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In re Tesla Motors Stockholder Litig.

At issue was a 2016 acquisition of Solar City Corp. by Tesla. Some Tesla shareholders claimed that Musk caused Tesla to overpay for Solar through his alleged domination and control of Tesla’s board. The primary focus of the shareholders was that Solar was insolvent at the time of the acquisition. The court applied the “entire fairness” standard. The Court of Chancery found the acquisition to be “entirely fair.” The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery decision.

Delaware Supreme Court Upholds ‘Entire Fairness’ of a Tesla Acquisition

At issue was a 2016 acquisition of Solar City Corp. by Tesla. Some Tesla shareholders claimed that Musk caused Tesla to overpay for Solar through his alleged domination and control of Tesla’s board. The primary focus of the shareholders was that Solar was insolvent at the time of the acquisition. The court applied the “entire fairness” standard. The Court of Chancery found the acquisition to be “entirely fair.” The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery decision.

The Comprehensive Guide to Economic Damages, Seventh Edition

April 2023 Hardcover, PDF (501 pages)

Business Valuation Resources, LLC

The Comprehensive Guide to Economic Damages, 7th Edition combines the economic expert’s knowledge of damages calculations and methods with legal and case analysis. It provides a deep and rich resource for financial experts and attorneys seeking guidance on appropriate remedies and related damages calculations. Learn more >>

Donnelly v. ProPharma Grp. Topco LLC

The plaintiff sued for breach of contracts relating to ProPharma’s offer to have Donnelly join the board in 2016 and for not paying him for his incentive equity shares, implemented in 2017, at fair market value. Each side engaged an experienced business valuation expert to opine as to the fair market value of the equity shares. Each side now moved to exclude the testimony of the other side’s expert. The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware denied the motions of both sides and allowed both experts to testify.

In a Breach of Contract Suit, the U.S. District Court Denies Motions to Exclude Valuation Experts

The plaintiff sued for breach of contracts relating to ProPharma’s offer to have Donnelly join the board in 2016 and for not paying him for his incentive equity shares, implemented in 2017, at fair market value. Each side engaged an experienced business valuation expert to opine as to the fair market value of the equity shares. Each side now moved to exclude the testimony of the other side’s expert. The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware denied the motions of both sides and allowed both experts to testify.

Jayawardena v. Daka

This case involved a shareholder dispute among four shareholders of a physician practice (Ferncreek Cardiology PA) and two real estate LLCs. There were buy-sell provisions for each of the three entities. As to Ferncreek, the buy-sell provision was essentially an increase in book value provision, as the regular account determined in “good faith.” Payment provisions were also included in the agreement. The two real estate LLCs had a buy-sell provision that provided for either a single agreed-upon appraiser or three appraisers if no agreement was made. The plaintiff made the decision to exit the practice, triggering the buy-sell provisions. The parties were not able to agree on certain provisions as they worked through the buy-sell agreements. The trial court entered partial summary judgments on some claims of both parties. This appeal dealt with these partial summary judgments and was filed by the plaintiff.

North Carolina Appeals Court Affirms Decisions on Value of Businesses Under Buy-Sell Agreements

This case involved a shareholder dispute among four shareholders of a physician practice (Ferncreek Cardiology PA) and two real estate LLCs. There were buy-sell provisions for each of the three entities. As to Ferncreek, the buy-sell provision was essentially an increase in book value provision, as the regular account determined in “good faith.” Payment provisions were also included in the agreement. The two real estate LLCs had a buy-sell provision that provided for either a single agreed-upon appraiser or three appraisers if no agreement was made. The plaintiff made the decision to exit the practice, triggering the buy-sell provisions. The parties were not able to agree on certain provisions as they worked through the buy-sell agreements. The trial court entered partial summary judgments on some claims of both parties. This appeal dealt with these partial summary judgments and was filed by the plaintiff.

Delaware Chancery Court Cites Differences in Cash-Flow Assumptions as Cause for Large Discrepancy in Value

In this appraisal action to determine fair value, petitioner Ramcell Inc. exercised its appraisal rights in asking for a statutory appraisal of the value of its 155 shares of Jackson Cellular Telephone Co. Inc. The respondent, Alltel Corp. (dba Verizon Wireless), had converted the 155 shares at a value of $2,963 per share. “Respondent’s expert opines that Jackson’s per-share value was $5,690.92 at the time of the merger. Petitioner’s expert has offered two appraisal ranges, opining that, at the high end, Jackson’s per-share value was $36,016 on the merger date.” Both parties agreed that the DCF method should be the sole method for determining the value. The Delaware Chancery Court, using that method, determined the fair value of each share at $11,464.57. The court noted that the disparity in the parties’ valuations was due to disagreements as to the inputs to the DCF model and how they should be calculated.

Ramcell, Inc. v. Alltel Corp.

In this appraisal action to determine fair value, petitioner Ramcell Inc. exercised its appraisal rights in asking for a statutory appraisal of the value of its 155 shares of Jackson Cellular Telephone Co. Inc. The respondent, Alltel Corp. (dba Verizon Wireless), had converted the 155 shares at a value of $2,963 per share. “Respondent’s expert opines that Jackson’s per-share value was $5,690.92 at the time of the merger. Petitioner’s expert has offered two appraisal ranges, opining that, at the high end, Jackson’s per-share value was $36,016 on the merger date.” Both parties agreed that the DCF method should be the sole method for determining the value. The Delaware Chancery Court, using that method, determined the fair value of each share at $11,464.57. The court noted that the disparity in the parties’ valuations was due to disagreements as to the inputs to the DCF model and how they should be calculated.

Secret witnesses may appear in overvaluation case

In a New Jersey class action, plaintiff shareholders of publicly held Ascena Retail Group alleged that the company misrepresented the value of its goodwill and trade names to inflate the stock price artificially.

In re Ascena Retail Grp., Inc. Sec. Litig.

In this securities putative class action litigation, plaintiff shareholders alleged that the defendants (Ascena) misrepresented the value of Ascena’s goodwill and trade names in order to inflate Ascena’s stock price artificially. In June 2017, Ascena announced an impairment charge to those assets of $1.3 billion “causing Ascena's already-declining share price to fall precipitously. Ascena ultimately declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2020.” The defendants moved to dismiss for failure to plead material misrepresentation or scienter or both. The court granted the motion to dismiss but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.

New Jersey U.S. District Court Dismisses Plaintiffs’ Complaint That Public Company Defendant Overvalued Its Goodwill

In this securities putative class action litigation, plaintiff shareholders alleged that the defendants (Ascena) misrepresented the value of Ascena’s goodwill and trade names in order to inflate Ascena’s stock price artificially. In June 2017, Ascena announced an impairment charge to those assets of $1.3 billion “causing Ascena's already-declining share price to fall precipitously. Ascena ultimately declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2020.” The defendants moved to dismiss for failure to plead material misrepresentation or scienter or both. The court granted the motion to dismiss but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.

SEC v. Bluepoint Inv. Counsel

This case dealt with a suit by the SEC against the defendants for alleged violations of the Securities Act. The ruling digested here was a short ruling on motions in limine. The key motion considered here was a motion to exclude evidence of Amiran’s value not known by GTIF (a plaintiff’s entity) when valuations were prepared. The court denied the motion to exclude the SEC’s expert on the basis that she used information that was known or knowable. The court noted that her assumptions can be challenged on cross-examination.

U.S. District Court Rules on Known or Knowable Issue and Allows Testimony of SEC Valuation Expert—Can Be Challenged on Cross-Examination

This case dealt with a suit by the SEC against the defendants for alleged violations of the Securities Act. The ruling digested here was a short ruling on motions in limine. The key motion considered here was a motion to exclude evidence of Amiran’s value not known by GTIF (a plaintiff’s entity) when valuations were prepared. The court denied the motion to exclude the SEC’s expert on the basis that she used information that was known or knowable. The court noted that her assumptions can be challenged on cross-examination.

In Re Cellular Tel. P’ship Litig.

In this coordinated action involving 13 partnerships that were involved in freeze-out transactions by AT&T of minority shareholders, AT&T breached its fiduciary duties and effectuated the freeze-out through an unfair process and by paying an unfair price. The freeze-out was subject to the entire fairness standard of review. AT&T bore the burden of proving that the freeze-out was entirely fair to the minority partners. AT&T failed in that proof and thereby sought to capture future value for itself. AT&T did not employ any procedures that insured fairness to the minority partners. The lead partner of the valuation firm had a long-standing relationship with AT&T, and internal AT&T personnel influenced the outcome of the valuation. The court determined the fair value of the interest as a remedy to the situation.

Delaware Chancery Court Rejects Partnership Valuation in a Freeze-Out as Unfair to Minority Partners

In this coordinated action involving 13 partnerships that were involved in freeze-out transactions by AT&T of minority shareholders, AT&T breached its fiduciary duties and effectuated the freeze-out through an unfair process and by paying an unfair price. The freeze-out was subject to the entire fairness standard of review. AT&T bore the burden of proving that the freeze-out was entirely fair to the minority partners. AT&T failed in that proof and thereby sought to capture future value for itself. AT&T did not employ any procedures that insured fairness to the minority partners. The lead partner of the valuation firm had a long-standing relationship with AT&T, and internal AT&T personnel influenced the outcome of the valuation. The court determined the fair value of the interest as a remedy to the situation.

In re Multiplan Corp. Stockholders Litig.

This case dealt with a motion to dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs (by the defendants) in a stockholder suit against a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The claims were primarily that the plaintiffs’ claims were derivative, which failed to plead demand futility and that the business judgment rule applied. Many of the parties’ arguments centered around unique characteristics of a SPAC. In concluding that the entire fairness standard of review applied, the Delaware Chancery Court noted that “the fact that a reasonably conceivable impairment of public stockholders’ redemption rights—in the form of materially misleading disclosures—has been pleaded in this case.” The case was to go forward against all but two defendants.

Delaware Chancery Court Allows Breach of Fiduciary Suit to Move Forward on a SPAC

This case dealt with a motion to dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs (by the defendants) in a stockholder suit against a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The claims were primarily that the plaintiffs’ claims were derivative, which failed to plead demand futility and that the business judgment rule applied. Many of the parties’ arguments centered around unique characteristics of a SPAC. In concluding that the entire fairness standard of review applied, the Delaware Chancery Court noted that “the fact that a reasonably conceivable impairment of public stockholders’ redemption rights—in the form of materially misleading disclosures—has been pleaded in this case.” The case was to go forward against all but two defendants.

New case to address goodwill impairment dispute

Goodwill impairment does not appear often in litigation, but a court case in Tennessee will go forward after a judge ruled not to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.

Cheng v. Coastal Lb Assocs.

This case concerned the purchase of minority interests in a California limited liability company under the Corporate Code concerning the purchase of these interests in lieu of a liquidation of the company. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order confirming the purchase of these interests at a discounted fair market value.

California Court of Appeal Allows a Discount for Lack of Control in the Buyout of 25% Interests in an LLC

This case concerned the purchase of minority interests in a California limited liability company under the Corporate Code concerning the purchase of these interests in lieu of a liquidation of the company. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order confirming the purchase of these interests at a discounted fair market value.

Strougo v. Tivity Health, Inc.

In this case regarding alleged fraud in the purchase or sale of securities, the defendants pled a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims. The parties categorized the defendants’ alleged misstatements into two groups: (1) the Nutrisystem claim, where the defendants allegedly misled investors as to the success of the Nutrisystem acquisition; and (2) the goodwill claim, where the defendants allegedly impaired goodwill by carrying goodwill at a value that exceeded its implied fair value. The court denied the motion to dismiss.

Court Denies a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Claims That Defendants “Hid” Losses and Impaired Goodwill

In this case regarding alleged fraud in the purchase or sale of securities, the defendants pled a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims. The parties categorized the defendants’ alleged misstatements into two groups: (1) the Nutrisystem claim, where the defendants allegedly misled investors as to the success of the Nutrisystem acquisition; and (2) the goodwill claim, where the defendants allegedly impaired goodwill by carrying goodwill at a value that exceeded its implied fair value. The court denied the motion to dismiss.

Cont'l Investors Fund LLC v. TradingScreen Inc.

The defendant did not breach its redemption agreement because a committee of directors, “properly engaged in the judgment-laden task of determining the amount of funds that the company could use for redemptions … [and] determined that using a greater amount of cash to redeem more shares threatened the company's ability to continue as a going concern.” As a result, interest on the asserted obligation back to 2013 was not allowed at 13%, the amount per the agreement.

Company Did Not Breach Its Redemption Agreement Because of Diligence of Directors

The defendant did not breach its redemption agreement because a committee of directors, “properly engaged in the judgment-laden task of determining the amount of funds that the company could use for redemptions … [and] determined that using a greater amount of cash to redeem more shares threatened the company's ability to continue as a going concern.” As a result, interest on the asserted obligation back to 2013 was not allowed at 13%, the amount per the agreement.

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