Does the party that provides the first draft of a merger agreement get better terms as a result? There is considerable lore among transactional lawyers on this question, yet it has never been examined empirically. In a recent article, Is There a First-Drafter Advantage in M&A?, we develop a novel dataset of drafting practices in large M&A transactions involving U.S. public-company targets. We find that there is little or no advantage to providing the first draft with respect to the most monetizable merger agreement terms, such as merger breakup fees. Notwithstanding, we do find an association between drafting first and a more favorable outcome for terms that are harder to monetize, more complex, and that tend to be negotiated exclusively by counsel, such as the material adverse change (MAC) clause. These findings are consistent with the view that the negotiation process generates frictions and agency costs, which can affect the final deal terms and result in a limited first-drafter advantage.
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