Bribery and Money-laundering Risk Management in M&A

As government agencies and regulators around the world are strengthening their enforcement efforts (having unearthed major bribery, corruption and money laundering related lapses by various corporates in the recent years), corporate activities have come under increased regulatory scrutiny. A target’s historical and existing anti-money laundering (AML) or anti-bribery, anti-corruption (ABAC) violations and resultant liabilities typically become the acquirer’s responsibility post-closing. This can have far-reaching legal, business and reputational consequences on the acquirer and in an extreme case, could result in an acquisition being a failure. As a result of this, acquirers have to be cognizant of not only any post-closing transgressions but also any pre-closing ones that they know, or ought to have known. The approach of a hurriedly-conducted limited due diligence with heavy reliance on warranties alone is therefore a risky one.
This note is divided into four parts – the first part provides a general overview of the key legislations. The second part highlights certain factors such as the target’s jurisdiction, sector, local laws and other cultural and geographical issues that typically influence such AML and ABAC issues. The third part outlines safeguards that are customarily adopted by the acquirers and the last part proposes certain measures that may be considered and implemented for effective risk-management by the acquirers.

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One year of the CCI’s ‘Green Channel’ route for deemed approval of combinations

The Competition Commission of India (the “CCI”) recently commemorated the completion of the first year of the ‘Green Channel’ approval route for combination filings in India, by way of which, combinations which meet certain criteria are deemed to be approved upon filing a valid short form notification (Form-I) with the CCI. This unique approval route was introduced by the CCI with effect from 15 August 2019, for facilitating speedy clearance of transactions, and balancing the ease of doing business in India with appropriate regulatory oversight for such combinations. Since its introduction, almost one-fifth of the combinations notified to the CCI have availed of this route.
This note analyses certain issues relating to the implementation of this route, some of which have subsequently been addressed by the guidance issued by the CCI through its updated ‘Notes to Form-I’. While some issues remain to be clarified, it is hoped that going forward, these will be resolved through CCI’s further guidance and decisional practice, and facilitate a wider and more certain use of the deemed approval route.

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Impact of COVID-19 on Proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016

This note, first published on the National Law School Business Law Review blog, discusses recent amendments to the [Indian] Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which inter-alia temporarily prevent creditors from initiating insolvency proceedings against corporate debtors. While the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, the Government should also consider the impact of the pandemic on pending proceedings as well as alternative mechanisms to restructure debt and resolve defaults in a cost-effective manner to preserve value.

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Operational Creditors in Insolvency: A Tale of Disenfranchisement

This note attempts to explain the unique predicament of operational creditors under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). It examines the various factors considered by the judiciary in recent pronouncements that have shaped the status of the operational creditors and outlines solutions that could be considered for a constructive resolution of the issues at hand.
This note is divided into four parts – the first part discusses certain issues considered by the Supreme Court in Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited v. Satish Kumar Gupta and others, and its key findings in this regard. In the second part, the authors highlight how the IBC and the ruling of the Supreme Court unfairly disadvantage operational creditors, and offer solutions in line with international practice. In the third part, the authors point out a lacuna in the IBC regarding the treatment of the claims of creditors with ‘disputed’ claims in an insolvency resolution process and propose an alternate framework to determine such claims. The last part underscores the key takeaways from this article and a few concluding thoughts.

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Enforcement of Foreign Awards granting a Put Option despite objections under the FEMA

A ‘put option’ is a clause agreed in a contract whereby one party has the right (not an obligation) to sell its shares in a company to another person at an agreed price. Such price need not be an absolute number recorded in the contract and could be in the form of an agreed formula or may be left to determination by an expert (pre-agreed or subject to future agreement) using financial data as of an agreed date. A put option works as a means of exit for investor shareholders. Subject to a valid exercise of the put option and correctness of the valuation, once a put option is exercised, it entails a contractual obligation on the party upon which such option is exercised to purchase the shares at such price and acquire the shares.
This note seeks to briefly discuss the treatment of objections to enforcement of foreign awards on grounds that the put option clause granted through the foreign award violates the foreign exchange laws of India.

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Voluntary Delisting

The current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and several listed companies have seen a reduction in their value due to the sharp fall in stock prices compared to the beginning of 2020. The recent weeks have also seen delisting announcements by certain widely held companies including those on the NIFTY-50 and subsidiaries of global corporations.
Voluntary delisting is essentially a strategic move where a promoter (controlling shareholder) of a listed company and the listed company seek to delist the shares from the stock exchanges in India and is primarily governed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Delisting of Equity Shares) Regulations, 2009, as amended (the “Delisting Regulations”).
This note discusses the legal framework and process for voluntary delisting under the Delisting Regulations and certain key issues involved in delisting.

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SEBI Order: AstraZeneca Pharma and the Elliott Group

In connection with a proposed delisting of shares of AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited (AZPIL) in 2014, the SEBI recently issued an order dated June 5, 2020 under Sections 11(1), 11(4) and 11B of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, holding that:
(i) AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals AB Sweden (AZPAB), the promoter of AZPIL, and the Elliott Group (a group of related foreign institutional investors that collectively held a significant shareholding in AZPIL) colluded with each other to get the shares of AZPIL delisted and influence the delisting price of such shares without considering the interests of the retail shareholders of AZPIL; and
(ii) The conduct of AZPAB and the Elliott Group amounted to a manipulative and fraudulent trade practice under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Practice Relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 2003.
The SEBI questioned the conduct of AZPAB and the Elliott Group and concluded that there existed a ‘meeting of minds’ between AZPAB and the Elliott Group prior to the delisting announcement. This note analyses the SEBI’s order.

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COVID-19: Suspension of Insolvency Proceedings in India

On June 5, 2020, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was amended to inter-alia prohibit creditors and corporate debtors from initiating corporate insolvency resolution proceedings in respect of defaults arising during the six (6) month period from and including March 25, 2020 (the date of commencement of the national lockdown) – this period may be extended up to one (1) year.

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Purchase Price Adjustments in Court Schemes

Price adjustments in M&A transaction documentation enable parties to align the consideration originally negotiated at signing to the facts and circumstances existing at closing. Such adjustments become particularly important when there is a protracted time gap between signing and closing, usually due to statutory and regulatory approvals, and in case of listed entities, volatility in the financial markets. Certain transactions are implemented through tribunal-approved schemes of merger, de-merger, etc. (“Schemes”). While Schemes offer certain advantages such as an exemption from takeover regulations in case of listed entities, price adjustments in such transactions are subject to greater scrutiny and constraints, given requirements for tribunal approval and in the case of listed entities, pricing requirements and review by stock exchanges and the securities regulator. This note sets out certain price adjustment mechanisms that could be considered by parties to Schemes involving listed entities.

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