On May 6, the Delaware Supreme Court issued an Order that sets forth concisely the contours of the defendant-favorable standards for determining liability of directors and their advisors following the closing of sales of control of companies.  These standards are available, however, only following an uncoerced and informed approval of the sale by the target stockholders, including a majority of the disinterested holders.  Thus, while the Order clarifies a roadmap (set forth recently in Corwin v. KKR and discussed here) for obtaining easy dismissal of post-merger damages claims against directors and advisors, the need for directors and their advisors to avoid, or at least ferret out and disclose, any deficiencies in sales processes remains as strong as ever.  Only if these deficiencies are avoided or uncovered and disclosed in advance of the shareholder approval will the lower courts be able to rely on these defendant-favorable standards to dismiss claims. Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Enhances Defenses Available to Directors and Financial Advisors Where Well-Run Sale Processes and Adequate Disclosure

October featured significant M&A opinions from Delaware that are already having an impact on board processes and relationships between corporations and their financial advisors.  While the most recent opinion dismisses claims against the financial advisor for aiding and abetting breaches of duties by the target board, a careful reading of the case reveals that the decision is unlikely to change the practical impact of the holdings from earlier in the month. Continue Reading What Do the Recent Delaware Opinions Mean for Corporate Board Processes and Relationships with Financial Advisors?

Addressing motions to dismiss in connection with the acquisition of Zale Corporation by Signet Jewelers, Vice Chancellor Parsons (in In Re Zale Corporation) dismissed claims against the Zales directors (under DGCL §102(b)(7)) and Signet, but denied dismissal of claims against Zales financial advisor.  Based on the allegations in the plaintiffs’ complaint, before being engaged, the financial advisor told the Board it had “limited prior relationships and no conflicts with Signet,” even though it had received approximately $2 million in fees in the year before the merger agreement.  More significantly for the Court, the complaint alleged that the financial advisor did not disclose – until after the merger agreement was signed – that it had made a presentation to Signet advocating a purchase of Zales shortly before Signet approached Zales, and that a senior member of the team that presented to Signet later became a member of the team that advised Zales. Continue Reading Further Chancery Court Guidance on Financial Advisor Aiding and Abetting Claims