CBS and its special committee of independent directors have decided to sue the Redstone controlling shareholders.

Daisy Harvey

2018-05-09 08:31:00 Wed ET

CBS and its special committee of independent directors have decided to sue the Redstone controlling shareholders because these directors might have breached their fiduciary duties. This breach can cause irreparable harm since the Redstone controlling shareholders who own 79% of CBS equity stakes have indicated a clear intention to force a merger of CBS and Viacom. This prospective merger may not serve the best interests of CBS's minority shareholders who own the residual 21% equity stakes.

CBS's independent directors propose to issue a stock dividend of voting shares to all the minority shareholders. This issuance would dilute the voting power of the Redstone controlling shareholders from 79% to about 17% but would not dilute the economic ownership interests of any CBS shareholders. This special dividend is permissible under CBS's corporate charter for its controlling shareholders and directors to honor their fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and good faith.

Alternatively, the Redstone controlling shareholders might go nuclear by voting out the special committee of independent directors instantly by written consent with short shareholder notice. This coup attempt would allow the Redstone controlling shareholders to replace the board with their close friends who would then approve the CBS-Viacom merger plan. On balance, this complex and thorny issue shines fresh light on whether the current corporate governance regime should enhance independent directorship with greater voting power.

 


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