"The attorneys general of Illinois, California and the District of Columbia filed a new request … in federal court to immediately stop grocery chain Albertsons from paying out a $4 billion special dividend to its shareholders … This is the AGs' second attempt at stopping the dividend. The same court denied a request for a temporary restraining order in early November."
According to the story, "The AGs still want the dividend halted until a full review of Albertsons merger with Kroger is completed. The request includes additional evidence supporting the AGs' concern that the dividend would violate federal antitrust law as well as California, Illinois and D.C. antitrust law, according to an emailed statement.
"In particular, they claim they are able to more directly tie the dividend to the merger with Kroger rather than it being a separate consideration, noting that Albertsons contemplated a stock buyback as a better way to return capital to shareholders."
- KC's View:
There are a couple of things at work here.
First, the opposition is challenging the latter point, that the Albertsons dividend is not part of the merger. It may be accurate, but the timing of the announcement didn't do Albertsons' any favors. It is, to be clear, true that Albertsons was looking for ways to enhance shareholder value way before the Kroger negotiations kicked in.
The larger issue, I think, is about shareholder value vs. stakeholder value … and I think this is going to be part of the broader debate. But there also will be a debate whether this is even appropriate.