Majority Shareholders Who Take Part in "Squeeze-Outs" Can No Longer Count Pennsylvania as the Sanctuary It Once Was Thought to Be

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Standard learning has long held that a minority shareholder of a Pennsylvania corporation who was deprived of his stock by a “cash-out” or “squeeze-out” merger had no remedy after the merger was completed other than to take what the merger gave or demand statutory appraisal and be paid the “fair value” for his shares. No other post-merger remedy, whether based in statute or common law, was thought to be available to a minority shareholder to address the actions of the majority in a “squeeze-out.” Now, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s holding in Mitchell Partners, L.P. v. Irex Corporation, minority shareholders may pursue common law claims on the basis of fraud or fundamental unfairness against the majority shareholders that squeezed them out.

Prior to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, the Third Circuit turned this long-standing view of Pennsylvania law on end with its Mitchell Partners, L.P. v. Irex Corporation opinion of late 2011. In that case, the Court held that Pennsylvania’s Business Corporation Law does not bar recovery based on common law claims following a cash-out merger. The Court reasoned that “barring [post-merger suits] would do little more than insulate alleged tortfeasors from responsibility for their conduct.” After a motion for rehearing from the defendants, and some added pressure from the Governor of Pennsylvania in the form of an amicus brief, the Third Circuit granted rehearing and certified the question at hand to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The specific inquiry was “Does 15 Pa. [C. S.] §1105, providing for appraisal of the value of the shares of minority shareholders who are “squeezed out” in a cashout merger[,] preclude all other post-merger remedies including claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and other common law claims?”

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