Thursday, August 27, 2015
From the law school at the University of Richmond:
The University of Richmond School of Law seeks to fill three entry-level tenure-track positions for the 2016-2017 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
From our appointments chair I have the following announcement:
BOSTON COLLEGE LAW SCHOOL expects to make two faculty appointments in fields that might include constitutional law and/or taxation. Hiring rank would be dependent on the background and experience of the applicant. Applicants must possess a J.D. or equivalent degree and outstanding academic credentials. Relevant experience in private practice, government service, or a judicial clerkship is strongly preferred. Boston College is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, or any other classification protected under federal, state or local law. We strongly encourage women, minorities and others who would enrich the diversity of our academic community to apply. To learn more about how BC supports diversity and inclusion throughout the university please visit the Office of Institutional Diversity at http://www.bc.edu/offices/diversity. Boston College, a Jesuit, Catholic university, is located in Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Interested applicants should contact: Diane Ring, Chair, Appointments Committee, at email@example.com, or at Boston College Law School, 885 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02459.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Since the financial crisis in 2008, the DOJ has been teaching yet another generation of insider traders the important lesson that one shall not trade on confidential inside information. However, that campaign took a big - one might say devastating - hit when the Second Circuit overturned Judge Rakoff and threw out insider trading convictions in US v Newman. In Newman, the court held:
[W]e hold that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a guilty verdict against Newman and Chiasson for two reasons. First, the Government's evidence of any personal benefit received by the alleged insiders was insufficient to establish the tipper liability from which defendants' purported tippee liability would derive. Second, even assuming that the scant evidence offered on the issue of personal benefit was sufficient, which we conclude it was not, the Government presented no evidence that Newman and Chiasson knew that they were trading on information obtained from insiders in violation of those insiders' fiduciary duties.
Under Dirks, in order for an insider to generate 10b-5 liability, they have to breach their fiduciary duty by receiving some personal benefit. Until Newman, courts have generally construed the personal benefit requirement fairly broadly. So, where friends share inside information until Newman courts have generally agreed with the government's position that that was sufficient for purposes of Dirks' personal benefit requirement. Newman narrowed that area of agreement significantly:
We have observed that "[p]ersonal benefit is broadly defined to include not only pecuniary gain, but also, inter alia, any reputational benefit that will translate into future earnings and the benefit one would obtain from simply making a gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend." Jiau, 734 F.3d at 153 (internal citations, alterations, and quotation marks deleted). This standard, although permissive, does not suggest that the Government may prove the receipt of a personal benefit by the mere fact of a friendship, particularly of a casual or social nature. If that were true, and the Government was allowed to meet its burden by proving that two individuals were alumni of the same school or attended the same church, the personal benefit requirement would be a nullity. To the extent Dirks suggests that a personal benefit may be inferred from a personal relationship between the tipper and tippee, where the tippee's trades "resemble trading by the insider himself followed by a gift of the profits to the recipient," see463 U.S. at 664, 103 S.Ct. 3255, we hold that such an inference is impermissible in the absence of proof of a meaningfully close personal relationship that generates an exchange that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature. In other words, as Judge Walker noted in Jiau, this requires evidence of "a relationship between the insider and the recipient that suggests a quid pro quo from the latter, or an intention to benefit the [latter]."
I suppose an explicit quid pro quo requirement is consistent with where the US Supreme Court has been going in recent years in its political corruption cases, so one shouldn't be too surprised that a circuit court also goes this way.
Judge Rakoff who heard the Newman case at the District Court level was obviously none to happy with being overruled. Why do I say that? Well, because of a Ninth Circuit case handed down this past June. In US v. Salman, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion written by ... Judge Rakoff sitting by designation, declined to follow Newman:
[Appellant] Salman reads Newman to hold that evidence of a friendship or familial relationship between tipper and tippee, standing alone, is insufficient to demonstrate that the tipper received a benefit. In particular, he focuses on the language indicating that the exchange of information must include "at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature," id. at 452, which he reads as referring to the benefit received by the tipper. Salman argues that because there is no evidence that Maher received any such tangible benefit in exchange for the inside information, or that Salman knew of any such benefit, the Government failed to carry its burden.
To the extent Newman can be read to go so far, we decline to follow it. Doing so would require us to depart from the clear holding of Dirks that the element of breach of fiduciary duty is met where an "insider makes a gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend." Dirks, 463 U.S. at 664. Indeed, Newman itself recognized that the "`personal benefit is broadly defined to include not only pecuniary gain, but also, inter alia, . . . the benefit one would obtain from simply making a gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend.'" Newman, 773 F.3d at 452(alteration omitted) (quoting United States v. Jiau, 734 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2013)).
In our case, the Government presented direct evidence that the disclosure was intended as a gift of market-sensitive information. Specifically, Maher Kara testified that he disclosed the material nonpublic information for the purpose of benefitting and providing for his brother Michael. Thus, the evidence that Maher Kara breached his fiduciary duties could not have been more clear, and the fact that the disclosed information was market-sensitive — and therefore within the reach of the securities laws, see O'Hagan, 521 U.S. at 656 — was obvious on its face. If Salman's theory were accepted and this evidence found to be insufficient, then a corporate insider or other person in possession of confidential and proprietary information would be free to disclose that information to her relatives, and they would be free to trade on it, provided only that she asked for no tangible compensation in return. Proof that the insider disclosed material nonpublic information with the intent to benefit a trading relative or friend is sufficient to establish the breach of fiduciary duty element of insider trading.
And just like that - a circuit split! According to Alison Frankel, the DOJ has just filed for cert in Newman to resolve this split. No doubt, this is going to be the biggest and most consequential insider trading case before the Supreme Court in recent years if the court decides to grant cert.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Christina Sautter has a new paper - Fleecing the Family Jewels, which is set to appear in the Tulane Law Review. The paper argues that crown jewel deal protections have made a comeback in recent years and reminds us why courts are often wary of them. Here's the abstract:
Crown jewel lock-up options, a common deal protection device during the 1980s mergers and acquisitions boom, are back. During their popularity in the 1980s, these options took the form of agreements between a target company and a buyer pursuant to which the buyer was granted the right to purchase certain valuable assets, or crown jewels, of the target corporate family in the event the merger did not close. After both state and federal courts questioned the validity of these lock-ups in the 1980s, lock-ups lost their luster and dealmakers stopped using them. But as the saying goes, “everything old becomes new again,” and crown jewel lock-ups have made a return in recent transactions. This time around, dealmakers and have been quick to distinguish the modernized crown jewel lock-ups from their predecessors. Although there has been limited case law addressing the validity of these lock-ups, courts appear more likely to uphold the lock-up if the lock-up can be attributed to a business purpose other than the merger and if the lock-up could be a standalone agreement, separate and apart from the merger. This Article argues, however, that today’s lock-ups are not significantly different from their predecessors. Practitioners and courts should not lose sight of the 1980s jurisprudence that closely scrutinized the sale process preceding the lock-up as well as the deterrent effects of the lock-up on potential bidders. Failing to consider these factors and not giving these factors proper weight potentially results in companies and their shareholders being fleeced of their corporate family jewels and their value. At the same time, however, dealmakers should not be as quick to shy away from lock-ups as they have done in the past. As the 1980s jurisprudence made clear, lock-ups can be used to enhance shareholder value. In particular, this Article argues that dealmakers may use lock-ups after an extensive sale process to incentivize bidders and extract additional value for shareholders.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Lynne Dallas and Jordan Barry have posted an interesting paper on tenure voting, or what they call time phased voting. Some of you will recognize tenure voting systems from the J.M. Smuckers experience (described in a recent WSJ piece) and then the Williams v. Geier case. Here's the abstract of Dallas and Barry's paper:
We explore Time-Phased Voting (“TPV”), an arrangement in which long-term shareholders receive more votes per share than short-term shareholders. TPV has gained prominence in recent years as a proposed remedy for perceived corporate myopia.
We begin with theory, situating TPV relative to other corporate voting structures such as one-share-one-vote and dual-class stock. By decreasing the influence of short-term shareholders, TPV may encourage managers to act in the long-term interests of their firms. It may also facilitate controlling shareholder diversification and firm equity issuances by enabling controlling shareholders, who are generally long-term shareholders, to maintain their control with lower levels of ownership. In this respect, it resembles a milder form of dual-class stock, but is more targeted toward myopic behavior.
We then investigate U.S. companies’ experiences with TPV in practice. Due to limited U.S. experience with TPV, our sample size is small from a statistical standpoint. Nevertheless, our findings are consistent with our theoretical analysis. Our ownership and voting data suggest that TPV empowers long-term shareholders, but that it does little to encourage long-term shareholding; this may be due to a lack of investor awareness regarding the few companies that have TPV. In the short term, TPV empowers insiders, increasing their control and creating a wedge between their ownership and control of the firm (though a smaller wedge than is typical of dual-class firms). However, in the long term we find that TPV is associated with reduced insider ownership and control. We see a transition in TPV companies, which are mainly mature, family-owned companies, from a concentrated to a more dispersed ownership structure. Relatedly, we find that TPV is associated with significant insider diversification and the issuance of additional equity.
Overall, TPV firms significantly outperformed the market as a whole; an investor who invested in our TPV firm index in 1980 would have more than six times as much money at the end of 2013 as an investor who invested in the S&P 500. While it is not clear that TPV contributed to this strong performance, we believe that shareholders and corporations should be free to experiment with reasonable TPV plans if they so choose.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Mylan, which moved its domicile last year to the Netherlands in an inversion transaction, has a new tool to deploy in its defense against an unwanted bid from Teva. Yesterday, the Financial Times noted that Mylan was preparing to deploy a Dutch poison pill:
Dutch law is somewhat unique to the rest of Europe with respect to anti-takeover measures as it allows companies to adopt poison pill type structures.
In most other European countries, the UK principle of a board remaining passive in a takeover situation applies. Thus, many boards in Europe cannot adopt poison pills as defensive measures.
Mylan has put in place a poison pill that is customary in the Netherlands, involving the formation of an independent foundation, which is known as a ‘stichting’.
Under the terms, the foundation can exercise a call option agreement set up between it and the company that would dilute the voting rights of the company’s ordinary shareholders.
The foundation has the right to exercise the option if it determines it is in the best interests of the company and if it allows the company’s management to explore alternative scenarios. ...
One person familiar with the use of Dutch foundations as a takeover defence said that it is clear in Dutch case law that its use can only be temporary and it is not allowed to be used permanently to deter a bidder.
The Perrigo-Mylan-Teva thread is turning into quite a show...
Thursday, April 23, 2015
For what it's worth, Chu and Zhao have released a paper, The Dark Side of Shareholder Litigation: Evidence from Corporate Takeovers, and the abstract:
Exploiting the staggered adoption of universal demand (UD) laws by 23 states between 1989 and 2005 as quasi-natural experiments, we show that reduced shareholder litigation threat improves corporate takeover efficiency. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find that acquirers from states that adopt UD laws experience significantly higher abnormal announcement returns. We also document that UD laws are associated with better long-run post-merger operating performances. Taken together, our findings suggest that the threat of shareholder litigation leads to inefficient mergers and acquisitions and therefore destroys value ex ante.
This is a pretty good example of what financial economists do, I suppose. Except, here's the thing. The authors are focused on the effect of universal demand in derivative litigation on efficiency of the takeover market. OK, I get it. Transaction related litigation is bad. So, if we raise the hurdles to bringing transaction related litigation, then we should improve efficiency of the market. But...transaction related litigation of the type that one reasonably believes is value reducing is never brought as derivative litigation. It's brought as direct litigation. There's a difference.
In the paper, the authors point to two examples of derivative litigation in the context of a merger as an example of what they are talking about. The two examples are Oracle's acquisition of Pillar (100% owned by Oracle CEO Ellison) and the FreePort-McMoRan Copper acquisition of MMR. Excuse me, but neither of those pieces of litigation are examples of value-reducing litigation. Thank goodness for derivative litigation in those cases!
The challenge for everyone in this business isn't transaction-related derivative litigation. It's the direct litigation. Example: an independent board, sells control of the corporation to a third party in an arm's length deal that has been fully-shopped. Shareholders file direct litigation claiming that the board violated its duties under Revlon to get them the highest price in the sale. There's a very good argument that this kind of litigation is value-reducing, but this kind of litigation, which makes up the vast majority of transaction-related litigation, is not covered by this study.
Notwithstanding the fact that the authors are measuring the effect of an irrelevant variable they find the variable to be significant. OK. Well. There you go.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
A nice little retrospective in the Delaware Law Weekly on Chief Justice Leo Strine's first year as chief:
Strine became Delaware's eighth Supreme Court chief justice on Feb. 28, 2014. Since then, he has issued more than 100 opinions and orders, welcomed three new justices to the court, formed a committee to overhaul problem-solving courts, and started a commission for access to justice.
More than a year already. Where has the time gone?
Monday, April 6, 2015
Emory Law School sends along the employment announcement below. The Transactional Law program at Emory is really first-rate. Long before anyone was thinking about it, Emory (with Tina Stark at the helm) was building a transactional law program. This looks like an excellent opportunity for a practitioner seeking to transition to the academy. Here's the announcement:
Emory Law School seeks an Assistant Director of the Center for Transactional Law and Practice to teach in and share the administrative duties associated with running the largest program in the Law School. Each candidate should have a J.D. or comparable law degree and substantial experience as an attorney practicing or teaching transactional law. Significant contacts in the Atlanta legal community are a plus.
Initially, the Assistant Director will be responsible for leading the charge to further develop the Deal Skills curriculum. (In Deal Skills – one of Emory Law’s signature core transactional skills courses – students are introduced to the business and legal issues common to commercial transactions.) The Assistant Director will co-teach at least one section of Deal Skills each semester, supervise the current Deal Skills adjuncts, and recruit, train, and evaluate the performance of new adjunct professors teaching the other sections of Deal Skills.
As the faculty advisor for Emory Law’s Transactional Law Program Negotiation Team, the Assistant Director will identify appropriate competitions, select team members, recruit coaches, and supervise both the drafting and negotiation components of each competition. The Assistant Director will also serve as the host of the Southeast Regional LawMeets® Competition held at Emory every other year.
Additionally, the Assistant Director will be responsible for the creation of two to three new capstone courses for the transactional law program. (A capstone course is a small, hands-on seminar in a specific transactional law topic such as mergers and acquisitions or commercial real estate transactions.) The Assistant Director will identify specific educational needs, recruit adjunct faculty, assist with curriculum design, and monitor the adjuncts’ performance.
Besides the specific duties described above, the Assistant Director will assist the Executive Director with the administration of the transactional law program and the Transactional Law and Skills Certificate program. This will involve publicizing the program to prospective and current students, monitoring the curriculum to assure that students are able to satisfy the requirements of the Certificate, and counselling students regarding their coursework and careers. The Assistant Director can also expect to participate in strategic planning, marketing, fundraising, alumni outreach, and a wide variety of other leadership tasks.
Emory University is an equal opportunity employer, committed to diversifying its faculty and staff. Members of under-represented groups are encouraged to apply. For more information about the transactional law program and the Transactional Law and Skills Certificate Program, please visit our website at:
To apply, please mail or e-mail a cover letter and resumé to:
Emory University Law School
1301 Clifton Road, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30322-2770
APPLICATION DEADLINE: April 30, 2015
Friday, April 3, 2015
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Brian Broughman has a new paper, CEO Side Payments in M&A Deals. Side payments are different from golden parachutes. They are often structured as completion bonuses. So, for example, it's not uncommon that a general counsel of a target is promised a bonus if they stay on long enough to steer a merger through closing. These bonuses are akin to bonuses paid to senior managers in firms in bankruptcy to entice them to stay. Broughman examines these payments and concludes that such side-payments to CEOs may not be efficient. Here's the abstract:
In addition to golden parachutes, CEOs often negotiate for personal side-payments in connection with the sale of their firm. Side-payments differ from golden parachutes in that they are negotiated ex post in connection with a specific acquisition proposal, whereas golden parachutes are part of the executive’s employment agreement negotiated when she is hired. While side-payments may benefit shareholders by countering managerial resistance to an efficient sale, they can also be used to redistribute merger proceeds to management. The current article highlights an overlooked distinction between pre-merger golden parachutes and merger side-payments. Similar to a legislative rider attached to a popular bill, management can bundle a side-payment with an acquisition that is desired by target shareholders. Thus, even if shareholders would not have approved the side-payment for purposes of ex ante incentives, it may receive shareholder support as part of a take-it-or-leave-it merger vote. Because side-payments are bundled into a merger transaction, voting rights cannot adequately protect shareholders against rent extraction. My analysis helps explain empirical results which show that target CEOs sometimes bargain away shareholder returns in exchange for personal side-payments. I conclude with legal reforms to help unbundle side-payments from the broader merger vote.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
At a seminar the other night on shareholder activism, I noted that battle over shareholder activism is really nothing more than a continuation of the takeover battles of the 1980s. Both sides are the same, the arguments reasonably familiar. From their trenches the sides claim victories in yards and feet like armies during WWI. The cover article in the most recent The American Lawyer profiles Martin Lipton and Lucien Bebchuk, two long-time generals, and the most recent front: shareholder activism. The article notes, I think correctly, the recent turn away from the academic style of debate that has characterized this back and forth over the years to something a little more hard-ball.
In 2012, Lipton still referred to Bebchuk with senatorial decorum, as "my friend," and teased him about reenacting the Hamilton-Burr duel. But something soon changed. Perhaps Lipton was disturbed by the effort to debunk his deepest belief about the long-term effects of activism. Or perhaps what changed were the tides of fortune. For the only thing that the two can agree on is that, in Lipton's words, the "activist hedge funds are winning the war." And so the iconoclast is no longer amusing to the icon.
With a revolving cast of big-name partners, Lipton has churned out ever more frequent and vicious memos. He called Bebchuk's paper "extreme and eccentric"; "tendentious and misleading"; and "not a work of serious scholarship." He gleefully noted that a sitting SEC commissioner called another paper by Bebchuk so "shoddy" as to constitute securities fraud. (Thirty-four professors rallied in Bebchuk's defense and jumped on the commissioner for abusing his power.) Bebchuk and Lipton lobbed posts back and forth on the Harvard corporate governance blog with "na-na-na-na-na" titles. "Don't Run Away From the Evidence" led to "Still No Valid Evidence," which led to "Still Running Away From the Evidence."
It's well worth a read.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Kraft announced its acquisition by Heinz this morning. And, I sense a trend. Although Kraft hasn't filed a copy of the merger agreement, yet, it has filed an 8-K with amendments to its bylaws. In what I sense is becoming a trend, the board of Heinz amended its bylaws prior to approving the merger agreement to specify Virginia as the exclusive forum for the resolution of shareholder disputes. Seems like that will be the path of least resistance as firms continue to search for ways to battle the transaction related litigation. Don't fight ISS by adopting a provision in the certificate of incorporation. Rather, wait until you have a deal, then your legal team will attend to a number of housekeeping issues in the immediate run-up to the consideration of the deal. One of those issues will be to ensure the board adopts an exclusive forum provision prior to adoption of the merger agreement. Once the transaction is announced, litigate exclusively in the home state. Does that stop litigation from happening? No, of course not. But it does limit the amount of expected total litigation and it gives the courts the ability to better sort good claims from litigation flotsam.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Ted Mirvis and Bill Savitt of Wachtell Lipton have weighed in on Delaware's anti-fee shifting legislation. Basically, they argue that this is the kind of thing that doesn't require legislation - that we should all defer to the wisdom of Delaware's chancellors. All the while, they know they will encourage every client they have to adopt the fee shifting provisions. That's the way it goes I suppose. Here's their white paper on the fee shifting issue (and an abstract):
The frenzy over fee-shifting bylaws and charter provisions is no surprise. Anything that addresses the economics of the game so directly is cause for either alarm or implementation, depending on the side of the caption. And in a world where intracorporate litigation is ubiquitous, and very profitable even though far more derivative and class suits lose than win, no change in substantive law would have quite the bite. In our view, however, the calls to resolve the fee-shifting debate by legislative fiat are misguided. The Delaware courts should be allowed to do what only they can: address the propriety of fee-shifting provisions carefully, contextually, and incrementally.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Usually amendments to the corporate law are pretty sleepy affairs. This year is different. There's anti-fee-shifting legislation, In the slew of amendments generating interest this year, there's the new Chancery facilitated arbitration procedure, and then there are the amendments to the appraisal statute. If you would have told me two years ago that arbitration would be the least controversial of all the amendments, I would have laughed at you, but there you have it.
The amendments to the appraisal statute (262 Appraisal) come in response to the rise in appraisal arbitrage. There are a number of important changes to the way Section 262 operates. First, the amendment follows what is common practice in other states by setting a floor with respect to appraisal petitions before getting access to the remedy. Going forward, stockholders will only be entitled to an appraisal if all the shares seeking an appraisal exceed 1% of the outstanding shares or at least $1 million in merger consideration. In any event a transaction done pursuant to Sections 253 and 267 would always have appraisal rights.
To give you a sense of what this floor means, Dell generated valid petitions for only 2% of the stockholders - though the value of the merger consideration would have easily exceeded $1 million. The floor makes sense and will likely get rid of nuisance litigation to the extent there is any nuisance appraisal litigation. I don't think that's a real problem, but I suppose if you are going in to tinker, you might as well tinker.
Of larger import, is the amendment that permits the acquirer to pay some portion of the consideration immediately and stop the accruing of interest on the amount paid, leaving interest to accrue only on the amounts still in controversy. Because of the statutory interest rate, that one change might go quite a way to reducing some incentives for hedge funds to pursue appraisal arbitrage as a business. In CKx, defendants made a motion to require petitioners to accept the uncontested portion of the merger consideration in order to stop the clock on the accrual of interest. Vice Chancellor Glasscock refused to issued such an order. However, this amendment would explicitly permit that maneuver.
These changes may not go far enough for some - who were seeking things like stock tracing. Stock tracing would require the beneficial holder to prove that she was a beneficial stockholder prior to announcement of the merger. Right now, so long as the record holder was a holder prior to the merger, the beneficial holder need not establish that they were owners prior to the announcement of the merger. This is a loophole that appraisal arbs have driven trucks through.
Dole has complained that the changes are too timid and is pushing Delaware to go further. Indeed, Dole is even threatening to "pull out of Delaware" if it doesn't do more to eliminate appraisal arbs. Frankly, it's a ridiculous threat that I would have thought Delaware legislators would be sophisticated enough to discount. The inference is that if Delaware doesn't eliminate the appraisal arb business through stock tracing, that Dole would close its shipping business in Delaware. Umm. Okay. Hard to see how the two are related. If they close that business they will do so for business reasons, not because of the appraisal statute. If Dole means it will reincorporate elsewhere. Ok, where? Have fun.
Anyway, it's going to be a more interesting summer than previously thought in Wilmington.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
As Lawrence Cunningham noted, tenacity, thy name is Delaware! Along with the recent proposed amendments to the corporate law, the Delaware General Assembly will also consider the new Delaware Rapid Arbitration Act - to replace the Chancery Arbitration procedure that was deemed unconstitutional.
Regular readers of this blog might remember that I was opposed to Chancery arbitration as it was originally conceived. Here's a paper I wrote on the subject. Ultimately, the Federal Appellate Courts agreed with my view. Public judges sitting in public courts conducting confidential hearings is not a good look for many reasons.
In any event, the new approach - Chancery facilitated arbitration - an improvement and will likely pass constitutional muster. Also, the way the act has been written, there is little fear that firms might attempt to put Chancery arbitration provisions in corporate charters. In order to be eligible for Chancery arbitration, among other conditions, the arbitration agreement has to be signed by both parties, thus making it difficult to make constructive notice arguments in connection with the purchase of stock. Consequently, as it is currently drafted, the scope of arbitration-eligible disputes is relatively narrow - merger agreements and other commercial agreements that might typically appear before the Chancery Court. Also, although the arbitral proceedings are facilitated by the Chancery court, the arbitrators are not sitting judges and are paid directly by the parties. Proceedings will be confidential, judgments will be treated consistent with the FAA.
This attempt to create an arbitration regime will likely stick. All in all, not a bad effort.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The Delaware General Assembly is considering its annual amendments to the corporate law. This time, the proposed amendments (2015 Amendment text here) are doing more than just some ministerial changes/fixes to the text. The amendments purport to deal with two big issues. First, the amendments add a new section 115 that would explicitly permit corporations to include forum selection provisions in their certificates of incorporation or bylaws. I proposed as much in a 2011 article, so it's nice to see that take shape. By including forum selection provisions as a permissible menu option, the legislature is clearing the deck and making it much more likely that Delaware firms will opt in going forward. It's not a total solution to the problem of transaction related litigation, but it does help reduce the volume of litigation that must be managed. By the way, 94.9% of all deals were accompanied by litigation last year. This is a problem that's not going away on its own.
The other proposed amendment is much more controversial. The new sections 102(f) and 109(b) reverse the Delaware Supreme Court's decision in ATP Tour, Inc. In ATP, the court upheld a fee shifting bylaw that, if widely adopted, would likely have shut down most, if not all, shareholder litigation, good and bad. ATP would be like using a sledgehammer to hang paintings in your house. These new sections make such provisions illegal. You'll remember that last year the legislature tried to move an ATP amendment through in the aftermath of the decision. While corporate law amendments are usually a fairly boring affair, that one drew the attention of the US Chamber of Commerce. This time, the US Chamber is back, arguing that the adoption the anti-fee shifting provision "could threaten Delaware's billion dollar incorporation franchise." That seems like a bit of excessive rhetoric.
Stay tuned. I suspect this year will be anything but a quiet ride through the amendment process.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I talk a lot of students about life as a lawyer and finding ways to balance the needs of the profession with having a life. There's no way around it. It's not easy. It's particularly tough on women. In response to issues in the profession and in M&A that are specific to women, the ABA's M&A Committee has formed a Women in M&A Task Force Task Force:
The primary goal of the Women in M&A Taskforce is to increase the participation and retention of women lawyers in M&A through four key initiatives: (i) work with law schools to educate women law students about the profession; (ii) increase awareness at law firms; (iii) promote networking and provide business development tools to women in the profession; and (iv) provide avenues of communication among Taskforce members to enable the sharing of materials, experiences and best practices. The American Bar Association’s Women in M&A Taskforce is Co-Chaired by Jennifer Muller at Houlihan Lokey and Leigh Walton from Bass, Berry & Sims. Any questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's a worthy effort that everyone should get behind. I'll post links to any reports or recommendations the Taskforce may generate.