One of the most significant corporate litigation phenomena over recent years has been the rise of merger objection litigation, as result of which nearly every public company merger objection transaction has drawn at least one lawsuit. According to the latest study of merger litigation from Cornerstone Research, this phenomenon continued in 2018, with the same percentage of merger transactions as in 2017 attracting at least one lawsuit – in 2018, as in 2017, 82% of public company merger transaction valued over $100 million drew at least one lawsuit. The Cornerstone Research report, entitled “Shareholder Litigation Involving Acquisitions of Public Companies: Review of 2018 M&A Litigation,” can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s September 17, 2019 press release about the report can be found here.
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As most readers are aware, litigation involving objection to mergers and acquisitions transactions has been proliferating in recent years, to the point that virtually every deal draws at least one lawsuit. While many of these actions are nuisance lawsuits, they are not without their costs. Indeed, according to one recent study, the costs to defend and settle these suits are growing.
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In prior posts (for example here), I noted that a series of Delaware court decisions culminating in the Court of Chancery’s January 2016 opinion in the Trulia case signaled the state’s courts’ hostility to disclosure-only settlements in merger objection lawsuit, which in turn has encouraged merger objectors to file their lawsuits in other jurisdictions. The Trulia line of cases is in fact only one of several recent judicial developments in Delaware that constrain shareholder claimants. So is stockholder litigation in trouble in Delaware? In a March 22, 2018 post on the Delaware Business Litigation Report (here), Edward McNally of the Morris James law firm take a look at this question, discussing where things stand while Delaware’s courts look to find the proper balance.
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delawareAs documented on this site (for example, here and here) and elsewhere, deal litigation has been shifting from Delaware Chancery Court to courts in other states and to federal courts. This shift is largely the result of two Delaware court decisions, the Delaware Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC  (here) and the Delaware Chancery Court’s January 2016 court decision in the In re Trulia Shareholder litigation (here). Though these court decisions are relatively recent, they are already having measurable impact on the amount of litigation in Delaware. Indeed, as detailed in a May 19, 2017 Law 360 article entitled “Delaware Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Fear Exodus of Chancery Deal Suits” (here, subscription required), the effect from these two cases has been sufficiently substantial that plaintiffs’ lawyers active in Delaware are now concerned that the future of deal litigation in Delaware is under threat.
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new yorkIn a series of decision culminating in Chancellor Bouchard’s January 2016 ruling in the Trulia case (about which refer here), Delaware’s courts have shown their hostility to disclosure-only settlements in merger objection lawsuits. These Delaware developments led some observers to speculate that we might have seen the end of the litigation trend in which nearly every M&A transaction attracted at least one merger objection lawsuit.

However, a February 2017 New York court ruling in the Gordon v. Verizon Communications, Inc. (discussed here), in which an intermediate appellate court reversed the lower court’s rejection of a disclosure-only merger objection lawsuit settlement and remanded the case for an award of plaintiffs’ fees, raised the question of whether or not there might yet be life ahead for disclosure-only settlement in merger objection lawsuits.

In a provocative March 20, 2017 post on the CLS Blue Sky Blog (here), Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee takes a look at the New York court’s Verizon decision, concluding that the decision ensures that “the nuisance suit remains alive and well in New York and should bring the worst of the plaintiff’s bar streaming back to New York.”
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seventh 2Cornerstone Research’s recent report on merger objection lawsuit filings showed what many of us expected to see – that in the wake of Delaware Chancellor Andre Bouchard’s rejection of the disclosure only settlement in the litigation arising out of Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia, there would be a decline in the number of merger objection lawsuits filed. The report also showed that the filing decline was particularly steep in Delaware, but not as sharp elsewhere. In other words, the plaintiffs’ lawyers still active in pursuing this type of litigation increasingly are filing their merger objection lawsuits outside of Delaware. With these kinds of cases now relatively more likely to be heard outside Delaware, the question of whether or not judges in other jurisdictions will follow the lead of Delaware’s courts in rejecting disclosure only settlements takes on relatively greater importance.
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cornerOnly two percent of M&A lawsuit that settled in 2013 involved a monetary payment to shareholders, according to the latest report on M&A lawsuit settlements from Cornerstone Research. The report, entitled “Settlements in Shareholder Litigation Involving Mergers and Acquisitions: Review of 2013 M&A Litigation” (here), is the second part of a two-part series