Seeking Alpha posted this analysis of The Williams Companies merger, which has seen its merger consideration shrink over nearly five months from $43.50 to just $18.40 as of February 19. According to the report, this translates to a loss of approximately 58% and nearly $20 billion in shareholder value.
We’ve posted before about the article by Professors Charles Korsmo and Minor Myers analyzing the recent surge in appraisal activity. These co-authors have prepared a new draft article to be published in the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law, proposing reforms for appraisal litigation. Based on their latest research the authors stand by their prior conclusion that appraisal plays a “salutary if small role” in M&A practice.
The new article expands their data set to include 2014 (the prior study ranged from 2004 to 2013), and the authors provide updated charts showing the number of appraisal petition filings by year (Figure 2 on pages 14-15) and the percentage of equity value in appraisal by year (Figure 3 on page 16). Some new metrics include a useful summary of appraisal trial outcomes for public company common stock (Figure 6 on page 22) and descriptive statistics of transactions challenged in appraisal to show which deals attract the most appraisal litigation (Table 1 on page 11). It is this study that the authors use to demonstrate that the only independent variables in M&A transactions that have a statistically significant effect are the merger premium residual and the presence of insider participation: in other words, the lower the premium residual, the higher the likelihood of appraisal. And appraisal is more likely to occur when an insider participates in the purchase. See pages 10-12.
Given these observations, the authors conclude that “appraisal petitioners focus their resources on meritorious claims.” This conclusion impels the authors to reject the reforms suggested by both respondent companies and deal advisors to limit or eliminate appraisal arbitrage, though they do suggest a less drastic compromise in setting the record date at least 20 days after mailing of the appraisal notice, giving stockholders material disclosures prior to the record date.
In addition, the authors propose other reforms to improve the effectiveness of appraisal, including (i) requiring disclosure of more financial information in M&A transactions subject to appraisal; (ii) eliminating the “irrational” exemption for all-stock transactions; and (iii) adopting a de minimis requirement. Finally, the authors hint at improvements to the system of awarding interest in appraisal cases, but plan to develop that suggestion more fully in a separate article.
**Update: Korso and Meyers preview their article at the Columbia Law BlueSky Blog.
Today’s Hedge Fund Law Report ran an article about the appraisal remedy, its positive results and its distinctiveness from traditional stockholder litigation. That article, “Stockholder Appraisal Actions Present an Attractive Litigation-Based Strategy for Hedge Fund Managers,” also discusses the proposed legislative amendments, judicial limitations and potential opportunities that we’ve posted on before.