“Just Say No”Martin Lipton | The Harvard Law School Forum
On October 22, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services issued a note to clients entitled “The IRR of ‘No’.” The note argues that shareholders of companies that have successfully “just said no” to hostile takeover bids have incurred “profoundly negative” returns. In a note we issued the same day, we called attention to critical methodological and analytical flaws that completely undermine the ISS conclusion. Others have also rejected the ISS methodology and conclusions; see, for example, the November analysis by Dr. Yvan Allaire’s Institute for Governance of Public and Private Organizations entitled “The Value of ‘Just Say No’” and, more generally, a December paper by James Montier entitled “The World’s Dumbest Idea.” Of course, even putting aside analytical flaws, statistical studies do not provide a basis in individual cases to attack informed board discretion in the face of a dynamic business environment. The debate about “just say no” has been raging for the 35 years since Lipton published “Takeover Bids in the Target’s Boardroom,” 35 Business Lawyer p.101 (1979). This prompts looking at the most prominent 1979 “just say no” rejection of a takeover.
In January 1979, McGraw-Hill rejected a $34 per share offer (later raised to $40) by American Express (which represented a 50% premium over the pre-offer market price). Within less than two years, the decision was completely vindicated with the shares selling in the market for more than the $40 offer price. The graph below, showing McGraw-Hill’s stock price appreciation through December 2014, further shows how right that rejection was. Read more