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Chancery Dismisses First-Filed Action Involving Delaware Choice of Law and Forum Selection Clause for Forum Non Conveniens

Focus Fin. Partners, LLC v. Holsopple, C.A. No. 2020-0188-JTL (Del. Ch. Nov. 2, 2020)

Defendant moved on forum non conveniens grounds to dismiss an action brought by a recent hire’s former employer to enforce various provisions in an employment agreement, including restrictive covenants. The plaintiff had filed suit in Delaware five days prior to the former employee and his new employer filing suit in California for declarations that the restrictive covenants were invalid and unenforceable under California law.  More ›

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Superior Court CCLD Awards Sanctions For Unprepared Rule 30(b)(6) Deponent

Fortis Advisors, LLC v. Dematic Corp., C.A. No. N18C-12-104 AML [CCLD] (Del. Super. Nov. 18, 2020)

As this decision illustrates, Delaware trial courts have a variety of sanction options available when it comes to violations of court orders or discovery rules, such as the failure to adequately prepare a Rule 30(b)(6) deponent. Any sanction must be “just and reasonable” and tailored to the breaching party’s culpability and the complaining party’s prejudice. More ›

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Chancery Declines to Order Specific Performance of $5.8 Billion Luxury Hotel Deal Scuttled by COVID-19 Changes to Hotel Business Operations

AB Stable VIII LLC v. MAPS Hotels and Resorts One LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0310-JTL (Del. Ch. Nov. 30, 2020)

Parties to a sale and purchase agreement (“SPA”) had planned to close a deal to sell fifteen luxury hotels for $5.8 billion. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe in early 2020 and battered the hotel industry, the buyer terminated the SPA. Seller sought specific performance in the Court of Chancery. After trial, the Court denied seller’s request for relief. More ›

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Delaware Superior Court Applies Law-of-the-Case Doctrine and Collateral Estoppel to a Prior Chancery Proceeding

Posted In CCLD, Superior Court

Preston Hollow Capital LLC v. Nuveen LLC, C.A. No. N19C-10-107-MMJ [CCLD] (Del. Super. Dec. 15, 2020)

Plaintiff and defendants competed as institutional investors in the high-yield municipal bond market. Seeking to impair plaintiff’s standing in the marketplace, defendants made statements to broker-dealers critical of plaintiff. In turn, plaintiff sent defendants a cease-and-desist letter. In response, defendants sent letters to broker-dealers that suggested defendants would not participate in investments with broker-dealers who continued to do business with plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed suit in the Court of Chancery, which held that defendants had committed tortious interference with prospective business relations, but dismissed plaintiff’s defamation claim, and transferred this claim to the Superior Court. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Derivative Action for Failure to Plead Demand Futility Despite Unocal Enhanced Scrutiny

Gottlieb v. Duskin, C.A. No. 2019-0639-MTZ (Del. Ch. Nov. 20, 2020)

Defendants moved to dismiss a derivative action for failure to plead demand futility under Rule 23.1. The complaint alleged that the director defendants had breached their fiduciary duties by engaging in a scheme to thwart an unsolicited offer to purchase the company at a premium. In a previous ruling, the Court found that the plaintiff had adequately pled facts that triggered Unocal enhanced scrutiny. Nonetheless, the Court held that, even with the application of Unocal scrutiny, the plaintiff failed to plead facts that would establish that demand was futile.  More ›

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Chancery Finds Company Responsible for Advancing Costs of Defense to Its CEO in a Claim Brought by the Company

International Rail Partners LLC v. American Rail Partners, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0177-PAF (Del. Ch. Nov. 24, 2020)

The Delaware Limited Liability Company Act (the “LLC Act”) allows a limited liability company (“LLC”) to provide for indemnification as to “any and all claims and demands whatsoever” against an LLC manager or officer, “[s]ubject to such standards and restrictions, if any, as are set forth in [the] limited liability company agreement.” 6 Del. C. § 18-108. The statute prescribes that the LLC agreement may indemnify any person to the fullest extent possible by contract. The only restrictions are those expressly set forth in the relevant LLC contract provisions. An LLC agreement is construed in accordance with Delaware law regarding contract interpretation. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Action For Plaintiffs’ Failure to Join Indispensable Parties

Germaninvestments AG and Richard Herrling, individually and on behalf of AHMR GmbH v. Allomet Corporation and Yanchep LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0666-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 20, 2020)

Under Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(7), a defendant may move for dismissal because of a failure to join an indispensable party as described in Rule 19. Rule 19 provides that such parties include persons who, “(1) in the person’s absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or (2) the person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in the person’s absence may (i) as a practical matter, impair or impede the person’s ability to protect that interest or (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of the claimed interest.” If such a person exists in the controversy, the Court may join the person if feasible. If joinder is not feasible, Rule 19(b) requires the Court to “determine whether in equity and good conscience the action should proceed among the parties before it, or should be dismissed, the absent person being thus regarded as indispensable.” Rule 19(b) offers a nonexclusive list of factors to consider when determining whether the action can proceed without the absent party’s involvement. Under Rule 12(h)(2), motions to dismiss for failure to join indispensable parties may be raised up to and including trial, and are not automatically waived as a result of not raising the argument in the first instance. More ›

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Court of Chancery Denies Rule 5.1 Request to Maintain Confidential Treatment for Allegedly Defamatory Statements

Manhattan Telecommunications Corp. v. Granite Telecommunications, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0468 JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 19, 2020)
The Court of Chancery denied a motion for continued confidential treatment of allegedly defamatory statements detailed in the plaintiff’s complaint for, inter alia, defamation, tortious interference, and trade libel. In response to a challenge raised by an interested party, a law professor and blogger, to the confidential treatment, the plaintiff filed a motion to continue confidential treatment of the complaint and its exhibits. The interested party opposed the plaintiff’s motion and argued that he intended to use the redacted information to discuss on his blog and potentially for a law review article. More ›

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Chancery Grants Leave to Move for Fees for Overly Aggressive Books and Records Defenses

Pettry v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0132-KSJM (Del. Ch. Nov. 24, 2020)

This case illustrates that the Court of Chancery will not accept overly aggressive defenses to books and records actions and may grant fees to discourage such tactics. Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law permits a stockholder plaintiff who has a “credible basis” to suspect wrongdoing by officers and directors to demand inspection of books and records relating to that misconduct. In this case, plaintiff-stockholders of Gilead Sciences, Inc. (“Gilead”) sought to inspect Gilead’s books and records to investigate misconduct. Gilead was subject to numerous lawsuits and government investigations arising out of alleged anticompetitive conduct, mass torts, breach of patents, and false claims relating to the development and marketing of its HIV drugs. The plaintiffs sought books and records about Gilead’s (1) anticompetitive agreements, (2) policies and procedures, (3) senior management materials, (4) communications with the government, and (5) director questionnaires. Gilead refused to produce any documents, even though the plaintiffs had a credible basis to suspect wrongdoing and the records they sought related directly to the misconduct. The Court of Chancery found that “Gilead exemplified the trend of overly aggressive litigation strategies by blocking legitimate discovery, misrepresenting the record, and taking positions for no apparent purpose other than obstructing the exercise of Plaintiffs’ statutory rights.” The Court, therefore, granted plaintiffs leave to move for fee shifting.  More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Finds that Court of Chancery Had Jurisdiction To Enjoin a Collateral Attack on a Prior Arbitration Award Under the Federal Arbitration Act

Gulf LNG Energy, LLC v. ENI USA Gas Mktg., LLC, No. 22, 2020 (Del. Nov. 17, 2020)

This decision confirms that the Court of Chancery has jurisdiction to enjoin a collateral attack on a prior arbitration award. The Delaware Supreme Court also reasons that the determination of whether a second arbitration collaterally attacks a prior arbitration does not depend on the res judicata or collateral estoppel effect of claims raised or decided in the prior arbitration, but rather whether the claimant asserts irregularities in the prior arbitration or seeks to rectify the harm it suffered, which are issues subject to exclusive review under the post-award procedure in the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Defendants From Action Against Their Own Wishes, Describing the Matter as an “Erewhon-like” Inversion of the Parties’ Typical Positions

Stimwave Technologies Inc. v. Laura Tyler Perryman, C.A. No. 2019-1003-SG (Del. Ch. Nov. 17, 2020)

Under Court of Chancery Rule 41(a), a Delaware plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss its own complaint without prejudice, provided that (i) the defendant has not yet filed an answer; (ii) the defendant has not yet filed a motion for summary judgment; and (iii) the defendant has not filed a motion to dismiss which has been answered by the plaintiff. In accordance with the abovementioned standards, where a defendant (1) files a motion to dismiss, and (2) the plaintiff thereafter submits an answering brief in opposition to that motion, the plaintiff may no longer voluntarily dismiss the action while that motion is pending. More ›

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CCLD Holds Indemnification Provision Does Not Cover First-Party Claims

Ashland LLC v. Samuel J. Heyman 1981 Continuing Trust for Lazarus S. Heyman, C.A. No. N15C-10-176 EMD CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. Nov. 10, 2020)

This case illustrates that Delaware courts will follow the “American Rule” that parties must pay their own legal fees unless they otherwise agree. In this case, the parties’ Stock Purchase Agreement (“SPA”) required defendants to indemnify against “Losses” – which was defined to include reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses. The Court previously had found that the defendants breached a section of the SPA. Plaintiff then sought to recover as “Losses” its attorneys’ fees and expenses in proving the breach. The Court reasoned that indemnification provisions are presumed not to provide for fee-shifting in claims between the parties (first-party claims) absent a clear and unequivocal articulation of that intent. While there is no specific language that must be used, the SPA here contained a separate, relatively straightforward and narrower prevailing party fee-shifting provision, which did not apply to the claims at issue. Because the indemnification provision did not clearly support fee-shifting for first-party claims, and because the plaintiff was not entitled to attorneys’ fees based on the straightforward fee-shifting provision to which the parties had agreed, the Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment that plaintiff was not entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees and expenses under the indemnification provision.

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Chancery Dismisses Section 220 Complaint on Jurisdictional Grounds, Finding That Plaintiffs Filed Seven Hours Prematurely

MaD Investors GRMD, LLC, et al. v. GR Cos., Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0589-MTZ (Del. Ch. Oct. 28, 2020)
At 5:03 p.m., on the fifth day after serving a Section 220 demand (the “Demand”) on GR Companies, Inc. (the “Company”), MaD Investors GRMD, LLC and MaD Investors GRPA, LLC (together, “Plaintiffs”), filed a complaint to compel inspection of books and records pursuant to 8 Del. C. § 220 (the “Complaint”). The Company filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that Plaintiffs had filed the Complaint prematurely. Plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for leave to amend the Complaint (the “Leave Motion”).  More ›

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Chancery Sustains CEO’s Contract Claims in WeWork Litigation

Posted In Chancery

In re WeWork Litig., Consol. C.A. No. 2020-0258-AGB (Del. Ch. Oct. 30, 2020).
A company facing a liquidity crisis (the shared working space company, WeWork), its outgoing CEO (Adam Nuemann), and two related SoftBank investment entities that collectively owned more than forty percent of the company’s equity entered into a Master Transaction Agreement (“MTA”). The MTA was designed to provide funding to the company, facilitate the CEO’s exit, and provide liquidity to minority stockholders. The MTA required a specific sequence of transactions from the entities: (1) equity financing; (2) stock purchase via a tender offer; and (3) debt financing after the closing of the tender offer. The tender offer’s closing was subject to certain conditions, which the parties to the MTA were required to use their reasonable best efforts to meet. More ›

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Chancery Addresses Fiduciary Duty Claims Related To Financial Statements Created For Merger

Posted In Chancery, M&A

In re Baker Hughes Inc. Merger Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0638 AGB (Del. Ch. Oct. 27, 2020).
This decision arose out of a merger involving Baker Hughes and the oil and gas segment of General Electric (GE). Stockholders of Baker Hughes brought post-closing breach of fiduciary duty claims against certain officers of Baker Hughes and aiding and abetting claims against GE, with the allegations focused on certain financial statements provided by GE in connection with the merger. GE did not maintain separate statements for its oil and gas business line in the ordinary course. The parties accounted for this by having GE prepare unaudited financial statements for that business line and conditioning closing obligations on GE providing audited financial statements that did not differ materially in an adverse manner.  More ›

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