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Changing times change mergers and acquisitions practice

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In the manufacturing hub of Elkhart, attorney Mike Pianowski has noticed the mergers and acquisitions market rebounding.

His firm, Sanders Pianowski LLP, closed four deals at the end of 2012, another at the beginning of this year, and has six negotiations ongoing currently. Of the seven partners at the firm, five often work on mergers and acquisitions along with several associates.

This is work that has come knocking on his door. Even while his firm stands in the northern Indiana market that includes larger, national law offices, Sanders Pianowski does not advertise for business.

“We don’t really compete,” he said. “Everybody’s busy.”

birge Birge

Pianowski is not the only one seeing an uptick in the market.

The M&A community has observed the same thing, said James Birge, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in Indianapolis. This segment of the economy is robust, and lawyers helping with the sale of businesses have a lot more work.

Birge talked about the mergers and acquisitions segment of the economy at the Faegre Baker Daniels’ 2013 M&A Conference held June 4 in Indianapolis. The seminar included panel discussions on such topics as the current trends in the market, how to prepare a company for sale and carve outs.

A total of 227 attended the M&A conference that is believed to be the first of its kind in Indiana. Lawyers, investment bankers, private equity specialists and accountants from across the state came to the event. Panelists traveled from other Midwestern locations such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Birge began organizing the conference last year. The local M&A community has long been talking about the need for Indiana to have a gathering similar to the ones held in other parts of the country. Birge, who concentrates his practice on corporate transactions and economic incentive programs, decided to take on the task.

More than just a time to learn about trends and challenges in the marketplace, Birge said the conference offered an opportunity to network, bringing potential buyers together with interested sellers.

While the M&A market is recovering, it remains well short of its peak in 2007. Buyers and sellers are a little hesitant to take on additional risk, said Kyle Hupfer, an attorney in the M&A practice group at Frost Brown Todd LLC in Indianapolis. More significant, banks are keeping tight reins on financing.

When confidence returns, deals will likely increase, he said. An uptick could be fueled by the piles of cash corporations are sitting on as well as some possible pent-up demand.

An indication of this hesitancy may be the rise of earnouts, a type of agreement where the purchase price is contingent on the future financial performance of the business. Jeff Brown, partner at Faegre, moderated the panel discussion on this topic.

According to Brown, an estimated 16 percent of the mergers and acquisitions deals in 2008 had earnout provisions. That grew to 26 percent in 2011, and he anticipates the percentage will be higher in 2012.

This method of buying a business is also evidence of what Pianowski sees as the growing sophistication in the market.

He remembers a time when buyers and sellers of businesses trusted their gut feelings. Deals were done by a handshake with the financials scrawled on a paper napkin or the back of the bill for lunch.

brown Brown

Today, while investors may still rely on their intuition, they verify. The buying and selling of businesses is much more complicated. Worries arise over potential environmental contamination, warranty claims, employment issues, multi-state operations and cross-border shipping as well as intellectual property.

Another indication of the increasing complexity in mergers and acquisitions is the number of international transactions. Indianapolis is just one example of an American city that has fostered and strengthened its global ties.

This has changed how lawyers practice, Brown said. In previous days, attorneys who did international mergers and acquisitions were filling something of a niche. Now, all attorneys in this practice area do global deals.

Although the sophistication along with the rebounding economy does create more work for attorneys, Pianowski said the end goal remains the same.

“We want our buyers and sellers, once the deal is done, to be able to sleep at night,” he said. “We don’t want any surprises.”

Increases in mergers and acquisition deals spur jobs and growth. They also provide direct benefit to the M&A community that includes the lawyers who help put the deals together.

In the short term, Hupfer said this means more work for lawyers. However, it’s uncertain if in the long term this additional work would lead law firms to hire more attorneys.•

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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