Fixing Merger Litigation

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 2014-03-14


Editor's Note: Steven M. Davidoff is Professor of Law and Finance at Ohio State University College of Law. As of July 2014, Professor Davidoff will be Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Jill E. Fisch is Perry Golkin Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Law & Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Sean J. Griffith is T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law at Fordham University School of Law. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In the US, every M&A deal of any significant size generates litigation. The vast majority of these lawsuits settle, and the vast majority of these settlements are for non-pecuniary relief, most commonly supplemental disclosures in the merger proxy.

The engine that drives this litigation is the concept of “corporate benefit.” Under judge-made law, litigation that produces a corporate benefit allows the court to order plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees to be paid directly by the defendants provided that the outcome of the litigation is beneficial to the corporation and its shareholders. In a negotiated settlement, plaintiffs will characterize supplemental disclosures in the merger proxy as producing a corporate benefit, and defendants will typically not oppose the characterization, as they are happy to pay off the plaintiffs’ lawyers and get on with the deal. The supposed benefits of these settlements thus are rarely tested in adversarial proceedings. Knowing this creates a strong incentive for plaintiffs’ attorneys to file claims, put in limited effort, and negotiate a settlement consisting exclusively of corrective disclosures. But is there any real value to these settlements?

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Steven Davidoff, Ohio State University College of Law, Jill Fisch, University of Pennsylvania, and Sean Griffith, Fordham University,

Date tagged:

03/14/2014, 09:30

Date published:

03/14/2014, 09:00