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Delaware Court of Chancery Approves $90 Million Global Settlement of Stockholder Litigation Challenging Towers-Willis Merger

On May 25, 2021, Chancellor McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery approved the $15 million portion of a $90 million global settlement of Delaware and federal litigation challenging the January 4, 2016 merger of Towers Watson & Co. and Willis Group Holdings plc.  Both actions challenged the fairness of the merger based, in large part, on a six-figure compensation package that Towers’ chief negotiator, defendant John Haley, stood to earn at the post-merger entity, and hid from Towers’ board and stockholders.  The global resolution provides a $1.52 per share payment to the vast majority of former Towers stockholders who are members of the overlapping classes in the Delaware and federal actions.  The settlement consideration largely closes the gap on the high end of the price range that Haley unsuccessfully bid when he re-negotiated the merger’s original terms in order to secure stockholders’ approval of the unpopular deal. 

The Delaware action was dismissed in July 2019, when then-Vice Chancellor McCormick concluded that Haley’s undisclosed compensation package was immaterial to Towers’ board and stockholders.  In June 2020, however, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed and remanded the action back to the trial court, holding that the Delaware plaintiffs had sufficiently plead that Haley breached his duty of loyalty by failing to disclose the compensation proposal and selling out Towers stockholders in the merger renegotiations.

Lead counsel for plaintiffs in the Delaware action are Lee D. Rudy, Geoffrey Jarvis, J. Daniel Albert, Stacey A. Greenspan and Daniel Baker of Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP.