Can Business Judgment Review Combat Stockholder Litigation Challenging MA Deals?

Guest post by attorneys at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP

Abigail Pickering Bomba, Steven Epstein, Arthur Fleischer, Jr., Peter S. Golden, Philip Richter, David N. Shine, John E. Sorkin, and Gail Weinstein

In KKR Financial Holdings LLC Stockholder Litigation (Oct. 14, 2014), the Delaware Chancery Court has continued its march to the drumbeat of business judgment deference.

In a putative class action by shareholders of KKR Financial (KFN), who were claiming breach of fiduciary duty by KFN’s board in having approved a $2.6 billion merger with private equity firm KKR, Chancellor Andre Bouchard found that KKR had not been a controlling stockholder of KFN– because KKR held less than 1% of KFN’s voting power and had no right to appoint or remove directors or block board actions, even though KKR had “total managerial control” of KFN. The Chancellor also found that KFN’s directors had been independent of KKR (even though they had been nominated by and had various ties to KKR); and that KFN’s merger proxy statement had provided for a fully informed stockholder vote. The court applied business judgment review and dismissed the case at the pleading stage.

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