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Lewis H. Lazarus

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Showing 141 posts by Lewis H. Lazarus.

Citing Novel Issues of Delaware Law, Chancery Declines to Dismiss Stockholder Class Action in Favor of First-Filed Securities Action


Lordstown Motors Corp. Stockholders Litig., CA. No. 2021-1066-LWW (Del. Ch. Mar. 7, 2022)
The Court of Chancery denied the defendants’ McWane motion to stay the case in favor of a first-filed federal securities action.  Because first-filed status matters less in representative actions, McWane correspondingly applies with less force.  Here, among the relevant factors, the Court of Chancery action involved novel Delaware legal issues, including the intersection of fiduciaries duty law and SPACs.  And the claims were not a mere rebranding as breaches of fiduciary duty of securities law claims based on allegedly misleading statements.  Thus, the Court concluded that Delaware’s substantial interest in providing guidance in emerging areas of Delaware law outweighed any practical or comity concerns that might otherwise warrant a stay.

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Court Rejects Franchisor’s Attempt Based on Business Effects of COVID-19 to Escape Contractual Obligation to Purchase Franchisee’s Assets


Level 4 Yoga, LLC v. CorePower Yoga, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0249-JRS (Del. Ch. March 1, 2022)
In this post-trial decision, the Court of Chancery awarded specific performance to Plaintiff/franchisee who sought to enforce Defendant/franchisor’s exercise of its contractual right to purchase Plaintiff’s assets, which included yoga studios in several states.  Defendant exercised its right as of May 2019 but then delayed, and ultimately purported to back out, after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020.  The Court granted specific performance based upon the specific language of the parties’ agreement, finding Defendant failed to prove either a Material Adverse Effect or a violation of the ordinary course covenant when Plaintiff temporarily closed its yoga studios in response to COVID-19.  Among other reasons, the seller was the franchisee, the buyer was the franchisor, and the seller had followed the buyer’s instructions concerning the operation of franchises.  The Court also noted that the parties’ agreement contained no closing conditions or an express right to terminate.

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Chancery Curtails Discovery in Appraisal Action Instituted as a Substitute for Books and Records Demand


Wei v. Zoox, Inc, C.A. No. 2020-1036-KSJM (Del. Ch. Jan. 31, 2022)
Often, stockholders who suspect corporate wrongdoing in connection with M&A transactions demand to inspect the company’s books and records under Section 220. But if, through no fault of the stockholder, the timing of a closing makes Section 220 relief more difficult to obtain, may the stockholder use Section 262, the appraisal statute, and its broader available discovery, to accomplish the same goal? In this case, the Court concludes that the answer is a qualified yes. That is, the stockholders are entitled to discovery in the appraisal proceeding. But if it appears the proceeding is just a means to investigate a potential class action for breach of fiduciary duties, the stockholder is entitled to discovery only to the limited extent it would have been available under Section 220, and not to the broader extent typically available under Section 262. 

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Chancery Rejects Argument that Omitted Information Prevents Corwin Dismissal


Galindo v. Stover, C.A. No. 2021-0031-SG (Del. Ch. Jan. 26, 2022)
If a majority of fully informed, uncoerced, disinterested stockholders vote to approve a merger not involving a conflicted controlling stockholder, then under the Corwin doctrine, the business judgment rule applies because the vote cleanses any breach of duty (except a claim for waste). In this decision, the Court of Chancery returns to what it means for the stockholder vote to be “informed.” More ›

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Chancery Rejects Challenge to Director’s Appointment and Dismisses Derivative Claims


Simons v. Brookfield Asset Mgmt., Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0841-KSJM (Del. Ch. Jan. 21, 2022)
If a derivative plaintiff does not make a pre-suit demand on the board, then under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, the plaintiff must allege particularized facts demonstrating that demand would have been futile because a majority of the board was incapable of impartially considering a litigation demand.  More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Permits Substitution of Bankruptcy Trustee as Plaintiff to Resolve “Procedural Conundrum”


Lenois v. Lawal, No. 33, 2021 (Del. Dec. 9, 2021)
A company’s bankruptcy filing during an appeal of a dismissal of a derivative action presents questions of who, if anyone, has the standing to pursue the company’s potential claims. As this case shows, Delaware is loathe to permit such claims to abate merely because the procedural path forward is unclear. More ›

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Non-Resident Asset Managers Found Not To Be “Acting Managers” Subject To Personal Jurisdiction Under Delaware LLC Act


Dlayal Holdings, Inc. v. Gracey, C.A. 2020-1070-LWW (Del. Ch. Dec. 27, 2021)
Under 6 Del. C. § 18-109(a), serving as the manager of a Delaware LLC constitutes consent to be served through the company’s registered agent for all Delaware proceedings “involving or relating to the [company’s] business ... or a violation by the manager ... of a duty” to the company or its members. By its terms, the statute applies not only to formal managers identified in the company’s governing documents but also to acting managers – that is, persons who “participate[] materially in the management” of the company. This case clarifies what constitutes material participation under § 18-109(a). More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Derivative Action Based On Alleged Liability Under DGCL § 174 For Stock Repurchases and Dividends


In re The Chemours Co. Deriv. Litig., C.A. 2020-0786-SG (Del. Ch. Nov. 1, 2021)
Broadly speaking, Sections 160 and 173 of the DGCL prohibit a corporation from repurchasing stock or issuing dividends if doing so would exceed the corporation’s surplus. Both Sections 160 and 173 are enforceable under Section 174, which provides that directors “under whose administration” a “willful or negligent” violation of Section 160 or 173 occurs are “jointly and severally liable” to the corporation. Here, the Court of Chancery rejected a challenge to dividend and stock repurchases premised upon directors’ alleged incorrect assessment of potential environmental liabilities.  More ›

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Chancery Awards $9.5 Million Mootness Fee for Reduction of Voting Control and Other Benefits


Hollywood Firefighters Pension Fund v. Malone, C.A. 220-0880-SG (Nov. 8, 2021)

A plaintiff may be entitled to a mootness fee if it shows that its action had merit and produced a corporate benefit. This case outlines the Court of Chancery’s analysis in valuing non-monetary benefits and, in turn, the appropriate mootness fee. More ›

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In Recent Facebook Decisions, Chancery Permits Demand-Futility Plaintiffs to Proceed Before Demand-Refused Plaintiff


Feuer v. Zuckerberg, C.A. No. 2019-0324-JRS & In re Facebook, Inc. Deriv. Litig., Consol. C.A. 2018-0307 (Del. Ch. Oct. 5, 2021), rearg. denied (Del. Ch. Nov. 8, 2021)
Recent decisions in the Facebook derivative litigation addressed issues of case management where competing groups of derivative plaintiffs disagree about whether making a pre-litigation demand upon the board was futile, and where disputes are raised about whether the suits should be consolidated, and which theories should proceed first. More ›

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Chancery Examines Cornerstone Standard for Establishing Non-Exculpated Fiduciary Duty Claims


In Re BGC Partners, Inc. Derivative Litigation, Consol. C.A. No. 2018-0722-LWW (Del. Ch. Sep. 20, 2021)
A director protected by an exculpatory provision is entitled to dismissal in a breach of fiduciary duty action unless the plaintiff advances a non-exculpated claim. Under In re Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. Shareholder Litigation, 115 A.3d 1173 (Del. 2015), to establish a non-exculpated claim plaintiff must show that a director: (1) “harbored self-interest adverse to the stockholders’ interests”; (2) “acted to advance the self-interest of an interested party from whom they could not be presumed to act independently”; or (3) “acted in bad faith.” This decision explains Cornerstone’s second prong. More ›

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Chancery Addresses When an Efforts Clause-Based Earnout Claim May Ripen

Posted In Chancery, Earn-Out, M&A


S’holder Representative Servs., LLC v. Alexion Pharm., Inc., C.A. No. 2020-1069-MTZ (Del. Ch. Sep. 1, 2021)
Mergers and sale agreements frequently include earn-out provisions that entitle one party to future compensation if certain business or financial goals are met within a defined period. In return, the other party often must use a defined level of effort—such as “commercially reasonable” efforts—to achieve the goals that trigger the earn-out. This case addresses a practical threshold question: If the party entitled to the earn-out believes that the other party has breached its duty to use commercially reasonable efforts, may that party sue immediately, or must that party wait until the earn-out period ends? More ›

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Chancery Enforces Parties’ Merger Agreement That Barred Claims Upon Termination of the Agreement


Yatra Online, Inc. v. Ebix, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0444-JRS (Del. Ch. Aug. 30, 2021)

Agreements frequently specify how the termination of the agreement affects the parties’ rights and obligations. This case illustrates that Delaware courts generally enforce “effect of termination” provisions in merger agreements as readily as any other contract provision. More ›

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Company Did Not Breach Mandatory Redemption Provision Where Special Committee Determined Company Lacked Funds To Redeem All Preferred Shares


Cont’l Investors Fund LLC v. TradingScreen, Inc., C.A. No. 10164-VCL (Del. Ch. July 23, 2021)
A holder of preferred stock often possesses redemption rights that permit the stockholder to require a company to repurchase the stockholder’s shares. But what happens if the company determines that it lacks the funds to repurchase the stock? As illustrated in this case, a stockholder challenging the determination bears the burden of proof to show that the company’s determination was improper. More ›

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Chancery Permits Service By Email Upon Singaporean Defendants


Skye Mineral Investors, LLC v. DXS Capital (U.S.) Ltd., C.A. No. 2018-0059-JRS (Del. Ch. Jul. 15, 2021).
Delaware’s long-arm statute permits service of process on a foreign defendant by personal service, by mail with signed return receipt, by means authorized by the foreign jurisdiction where service is to occur, or “[a]s directed by a court.” 10 Del. C. § 3104(d). In this decision, the Court of Chancery confirms that each of the grounds is an independent basis for effecting service, and alternative methods of service are appropriate so long as they are “reasonably calculated to give actual notice.” More ›

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llazarus@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6970
Lewis Lazarus focuses his practice on corporate governance and commercial matters in the Delaware Court of Chancery. He has been lead counsel in trials arising out of mergers and …
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