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Another big win for ESOP valuations vs. the DOL

Valuation experts have long maintained that the Department of Labor (DOL) has been playing by its own valuation rules in its aggressive enforcement of ESOPs—rules that are not consistent with accepted valuation standards. But a court has rejected the valuations the DOL did in a case alleging that an ESOP overvalued (and thus overpaid for) the stock of its sponsoring company.

Warranting Further Discussion: Why the Use of Financing Warrants in ESOP Transactions Benefits American Workers

The leveraged Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) structure was created by US Congress to enable American workers to gain an equity interest in their companies without using their own funds. A critical component in the financing of leveraged ESOP transactions is a “warrant,” which enables corporate sponsors of ESOPs to access the financing necessary to facilitate purchases of company stock by ESOPs. Warrants also afford substantial benefits to ESOPs by providing downside risk for ESOP ...

Mercer’s latest on restricted stock studies

Chris Mercer (Mercer Capital) has been writing a series of articles designed to provide a complete analysis of the historical restricted stock studies many business appraisers rely on for estimating a discount for lack of marketability (DLOM).

Misusing the Market Prices of High-Vote Shares When Estimating a Discount for Lack of Voting Rights

When analysts estimate a valuation discount for the lack of voting rights in the stock of a private company, they typically look to the public market. Many studies have compared the market prices of publicly traded high-vote shares with the market prices of publicly traded low-vote shares. Unfortunately, when the inputs into these studies are examined, the emperor has no clothes.

BV News and Trends July 2022

A monthly roundup of key developments of interest to business valuation experts.

Estate attorney sued over alleged undervaluation

The matriarch of a family business in Hawaii had four children, two of which were involved in the business.

In re GGP, Inc. Stockholder Litig.

Brookfield Property Partners Inc. acquired GGP Inc. in a merger transaction. During negotiations, Brookfield Property Partners LP expressed concern over the number of GGP stockholders who might see appraisal under Delaware law. Brookfield Property Partners suggested inserting an appraisal rights closing condition that allowed it to terminate the agreement if a specified number of GGP shares demanded appraisal. Brookfield Property Partners objected, and the condition was nixed. At the urging of Brookfield Property Partners, the merger was structured so that Brookfield paid a sizable preclosing dividend followed by a small residual payment called a “per share merger consideration.” GGP stockholders were told they could exercise their appraisal rights solely in connection with the merger, set at $23.50 per share, in relation to the per-share merger consideration valued at $0.312 per share. Plaintiff stockholders claimed they were led to believe that a fair value determination would be limited to the value of the post-dividend of GGP. The Supreme Court agreed with the Chancery Court that the defendants did not unlawfully eliminate appraisal rights but disagreed that the proxy disclosures were sufficient.

The Delaware Chancery Court Erred in Dismissing Claims Regarding Appraisal Rights Disclosures in a Merger—Supreme Court Remands

Brookfield Property Partners Inc. acquired GGP Inc. in a merger transaction. During negotiations, Brookfield Property Partners LP expressed concern over the number of GGP stockholders who might see appraisal under Delaware law. Brookfield Property Partners suggested inserting an appraisal rights closing condition that allowed it to terminate the agreement if a specified number of GGP shares demanded appraisal. Brookfield Property Partners objected, and the condition was nixed. At the urging of Brookfield Property Partners, the merger was structured so that Brookfield funded a sizable preclosing dividend which was paid by GGP to eligible shareholders, followed by a small residual payment called a “per share merger consideration.” GGP stockholders were told they could exercise their appraisal rights solely in connection with the merger, set at $23.50 per share, in relation to the per-share merger consideration valued at $0.312 per share. Plaintiff stockholders claimed they were led to believe that a fair value determination would be limited to the value of the post-dividend of GGP. The Supreme Court agreed with the Chancery Court that the defendants did not unlawfully eliminate appraisal rights but disagreed that the proxy disclosures were sufficient.

Takeaways from the ASA’s first ESOP conference

The American Society of Appraisers hosted the inaugural ESOP Virtual Conference on June 21, and here are some notable bits of information we learned.

Couturier v. Comm'r

The Tax Court was asked in this ESOP-related case to approve the taxpayer’s motion for summary judgment. The petitioner contended that the IRS “is precluded as a matter of law from asserting excise tax liability under section 4973” because it did not issue him a notice of deficiency challenging his income tax treatment of the transactions that generated the excess contributions. The motion was denied. The alleged excess contributions were more than $26 million with alleged excise tax of more than $8 million.

Tax Court Denies Taxpayer’s Motion for Summary Judgment Relative to an Excess IRA Contribution Relating to an ESOP Purchase/Sale

The Tax Court was asked in this ESOP-related case to approve the taxpayer’s motion for summary judgment. The petitioner contended that the IRS “is precluded as a matter of law from asserting excise tax liability under section 4973” because it did not issue him a notice of deficiency challenging his income tax treatment of the transactions that generated the excess contributions. The motion was denied. The alleged excess contributions were more than $26 million with alleged excise tax of more than $8 million.

ESOP valuations may be at a turning point

At last week’s inaugural ESOP Virtual Conference hosted by the American Society of Appraisers, the landmark Bowers case was discussed, which could represent a turning point for ESOP valuations.

Appeals court affirms modified liquidation value in shareholder dispute

In a Michigan shareholder deadlock case, a special master recommended that a sale of shares from one shareholder to the other would yield more value than if the company were dissolved.

Sipko v. Koger, Inc.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey, in its second attempt to resolve this long-running shareholder dispute, a “thoroughly chewed apple”, and buyout, reversed the appellate court and remanded the case to the trial court for reinstatement of its valuation of the shareholder’s interest in two businesses and also agreed with the trial court that no marketability discount should be allowed to reduce the amount to be awarded to the plaintiff. The defendants chose not to call their own expert to provide an opinion of the fair value of the shareholder’s interests.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey Accepts Trial Court’s Value of Companies and Denies a Marketability Discount in a Contentious Buyout Dispute

The Supreme Court of New Jersey, in its second attempt to resolve this long-running shareholder dispute, a “thoroughly chewed apple”, and buyout, reversed the appellate court and remanded the case to the trial court for reinstatement of its valuation of the shareholder’s interest in two businesses and also agreed with the trial court that no marketability discount should be allowed to reduce the amount to be awarded to the plaintiff. The defendants chose not to call their own expert to provide an opinion of the fair value of the shareholder’s interests.

Husband shuns BV expert, loses case

In a Pennsylvania divorce case involving a restaurant, neither the husband nor the wife submitted formal business appraisals.

No deduction for tax in shareholder buyout

In a North Dakota partnership dissolution case, the defendants argued on appeal that the district court erred in its valuation.

BV News and Trends May 2022

A monthly roundup of key developments of interest to business valuation experts.

ASA debuts virtual ESOP conference June 21

The American Society of Appraisers has added a new specialized event to its conference schedule: the 2022 ASA ESOP Virtual Conference on June 21.

Michigan Appeals Court Affirms Modified-Liquidation Value in a Shareholder Deadlock Litigation

In this shareholder deadlock litigation, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court that the solution to the deadlock was to order a buyout of the plaintiffs’ stock by the defendants as opposed to a dissolution of the company. The appellate court also affirmed the use of a modified-liquidation value as providing a value that maximized the value to the individual shareholders.

Pitsch v Pitsch Holding Co.

In this shareholder deadlock litigation, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court that the solution to the deadlock was to order a buyout of the plaintiffs’ stock by the defendants as opposed to a dissolution of the company. The appellate court also affirmed the use of a modified-liquidation value as providing a value that maximized the value to the individual shareholders.

Sullivan v. Loden

In this malpractice case against an estate attorney, the attorney was denied a summary judgment. The primary issue related to the attorney’s valuation of stock of a family business that was gifted to two of the four children of the decedent. While an “equalization payment” was made to each of the two remaining children, one of these two sued the attorney for both breach of fiduciary duty and for undervaluing the stock gifted, resulting in an underpaid equalization payment.

Estate Attorney Is Denied a Summary Judgment for Alleged Incorrect Valuation of Gifts of Stock—Malpractice Case Proceeds

In this malpractice case against an estate attorney, the attorney was denied a summary judgment. The primary issue related to the attorney’s valuation of stock of a family business that was gifted to two of the four children of the decedent. While an “equalization payment” was made to each of the two remaining children, one of these two sued the attorney for both breach of fiduciary duty and for undervaluing the stock gifted, resulting in an underpaid equalization payment.

Snyder v. Snyder

In this Pennsylvania divorce matter, the appellate court accepted the wife’s valuation of the marital business using the “gross sales approach,” despite the husband’s objection that she was not qualified to determine the value. The trial court master recommended the wife’s value be accepted. However, the appellate court finds that the trial court double counted four business assets and remanded for a redetermination of the marital estate.

Court Affirms Acceptance of the Wife’s Gross Sales Valuation Method for the Marital Business, Remands for Double Counting of Business Assets

In this Pennsylvania divorce matter, the appellate court accepted the wife’s valuation of the marital business using the “gross sales approach,” despite the husband’s objection that she was not qualified to determine the value. The trial court master recommended the wife’s value be accepted. However, the appellate court finds that the trial court double counted four business assets and remanded for a redetermination of the marital estate.

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