2017 began with a heightened level of uncertainty as the beginning of the year brought significant change in the legal environment, including a change in administration that promised to significantly alter the tenor of regulation. While certain changes did occur in 2017, in many respects, 2018 is setting itself up as the year to watch for continuing developments in areas that are likely to fundamentally transform how companies operate and interact with an increasingly larger number of vocal stakeholders. The trends discussed in each of the sections of this memorandum will increasingly be a focus of boards of directors and companies in the United States and across the globe, particularly as boards consider how best to assess and assist in mitigating associated risks. The role that the board and its oversight plays in guiding companies in these times will be critical and a strong understanding of the issues and challenges facing boards and companies over the next year and beyond will assist boards in addressing the issues and complexities that will undoubtedly arise in 2018.

We invite you to review these topics by clicking on the links below.

For a PDF of the full memorandum, please click here.

Selected Issues for Boards of Directors 2018 (Home Page)

Developments in Best Practices in the Boardroom

Significant Regulation and Reform Under the Trump Administration

Activism in 2018

Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Updates

The New DOJ FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy Highlights the Continued Importance of Anti-Corruption Compliance

Evolution or Revolution for Companies with Multi-Class Share Structures

Corporate Governance in the Context of Brexit and Political Uncertainty in the United Kingdom and Europe


On December 5, 2017, the Financial Reporting Council launched a consultation on its proposal to significantly revise the UK Corporate Governance Code.

The amendments seek to encourage continued improvement in the quality of corporate governance in the UK and are centered around the themes of company culture and diversity, employee and other stakeholder representation, responding to significant shareholder opposition, independence of the chairman and other non-executive directors and executive remuneration. In this memorandum, we briefly explore the main proposed reforms.

Click here, to continue reading.

Over the past couple of years, we have seen traditional, actively managed funds, such as Neuberger Berman, borrow activist tactics and push for changes to accelerate increases in share prices.  In parallel with this arguable trend toward convergence between actively managed funds and activist funds, a chasm appeared to be developing elsewhere in the investor landscape as pension and passive strategy funds increasingly focused on “social good” issues, while brand name activist funds remained primarily focused on nearer term financial performance and returns.  But the activists desperately need the support of the pension and passive strategy funds, as evidenced by the proxy contests over the past year where support from these funds was neither predictable nor easily locked up.  The announcement on January 6, 2018 by JANA Partners, a high profile activist fund, and CalSTRs, an outspoken pension fund, that they have teamed up to accumulate a $2 billion equity position in Apple for the purpose of launching a specific “social good” campaign is the strongest indication to date that the magnitude of assets under management focused on social good matters cannot be ignored and that even a successful activist fund like JANA needs to burnish its reputation in this area.  Continue Reading The Schizophrenic Investor Landscape: The Significance for Boards and Managements of the JANA/CalSTRs Letter to Apple

On November 1 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) released guidance (Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14I (“SLB 14I”)) clarifying the scope and application of the ordinary business and economic relevance grounds for excluding a shareholder proposal under Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”) from a company’s proxy statement.[1]  On November 20, Apple Inc. became the first corporation to attempt to use this guidance in a request for no-action relief from the staff of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance (the “Staff”), in response to governance activist Jing Zhou’s proposal that Apple create a board committee focused on human rights (the “Proposal”).  On December 21, 2017, the Staff responded, denying Apple’s request to exclude the Proposal from its proxy materials.

Continue Reading Apple’s Unsuccessful Test of the SEC’s Recent Guidance on Shareholder Proposals

The German M&A market has remained robust in 2017.  While the number of transactions has fallen, transaction volumes remain significant.  Testament to this were the agreed merger of Siemens’ rail operations with Alstom, the acquisition of Bayer’s seeds and herbicides business by BASF, the Stada takeover, General Motors’ sale of Opel to PSA or the merger between Linde and Praxair, which finally appears to be nearing a successful conclusion.  The steel JV between ThyssenKrupp and Tata is still in the works, as is the takeover of Uniper by Fortum.  However, yet another attempt at a London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Börse merger failed in 2017.

Continue Reading

In a recently published decision of November 7, 2017, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has added another twist to the much debated acquisition of German Celesio AG by US pharma wholesaler McKesson.  McKesson had launched a takeover offer to the free float of Celesio in late 2013, and had entered into a purchase agreement with its then main shareholder Franz Haniel & Cie. to acquire its shareholding of slightly above 50% alongside the takeover bid.  The transaction attracted the interest of Paul Singer.  Elliott acquired a position of approximately 24% in shares and, in addition, convertible bonds of Celesio, and opposed the initial offer due to an alleged undervaluation.  As a result, the initial offer, which was subject to a minimum acceptance threshold of 75%, failed in early January 2014. The 75% acceptance threshold is key under German law, for a bidder to be in a position to exercise control over a German listed corporation and access the cash flows, prior to having effected a squeeze-out of all remaining minorities. Continue Reading Treating Shareholders Equally – Another Chapter in the McKesson/Celesio Saga

Last week, the Delaware Supreme Court issued another highly anticipated appraisal decision, Dell, Inc. v. Magnetar Global Event Driven Master Fund LtdDell builds on the Court’s DFC decision earlier this year in which the Court held that the merger price will generally be entitled to significant, if not dispositive, weight in an appraisal action involving the sale of a public company pursuant to an open, competitive, and arm’s-length bidding process, regardless of whether the buyer is a financial or strategic bidder. Dell extends and applies this principle to mergers involving a relatively limited pre-signing bidding process, at least where that process is competitive and does not exclude logical potential bidders. Significantly, Dell also expands DFC to cases involving management buyouts (MBOs), at least where management is not a controlling stockholder and is committed to working with rival bidders who are given full access to necessary information about the company. As Dell makes clear, while process is extremely important in determining whether to defer to (or give substantial weight to) deal price in an appraisal case, it will take more than merely theoretical doubts about an arm’s-length and competitive process to justify departing from the deal price.

Click here, to continue reading.

On 19 September 2017, the UK Takeover Panel published Panel Consultation Paper 2017/2 (the PCP), which proposed amendments to the rules of the UK Takeover Code relating to statements of intention and related matters. On 11 December 2017, the Panel published Response Statement 2017/2 (the RS) having received responses to the PCP from 13 respondents, including the Quoted Companies Alliance, the International Corporate Governance Network, the Investment Association and the Joint Working Party of the Company Law Committees of the City of London Law Society and the Law Society of England and Wales. The RS summarizes the responses received by the Panel and sets out the changes to the Code that will take effect on 8 January 2018 (including in relation to ongoing bids).

Click here, to continue reading.

The SEC recently approved a proposal by NYSE to amend NYSE Listed Company Manual Rule 202.06 to prohibit NYSE-listed companies from issuing material news after the NYSE close of trading until the earlier of the publication of the company’s official closing price on the NYSE or five minutes after the NYSE’s official closing time (which is 4:00PM ET) for the placement of orders.

Continue Reading NYSE Requires Companies to Delay Release of Material Information After Market Close

On December 2, 2017, the U.S. Senate passed the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Two weeks earlier, on November 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill. The Senate and House bills, while broadly similar, also have many important differences.

The Senate and the House will need to agree on one consistent bill before it can become law. The Senate and the House will engage in significant negotiations over the coming days/weeks, which would require additional modifications to the bill before it is enacted.

Recent press reports have suggested that the House may seek to adopt a revised bill substantially similar to the bill passed by the Senate, but the situation remains fluid and unpredictable, and additional changes are anticipated for the Senate bill as well. This memorandum sets forth a few key observations about the proposed bills that may be relevant to M&A transactions.

Click here, to read the full memo.