Abstract: Institutional investors closely monitor termination fees in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). We argue that their magnitude reflects either agency problems or efficiency considerations. Focusing on M&A involving Canadian targets between 1997 and 2004, we assess the determinants and market impact of termination fees. Our findings show that the Thomson's SDC Platinum™Worldwide Mergers&Acquisitions Database underestimates their extent. Results suggest that termination fees are essentially an efficient mechanism as they are relatively higher in M&A with high merger costs, a cash component and expected operating synergies. Stock market returns surrounding the deal announcement do not differ across levels of relative termination fees.