Lowenstein Sandler writes:
By a July 19, 2019 ruling, Vice Chancellor Slights set the fair value of Jarden Corporation at its unaffected market price of $48.31, below the $59.21 per share value of cash and stock that Newell Rubbermaid had paid to acquire it. The court also performed a DCF analysis that corroborated its valuation. The court was critical of the merger process leading up to this deal and questioned the reliability of a merger-price-less-synergies approach given that factor as well as its findings that there was no pre-signing or post-signing market check and the evidence regarding deal synergies and how much, if at all, was received by Jarden, was conflicting and especially difficult to measure.
- Strine, Delaware Supreme Court’s chief justice, to step down (July 8, 2019)
The press release from the governor’s office did not detail why Strine plans to step down. … He was nominated to a 12-year-term by former Gov. Jack Markell in 2014, replacing former Chief Justice Myron Steele.
- Leaf Invenergy Co. v. Invenergy Renewables LLC, No. 308, 2018 (Del. May 2, 2019).
- Morris James writers:
Limited Delaware case law exists on the “efficient breach” theory. A new Delaware Supreme Court ruling examines that theory and confirms it is not a bar to recovery or an avenue for modifying damages calculations. Rather, efficient breach is the legal concept that a party might find an intentional breach to be economically advantageous if the breach’s benefits exceed the damages it might owe. Efficient breach aside, the task of Delaware courts is to interpret contracts to fulfill parties’ shared expectations at time of contracting. That is a concept the Supreme Court emphasized when reversing the Court of Chancery’s nominal damages award in this case.
Plaintiff Leaf Invenergy Company invested $30 million in Invenergy Wind LLC. As part of the investment, Leaf secured a Consent Provision that prohibited Invenergy from conducting a “Material Partial Sale” without Leaf’s consent, unless Invenergy acquired Leaf’s interest at a premium, referred to as the “Target Multiple.” Several years into the investment, Invenergy closed a $1.8 billion asset sale without first obtaining Leaf’s consent and without redeeming Leaf’s interest at the Target Multiple. Leaf sued in Delaware.
The Court of Chancery determined Invenergy had breached the Consent Provision but that Leaf was not entitled to the Target Multiple. The Court reasoned that the Consent Provision was not an either-or provision, even though, until late in the litigation, both parties had understood a failure to obtain Leaf’s consent would require redemption at the Target Multiple. Instead, the Court reasoned that Leaf was entitled only to nominal damages, given the Court’s view that Invenergy likely would not have made the Material Partial Sale if it had to pay the Target Multiple and that, in any event, Leaf was no worse off with the transaction. Applying the “efficient breach” theory, the Court of Chancery imagined a hypothetical negotiation exercise in which Leaf would have to show that it would have secured additional consideration if given the opportunity to negotiate for its consent. Ultimately, the Court of Chancery ordered the parties to complete a buyout of Leaf’s interests pursuant to a put-call provision in the operative agreement, which Invenergy exercised during the suit.
On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed, explaining that the Consent Provision was an either-or structure requiring Leaf’s consent or payment, as evidenced by the parties’ own longstanding shared interpretation. The Supreme Court also explained the trial court’s misapplication of the efficient breach theory. Centrally, damages are an issue of contractual expectations. Here, the parties’ expectations were that, for a Material Partial Sale to close, Leaf either would give consent or be redeemed at the Target Multiple. Since Leaf did not give its consent, the appropriate expectation damages were receiving the Target Multiple. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the nominal damages award, substituting an award of the Target Multiple, conditioned on Leaf surrendering its membership interests.
- Verition Partners v. Aruba Networks, 2019 Del. LEXIS 197 (Del. Apr. 16, 2019)
In this statutory appraisal case, the Court of Chancery found that the fair value of Aruba Networks, Inc., as defined by 8 Del. C. § 262, was $17.13 per share, which was the thirty-day average market price at which its shares traded before the media reported news of the transaction that gave rise to the appellants’ appraisal rights. … Because the Court of Chancery’s decision to use Aruba’s stock price instead of the deal price minus synergies was rooted in an erroneous factual finding that lacked record support, we answer that in the positive and reverse the Court of Chancery’s judgment. On remand, the Court of Chancery shall enter a final judgment for the petitioners awarding them $19.10 per share, which reflects the deal price minus the portion of synergies left with the seller as estimated by the respondent in this case, Aruba. …
Likewise, assuming an efficient market, the unaffected market price and that price as adjusted upward by a competitive bidding process leading to a sale of the entire company was likely to be strong evidence of fair value. By asserting that Dell and DFC “indicate that Aruba’s unaffected market price is entitled to substantial weight,” the
Vice Chancellorseemed to suggest that this Court signaled in both cases that trading prices should be treated as exclusive indicators of fair value. However, Dell and DFC did not imply that the market price of a stock was necessarily the best estimate of the stock’s so-called fundamental value at any particular time. Rather, they did recognize that when a market was informationally efficient in the sense that “the market’s digestion and assessment of all publicly available information concerning [the Company] [is] quickly impounded into the Company’s stock price,” the market price is likely to be more informative of fundamental value. In fact, Dell’s references to market efficiency focused on informational efficiency—the idea that markets quickly reflect publicly available information and can be a proxy for fair value—not the idea that an informationally efficient market price invariably reflects the company’s fair value in an appraisal or fundamental value in economic terms. Nonetheless, to the extent the Court of Chancery read DFC and Dell as reaffirming the traditional Delaware view, which is accepted in corporate finance, that the price a stock trades at in an efficient market is an important indicator of its economic value that should be given weight, it was correct. And to the extent that the Court of Chancery also read DFC and Dell as reaffirming the view that when that market price is further informed by the efforts of arm’s length buyers of the entire company to learn more through due diligence, involving confidential non-public information, and with the keener incentives of someone considering taking the non-diversifiable risk of buying the entire entity, the price that results from that process is even more likely to be indicative of so-called fundamental value, it was correct. …
Under the semi-strong form of the efficient capital markets hypothesis, the unaffected market price is not assumed to factor in nonpublic information. In this case, however, HP had signed a confidentiality agreement, done exclusive due diligence, gotten access to material nonpublic information, and had a much sharper incentive to engage in price discovery than an ordinary trader because it was seeking to acquire all shares. Moreover, its information base was more current as of the time of the deal than the trading price used by the Vice Chancellor. Compounding these issues was the reality that Aruba was set to release strong earnings that HP knew about in the final negotiations, but that the market did not. As previously noted, Aruba’s stock price jumped 9.7% once those earnings were finally reported to the public. None of these issues were illuminated in the traditional way, and none of them were discussed by the Court of Chancery in a reasoned way in giving exclusive weight to a prior trading price that was $7.54 below what HP agreed to pay, and well below what Aruba had previously argued was fair value. (footnotes omitted)
via Steve Hecht, FT, Opinion, DealLawyers, Alison Frankel, Bloomberg Law, Matt Levine, The Chancery Daily, S&C, Potter Anderson, Morris James, CW&T, Ann Lipton, Baker Botts, PLC, Ropes & Gray, WSG&R, WF&G, Fried Frank, PWRW&G, Francis G.X. Pileggi
Richards, Layton & Finger, 2019 Proposed Amendments to the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (March 27, 2019)
Appraisal Rights. The 2019 Amendments make several technical changes to Section 262(d), which sets forth the provisions for notices to stockholders in circumstances where they are entitled to appraisal rights, to clarify such notice provisions and conform them to amended Section 232(a). The amendments to Section 262(d) will permit a corporation to deliver a notice of appraisal rights by courier or electronic mail (in addition to by U.S. mail). In addition, Section 262(d) is being amended to permit stockholders to deliver demands for appraisal by electronic transmission. …
- Cornerstone Research, Appraisal Litigation in Delaware: Trends in Petitions and Opinions 2006–2018 (2019)
- Richards, Layton & Finger, Court of Chancery Declares Federal Forum Provisions Ineffective (Dec. 19, 2018)
The Delaware Court of Chancery, in Sciabacucchi v. Salzberg, C.A. No. 2017-0931-JTL (Del. Ch. Dec. 19, 2018), has declared “ineffective and invalid” provisions in three corporations’ certificates of incorporation that purported “to require any claim under the Securities Act of 1933 to be brought in federal court” (the “Federal Forum Provisions”).
Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court, by Vice Chancellor Laster, ruled that “[t]he constitutive documents of a Delaware corporation cannot bind a plaintiff to a particular forum when the claim does not involve rights or relationships that were established by or under Delaware’s corporate law. In this case, the Federal Forum Provisions attempt to accomplish that feat. They are therefore ineffective and invalid.”