Morris James on In re Appraisal of SWS Group Inc.

Recent criticism of appraisal arbitrage argues that it comes without real risk to the petitioners. This appraisal decision, which values the company below the deal price based on a discounted cash flow analysis, should be part of any reform discussion. The petitioners in SWS Group suffered a sizable loss after refusing to accept the deal price. SWS Group also comes right on the heels of the PetSmart decision, which found the deal price represented the company’s fair value. Hence, petitioners again lost, given all the expense involved in an appraisal proceeding. In short, appraisal litigation is not for the weak at heart. The key to this decision is the Court’s finding that synergies for the buyer drove the merger price past fair value. Of course, while based on precedent, a finding of synergies is always controversial. To petitioners, those possible benefits are what made the company worth buying and are thus part of its inherent appeal.