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Albert H. Manwaring, IV

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Showing 51 posts by Albert H. Manwaring, IV.

Delaware Superior Court Interprets Contractual Language Governing Earn-out Payment

Posted In CCLD, Earn-Out

B&C Holdings, Inc. v. Temperatsure Holdings, LLC, C.A. No. N19C-02-105 AML CCLD (Del. Super. Apr. 22, 2020).

As this decision demonstrates, Delaware courts will enforce the plain and ordinary meaning of contractual terms governing an earn-out payment, including the process by which a payment is to be calculated, noticed, and contested. More ›

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Court of Chancery Permits Targeted Jurisdictional Discovery to Seek Proof to Support Non-Frivolous Claim of Personal Jurisdiction

HM Life Ins. Co. v. Wilmington Sav. Fund Soc’y, FSB, C.A. No. 2018-0649-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 9, 2020).

If a plaintiff has pled facts in its complaint to support a non-frivolous claim of personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the Court of Chancery may allow targeted jurisdictional discovery to seek proof that the Court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant in response to a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. More ›

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Minority Members Allegedly Exploited Contract Rights in Breach of Fiduciary Duties to Acquire Company Assets on the Cheap

Delaware law requires directors of a corporation to strive in good faith and on an informed basis to maximize the value of the corporation for the benefit of all of its stockholders, and not to prefer the interests of stockholders with contract rights or preferences. Consequently, where the interests of stockholders diverge from the contracts rights of other stockholders, directors and controlling stockholders may breach their fiduciary duty of loyalty by exploiting or opportunistically favoring their contract rights over the interests of the stockholders as a whole. More ›

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Chancery Shifts Attorneys’ Fees Under Bad-Faith Exception Based on False Statements in Plaintiff’s Complaint and Obstruction of Discovery

Bay Capital Finance, L.L.C. v. Barnes and Noble Education, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0539-KSJM (Del. Ch. Mar. 30, 2020).

With some limited exceptions, the American Rule requires parties to pay their own attorneys’ fees in litigation. One exception permitting a court to shift fees is bad-faith litigation conduct. False or misleading statements by parties in their pleadings and abuse or obstruction of the discovery process are two examples of conduct that may support shifting fees. More ›

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Chancery Finds the Common Interest Doctrine Shields Communications Between a Bankruptcy Litigation Trust and its Largest Unsecured Creditor

RCS Creditor Trust v. Schorsch, C.A. No. 2017-0178-SG (Del. Ch. Mar. 20, 2020). 

The common interest doctrine shields communications with a third-party from disclosure when the common interest invoked by the party asserting the privilege is in furtherance of a joint legal strategy or objective with the third-party, and not simply for a commercial purpose. More ›

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Chancery Holds That Res Judicata Precludes Plaintiff’s Claim for Information Rights Under Merger Agreement

Posted In Chancery, M&A

Fortis Advisors LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0933-JRS (Del. Ch. Feb. 13, 2020).

The doctrine of res judicata bars a plaintiff from splitting claims arising from a single transaction into multiple actions. As this decision illustrates, the requirement to plead all claims arising from a transaction in a lawsuit to avoid claim preclusion on res judicata grounds may include a claim for information rights arising from a merger agreement. A party with information rights should carefully evaluate those rights when bringing a claim for breach of contract, and should not assume that subsequent claims for information rights under the contract will avoid claim preclusion under the doctrine of res judicata. More ›

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Delaware Corporate and Commercial Case Law 2019 Year in Review

This top ten list summarizes significant decisions of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Delaware Court of Chancery over the past calendar year. Our criteria for selection are that the decision either meaningfully changed Delaware law or provided clarity or guidance on issues relevant to corporate and commercial litigation in Delaware. We present the decisions in no particular order. The list does not include every significant decision, but provides litigants and litigators with an array of decisions on varied issues likely to affect business transactions or business litigation.  More ›

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Co-Founder Squeezed Out in Conversion from LLC to Corporation Adequately Pled Claims for Fraud, Breach of Fiduciary Duties, Aiding and Abetting, and Civil Conspiracy

Ogus v. SportTechie, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0869-AGB (Del. Ch. Jan. 31, 2020). 

Simon Ogus was a co-founder of a sports-technology news company. He owned 44.5 percent of the LLC’s units, held veto power over major decisions of the company, and had employment protection based on a requirement that the company could only terminate his employment for cause. After outside investors began making large investments in the company, several officers and directors persuaded Mr. Ogus to: (1) approve a conversion of the LLC to a corporation; (2) sign a written consent of stockholders to expand the size of the board of directors; and (3) execute a shareholders agreement that gave the company the option to purchase Mr. Ogus’ shares if his employment was terminated for any reason, at fair market value, as determined in good faith by the board. One month later, the company terminated Mr. Ogus without cause and proposed to purchase his shares. Mr. Ogus brought suit, claiming that the officers and directors conspired to remove him from the company and eliminate his 44.5% interest to enrich themselves, and transfer control of the company to Oak View Group, a private equity & venture fund. Defendants moved to dismiss his suit. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Explains That Litigants Seeking Application of Foreign Law Have Burden To Establish its Substance

Germaninvestments AG v. Allomet Corp., No. 291, 2019 (Del. Jan. 27, 2020). 

In reversing the Court of Chancery’s decision that Austrian law applied to the interpretation of whether a forum selection clause was permissive or mandatory, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that, to the extent prior decisions were unclear on the issue, a party seeking the application of foreign law in a Delaware court has the burden not only of raising the issue of the applicability of foreign law under court rules, but also, of establishing the substance of the foreign law to be applied.    More ›

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Delaware Superior Court Distinguishes Between Affirmative and Negative Covenants in Earnout Dispute

Posted In CCLD, Earn-Out

Quarum v. Mitchell Int’l, Inc., C.A. No. N19C-03-087 AML CCLD (Del. Super. Jan. 21, 2020).

Under Delaware law, parties may structure covenants in an earnout agreement as affirmative (mandating action) or negative (prohibiting action). Given the important differences in the obligations these types of covenants impose, as illustrated by this decision, parties should carefully consider the contractual language in drafting. More ›

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Uber Board Was Disinterested and Independent to Assess a Pre-Suit Demand for Acquisition of Google Program

Uber Technologies’ board approved the acquisition of Google’s more mature autonomous vehicle program. The transaction was high risk and flawed from its inception, ending in embarrassment after Uber learned that key employees hired from Google had misappropriated Google’s proprietary information in the autonomous vehicle program. Uber issued $245 million in its stock to settle Google’s misappropriation claims. An Uber stockholder brought derivative claims against the Uber directors who approved the acquisition of Google’s autonomous vehicle program. More ›

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Delaware Superior Court CCLD Clarifies When a Plaintiff is on Inquiry Notice to Bring a Claim for Limitations Period Purposes

Ocimum Biosolutions (India) Ltd. v. AstraZeneca UK Ltd., C.A. No. N15C-08-168 AML CCLD (Del. Super. Dec. 10, 2019).

Even in circumstances where a statutory limitations period can be tolled, tolling typically will cease once a plaintiff may be charged with inquiry notice of its potential claims. In this dispute brought against the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca arising out of database subscription arrangement, the Complex Commercial Litigation Division of the Delaware Superior Court held that defendant AstraZeneca was entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff Ocimum Biosolutions had inquiry notice of its claims for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets more than three years before commencing suit.  More ›

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Chancery Provides Further Clarity Regarding Material Adverse Effect Clauses in Merger Agreements

Posted In M&A, MAEs

Channel Medsystems, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp., C.A. No. 2018-0673-AGB (Del. Ch. Dec. 18, 2019).

Material adverse effect clauses provide a form of buy-side protection in merger agreements. These often are complex provisions permitting the buyer to avoid closing under the right circumstances, usually involving an actual or reasonably expected serious business deterioration. Channel Medsystems represents the latest decision from the Delaware courts interpreting and applying a material adverse effect clause. Here, the Court of Chancery held that a buyer’s termination of a merger agreement was invalid because the fraudulent conduct of an officer of the seller, which rendered certain contractual representations materially false, did not have, nor was reasonably expected at the time of termination to have, a material adverse effect on the seller. More ›

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Venture Capital Firms Did Not Constitute a Control Group Barring Stockholder Direct Claims for Dilution

Light bulbTo avoid demand futility and standing requirements for a derivative claim, the plaintiff stockholders in Sheldon v. Pinto Technology Ventures, No. 81, 2019 (Del. Oct. 4, 2019) attempted to plead a direct claim for dilution of their voting and economic interests by alleging that several venture capital firms constituted a “control group” of stockholders under Gentile.

Dilution claims are “classically derivative” under Delaware corporate law. In Gentile v. Rossette, 906 A.2d 91 (Del. 2006), the Delaware Supreme Court recognized an exception that dilution claims can be both derivative and direct in character when: “a stockholder having majority or effective control causes the corporation to issue ‘excessive’ shares of its stock in exchange for assets of the controlling stockholder that have a lesser value; and the exchange causes an increase in the percentage of the outstanding shares owned by the controlling stockholder, and a corresponding decrease in the share percentage owned by the public (minority) shareholders.” More ›

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Chancery Examines Partnership Agreement Allowing Deference to General Partner’s Decisions While Acting in its Individual Capacity and Instances in Which a Tortious Interference Claim can Extend to a General Partner’s Controllers

Posted In LP Agreements

Bandera Master Fund LP v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP, C.A. No. 2018-0372-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 7, 2019).

The Court of Chancery held that plaintiff former common unitholders failed to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duties in connection with the general partner’s alleged wrongful exercise of its call right to purchase all of the common units after the price of those units plummeted following the general partner’s public announcement of its intent to exercise the call right.  The governing limited partnership agreement established different duties and standards of conduct depending upon whether the general partner was acting in an individual capacity or in an official capacity as the general partner.  The Court reasoned that because the general partner was acting in its individual capacity in the exercise of its call right, the most deferential standard of conduct provided for in the partnership agreement, which eliminated the general partner’s duty to the limited partner common unitholders and the partnership, applied to this allegedly conflicted transaction.  The Court noted that the plaintiffs’ request to apply the partnership agreement’s more heightened standard of conduct to the exercise of the call right misapplied Delaware Supreme Court precedent set forth in Allen v. El Paso Pipeline GP Co., L.L.C., 2015 WL 813053, at *1 (Del. Feb. 26, 2015).  In Allen, the Supreme Court interpreted a nearly identical partnership agreement provision, and based on that provision, ruled that the general partner’s ability to act in its individual capacity “parallels the ability of a corporate fiduciary to exercise rights that are not held or exercised in a fiduciary capacity.”  More ›

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amanwaring@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6868
Albert H. Manwaring, IV is a partner of Morris James LLP, where he is the Chair of the Firm’s Corporate and Commercial Litigation Group and a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee …
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