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P. Clarkson Collins, Jr.

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Showing 48 posts by P. Clarkson Collins, Jr..

Chancery Court Strikes Down Anti-Activist Poison Pill as Unreasonably Broad

In a recent post-trial decision the Delaware Court of Chancery upheld a stockholder challenge to a “poison pill” rights plan adopted by The Williams Companies’ board of directors, declaring the plan unenforceable and issuing a mandatory injunction against its continued operation. See The Williams Companies Stockholder Litigation, C.A. 2020-0707-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb.26, 2021). Following the Delaware Supreme Court’s 1985 decision in Moran v. Household International upholding a poison pill as a valid anti-takeover device provided it satisfies the Unocal intermediate review standard, public companies have employed this defensive measure successfully, not only to address takeover threats but also to protect valuable net operating loss assets and to respond to certain stockholder activism. In Williams, however, the court found that the defendants had failed to establish that particular unprecedented terms of the plan constituted a reasonable, proportionate response to the activist threat perceived by the board. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Section 220 Complaint on Jurisdictional Grounds, Finding That Plaintiffs Filed Seven Hours Prematurely

MaD Investors GRMD, LLC, et al. v. GR Cos., Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0589-MTZ (Del. Ch. Oct. 28, 2020)
At 5:03 p.m., on the fifth day after serving a Section 220 demand (the “Demand”) on GR Companies, Inc. (the “Company”), MaD Investors GRMD, LLC and MaD Investors GRPA, LLC (together, “Plaintiffs”), filed a complaint to compel inspection of books and records pursuant to 8 Del. C. § 220 (the “Complaint”). The Company filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that Plaintiffs had filed the Complaint prematurely. Plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for leave to amend the Complaint (the “Leave Motion”).  More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Affirms CCLD Ruling Relying on Expert’s “Dual Hypothetical World” Damages Model for Measuring Business-Interruption Loss

XL Ins. Am., Inc., et al. v. Noranda Aluminum Holding Corp., No. 444, 2019 (Del. Oct. 2, 2020)
An aluminum manufacturer (the “Insured”) decided not to rebuild and resume operations at its facility following two operation-disabling accidents. The Insured made a claim pursuant to its “all risks” property-insurance policy (the “Policy”) to recoup certain amounts including business-interruption losses. The insurers (the “Insurers”) and the Insured each hired expert forensic accountants who, relying on different damages models, rendered widely divergent calculations of the Insured’s loss. Following a seven day trial in Superior Court wherein both parties’ experts presented their methodologies for calculating the business-interruption losses, the jury found in favor of the Insured. More ›

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Chancery Denies Sellers’ Request for Dismissal, Finding That Fraud Claims Were Timely Filed and Properly Pled

Agspring Holdco, LLC v. NGP X US Holdings, L.P., C.A. No. 2019-0567-AGB (Del. Ch. July 30, 2020)

This opinion concerns a buyer’s attempt to plead fraud in connection the acquisition of a business. The Court denied in the main the defendants’ motion to dismiss the fraud claims brought in connection with private equity firm American Infrastructure Partners’ (the “Buyer”) $300 million acquisition of Agspring LLC (the “Company”), which was then almost entirely owned by NGP X US Holdings, LLP (“NGP”), another private equity firm.  More ›

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Chancery Addresses Burdens for Valuation-Related Books-and-Records Inspections, While Finding Defendant’s Asserted Lack of Records Supported Mismanagement-Related Inspection

Woods v. Sahara Enterprises, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0153-JTL (Del. Ch. July 22, 2020)

This decision concerning statutory inspection rights under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law clarifies the requirements of a proper valuation purpose, involves a unique twist concerning a mismanagement-investigation purpose, and provides a helpful summary on the potential scope of books-and-records inspections. More ›

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The Court of Chancery Enforces Fee-Shifting Provision Against Unsuccessful Petitioner Who Also Had Waived its Appraisal Remedy in the Parties’ Stockholder Agreement

The Court of Chancery’s latest decision in the Manti Holdings, LLC, et al. v. Authentix Acquisition Company, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0887-SG (Del. Ch. 8/11/20) stockholder appraisal litigation provides additional clarity about the ability of corporate constituents to modify by agreement the rights associated with the statutory appraisal remedy, 8 Del. C. § 262. In a previous decision in the case Vice Chancellor Glasscock denied a stockholder’s appraisal petition holding that an advance waiver of statutory appraisal rights in a stockholder agreement is permitted under Delaware law as long as the relevant contractual provisions are clear and unambiguous. In its latest decision, the Court ruled that a prevailing party fee-shifting provision in the stockholder agreement did not contravene Delaware law and was likewise enforceable. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Action Involving Unusual Issue of Personal Jurisdiction

Sustainability Partners LLC, v. Jacobs, C.A. No. 2019-0742-SG (Del. Ch. June 11, 2020)

In this action involving “an unusual issue of personal jurisdiction,” plaintiff Sustainability Partners LLC (“SP” or the “Company”) sought a declaratory judgment that defendant, a former SP employee (the “Defendant” or “Jacobs”), had no rights under a purported oral agreement between the Defendant and the Company. Despite the fact that Jacobs was not a signatory, the Company claimed that there was personal jurisdiction over Jacobs pursuant to the forum selection clause in the Company’s Operating Agreement based on a theory of equitable estoppel. The Court of Chancery disagreed and dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Chancery Court Rule 12(b)(2).  More ›

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In Post-Trial Opinion, Chancery Finds for Defendant, Rejecting Claims Alleging Breach of Purchase Agreement and Right to “Board Packages”

Braga Investment & Advisory, LLC v. Yenni Income Opportunities Fund I, L.P., C.A. No. 2017-0393-AGB (Del. Ch. June 8, 2020)

In this post-trial opinion, the Court of Chancery held in favor of defendant Yenni Income Opportunities Fund I, L.P. (the “Fund”) finding that the Fund was not required to obtain the signature of Braga Investment & Advisory, LLC (“Braga”) as a “Buyer” when it executed a side letter agreement (the “Side Letter”), nor had the Fund breached a co-investment agreement by denying Braga access to certain materials in connection with its position as a board observer. More ›

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CCLD Addresses Ripeness Doctrine and the “Stranger Rule” in Tortious Interference Claims, Partially Dismisses Claims for Breach of Corporate-Owned Group Variable Life Insurance Policies

Athene Life and Annuity Co., et al. v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., et al., C.A. No. N 19C-10-055 PRW CCLD (Del. Super. May 18, 2020)

Policy holders (the “Plaintiffs”) brought a suit against American General Life Insurance, Co. (“American General”) for breach of corporate-owned group variable life insurance policies (the “Policies”) and against certain related entities managing the Policies, ZC Resource Investment Trust (“ZCRIT”) and ZC Resource LLC (“ZC Resource”) (together with ZCRIT, “ZC Defendants”) (together with ZCRIT and American General, “Defendants”) for tortious interference with contract. When the Defendants moved to dismiss, the Delaware Superior Court’s Complex Commercial Litigation Division (“CCLD”) granted the motion in part on ripeness grounds and denied it in part. More ›

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Chancery Declines to Follow Transcript Ruling, Finds Plaintiff is Entitled to Advancement of Fees Incurred in Underlying Action Pre-Undertaking

Posted In Advancement

Day v. Diligence, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0076-SG (Del. Ch. May 7, 2020)

By letter ruling, the Court of Chancery held that plaintiff, a director and former officer of the entity defendant, (“Plaintiff”), was entitled to the advancement of attorneys’ fees incurred prior to Plaintiff’s submission of an undertaking. Defendant, Diligence, Inc. (“Defendant”), argued that a recent Transcript Ruling in the Court of Chancery, Salomon v. Kroenk Sports & Entertainment, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0858-JTL (Del. Ch. Feb. 26, 2020), supported the proposition that advancement rights do not ripen prior to the provision of an undertaking, and therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to the advancement of pre-undertaking fees. The Court found that Defendant’s interpretation of Salomon was “not persuasive as a matter of doctrine or the Delaware General Corporation Law,” noting that neither the language of nor the policy behind Section 145(e) of the DGCL “limit advancement to sums incurred post-undertaking.” Moreover, the Court noted that Transcript Rulings, as a general matter, have no precedential value and “at most” offer “persuasive authority." For these reasons, the Court ruled for the Plaintiff and denied Defendant’s objection to the advancement of Plaintiff’s fees.

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Delaware Supreme Court Reverses Chancery in Dispute Involving Dueling Transfer Restrictions

Borealis Power Holdings Inc. v. Hunt Strategic Utility, LLC, No. 68, 2020 (Del. May 22, 2020)

The Delaware Supreme Court, reviewing the purportedly conflicting provisions of two agreements de novo, reversed the judgment of the Court of Chancery regarding which of the transfer restrictions in the agreements applied to a proposed sale of shares. The Court’s opinion provides important guidance on the interpretation and construction of contractual restrictions on transfer. More ›

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Chancery Provides Guidance on Rule 23.1 “With Particularity” Pleading Standard in Continuing Investors Bancorp Stock Awards and Options Dispute

Elburn v. Albanese, C.A. No. 2019-0774-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 21, 2020)

Finding that the stockholder plaintiff (the “Plaintiff”) had satisfied the Rule 23.1 “with particularity” pleading standard, the Court of Chancery declined to dismiss claims challenging an alleged quid pro quo arrangement between certain officers and the board of directors (the “Board”) at Investors Bancorp, Inc. (the “Company”) that had the effect of undoing and rendering meaningless the settlement (the “Settlement”) of a previous derivative action.  More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Claims Seeking to Compel a Dividend Declaration and for Breach of the Duty of Care

Buckley Family Trust v. McCleary, C.A. No. 2018-0903-AGB (Del. Ch. Mar. 31, 2020).

This case involved a minority stockholder in a Subchapter S corporation seeking relief as a result of its dissatisfaction with management’s operating performance and the company’s unwillingness to pay dividends, matters which defendants contended were well within the exercise of their business judgment. The Court of Chancery granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. More ›

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Chancery Applies Borrowing Statute, Dismisses Plaintiff’s Fraud Claims as Time-Barred

CHC Investments, LLC v. FirstSun Capital Bancorp, C.A. No. 2018-0353-KSJM, (Del. Ch. Mar. 23, 2020).

On a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for fraud, the Delaware Court of Chancery applied Delaware’s three-year statutory limitations period rather than Texas’s four-year period and dismissed plaintiff’s claims as time-barred. Narrowly interpreting the Delaware Supreme Court’s holding in Saudi Basic Indus. Corp. v. Mobil Yanbu Petrochemical Co., 866 A.2d 1, 16-18 (Del. 2005), the Court found that, except in circumstances where a party is forced to bring claims in Delaware, under Delaware’s “borrowing statute,” the shorter of Delaware’s statute of limitations and that of the foreign jurisdiction will apply.  More ›

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The Court of Chancery Dismisses Effort to Plead Around Rule 23 in CEO's Attempt to Escape Alleged Oversight Failures

Judges and commentators frequently characterize Caremark claims (claims seeking to hold directors liable for damages resulting from grossly inadequate reporting regimes or oversight) as the most difficult kind of breach of fiduciary claim to assert with success. In a recent Court of Chancery opinion in David Shabbouei v. Laurent Potdevin, et al. and Lululemon Athletica, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0847-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 2, 2020), Vice Chancellor Slights rejected the plaintiff’s effort to recharacterize what was essentially an inadequate Caremark claim into a self-interested, unfair dealing claim against the Board arising from its termination of a CEO accused of sexual misconduct. Dismissing the claim under a straight-forward Rule 23.1 analysis of demand futility, the court found the allegations did not support an inference that the Board’s decision to make a severance agreement rather than terminate the CEO for cause resulted from the Board’s desire to insulate itself from claims that it had exercised inadequate oversight over the CEO’s conduct. More ›

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pcollins@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6990
Clark Collins, Jr. has more than 40 years of litigation experience in complex corporate, commercial, and fiduciary matters in both jury and non-jury trials. Clark is a Fellow in the …
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