Computer Error Costs T. Rowe Price $190 Million in Dell Buyout Settlement

June 4, 2016, 6:10 PM UTC
Hands On Computer Keyboard
Berlin, Germany - January 26: In this photo Illustration hands typing on a computer keyboard on January 26, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
Thomas Trutschel—Photothek via Getty Images

On Monday, a court ruled that Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners underpriced a buyout of Dell Inc. in 2013, and will have to make restitution to investors who opposed the deal. But one of those early opponents won’t benefit from the ruling because, in essence, they checked the wrong box.

According to the Wall Street Journal, administrative mistakes by the giant asset manager T. Rowe Price (TROW) led it to vote in favor of the deal, even though it had vocally opposed it in the runup to the vote.

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The mistake disqualifies T. Rowe Price from any settlement for shareholders who opposed the deal. Price held about 30 million Dell shares in several mutual funds, and the settlement found a difference of $3.87 between the buyout price and what the shares should have cost. That means the blunder cost the firm more than $100 million, or, according to the WSJ’s calculations, around $190 million with interest.

Apparently the voting error was caused by a computerized system that defaulted to support company management in buyout votes, and wasn’t corrected ahead of the Dell vote.

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T. Rowe Price is now working out a means of compensating its shareholders for the error, though the ruling is still subject to appeal.

This isn’t the only bizarre wrinkle in the fallout of the Dell deal and judgment. As Jen Wieczner outlined this week, one beneficiary of the deal played a long, arcane game, voting against the deal while hoping it would go through, and banking on a settlement all along.

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