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Healthcare Acquisitions and Divestitures During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It seems as though all aspects of our personal and professional lives have been impacted in one way or another by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Healthcare acquisitions and divestitures are no exception. Although the ramifications depend on the specific circumstances of each transaction, we are noticing certain common threads woven among recently closed and currently in progress transactions in the healthcare industry. Here are a few of the questions that often arise as we work with clients to navigate the current business landscape both during and after the COVID epidemic. 

  • Valuations. It’s no secret that numerous businesses are experiencing financial distress. Some of the country’s largest financial institutions are ramping up hiring in their bankruptcy and distressed credit divisions, indicating the players in the best position to know believe that rates of financial distress and delinquencies will continue to rise in the near term. How should the financial performance of the business during the pandemic (which may include recent business interruption, decline in revenue or increase in costs) be taken into consideration when determining the overall value of the business? How should buyers price in the risk created by COVID-induced uncertainty? Most commentators note that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted deal dynamics in favor of buyers, creating a buyers’ market. How should buyers and sellers change their “deal playbook” and/or negotiation strategy in response to these market forces? 
  • Earnouts. It’s important to each transaction party that it ultimately receives the benefit of its bargain. What is the likelihood that the seller will receive the earnout in whole or in part? Are the earnout targets based upon pre-pandemic figures and economic assumptions? Should more of the purchase price be shifted to the earnout to mitigate risk for the buyer? Can the earnout measurement period be extended in an effort to mitigate the impact to the seller of a potential future short-term economic decline?  
  • Escrow. The parties may be aware of certain contingent liabilities attributable to pandemic-related contractual disputes, litigation or regulatory non-compliance. How much of the purchase price should be placed in escrow given potential COVID-19 related risks identified in diligence?  
  • Employment Law Considerations. It’s been a busy year for employment attorneys and businesses implementing related compliance requirements. Are there potential governmental enforcement actions or employee lawsuits on the horizon for the seller? Has the seller complied with recent employment law changes and cumbersome but crucial workplace health and safety requirements? Have members of the seller’s workforce tested positive for COVID-19? 
  • Litigation and Other Disputes. It is no secret that the public health emergency has resulted in substantial supply chain disruption and payment defaults. If applicable, what is the seller’s likelihood of success under force majeure, termination and other key contractual provisions.  Has the pandemic resulted in current or potential litigation with landlords, vendors, insurers, customers, lenders, employees or others?  
  • Compliance Requirements. The federal government has made it clear that certain recipients of SBA PPP loans and HHS Provider Relief Fund payments will be subject to governmental audit and scrutiny. Has the seller received SBA loans or grants or Provider Relief Funds?  If so, is the seller complying with the related attestation, documentation and forgiveness requirements? Does the seller have the proper Provider Relief Fund policies and procedures in place?  
  • Cybersecurity. Governmental authorities have identified increased cybersecurity risks to businesses during the pandemic. Does the seller have an active and robust data privacy and security program? Has the seller experienced any recent breaches and, if so, were they addressed appropriately?  
  • Purchased Assets and Assumed Contracts. What will happen if the pandemic results in a material adverse change in the seller’s business between the date when the purchase agreement is signed and the date of the closing? What if the business isn’t operating in the ordinary course in accordance with past practice and/or historical financial results?  Is the buyer required to proceed with the closing? Will there be an adjustment to the purchase price? Is the seller in compliance with all of its representations, warranties, covenants and other obligations in the primary transaction agreement(s)? Will the seller be liable for related damages?  
  • Representations and Warranties Insurance. Having comprehensive representation and warranty insurance in place can benefit both parties to the transaction. Will the insurer exclude representation and warranty claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic from the insurance coverage? It may be important for buyers to reach out to several insurers and compare the coverage available.

As the pace of deal activity within the health care space continues to increase, our firm’s attorneys are working daily with clients to further develop and adjust their strategies to respond to changes and uncertainty in today’s environment. Please let us know if we may assist you to brainstorm potential transaction structures and “best practices” to mitigate business and regulatory risk during this time, while maximizing transaction value. We’d be delighted to discuss with you further. For additional information, please contact Kate Hickner at kehickner@bmdllc.com or Kevin Saunders at rksaunders@bmdllc.com. 

HHS Announces an Additional $20 Billion In Provider Relief Grants

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced an additional $20 billion in new funding for providers on October 1, 2020. Eligible providers include those that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments as well as previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic. The new Phase 3 General Distribution is designed to balance an equitable payment of 2% of annual revenue from patient care for all applicants plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.

DOL Proposes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status - But How Will the Election Affect Its Future?

On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposed rule regarding employee and independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The full text of the proposed rule is available here. The rule's drafters intend to reduce uncertainty and enhance the precision and predictability of the long-standing "economic reality" test, which currently relies on a multifactor balancing test.

Major Change to Franklin County, Ohio Eviction Process: Landlord Testimony Required

Although there is currently a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in place, the eviction process in Franklin County – which processes the highest number of evictions in the State of Ohio at approximately 18,000 a year – recently changed significantly.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.