The Middle Ground

A GUIDE TO DEAL TERMS IN PLAIN ENGLISH


+ Introduction

+ Purchase and Sale

+ Closing

+ Representations & Warranties - Seller

+ Representations & Warranties - Buyer

+ Covenants

+ Conditions to Closing

+ Indemnification

+ Termination

+ Miscellaneous

Notice of Certain Events


Classification: Deal Driver
Section: Covenants
Negotiation Time: Minimal
Transaction Costs: Insignificant
Major Impact: Deal Value, Risk Management, and Transaction Completion


What is This? The Buyer makes its decision to invest based on the information available to it, but new or changed information could lead to a different decision. The Buyer can use this section to identify the types of information that may change its decision and to ask the Seller to communicate such information as it is received.

The Middle Ground: This covenant requires the Seller to notify the Buyer if certain events occur and provides a list of events for which notice is required. That list includes events that would or have had a Material Adverse Effect on the Business, anything that would make a Seller representation or warranty untrue, and anything that prevents the Seller from satisfying its Conditions to Closing, among others. The covenant also explicitly states that providing notice of the listed events does not result in the Buyer losing its right to make an indemnification claim or terminate the Agreement.

Purpose: Without this notice requirement, the Buyer would be forced to spend considerable time and money checking on the status of its potential investment at a point in time when someone else (the Seller) has much better knowledge and access. In that scenario, the cost and risk are all on the Buyer, who would likely pass along some of those costs to the Seller by lowering the Purchase Price. With this covenant, the Seller monitors the Business and the Buyer’s cost of obtaining the information is eliminated, as is some of its risk, which means more money in the Seller’s pocket and a safer investment for the Buyer.

Buyer Preference: The Buyer does not want a disclosure under this covenant to prevent it from claiming indemnification or terminating the Agreement, so an explicit statement that the covenant does not affect those rights is in the Buyer’s best interest (and may be necessary, depending on the circumstances and governing state law). If the Seller insists on limiting the Buyer’s indemnification rights for information known prior to the Closing, the Buyer can compromise by negotiating for a Cap and/or Basket on the indemnification rights stemming from any such information.

Seller Preference: If notice is given based on this covenant that corrects an inaccuracy or breach of one of the Seller’s representations or warranties, the Seller wants the notice to serve as a cure for that inaccuracy or breach to prevent an indemnification claim. If the Buyer wants to reserve its right to terminate the Agreement or bring an indemnification claim, the Seller can try to negotiate (1) for a limited time period to terminate the Agreement or make a claim, (2) to impose a materiality or Material Adverse Effect standard on cured representations and warranties, or (3) to institute a procedure for resolving these disputes before the Buyer is allowed to terminate the Agreement.

Differences in a Stock Sale Transaction Structure: None.


DISCUSSION

We want The Middle Ground to be an ongoing dialogue for and resource to the lower middle market M&A community. The outline above is generally applicable, but there is always specific case law and nuance around certain industries that can be useful in helping buyers and sellers come together. If you are a lawyer or deal professional, we encourage you to add your perspective below.