Showing 9 posts by Samuel E. Bashman.
Chancery Grants Special Litigation Committee’s Zapata Motion, Finds Committee Was Sufficiently Independent and Reasonable
Diep v. Sather, C.A. No. 12760-CM (Del. Ch. July 30, 2021)
Under Zapata, when analyzing a motion to dismiss by a special litigation committee, the court evaluates whether the committee was independent, acted in good faith, and had a reasonable basis for its conclusions. The court then applies its own independent business judgment to determine whether dismissal is in the best interest of the corporation. Here, the plaintiff challenged the independence of the special litigation committee and the reasonableness of its investigation and findings. More ›
Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing Saves Employee’s Claim for Improper Termination Under Company’s LLC Agreement
Smith v. Scott, C.A. No. 2020-0263-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 23, 2021)
The Delaware LLC Act provides that fiduciary duties may be expanded or limited by the provisions of an LLC agreement. If the agreement is silent, then traditional corporate fiduciary duties apply. However, if the agreement unambiguously disclaims fiduciary duties, then the only duties that exist are those specified contractually in the LLC agreement and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. More ›
Chancery Finds Subject Matter Jurisdiction for Case Seeking Specific Performance of a Non-Disclosure Agreement
Endowment Research Grp., LLC v. Wildcat Venture Partners, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0627-KSJM (Del. Ch. Mar. 5, 2021)
The Court of Chancery may have subject matter jurisdiction if one or more of plaintiff’s claims are equitable in nature, the plaintiff requests equitable relief or a statute confers subject matter jurisdiction. In determining whether a plaintiff seeks equitable relief, the Court looks beyond what the plaintiff nominally seeks and instead assesses whether a legal remedy is available and fully adequate. At issue here was plaintiff’s request for specific performance of a non-disclosure agreement. The Court denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because, inter alia, claims for breach of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements lend themselves to equitable remedies, the value of the confidential information would be difficult to quantify and the breach would continue indefinitely without equitable relief. The Court noted as well that the parties stipulated in the non-disclosure agreement that a breach of the agreement would cause irreparable harm, and that money damages are not an adequate remedy. The defendant failed to show that the pleaded facts plainly established that this statement was untrue.
Chancery Finds It Reasonably Conceivable that Judicial Dissolution May Be Warranted When LLC’s Deadlock Provision Failed
Seokoh, Inc. v. Lard-PT, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0613-JRS (Del. Ch. Mar. 30, 2021)
On application from a member or manager of an LLC, the Court of Chancery may dissolve an LLC whenever it is not reasonably practicable for the LLC to carry on the business in conformity with the LLC agreement. Several factors may suggest a lack of reasonable practicability, including that the members are deadlocked at the board level, the operating agreement gives no means for navigating around the deadlock, and due to the financial conditions of the LLC, there is effectively no business to operate. In this case, the Court held that the petitioner adequately pled board deadlock and ongoing negative financial performance due to the parties’ inability to agree. In rejecting the respondent’s argument that the parties’ “I cut; you choose” deadlock procedure precluded a judicial decree of dissolution, based on the pleaded facts, the Court found that it was reasonably conceivable that the deadlock procedure had broken down irretrievably. Because the contractual procedure did not mandate a price, pricing formula, or a closing timeline and the plaintiff adequately alleged that the parties were not dealing with each other in good faith and in a commercially reasonable manner, it was reasonably conceivable that judicial dissolution might be warranted. The Court therefore denied the respondent’s motion to dismiss.
Chancery Holds that Plaintiff Cannot Recover Cash It Mistakenly Failed to Sweep from its Former Subsidiary’s Account Prior to Closing
Deluxe Entm’t Servs. Inc. v. DLX Acquisition Corp., C.A. No. 2020-0618-MTZ (Del. Ch. Mar. 29, 2021)
Delaware adheres to the objective theory of contracts and enforces the parties’ intentions as reflected in the four corners of an agreement. This is particularly true for sophisticated parties, whom Delaware law presumes are bound by the terms they negotiated. In this case, the plaintiff and defendant entered into an agreement where the plaintiff sold all of the outstanding shares of one of its subsidiaries to the defendant. Plaintiff alleged that, prior to the sale, it failed to sweep funds from the subsidiary’s bank accounts to which it was entitled under the purchase agreement. The Court rejected that claim in granting the defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, in part because the agreement required the transfer of all assets except those explicitly excluded. The disputed cash neither was explicitly excluded, nor was it identified as among the wrongfully transferred assets the agreement required to be returned under a “wrong pocket” provision. Similarly, the Court rejected a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing because the parties’ agreement included a provision regarding an unintended asset transfer that did not address the disputed cash. Plaintiff’s alternative argument seeking reformation failed as well because plaintiff failed to plead with particularity mutual or unilateral mistake.
In a post-trial opinion in this books-and-records action pursuant to 8 Del. C. § 220, the Court of Chancery granted a stockholder’s demand to inspect the records of Bloom Energy Corporation (“Bloom”) for the purpose of investigating mismanagement and wrongdoing respecting Bloom’s alleged financial and other misstatements concerning the performance of its self-described clean, sustainable and green energy alternative. The inspection demand drew heavily from a thoroughly researched report published by a short seller, Hindenburg Research (the “Hindenburg Report”), which concluded that “Bloom’s technology is not sustainable, clean, green, or remotely profitable." The publication of the Hindenburg Report prompted Bloom to file a Form 8-K with the SEC responding to the report and in a separate filing Bloom eventually acknowledged that it had misstated its financials in some respects in prior reporting periods. More ›Share
Chancery Dismisses Derivative Breach of Contract Claim Against Directors for Alleged Violations of Certificate of Incorporation
A corporate charter represents a contractual agreement between the corporation and its stockholders. In Lacey, the Court of Chancery addressed whether a breach of contract claim for damages based on an alleged violation of a provision in the certificate of incorporation could be brought derivatively against director defendants. More ›Share
Chancery Holds That a Deadlock Warranting Dissolution Can Be Genuine Even If the Circumstances Giving Rise to the Deadlock Were Contrived
In a dispute over the validity of the dissolution of a limited liability company, the Court of Chancery held in a post-trial opinion that a deadlock between LLC managers was genuine and deserving of legal effect, even though the circumstances giving rise to the deadlock were contrived. More ›Share
Chancery Sustains Claims Against CBS Fiduciaries Concerning CBS-Viacom Merger, While Questioning the Viability of “Holder” Claims Under Delaware Law
This decision is one of several by the Delaware Court of Chancery arising out of efforts to merge CBS Corporation and Viacom by the companies’ controlling stockholder—National Amusements, Inc., controlled by Shari Redstone. Recently, in In re Viacom Inc. Stockholders Litigation, 2020 WL 7711128 (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2020), the Court upheld claims by the Viacom stockholders against Viacom fiduciaries arising out of the CBS-Viacom merger. This decision is the flipside of that same coin, with the Court upholding claims by the CBS stockholders against CBS fiduciaries, including special transaction committee members, arising out of the same merger. More ›Share