Sun Microsystems shareholders have filed three separate class action lawsuits to block a $7.4 billion acquisition by Oracle, the company revealed in a 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The lawsuits allege Sun's board didn't live up to its fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders when it accepted Oracle's acquisition offer, saying "the consideration offered in the proposed transaction is unfair and inadequate."
Personally, I don't think these issues will block the deal. If it really has to, Oracle has the cash to up its offer or settle with the shareholders before it gets nasty (if the suits actually have any merit). And in another wrinkle, Oracle probably already knows that Sun may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
That's right: Sun also disclosed Friday that it may have violated the act, which bars American companies from bribing or engaging in other unethical activity with foreign officials. This can often be difficult since some foreign governments, to put it charitably, don't have the same hard rules against government bribery. Potential contractors can be put in the no-win situation of either paying off local officials or losing out on a lucrative contract. That's not to say that's the situation Sun is facing. It's not clear what Sun executives believe may have happened, but they have hired outside lawyers to look into it.
But as I already said, I don't think these new revelations are deal-breakers, even if FCP violations can carry potential penalties that include fines, criminal sanctions, and a ban from doing business with the U.S. federal government.
What does this tell us about the Sun/Oracle deal itself?
Oracle execs must believe that they can work out a deal with the dissenting shareholders (or, again, maybe they think their suits have little merit). And Oracle execs probably aren't that worried about any lingering government-related issues. This isn't the first time Oracle's acquisitions have come with legal question marks. The database king successfully fought a government antitrust suit against the eventual takeover of software rival PeopleSoft several years ago. Many pundits thought fighting the suit was folly, but Oracle did it anyway. … Read more