About This Blog

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

Morris James Blogs

Links

Showing 10 posts from October 2019.

Chancery Rejects Attempt to Allege Gentile v. Rossette Direct Claims for Dilutive Preferred Stock Issuances

Silverberg v. Padda, C.A. No. 2017-0250-KSJM (Del. Ch. Sept. 19, 2019).

The Court of Chancery held that plaintiff common stockholders’ fiduciary duty claims challenging the company’s overpayment for dilutive preferred stock issuances were derivative in nature because plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the existence of a controller or control group that benefited at the expense of the minority stockholders.  The Court evaluated the common stockholders’ arguments under the standard set forth by Gentile v. Rossette, 906 A.2d 91 (Del. 2006), which provides that minority stockholders may seek direct relief for dilution claims when a controller or control group benefits at the expense of the minority stockholders’ economic and voting rights.  Gentile requires that a plaintiff plead facts sufficient to establish that a control group’s members are connected in some “legally significant way” and work together toward a shared goal, such as voting or other decision making.  The Court also relied upon Dubroff v. Wren Holdings, which emphasized that the existence of a control group does not require a formal contract, but there must be some indicia of an actual agreement that amounts to more than mere parallel interests among the group members.  More ›

Chancery Construes LLC Agreement as Imposing Only the Managerial Duty to Act in Good Faith and Dismisses Claims for Failure to Plead Bad Faith

MKE Holdings v. Schwartz, C.A. No. 2018-0729-SG (Del. Ch. Sept. 26, 2019).

Under Delaware law, the managers of a limited liability company owe the entity and its members the traditional common law fiduciary duties of care and loyalty.  But parties may eliminate or modify those duties under the LLC’s operating agreement and impose contractual duties instead.  When they do so, Delaware courts will analyze any challenged conduct of the manager against those contractual duties.  Here, the Court of Chancery found the managers’ contractual duty to be a narrow one: act with a good faith belief that their conduct was in or not opposed to the LLC’s best interests. More ›

Chancery Upholds Caremark Claim Based on Alleged Failure to Adequately Monitor Biopharmaceutical Company’s Clinical Trials

In Re Clovis Oncology, Inc. Derivative Litigation, C.A. No. 2017-0222-JRS (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 2019).

The Delaware courts have observed that a Caremark claim for failure of oversight against a board is among the most difficult to sustain.  Nonetheless, a set of particularized allegations showing serious oversight shortcomings regarding a mission-critical topic will succeed, as illustrated by the Delaware Supreme Court’s recent decision in Marchand v. Barnhill, 212 A. 3d 805 (Del. 2019).  Clovis is the latest example. More ›

Chancery Applies Entire Fairness Review to Executive Compensation Decision Benefiting Controller Despite Stockholder Approval, Declining to Dismiss Claims Involving Tesla’s Elon Musk

Tornetta v. Musk, C.A. No. 2018-0408-JRS (Del. Ch. Sept. 20, 2019).

Under Delaware law, executive compensation decisions by a corporation’s board of directors generally are entitled to deferential judicial review, and even more so when approved by the stockholders.  On the other hand, Delaware law generally imposes heightened scrutiny in the form of entire fairness review for transactions uniquely benefiting a corporation’s controlling stockholder, relying on the inherent coercion that accompanies control.  So what standard of review applies when an executive compensation decision benefits the company’s controlling stockholder and the stockholders approve it? More ›

Chancery Finds Prospective Purchaser May Pursue Breach Claims Against Target Despite Termination Fee Payment

Genuine Parts Company v. Essendant Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0730-JRS (Del. Ch. Sept. 9, 2019).

Termination fee provisions are commonplace buy-side protection in M&A transactions intended to recoup a failed prospective purchaser’s otherwise sunk costs.  They can also provide substantial sell-side protection when drafted as an exclusive remedy.  But, as this decision illustrates, the level of protection depends on each contract’s specific terms.        More ›

Chancery Court Offers Guidance on Arbitration Provision Carve-Outs

The Innovation Institute, LLC v. St. Joseph Health Source, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0156 JRS (Del. Ch. Aug. 28, 2019).

Despite the plaintiff’s request for specific performance and an arbitration provision that carved-out equitable claims, the Court of Chancery stayed the action and deferred to the arbitrator the decision on arbitrability.  The limited liability company operating agreement at issue contained a mandatory arbitration provision that referred all disputes to arbitration “[e]xcept to the extent that a party is entitled to equitable relief…” and incorporated the AAA arbitration rules.  In reaching his decision, the Vice Chancellor evaluated the arbitration provision under the standard set forth in James & Jackson, LLC v. Willie Gary, LLC, and clarified in McLaughlin v. McCannWillie Gary set forth a two-part test to determine whether the parties agreed to submit the issue of arbitrability to an arbitrator:  the arbitration provision must (1) resolve all disputes; and (2) incorporate rules that permit an arbitrator to determine arbitrability.  McLaughlin later clarified Willie Gary by cautioning against an overly narrow reading of the first prong of Willie Gary, ruling that courts should only determine arbitrability when the carve-out is so “obviously broad and substantial” that it overcomes the presumption in favor of permitting the arbitrator to decide arbitrability.  The Vice Chancellor concluded that the scope of the equitable relief carve-out in the operating agreement was not “so obviously broad and substantial as to overcome the heavy presumption” that the parties intended to submit the issue of arbitrability to an arbitrator to decide whether their dispute is subject to arbitration under the arbitration provision. The Court therefore held the equitable carve-out did not apply to enable the Court to decide arbitrability.    

Chancery Court Confirms a Stockholder May Contractually Waive Appraisal Rights

Posted In Appraisal

Manti Holdings, LLC v. Authentix Acquisition Co., Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0887 SG (Del. Ch. Aug 14, 2019).

In Manti Holdings, LLC v. Authentix Acquisition Co., Inc., the Court of Chancery held that a contract provision limiting or waiving future appraisal rights may be enforceable as a matter of law.  The Court had previously ruled that the petitioner stockholders had waived their right to an appraisal in a stockholders agreement.  On re-argument, the Court was asked to determine whether the petitioners could, as a matter of law under the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”), waive their appraisal rights.  Because Section 262 of the DGCL confers a statutory right to appraisal upon shareholders, the petitioners argued that the provision of the stockholders agreement purporting to waive appraisal rights was not enforceable.  Relying upon its prior precedent concerning waiver of statutory rights, the Court explained that a contractual relinquishment of appraisal rights was permissible when the contract language is clear and unambiguous and the record reflects that the petitioners were sophisticated investors who were fully informed and represented by counsel when they signed the stockholders agreement.              

Court of Chancery Finds Agreements Unenforceable for Lack of Assent, Dismisses Remaining Claims for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Eagle Force Holdings, LLC v. Campbell, C.A. No. 10803-VCMR (Del. Ch. Aug. 29, 2019).

Parties to a contract must provide evidence of an overt manifestation of assent for a contract to be enforceable under Delaware law. Upon remand from the Delaware Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery found such assent to be lacking and dismissed the remaining claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. More ›

Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies: No Presumption of Confidentiality for Documents Produced Pursuant to a Books and Records Request

Tiger v. Boast Apparel, Inc., C.A. No. 23, 2019 (Del. Aug. 7, 2019).

The Delaware Supreme Court held that documents produced pursuant to a request for books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law are not subject to a presumption of confidentiality. More ›

Court of Chancery Dissolves Limited Partnership Upon Finding General Partner Unable To Achieve Its Business Purpose

GMF ELCM Fund L.P. v. ELCM HCRE GP LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0840-SG (Del. Ch. Aug. 7, 2019).

The equitable remedy of dissolution is extraordinary.  Given the extraordinary record before it, and the abundance of evidence that the general partner could not operate the business, the Court granted plaintiffs’ petition for dissolution. More ›