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Summaries and analysis of recent Delaware court decisions concerning business-related litigation.

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Showing 5 posts from July 2017.

Court Upholds Stockholder's Share Ownership and Books-and-Records Request

Companies often defend against stockholder requests to inspect books and records by contending that the plaintiff stockholder lacks a proper purpose or that his or her stated purpose is not the real purpose. Less common is a contention that the stockholder lacks standing because his or her shares were canceled due to misconduct harmful to the company, a remedy provided for in a stockholder agreement. Such a claim raises issues under Section 202 of the Delaware General Corporation Law as to the enforceability of the remedy where the restrictions set forth in the stockholder agreement were not conspicuously noted on the share certificate. The recent case of Henry v. Phixios Holdings, C.A. No. 12504-VCMR (July 10), provides guidance on the requirements to enforce a restriction on the ownership or alienability of shares of a Delaware corporation when the restriction is not conspicuously noted on the share certificate. As the Chancery Court held, such a restriction is not enforceable except upon proof that the stockholder had actual knowledge prior to purchase of the shares or subsequently agreed or voted to approve the restriction, proof that Phixios failed to provide. More ›

Court of Chancery Advocates New Test Governing Preclusion in Derivative Litigation

In re Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Delaware Derivative Litig., C.A. No. 7455-CB (Del. Ch. July 25, 2017)

This is an important decision holding that just because one derivative litigation was dismissed for failure to overcome the requirement of pre-suit demand on the board, it does not mean a similar derivative suit must be dismissed on the same grounds. Instead, under the rule advocated for in this decision, an earlier dismissal only affects the second suit if the first suit was dismissed after the plaintiff survived a demand futility motion or the board conceded that demand is excused. It is at that point which the plaintiff in the first suit was acting on the company’s behalf and its actions may bind other plaintiffs. Originally stated as dicta in the EZCORP decision, this rule, among other things, prevents ill-prepared and typically rushed derivative complaints from cutting off better prepared complaints. Previously, before a remand in this action, the Court had applied a rule that examined the “adequacy of representation” provided by the plaintiffs in the first suit. This “grossly deficient” representation standard generally favored defendants and made dismissal likely in the second suit. It remains to be seen whether the Delaware Supreme Court will adopt the EZCORP rule as endorsed by Wal-Mart.

How to Open the Door to Chancery

Sometimes more is not a good idea. That is the case when a complaint alleges multiple bases to invoke the jurisdiction of the Delaware Court of Chancery, but still fails to sustain that subject matter jurisdiction. The recent decision in Yu v. GSM Nation, Del. Ch. C.A. No. 12293-VCMR (July 7), shows why that can be a costly failure. For the plaintiff in the GSM case spent over a year trying to sustain the Court of Chancery's jurisdiction only to fail to do so. Had the plaintiff instead filed in the Delaware Superior Court's CCLD docket, he very well might have had a trial by the time his Court of Chancery complaint was dismissed. More ›

Court Of Chancery Explains Stock Restriction Law

Henry v. Phixios Holdings Inc., C.A. No. 12504-VCMR (July 10, 2017)

This is the rare decision explaining when restrictions on stock transfers (permitted by Section 202 of the DGCL) can be enforced. While the statute seems clear enough, the real lesson from this decision is that it might be difficult to show a stockholder had advanced knowledge of restrictions that are not on the stock certificate when no other written notice exists. Without such advanced knowledge or later assent by the stockholder, the restrictions are not enforceable.

High Court Resolves $2B 'True Up' Dispute Against Acquirer

The Delaware Supreme Court's recent decision in Chicago Bridge & Iron v. Westinghouse Electric, resolved a $2 billion post-closing dispute about the interplay between common features of acquisition agreements: sellers' representations of the accuracy of the target's financial statements, and so-called "true up" provisions for purchase price adjustments for working capital changes between signing and closing. The Supreme Court harmonized the provisions by addressing, among other things, the limited purpose of true up provisions. It accordingly rejected the acquirer's attempt to raise longstanding accounting issues to obtain a large price adjustment through the true up process, when the purchase agreement barred the acquirer from any post-closing relief for breach of a similar warranty. More ›