Showing 6 posts from September 2022.
Chancery Enforces LLC Members’ Right to Approve Amendments to LLC Agreement
Zohar III Ltd. v. Stila Styles LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0384-JRS (Del. Ch. May 26, 2022)
This decision arises out of control disputes involving the portfolio companies of the entity Zohar III – here, the limited liability company Stila Styles LLC. Stila Styles’ Manager had approved via written consent a transaction that purported to create new units, with those new units controlling who served as the LLC’s Manager. The LLC agreement did authorize the Manager to create new units. But it generally authorized amendment or modification of the agreement “only by the Members.” Because the transaction effectively amended the LLC agreement by taking away certain Members’ rights respecting the Manager role, and the Manager did not obtain the Members’ approval, the Manager’s written consent approving the transaction was invalid and the transaction was void.
Chancery Finds Officer Breached the Duty of Loyalty By Working With Competitors
Metro Storage Int’l LLC v. Harron, C.A. No. 2018-0937-JTL (Del. Ch. May 4, 2022)
The duty of loyalty requires that the corporation’s interests take precedence over any personal interest possessed by a director, officer, or controlling shareholder that is not shared by the stockholders generally. Relevant here, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had breached his fiduciary duty of loyalty by consulting for another company while he was an officer, failing to disclose that he was consulting for another company, usurping a financial opportunity, and misusing confidential information. The Court of Chancery found that the evidence supported all of these allegations. In particular, the Court found that the defendant breached his duty of loyalty by spending substantial time performing consulting work for another company when he had agreed to devote his full time to the plaintiff company. The Court reasoned that while an officer generally may work for an independent business so long as this work does not violate his fiduciary duties, the defendant had misappropriated company resources because he had agreed to spend his full time working for the company and this time was a resource that belonged to the company.
Citing Novel Issues of Delaware Law, Chancery Declines to Dismiss Stockholder Class Action in Favor of First-Filed Securities Action
Lordstown Motors Corp. Stockholders Litig., CA. No. 2021-1066-LWW (Del. Ch. Mar. 7, 2022)
The Court of Chancery denied the defendants’ McWane motion to stay the case in favor of a first-filed federal securities action. Because first-filed status matters less in representative actions, McWane correspondingly applies with less force. Here, among the relevant factors, the Court of Chancery action involved novel Delaware legal issues, including the intersection of fiduciaries duty law and SPACs. And the claims were not a mere rebranding as breaches of fiduciary duty of securities law claims based on allegedly misleading statements. Thus, the Court concluded that Delaware’s substantial interest in providing guidance in emerging areas of Delaware law outweighed any practical or comity concerns that might otherwise warrant a stay.
Chancery Declines to Grant Equitable Standing When Other Stockholders Had Standing to Enforce Corporate Rights
SDF Funding LLC v. Fry, C.A. No. 2017-0732-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 13, 2022)
Under Section 327 of the DGCL, a stockholder must hold stock at the time of the alleged wrong to have standing to pursue a derivative claim. Under the equitable standing doctrine, however, standing may be recognized in equity to prevent a “complete failure of justice.” Here, the plaintiffs acquired the stock after some of the alleged wrongs in their complaint took place but argued that the equitable standing doctrine allowed one of them to raise these claims. The Court of Chancery observed that the doctrine has applied when alternative avenues of remedying the harm were foreclosed. Importantly, however, the Delaware courts generally have declined to invoke it when other avenues theoretically exist, such as the existence of other potential plaintiffs with standing to pursue the claims at issue. Applying that reasoning here, the Court ruled that it would not grant equitable standing because other non-party stockholders would have standing to pursue these claims.
Supreme Court Finds Enforceable Preliminary Agreement
Cox Communications v. T-Mobile, No. 340, 2021 (Del. Mar. 3, 2022)
Delaware courts have a “general aversion” to enforcing agreements to agree. But Delaware law also recognizes enforceable preliminary agreements that create an obligation to try to negotiate a final agreement on all material terms in good faith. Here, two companies, Cox Communications and T-Mobile, disputed whether a particular provision of a settlement agreement was enforceable and to what extent. The provision related to Cox partnering with a mobile network provider and generally obligated Cox to negotiate with T-Mobile. Those negotiations failed, Cox partnered with Verizon, and this suit resulted. The Court of Chancery entered an injunction that enforced the provision by prohibiting Cox from partnering with another provider besides T-Mobile. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court vacated the injunction and reversed, finding the provision left open several material terms of a future definitive agreement, was not itself an enforceable agreement, and instead was a “Type II” preliminary agreement that obligated the parties to negotiate open items in good faith. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a determination of whether the parties fulfilled that obligation.
Court Rejects Franchisor’s Attempt Based on Business Effects of COVID-19 to Escape Contractual Obligation to Purchase Franchisee’s Assets
Level 4 Yoga, LLC v. CorePower Yoga, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0249-JRS (Del. Ch. March 1, 2022)
In this post-trial decision, the Court of Chancery awarded specific performance to Plaintiff/franchisee who sought to enforce Defendant/franchisor’s exercise of its contractual right to purchase Plaintiff’s assets, which included yoga studios in several states. Defendant exercised its right as of May 2019 but then delayed, and ultimately purported to back out, after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020. The Court granted specific performance based upon the specific language of the parties’ agreement, finding Defendant failed to prove either a Material Adverse Effect or a violation of the ordinary course covenant when Plaintiff temporarily closed its yoga studios in response to COVID-19. Among other reasons, the seller was the franchisee, the buyer was the franchisor, and the seller had followed the buyer’s instructions concerning the operation of franchises. The Court also noted that the parties’ agreement contained no closing conditions or an express right to terminate.