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K. Tyler O'Connell

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Showing 230 posts by K. Tyler O'Connell.

Superior Court Upholds Claims that Entities Transferred Funds in Violation of Agreements with Creditor


CIBC Bank USA v. JH Portfolio Debt Equities, LLC, C.A. No. N18C-07-130 EMD CCLD (Del. Super. June 2, 2021)

Plaintiff CIBC Bank USA (“CIBC”) entered into a credit agreement with a group of borrowers to provide them with a revolving line of credit that was secured via a security agreement, which granted CIBC a priority interest in certain collateral. Under the security agreement, the borrowers agreed not to take any actions that would materially impair the collateral, or to permit any of their subsidiaries to amend their organizational documents to adversely affect the interests of CIBC. CIBC also entered into acknowledgment agreements with the borrowers’ joint venture partners, under which those partners agreed not to amend their own agreements with the borrowers without CIBC’s consent. More ›

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Chancery Finds that Deal-Price-Less-Synergies was Best Indicator of Fair Value in Statutory Appraisal of Public Company

Posted In Appraisal, Chancery


In re Appraisal of Regal Entertainment Grp., C.A. No. 2018-0266-JTL (Del. Ch. May 13, 2021)

Recent Delaware appraisal cases have found that reliable market indicators present the best evidence of a corporation’s “fair value.” Where the deal price itself provides the best evidence, the Court will deduct from the deal price any synergies paid to the sellers. Changes in value between signing and the closing date of the merger may also be taken into account. This decision applies these principles in determining the “fair value” payable to certain stockholders of Regal Entertainment Group, a public company, following its 2018 sale to Cineworld Group, a strategic acquirer, for $23 per share. More ›

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Chancery Reasons That Board’s Decision To Address Alleged “Red Flags” Related To Pending Litigation, After Litigation Is Resolved, Is Not Bad Faith For Caremark Purposes


Pettry v. Smith et al., C.A. No. 2019-0796-JRS (Del. Ch. June 28, 2021)

As discussed in Caremark and its progeny, fiduciary duties require directors to monitor the business and affairs of a corporation. Here, the Court of Chancery addressed the issue of oversight liability in the context of a Board’s decision, despite “red flags,” to delay certain additional remedial actions pending resolution of directly related litigation. More ›

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Chancery Rejects Plaintiff’s Attempt to Recharacterize Pre-Suit Demands


The Raj & Sonal Abhyanker Fam. Tr. v. Blake, C.A. No. 2020-0521-KSJM (June 17, 2021)
Court of Chancery Rule 23.1 presents a would-be derivative plaintiff with two exclusive options: make a pre-suit demand on the board to bring the claims at issue, or bring the claims and plead demand futility. A stockholder who elects to make a demand on the board may challenge whether the board wrongly refused the demand, but the stockholder cannot later bring suit and allege demand futility. And, as this case shows, the Court of Chancery will scrutinize a stockholder’s attempt to circumvent this restriction. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Simultaneously-Filed Delaware Action in Favor of New Jersey Action


Sweeney v. RPD Holdgs. Grp., LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0813-SG (Del. Ch. May 27, 2021)
Delaware’s forum non conveniens jurisprudence typically turns on when parties file competing actions. Under Cryo-Maid’s “overwhelming hardship” standard, a defendant seeking to stay a first-filed Delaware action in favor of litigation elsewhere must show that the six so-called Cryo-Maid factors tip overwhelmingly in the defendant’s favor. By contrast, under McWane’s less onerous discretionary standard, a defendant seeking to stay a later-filed Delaware action often succeeds if the defendant can point to foreign litigation between the same parties in a forum that can do prompt and complete justice. More ›

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Chancery Finds No Transaction-Specific Control Where Plaintiffs Failed to Allege that a Majority of the Members of a Special Committee Were Under the Sway of a Would-Be Controller


In re GGP Inc. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0267-JRS (Del. Ch. May 25, 2021).
Under MFW and its progeny, if there is a conflicted controlling stockholder, then in order to receive the benefits of the business judgment rule, the transaction must be negotiated and approved by independent and disinterested directors and conditioned on an informed and uncoerced vote of a majority of the minority stockholders. A stockholder that owns less than 50% of the voting power of the corporation may be a controller if it exercises control over the business affairs of the corporation either generally or with respect to the transaction at-issue. More ›

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Delaware Court of Chancery Applies Direct/Derivative Distinction In Voting Context


Clifford Paper, Inc. v. WPP Investors, LLC, 2021 WL 2211694 (Del. Ch. Jun. 1, 2021)
The disenfranchisement of an investor with voting or consent rights often is considered to be a direct harm, thus permitting the investor to bring direct claims. Sometimes, however, the alleged harm from the violation of voting rights is to the company, and it does not directly affect the investor. The Court of Chancery’s recent decision in Clifford Paper, Inc. v. WPP Investors, LLC, 2021 WL 2211694 (Del. Ch. Jun. 1, 2021), illustrates that, in such instances, a court applying Delaware law may treat those claims as derivative. More ›

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Stockholders Lack Derivative Standing to Challenge Transactions Whose Terms Were Set Before They Became Stockholders


In re SmileDirectClub, Inc., 2021 WL 2182827 (Del. Ch. May 28, 2021)
Under the “contemporaneous ownership rule,” to have standing to bring derivative claims, stockholders in a Delaware corporation must own stock at the time of a challenged transaction. The general rule is that the time of the transaction is when the terms were established, but there are narrow exceptions, such as where the terms were modified and not disclosed, in which case a court may look to when the transaction was consummated. In In re SmileDirectClub, Inc., 2021 WL 2182827 (Del. Ch. May 28, 2021), the Delaware Court of Chancery found that the general rule applied where plaintiffs challenged the terms of a transaction related to an IPO through which they became stockholders. More ›

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Chancery Orders Specific Performance of Deal, Despite Lack of Debt Financing, Finding that COVID-Related Business Decline Was Not an MAE and Seller’s Cost-Cutting Efforts Were Not Breaches of the “Ordinary Course” Covenant


Snow Phipps Grp., LLC v. KCake Acquisition, Inc., 2020-0282-KSJM (Del. Ch. Apr. 30, 2021)
In Snow Phipps, the Court of Chancery refused to allow a private equity buyer with pandemic-related cold feet to back out of its bargained for agreement to purchase DecoPac, a cake decorating company. In ordering specific performance, the Court found: (1) the durationally insignificant COVID-related business decline did not constitute a material adverse effect (“MAE”); (2) the seller had not violated any of its covenants to operate in the ordinary course by attempting to mitigate business losses; and (3) the condition to closing that the buyer secure debt financing was excused under the prevention doctrine, because the buyer’s actions caused the condition not to be satisfied. More ›

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Chancery Declines to Enforce Forum Selection Provision Actively Hidden From Defendant During Transaction


UBEO Holdings, LLC et al. v. Drakulic, C.A. No. 2020-0669-KSJM (Del. Ch. Apr. 30, 2021)
Generally, Delaware courts will enforce the terms an executed agreement, even against a party claiming not to have read the terms before signing. This rule applies with full force to forum selection provisions in which a contracting party consents to jurisdiction in a particular forum. As this case shows, however, rare exceptions exist. More ›

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Chancery Shifts Attorneys’ Fees, Reasoning Perjury Is Bad Faith Per Se


Lyons Ins. Agency Inc. v. Wilson, C.A. No. 2017-0092-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 29, 2021).
In this action, the Court of Chancery noted that it heard “perhaps the most cogent, and certainly the briefest, argument for fee shifting under the bad faith exception I have been privileged to hear: ‘perjury is bad faith.’” Plaintiff Lyons Insurance Agency Inc. (“Lyons”) sued its former employee Howard Wilson, an insurance broker, for breach of the non-compete in his employment contract. At a hearing for a preliminary injunction, Wilson testified that he needed to follow his clients to another firm because he could not entice them to stay at Lyons. Throughout the litigation, he maintained that he had not intended to rob Lyons of business. But, before a damages hearing, Wilson submitted an affidavit repudiating his earlier testimony. At the damages hearing, he testified that he conspired with the other firm to breach his employment agreement, recanting his earlier testimony. More ›

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Chancery Refuses to Enforce Alleged Contractual Rights Not Obtained at the “Negotiating Table”


Obsidian Fin. Grp., LLC v. Identity Theft Guard Solutions, Inc., C.A. No: 2020-0485-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 22, 2021)
Delaware is “more contractarian” than many other jurisdictions. Accordingly, as this case illustrates, a court applying Delaware law will respect parties’ contractual choices and will not enforce alleged contractual rights not reflected in the plain language of the agreement. More ›

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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.

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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.

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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.

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toconnell@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6892
Tyler O’Connell represents companies, members of management and investors in business disputes before the Delaware courts. Tyler also counsels directors, officers and managers …
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