Mergers and Acquisitions: Due diligence, tender offers, proxy fights

This comprehensive guide explores the critical aspects of mergers and acquisitions, focusing on due diligence, tender offers, and proxy fights, to ensure successful and legally compliant transactions.


Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are complex transactions that involve the consolidation of companies or assets. These transactions can take various forms, including mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, tender offers, purchase of assets, and management acquisitions. This guide will focus on three critical aspects of M&A: due diligence, tender offers, and proxy fights. Each of these components plays a vital role in ensuring the success and legality of M&A transactions.

Due Diligence

Definition and Importance

Due diligence is a comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer, particularly to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential. It is a critical step in the M&A process as it helps the acquiring company understand what it is buying and identify any potential risks.

Types of Due Diligence

  1. Financial Due Diligence: This involves a thorough examination of the target company's financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and tax returns. The goal is to verify the accuracy of the financial information and assess the financial health of the company.
  2. Legal Due Diligence: This focuses on the legal aspects of the target company, including contracts, litigation, intellectual property, and compliance with laws and regulations. Legal due diligence helps identify any legal risks or liabilities that could affect the transaction.
  3. Operational Due Diligence: This examines the target company's operations, including its business model, supply chain, production processes, and customer base. The aim is to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the company's operations.
  4. Environmental Due Diligence: This involves assessing the target company's environmental practices and compliance with environmental laws and regulations. It helps identify any environmental liabilities or risks that could impact the transaction.

Key Steps in Due Diligence

  1. Planning: Define the scope and objectives of the due diligence process. Identify the key areas to be examined and the resources required.
  2. Data Collection: Gather relevant information and documents from the target company. This may include financial statements, contracts, legal documents, and operational data.
  3. Analysis: Analyze the collected data to identify any potential risks or issues. This may involve financial analysis, legal review, and operational assessment.
  4. Reporting: Prepare a due diligence report that summarizes the findings and highlights any significant risks or issues. The report should provide recommendations for addressing these risks.
  5. Decision Making: Use the due diligence report to make informed decisions about the transaction. This may involve negotiating terms, adjusting the purchase price, or deciding whether to proceed with the transaction.

Due diligence is governed by various laws and regulations, including securities laws, antitrust laws, and corporate governance standards. Key legal resources include:

  • Securities Exchange Act of 1934: This act regulates the disclosure of information in securities transactions, including M&A. Link to SEC
  • Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976: This act requires companies to file pre-merger notifications with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for certain transactions. Link to FTC
  • Delaware General Corporation Law: This law governs corporate transactions, including M&A, for companies incorporated in Delaware. Link to Delaware Courts

Tender Offers

Definition and Process

A tender offer is a public, open offer or invitation (usually by a company or a third party) to all shareholders of a publicly traded corporation to tender their stock for sale at a specified price during a specified time. The price offered is usually at a premium to the market price.

Steps in a Tender Offer

  1. Announcement: The acquiring company announces its intention to make a tender offer. This announcement includes the offer price, the number of shares sought, and the duration of the offer.
  2. Filing with the SEC: The acquiring company must file a Schedule TO with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which includes detailed information about the offer. Link to SEC
  3. Offer to Purchase: The acquiring company sends an offer to purchase to the target company's shareholders. This document provides details about the offer and instructions on how to tender shares.
  4. Tendering Shares: Shareholders who wish to accept the offer tender their shares by following the instructions provided in the offer to purchase.
  5. Closing the Offer: Once the offer period ends, the acquiring company purchases the tendered shares. If the offer is successful, the acquiring company may gain control of the target company.

Tender offers are subject to various legal requirements, including:

  • Williams Act: This act, an amendment to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, regulates tender offers and requires disclosure of information by the acquiring company. Link to SEC
  • Regulation 14D: This SEC regulation sets forth the rules for tender offers, including disclosure requirements and procedural rules. Link to SEC
  • State Takeover Laws: Some states have additional laws regulating tender offers, which may impose additional requirements or restrictions.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  1. Speed: Tender offers can be completed more quickly than other forms of acquisition, such as mergers.
  2. Direct Appeal to Shareholders: Tender offers allow the acquiring company to bypass the target company's management and appeal directly to shareholders.
  3. Premium Price: Shareholders may receive a premium price for their shares, which can be an attractive incentive to tender their shares.


  1. Hostile Nature: Tender offers can be perceived as hostile, leading to resistance from the target company's management and employees.
  2. Regulatory Scrutiny: Tender offers are subject to strict regulatory requirements and scrutiny, which can complicate the process.
  3. Uncertainty: There is no guarantee that enough shareholders will tender their shares to meet the acquiring company's objectives.

Proxy Fights

Definition and Purpose

A proxy fight, also known as a proxy contest, occurs when a group of shareholders attempts to gain control of a company by persuading other shareholders to vote for their proposed slate of directors or other proposals. Proxy fights are often used as a strategy in hostile takeovers or to effect changes in corporate governance.

Process of a Proxy Fight

  1. Proposal Submission: The dissident shareholders submit their proposals or slate of directors to the company's board of directors.
  2. Proxy Solicitation: Both the dissident shareholders and the company's management solicit proxies from other shareholders. This involves sending proxy statements and voting instructions to shareholders.
  3. Proxy Voting: Shareholders vote on the proposals or slate of directors by submitting their proxies. This can be done by mail, online, or in person at the annual meeting.
  4. Outcome: The outcome of the proxy fight is determined by the votes cast by shareholders. If the dissident shareholders win, they may gain control of the board of directors or effect other changes in the company.

Proxy fights are governed by various laws and regulations, including:

  • Securities Exchange Act of 1934: This act regulates proxy solicitations and requires disclosure of information by both the dissident shareholders and the company's management. Link to SEC
  • Regulation 14A: This SEC regulation sets forth the rules for proxy solicitations, including disclosure requirements and procedural rules. Link to SEC
  • Fiduciary Duties: Directors and officers of the company have fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. Proxy fights often involve disputes over whether these duties are being fulfilled. Link to Federal Register

Strategies in Proxy Fights

  1. Communication: Both sides must effectively communicate their message to shareholders. This may involve press releases, investor presentations, and direct communication with large shareholders.
  2. Legal Action: Proxy fights often involve legal battles, including lawsuits over the validity of proxies, disclosure requirements, and fiduciary duties.
  3. Negotiation: In some cases, proxy fights can be resolved through negotiation and compromise, such as agreeing to add dissident nominees to the board of directors.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  1. Shareholder Influence: Proxy fights give shareholders a direct voice in the governance of the company.
  2. Corporate Governance: Proxy fights can lead to changes in corporate governance, such as replacing ineffective directors or implementing new policies.
  3. Accountability: Proxy fights can hold management accountable and ensure that they act in the best interests of shareholders.


  1. Cost: Proxy fights can be expensive, involving significant legal and communication costs.
  2. Disruption: Proxy fights can be disruptive to the company's operations and create uncertainty for employees and customers.
  3. Conflict: Proxy fights can create conflict and tension between shareholders and management, which can harm the company's reputation and performance.


Mergers and acquisitions are complex transactions that require careful planning, thorough due diligence, and strategic execution. Due diligence helps identify potential risks and ensure that the acquiring company makes informed decisions. Tender offers provide a mechanism for acquiring control of a company by appealing directly to shareholders. Proxy fights offer a way for shareholders to influence corporate governance and hold management accountable.

Understanding the legal framework and best practices for each of these components is essential for successful M&A transactions. By following the guidelines and leveraging the resources provided in this guide, companies can navigate the complexities of M&A and achieve their strategic objectives.


  1. Securities Exchange Act of 1934
  2. Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976
  3. Delaware General Corporation Law
  4. Definitive Proxy Pertaining to a Merger -
  5. Fiduciary Duties Regarding Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights
About the author
Von Wooding, Esq.

Von Wooding, Esq.

Lawyer and Founder

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