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Kathleen A. Murphy

Attorney

Showing 42 posts by Kathleen A. Murphy.

Chancery Applies Unclean Hands Doctrine to Prevent a Trustee from Rescinding the Decanting of a Trust

In the Matter of: The Niki and Darren Irrevocable Trust and the N and D Delaware Irrevocable Trust, C.A. No. 2019-0302-SG (Del. Ch. Feb. 4, 2021)

Delaware’s decanting statute allows a trustee to “decant” a trust by “pouring” the corpus out into a new modified trust. But, to do so, a trustee must have been able to invade the trust principal under the original trust’s terms, and the second trust’s terms must be substantially the same in its treatment of beneficiaries. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Adopts Post-Merger Derivative Standing Framework From In re Primedia, Inc. Shareholders Litigation

Morris v. Spectra Energy Partners (DE) GP, LP, No. 489, 2019 (Del. Jan. 22, 2021)

In Delaware corporate law, “the standing inquiry has assumed special significance,” especially in the post-merger context. The Delaware Supreme Court in Morris v. Spectra Energy holds that a plaintiff has post-merger standing if she brings a claim disputing the fairness of a merger and satisfies the three-part framework set forth in In re Primedia, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, 67 A.3d 455 (Del. Ch. 2013), even if the underlying claim seems unlikely to succeed on the merits. More ›

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Chancery Addresses Authority of Executives to Remove Managers of Affiliate Entities

Roccia v. Mugica, C.A. No. 2020-0641-MTZ (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2020)

The inherent authority of officers of Delaware companies generally extends to powers in the usual and ordinary course of the relevant company’s business. Officers otherwise gain authority through either express grants from the company’s governing body or implied grants based on past practice. In the LLC context, sources of an officer’s actual authority may include the LLC’s operating agreement and any employment agreement. In this decision, the Court of Chancery held that the plain language of a Delaware LLC’s operating agreement and the relevant employment agreement did not grant the President and CEO of a parent-entity the authority to act on the parent’s behalf to remove a member of the board of managers of a sub-entity. More ›

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Court of Chancery Denies Rule 5.1 Request to Maintain Confidential Treatment for Allegedly Defamatory Statements

Manhattan Telecommunications Corp. v. Granite Telecommunications, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0468 JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 19, 2020)
The Court of Chancery denied a motion for continued confidential treatment of allegedly defamatory statements detailed in the plaintiff’s complaint for, inter alia, defamation, tortious interference, and trade libel. In response to a challenge raised by an interested party, a law professor and blogger, to the confidential treatment, the plaintiff filed a motion to continue confidential treatment of the complaint and its exhibits. The interested party opposed the plaintiff’s motion and argued that he intended to use the redacted information to discuss on his blog and potentially for a law review article. More ›

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Chancery Addresses Fiduciary Duty Claims Related To Financial Statements Created For Merger

Posted In Chancery, M&A

In re Baker Hughes Inc. Merger Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0638 AGB (Del. Ch. Oct. 27, 2020).
This decision arose out of a merger involving Baker Hughes and the oil and gas segment of General Electric (GE). Stockholders of Baker Hughes brought post-closing breach of fiduciary duty claims against certain officers of Baker Hughes and aiding and abetting claims against GE, with the allegations focused on certain financial statements provided by GE in connection with the merger. GE did not maintain separate statements for its oil and gas business line in the ordinary course. The parties accounted for this by having GE prepare unaudited financial statements for that business line and conditioning closing obligations on GE providing audited financial statements that did not differ materially in an adverse manner.  More ›

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Chancery Enters Judgment for Seller On Post-Closing Milestone Payment Claim Because Buyer Failed to Establish Occurrence of Condition Subsequent

Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 2017-0863 KSJM (Del. Ch. Oct. 12, 2020)
After the purchaser of a drug manufacturer failed to make a post-closing milestone payment required under the applicable merger agreement, the seller filed a two count complaint in the Court of Chancery for breach of contract and attorneys’ fees. In a post-trial opinion, Vice Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick concluded that a condition subsequent that would have relieved the buyer of its milestone payment obligation had not, in fact, occurred. The Vice Chancellor entered judgment for the seller and awarded attorneys’ fees based upon a prevailing party provision of the merger agreement. More ›

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Chancery Reaffirms Narrowed Application of Gentile

In re Terraform Power, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0757-SG (Del. Ch. Oct. 30, 2020)
In Terraform Power, the Court of Chancery declined the defendants’ invitation to disregard the rationale of Gentile v. Rossette—the seminal decision on dual-natured direct and derivative stockholder claims under Delaware law. On a motion to dismiss, the Court concluded that the plaintiffs adequately plead a direct claim for relief under Gentile against a controlling stockholder for executing a private placement that increased the controller’s voting power for an allegedly inadequate price and correspondingly decreased the minority ownership stake and voting power. In doing so, the Court reaffirmed the Gentile’s continued, albeit narrow, application, unless and until the Delaware Supreme Court holds otherwise.  More ›

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Chancery Applies Contractual Shortening of Limitations Period for Breaches of Representations, Finds it Inapt to Fraud Claims and Enforces Clear Anti-Reliance Clause

Pilot Air Freight, LLC v. Manna Freight Systems, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0992-JRS (Del. Ch. Sept. 18, 2020)

In a familiar fact pattern, an acquirer of a business brought suit against sellers claiming, inter alia, that the representations and warranties in the asset purchase agreement were untrue and, indeed, fraudulent when made. The sellers moved to dismiss on the basis of a provision they claimed shortened the limitations period for breaches of representations and warranties and an anti-reliance clause they claimed eliminated any potential claims for misrepresentations or omissions outside of the written agreement. More ›

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Chancery Confirms that, Without More, Threat of Proxy Contest from Activist Investor is Insufficient to Render Director Defendants Conflicted in Sale Transaction

Rudd v. Brown, C.A. No. 2019-0775 MTZ (Del. Ch. Sept. 11, 2020)

The Court of Chancery recently confirmed that the threat of a proxy contest from an activist investor alone was insufficient to render director defendants conflicted in a post-closing challenge to a sale of the company. Here, an activist investor that acquired a significant stake in the corporation expressed dissatisfaction with the board of directors for not exploring a potential sale of the company. Thereafter, the company announced that it would explore strategic alternatives. The company then entered into a cooperation agreement permitting the investor to appoint three members of the nine member board in exchange for not mounting a proxy fight. The strategic process resulted in a sale to a financial acquirer. The plaintiff then brought suit against the company’s board of directors and an officer alleging that that board’s acceptance of an inadequate offer was motivated by self-interest to avoid a proxy contest. More ›

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CCLD Finds Insurer’s Advancement Obligation Triggered Prior to Final Non-Appealable Damages Judgment

Posted In Advancement, CCLD

Ferrellgas Partners L.P v. Zurich American Insurance Company, C.A. No. N19C-05-275 MMJ CCLD (Del. Super. Aug. 20, 2020)

The Superior Court of Delaware, Complex Commercial Litigation Division recently expanded on its advancement jurisprudence regarding litigation fees and costs due under director and officer insurance policies. The insured brought a declaratory judgment action against two insurers in a tower of coverage. Judge Mary M. Johnston declared, on summary judgment, that the insured was entitled to advancement of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs from one of the insurers. More ›

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Superior Court Reinforces Established Delaware Insurance Coverage Law that Settlement of a Claim for Less than Policy Limits Attaches to Excess Policies

Pfizer, Inc. v. U.S. Specialty Insurance Company, C.A. No. N18C-01-310 PRW CCLD (Del. Super. Aug. 28, 2020)
On cross-motions for summary judgment in a director and officer insurance coverage dispute, the Superior Court of Delaware, Complex Commercial Litigation Division, reaffirmed the Delaware principle, also known as a the Stargatt Rule, that a settlement of a policy between an insured and an insurer for less than the policy limit amounts to satisfaction of such policy. Thus, excess policies attach irrespective of whether the insured collected the full amount of the primary policies.  More ›

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Chancery Provides Guidance on Agency and Joint Venture Theories of Vicarious Liability

Otto Candies, LLC v. KPMG, LLP, C.A. No. 2018-0435-MTZ (Del. Ch. Aug. 21, 2020)

The Court of Chancery dismissed a complaint filed by creditors and former business affiliates of a defunct Latin American offshore oil service company for failing to establish, under agency or joint venture theories, a basis for finding KPMG US vicariously liable for audits performed by KPMG Mexico.  More ›

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Chancery Certifies Interlocutory Appeal for Determination of Impact of Remote Proceedings on a Party’s Due Process Rights

Forescout Tech., Inc. v. Ferrari Grp. Holdings, L.P., C.A. No. 2020-0385-SG (Del. Ch. July 14, 2020)

In the midst of this global pandemic, the Court of Chancery certified an interlocutory appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court to address two unique issues presented by COVID-19: (i) whether the Court could rightly decide to accept trial testimony remotely; and (ii) whether the Court had discretion to decline to compel a witness to travel to Delaware so that the witness may be cross-examined in-person without infringing upon the opposing party’s due process rights. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Affirms Use of Unaffected Market Price to Determine Public Corporation’s “Fair Value” in Appraisal Proceeding

Fir Tree Value Master Fund, L.P. v. Jarden Corp., No. 454, 2019 (Del. July 9, 2020)

Adding to its appraisal jurisprudence, the Supreme Court of Delaware recently affirmed the use of the unaffected trading price of a public corporation’s stock to determine its “fair value” in the circumstances presented, while clarifying that “it is not often that a corporation’s unaffected market price alone could support fair value.” More ›

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Chancery Interprets Right of First Refusal Provision in LLC Agreement

HUMC Holdco, LLC, et al. v. MPT of Hoboken TRS, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 2019-0972-KSJM (Del. Ch. July 2, 2020)

Litigation arose among members of a limited liability company regarding the operating agreement’s right of first refusal provision after certain members entered in an agreement to sell membership interests and certain real estate to a third party. While the Court of Chancery denied defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court offered notable guidance on the interpretation of first-refusal right provisions. More ›

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kmurphy@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6847
Kathleen Murphy is an attorney in the Corporate and Commercial Litigation Group. She focuses her practice on corporate, fiduciary, and commercial litigation. Prior to joining Morris …
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