Earlier this year, when Vice Chancellor Lori Will sustained the plaintiff’s SPAC-related Delaware State Court direct breach of fiduciary duty action against the motion to dismiss of the former directors of Gig Capital3 (Gig3), there was some speculation that the court’s ruling would lead to a “deluge” of similar lawsuits. While no onslaught of new lawsuits has yet materialized, there was (as I noted in a recent post, here) a SPAC-related Delaware state court direct breach of fiduciary duty action filed late last week against the board of Adara Acquisition Corp. Now, a shareholder plaintiff has filed an additional SPAC-related Delaware State Court direct breach of fiduciary duty action, against the board of Trident Acquisition Corp. in connection with the SPAC’s merger with AutoLotto, to form Lottery.com. As discussed below, the allegations against Trident’s board (as well as its sponsor and its financial underwriting advisor) more closely resemble those alleged in the Gig3 case, underscoring the possibility that plaintiffs’ attorneys may well seek to pursue the state court breach of fiduciary duty claim on similar theories. A copy of the April 3, 2023 complaint against the Trident board can be found here.
The “economic structure” of SPACs creates an ‘inherent conflict” between the SPAC sponsor and the SPAC’s public shareholders, according to a new paper from two leading law professors. The conflict arises from the SPAC sponsor’s financial interest in completing a merger even if the merger is not value-creating, which may conflict with the shareholders’ interest in redeeming their shares if they believe that the proposed merger is disadvantageous. Because of the potential conflict, it is critical that the SPAC’s board independently reviews the proposed merger and inform shareholders about the merger with appropriate candor. However, if the board members’ compensation aligns their interests with those of the sponsor, the sponsor’s conflict could extend to the directors themselves – a circumstance the paper’s authors call the “epitome of bad governance.”
The solution, the authors suggest, is for the SPAC to structure the board members’ compensation in a way that aligns the directors’ financial interests with those of the shareholders. Moreover, the authors contend, courts reviewing shareholders’ allegations that a SPAC’s board members breached their fiduciary duties should consider the potential for conflict inherent in the SPAC’s structure and accordingly review the underlying circumstances using the “entire fairness” standard. These considerations are relevant to cases now pending in the Delaware courts, which have the potential to be “groundbreaking.” Stanford Law Professor Michael Klausner and NYU Law Professor Michael Ohlrogge’s November 19, 2021 paper entitled “SPAC Governance: In Need of Judicial Review” can be found here.
Continue Reading SPACs’ Structural Conflicts, Shareholder Litigation, and Judicial Review