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Eugene Choi is an associate in the Corporate Practice Group in the firm's Orange County office.

In In re GGP Stockholder Litigation, 2022 WL 2815820 (Del. July 19, 2022), an M&A transaction split the merger consideration into two parts: an oversized pre-closing dividend totaling over $9 billion, followed by a nominal post-closing payment of about 31 cents a share. In this case, a majority of the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that divvying up merger consideration in this manner does not defeat a dissenting stockholder’s appraisal rights. The majority held that a pre-closing dividend (at least one dependent upon the consummation of the transaction) is part and parcel of the total “merger consideration,” and therefore will be taken into account when determining the fair value of a stockholder’s shares prior to the transaction. However, the Court added, the proxy materials must be clear that the merger consideration subject to an appraisal action includes not only the post-closing per share payment, but also any pre-closing dividend—no matter how large it might be. Otherwise, a stockholder could (incorrectly) believe that the fair value of her shares will be appraised only after deducting the padded dividend from the value of the company, thus depleting the fair value of her shares and making the pursuit of an appraisal action highly unsavory. Here, the Court held that the proxy statement was less than clear in this regard, and upheld plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty claims on a motion to dismiss. In reaching its decision, the Delaware Supreme Court provides important guidance to practitioners structuring deals with an eye towards diminishing the usual deluge of appraisal actions—shoehorning the lion’s share of merger compensation into a pre-closing dividend will not do the trick, nor can the accompanying proxy materials make that suggestion (no matter how subtly or perhaps unintentionally).

Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Holds Novel Pre-Closing Dividend Transaction Structure Does Not Thwart Appraisal Remedy

This December, the Delaware Supreme Court penned two decisions that shined the spotlight on purchase agreement provisions that are often afterthoughts in negotiations.  In Golden Rule Financial Corporation v. Shareholder Representative Services, No. 61, 2021, 2021 WL 5754866 (Del. Dec. 3, 2021) (ORDER), the Court reviewed the post-closing “true up” language and determined that “consistently applied” accounting principles in the post-closing true up does not necessarily mean “in the same manner as had been applied prior to closing.”  And in AB Stable VIII LLC v. MAPS Hotels and Resorts One LLC, –A.3d–, 2021 WL 5832875 (Del. Dec. 8, 2021), the Court confirmed what it means to operate a business in the ordinary course between signing and closing during a pandemic.  The Golden Rule and AB Stable decisions provide an insightful frame of reference for practitioners to rethink what these provisions mean and how they may want to recraft them to allocate risk as intended.

Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Shines Spotlight on Boilerplate Purchase Agreement Provisions

In United Food & Commercial Workers Union & Participating Food Industry Employers Tri-State Pension Fund v. Zuckerberg, No. 404, 2020, — A.3d –, 2021 WL 3433261 (Del. Sept. 23, 2021), the Delaware Supreme Court adopted a new three-pronged test for determining whether pre-suit demand by a stockholder plaintiff would have been futile.  This new test builds up and refines the Aronson and Rales demand futility tests for derivative claims.  The Court’s decision comes on the heels of Brookfield Asset Mgmt. v. Rosson, where the Court clarified derivative standing by overruling the oft-criticized direct-and-derivative “dual-natured” claim under Gentile v. Rossette (see blog article here).  This decision is another step toward simplifying Delaware law with respect to derivative claims.

Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Adopts New Three-Prong Test for Demand Futility

In Manti Holdings, LLC v. Authentix Acquisition Co., Inc., No. 354, 2020, 2021 WL 4165159 (Del. Sept. 13, 2021), the Delaware Supreme Court issued an important opinion affirming the use of stockholders agreements by and among Delaware corporations and its stockholders to waive stockholders’ rights of appraisal under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.  The Manti Holdings decision further solidifies Delaware’s strong policy preference of freedom of contract and private ordering, and confirms that Delaware corporations can have its stockholders waive appraisal rights.  Note, however, that not every appraisal waiver may be valid.  It also raises the question of what other seemingly “mandatory” stockholder rights may be waived in documents that are not a charter or bylaw.

Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Affirms the Use of Stockholders Agreements to Waive Appraisal Rights

In Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. Albertsons Companies, Inc., 2021 WL 2311455 (Del. Ch. June 7, 2021), the Delaware Court of Chancery (Slights, V.C.) provided key guidance on mergers and acquisitions (“M&A”) earnout disputes regarding contractual earnout language, the applicability of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, extra-contractual discussions and promises and post-closing behavior of the acquirer.  This opinion serves as a reminder to M&A transaction parties on important drafting concepts in earnouts, as well as how to conduct themselves during the negotiations and earnout period.
Continue Reading Delaware Court of Chancery Decision Provides Guidance on M&A Earnouts