The accounting, valuation, and legal professions are hard at work to defeat the Treasury Department's proposed Section 274 regulations. The new regs would curtail, if not entirely eliminate, valuation discounts in family-controlled entities.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps Chancellor Bouchard thought of Aristotle when he recently ruled in a statutory appraisal action that, even though the results of three common valuation techniques were unreliable indicators of value, in combination they established fair value.
In an estate tax dispute that has lasted for over five years, the Tax Court recently revalued the decedent’s minority interest in an Oregon family business by order of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The recalculation proved a boon to the taxpayer.
In reviewing one of the Delaware Court of Chancery's most noteworthy rulings from 2015, one judge on the state Supreme Court wrote a stinging critique of the trial court's analysis.
It's not your average lost profits or lost business opportunity case. Rather, Hogan's damages experts were successful in quantifying damages under the less-common unjust enrichment theory. Rather than focusing on the damages to Hogan, the plaintiff, stemming from Gawker's misconduct, the experts calculated the gain to Gawker, the defendant, from the misuse of Hogan's assets, that is, his brand and other intellectual property.
So much for clarity. A recent Tennessee appeals court decision hinged on the issue of whether a marketability discount was appropriate in the valuation of the husband’s interests in three real estate development partnerships. In reviewing the trial court’s analysis, the appeals court suggested that the lower court misunderstood the principle behind DLOM but ultimately upheld the lower court’s findings. The resulting decision leaves valuators in a pickle as to when to apply the discount and at what rate.
It decided to give no weight to the final merger price—$13.75 per share, and a special $0.13 dividend issued to all shareholders—but rely exclusively on its own post-transaction DCF analysis to determine the fair value of the company. In so doing, the court deviated from a number of Chancery decisions—several issued in 2015—that found the deal price was the most reliable indicator of the company’s fair value.
The district court's determination of overpayment was a function of the contract price and the stock’s fair market value on each of three transaction dates. For its FMV determination, the court considered the testimony of three noted valuation experts retained by the plaintiffs, the DOL, and the defendants respectively. Different experts used different methods, different assumptions, different estimates, and they reached different conclusions. But they all used multiple approaches to produce several FMV estimates on the transaction dates. To arrive at a final value determination, or range of values, they all averaged or weighted the results.
There is no absolute requirement to develop a reasonable royalty based on the Georgia-Pacific framework. That's the takeaway from a Daubert ruling in which the court denied the defendant's motion to preclude the testimony of the opposing damages expert, who determined a reasonable royalty based on market data instead of the customary Georgia-Pacific factors.
One error in an extensive economic analysis does not automatically call into question the entire expert opinion, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals recently said in the context of a securities fraud lawsuit involving the drug giant Pfizer. With this pronouncement the appeals court resuscitated a class action that had died after the district court excluded the plaintiffs' loss causation and damages expert under Daubert based on errors in the expert's event study. Deprived of the testimony, the plaintiffs were unable to prove two critical elements of their claim.
Following the divorce, the husband filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and asked for confirmation of his plan. The issue was whether the plan could meet the liquidation test applicable under the Bankruptcy Code’s section 1325(a)(4). In essence, the test requires that creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy receive present value payments that are at least equal to the amount the creditors would receive in a Chapter 7 case.
Under Arkansas statutory law, the increase in the value of nonmarital property is nonmarital property. But in a line of decisions going back nearly 30 years, the Arkansas Supreme Court created an exception to the statutory rule by way of the active appreciation doctrine, which says that if the growth in value is the result of the owner spouse's efforts, the increase in value is subject to marital distribution.
The parties retained a sole appraiser, whom they both knew from past appraisals he had done of the company. Prior to formally engaging the appraiser, in a court hearing, both sides broached the issue of whether it was appropriate to apply a minority discount in valuing the plaintiff's shares. The court declined to weigh in on the subject, but told the parties the minority discount issue should form “part of the discussion” they needed to have over the valuation methodology.
In this age of entrepreneurship, valuators working on divorce cases often run into the issue of active and passive appreciation. But this issue not only comes up in the context of one spouse's ownership of a business that qualifies as separate property, as a recent Florida appeals court ruling shows. The case involved the husband's separate ownership of stock in a company for which he worked and the stock's substantial appreciation in value during the marriage. The wife asked for a rule "that all appreciation of the stock of a company for which a spouse works is a marital asset."
The case featured experts whose professional backgrounds and valuation approaches could hardly be more dissimilar. Their value determinations were light-years apart. In trying to make sense of the conflicting testimony and achieve a plausible and fair result, the court decided it could not totally trust either valuation. Although it adopted the defense expert's valuation, it made two consequential changes to it. One was getting rid of the expert's admittedly high and insufficiently explained 35% discount for lack of marketability.
Ultimately, the parties reached a deal that included the sale of the building and the sale of the assets of the practice, as well as an employment contract for the doctor. The asset purchase agreement said the assets being sold included all of the practice's goodwill. At the same time, it allocated 100 percent of the purchase price to tangible assets: furniture, fixtures, equipment and supplies. The agreement also included noncompete and non-solicitation clauses.
Asked to probe the value of the disclosures and by extension the fairness of the settlement to the absent class members, the Chancellor used the occasion to detail the problems related to disclosure settlements. He noted the Chancery’s historical practice of approving such settlements, even though they frequently were of marginal value to the plaintiffs. He considered this past attitude of the court one of the causes for the explosion of deal litigation “beyond the realm of reason."
The parties' most recent fight focused on whether the prevailing expert's DCF analysis embedded a marketability discount to account for illiquidity. If not, the trial court had to decided what the appropriate DLOM rate was. The plaintiff-selling shareholder argued in favor of a zero DLOM, the defendants-buying shareholders presented an expert valuation that specified a 35% DLOM, based on the expert's use of a market approach.
In terms of valuation methodology, the agreement provided that “there shall be no minority or non-marketability discount applied.” Also, “fair market value” meant an arm’s length sale to an unrelated third party. And, for purposes of calculating the “total equity value,” the value of the assets would be subject to an EBITDA collar to ensure that the value of the assets was at least 6.5 x but no more than 7.5 x the company’s “EBITDA less Maintenance Capex” for year-end 2013. The resulting number was to be reduced by the company’s obligations and liabilities. Most important, the parties agreed to be bound by the appraiser's calculation of the price of the put units. There was no provision for judicial or any other form of review of the appraiser's valuation.
Judge Laro reminded experts to guard against domineering attorneys who insist on reviewing draft opinions and seek to nudge an expert into achieving a predetermined result. Valuation experts need to know the discovery rules (Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) rather than assume that all of the attorney-expert communication is protected.
As a damages expert, what do you do when your own client has destroyed vital financial information? Two highly educated finance professionals working on a contract case solved this dilemma by relying exclusively on the opposing side's sales projections, only to see their analysis buckle under a Daubert challenge.
A Mississippi trial court’s cavalier approach to determining economic damages in a dispute involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and usurpation of a business opportunity triggered a petition with the state Supreme Court to clarify the applicable measure of damages. The trial court used the wrong standard and accounting procedures for calculating the loss to the plaintiff, the Supreme Court decided.