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Takeovers, Shareholder Litigation, and the Free-riding Problem

When shareholders of a target firm expect a value improving takeover to be successful, they are individually better off not tendering their shares to the buyer and the takeover potentially fails. Squeeze-out procedures can overcome this free-riding dilemma by allowing a buyer to enforce a payout of minority shareholders and seize complete control of the target firm. However, it is often argued that shareholder protection laws and litigation restore or intensify the free-riding dilemma. Applying a game theoretic setting, we demonstrate that it is not shareholder litigation that brings back the free-riding dilemma, but rather the strategic gambling of buyers for lower prices and flaws in the design and application of squeeze-out laws. We find, for example, that lawmakers should refrain from setting separate legal thresholds for corporate control and squeeze-outs. We also analyze a favorable change in jurisdiction of the German Federal Court and provide implications for legal policy.

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