September 3, 2008

The Mad Rush: Changing Your Advance Notice Bylaws

Now that the Delaware Supreme Court has affirmed the Chancery Court’s decision in Jana Partners (as well as the holdings in the Office Depot and CSX cases), as noted in this article, a number of companies are now crafting bylaws designed to flush out the actual size of activist stakes.

In the article, Professor Charles Elson notes that he wouldn’t be surprised if more than half of all US companies revise their advance notice bylaws in time for the 2009 proxy season. Tune in on Thursday for this webcast – “How to Change Your Advance Notice Bylaws” – so that you will be able to fully evaluate what you should be doing now.

This webcast is important because advance bylaw provisions are not boilerplate. Even if two companies have identical language in their advance notice bylaws, they may operate differently because companies in their shark repellent arsenal may (or may not) allow shareholders to call special meetings or act by written consent, etc., and because many companies have adopted a majority voting standard.

Here are a dozen questions that the panelists will be addressing during the webcast:

– Should companies that have their bylaws tied to the mailing of the prior year’s proxy statement consider revising their bylaws?
– What do the Delaware cases say about how long the advance notice period can be?
– How should companies deal with the interplay between Rule 14a-8 and their advance notice bylaws?
– In the wake of the CNET and CSX cases, are companies starting to incorporate the concept of “cash-settle only” and similar derivative instruments into their advance notice bylaw provisions?
– If so, how broadly are such concepts applied in their bylaws?
– Are you seeing companies incorporate the swap and derivatives concept into their poison pills?
– Are there any loopholes in these organic shark repellent provisions that the courts have not addressed?
– Are you seeing hedge funds and their investment banking and other institutional counterparties starting to shy away from total return swaps and similar derivatives arrangements in view of the CSX case?
– Apart from the recent judicial decisions, what mistakes do targets sometimes make with respect to their advance notice bylaws?
– What are the SEC Staff’s views on what is happening?
– At the end of the day, are the decisions in Openwave, C-Net and Office Depot contract construction and drafting error cases – or do they speak more broadly to Delaware corporate policy?
– Are folks over-reacting to all of this?