Ex Ante Choices of Law and Forum: An Empirical Analysis of Corporate Merger Agreements
31 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2006
Date Written: July 20, 2006
Legal scholars devote much attention to the incorporation puzzle - why corporations so frequently incorporate in Delaware. This paper suggests that focusing on the incorporation decision overlooks a broader but intimately related set of questions. Choosing Delaware as the incorporation situs is, effectively, a choice-of-law decision. Incorporating in Delaware selects Delaware law for (and authorizes Delaware courts to adjudicate) legal disputes about the allocation of a firm's governance authority. In this sense, the incorporation decision is similar to any setting in which a company selects a law or authorizes a dispute resolution forum. We study a data set of 412 merger and acquisition contracts contained as exhibits in SEC Form 8-K filings over a seven month period in 2002 to assess the decisions the parties have made regarding choice-of-law and choice-of-forum. Although these contracts frequently select Delaware law and Delaware as a forum, there is a relative "flight" from Delaware in this contractual setting. Delaware corporations choose Delaware law less than other corporations choose the law of their state of incorporation. Furthermore, many contracts specifying Delaware law did not specify Delaware as the litigation forum. Contracts designating Delaware law tend to choose Delaware as a litigation forum less than contracts that designate other states' laws tend to choose such states as a litigation forum. Delaware was the place of incorporation for 189 merger contracts; it was the choice of law for 132. With respect to forum selection, 115 contracts that designated a forum had Delaware corporate acquirers. Yet only 64 contracts specified Delaware as the litigation forum. In contrast, for example, New York had eight corporate acquirers and 45 contracts specifying that New York law governed. We investigate the determinants underlying these decisions about choice-of-law and forum selection. Regression results confirm the flight from Delaware law and forum.
Keywords: Choice-of-law, Delaware, Choice-of-forum, corporate governance
JEL Classification: K00, K12, K20, K22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation