On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed H.R. 2617, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (“Appropriations Act”) into law. As sometimes happens in these voluminous bills, a nugget affecting our industry is buried. After about 2,600 pages of text we get to Title V – Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales and Brokerage Simplification. This short provision codifies into law the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities effecting securities transactions in connection with the sale of equity control in private operating businesses (“M&A Broker”). Previously the industry has been relying on a no-action letter issued by the SEC Division of Trading and Markets on January 31, 2014, for liability protection involving these transactions (see HERE).
Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) requires securities brokers to register with the SEC and Section 15(b) prescribes the manner of registration. Section 3(a)(4) of the Exchange Act defines a “broker” as “any person engaged in the business
Recently the Delaware Chancery Court rejected an interested executive’s defense of a breach of fiduciary duty claim, reminding us of the importance of making full and accurate disclosures when seeking shareholder approval for a merger or acquisition transaction. In particular, in the case of In re Xura, Inc. Stockholder Litigation the Delaware Chancery Court denied a motion to dismiss brought against a merger target company’s CEO, alleging that he had orchestrated the company’s sale to a particular bidder based on his self-interest in the outcome of the transaction.
The CEO argued that his actions should have been judged by the deferential business judgement rule and not a higher entire fairness standard because the transaction was approved by a majority of the disinterested shareholders. The CEO relied on the 2015 Delaware Supreme Court case of Corwin v. KKR Financing Holdings which held that a transaction that would be subject to enhanced scrutiny would instead be reviewed under the deferential business judgment
I have written about mergers and acquisitions, including reverse mergers, extensively in the past, but as both traditional mergers and acquisitions and reverse mergers are a large part of my practice, it is a topic worth revisiting and drilling down on regularly. In fact over the past year, the M&A market has been booming with activity. A question that often arises involves the obligations of the board of directors during the merger process.
Board of Directors’ Fiduciary Duties in the Merger Process
State corporate law generally provides that the business and affairs of a corporation shall be managed under the direction of its board of directors. Members of the board of directors have a fiduciary relationship to the corporation, which requires that they act in the best interest of the corporation, as opposed to their own. Generally a court will not second-guess directors’ decisions as long as the board has conducted an appropriate process in reaching its decisions. This