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Albert J. Carroll

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Showing 435 posts by Albert J. Carroll.

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.

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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.

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Chancery Declines to Grant Equitable Standing When Other Stockholders Had Standing to Enforce Corporate Rights

Posted In Chancery, DGCL, Standing


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.

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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.

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Chancery Applies Privilege Rules in Business Negotiations Context


Twin Willows, LLC v. Pritzkur, C.A. No. 2020-0199-PWG (Del. Ch. Feb. 28, 2022)
This decision involved a Master in Chancery applying well-settled rules on the attorney-client privilege, common interest, and work product doctrines. Respondent Pritzkur was appointed to serve as partition trustee for owners and tasked with selling the property. Pritzkur negotiated a sale agreement that was ultimately assigned to Petitioner Twin Willows. The agreement was not fully performed, and Twin Willows moved to compel production of communications between Pritzkur and the owners. Pritzkur asserted both common interest privilege and attorney work product. More ›

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Chancery Finds it Lacks Discretion to Decline Jurisdiction Over a Case Where Jurisdiction Exists Under Section 111 of the DGCL


S’holders Rep. Serv. LLC v. DC Capital Partners Fund II, L.P., C.A. No. 2021-0465-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb. 14, 2022)
While the Court of Chancery has exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over claims and remedies sounding in equity, Section 111 of the DGCL grants the Court concurrent, non-exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving the interpretation of certain corporate instruments—regardless of whether those claims or the relief sought are equitable in nature. In DC Capital Partners, the plaintiff elected to bring legal (rather than equitable) claims involving the interpretation of stock purchase agreements in the Court of Chancery pursuant to Section 111’s concurrent subject matter jurisdiction. The defendants argued that because the claims did not otherwise fall within the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction, and because Section 111 provides for concurrent rather than exclusive jurisdiction, the Court had the discretion to decline to hear the case. Specifically, the defendants noted that Section 111 provides that certain claims “may” be brought in the Court of Chancery and argued that this permissive language provided the Court with the discretion not to hear such claims. The Court rejected the defendants’ contention, finding that the discretion to bring a claim in the Court of Chancery pursuant to Section 111 belongs to the plaintiff, not the Court. Therefore, the Court held that once a plaintiff elects to bring a claim in Chancery authorized under Section 111, the Court lacks the discretion to decline to hear the case based on subject matter jurisdiction.

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Chancery Denies Indemnification to Director After Examining Settlement Agreement


Huret v. Mondobrain, Inc., C.A. No. 2021-0208-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2022)
Under Section 145(c) of the DGCL, a director that has been successful on the merits or otherwise in defending a covered proceeding is entitled to indemnification. When determining success, Delaware law asks whether the indemnitee has avoided an adverse result, and generally does not look behind that result. Here, the plaintiff sought indemnification for derivative claims resolved by a settlement agreement, which also resolved claims brought by the plaintiff in French litigation. The Court examined the settlement agreement as a whole and found the plaintiff was not successful in the derivative action against him, and thus not entitled to indemnification. In settling the outstanding claims, the plaintiff did not admit guilt or make any settlement payment. However, he agreed to resign from the board, which was relief the stockholder originally sought, and he also agreed to release his own claims for money damages, which were in excess of the money damages sought for the derivative claims against him. 

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Chancery Resolves Section 225 Dispute and Declines to Invalidate Written Consents


Zhou v. Deng, C.A. No. 2021-0026-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 6, 2022)
When deciding a summary proceeding regarding a disputed corporate office under Section 225 of the DGCL, the Court of Chancery may consider whether an election, appointment, or removal was tainted by fraud, deceit, or breach of contract. This decision involves the Court considering such defenses to the defendants’ removal and replacement as directors. Here, the Court declined to invalidate the challenged written consents based on allegations of breaches of fiduciary duty, breaches of contract, and fraud. The Court, for instance, rejected the breach of contract defense concerning stock purchases because the breach was already remedied in another action by an award of damages and the sale contract had not been rescinded.

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Chancery Denies Petition to Appoint Custodian to Revive Abandoned Delaware Corporation for Use as Blank Check Company

Posted In Chancery, Custodians


In re Forum Mobile, C.A. No. 2020-0346-JTL (Del. Ch. Feb. 3, 2022)
In Forum Mobile, the Court of Chancery denied a petition to appoint a custodian pursuant to DGCL Section 226(a)(3). The petitioner sought to revive an abandoned and defunct Delaware corporation for use as a blank check company. Specifically, the petitioner sought to effectuate a reverse merger of the defunct company with a new business, allowing the new business to access public markets without implementing the formal IPO process. Holding that “the plain language of Section 226(b) does not contemplate that a custodian appointed under Section 226(a)(3) could revivify a corporation,” the Court denied the petition, reasoning that custodians appointed pursuant to Section 226(a)(3) are limited to “liquidating the affairs of the abandoned corporation and distributing its assets.”  More ›

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Chancery Upholds Claims Against Controller’s Family Member


In re Straight Path Communications Inc. Consol. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 2017-0486-SG (Del. Ch. Feb. 17, 2022)
This summary judgment decision arose out of a transaction involving the company Straight Path.  Straight Path’s controller had sold company assets to another company controlled by his family, IDT, for an allegedly inadequate price.  One of the assets was an indemnification claim against IDT, which used to be Straight Path’s parent company, for indemnification rights arising following Straight Path’s spin-off.  Straight Path thereafter was sold to Verizon, eliminating derivative standing for the company’s stockholders to challenge derivatively the asset sale to IDT.  Straight Path’s controller allegedly leveraged his control to wrest that indemnification claim from the company’s stockholders prior to the Verizon transaction.  Stockholders brought direct claims against the family members and an affiliated trust in this action.  Their claims previously survived dismissal, and in this decision their claims survived summary judgment.  More ›

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Chancery Upholds Claim for the Appointment of a Receiver


Zaslansky v. FZ Holdings, C.A. No. 2021-0168-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb. 8, 2022)
This order denying a motion to dismiss addresses the circumstances in which the Court of Chancery may appoint a receiver for an allegedly insolvent corporation under 8 Del. C. § 291. In determining whether to grant a petition to appoint a receiver for an insolvent corporation, the Court must determine whether the corporation is insolvent and whether the appointment of a neutral third party is necessary to protect the insolvent corporation’s creditors or shareholders. Here, the company had negative income, the petitioners alleged that the company commingled personal debt with company debt, and that the company selectively repaid some allegedly affiliated creditors without paying others, all making it reasonably conceivable that the facts may support a receiver appointment.

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Chancery Stays Case So That Committee of Company May Decide Whether It Has Power to Interpret Alternate Dispute Resolution Provision of Agreement


Terrell v. Kiromic Biopharma, Inc., C. A. No. 2021-0248-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jan. 20, 2022)
When an alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) provision is an arbitration provision, presumptively the Court may consider the scope of the provision absent “clear and unmistakable” evidence to the contrary. When an ADR provision is not an arbitration provision, however, the Court applies contract interpretation principles to determine who – as between the Court or the person or body specified in the provision – may construe its scope. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses All Claims in Stockholder Challenge to Cash-Out Merger Transaction


Harcum v. Lovoi, C.A. No. 2020-0398-PAF (Del. Ch. Jan. 3, 2022)
In Harcum, the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed all claims brought in a stockholder suit alleging fiduciary breaches in connection with the $1 billion dollar acquisition of Roan Resources Inc. by Citizen Energy Operating, LLC. The Court found that the transaction was “cleansed” pursuant to Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC, 125 A.3d 304, 312 (Del. 2015), because the plaintiff failed to adequately plead that any alleged controllers were conflicted or that the transaction was not approved by an uncoerced, fully informed stockholder vote.  More ›

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Chancery Finds Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Over Delaware Corporate Officers Based on Due Process Considerations


In re Bam International, LLC v. The MSBA Group Inc., C.A. No. 2021-0181-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 14, 2021)
Two officers of a Delaware corporation were sued for alleged tortious interference with an escrow agreement between the Delaware corporation employing the officers and the plaintiff (another Delaware corporation). The plaintiff also brought a breach of contract claims against the Delaware corporation and other entity defendants. The two officers moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction arguing that, other than their status as officers of a Delaware corporation, they had no relationship with Delaware. The officers further noted that they were not signatories to the contract at issue, which, in any event, was only connected to Delaware by choice of law and forum clauses. Plaintiff contended that the officer defendants, as fiduciaries of a Delaware entity, had implicitly consented to jurisdiction pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 3114(b). More ›

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Chancery Defers Substantive Arbitrability Question to Arbitrator


Hagler v. Evolve Acquisition LLC, et al., C.A. No. 2021-0431-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 28, 2021)
A party to a purchase agreement filed an arbitration relating to certain indemnities for alleged breaches of representations and warranties in the agreement. A few months later, another party to the purchase agreement filed an action in the Delaware Court of Chancery seeking a declaratory judgment relating to the same financial figures at issue in the arbitration and seeking an injunction (and other relief). The defendant in the Court of Chancery action moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming that the arbitration provision in the purchase agreement deprived the Court of jurisdiction and that any questions about arbitrability were for the arbitrator. Plaintiff argued that there was a broad equity carve-out from arbitration in the purchase agreement, which indicated that substantive arbitrability was an issue for the Court, not for the arbitrator. More ›

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acarroll@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6852
Albert Carroll focuses his practice on litigation involving corporations and alternative entities formed under Delaware law. As a litigator, he represents and guides clients …
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