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Lewis H. Lazarus

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Showing 98 posts by Lewis H. Lazarus.

Court of Chancery Dismisses Claim of Aiding and Abetting Against a Minority Stockholder

A claim for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty fails if a plaintiff cannot allege an underlying breach. In that circumstance there is no breach to aid and abet. Where a plaintiff sufficiently alleges a breach, however, it still also must allege, in non-conclusory terms, facts sufficient to show knowing participation in the alleged breach to state a claim for aiding and abetting. In Jacobs v. Meghi, C. A. No. 2019-1022-MTZ (Del. Ch. Oct. 8, 2020), the Court of Chancery parsed the allegations of plaintiff’s complaint to conclude that it had failed to allege “specific facts supporting an inference of knowing participation in a breach” (Id. at 1) and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint against the alleged aider and abettor. As explained below, the Court also denied plaintiff’s claim for unjust enrichment.   More ›

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Chancery Awards No Damages to Either Party After the Break-Up of the Anthem/Cigna Merger

In re Anthem-Cigna Merger Litigation, C.A. No. 2017-0114- JTL (Del. Ch. August 31, 2020)

This action arose out of a failed merger transaction involving the second and third largest health insurers in the United States, Anthem, Inc. and Cigna Corporation (“the Merger”). The parties had entered into a merger agreement on July 23, 2015 (“Merger Agreement”). Either party could terminate if the transaction did not close by January 31, 2017, a date later extended to April 30, 2017. The parties each agreed to covenants to cooperate and to use their best efforts to accomplish the Merger (“Efforts Covenants”). Specifically, they agreed to take all reasonable steps to consummate the Merger (the “Reasonable Best Efforts Covenant”) and to take “any and all actions” necessary to avoid impediments to the Merger from government entities (the “Regulatory Efforts Covenant”). The parties authorized Anthem to take the lead in working with government entities to facilitate the Merger, but the parties were required to cooperate to obtain regulatory approval (the “Regulatory Cooperation Covenant”). The parties’ obligations to close the Merger were subject to the condition that no governmental entity or court had acted to enjoin the consummation of the Merger (the “No Injunction Condition”).  More ›

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Chancery Upholds Class Claims Alleging Breaches of Fiduciary Duty in Alleged Controlling Stockholder’s Tender Offer

In re Coty Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0336-AGB (Del. Ch. Aug. 17, 2020)  

JAB Holding Company S.à.r.l. and its affiliates (together “JAB”) completed a partial tender offer (the “Tender Offer”) for shares of Coty Inc. (“Coty”) on April 25, 2019, increasing its ownership stake from 40% to 60% of the outstanding Coty shares. At the time of the Tender Offer, Coty had a nine-member board of directors – four directors affiliated with JAB (the “JAB Directors”) and five individual directors (the “Individual Directors”). Pierre Laubies, the CEO of Coty, was one of the Individual Directors. Although Laubies was the only Individual Director with a management position at Coty, he, like all of the Individual Directors, had professional ties to JAB and its officers, with Laubies having formerly served as CEO of a JAB affiliate.  More ›

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CCLD Applies Anti-Reliance Provisions, Dismisses Buyer’s Fraud Claims

Posted In CCLD, Fraud Claims, M&A

Infomedia Group, Inc. v. Orange Health Solutions Inc., C.A. No. N19C-10-212 AML CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. July 31, 2020)

This case is a strong reminder that Delaware will enforce anti-reliance clauses to bar claims for fraud where sophisticated parties voluntarily agree to the anti-reliance clauses. Here, plaintiff Infomedia Group, Inc., d/b/a Carenet Health Services entered into an asset purchase agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”) with defendant Orange Health Solutions, Inc. (“Citra”).  More ›

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Chancery Rejects Implied Covenant Claim for Failure to Prove that, Had the Issue Been Negotiated, Both Parties Would Have Agreed

Roundpoint Mortgage Servicing Corp. v. Freedom Mortgage Corp., C.A. No. 2020-0161-SG (Del. Ch. July 22, 2020)

To establish an implied contractual obligation pursuant to the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, a party must prove that, even though the contract does not state the term at issue, the parties would have agreed to it had they thought to negotiate it at the time of contracting. Here, the Court of Chancery post-trial denied an acquirer’s implied covenant claim even though the result arguably resulted in unfairness from a financial point of view to the acquirer. As illustrated by this case, unfairness alone to one party does not necessarily prove that both parties would have agreed to the implied term had they thought to negotiate about it. More ›

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Entire Fairness Standard Applies Where Controller Has Substantive Discussions with Minority Stockholders before Agreeing to MFW Protections

In re HomeFed Corporation Stockholder Litigation, C.A. 2019-0592-AGB (Del. Ch. July 13, 2020)
This case illustrates that the Court of Chancery will apply the entire fairness standard to review a squeeze-out merger by a controller, if the controller engages in substantive economic discussions before the company has enacted the procedural protections outlined in Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp, 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014) (“MFW”) that would permit business judgment review. In this case, Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (“Jefferies” or the “Controller”), which owned 70% of HomeFed Corporation (“HomeFed”), acquired the remaining shares of HomeFed in a share exchange in which each HomeFed minority shareholder received two Jefferies shares in exchange for one of its HomeFed shares (the “Transaction”). A HomeFed director originally proposed the 2:1 share exchange to Jefferies in September 2017, and Jefferies subsequently discussed the share exchange with HomeFed’s second largest shareholder Beck, Mack and Oliver, LLC (“BMO”). In December 2017, HomeFed’s board of directors (the “Board”) formed a special committee (the “Special Committee”) that had the exclusive power to evaluate and negotiate a potential transaction. When the parties were unable to agree to merger terms, the Special Committee “paused” its process in March 2018. Despite pausing the Special Committee, Jefferies continued to discuss a potential transaction with BMO for the next year.  More ›

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Chancery Values Non-Public Company with No Reliable Market-Based Data Using Discounted Cash Flow Analysis

Posted In Appraisal, Chancery

Kruse v. Synapse Wireless, Inc., C.A. No. 12392-VCS (Del. Ch. July 14, 2020)

This case illustrates how appraisal works outside of the public market context when a lack of data hinders a reliable valuation. Here, stockholder William Richard Kruse (“Kruse”) sought appraisal of his shares of SynapseWireless, Inc. (“Synapse”), a privately-owned corporation. McWane Inc. (“McWane”) acquired Synapse in two rounds of investments: McWane, first, acquired a controlling interest in 2012, and, then, acquired the remaining Synapse shares in 2016 in a cash-out merger (the “Merger”). As part of the 2012 transaction, McWane gained the right to purchase newly issued Synapse shares at a price set by the 2012 acquisition. Synapse had disappointing performance after the 2012 merger, posting less than half of the projected revenues used to calculate the 2012 merger price. To mitigate Synapse’s poor performance, McWane provided loans and purchased Synapse shares at the price set by the 2012 merger. For example, in 2014, McWane bought $31 million of shares at $4.99 per share to keep Synapse afloat, and to increase McWane’s ownership of Synapse to realize tax benefits. More ›

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CCLD Bars Tort Claims Overlapping with Contract Claims under Economic Loss Doctrine

GEA Sys. N. Am. LLC v. Golden State Foods Corp., C.A. No. N18C-11-242 EMD CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. June 8, 2020)

This case illustrates the extent to which the economic loss doctrine bars tort claims arising out of the same transaction as claims for breach of contract. In this case, plaintiff GEA Systems North America LLC (“GEA”) sold defendant Golden State Food Corp. (“Golden State”) three industrial freezers for use in Golden State’s hamburger patty facility. Golden State argued, among other things, that the freezers did not meet the production figures that GEA promised and GEA failed properly to install or repair the freezers. For this alleged misconduct, Golden State brought claims for negligence, fraudulent inducement, and intentional misrepresentation as well as for breach of contract. On a motion to dismiss, the Delaware Superior Court held that the economic loss doctrine barred the fraudulent inducement and intentional misrepresentations claims, but not the claims for negligence and gross negligence. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies Materiality Standard for Director Disclosure

A plaintiff challenging a merger when a majority of the board approving the transaction is disinterested and independent and there is no controlling stockholder on both sides cannot state a cognizable claim of breach of fiduciary duty unless it can plead facts demonstrating that the business judgment rule does not apply.  More ›

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Chancery Finds Employment Agreement’s Forum Selection Clause Did Not Reach Fiduciary Duty Claims, But Stays Case Pending Resolution of First-Filed Texas Action

EnVen Energy Corp. v. Dunwoody, C.A. No. 2019-0579-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 28, 2020)

This case illustrates Delaware’s approach in interpreting contractual forum selection provisions and in considering whether to stay a later-filed action under the well-known McWane doctrine. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Claims that Minority Stockholders who Rolled Over Equity in a Controlling Stockholder Merger Joined a “Control Group”

Gilbert v. Perlman, C.A. No. 2018-0453-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 29, 2020)

Delaware law imposes fiduciary duties upon controlling stockholders who use their power to control the corporate machinery. For that reason, determining who comprises a control group affects who may owe fiduciary duties. In some circumstances, where minority stockholders pool their interests to gain majority control and then bind themselves to act together to effectuate a transaction, minority stockholders may take on the duties of a controlling stockholder as members of a control group. But where an already existing controlling stockholder effectuates a cash-out merger, minority stockholders who roll over their shares and enter into a voting agreement to support the transaction will not be deemed part of a control group unless a plaintiff can plead that “the minority-holder’s participation [was] material to the controller’s scheme to exercise control of the entity, leading to the controller ceding some of its control power to the minority-holders.” More ›

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Court of Chancery Adjudicates Books and Records Request Post-Trial for Delaware LLC

Trials involving books and records requests have become more common since the Delaware Supreme Court encouraged stockholder plaintiffs to use the “tools at hand” to discover information necessary to establish demand futility prior to pursuing derivative litigation. Less common are decisions post-trial regarding inspection rights for members of a Delaware limited liability company. The recent decision in Riker v. Teucrium Trading LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0314-AGB (Del. Ch. May 12, 2020) reflects the care by which the Court of Chancery applies the applicable standard to determine whether a member has met his burden to show entitlement to documents and, if so, the scope of necessary production. The case also demonstrates that a Company’s hard-fought litigation tactics opposing document requests, which the Court ultimately validates, does not by itself provide grounds to shift attorneys’ fees, particularly where plaintiff did not substantially prevail. More ›

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Chancery Defers to Liquidating Trustee in Approving a Sale of LLC Assets

Acela Invs. LLC v. DiFalco, C.A. No. 2018-0558-AGB (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2020).  

This case affirms that, absent an abuse of discretion, the Court of Chancery will defer to a sale agreement proffered and negotiated by a Court-appointed liquidating trustee. In this case, the Court had appointed the liquidating trustee (the “Trustee”) after granting judicial dissolution of a Delaware LLC due to member deadlock. At the last minute, and following a six-month sale process, a bidder that was owned by two of the LLC’s members made an offer that the Trustee rejected as untimely and inadequate. The bidder challenged the Trustee’s judgment in rejecting its bid. The Court upheld the Trustee’s decision to reject the bid, finding no evidence of an abuse of discretion.   More ›

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Chancery Finds Tortious Interference By Financial Industry Competitor and Addresses the Requirements for Obtaining Permanent Injunctive Relief

Preston Hollow Capital LLC v. Nuveen LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0169-SG (Del. Ch. April 9, 2020). 

This case illustrates the type of competitive conduct that will qualify as tortious interference with business relationships while demonstrating that permanent injunctive relief is unavailable absent a likelihood of future irreparable harm.  More ›

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LLC May Not Reverse Decision to Enter into Contractual Call Option Buyout Process with Members

Walsh v. White House Post Productions, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0419-KSJM (Del. Ch. Mar. 25, 2020).  

Parties to LLC agreements often provide for buyout provisions upon specified events, such as when a member ceases to be an employee. The provisions set forth a process by which the parties agree up front to a price to acquire the departing member’s interest. In this case, the Court prohibited an LLC from withdrawing from a contractually agreed-upon process to buy its members’ shares once the LLC initiated the process. More ›

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llazarus@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6970
Lewis H. Lazarus, Chair of the Morris James Litigation Practice Group, focuses his practice on corporate governance and commercial matters in the Delaware Court of Chancery. He has …
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