September 11, 2007
Accredited Home: A Shareholder Speaks
Yesterday, Stark Investments converted its Schedule 13G with respect to Accredited Home Lenders into a Schedule 13D. A Schedule 13D is required to be filed by any person or entity who holds greater than 5% of a publicly traded issuer. The switch to a 13D is required whenever a previously passive investor changes their intentions with respect to control of the issuer. Stark's letter is great reading, and I set it out in full as it again highlights the bind Lone Star is in. Although their letter is a bit over-dramatic, I also tend to agree with Stark's fears that Accredited is likely to cut a deal with Lone Star despite Lone Star's relatively weak case. Accredited's directors are likely to prefer the certainty of a lower deal versus the risk (however minute) that the Delaware court will rule against it, a decision they have substantial latitude to make since it is likely reviewable under the business judgment rule. The letter is also yet more ammunition for those advocating the benefits of hedge funds as valuable shareholder activists. Here it is:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Stark Investments and its affiliated investment funds (collectively, “Stark”) hold approximately 8.2% of the outstanding common shares of Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co. (“Accredited”). Based upon publicly available information, Stark appears to be Accredited’s second largest shareholder. We are writing with respect to the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated June 4, 2007, as amended June 15, 2007 (the “Agreement”), with Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. and its affiliates (collectively, “Lone Star”) and the related litigation pending in the Delaware Chancery Court.
On August 30, 2007, Lone Star publicly disclosed that it had made an offer to the Accredited Board of Directors to reduce the purchase price under the Agreement from $15.10 to $8.50 in exchange for resolving the pending litigation between Lone Star and Accredited. We believe that this offer is nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the inherent weakness in Lone Star’s litigation position under the Agreement. Based on our review of the Agreement, it is evident that Accredited endeavored to obtain, and did successfully negotiate, unambiguous terms preventing Lone Star from terminating the Agreement based upon the changes in Accredited’s operations or financial condition that have occurred since execution of the Agreement. We read the express language of the Agreement as being clear that Lone Star assumed the entire risk of a diminution of value of Accredited in the present circumstances. The fact that these terms were obtained from a seasoned and sophisticated buyer of troubled assets, which was advised by a law firm that is a recognized expert in advising parties to merger and acquisition transactions, is clear evidence of Lone Star’s unqualified desire and intent to acquire Accredited while assuming the aforementioned risk.
We are pleased that the Board of Directors recognizes the strength of Accredited’s position under the Agreement and has rejected Lone Star’s revised offer. We support this decision and offer our support to the Board of Directors as it continues to appropriately carry out its fiduciary duties, which duties, in our view, require Accredited to pursue all available remedies under the Agreement. The strong protections included in the Agreement were designed to benefit and protect Accredited and its shareholders in circumstances such as those now faced by Accredited, and should be used accordingly.
We believe that the greatest risk now faced by Accredited’s shareholders is neither the possibility of further deterioration of the non-prime residential mortgage loan market in which Accredited competes, nor the risk of an adverse outcome at trial. The first risk was eliminated when Lone Star signed the Agreement and a proper application of the facts and law by the Delaware Chancery Court should eliminate the second risk. Instead, we believe that the greatest risk facing Accredited’s shareholders is that the Board of Directors will attribute too much significance to the unlikely possibility of an adverse outcome at trial and settle for a price far removed from the value of Accredited’s existing claims against Lone Star.
After a thorough review of the Agreement, the facts in the public domain (including the prevailing market conditions at the time the Agreement was executed) and relevant case law, we believe that the Delaware Chancery Court will see this case as we see it – an experienced and sophisticated buyer (with a long history of successfully stepping into adverse industry environments, purchasing companies or assets at distressed prices and reaping significant rewards when recovery occurs) that is now trying to back away from a transaction and the risks it explicitly agreed to assume, when it appears to have concluded that its timing was inopportune in this instance. Moreover, Delaware courts require parties such as Lone Star to meet a heavy, and we believe insurmountable here, burden of proof when attempting to terminate obligations in reliance upon material adverse effect (“MAE”) clauses of the nature contained in the Agreement. When Lone Star agreed to acquire Accredited, it did so after a long due diligence exercise and a multi-bidder process that Accredited detailed in its Schedule 14D-9, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 19, 2007. There can be little question that Lone Star was aware prior to signing the Agreement of the impact already being felt by Accredited as a result of existing and ongoing adverse market conditions.
As Accredited’s second largest shareholder, we fully support and encourage the Board to continue to make decisions consistent with the strength of Accredited’s legal position. It appears that we are certainly not alone in this assessment. Given that the trading price of Accredited’s common stock on the New York Stock Exchange has been materially in excess of $8.50 since the announcement of Lone Star’s offer on August 30, 2007, we believe the market also recognizes the weakness of Lone Star’s position and is anticipating a recovery well in excess of today’s closing price of $10.14. Given the significant number of Accredited’s shares that have changed hands over the past few trading days, any shareholder that does not agree with the strength of Accredited’s position has had ample opportunity to sell its shares at levels far exceeding Lone Star’s proposed amended price. Accordingly, we believe that the current shareholder base is strongly supportive of Accredited’s decision to enforce the Agreement’s terms and to pursue all available remedies thereunder. Please note that we currently expect to include a copy of this letter with the Schedule 13D filing that we plan to make next week. We are available to discuss these matters with you at your convenience.
Very truly yours,
/s/ Brian J. Stark
Brian J. Stark Principal
cc: Mr. Len Allen
Lone Star U.S. Acquisitions
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The thing I would like some informed opinion on is the fate of the transaction if Accredited files for bankruptcy during the litigation process. My uninformed view would be that the company would have to be run for the benefit of the creditors, not the equity holders and therefore Accredited would be in effect legally required to accept a lesser payment from Lone Star that would be available to creditors instead of holding out for a payment to its shareholders.
Posted by: Richard Bliss, CFA | Sep 12, 2007 2:47:19 PM
So can m&a law professor tell me if a bankruptcy filing by Accredited would change the balance of power of this standoff. It would seem to my untutored mind that if Accredited was managed for the benefit of creditors that they would have to accept a lower payment from LS to the Company as opposed to holding out for a full payment to the shareholders. Could this be right?
Posted by: Richard Bliss CFA | Sep 12, 2007 4:06:29 PM