While Paramount Global stock is up nearly 30 percent over the past month, Shari Redstone, the company’s controlling owner, is facing not one but two advanced shareholder lawsuits over how she melded CBS and Viacom a few years ago. This past Wednesday, the four dozen or so lawyers involved agreed on a schedule for the home stretch: Pending a Delaware Court of Chancery judge’s blessing, it will all culminate in a six-day trial for CBS shareholders in late June, followed by another six-day trial for Viacom shareholders in early July. There are no signs of any peaceful resolution.
These suits are remarkable for many reasons. While it used to be extremely common for shareholders to sue over M&A, that’s become a much rarer phenomenon thanks to obscure developments that have made it tougher for class action lawyers to collect attorneys’ fees for this type of litigation. But some march on regardless, and those that do are less likely to settle.
Paramount’s attorneys unsuccessfully tried to get the suits dismissed. Recently, the plaintiffs said there was a “mountain of evidence”—get it, like the Paramount mountain—that ex-CBS C.E.O. Joseph Ianniello was essentially paid millions “to do nothing” as part of “an effort to make it appear as though CBS senior executives would remain at the Company to lead CBS’s valuable assets after the Merger.” Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock said he’d rule after trial. (Ianniello’s lawyer has yet to respond or offer comment.)