In prior posts (most recently here), I have noted the continuing litigation efforts of institutional investors excluded from the various auction rate securities regulatory settlements to try to compel their broker-dealers to buy back the investors’ ARS. In a complaint filed on May 13, 2009 in the Southern District of New York by Monster Worldwide against RBC Capital Markets (here), Monster raises the novel theory that RBC’s settlement-related offer to repurchase ARS from "eligible investors"is a "tender offer" that RBC must extend to all investors — including institutional investors like Monster.
Between May 2007 and February 2008, Monster acquired $71.6 million of student loan backed ARS from RBC that Monster was left holding when the ARS market collapsed. In October 2008, RBC entered a regulatory settlement in which it agreed repurchase ARS from "its individual customers, charities, non-profits and government entities with less than $25 million on deposit." Pursuant to this arrangement, RBC will repurchase more than $850 million in ARS from "eligible investors." News reports regarding the regulatory settlement can be found here.
On December 1, 2008, RBC initiated an offer pursuant to the settlement to repurchase the ARS from eligible investors. Monster characterizes this repurchase offer in its complaint as a "tender offer," which offer was not extended to Monster and other institutional investors.
In its complaint, Monster describes its exclusion from RBC’s regulatory settlement as "arbitrary and unlawful," and alleges that RBC’s limitation of the "tender offer" only to "eligible investors" as a "clear violation" of Section 14(d) of the Exchange Act, giving rise to a claim for relief.
Monster also alleges that the repurchase offer violates SEC Rule 14d-10(a)1, the "All Holders" Rule, which provides that "No bidder shall make a tender offer unless … The tender offer is open to all security holders of the class of securities subject to the tender offer."
Finally, Monster alleges violations of the securities laws and common law in connection with RBC’s representations regarding the ARS.
Monster’s "tender offer" theory is unique and creative. By characterizing RBC’s repurchase offer, Monster seeks to secure for itself the benefit of a settlement from which it was excluded. The court will be challenged in addressing these allegations, because were the court to accept Monster’s theory, the floodgates could be opened for investors excluded from the other regulatory settlements to seek to bring themselves within the repurchase requirements. The critical question will be whether or note Monster is able to sustain its theory that RBC’s repurchase offer pursuant to the settlement is in fact a tender offer. This case will be very interesting to watch.
Special thanks to Thom Weidlich of Bloomberg for providing a copy of the Monster complaint.
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