Barbara A. Bliss et al., Negative Activism, 97 Washington University Law Review (forthcoming)

  • Barbara A. Bliss et al., Negative Activism, 97 Washington University Law Review (forthcoming)

Shareholder activism has become one of the most important and widely studied topics in law and finance. To date, popular and academic accounts have focused on what we call “positive activism,” where activists seek to profit from positive changes in the share prices of targeted firms. In this Article, we undertake the first comprehensive study of positive activism’s mirror image, which we term “negative activism.” Whereas positive activists focus on increasing share prices, negative activists take short positions to profit from decreasing share prices.

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Go-Shops Revisited

The Original Study, which examined deals announced in 2006-07, reported that a higher bid emerged during the go-shop period 12.5% of the time (6 instances out of 48 go-shop deals). Using a new database of M&A transactions over the past nine years, we find that the jump rate in the 2010-2018 timeframe was 5.6% (6 out of 108 go-shops), declining to 2.5% (1 out of 40) in the period 2015-2018. The last successful go-shop in our sample occurred approximately three years ago, in January 2016, when II-VI Inc. successfully jumped GaAs Labs’ offer for ANADIGICS, Inc. during a 25-day go-shop period.

As one of us concluded in the Original Study, “go-shop provisions can be a better mousetrap’ in deal structuring – a `win-win’ for both buyer and seller.”  However, over the ensuing decade, a broader set of transactional planners distorted the go-shop technology in ways that achieve their clients’ objectives but no longer satisfy broader corporate law objectives of promoting allocational efficiency in the M&A marketplace. (footnote omitted)

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Jonathan R. Macey & Joshua Mitts, Asking the Right Question: The Statutory Right of Appraisal and Efficient Markets, SSRN (2018)

We contend that courts should look at the market price of the securities of a target company whose shares are being valued, unadjusted for the news of the merger, rather than at the deal price that was reached by the parties in the transaction.

Unadjusted market price has two distinct advantages over deal price. First, the unadjusted market price automatically subtracts the target firm’s share of the synergy gains and agency cost reductions impounded in the deal price. This is appropriate to do because dissenting shareholders in appraisal proceedings are not entitled to these increments of value which are supplied by the bidder. Second, the unadjusted market price is unaffected by any flaws in the deal process that led to the ultimate merger agreement. Recently, commentators have contended that deal prices in merger transactions should be ignored in appraisal cases where there are flaws in the process that led to the sale.

Fernan Restrepo, Judicial Deference, Procedural Protections, and Deal Outcomes in Freezeout Transactions: Evidence from the Effect of MFW

This work next explores the effect of MFW on the gains of the target shareholders, as measured by the premium over market prices, the cumulative abnormal returns around the announcement of the transaction, and the change from the buyer’s first offer to the final offer. This part of the analysis considers two hypotheses. The first hypothesis predicts that the gains of the target should be higher after MFW because shareholder voting acts as a check against negligent or captured boards, and even if boards discharged appropriately their fiduciary duties, the target shareholders can still use the threat of a veto to push acquirers to raise their offer (Subramanian, 2005, 15; Edelman and Thomas, 2015, 468; Jiang, Li, and Mei, 2016). As a result, the fact that MFW effectively incentivized MOM conditions should lead to an upward pressure on deal prices. The second hypothesis suggests, in contrast, that the target gains should remain similar after MFW because freezoeuts were already subject to significant scrutiny before 2013, and judicial scrutiny appears to be an effective substitute for procedural protections (Subramanian, 2007; Restrepo, 2013; Restrepo and Subramanian, 2015). As discussed in Section 4, the results generally support this hypothesis.

The free dividend fallacy could be costing you

  • The free dividend fallacy could be costing you

We show that many individual investors, mutual funds and institutions trade as if dividends and capital gains are separate disconnected attributes, not fully appreciating that dividends come at the expense of price decreases. Behavioral trading patterns (e.g. the disposition eect) are driven by price changes excluding dividends. Investors treat dividends as a separate stable income stream, holding high dividend-yield stocks longer and displaying less sensitivity to their price changes. Demand for dividends is systematically higher in periods of low interest rates and poor market performance, leading to high valuations and lower future returns for dividend-paying stocks. Investors rarely reinvest dividends into the stocks from which they came, instead purchasing other stocks. This creates predictable marketwide price increases on days of large aggregate dividend payouts, concentrated in stocks not paying dividends.

Appraising the ‘Merger Price’ Appraisal Rule

This paper develops an analytic framework combining agency costs, auction design and shareholder voting to study how best to measure “fair value” for dissident shareholders in a post-merger appraisal proceeding. Our inquiry spotlights an approach recently embraced by some courts that benchmarks fair value against the merger price itself, at least in certain situations. As a general matter, the “Merger Price” (MP) rule tends to depress both acquisition prices and target shareholders’ expected welfare relative to both the optimal appraisal policy and several other plausible alternatives. In fact, we demonstrate that the MP rule is strategically equivalent to nullifying appraisal rights altogether. Although the MP rule may be warranted in certain circumstances, our analysis suggests that such conditions are unlikely to be widespread and, consequently, the rule should be employed with caution. Our framework also helps explain why a healthy majority of litigated appraisal cases using conventional fair-value measures result in valuation assessments exceeding the deal price—an equilibrium phenomenon that is an artifact of rational, strategic behavior (and not necessarily an institutional deficiency, as some assert). Finally, our analysis facilitates better understanding of the strategic and efficiency implications of recent reforms allowing “medium-form” mergers, as well as an assortment of (colorfully named) appraisal-related practices, such as blow provisions, drag-alongs, and “naked no-vote” fees.

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