Topic: Merger Agreement

Chancery Court Requires all Sellers to be Joined to a Rescission Claim Relating to Merger Agreement; Allows Unjust Enrichment Claim to Proceed

By David Forney and Mark Hammes

In Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. RSI Holdco, LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0517-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 22, 2019), the Court of Chancery held that the buyer could not seek remedy outside of the scope of a merger agreement from the sellers’ representative without bringing in all sellers as parties to the action because the representative’s authority was limited to matters relating to or arising under the four corners of that agreement.  The Court also denied the representative’s motion to dismiss the buyer’s unjust enrichment claim because the buyer properly alleged that the contract arose from sellers’ wrongdoing.

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Delaware Chancery Court Rejects Fraud-Based and Uncapped Indemnification Claims of Great Hill Partners Against the Founders of Plimus

By:  Peter N. Flocos and Joanna Diakos

In a case arising out of the purchase by Great Hill Partners of Plimus (now known as BlueSnap, Inc.), the Delaware Court of Chancery, after a 10-day trial and extensive post-trial briefing and oral argument, recently rejected all of the fraud-based claims made by Great Hill against the two founders of Plimus, Messrs. Daniel Kleinberg and Tomer Herzog (the “founders”), who were also directors and major shareholders of Plimus at the time of the transaction. The Court’s decision in Great Hill Equity Partners IV, LP v. SIG Growth Equity Fund I, LLLP, No. 7906-VCG, 2018 WL 6311829 (Del. Ch. Dec. 3, 2018), is notable for its rejection of several claims Great Hill pressed for years after initiating the litigation in September 2012.

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Delaware Chancery Court Makes Groundbreaking “Material Adverse Effect” Finding Allowing Buyer to Terminate Merger Agreement

By: Peter Flocos, Lisa Stark, Rick Giovannelli and Mark Hammes

In a landmark decision, a Delaware court has, for what is widely believed to be the first time ever, found that a material adverse effect actually occurred in an acquisition transaction, giving the buyer a right to terminate the pending transaction.  In Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi AG,[1] the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held, following a trial, that the buyer properly terminated the parties’ merger agreement, due to such a material adverse effect between signing and closing, under the terms of the agreement and the pertinent Delaware case law.  Unlike prior decisions rejecting buyer material adverse effect claims,[2] the Court found that a pre-closing decline in the business of the target – Akorn – was not merely a “cyclical trend” and was likely to have a post-closing, durationally-significant effect that was “material when viewed from the longer-term perspective of a reasonable acquiror.”[3]  Although groundbreaking, the Akorn decision reflects that the Delaware courts will still approach the question of whether an MAE has occurred on a case-by-case basis and does not establish a particular “bright line” test.

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Chancery Court Clarifies “Constituent Corporation”

By: Stephan H. Coonrod and Stephanie S. Liu

In City of North Miami Beach General Employees’ Retirement Plan, et al. v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., et al., (C.A. No. 2018-0227-AGB (Del. Ch. June 1, 2018)), the Court of Chancery held that the term “constituent corporation” as used in Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law means only an entity that actually is being merged or combined with another entity in a merger or consolidation and does not include a parent of such entities. Thus, the Court ruled that the Dr Pepper stockholder plaintiffs are not entitled to appraisal rights because Dr Pepper is not a constituent corporation, but rather the parent of one of two corporations to be merged in connection with the proposed transaction.

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CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES BREACH OF CONTRACT CLAIM DUE TO PLAINTIFF’S FAILURE TO PROFFER A REASONABLE CONSTRUCTION OF MERGER AGREEMENT PROVISION

By: Christopher H. Cunningham and Joseph Phelps

In Fortis Advisors LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc., No. 12147-VCS (Del. Ch. Aug. 9, 2017), the plaintiff, Fortis Advisors LLC, which was acting as representative (the “Representative”) for the former stockholders of SARcode Bioscience Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company (the “Target”), pursuant to a merger agreement, alleged that the acquiror Shire US Holdings, Inc., a Delaware subsidiary of a global biopharmaceutical company (the “Acquiror”), breached the provisions of a merger agreement by refusing to pay certain milestone payments that were due.  The Court of Chancery granted the Acquiror’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a breach of contract claim, concluding that, while the Acquiror’s interpretation of the operative provision at issue was reasonable based on its plain and unambiguous language, the Representative failed to proffer a competing reasonable construction of such provision and thus the Court was required to grant the motion to dismiss.

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Chancery Court considers who should decide whether certain disputes are arbitrable — the court or an arbitrator selected by the parties?

By: John Blair & Ernest Simons

In Greenstar IH Rep, LLC and Gary Segal v. Tutor Perini Corporation, Civil Action No. 12885-VCS (Del. Ch. Ct. February 23, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part defendant’s motion for preliminary injunction, holding that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to decide the question of substantive arbitrability when an employment agreement contains a broad arbitration provision that evidences the parties intent to arbitrate arbitrability.

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Court of Chancery Approves Modifying Merger-Related Class Action Settlement to Distribute Proceeds to Record Stockholders through DTC

In re Dole Food Company, Inc., Stockholders Litigation

By: Remsen Kinne and Eryn Correa

The Court of Chancery granted a motion for leave to modify a settlement agreement in a merger-related class action suit to distribute settlement proceeds through DTC to Dole Food Company, Inc. (“Dole”) common stockholders of record. The Court held that the original stipulation providing for settlement proceeds to be distributed to both record holders and beneficial holders through a traditional notices and claims forms process proved to be too costly and burdensome in practice, which justified modifying the allocation procedure.

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Delaware Chancery Court Awards Advancement of Fees in Connection with Post-Merger Indemnification Claims

By: Scott E. Waxman and Sophia Lee Shin

In Joel Z. Hyatt and Albert A. Gore, Jr. v. Al Jazeera America Holdings II, LLC and Al Jazeera International (USA) Inc., the Delaware Court of Chancery reviewed a motion for summary judgment in connection with a dispute regarding the advancement of fees for the litigation of various post-merger indemnification claims. The Chancery Court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to advancement for certain claims, but not for others, depending on whether the underlying facts of each claim required the plaintiffs to defend their actions as former officers or directors.

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Chancery Court Finds Non-Reliance Language Insufficient to Bar Extra-Contractual Fraud Claims

By Lisa Stark and Mark Hammes

In FdG Logistics v. A&R Logistics, C.A. No. 9706-CB (Del. Ch. Feb. 23, 2016), the Court of Chancery held that a non-reliance provision contained in a merger agreement was ineffective to bar a buyer’s fraud claims based on extra-contractual statements made during the due diligence and negotiation process because the non-reliance provision was formulated solely as a limitation on the seller’s representations and warranties.  According to the Court, for a non-reliance provision to be effective against a buyer, it must be formulated as an affirmative promise by the buyer that it did not rely on any extra-contractual statements made by the seller during the sales process.  The decision clarifies the Court of Chancery’s 2015 decision in Prairie Capital III, L.P. v. Double E Holding Corp., C.A. No. 10127-VCL (Del. Ch. Nov. 24, 2015) in which the Court emphasized that “no magic words” are required for a non-reliance provision to be effective.

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Chancery Court Grants in Part and Denies in Part a Motion to Dismiss in Fraud and Earnout Dispute

By: Jamie Bruce and John Sun

In Haney v. Blackhawk, C.A. No. 10851-VCN (Del. Ch. Feb. 26, 2016), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc.’s (“Blackhawk”) motion to dismiss certain claims brought by Greg Haney (“Haney”) in his capacity as representative of the selling stockholders of CardLab, Inc. (“CardLab”). Haney brought claims against Blackhawk in connection with Blackhawk’s acquisition of CardLab in 2014 including, inter alia, for fraudulent inducement and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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Chancery Court Confirms Delaware’s Merger Statutes Inapplicable to Options

By Lisa Stark and Eric Jay

In Kurt Fox v. CDX Holdings, Inc. (f/k/a Caris Life Sciences, Inc.), C.A. No. 8031-VCL (Del. Ch. July 28, 2015), the Delaware Court of Chancery confirmed that Delaware’s merger statutes do not effect a statutory conversion of options at the effective time of a merger. Rather, the treatment of stock options in a merger is governed by the underlying stock option plan, which must be amended in connection with a merger if the treatment of options in the merger differs from the treatment contemplated by the plan. The Court also confirmed that a standard qualification in stock option plans, requiring a corporation’s board of directors to determine the fair market value of the option for purposes of cashing out the options, could not be satisfied by informal board action or a delegation to management or a third party.

This class action arose from a 2011 spin-off/merger transaction pursuant to which Miraca Holdings, Inc. (“Miraca”) acquired CDX Holdings, Inc. (formerly known as Caris Life Sciences, Inc.) (“Caris”) for $725 million (the “Merger”). Immediately prior to the Merger, Caris spun off two of its three subsidiaries to its stockholders (the “Spin-Off”). In the Merger, each share of Caris stock was converted into the right to receive $4.46 in cash. Each option was terminated with the right to receive the difference between $5.07 per share and the exercise price of the option, minus 8% of the total option proceeds, which were held back to fund an escrow account from which Miraca could satisfy indemnification claims brought post-closing.

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Chancery Court Finds No “Gap” to be Filled, No Implied Covenant Claim in Earn-Out Dispute

By Nick Froio and Lauren Garraux

Chancery Court grants defendant’s motion to dismiss alternative claims of breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation in earn-out dispute, holding that merger agreement set the standard to determine whether non-payment of earn-out was improper.

Fortis Advisors LLC v. Dialog Semiconductor PLC, C.A. No. 9522-CB (January 30, 2015) involves a dispute over whether earn-out payments are owed to the former equityholders of iWatt, Inc. (“iWatt”) pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Merger dated as of July 1, 2013 (the “Merger Agreement”) whereby Dialog Semiconductor PLC (“Dialog”) acquired iWatt. Under the Merger Agreement, Dialog was to pay earn-out payments of up to $35 million depending on the post-merger revenues of Dialog’s Power Conversion Business Group, of which iWatt became a part post-closing. In addition, the terms of the Merger Agreement required that Dialog use its “commercially reasonable best efforts” to achieve and pay the earn-out payments in full. Revenues, however, fell short of the threshold amount to trigger the earn-out payments.

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