Earlier this month, partners Jennifer Kennedy Park and Kimberly Spoerri participated in a panel co-hosted by The Conference Board and Cleary Gottlieb to discuss the board’s oversight role in issues related to sexual harassment.

Moderator Doug Chia, executive director of The Conference Board, Jen and Kim discussed relevant legal regulations and frameworks and the risks of non-compliance, as well as the policies, procedures and best practices boards and senior management can employ to mitigate risks.  They discussed the responsibility the board has in setting company culture through tone at the top, and how the failure by the board and senior management to be proactive in this area can affect compliance and oversight throughout a company.  The discussion also included ways the board can tangibly address these issues.  Continue Reading Cleary Partners Participate in Panel Discussion on Board Oversight of Sexual Harassment

We were grateful that approximately 200 of you participated in Cleary Gottlieb’s fourth annual M&A, Antitrust and the Board Room conference at the Federal Reserve building in San Francisco, hosted and co-sponsored by our friends at Berkeley Law School, as well as sponsors Innisfree M&A and MacKenzie Partners.

The day featured:

  • SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson’s delivery of his controversial “The Case Against Corporate Royalty” speech, a thought-provoking follow-up talk by Doug Rushkoff, author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, and a discussion with Michael Ronen, a leader of the Softbank Vision Fund; Lev Finkelstein, head of corporate finance at Dropbox; Wanji Walcott, general counsel of Paypal; Jean Rogers, chair of SASB; and Cleary partner Ethan Klingsberg.
  • A vigorous debate about the role of innovation in antitrust merger review among Thomas Deisenhofer, EC Head of Merger Control; Richard Gilbert, former Deputy Assistant AG for Economics; Bruce Hoffman, Acting Director at the FTC’s Competition Bureau; and Cleary partners George Cary and Elaine Ewing.
  • A candid dialogue between Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves and Cleary partner Kim Spoerri about the nuances and future directions of Delaware fiduciary duty litigation.
  • The latest from the front lines of proxy contests and activism defense from MacKenzie CEO Dan Burch and Innisfree Managing Director Scott Winter, as well as Anne Chapman, who recently joined Joele Frank after 20+ years of overseeing proxy voting at Capital Research; Yumi Narita of BlackRock; Zach Oleksiuk, who recently joined Evercore after leading BlackRock’s corporate governance work; and Cleary partner Glenn McGrory.

Photos, a detailed recap of the day’s discussions, the agenda, and a list of participants can be found here.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of your friends at Cleary Gottlieb to follow up on any of the matters raised at the conference.

Maintaining a workplace environment free of discrimination, sexual harassment and other misconduct is critical to both the short-term productivity and long-term health of a business.  Reports of sexual harassment allegations at public corporations can have material negative effects on stock price, with some corporations seeing double digit single day drops after accusations are made public.  As we have written elsewhere, the primary obligation to manage these risks on a day-to-day basis falls to executive leadership.[1]  But the #MeToo movement also has raised questions about the role of boards of directors to provide oversight of management and, to the extent that senior management may be a source of the problem, the board’s obligation to take more direct action.

This note discusses some key issues for General Counsel to consider as they advise corporate boards about how to navigate their responsibilities in this environment.  Continue Reading Bringing The #MeToo Movement Into The Board Room

Last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued its first significant appraisal decision applying the Delaware Supreme Court’s recent Dell[1] and DFC[2] opinions, which we’ve previously discussed here and hereSee Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL (“Aruba”).  Although Dell and DFC both emphasized that deal price will often be the best evidence of fair value in appraisal actions involving open, competitive, and arm’s-length mergers of publicly traded targets, neither case involved a merger where the transaction resulted in significant synergies,[3] which are excluded statutorily from the determination of fair value.[4]  Picking up where those cases left off, the court in Aruba, despite finding that the deal price was the product of an uncompetitive and flawed process, nonetheless found fair value to be significantly below deal price because the merger resulted in significant synergies.  The court instead found fair value to be equal to the pre-announcement market trading price of the public shares, which was 30% below the deal price.  Subject to any appeal from this decision, Aruba continues, and in the context of strategic mergers expands upon, the trend of substantially reducing appraisal risk for buyers of public companies. Continue Reading Delaware Court of Chancery Finds Fair Value in Appraisal Case To Be Unaffected Market Price

Disclosure of Ultimate Beneficial Ownership in German Companies

Key Takeaways

  • Germany recently introduced new rules on the disclosure of the ultimate beneficial owner(s) of German companies. The rules are based on the 4th EU-Money-Laundering Directive (EU) 2015/849).
  • The rules are not only relevant for German entities and German shareholders, but also for foreign groups or organizations (including private equity groups) that have or intend to acquire holdings in German entities.
  • Recent experience indicates that not all foreign players eying German M&A targets or holding significant interests in German targets are aware of these rules.
  • If your group or organization
    • has or intends to acquire a direct or indirect holding of more than 25% of the capital or the voting rights of a German entity or otherwise controls such entity, and
    • is beneficially owned or controlled by one or more natural persons,

disclosure obligations with respect to the ultimate beneficial owners may apply and should be assessed. Continue Reading The German Transparency Register

Forbes has published an interesting article that opens as follows:

Every CEO and every board member of every publicly traded company (and every thinking-about-being-publicly traded company) should drop whatever they are doing and read two short things right now:

  • This week’s annual letter to CEOs from BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink; and
  • The January 8 client bulletin from Cleary Gottlieb, “The Schizophrenic Investor Landscape: The Significance for Boards and Management of the JANA/CalSTRS Letter to Apple.”

BlackRock is the largest investor in the world, managing $6 trillion in assets. Cleary is one of the largest and most prestigious international law firms in the world. These are two of the most influential institutions that drive the behavior of the corporations that shape our society and our lives. . . . Let’s hope . . . that investors are beginning to see—and will begin to act—more “Cleary”-eyed.

Click here for the Forbes article and here for the original Cleary blog post by our partner Ethan Klingsberg.

In recent months, sexual harassment allegations against well-known figures across a growing number of industries have become a common feature in news headlines.  In the wake of these allegations, many companies have concluded that their current policies and procedures related to sexual harassment and discrimination are inadequate.  Against the backdrop of this rapidly evolving landscape, companies are considering how to improve their policies and procedures not only to appropriately and effectively respond to allegations of sexual harassment, but also to deter inappropriate behavior going forward and foster an environment of openness, diversity and inclusion in their workplaces.  To that end, we address 8 key questions that companies should be asking themselves in developing policies and procedures to confront sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct in today’s workplace.

Click here, to read the full memo.

Cleary Gottlieb’s “2017 Developments in Securities and M&A Litigation” discusses major developments from 2017 and highlights significant decisions and trends ahead.

The trend of increased securities class action filings in federal courts continued from 2016 to 2017. The Supreme Court was particularly active in the securities field, ruling in CalPERS that the Securities Act’s repose period is not subject to class action tolling, holding in Kokesh that disgorgement in SEC proceedings is subject to the five-year statute of limitations for penalties, and granting three additional cert petitions to address important issues in the securities laws, with decisions expected in 2018. With respect to M&A litigation, the Delaware Supreme Court issued key rulings on appraisal issues in DFC Global and Dell, and is expected to provide further guidance in the coming months.

Please click here for a PDF version of 2017 Developments in Securities and M&A Litigation.

In recent years, shareholder plaintiffs have brought a series of claims before the Delaware Court of Chancery alleging that directors of Delaware companies have abused their discretion in granting themselves excessive equity compensation for their board service.  These cases raised the threshold question of whether the plaintiffs’ challenges should be reviewed under the “entire fairness” standard, which requires the company to bear the burden of proving that the director awards were fair, or the more deferential “business judgment” standard, which grants considerable discretion to directors’ decisions, often resulting in dismissal of claims that fail to plead particularized facts indicating fiduciary lapses by the directors. Continue Reading New Year’s Resolutions For Director Compensation From <i>Investors Bancorp</i>

Our 4th annual “M&A, Antitrust and the Board Room: Challenges and Conundrums for the West Coast” conference will occur in San Francisco on February 15. For a listing of confirmed topics, participants and speakers, click here.  If you are interested in attending or would like additional information, contact RSVP@cgsh.com.