Although the number of corporate mergers surged during President Biden’s first year in office, all signs point to a tougher regulatory environment for deals going forward.

In 2021, $5.8 trillion changed hands as a result of corporate mergers across the globe.[1]  This 64 percent increase over 2020 far surpassed the previous annual record,[2] and now the Biden Administration appears to be taking steps toward fulfilling the President’s goal of ramping up antitrust enforcement.[3]  One such measure includes taking a more critical approach when evaluating proposed mergers, and federal agencies have already filed several high-profile investigations.[4]

Continue Reading Looking Ahead to Tougher Merger Guidelines and Enforcement

  1. Higher Thresholds For HSR Filings

On January 24, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced revised, higher thresholds for premerger filings under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976. The filing thresholds are revised annually, based on the change in Gross National Product (GNP) and after last year’s atypical decrease they have again increased.

Continue Reading Higher Filing Thresholds for HSR Act Premerger Notifications and Interlocking Directorates Announced

On December 27, 2021, the California Court of Appeal issued two decisions addressing whether claims arising from statements made in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) fall within California’s statute designed to deter “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or “SLAPPs,” arising from protected speech.  In Sugarman v. Benett, No. B307753, 2021 WL 6111725  (Cal. App. Dec. 27, 2021) (“Benett”), and Sugarman v. Brown, No. B308318, 2021 WL 6111718 (Cal. App. Dec. 27, 2021) (“Brown”), the Court held that state law claims arising out of disclosures in federal SEC filings may be subject to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, giving defendants a powerful tool to dispose meritless claims early in the process.

Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Holds that SEC Filings May Be Protected Activities Under Anti-SLAPP Statute

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

FinCEN has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding how the agency is planning to implement the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA).  The NPRM came out on December 8, 2021, accompanied by an explanatory factsheet.  Congress passed the CTA on January 1, 2021 in order to require U.S. companies to disclose beneficial ownership information.

Continue Reading FinCEN Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Corporate Transparency Act

Environmental, social, and governance factors (“ESG”) have pushed to the forefront of the SEC’s attention in recent years.  In September, building on prior guidance, the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance released a sample comment letter that requests additional information from companies related to climate change.  The letter does not create new substantive law, but it illustrates the SEC’s increased interest in ESG and climate-related disclosures under the Biden Administration.

Continue Reading SEC Publishes Sample Letter to Companies on Environmental Disclosures

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 Brookfield Asset Mgmt. v. Rosson, No. 406, 2020, 2021 Del. LEXIS 291 (Del. Sept. 20, 2021), the Delaware Supreme Court held that claims for wrongful equity dilution may be pursued only derivatively on behalf of the corporation and not directly.  Brookfield is noteworthy because it overruled Gentile v. Rossette, 906 A.2d 91 (Del. 2006), which previously permitted stockholder plaintiffs to assert direct claims for equity dilution where a controlling stockholder orchestrated a dilutive equity issuance that expropriated both economic value and voting power from the minority stockholders.  The Delaware Supreme Court revisited the Gentile rule, in part, because it conflicts with the simple test for determining whether a claim is direct or derivative established in Tooley v. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Inc., 845 A.2d 1031 (Del. 2004).  Under Tooley, a court must determine whether a claim is direct or derivative based solely upon the answer to the following questions: (1) who suffered the alleged harm (the corporation or the stockholders, individually)?; and (2) who would receive the benefit of any recovery or other remedy (the corporation or the stockholders, individually)?  Applying Tooley, the Delaware Supreme Court held that a claim for wrongful equity dilution is clearly derivative irrespective of whether shares were issued to a controlling stockholder as part of the dilutive transaction.  In the sixteen years since the Delaware Supreme Court decided Gentile, the decision was subject to a steady drumbeat of criticism and proved difficult to apply, which warranted the Court’s reconsideration of Gentile.
Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Holds that Equity Dilution and Expropriation Claims May Only Be Brought Derivatively, Overruling Prior Precedent

Last week, Coinbase Global Inc. (“Coinbase”) headed off confrontation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) by announcing it was shelving a much ballyhooed digital asset lending product, Lend.  The announcement came two weeks after Coinbase revealed that it had received a Wells notice from the SEC warning the company of its plans to sue over Coinbase’s planned October Lend launch.

Continue Reading A September to Remember: Coinbase Avoids SEC Clash by Dropping Crypto Lend Product