ask the students to describe and assess the interaction among policy, theory, doctrine, and practice skills in corporate governance.  I like to have the students read full cases and law review articles, in addition to teaching text and excerpts.  (And I now plan to add Ann Lipton's new book chapter to the reading list this spring for the part of the course in which we cover the importance of bylaw amendments to contemporary corporate governance.  Great timing.)  

Bottom line?  The course, structured this way, just felt too densely packed with only two hours per week of teaching time.  So, my last two-credit-hour version of the course will be taught this spring.  Then, I will revamp the syllabus to add the extra credit-hour for 2018.  Interestingly, it was my students who came to me originally asking for the change, because they wanted to pause more over some of the material.  I did, too.  So, now I am not worried about this any more.  One thing to take off the ever-growing list of Business Associations teaching worries . . . .

 

November 21, 2016 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Faith and Work in Churches

Interest from churches in the integration of faith and work seems to have grown exponentially over the past few decades. That said, as far back as Martin Luther, there has been a call to view even jobs outside of ministry as a vocation or religious calling.  

I plan to update this post from time to time, and I may add more discussion, but for now, I will just list some of the church-founded or church-connected faith & work initiatives or resources below. I welcome suggestions for additions to this list.

Organizations 

Presentations and Panels

Books

November 18, 2016 in Business Associations, Haskell Murray, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teaching Corporate Fiduciary Duty Law; Teaching Complexity

Each year, I rethink how I teach fiduciary duties in the corporate law context in my Business Associations course.  My learning objectives for the students are both limited and involved.  On the one hand, there's little room in my three-credit-hour course for a nuanced understanding of all of the contexts in which corporate fiduciary duty claims typically occur.  In particular, I have determined to leave out the public company mergers and acquisitions context almost completely.  On the other hand, I find myself juggling uncertain classifications of duty components, explanations of seemingly mismatched standards of conduct and liability, and judicial review standards in and outside the Delaware corporate law context.  It's a handful.  It's teaching complexity.

Of course, fiduciary duty is not the only complex matter that one must teach in Business Associations.  But it is, for me, one of the topics I am least confident that I "get right" in my interactions with students in and outside the classroom.  Accordingly, as I again head toward the end of the semester, I find myself wondering whether I could have done--or could do--more with the students in my Business Associations course this semester.  This leads me to ask my fellow business law professors (that's you!) whether any of you have materials, teaching techniques, exercises (in-class or out-of-class), etc. that you find to be particularly effective in educating law students the basics and nuances of corporate fiduciary duties.  

So, have at it!  Share your corporate fiduciary duty teaching successes in the comments, if you would.  I am all ears.  I know that what you report will benefit me and others (including our students), and I hope that your comments will generate a continuing conversation . . . .

 

November 8, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Faith and Business: Introduction

From Hobby Lobby to Chick-fil-A to Indiana’s RFRA to wedding photographers and wedding cake bakers, “faith and business” has been in the headlines quite a bit over the past few years.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write a series of posts exploring developments in this area of faith and business. I plan three additional posts, looking at faith and business (sometimes called, "faith and work") initiatives in (1) universities, (2) churches, and (3) businesses. My comments in this series will have a Christian focus, as that is my faith and is the area with which I am most familiar, but I welcome comments from any faith tradition.

Based on what I have seen around the country, many universities, churches, and businesses seem to be increasing their focus on the integration of faith and business. For some, this is a terrifying development. For others it is long overdue. I submit that both sides should attempt to engage in perspective-taking and nuanced discussion in an attempt to reach common ground.

As someone who prioritizes his faith, I also want to share my personal thoughts on the area of “faith and business” in this introductory post. First, some Christians, myself included, often lose sight of the fact that Jesus said that all the law hangs on loving God and loving others. Jesus cared for the societal outcasts (here, here, and here), while strongly (but lovingly) criticizing the spiritual leaders. He had and has followers with a diverse variety of political views. Jesus did things like healing people on the Sabbath that appeared to break religious law, but actually fulfilled the true, loving spirit of the law. Second, as Inside Edition correspondent Megan Alexander reminded Belmont University students and faculty last week, Christians should focus on doing high quality work, because the Christian scripture instructs for us to our work “heartily, as for the Lord.” This is a tough one for me, as I am often dissatisfied with my work product, but I think the call is to do the absolute best work you can do, with your talents and given your various responsibilities. Third, and finally, I think participants in the “faith and business” conversation have to realize that people of faith are unlikely to be able to leave their faith at home. There can be good conversations about how that faith can and should be expressed in business, but I don’t think it is realistic to think that serious people at faith can just turn off their beliefs while at work. While the discussions about the interplay of faith and business may be difficult, they are important discussions to have in this pluralistic society.

November 4, 2016 in Business Associations, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Management, Religion | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

AALS 2017 Annual Meeting: Overview of Socio-Economics Programs

 

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting will be held Tuesday, January 3 – Saturday, January 7, 2017, in San Francisco.  Readers of this blog who may be interested in programs associated with the AALS Section on Socio-Economics & the Society of Socio-Economics should click on the following link for the complete relevant schedule: 

Download Socio-Economic AALS Participants + Descriptions 161018

Specifically, I'd like to highlight the following programs:

On Wednesday, Jan. 4:

9:50 - 10:50 AM Concurrent Sessions:

  1. The Future of Corporate Governance:
    How Do We Get From Here to Where We Need to Go?
    andre cummings (Indiana Tech)                            Steven Ramirez (Loyola - Chicago)
    Lynne Dallas (San Diego) - Co-Moderator        Janis Sarra (British Columbia)
    Kent Greenfield (Boston College)                        Faith Stevelman (New York)
    Daniel Greenwood (Hofstra)                                 Kellye Testy (Dean, Washington)
    Kristin Johnson (Seton Hall)                                 Cheryl Wade (St. John’s ) Co-Moderator
    Lyman Johnson (Washington and Lee)
  2. Socio-Economics and Whistle-Blowers
    William Black (Missouri - KC)                                 Benjamin Edwards (Barry)
    June Carbone (Minnesota) - Moderator             Marcia Narine (St. Thomas)

1:45 - 2:45 PM Concurrent Sessions:

1. What is a Corporation?
Robert Ashford (Syracuse) Moderator                             Stefan Padfield (Akron)
Tamara Belinfanti (New York)                                             Sabeel Rahman (Brooklyn)
Daniel Greenwood (Hofstra)

On Thursday, Jan. 5:

3:30 - 5:15 pm:
Section Programs for New Law Teachers
Principles of Socio-Economics
in Teaching, Scholarship, and Service
Robert Ashford (Syracuse)                                                     Lynne Dallas (San Diego)
William Black (Missouri - Kansas City)                             Michael Malloy (McGeorge)
June Carbone (Minnesota)                                                     Stefan Padfield (Akron)

On Saturday, Jan. 7:

10:30 am - 12:15 pm:
Economics, Poverty, and Inclusive Capitalism
Robert Ashford (Syracuse)                                                     Stefan Padfield (Akron)
Paul Davidson (Founding Editor                                          Delos Putz (San Francisco)
Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics)                             Edward Rubin (Vanderbilt)
Richard Hattwick (Founding Editor,
Journal of Socio-Economics)

October 23, 2016 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Law and Economics, Law School, Marcia Narine Weldon, Research/Scholarhip, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Belmont Law Professor Position

Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, TN has posted a professor opening and the school's areas of interest include business law. My appointment is in Belmont's business school, but I also occasionally teach in the law school, and I could not recommend the school (or the city of Nashville) more highly. I have updated my business law professor openings post here and am happy to add other postings. 

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Belmont University College of Law, located in vibrant Nashville, Tennessee, invites applications from entry- to mid-level candidates for a tenure-track faculty position to begin in 2017-18.  Our primary areas of recruiting focus include criminal law, business law, and health law.

Applicants should have an exemplary academic record and should demonstrate outstanding achievement or potential in scholarship and teaching.  Our goal is to recruit dynamic, bright, and highly motivated individuals who are interested in making significant contributions to our law school and its students.  Practice experience is preferred, and teaching experience is desirable.  For more information about the College of Law, visit our website at www.belmont.edu/law.

Belmont University College of Law is an ABA accredited law school with approximately 300 students in the heart of Nashville, one of the fastest growing and most culturally rich cities in the country.  In 2015, graduates of the College of Law had the highest bar passage rate in Tennessee, and the school continues to produce strong employment outcomes for its students.  For more information about the College of Law, visit our website at www.belmont.edu/law.

Belmont University is a private, coeducational university in a quiet area convenient to downtown Nashville and adjacent to Music Row.  It is the largest Christian-centered university in Tennessee and among the fastest growing in the nation.  Among its student body of over 7,500 are students from nearly every state and more than 25 countries. In addition to seven baccalaureate degrees in over 50 areas of study, Belmont offers master’s degrees in Business Administration, Accountancy, English, Education (including Sports Administration), Music, Nursing and Occupational Therapy, and doctorates in Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Pharmacy, and Law.

The successful candidate will also share the University’s values and support our mission and vision of promoting Christian values by example.  To apply, please contact lawfaculty.recruitment@belmont.edu.

A comprehensive, coeducational university, Belmont is a student-centered, teaching university focusing on academic excellence.  The university is dedicated to providing students from diverse backgrounds an academically challenging education.  Belmont is an EOE/AA employer under all applicable civil rights laws.  Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

October 21, 2016 in Business Associations, Haskell Murray, Jobs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, October 14, 2016

DiMatteo on Strategic Contracting

As a professor who moved from a law school to a business school, I remain amazed how little the two legal scholarly worlds overlap. I do, however, think the overlap is increasing somewhat, as more professors move between the two types of schools and the conferences and journals becoming a bit less segregated. That said, I imagine that many of our law professor readers may have missed legal studies professor Larry DiMatteo's (University of Florida, Warrington College of Business) 2010 American Business Law Journal article on strategic contracting. I had not read it until I moved to a business school and met Larry at a legal studies conference. Larry's article is proving useful in my current work, so I thought I would share it here with our readers. Abstract reproduced below:

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This paper uses sources taken from the legal literature, as well as literature from strategy and human resource management. It explores Professor Gilson’s noted remark in the Yale Law Journal that “business lawyers serve as transaction cost engineers and this function has the potential for creating value.” This exploration focuses on the strategic use of contract law in gaining a competitive advantage and to create value. It begins by differentiating two frames of the contract paradigm. One is the internal frame in which contract law’s inherent flexibility allows for its use as a source of competitive advantage. The second frame is external since it focuses on the use of the contract paradigm in non-contractual contexts.

The paper examines the use of contract to create value and uses for examples, the commodification of information, licensing and IT outsourcing, and franchising. From there, the paper explores the use of contracts to sustain a competitive advantage (strategic contracting) and to create shared competitive advantages (strategic collaboration). It uses the creation and use of patent pools to illustrate both strategic uses of contract law. The next part focuses on the use of contracts to mitigate uncertainty in business transactions. It explores the strategic use of existing contract doctrines, the use contracts to insure performance and to deter opportunistic behavior, and the use of contracts to develop a preventive legal strategy. This is followed by the examination of contracting for innovation and contracts’ role in creating private governance structures, such as strategic joint venturing.

The final parts explore the use of contract as metaphor in nexus of contact theory in corporate law, psychological contract theory in employment law, and the potential abuse of the freedom of contract paradigm in limited liability company law. The paper then examines strategic responses to regulation by asking whether strategic avoidance or non-compliance to regulations has a place in a company’s legal strategy? The paper concludes by asking how does strategic contracting impact contract law? It answers the question by arguing that contract law change is inevitable due to a feedback loop.

October 14, 2016 in Business Associations, Haskell Murray, Lawyering, Management, Negotiation, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wells Fargo as a Teaching Tool on Corporate Governance

Today I used Wells Fargo as a teaching tool in Business Associations. Using this video from the end of September, I discussed the role of the independent directors, the New York Stock Exchange Listing Standards, the importance of the controversy over separate chair and CEO, 8Ks, and other governance principles. This video discussing ex-CEO Stumpf’s “retirement” allowed me to discuss the importance of succession planning, reputational issues, clawbacks and accountability, and potential SEC and DOJ investigations. This video lends itself nicely to a discussion of executive compensation. Finally, this video provides a preview for our discussion next week on whistleblowers, compliance, and the board’s Caremark duties.

Regular readers of this blog know that in my prior life I served as a deputy general counsel and compliance officer for a Fortune 500 Company. Next week when I am out from under all of the midterms I am grading, I will post a more substantive post on the Wells Fargo debacle. I have a lot to say and I imagine that there will be more fodder to come in the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out this related post by co-blogger Anne Tucker.

October 13, 2016 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Compliance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Ethics, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dear Business Law Casebook Authors,

As you know, assessment is of critical importance these days, and I am confident that in a few years most, if not all, law school casebooks will come with effective, out-of-the-box, turnkey assessments. If you believe your book is already there, or even close, please send your pitch to me at spadfie@uakron.edu. Assuming no unforeseen problems, I plan to post these pitches here, as I am sure they will be of interest to many of our readers.

September 14, 2016 in Books, Business Associations, Law School, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Limited Partnership Law: Should Tennessee Follow Delaware's Lead On Fiduciary Duty Private Ordering?

I originally was going to write about overconfidence today.  But I will reserve that post for a later date.  Instead, for today, I am sharing with you a Tennessee legislative drafting issue on which my voice (together with the voices of others) has been solicited and asking for your views and comments.

A committee of the Tennessee Bar Association has been working on proposed revisions to the Tennessee Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act.  Several thorny issues remain for consideration and final decision making, among them, whether Tennessee law, like Delaware limited partnership and limited liability company law, should allow for the elimination of general partner fiduciary duties.  The committee soon will be voting on this issue, and we are circulating among us our current views (having earlier debated the matter in telephone conference calls).  I took a shot at writing down my views for the group and circulated them last night.  I am including the main substantive part of what I wrote here, minus some typos that I caught after the message was sent (and please forgive the disfluencies in places), and requesting comments from you:

Continue reading

September 5, 2016 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Legislation, Partnership | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, August 29, 2016

First time this has happened in 16+ years of law teaching . . . .

Imagine this: Professor walks into Business Associations class Monday morning at 8:00 am having prepared to cover 14 pages of reading when she assigned only three (intending, when creating the syllabus, as she later recalled, to use the time to summarize, contrast, and compare agency law rules that will again come into play in partnership and other entity law--and to catch up, if need be).  OK.  The professor is me.  First lesson (which I thought I had learned many moons ago): always double-check the syllabus on what you've assigned.
 
So, what happened in class?  Well, the students didn't let on that the outline for the class plan that I scripted out on the whiteboard seemed to go beyond the reading.  But they might not have recognized that, since it was only an outline.  However, once I started covering the unassigned material, someone did alert me to my error.  Shocked (!), I told them that I had been too nice (weak response) and that--obviously--I had not checked the syllabus to confirm the day's reading assignment before scripting out the class plan and preparing for class.
 
I didn't then let the students go after learning of the mistake (having covered in summary fashion those three pages in about 15 minutes of class time). Instead, I constructed a hypothetical set of facts relating to a business conducted as a sole proprietorship from the facts of the partnership case on the syllabus for Wednesday (which I had prepared to cover for today) and asked the students to analyze contract and tort liability based on the hypothetical using the agency law rules we covered over the past four classes.  Detriment: people weren't prepared for this based on the prompts in the syllabus for today's class, and it took a while (and a board diagram) to establish the facts of the hypothetical with some (albeit far-from-perfect) clarity.  Benefit: many students learned that they don't yet know/understand agency law, and I got the opportunity to give the students a few pointers on how partnership law will be different from agency law.
 
Did I make the right choice?  I am following up with a post on the course TWEN site to capture the agency law rules we covered in class (to which the students did not have many salient citations).  What else can I do to take this lemon and turn it into lemonade?  All suggestions are welcomed.

August 29, 2016 in Agency, Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Partnership, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Guest Post: Tides May Be Slowly Turning in Delaware Appraisal Arbitrage

If it is true that “a good thing cannot last forever,” the recent turn of events concerning appraisal arbitrage in Delaware may be a proof point. A line of cases coming out of the Delaware Court of Chancery, namely In re Appraisal of Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc., No. CIV.A. 1554-CC (Del. Ch. May 2, 2007), In re Ancestry.Com, Inc., No. CV 8173-VCG (Del. Ch. Jan. 5, 2015), and Merion Capital LP v. BMC Software, Inc., No. CV 8900-VCG (Del. Ch. Jan. 5, 2015), have made one point clear: courts impose no affirmative evidence that each specific share of stock was not voted in favor of the merger—a “share-tracing” requirement. Despite this “green light” for hedge funds engaging in appraisal arbitrage, the latest case law and legislation identify some new limitations.

What Is Appraisal Arbitrage?

Under § 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL), a shareholder in a corporation (usually privately-held) that disagrees with a proposed plan of merger can seek appraisal from the Court of Chancery for the fair value of their shares after approval of the merger by a majority of shareholders. The appraisal-seeking shareholder, however, must not have voted in favor of the merger. Section 262, nevertheless, has been used mainly by hedge funds in a popular practice called appraisal arbitrage, the purchasing of shares in a corporation after announcement of a merger for the sole purpose of bringing an appraisal suit against the corporation. Investors do this in hopes that the court determines a fair value of the shares that is a higher price than the merger price for shares.

In Using the Absurdity Principle & Other Strategies Against Appraisal Arbitrage by Hedge Funds, I outline how this practice is problematic for merging corporations. Not only can appraisal demands lead to 200–300% premiums for investors, assets in leveraged buyouts already tied up in financing the merger create an even heavier strain on liquidating assets for cash to fund appraisal demands. Additionally, if such restraints are too burdensome due to an unusually high demand of appraisal by arbitrageurs seeking investment returns, the merger can be completely terminated under “appraisal conditions”—a contractual countermeasure giving potential buyers a way out of the merger if a threshold percentage of shares seeking appraisal rights is exceeded. The article also identifies some creative solutions that can be effected by the judiciary or parties to and affected by a merger in absence of judicial and legislative action, and it evaluates the consequences of unobstructed appraisal arbitrage.

The Issue Is the “Fungible Bulk” of Modern Trading Practices

In the leading case, Transkaryotic, counsel for a defending corporation argued that compliance with § 262 required shareholders seeking appraisal prove that each of its specific shares was not voted in favor of the merger. The court pushed back against this share-tracing requirement and held that a plain language interpretation of § 262 requires no showing that specific shares were not voted in favor of the merger, but only requires that the current holder did not vote the shares in favor of the merger. The court noted that even if it imposed such a requirement, neither party could meet it because of the way modern trading practices occur.

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August 17, 2016 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Case Law, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Delaware, Financial Markets, Private Equity, Shareholders | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Instagram and Valuing Businesses

In the spring of 2012, around the time that Facebook purchased Instagram for roughly $1 billion, I was teaching an M&A class.

At the time, I had difficulty explaining why Facebook would pay that amount of money for a company that was not only not profitable, but also had no revenue. I spoke as someone trained to use multiples EBITDA and as someone who did not (and still does not) have an Instagram account.

Now, over four years later, Forbes estimates Instagram's value at $25billion to $50billion. That valuation still requires some creativity, as Instagram had sales of "only" $630 million in 2015. Instagram, however, has added roughly 100 million new users in the last 9 months and is projected to have revenue of $1.5billion this year. While there is reason to be wary of projections, the projected sales for Instagram in 2018 is an impressive $5billion.

This drives home that valuation is as much art as science, and the conventional valuation methods will not work well for every company. In that deal, I imagine Instagram's technology, brand, and the user base were all large value drivers. With the benefit of hindsight, Instagram is looking like a good acquisition for Facebook, even if the current projections end up being a bit optimistic. 

August 12, 2016 in Business Associations, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, M&A | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Richmond Law Professor Openings

From an e-mail I received:

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The University of Richmond School of Law seeks to fill two entry-level tenure-track positions for the 2017-2018 academic year, including one in corporate/transactional law.  Candidates should have outstanding academic credentials and show superb promise for top-notch scholarship and teaching.  The University of Richmond, an equal opportunity employer, is committed to developing a diverse workforce and student body and to supporting an inclusive campus community.  Applications from candidates who will contribute to these goals are strongly encouraged. 

Inquiries and requests for additional information may be directed to Professor Jessica Erickson, Chair of Faculty Appointments, at lawfacultyapp@richmond.edu

August 10, 2016 in Business Associations, Haskell Murray, Jobs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fiduciary Duty Waiver in Delaware Alternative Entities

Just in case you haven't gotten the message yet:  Delaware law means fiduciary duty freedom of contract for alternative entities.  In May 2016, the Delaware Chancery Court upheld a waiver of fiduciary duties in a master limited partnership.  In Employees Retirement System of the City of St. Louis v. TC Pipelines GP, Inc., Vice Chancellor Glasscock upheld challenges to an interested transaction (sale of a pipeline asset to an affiliated entity) that was reviewed, according to the partnership agreement, by a special committee and found to be fair and reasonable.  The waiver has been described as "ironclad" to give you a sense of how straight forward this decision was. No close call here.  

Vice Chancellor Glasscock's letter opinion starts:

Delaware alternative entity law is explicitly contractual;1 it allows parties to eschew a corporate-style suite of fiduciary duties and rights, and instead to provide for modified versions of such duties and rights—or none at all—by contract. This custom approach can be value enhancing, but only if the parties are held to their bargain. Where equity holders in such entities have provided for such a custom menu of rights and duties by unambiguous contract language, that language must control judicial review of entity transactions, subject only to the cautious application of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Such is the case in the instant matter, which involves a master limited partnership (“MLP”) created with interested transactions involving the general partner as part of its business model.....

The Defendants point out that the [transaction] was approved by a special committee (the “Conflicts Committee”), which approval, in accordance with the partnership agreement, creates a conclusive presumption that the transaction is fair and reasonable to the Partnership. I find that the Conflicts Committee’s approval, in these circumstances, precludes judicial scrutiny of the substance of the transaction and grant the Defendants’ Motion.

Importantly, the contractual safe harbor for interested transactions established a process which, if followed, created a fair and reasonable transaction outside of judicial scrutiny and without recourse by the other partners.  The court found that the partnership agreement precluded a good faith analysis of the Conflicts Committee's review and limited the court's review purely to matters of process.

The relevant portions of the Special Approval provision, importantly, are silent as to good faith.....According to the contractual language, the Special Approval of a duly constituted and fully informed Conflicts Committee is conclusive evidence that such transaction is fair and reasonable, and such approval is, therefore, preclusive of further judicial review. The Plaintiff does not allege that the Conflicts Committee was not duly constituted—that is, directors who are neither security holders nor employees or officers of the General Partner or its affiliates. Nor does the Plaintiff allege that the Conflicts Committee was not fully informed. Thus, the approval here is conclusive that the [transaction] is “fair and reasonable” to TCP. According to the explicit language of the LPA, when a conflicted transaction is deemed “fair and reasonable” by the terms of the agreement, such conflicted transaction is incapable of breaching the LPA.

Get the message? LOUD and CLEAR!

The opinion contains more analysis and excerpts of the relevant portions of partnership agreement.  Look for an excerpt on this case in my ChartaCourse (electronic platform) Business Organizations casebook

-Anne Tucker

July 27, 2016 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Delaware, Litigation, LLCs, Partnership, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Direct v. Derivative under the Tennessee Business Corporation Act

In a recent decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Keller v. Estate of Edward Stephen McRedmond, Tennessee adopted Delaware's direct-versus-derivative litigation analysis from Tooley v. Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette, Inc., 845 A.2d 1031 (Del. 2004), displacing a previously applicable test (that from Hadden v. City of Gatlinburg, 746 S.W.2d 687 (Tenn. 1988)).  Although this is certainly significant, I also find the case interesting as an example of the way that a court treats different types of claims that can arise in typical corporate governance controversies (especially in small family and other closely held businesses).  This post covers both matters briefly.

The Keller case involves a family business eventually organized as a for-profit corporation under Tennessee law ("MBI").  As is so often the case, after the children take over the business, a schism develops in the family that results in a deadlock under a pre-existing shareholders' agreement.  A court-ordered dissolution follows, and after a bidding process in which each warring side of the family bids, the trustee contracts to sell the assets of MBI to members of one of the two family factions as the higher bidder.  These acquiring family members organize their own corporation to hold the transferred MBI assets ("New MBI") and assign their rights under the MBI asset purchase agreement to New MBI

Prior to the closing, the losing bidder family member, Louie, then an officer and director of MBI who ran part of its business (its grease business), solicited customers and employees, starved the MBI grease business, diverted business opportunities from MBI's grease business to a corporation he already had established (on the MBI property) to compete with MBI in that business sector, and engaged in other behavior disloyal to MBI.  Louie's actions were alleged to have contravened a court order enforcing covenants in the MBI asset purchase agreement. They also were allegedly disloyal and constituted a breach of his fiduciary duty of loyalty to MBI.  Finally, they constituted an alleged interference with New MBI's business relations.  

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July 25, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway, Shareholders | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Benefit Corporation Articles in the ABA's Business Law Today

There are a number of short articles on benefit corporations in today's issue of the ABA's Business Law Today, including one on benefit corporation reporting by me.

My contribution is based on my 2015 West Virginia Law Review article, An Early Report on Benefit Reports, which showed under 10% compliance with benefit corporation reporting, noted problems with the statutory framework, and suggested statutory amendments.

July 21, 2016 in Business Associations, Haskell Murray, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (2)