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AES Corp. v. Dow Chemical Company

April 14, 2003


On Appeal From the United States District Court For the District of Delaware (D.C. Civil Action No. 99-cv-00673) District Judge: Honorable Joseph J. Farnan, Jr.

Before: Mckee, Stapleton and WALLACE,*fn1 Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stapleton, Circuit Judge


Argued May 23, 2002


I. Introduction

The AES Corporation ("AES") operates power facilities. AES alleges that Dow Chemical Company ("Dow") and its subsidiary, Destec Energy, Inc. ("Destec"), *fn2 violated Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act") in connection with a transaction in which AES purchased the stock of one of Destec's subsidiaries, Destec Engineering, Inc. ("DEI"). DEI's sole asset was a contract to design and construct a power plant in The Netherlands (the "Elsta Plant"). According to AES, Dow and Destec conspired to sell DEI at an artificially inflated price by making misrepresentations material to an evaluation of DEI.

During the pendency of this case in the District Court, AES and Destec entered into a settlement agreement. Thus, only the claims against Dow remain. There has been no discovery. Dow moved for summary judgment, relying solely on documents relating to the transactions in which AES acquired DEI's stock. In response, AES filed a Rule 56(f) affidavit requesting discovery in identified areas. The District Court nevertheless granted Dow's summary judgment motion. The District Court held that certain clauses in the transaction documents rendered AES's reliance on the alleged misrepresentations unreasonable as a matter of law.

II. Background

Dow formed Destec to build and run power plants that would supply power to Dow Chemical facilities and third-party users. In 1996, after determining that it could not profitably run Destec as its subsidiary, Dow retained Morgan Stanley to perform a valuation of Destec in order to initiate a public sale.

Morgan Stanley issued a Confidential Offering Memorandum on behalf of Destec. As a precondition to receiving the Offering Memorandum, AES signed a Confidentiality Agreement that provided in part:

We [AES] acknowledge that neither you [Destec], nor Morgan Stanley [Destec's Investment Banker] or its affiliates, nor your other Representatives, nor any of your or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents or controlling persons within the meaning of section 20 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, make any express or implied representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the Information, and we agree that no such person will have any liability relating to the Information or for any errors therein or omissions therefrom. We further agree that we are not entitled to rely on the accuracy or completeness of the Information and that we will be entitled to rely solely on any representations and warranties as may be made to us in any definitive agreement with respect to the Transaction, subject to such limitations and restrictions as may be contained therein. App. at 197, ¶ 5.

Dow was not a party to the Confidentiality Agreement but is alleged to have been a "controlling person" of Destec within the meaning of § 20(a) of the Exchange Act.

The Offering Memorandum included projections and estimates about the future performance of Destec's businesses, including DEI and the Elsta Plant. Like the Confidentiality Agreement, the Offering Memorandum warned readers that they were not to rely on the accuracy or completeness of information contained therein. It further stated:

[o]nly those particular representations and warranties which may be made to a purchaser in a definitive agreement, when, as, and if executed, and subject to such limitations and restrictions as may be specified in such definitive agreement, shall have any legal effect. App. at 7 (alteration in original).

Dow and Destec provided information about Destec to potential bidders in several other ways. First, Destec officers gave a presentation to potential bidders, which AES representatives attended. Dow and Destec also sent certain documents to potential bidders and made others available in a room at a Destec facility in Houston, Texas. Further, Dow and Destec gave potential bidders a computer model to value the Destec assets. This model included assumptions about the expenses and revenues of the Elsta Plant. Lastly, Dow and Destec allowed AES, as part of its due diligence, to visit the Elsta Plant.

AES contacted Dow about the possibility of purchasing the international assets of Destec. Dow responded that it would prefer to sell all of Destec, rather than dispose of it piecemeal. As a result, AES approached NGC Corporation ("NGC") to propose submitting a joint bid for all of Destec, and a joint bid was subsequently made.

The AES/NGC joint bid was accepted by Dow. The transaction took place in two steps. First, NGC acquired all of the stock of Destec pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Merger (the "Merger Agreement") entered into by Dow, Destec, and NGC. Second, AES purchased all of the international assets of Destec, including all of DEI's outstanding stock, pursuant to an Asset Purchase Agreement between AES and NGC.

Section 4.6 of the Merger Agreement, to which AES was not a party, provided as follows:

Except for the representations and warranties contained in this Article IV, neither Dow nor any other person makes any other express or implied representation ...

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