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

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Photo of Delaware Business Litigation Report Bryan Townsend
Counsel
btownsend@morrisjames.com
302.888.6915
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Bryan Townsend is Of Counsel in Morris James LLP’s Corporate and Fiduciary Litigation Group and Business Litigation Group. Bryan also serves as a State Senator in the Delaware …

Showing 18 posts by Bryan Townsend.

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 ›

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 ›

Chancery Declines to Apply Corwin Where a Stockholder-Plaintiff Adequately Alleged the Existence of a “Control Group”

Garfield v. BlackRock Mortgage Ventures, LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0917-KSJM (Del. Ch. Dec. 20, 2019).

Under Delaware law, when a controlling stockholder benefits personally from the transaction in a manner not shared by minority stockholders, a stockholder vote does not trigger Corwin and restore the protections of the business judgment rule. This decision considers whether a stockholder-plaintiff sufficiently alleged a “control group” to avoid Corwin deference. More ›

Chancery Modifies Advancement Award, Finds Amended Claim Challenging Only Post-Separation Conduct No Longer Triggered Advancement Obligations

Posted In Advancement

Carr v. Global Payment Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0565-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 11, 2019).

Under Delaware law, an order requiring a company to advance attorneys’ fees and expenses may be modified if the claims that triggered the advancement obligation are amended to no longer do so. In this case, a company successfully amended its claims against a former director and officer to eliminate certain advancement obligations.  More ›

Chancery Finds Proper Purpose in Books and Records Demand to Investigate Potential Wrongdoing in CBS-Viacom Merger, Orders Narrowed Inspection that Includes Electronic Documents

Bucks Cty. Employees Ret. Fund v. CBS Corp., C.A. No. 2019-0820-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 25, 2019).

A stockholder seeking books and records in Delaware states a proper purpose for inspection by demonstrating a credible basis to suspect that fiduciaries engaged in wrongdoing. So long as the documents sought are necessary and essential to that purpose, the Court of Chancery will order inspection. The Court generally will not, however, require a broad production of electronic documents akin to plenary discovery. More ›

Chancery Rejects Claim that Books and Records Demand was “Pretextual,” Finds Sufficient Overlap Between Demand Letter and Plaintiff’s Purpose

Donnelly v. Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0892-SG (Del. Ch. Oct. 24, 2019).

A stockholder-plaintiff seeking a corporation’s books and records must have a genuine proper purpose, and cannot rely simply on a lawyer-crafted demand letter to justify her request.  There must be alignment between a plaintiff’s books and records demand and her own stated interest in seeking books and records.  In this recent decision, the Court of Chancery considers and rejects an attempt by a defendant-corporation to argue that a books and records demand was really driven by plaintiff’s counsel, and that the plaintiff lacked any genuine proper purpose. More ›

Court of Chancery Orders Advancement of Fees for Former Directors and Officers who Sold their Stock in a Private Transaction

Posted In Advancement

Nielsen v. EBTH, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0164-MTZ (Del. Ch. Sept. 30, 2019).

Delaware law permits advancement of fees and expenses for officers or directors who have such rights under certificates of incorporation, bylaws, or indemnification agreements.  Depending on the factual allegations of the underlying action, advancement rights can apply even for former officers and directors of a company who sold their stock in a private transaction to which the company was not a party. More ›

Chancery Finds “Constellation” of Personal and Professional Relations Between Directors and Controlling Stockholder Excuses Demand

In re BGC Partners, Inc. Derivative Litig., Consol. C.A. No. 2018-0722-AGB (Del. Ch. Sept. 30, 2019).

A stockholder plaintiff seeking to bring a derivative claim on behalf of a corporation must first demand authorization from the board of directors or allege why making such a demand would be futile due to the board’s assumed partiality under the alleged facts and circumstances.  One way of establishing demand futility is alleging with particularity significant personal or professional ties to an interested party, like a conflicted controlling stockholder.  BGC Partners illustrates the type and degree of relationships that may excuse the pre-suit demand requirement and overcome a motion to dismiss under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1.  This is a developing area of Delaware law, arguably involving a heightened sensitivity to the significance of personal relationships.  As BGC Partners observes, the Delaware Supreme Court has reversed Court of Chancery findings of director independence in the demand futility context three times in the past four years. More ›

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 ›

Chancery Determines Appraisal “Fair Value” Below Merger Consideration, Questions Judicial Notice of Valuation Scholarship

Posted In Appraisal, M&A

In re Appraisal of Jarden Corp., Consol. C.A. No. 12456-VCS (Del. Ch. July 19, 2019).

This decision presents another cautionary tale for stockholders of a target public company who consider seeking statutory appraisal instead of accepting the merger consideration. More ›

Chancery Awards $3 Million in Attorneys’ Fees Following Invalidation of Charters’ Forum-Selection Provisions for Securities Act Claims

Sciabacucchi v. Salzberg, C.A. No. 2017-0931-JTL (Del. Ch. Jul. 8, 2019).

In December 2018, the Court of Chancery held that forum-selection provisions in three corporate charters were ineffective.  The provisions had required any claim under the Securities Act of 1933 to be filed in federal court (“Federal Forum Provisions”).  The Court held them to be invalid, because federal securities claims were not “internal affairs” claims for which a Delaware corporation’s charter may choose a forum.  Seven months later, the Court granted an application for an all-in award of attorneys’ fees and expenses in the amount of $3 million under the corporate benefit doctrine.  Defendants had argued that the award should not exceed $364,723 plus expenses.  Reasoning that “the plaintiff achieved a significant and substantive result by successfully invalidating the Federal Forum Provisions,” the Court turned to Delaware precedent to determine an appropriate fee for this kind of non-monetary relief. More ›

Delaware Court of Chancery Orders Full Public Access to Confidential Filings Months After Settlement

GKC Strategic Value Master Fund, L.P. v. Baker Hughes Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0769-SG (Del. Ch. Jun. 25, 2019).

Universal public access to court filings is the default and confidentiality is the exception.  Rule 5.1 of the Court of Chancery provides for the filing of confidential information by litigants.  In this decision, the Court makes clear that a violation of Rule 5.1 may result in the loss of confidential treatment. More ›

Chancery Sustains Claims Against Special Committee Members Concerning Stock Incentive Plan

Reith v. Lichtenstein, C.A. No. 2018-0277-MTZ (Del. Ch. June 28, 2019).

As Reith explains, directors may lose the protections of the business judgment rule and expose themselves to liability if they knowingly or deliberately fail to adhere to the terms of a stock incentive plan, such as by violating a clear and unambiguous provision.  And, as Reith illustrates, Delaware courts may consider a company’s prior public disclosures about a plan’s terms in addressing that issue. More ›