Some GPPers decamped to the West Coast for the 8th Annual Berkeley Law Conference, and the war and atrocities in Israel weighed on the minds of dealmakers.
Overall, panelists didn’t expect a meaningful uptick in M&A and capital markets activity until the second half of next year. Davis Polk partner Emily Roberts noted that M&A and IPO investors are still being careful rather than exuberant, and “regulatory headwinds are intense, for tech companies especially.” Gibson Dunn partner Ed Batts echoed that sentiment, commenting that dealmaking can happen but “the issue is, can you get it past regulators, both on antitrust and on foreign investment.”
Other hot topics included the surge in corporate cases for Delaware Court of Chancery, as noted in a panel by Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, in addition to navigating critical issues with Boards and the future of ESG disclosure. In a “Beyond ESG” discussion about corporate commitments to environmental and social benchmarks, Steve Lipin called for fewer acronyms and streamlined metrics, and that he is “bullish on what the spirit of these phrases mean, it’s how we get there” that corporations are navigating.
No conference in 2023 could be complete without robust discussions about AI and its impact on dealmaking. Senior attorneys can breathe a sigh of relief, as there was broad consensus that there will always be a role for deep experience and partner counsel; but AI experts, including OpenAI’s General Counsel Che Chang, agreed that the jobs with which junior associates are often tasked will likely be replaced by artificial intelligence – and soon.
In closing, when asked about the role of activists in modern shareholder engagement, PJT Partners’ Ivan Brockman noted that, compared to 15 or 20 years ago, activists are “much more respected from a Board level and…[activism] is on the agenda of all Boards and has to be discussed proactively, and I think that’s a good thing.”
David Marcus, from The Deal, finished the conference by doing a live podcast of his Drinks with the Deal and interviewed Trâm Phi, SVP and General Counsel at Databricks.
On Wednesday, the SEC announced the adoption of much scrutinized amendments to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that will amend beneficial ownership reporting, notably shortening filing deadlines, clarifying derivative securities disclosures, and mandating filings in a structured, machine-readable data format. Notably, under these new rules, the initial filing deadline for Schedule 13D will shift from ten days to five business days and amendments to Schedule 13D will need be filed within two business days.
We at GPP share the sadness and tragedy over the past week in Israel and mourn the lives lost, pray for healing for those injured, and are thinking of friends, family, clients and journalists in Israel.
Have a great weekend,