In late October the SEC issued its first updated Staff Legal Bulletin on shareholder proposals in years – Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14H (“SLB 14H”). Please see my blog on SLB 14H HERE. On the same day the SEC published two new Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DI”) related to the unbundling of matters presented for a vote to shareholders in merger and acquisition transactions. The new C&DI has in essence granted voting rights to target company shareholders, on acquiring company organizational documents, where none existed before and has in essence pre-empted state law on the issue.
Unbundling under Rule 14a-4(a)(3) in the M&A Context
Exchange Act Rule 14a-4 relates to the requirements for a proxy card general. Rule 14a-4(a) provides:
(a) The form of proxy:
(1) Shall indicate in bold-face type whether or not the proxy is solicited on behalf of the registrant’s board of directors or, if provided other than by a majority of the board
This article continues my series on obligations (and rights and responsibilities) of the board of directors during a merger and acquisition transaction. This blog focuses on the director’s duty of disclosure. A director’s duty of disclosure is part and parcel with their duty of loyalty. That is, the duty of disclosure primarily focuses on a director’s duty to disclose conflicts of interest he may have with respect to any corporate action. However, the duty also extends to a director’s duty to inform shareholders fully on matters involving a shareholder vote and in making any public disclosures.
Duty to Disclose
The duty to disclose (like other duties) only extends to material facts and circumstances. “Put another way, there must be a substantial likelihood that the disclosure of the omitted fact would have been viewed by the reasonable investor as having significantly altered the total mix of information made available.” TSC Indus., Inc. v. Northway, Inc., 426 U.S. 438 (1976). In the
This article continues my series on obligations (and rights and responsibilities) of the board of directors during a merger and acquisition transaction. The last in the series discussed a director’s duty of loyalty. This blog continues that discussion, focusing on the duty in particular fact circumstances.
Balancing Common and Preferred Shares
A common question I am asked by directors is how to balance the interest of two competing classes of stock (such as common and preferred). In such a case, the entire fairness standard of reviewing a corporate transaction (discussed in last blog) will not automatically be invoked, but first the court will utilize the business judgment rule. Accordingly, a director who is not conflicted and who otherwise takes all measures required (in-depth involvement in the process, review of all documents, advice of outside professionals, seeking highest price for all classes of stock) will be protected from liability.
Directors’ Financial Motivation
This article continues my series on obligations (and rights and responsibilities) of the board of directors during a merger and/or acquisition transaction. The first in the series detailed the directors’ basic duties of care, loyalty and disclosure. The second discussed the availability of indemnification and/or exculpation and the importance of acting in good faith. This third blog in the series will take a more in-depth look at a directors’ duty of loyalty in a merger and acquisition transaction.
Duty of Loyalty
The duty of loyalty demands that there be no conflict between the director’s duty to the company and their own self-interest. A director breaches that duty when he appropriates a corporate asset or opportunity or uses his corporate office to promote, advance or effectuate a transaction between the corporation and himself or a related party which isn’t entirely fair to the corporation.
Business Judgment Rule
The business judgment rule will not protect a director where there is a
This blog continues my series on obligations (and rights and responsibilities) of the board of directors during a merger and/or acquisition transaction. The first in the series went over the directors basic duties of care, loyalty and disclosure.
Indemnification of Corporate Officers
Many states’ corporate laws allow entities to include provisions in their corporate charters allowing for the exculpation and/or indemnification of directors. Exculpation refers to a complete elimination of liability whereas indemnification allows for the reimbursement of expenses incurred by an officer or director.
Delaware, for example, allows for the inclusion of a provision in the certificate of incorporation eliminating personal liability for directors in stockholder actions for breaches of fiduciary duty, except for breaches of the duty of loyalty that result in personal benefit for the director to the detriment of the shareholders. Indemnification generally is only available where the director has acted in good faith. Exculpation is generally only available to directors whereas indemnification is available
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. As such, directors owe a corporation a duty of loyalty, honesty and good faith. Generally a court will not second-guess directors’ decisions as long as the board has conducted an appropriate process in reaching its decision. This is referred to as the “business judgment rule”.
Mergers and Acquisitions
However, in certain instances, such as in a merger and acquisition transaction, where a board may have a conflict of interest (i.e. get the most money for the corporation and its shareholders vs. getting the most for themselves via either cash or job security), the board of directors actions face a higher level of scrutiny. This is referred