These days, most public company mergers continue to attract one or more boilerplate complaints, usually filed by the same roster of plaintiffs’ law firms, asserting that the target company’s proxy statement contains materially false or misleading statements.  These complaints usually also assert that the stockholder meeting to approve the merger should be enjoined unless and until the company “corrects” the false or misleading statements by making supplemental disclosures.  While not too long ago cases like this tended to be filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery and other state courts asserting breaches of state-law fiduciary duties, including the duty of disclosure, after Trulia the vast majority of these cases today are filed in federal court under Section 14 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.[1]
Continue Reading Rare Federal Court Decision Casts Doubt On Merger Disclosure Claims, But Will It Change Anything?

In the current climate of market volatility prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more public companies with valuable US tax assets (e.g., net operating loss carryforwards) may, or at least should, consider adopting a shareholder rights plan in order to preserve those tax assets.  These plans are commonly referred to as “NOL rights plans” (or “NOL poison pills”).
Continue Reading Is Now a Good Time to Adopt an NOL Rights Plan?

Last month, we described the increased threat of activists and acquirors seeking to capitalize on the COVID-19 sell-off to build positions in high-value companies at depressed prices.  Even before the current crisis emerged, we recommended that all U.S. public companies regularly review their defense profile and have a shareholder rights plans “on the shelf.” For companies uniquely impacted by the crisis—especially those whose market capitalization has fallen below $1 billion—we suggested they re-assess their vulnerabilities in this new environment and consider whether now was the right time to adopt a rights plan to ward off potential opportunistic behavior. Some companies have done just that—since March 1, 2020, 24 U.S. public companies have adopted a defensive shareholder rights plan (6 other U.S. public companies have adopted NOL rights plans).
Continue Reading ISS and Glass Lewis Issue Guidance for Poison Pills in COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 2, 2020, Glass Lewis announced the global expansion of its Report Feedback Statement (“RFS”) service.[1] This service operates separately from the process for companies reporting factual errors or omissions in a research report and instead focuses on differences of opinion, allowing companies and shareholder proposal proponents to respond directly to Glass Lewis’s research and recommendations.[2]
Continue Reading Glass Lewis Expands Report Feedback Statement Service

Last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery upheld the terms of an agreement requiring The Chemours Company to arbitrate a challenge to its spin-off from DuPont. In doing so, Vice Chancellor Glasscock rejected Chemours’ claims that the process DuPont followed in structuring and executing the spin-off rendered the terms of the spin-off unconscionable and thus Chemours’ consent to arbitration ineffective.[1]  The Chemours decision is important as it recognizes that parent companies rely on the parent-subsidiary relationship in structuring spin-offs and in doing so need not follow an arm’s length process with its subsidiary as would apply to a transaction with an unrelated third party.
Continue Reading Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You: Delaware Court of Chancery Holds Spin-Offs Are Not Unconscionable

On March 30, 2019, Paul Shim and Jim Langston joined Patrick Ramsey, Global Head of M&A at BofA Securities, and Amy Lissauer, Global Head of Activism and Raid Defense at BofA Securities, on a conference call panel titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Shareholder Activism and Hostile M&A.”

The panelists shared their views on the state of activism and hostile attacks in the current environment, how the activism playbook may evolve, when and how the next wave of activism and hostile attacks is likely to emerge, and what companies can do today to prepare for the storm.

Dial-in Details are as follows:
U.S. toll-free: 888 203 1112
International: +1 719 457 0820
Passcode: 1219818

The replay will be available from Monday, March 30, 2020, at 4:00 p.m. through Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Continue Reading The Impact of COVID-19 on Activism and Hostile Attacks: Key Takeaways

Amidst a market-wide sell-off of public equities in the face of coronavirus uncertainty, companies across nearly every industry have witnessed significant declines in stock prices. As the market turbulence shows no signs of abating in the near term, public companies should consider turning to shareholder rights plans (or “poison pills”) to protect against hostile attacks.

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2020”.

The era of stakeholder governance and corporations with a purpose beyond profits is taking hold, with corporate directors expected to answer to more constituencies and shoulder a greater burden than ever before.

Last week, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Delaware Court of Chancery’s dismissal of a Caremark claim[1] that arose out of the Blue Bell ice cream listeria outbreak in the mid-2010s.  See Marchand v. Barnhill, No. 533, 2018 (Del. June 18, 2019).  The Delaware Supreme Court’s opinion in this closely watched case provides useful guidance to directors on the proper role of the board in overseeing risk management.
Continue Reading Not So Sweet: Delaware Supreme Court Revives Caremark Claim, Provides Guidance On Directors’ Oversight Duties

Until Vice Chancellor Laster’s decision last week in Akorn Inc. v. Fresenius KABI AG,[1] no Delaware court had released an acquiror from its obligation to close a transaction as a result of the occurrence of a “Material Adverse Effect.”[2]  The cases previously adjudicated in Delaware all had required the acquiror to close, often despite a significant diminishment in target value and, in some, the court criticized the acquiror for seeking to avoid its obligations based on little more than buyer’s remorse.  Against this weight of precedent, the Vice Chancellor found that the grievous decline of generics pharmaceutical company Akorn, Inc. after it agreed to be acquired by Fresenius constituted a MAC.  While Akorn presents a stark set of facts and the Delaware Supreme Court has yet to have the final word in the case,[3] the decision nonetheless provides useful guidance to practitioners in shaping and navigating MAC clauses and related contractual provisions.
Continue Reading Akorn v. Fresenius: A MAC in Delaware