On August 27, 2015, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster issued his much-anticipated post-trial verdict in litigation by former stockholders of Dole Food Company against Dole’s chairman and controlling stockholder David Murdock.
In a 106-page ruling, Vice Chancellor Laster found that Murdock and his longtime lieutenant, Dole’s former president and general counsel C. Michael Carter, unfairly manipulated Dole’s financial projections and misled the market as part of Murdock’s efforts to take the company private in a deal that closed in November 2013. Among other things, the Court concluded that Murdock and Carter “primed the market for the freeze-out by driving down Dole’s stock price” and provided the company’s outside directors with “knowingly false” information and intended to “mislead the board for Mr. Murdock’s benefit.”
Vice Chancellor Laster found that the $13.50 per share going-private deal underpaid stockholders, and awarded class damages of $2.74 per share, totaling $148 million. That award represents the largest post-trial class recovery in the merger context. The largest post-trial derivative recovery in a merger case remains Kessler Topaz’s landmark 2011 $2 billion verdict in In re Southern Peru.