taking private transaction

doleThe November 1, 2013 transaction in which David Murdock, Dole Food Company’s Chairman and CEO, acquired the Dole shares he did not already own has already been the subject of extensive litigation. Indeed, in 108-page August 27, 2015 post-trial opinion (here), Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Travis Laster found that and Murdock and C. Michael Carter, Dole’s COO and General Counsel, had employed “fraud” to drive down the Dole’s share price to lower the amount Murdock paid in the deal. Laster entered a damages award against Murdock and Carter, jointly and severally, of $148.1 million, as discussed here.  On December 7, 2015, Murdock and Dole reached an agreement to pay the shareholders a total (including interest) of $113.5 million, with the remainder of the judgment amount to be paid to the plaintiffs in a separate appraisal action, as discussed here. As part of the settlement, the defendants gave up their right to appeal the Chancery Court rulings and judgment.

The recent settlement seemingly brought an end to the shareholder litigation over the November 2013 transaction. However, it now appears that there may be another round of litigation  yet to go.

On December 9, 2015, a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit in the federal court in Delaware, against Dole, Murdock, and Carter. A copy of the plaintiff’s complaint can be found here. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class of Dole shareholders who sold their shares between January 2, 2013 and October 31, 2013. As might be expected, the complaint quotes extensively from Laster’s opinion. Notwithstanding the overlap between the Delaware Chancery suit and the new complaint, there are important differences between the cases. As discussed below, the securities class action complaint also presents a number of interesting issues and questions.
Continue Reading Dole Shareholders File Securities Suit Based on Executives’ Share Price Deflating Conduct Prior to Going Private Deal

doleA frequent theme these days in the world of corporate and securities litigation is the complaint about merger objection litigation – how virtually every deal announced attracts at least one lawsuit, and how all too often the cases are resolved on the basis of a disclosure-only settlement and the payment of the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, an arrangement that produce no benefit for anyone except the lawyers. However, a recent Delaware Chancery court post-trial opinion provides a sharp reminder that some merger transactions can include some real problems.
Continue Reading A Closer Look at the Massive $148 Million Damages Award Against Dole’ s CEO and General Counsel