What Are Appraisal Rights in M&A Deals?


In the world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) involving private companies, dissenter's rights (also known as appraisal rights) play a crucial role in safeguarding shareholders' interests. This blog post will shed some light on the significance of dissenter's rights, the circumstances that trigger them, the potential remedies available to dissenting shareholders, and key considerations when navigating this complex landscape.

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What Are Dissenter's Rights?

Most simply put: dissenters' rights, or appraisal rights, are a legal entitlement of a shareholder to receive a court-determined fair value of her or his shares upon the occurrence of certain events that she or he does not support. These rights provide an essential protection mechanism, allowing dissenting shareholders to express their disagreement with the proposed transaction and potentially receive compensation for their shares. By exercising dissenter's rights, shareholders can assert their voice in corporate decision-making processes.

Triggering Appraisal Rights

Dissenter's rights typically arise on the occurrence of some material, triggering event, such as a merger, consolidation, asset sale, and/or certain other significant event, such as an amendment to the corporation's certificate of incorporation that adversely affects the shareholders' rights. These triggering events differ from state to state and are specifically described in the corporate law of the relevant state. Events that trigger appraisal rights have the potential to significantly impact shareholders' interests, leading some shareholders to reasonably question the fairness or desirability of the transaction and seek alternative remedies. Appraisal rights provide shareholders with an avenue to challenge the terms of the proposed deal and ensure their concerns are heard.

Exercising Dissenter's Rights

To exercise appraisal rights, a shareholder must follow specific procedures outlined in relevant state statutes and corporate governance documents. These procedures may vary depending on the jurisdiction, so it is important to consult the applicable laws and seek independent legal counsel. Generally, the dissenting shareholder must provide written notice to the company before a specified deadline, expressing the intention to dissent and demanding appraisal of her or his shares. Compliance with these procedural requirements is crucial, as failure to do so may result in the loss of dissenter's rights.

Appraisal Proceedings: Setting a "Fair Value"

Once a shareholder exercises his or her dissenter's rights, the shareholder is generally entitled to an appraisal proceeding. In this process, an impartial court or panel of appraisers determines the fair market value of the dissenting shareholder's shares. The court or appraisers consider various factors, such as the company's financials, future prospects, comparable transactions, and other relevant valuation methods. The goal is to ascertain the fair value of the shares that the shareholder would have received if they had not dissented from the transaction. Note, that appraisal proceedings present an interesting facet of the different legal landscapes in various states. See the section below, State-by-State Differences.

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Potential Remedies

If the in the appraisal it is determined that the fair value of the dissenting shareholder's shares exceeds the consideration offered in the proposed transaction, the shareholder may be entitled to receive the fair value instead. Remedies can include receiving additional compensation, such as cash or securities, to bridge the valuation gap. In some cases, dissenting shareholders may also have the option to withdraw their dissent and retain the shares. The specific remedies available vary by jurisdiction and the unique circumstances of each case.

Benefits and Considerations

Appraisal rights provide several advantages for shareholders. They ensure that dissenting shareholders have a voice in corporate decision-making, protect against potential undervaluation, and help maintain transparency and fairness in M&A transactions. By exercising these rights, shareholders can seek fair compensation for their shares, even if the majority of shareholders approve the transaction. However, it's important to note that exercising dissenter's rights may involve legal complexities and potential risks. Engaging an experienced corporate lawyer is vital to navigate the intricacies of dissenter's rights and optimize the chances of a successful outcome.

State-by-State Variations

It is important to recognize that appraisal rights can vary significantly across different states' laws. While this blog post has provided a general overview of dissenters' rights in the context of M&A deals, specific legal provisions of various states' corporate laws governing dissenters' rights do differ. These variations can encompass the triggering events that give rise to dissenters' rights, the procedural requirements for exercising those rights, and the available remedies for dissenting shareholders. As a result, it is critical to be well-informed of appraisal rights specific to the relevant jurisdiction.

One aspect of dissenters' rights in particular with variations among the several states is the formula for establishing fair value. Various factors and methodologies come into play, depending on the specific circumstances and applicable regulations. Some jurisdictions prioritize market indicators and future earnings potential, while others adopt a more comprehensive approach, considering elements such as financial performance, tangible and intangible assets, growth prospects, and industry dynamics. On the other hand, some state courts (e.g., in Delaware) simplistically refer to the value (think "purchase price") of the deal from which the dissenting stockholders dissent; this approach is not without its critics, for good reason, as it is arguably unfair and/or contrary to state law. In any case, divergent approaches underscore the complexity involved in assessing fair value and emphasize the need to understand the specific rules and practices within each jurisdiction, and to seek legal advice from experienced, local counsel. 

Public Company Exception

Exceptions exist for public companies. In many jurisdictions, appraisal rights are not available for transactions involving publicly traded companies. This limitation stems from the notion that public company shareholders have the ability to freely trade their shares on the open market, allowing them to exit their investment without resorting to dissenters' rights. Consequently, dissenters' rights are typically available only in transactions involving private companies. Public company shareholders must explore alternative avenues, such as market-based transactions or the exercise of voting rights, to protect their interests and make informed decisions during M&A transactions. 


In the world of mergers and acquisitions, appraisal rights serve as a powerful mechanism to safeguard shareholders' interests. By exercising these rights, dissenting shareholders can challenge the fairness of proposed transactions and potentially secure fair compensation for their shares. Corporate lawyers play a vital role in guiding shareholders through the process, ensuring compliance with legal requirements, and advocating for their clients' best interests. Understanding dissenter's rights is essential for shareholders and lawyers alike, as it empowers them to navigate the complex landscape of M&A deals while protecting shareholder value.


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I have become very impressed with the efficiency possibilities of AI. So, I gave ChatGPT a try. I generated this text in part with GPT-3, OpenAI's large-scale language-generation model. After it generated its own draft language, I reviewed, edited, revised, and expanded on it to my own liking and to ensure accuracy in all material respects. WLF takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this article.


This article is not legal advice, but is provided for general information purposes only: see the disclaimer in the footer of this site, and read Legal Notices here.

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