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Summaries and analysis of recent Delaware court decisions concerning business-related litigation.
Morris James Blogs
Showing 10 posts from June 2019.
Seeking to inspect an entity’s books and records to value an investment typically is a proper purpose. But a plaintiff must have standing to demand inspection. More ›
Chancery Addresses the Direct and Derivative Claim Distinction and Demand Futility in the LLC Context
Plaintiff sued Defendants, who were supposed to manage the parties’ limited liability company, directly and derivatively for breaching the LLC agreement, and derivatively for breaching their fiduciary duties. In this decision, the Court of Chancery denies Defendants’ motion to dismiss and addresses, among other things, the direct versus derivative claim distinction under the Tooley test and demand futility under the Aronson v. Lewis test in the LLC context. Here, the LLC managers were deemed interested because they stood on both sides of the challenged transactions—i.e., the allegations that they stole millions from the LLC for themselves, for their other companies, for one of their spouses, and for one of their spouses’ companies. Thus, demand was futile as to the derivative claims, which also adequately stated viable causes of action under less stringent Rule 12(b)(6) standards.
Prior to this ruling, no Delaware opinion had addressed the question of whether decisions granting entitlement to advancement rights are immediately appealable even though disputes remain as to the reasonableness of the fees. This ruling finds the answer normally should be “no.” More ›
The Delaware courts have long tried to balance the public’s right of access to information about judicial proceedings with the legitimate needs of litigants to keep certain information confidential. Rule 5.1 is the Court of Chancery’s codification of the standards and procedures for obtaining, maintaining, and challenging confidential treatment of court filings. Its overarching purpose is to protect the public’s right of access. More ›
Windy City Investments Holdings LLC v. Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America f/k/a Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, C. A. No. 2018-0419-MTZ (Del. Ch. May 31, 2019).
Claims seeking to enforce earn-outs are frequent. Parties often contractually agree that earn-out disputes are subject to an expert determination, rather than litigation in a judicial forum, and courts often dismiss disputes on that basis. This case arises in the somewhat familiar scenario where the parties’ dispute concerns contractual provisions related to, but not subject to, that expert determination, and thus falls within a court’s purview. More ›
The Court of Chancery may appoint a receiver to wind up a deadlocked corporate entity. When that happens, the corporation normally pays the receiver’s fees and expenses. Here, however, the entity was insolvent and unable to pay, and the Petitioner (a 50% owner) opposed contributing to the payment of certain expenses. More ›
The typical claim for breach of fiduciary duty arises out of a single transaction or event, or several closely-related transactions or events. Still, as the Klein decision illustrates, there are circumstances in which the Court of Chancery will find an adequately stated breach of fiduciary duty claim arising out of a course of disruptive conduct. More ›
Chancery Sustains Stockholder Inspection Demands to Investigate Caremark Claims Arising from Facebook / Cambridge Analytica Scandal
A so-called Caremark Claim premised upon disinterested directors' failure to exercise appropriate oversight is one of the most difficult theories to litigate successfully. Here, however, the Court of Chancery held that stockholder-plaintiffs had a sufficient “credible basis” to investigate Facebook’s documents concerning its alleged widespread but secret business practice of “whitelisting” – monetizing the personal data of Facebook users who accessed certain applications on Facebook, as well as that of their Facebook friends. More ›
The absolute litigation privilege is an affirmative defense that bars claims arising from statements made in the course of a judicial proceeding. Here, the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed the scope of the absolute litigation privilege in response to a request for an injunction to bar defendant from prospectively disparaging plaintiff in other litigation. The agreements governing an investment by defendant in the plaintiff’s funds contained confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses. A falling out between the parties resulted in years of protracted litigation in Illinois and Delaware. This Court of Chancery action for breach of confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in the controlling agreements is based on information disclosed in the prior actions. More ›
Delaware corporate law allows for a corporation to agree in its organizational documents or contracts to advance legal fees and expenses in defense of actions, arising from a person’s service to the company. To encourage quality leadership of companies, the policy under Delaware law is to broadly construe indemnity and advancement provisions in favor of permitting advancement. In its recent decision in Freeman Family v. Park Avenue Landing, C.A. No. 2018-0683-TMR (Del. Ch. April 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery determined whether a member of a limited liability company was entitled to advancement under the indemnity and advancement provisions of its operating agreement. The operating agreement imposed a duty on the plaintiff to use its best efforts in its capacity as member to either exchange certain real property or have it developed. In the underlying New Jersey suit, for which advancement was sought, the defendant company challenged the plaintiff member’s call rights based on the member’s alleged failure to use its best efforts concerning the property under the operating agreement. More ›