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R. Eric Hacker

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Showing 96 posts by R. Eric Hacker.

Chancery Decision Explains Availability of Reformation as a Targeted Remedy


AECOM, et al. v. SCCI Nat’l Hldgs., Inc., C.A. No. 2022-0727-MTZ (Del. Ch. Sept. 27, 2023)
Although the Court of Chancery frequently resolves contractual disputes, it grants contractual reformation only when “intervention [is necessary] to ensure the deal is what the parties agreed upon.” This pleadings-stage decision provides insight into the Court’s approach to reformation because the Court found that one claim supported reformation but the other did not. More ›

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Chancery Refuses to Impose Additional Conditions on Voluntary Dismissal of Claims Subject to Advancement


Sal Gilbertie, et al. v. Dale Riker, et al., C.A. No. 2020-1018-LWW (Del. Ch.)
The Delaware Court of Chancery frequently hears advancement disputes, wherein officers or directors of Delaware entities seek to enforce their right to the ongoing payment of legal fees in the defense of claims brought against them. Sometimes, as in this case, a plaintiff entity moves to voluntarily dismiss its claims rather than to pay the freight for both sides. Here, the plaintiffs sought to dismiss the pending claims subject to advancement with prejudice after the Court granted the defendants advancement in a separate action. The defendants opposed the plaintiffs’ motion and sought to impose additional conditions on any dismissal under the Court of Chancery rule governing voluntary, court-approved dismissals, including conditions related to advancement and a finding that the defendants had prevailed on the merits. The Court rejected the defendants’ requests because the advancement relief could be considered under the controlling Fitracks order, and any characterization was premature given the remaining counterclaims. Thus, the Court granted the voluntary motion to dismiss without any conditions.

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Chancery Refuses to Order Specific Performance Due to Inaccurate Representations and Warranties


Restanca, LLC v. House of Lithium, Ltd., C.A. No. 2022-0690-PAF (Del. Ch. Jun. 30, 2023)
The parties seeking specific performance of an agreement must establish a clear right to performance, including that all conditions to closing have been met. In this case, a buyer refused to close on the acquisition of an electric scooter company, and the seller sought specific performance in the Court of Chancery. In its post-trial decision, the Court denied that relief because the sellers inaccurately represented that the seller’s equity holders had executed a secondary sale agreement and that the seller had delivered certain financial statements to the buyer. Because neither of those things had in fact occurred, not all conditions to closing were satisfied and the buyer could walk away from the transaction. Further, because Delaware is a pro-sandbagging jurisdiction, it did not matter whether the buyer knew (as seller argued) that representations were inaccurate, and holding seller to its representations did not create an unjust result.

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Chancery Provides Additional Analysis of Primedia Claims in MFW Context


City of Dearborn Police and Fire Revised Retirement System (Chapter 23) et al. v. Brookfield Asset Management Inc., C.A. No. 2022-0097-KSJM (Del. Ch. June 21, 2023)
In a short letter decision, Chancellor McCormick supplemented an earlier decision with a more fulsome analysis of plaintiffs’ Primedia claim (a direct claim challenging a merger based on a board’s failure to obtain value for material derivative claims), which the Court had earlier decided was subject to dismissal under MFW. Under Primedia’s three-part test, to bring a derivative claim post-merger, the former stockholder must plead (1) a colorable underlying derivative claim, (2) that the value of the derivative claim was material in the context of the merger, and (3) “that the acquirer would not assert the underlying derivative claim and did not provide value for it.” Here, the Court held that Plaintiffs failed to establish Primedia’s second prong because their claims and calculations were “woefully underdeveloped[.]” Specifically, plaintiffs speculated the defendants could have been liable for the entire lost market capitalization in the years following the merger, but they could not explain how that measure of damages made sense. Other metrics, including comparing the deal price to the trading price at the time of the transaction, showed that the derivative claims were not material to the merger consideration. 

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Chancery Rejects “Largely Precatory” Proposed Derivative Settlement


Knight v. Miller, C.A. No. 2021-0581-LWW (Del. Ch. June 1, 2023)
Under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1(c), the Court must approve the settlement of any derivative litigation. This case provides a rare example of the Court rejecting a settlement after determining that the “give"—i.e., the substance of the settlement—did not justify the “get"— i.e., ending the litigation. More ›

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Chancery Holds Unocal Claims for Injunctive Relief are not Subject to Corwin Cleansing


In re Edgio, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2022-0624-MTZ (Del. Ch. May 1, 2023)
Under Corwin, a fully informed, uncoerced vote of the disinterested stockholders can shift the standard of judicial review for certain transactions from heightened scrutiny to the business judgment rule. But there are some transactions that Corwin cannot cleanse. Here, at the motion to dismiss stage, the Court declined to apply the Corwin doctrine to a Unocal claim seeking to enjoin certain alleged defensive measures taken by the company's board.  More ›

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Entire Fairness Standard Applied to Transaction Benefitting Controllers of Controllers


Tueza v. Lindon, C.A. No. 2022-0130-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2023)
Because controlling stockholders of Delaware corporations owe fiduciary duties to both the corporation and to its minority stockholders, the Court of Chancery will subject a transaction involving the company to entire fairness review if a controller receives a non-ratable benefit from a transaction. This case confronts a more nuanced question: Does entire fairness apply if the non-ratable benefit goes not to the controller but to a separate entity controlled by the controller's controllers? More ›

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Chancery Court Again Applies Entire Fairness to Claims Challenging SPAC Transaction


Laidlaw v. GigAcquisitions2, LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0821-LWW (Del. Ch. Mar. 1, 2023)
In the aftermath of a SPAC merger, the plaintiff (a public stockholder) brought claims for breaches of fiduciary duty against the SPAC's board and sponsor, as controllers, for issuing an allegedly false and misleading proxy statement. According to the plaintiff, the proxy statement failed to disclose the net cash per share that the SPAC would contribute to the merger, which in turn misrepresented the anticipated value of post-merger shares, and that such information was material to the decisions of public stockholders whether to invest in the post-merger company or to redeem their SPAC investments. Plaintiff alleged that the sponsor and board were incentivized to minimize redemptions in order to secure returns for the sponsor, which purchased a 20% stake in the post-merger company at a nominal price. More ›

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Chancery Resolves Dispute About Competing Forum Selection and Arbitration Provisions


Fairstead Cap. Mgmt. LLC v. Blodgett, C.A. No. 2022-0673-JTL (Del. Ch. Jan. 6, 2023)
This case highlights the difficulties that can arise when relationships are governed by contracts with competing forum selection and arbitration provisions. Two LLCs brought claims against a former principal for breach of the respective LLC agreements, both of which contained Delaware forum selection clauses. In response, the principal sought an injunction barring the LLCs from proceeding outside of arbitration because the principal’s employment agreement contained a broad arbitration provision that encompassed all of the parties’ disputes. More ›

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Chancery Concludes Section 18-110 of the LLC Act Does Not Permit Standalone Books and Records Claims When Company Management Is Undisputed


Cardinale v. Feingold, 2023 WL 142510 (Del. Ch. Jan. 10, 2023)
In a dispute about the manager of a limited liability company, Section 18-110 of the LLC Act grants the Court of Chancery the statutory authority to order the production of books and records “relating to the issue.” Here, the plaintiff sought a declaration that he was the sole manager of six companies and also an order directing the defendants to turn over the companies’ books and records. The defendants, who had recently resigned as managers, confirmed that the plaintiff was the companies’ sole manager and asked the Court to dismiss the remainder of the action for lack of jurisdiction. The Court agreed. Because the identity of the companies’ manager was undisputed, the Court concluded it no longer had jurisdiction under Section 18-110 to order the production of books and records.

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Citing MFW, Court of Chancery Dismisses Merger Challenge


Smart Local Unions and Councils Pension Fund v. BridgeBio Pharma, Inc., C.A. No. 2021-1030-PAF (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2022)
Typically, the “entire fairness” standard of review applies to any transaction in which a controlling stockholder acquires the outstanding minority shares. But, under the MFW framework, the more lenient business judgment standard of review may apply if the controller can establish that, among other things, an independent, fully-empowered special committee met its duty of care to negotiate a fair price for the shares and also that an informed, uncoerced majority of the minority stockholders approved the transaction.  More ›

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Chancery Sides With Board in Dispute Over Stockholder’s Compliance With Advanced Notice Bylaws to Nominate Directors


Jorgl v. AIM ImmunoTech, Inc., 2022-0669-LWW (Del. Ch. Oct. 28, 2022)
The Court of Chancery rejected a stockholder’s bid for a preliminary mandatory injunction directing the board of AIM ImmunoTech, Inc. to include his nominees on the ballot of potential directors. The dispute centered on whether the board had wrongfully rejected the stockholder’s nominees based upon the board’s suspicion that the stockholder had not complied with the company’s advanced notice bylaws requiring the stockholder to disclose “all arrangements or understandings” with any of his nominees. Because evidence suggested that the stockholder and his nominees may have been part of an undisclosed plan to commence a proxy contest, the stockholder could not establish at the preliminary injunction stage that the board erred as a matter of law in rejecting his nominations. The Court also concluded that the stockholder failed to establish, as a matter of law, that the board acted with an entrenchment motive in rejecting the nominations. Accordingly, the Court found that the stockholder could not meet the heavy burden necessary to obtain preliminary mandatory injunctive relief.

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Chancery Trims Contract Claims in Post-Merger Dispute


In Re P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC, Consol. C.A. 2021-0518-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 31, 2022)
Plaintiff Hudson Vegas Investment SPV, LLC asserted various claims after its minority interest in Defendant P3 Health Group Holdings, LLC was wiped out in a business combination between P3 and a SPAC. The Court of Chancery has issued several decisions in the case; this one dealt with Hudson’s various claims for breach of P3’s LLC agreement. More ›

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Equitable Fraud Claim Sufficient to Support Court of Chancery Jurisdiction


Trust Robin, Inc. v. Tissue Analytics, Inc., C.A. No. 2021-0806-SG (Del. Ch. Sep. 29, 2022)
After initially questioning its own subject matter jurisdiction in a dispute involving allegations of breach of contract and tort in connection with a services agreement, the Court of Chancery concluded that the plaintiff’s equitable fraud claim was not “simply a makeweight equitable hook” attached to its legal claims. The plaintiff sufficiently alleged a special relationship between the plaintiff and defendant, and it was possible that the plaintiff could recover for equitable, but not legal, fraud. The Court’s reasoning cited the alignment of the parties’ interests, the defendant’s control over the parties’ joint purpose by virtue of controlling certain intellectual property and other proprietary information belonging to the plaintiff, and the defendant’s alleged use of that control to engage in self-dealing. Therefore, the Court permitted the matter to proceed.

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Chancery Finds Personal Jurisdiction Over Individual Who Formed Delaware Entities in Connection with a Challenged Merger Transaction


In Re P3 Health Grp. Hldgs., LLC, Consol. C.A. No. 2021-0518-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 14, 2022)
The Court of Chancery rejected an individual defendant’s challenge to Delaware’s assertion of personal jurisdiction over him. Although the defendant portrayed himself as merely a shareholder of Delaware entities (which is not in itself a basis for personal jurisdiction), the Court found that he had transacted business in the state for purposes of Delaware’s Long Arm Statute because he also formed two entities as part of a planned merger. It did not offend due process to require the individual to defend litigation related to the merger in Delaware because there was a nexus between his contacts and the claims and because he should have reasonably anticipated that Delaware would exercise jurisdiction over him in litigation arising from the merger.

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ehacker@morrisjames.com
T 302.856.0023
Eric Hacker is an experienced attorney who practices primarily within the firm's Business Litigation and Business Law Counseling groups.  Eric’s practices include both appeals and …
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