Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Mergers & Acquisitions
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Towers Watson & Co. (“Towers”) and Willis Group Holdings Public Limited Company (“Willis”) executed a merger agreement with closing conditioned on the approval of their respective stockholders. Although Towers had stronger performance and greater market capitalization, Willis stockholders were to receive the majority (50.1 percent) of the post-merger company. Upon the merger’s public announcement, several segments of the investment community criticized the transaction as a bad deal for Towers and a windfall for Willis. Towers’ stock price declined and Willis’s rose in reaction to the news. Proxy advisory firms recommended that the Towers stockholders vote against the merger, and one activist stockholder began questioning whether Towers’ management’s incentives were aligned with stockholder interests. Also, after announcing the merger, ValueAct Capital Management, L.P. (“ValueAct”), an institutional stockholder of Willis, through its Chief Investment Officer, Jeffrey Ubben, presented to John Haley, the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and Chairman of Towers who was spearheading the merger negotiations, a compensation proposal with the post-merger company that would potentially provide Haley with a five-fold increase in compensation. Haley did not disclose this proposal to the Towers Board. In light of the uncertainty of stockholder approval, Haley renegotiated the transaction terms to increase the special dividend. Towers eventually obtained stockholder approval of the renegotiated merger. The transaction closed in January 2016, and the companies merged to form Willis Towers Watson Public Limited Company (“Willis Towers”). Haley became the CEO of Willis Towers and was granted an executive compensation package with a long-term equity opportunity similar to ValueAct’s proposal. At issue were stockholder suits filed in early 2018. Here, Towers stockholders alleged that Haley breached his duty of loyalty by negotiating the merger on behalf of Towers while failing to disclose to the Towers Board the compensation proposal. The Court of Chancery dismissed the claims, holding that the business judgment rule applied because “a reasonable board member would not have regarded the proposal as significant when evaluating the proposed transaction,” and further holding that plaintiffs had failed to plead a non-exculpated bad faith claim against the Towers directors. To the Delaware Supreme Court, plaintiffs argued the Court of Chancery erred in holding the executive compensation proposal was not material to the Towers Board. To this, the Supreme Court concurred, reversed the Court of Chancery, and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Fort Myers General Employees' Pension Fund v. Haley" on Justia Law

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IBM's proposed purchase of Merge Healthcare was supported by a vote of close to 80% of Merge stockholders. Former Merge stockholders sought post-closing damages against the company’s directors for what they alleged was an improper sale process. Merge did not have an exculpation clause in its corporate charter, so its directors have potential liability for acts violating their duty of care, in the context of an allegedly less-than-rigorous sales process. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed. Demonstrating such a violation of the duty of care is not trivial: it requires a demonstration of gross negligence, but it is less formidable than showing disloyalty. Regardless of that standard, the uncoerced vote of a majority of disinterested shares in favor of the merger cleansed any such violations, raising the presumption that the directors acted within their proper business judgment. View "In Re Merge Healthcare Inc. Stockholder Litigation" on Justia Law

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Polar Holding was sole shareholder of PMC, a company engaged in the petroleum-additive business. PMC was in default on a loan for which it had pledged valuable intellectual property as collateral, and Polar Holding was in the midst of an internal dispute between members of its board of directors regarding business strategy for PMC. One of the directors, Socia, formed a competing company, Petroleum, for the purpose of acquiring PMC’s promissory note and collateral from the holder of PMC’s loan. Petroleum brought suit against Woodward, an escrow agent in possession of PMC’s collateral, alleging that PMC was in default on the payment of its promissory note. Polar Holding and PMC intervened and filed counterclaims against Petroleum and a third-party complaint against additional parties, including Socia. Polar Holding and PMC allleged breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, and tortious interference. After PMC filed for bankruptcy, its claims became the property of the bankruptcy trustee. Polar Holding’s claims were later dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a tortious interference claim as addressed by the district court, but reversed dismissal of a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim against Socia and a civil-conspiracy claim against individual third-party defendants.View "Petroleum Enhancer, L.L.C. v. Woodward" on Justia Law

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Central Laborers instituted this action under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, Del. Code Ann. tit. 8, section 220, to compel News Corp. to produce its books and records related to its acquisition of Shine. The court held that Section 220 permitted a stockholder to inspect books and records of a corporation if the stockholder complied with the procedural requirements of the statute and then showed a proper purpose for the inspection. Section 220 required a stockholder seeking to inspect books and records to establish that such stockholder had complied with the form and manner of making demand for inspection of such documents. Central Laborers had not made that showing. Because Central Laborers' Inspection Demand did not satisfy the procedural requirements of Section 220, it did not establish its standing to inspect the books and records of News Corp. On that basis alone, and without reaching the issue of proper purpose, the court affirmed the judgment.View "Central Laborers Pension Fund v. News Corp." on Justia Law

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This case arose when Martin Marietta sought to purchase all of Vulcan's outstanding shares (Exchange Offer). At issue was the meaning of confidentiality agreements entered into by both parties. The court found in favor of Vulcan on its counterclaims for breach of the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) (Count I), and the joint defense and confidentiality agreement (JDA)(Count II), and against Martin Marietta on its claim that it did not breach the NDA (Count I). Martin Marietta shall be enjoined for a period of four months from prosecuting a proxy contest, making an exchange or tender offer, or otherwise taking steps to acquire control of Vulcan shares or assets. During that period, it is also enjoined from any further violations of the NDA and JDA. Vulcan shall submit a conforming final judgment within five days, upon approval as to form by Martin Marietta.View "Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. v. Vulcan Materials Co." on Justia Law

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RAA appealed from a final judgment of the Superior Court that dismissed its complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). RAA's complaint alleged that Savage told RAA, one of several potential bidders for Savage, at the outset of their discussions that there was "no significant unrecorded liabilities or claims against Savage," but then during RAA's due diligence into Savage, Savage disclosed three such matters, which caused RAA to abandon negotiations for the transactions. The complaint contended that had RAA known of those matters at the outset, it never would have proceeded to consider purchasing Savage. Therefore, according to RAA, Savage should be liable for the entirety of RAA's alleged $1.2 million in due diligence and negotiation costs. The court held that, under Paragraphs 7 and 8 of the non-disclosure agreement (NDA), RAA acknowledged that in the event no final "Sale Agreement" on a transaction was reached, Savage would have no liability, and could not be sued, for any allegedly inaccurate or incomplete information provided by Savage to RAA during the due diligence process. The court also held that RAA could not rely on the peculiar-knowledge exception to support its claims. Finally, the court held that, when Savage and RAA entered into the NDA, both parties knew how the non-reliance clauses had been construed by Delaware courts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.View "RAA Management, LLC v. Savage Sports Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought their Verified Complaint asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against defendant. J.P.Morgan also asserted a claim for attorneys' fees and costs under an option agreement that J.P. Morgan and defendant entered into, which was the contract central to the dispute. Defendant moved to dismiss pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6). The court held that J.P. Morgan has failed to state a claim that defendant breached the express terms of the Option Agreement and therefore, defendant's motion to dismiss was granted as to Count I. Defendant's motion to dismiss was denied as to Count II because J.P. Morgan's allegations, taken together, were sufficient to state a claim of the implied covenant. Finally, defendant's motion to dismiss was denied as to Count III where J.P. Morgan could eventually be the prevailing party in this action.View "JPMorgan Chase & Co. v. American Century Co." on Justia Law

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This was an appraisal proceeding brought pursuant to 8 Del. C. 262. Petitioners, former shareholders and managers of a prison healthcare detention company, sought appraisal of their shares following an all cash acquisition of the company for $40 million. The court found that the fair value of Just Care as of September 30, 2009 was $34,244,570. The parties shall cooperate to determine the amount of the interest award in accordance with the rulings in the opinion and petitioners shall present, on notice, an appropriate proposed order of final judgment specifying, among other things, the corresponding fair value per common share and per Series A preferred share within 10 days.View "Gearreald v. Just Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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This dispute arose from the merger between plaintiff's start-up company, LaneScan, and VSAC. Plaintiffs complained that the Merger improperly deprived them of their Notes and that a return of capital provision was inappropriately excised from LaneScan's Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Operating Agreement in conjunction with the merger. For damages, plaintiffs requested a return of their original investment in LaneScan with pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys' fees and expenses. The court granted plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment with respect to the Notes and the Security Agreement, and it reserved decision on plaintiffs' request for an award of legal fees and expenses related to the Notes Claims, to the extent such request was based upon section 2.3 of the Notes and plaintiffs' successful showing on the declaratory judgment claim. The court ruled in favor of defendants with respect to all of plaintiffs' other claims.View "Dawson v. Pittco Capital Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

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This action arose out of the merger of Answers with A-Team, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AFCV, which in turn, was a portfolio company of the private equity firm Summit (collectively, with A-Team and AFCV, the Buyout Group). Plaintiffs, owners of Answers' stock, filed a purported class action on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated public stockholders of Answers. The court concluded that the complaint adequately alleged that all of the members of the Board breached their fiduciary duties. Therefore, the motions to dismiss the First Cause of Action were denied, except as to the disclosure claim that plaintiffs have abandoned. The court also concluded that plaintiffs have adequately pled that the Buyout Group aided and abetted a breach of the Board's fiduciary duty. Therefore, the motions to dismiss the Second Cause of Action were denied. View "In re Answers Corp. Shareholders Litigation" on Justia Law