Many portfolio companies continue to confront business disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, we were seeing an uptick in litigation claims against sponsors and funds arising out of portfolio companies. The liquidity challenges since March have increased those risks at some companies. For sponsors, many of these risks arise from director positions and conflicts of interest, whether real or alleged. Below we provide tangible ways for fund sponsors to identify risks, educate their directors, and mitigate risk.

Ten Step Action Plan

  1. Create a list of companies with sponsor board members.
  2. Sensitize directors to fiduciary duties to company and shareholders as a whole and fund, and potential conflicts between them.
  3. Scrutinize corporate transactions, particularly in distressed situations, and document decision making.
  4. Consider use of special committees to resolve conflicts; retain fund counsel where fund receives a benefit that not all shareholders receive.
  5. Consider the risk of portfolio company employee claims, including claims arising out of COVID-19.
  6. Sensitize directors to insolvency issues and be mindful of duties to creditors of an insolvent corporation.
  7. Observe best practices: participate in deliberations, adhere to formalities, retain good minutes, exercise care in communications.
  8. Train directors on attorney-client privilege, including distinction between fund counsel and company counsel.
  9. Expect scrutiny of valuation practices and financial records.
  10. Assess relevant contracts and rights (investment agreement, shareholder agreement, insurance contracts, and indemnification rights and obligations).

For further information regarding sources of risks and liability for portfolio companies and fund sponsors, contact us regarding Navigating the COVID-19 Liquidity Crisis: The Portfolio Company Playbook.

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Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

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Photo of Timothy W. Mungovan Timothy W. Mungovan

Tim Mungovan is the Chair of Proskauer.  He is also the immediate past chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department and head of the Securities Litigation practice.

His practice is focused on securities, commercial litigation, governance, and bankruptcy-related matters. He has a national reputation…

Tim Mungovan is the Chair of Proskauer.  He is also the immediate past chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department and head of the Securities Litigation practice.

His practice is focused on securities, commercial litigation, governance, and bankruptcy-related matters. He has a national reputation for advising sponsors of private investment funds (hedge, private equity, private credit and venture capital) in a wide variety of matters, including litigation, governance, securities, fiduciary obligations, and regulatory enforcement.

Chambers USA describes Tim as “an extraordinary lawyer who is a fierce and very talented litigator. He is extremely knowledgeable, responsive and client-oriented.” Best Lawyers in America lauds Tim’s experience, integrity, work ethic, communications and courtroom skills. Tim has been listed in the “Top 100 Lawyers” in Massachusetts, and Benchmark Litigation has continually recognized Tim as a Litigation Star in Massachusetts.

Over the last six years, Tim has been the lead litigator representing the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico in the historic restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debts. The scale and complexity of this restructuring has resulted in one of the most active litigation dockets in the U.S. Almost every aspect of the litigation involved matters of first impression in part because the restructuring is governed by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which was enacted for Puerto Rico in 2016.  The track record of success speaks for itself:  in the more than 150 lawsuits filed, Tim and the Proskauer team have prevailed in almost 95% of the cases.

Tim is recognized nationally for his experience in private fund litigation and disputes, having focused on the industry for more than 25 years.  As part of that focus, Tim created and is the lead editor of Proskauer’s blog on Private Equity litigation, The Capital Commitment.

Photo of Michael R. Hackett Michael R. Hackett

Mike Hackett is a partner in the Litigation Department and Co-Head of the Asset Management Litigation practice. An experienced litigator and trial lawyer, Mike’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on asset management, financial services, M&A, shareholder, and life…

Mike Hackett is a partner in the Litigation Department and Co-Head of the Asset Management Litigation practice. An experienced litigator and trial lawyer, Mike’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on asset management, financial services, M&A, shareholder, and life sciences disputes.

A significant portion of Mike’s practice concerns disputes and regulation involving private funds, including private equity, venture capital, hedge, real estate and private credit funds, as well as their sponsors, partners, investors, portfolio companies, and officers and directors. Mike’s experience representing private fund clients runs the gamut, from control contests within advisers, to disputes between limited partners and general partners, to representation of investment advisers in connection with regulatory examinations, investigations and enforcement matters. Mike routinely represents funds, fund sponsors, portfolio companies, and their officers and directors, including in significant post-closing M&A disputes.

Mike also litigates high-stakes commercial disputes in the life sciences and financial services areas, including for established pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, emerging and innovative start-ups, asset managers, and other private capital investors, in areas such as M&A, breach of contract, indemnification, fraud, contested earnouts and royalties, securities and capital markets, and corporate governance.

Mike has been recognized by Chambers USA and was named a “Rising Star” by Massachusetts Super Lawyers.

Photo of Jonathan M. Weiss Jonathan M. Weiss

Jonathan Weiss is a partner in the Litigation Department. Jonathan represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide range of high-stakes litigation, including antitrust, class action, financial services, securities and other complex commercial litigation. Jonathan has won multiple noteworthy jury verdicts, including the…

Jonathan Weiss is a partner in the Litigation Department. Jonathan represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide range of high-stakes litigation, including antitrust, class action, financial services, securities and other complex commercial litigation. Jonathan has won multiple noteworthy jury verdicts, including the fourth largest jury award in the history of the State of Arizona (over $110 million), and has significant appellate experience briefing and arguing appeals in both state and federal courts across the nation.

Jonathan has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Southern California Super Lawyers every year since 2011, and was recognized by Legal 500 U.S. in their 2015 leading lawyers in appellate litigation edition, noting his “incredibly dedicated” advocacy on behalf of his clients. Jonathan has also spent considerable time on pro bono matters, for which he has been honored by Public Counsel among other organizations.

In addition to his busy practice, Jonathan has taught courses on Ninth Circuit appellate advocacy throughout Southern California and has lectured at several universities nationally, including Harvard Law School, UCLA Law School, the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh. Jonathan is also a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Photo of Adam L. Deming Adam L. Deming

Adam Deming is an associate in the Litigation Department and a member of the firm’s Appellate and Product Liability groups, and Asset Management Litigation team. He focuses on complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts, covering a broad spectrum of business disputes…

Adam Deming is an associate in the Litigation Department and a member of the firm’s Appellate and Product Liability groups, and Asset Management Litigation team. He focuses on complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts, covering a broad spectrum of business disputes touching on corporate governance, fiduciary obligations, financial services, securities and insolvency. Adam has also represented clients in appeals spanning various areas, including consumer products, life sciences, bankruptcy, labor relations, patent and constitutional law.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Adam served as a law clerk to the Honorable Patty Shwartz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Adam was also an associate in the New York office of an international law firm. Adam graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was the managing editor of the Journal of Constitutional Law and an Arthur C. Littleton Fellow instructor in legal writing.  Before law school, Adam was a Teach for America Corps Member in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he taught middle school English for three years.