The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

998. John C. Coates IV, Darius Palia & Ge Wu, Reverse Termination Fees in M&A, 04/2019.

Abstract: Reverse termination fees (RTFs) are required payments by bidders when they “walk away” from a merger or acquisition, and vary significantly in size and design. In a large sample of manually collected U.S. deal contracts involving publicly traded bidders and targets, we examine the relationship between announcement returns and different types of RTFs, including those with features theorized by others to reflect inefficient design, and also RTFs that we theorize may send a negative value signal from managers seeking to “eat” rather than “be eaten” in consolidating industries. We find inefficient RTFs correlate with lower bidder returns, even in a subsample where disclosure of RTF terms lags deal announcements by more than two days. We also find inclusion of certain RTFs in consolidating industries reveals private information to the market, resulting in negative abnormal returns. Our results are robust to alternative event windows and control groups, and carry over to combined bidder and target abnormal returns, inconsistent with inefficient RTFs reflecting transfers from buyers to targets. Finally, we find an insignificant relationship between the probability of deal completion and inefficient RTFs, and a negative significant relationship between the probability of deal completion and negative signal RTFs, consistent with the fact that deals with such RTFs are adopted in consolidating industries where both deal competition and antitrust issues are higher than in other deal settings.

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