In the early stages of a merger and acquisition (M&A) transaction, owners may be willing to overlook certain differences in favor of focusing on the benefits of the deal. However, as the M&A transaction is completed, the rose-colored glasses may come off and sudden concerns may develop into serious legal disputes between owners. If these disputes are not handled correctly, it can result in long-term consequences, both financially and regarding the relations of the parties. The following are some information regarding common post-closing M&A disputes.
Many M&A agreements are structured such that part of the purchase price is paid at closing and the rest is paid at some point in future. This is done with “earn-out” clauses and purchase price adjustment clauses, among others. An earn-out clause is where the amount of future money paid depends on selling company’s performance after the acquisition, i.e. the money has to be earned after the closing before it is paid out. These types of clauses are sometimes interpreted differently by buyers and sellers after the closing. For example, if the selling company’s product is upgraded after the closing, the buyer and seller may view the revenues from those sales differently under an earn-out clause. As another example, if the buyer and seller have different accounting practices that could certainly affect their interpretation of purchase price adjustment clauses. Resolving these disputes can involve complex accounting and negotiations by both parties.