Market Based Factors as Best Indicators of Fair Value

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 2019-09-14

Posted by Jason Halper, Nathan Bull, and Sara Bussiere, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, on Saturday, September 14, 2019
Editor's Note: Jason Halper and Nathan Bull are partners and Sara Bussiere is an associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. This post is based on a Cadwalader memorandum by Mr. Halper, Mr. Bull, Ms. Bussiere, and Monica Martin, and is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Using the Deal Price for Determining “Fair Value” in Appraisal Proceedings (discussed on the Forum here) and Appraisal After Dell, both by Guhan Subramanian.

Three recent Delaware Court of Chancery appraisal decisions offer a wealth of guidance not only regarding the determination of a merger partner’s fair value, but also regarding elements that potentially undermine a quality sale process and strategic considerations for litigating valuation and sale process issues.

Statutory appraisal litigation, initiated after virtually every sizeable merger, requires the Delaware Court of Chancery to determine the fair value of a target company’s shares, exclusive of any merger-created value, as of the effective date of the merger. Though the appraisal statute broadly empowers the Court to consider “all relevant factors” in determining fair value, the Delaware Supreme Court has clarified the particular importance of certain market-based factors, namely, unaffected market price and merger consideration. Though the unaffected market price is an “important indicator” of fair value (so long as the stock is trading in an efficient market), deal price that is the product of “a robust market check will often be the most reliable evidence of fair value[.]”