As I noted in my recent round-up of the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2021, one of last year’s important securities litigation stories was the onslaught during the year of SPAC-related securities class action lawsuit filings. I also added in the year-end round-up my projection that SPAC-related securities suits could be an even bigger factor in 2022. Though we are only in the opening days of 2022, the filing of SPAC-related securities suits in the New Year has already begun. On January 7, 2022, a shareholder plaintiff filed the first SPAC-related securities suit of 2022 against the post-merger company and certain of its officers, as well as against former officers and directors of the SPAC itself and its Sponsor. A copy of the complaint filed against Talkspace, Inc. can be found here.
Continue Reading First SPAC-Related Securities Suit of the New Year Filed

In my review of SPAC-related litigation on this site, I have mostly focused on SPAC-related securities litigation. However, there have been other types of SPAC-related lawsuits filed, including SPAC-related breach of fiduciary duty direct actions filed in Delaware courts (as discussed for example here). On January 3, 2022, Delaware Vice Chancellor Lori W. Will entered an opinion in one of these direct action breach of fiduciary duty cases – the closely-watched MultiPlan action – denying the defendants’ motion to dismiss and holding that though Delaware courts “have not previously had an opportunity to consider the application of our law in the SPAC context,” well-established Delaware legal principles led the court “despite the novel issues presented” to conclude that the plaintiffs have pleaded “viable, non-exculpated claims against the SPAC’s controlling stockholder and directors.”

As discussed below, the court’s ruling is a landmark ruling addressing governance concerns relating to potential conflicts of interest between a SPAC’s sponsors and directors and officers and its public shareholders. A copy of the January 3, 2022 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Del. Court Dismissal Denial Has Important SPAC-Related Litigation Implications

The directors’ and officers’ liability environment is always changing, but 2021 was a particularly eventful year, with important consequences for the D&O insurance marketplace. The past year’s many developments also have significant implications for what may lie ahead in 2022 – and possibly for years to come.  I have set out below the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2021, with a focus on the future implications. Please note that on Thursday, January 13, 2022 at 11:00 AM EST, my colleague Marissa Streckfus and I will be conducting a free, hour-long webinar in which we will discuss The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2021. Registration for the webinar can be found here. I hope you will please join us for the webinar.
Continue Reading The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2021

As I have noted on this site (most recently here), electric vehicle companies that have merged with publicly traded SPACs have become a favored target for plaintiffs’ securities lawyers. In the latest example of this phenomenon, on December 23, 2021, a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit against the EV company Faraday Future Intelligent Electric, Inc., which merged with a SPAC on July 21, 2021. Like many of the EV companies that have been sued, Faraday Future’s stock price dropped after it was the subject of a short seller report. A copy of the complaint against Faraday Future can be found here.
Continue Reading And Again: Another Post-SPAC Merger EV Company Hit with Securities Suit

Nikola, the electric vehicle company that became a publicly traded company through a June 3, 2020 merger with a SPAC, has reached an agreement to pay $125 million to settle proceedings the SEC brought against the company relating to misrepresentations its former CEO Trevor Milton and the company made about the company’s EV production capabilities. In the settlement, the company neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations. The SEC’s December 21, 2021 press release about the settlement can be found here. The SEC’s December 21, 2021 order instituting cease and desist proceedings against Nikola can be found here. The company’s December 21, 2021 press release about the settlement can be found here.
Continue Reading Nikola Settles SEC Proceedings for $125 Million

In just a few days, when the time comes to tot up the 2021 securities class action lawsuit filings and to mark out the key 2021 filing trends, one of the key stories is going to be the surge during the year in the number of SPAC-related securities suit filings. In the latest example of this 2021 filing trend, late last week a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit against a post-SPAC-merger fintech company. The individuals named as defendants in the lawsuit include two former officers of the SPAC. The new lawsuit has many of the features that have characterized the SPAC-related lawsuits that have been filed this year.
Continue Reading Post-SPAC-Merger Fintech Company Hit with Securities Suit

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

In the surge of SPAC-related litigation that has been filed this year, one of the distinctive features of the filings has been that many of the lawsuits have followed shortly after a short seller published a report critical of the defendant company. In the latest example of this phenomenon, a shareholder has filed a securities class action lawsuit against biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks Holdings, which merged with a SPAC in September 2021, after the company’s share price declined following the publication of a negative short seller report. As discussed below, this new lawsuit has several other features in common with the SPAC-related securities lawsuits filed this year. A copy of the November 18, 2021 complaint against Ginkgo Bioworks can be found here.
Continue Reading Shareholders Sue Post-SPAC-Merger Biotech Firm After Short Seller Attack

One of the most substantial securities litigation phenomena so far in 2021 has been the rising tide of securities litigation relating to SPACs and SPAC-acquired companies. In the latest example of this type of lawsuit, a plaintiff shareholder has filed a securities class action complaint against Owlet, Inc., a company that sells baby health products and that was in July 2021 merged with a SPAC. The defendants named in the lawsuit include not only officers of Owlet itself but also include certain former directors and officers of the SPAC. A copy of the November 17, 2021 complaint against Owlet can be found here.
Continue Reading Post-SPAC-Merger Baby Product Company Hit with SPAC-Related Securities Suit

A Canadian-based deep-sea mining company is the latest firm to be hit with a SPAC-related securities class action lawsuit. The company, which plans to mine the seabed for materials to be used in electric vehicles batteries, merged with a SPAC in September 2021. The company’s share price recently declined following news reports and a short-seller report questioning the company’s financing, licensing, and its claimed sustainability credentials. A copy of the October 28, 2021 complaint can be found here.
Continue Reading Deep-Sea Mining Company Hit with SPAC-Related Securities Suit