College of Law Faculty Scholarship

Title

A More Critical Use of Fairness Opinions as a Practical Approach to the Behavioral Economics of Mergers and Acquisitions

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2011

Abstract

This paper responds to Professor Donald C. Langevoort's essay entitled "The Behavioral Economics of Mergers and Acquisitions" (12 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 65 (2011)). Together with Professor Langevoort's essay and another responsive work written from the standpoint of behavioral psychology – Eric Sundstrom's "Tall Steps, Slippery Slopes & Learning Curves in the Behavioral Economics of Mergers & Acquisitions" (12 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 65 (2011)) – this paper preliminarily explores solutions to behavioral issues in the context of mergers and acquisitions.

Specifically, this paper contends that changes in the contents, construction, use, and assessment of fairness opinions may better enable fairness opinions to counteract the potential and actual biases of corporate management and shareholders in M&A decision-making. The paper begins by briefly reviewing the nature (attributes, benefits and detriments), regulation, and utilization of fairness opinions in the M&A transactional process, including the ways in which fairness opinions manifest, support, and attempt to counteract behavioral norms. Next, the paper suggests best practices in the construction and use of fairness opinions that take into account our knowledge of behavioral psychology as it relates to M&A transactions. The net effect of these best practices is to transform what may be unconscious behavioral norms into conscious biases that, once exposed, can be confronted and, as desired, mitigated.

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