Monday, November 29, 2021
In my Corporate Finance class this morning, as a capstone experience, I asked my students to read and be prepared to comment on an article I wrote a bit over a decade ago. The article, Federal Interventions in Private Enterprise in the United States: Their Genesis in and Effects on Corporate Finance Instruments and Transactions, 40 Seton Hall L. Rev 1487 (2010), offers information and observations about the U.S. government's engagements as an investor, bankruptcy transformer, and M&A gadfly/matchmaker in responding to the global financial crisis. A discussion of the article typically leads to a nice review of several things we have covered over the course of the semester. I have a number of topics I want to ensure we engage with, but I allow some free rein.
Today, one of our interesting bits of discussion centered around the possibility that the U.S. government became a controlling shareholder for a time due to the nature of its high percentage ownership interest in, for example, AIG. This was not directly addressed in my article. Nevertheless, we set into a discussion of the substance, citing to Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Levien, one of Josh Fershee's favorite cases. We also reflected on possible associated lawyering and professional responsibility issues.
I wondered after the in-class discussion whether anyone of us who had written articles on the government as an investor in private enterprise in the wake of the financial crisis had, in fact, commented on this aspect of the government's majority or other controlling preferred stock investments. A little digging revealed the following passage from a student article:
Delaware corporate law protects minority shareholders from controlling shareholders who use the corporation to advance their own interests at the expense of other shareholders. It does so both by imposing fiduciary duties on the directors and officers of a corporation, including duties of care, loyalty, and good faith, and extending those duties to any shareholder who exercises control over a corporation.
Matthew R. Shahabian, The Government as Shareholder and Political Risk: Procedural Protections in the Bailout, 86 N.Y. L. Rev. 351, 369 (2011) (citing to Sinclair) (footnote omitted). The article engages both Sinclair's substantive fiduciary duty rule and the applicable judicial review standard, citing to the case a total of six times. J.W. Verret also cites to Sinclair for the same principles in his article Treasury Inc.: How the Bailout Reshapes
Corporate Theory and Practice, 27 Yale J. Reg. 283, 335 (2010), and Steven Davidoff Solomon and David Zaring give Sinclair three nods in their article, After the Deal: Fannie, Freddie, and the Financial Crises Aftermath, 95 B.U.L. Rev. 371 (2015). Good to know.
I admit that I was pleased that, after 13-14 weeks of hard work on the part of me and my students, we could have a conversation about this type of practical, applied legal issue. I was still guiding the way a bit, but the students really carried the discussion. And they had useful ideas and observations--ones I know they could not have shared at the beginning of the semester. I applaud them; I am proud of them!