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K. Tyler O'Connell

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Showing 120 posts by K. Tyler O'Connell.

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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Chancery Compares Aronson and Rales Tests for Demand Futility; Finds Well-Plead Caremark Claim Showing No Good Faith Effort to Oversee Financial Reporting and Related-Party Transactions Made Demand Futile

Hughes v. Hu, C.A. No. 2019-0112-JTL (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2020).

Everyone from bar applicants to seasoned litigators and counsel advising boards of directors can find something of interest in Hughes v. Hu, which (i) provides a comprehensive review of how the Court of Chancery evaluates demand futility in derivative actions and (ii) discusses the type of allegations that will support a well-plead Caremark claim for failure to take affirmative steps to ensure an effective board-level monitoring reporting system is in place. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses GoPro Derivative Action for Failure to Allege Directors Intentionally Made Inflated Revenue Forecasts or Failed to Exercise Appropriate Caremark Oversight

In re GoPro, Inc. S’holder Deriv. Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0784-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 28, 2020)

This opinion serves as a reminder that particularized allegations of non-exculpated wrongdoing are necessary to support the contention that a demand would be futile. Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights, III dismissed a breach of fiduciary duty derivative action for failure to allege demand futility with the detail prescribed by Chancery Court Rule 23.1. The plaintiffs, GoPro, Inc. stockholders, filed suit against officers and directors after complications with the launch of a new drone caused the company to miss its revenue forecast. The complaint alleged that pre-suit demand was futile because a majority of the board faced liability for its knowledge of, but failure to disclose, the company’s revenue shortfall and were beholden to the CEO/controlling stockholder such that they could not exercise independence. The missed revenue projections also spurred a federal securities class action suit, naming three of the same defendants, where a ruling denying a dismissal motion found that the class plaintiffs well pled that the named overlapping defendants made false or misleading statements regarding the drone. 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 Corporation Fraudulently Induced Investor into Contract, Acting “Through Concealment and Silence”

Maverick Therapeutics Inc. v. Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0002-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 3, 2020).

In this post-trial opinion, the Court of Chancery found that Harpoon Therapeutics, Inc., (“Harpoon”), a Delaware corporation in the business of developing novel cancer therapies, fraudulently induced an investor into acquiring an interest in one of its business divisions by intentionally drafting a non-compete narrowly to exclude certain opportunities Harpoon wished to pursue, in contrast with its representations to the investor about its future plans. More ›

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Court of Chancery Permits Targeted Jurisdictional Discovery to Seek Proof to Support Non-Frivolous Claim of Personal Jurisdiction

HM Life Ins. Co. v. Wilmington Sav. Fund Soc’y, FSB, C.A. No. 2018-0649-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 9, 2020).

If a plaintiff has pled facts in its complaint to support a non-frivolous claim of personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the Court of Chancery may allow targeted jurisdictional discovery to seek proof that the Court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant in response to a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. More ›

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In a Books and Records Action, Court Critiques Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, and Declines to Order Inspection of Documents Not Requested in the Plaintiff’s Demand

Paraflon Investments, Ltd. v. Linkable Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0611-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 3, 2020).

Sometimes it bears repeating that Section 220 actions are intended to be summary proceedings to evaluate a stockholder’s pre-suit demand to inspect a corporation’s books and records.  More ›

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Chancery Applies Borrowing Statute, Dismisses Plaintiff’s Fraud Claims as Time-Barred

CHC Investments, LLC v. FirstSun Capital Bancorp, C.A. No. 2018-0353-KSJM, (Del. Ch. Mar. 23, 2020).

On a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for fraud, the Delaware Court of Chancery applied Delaware’s three-year statutory limitations period rather than Texas’s four-year period and dismissed plaintiff’s claims as time-barred. Narrowly interpreting the Delaware Supreme Court’s holding in Saudi Basic Indus. Corp. v. Mobil Yanbu Petrochemical Co., 866 A.2d 1, 16-18 (Del. 2005), the Court found that, except in circumstances where a party is forced to bring claims in Delaware, under Delaware’s “borrowing statute,” the shorter of Delaware’s statute of limitations and that of the foreign jurisdiction will apply.  More ›

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Chancery Denies Preliminary Injunction Based Upon Overbroad Restrictive Covenants

FP UC Holdings, LLC v. Hamilton, C.A. No. 2019-1029-JRS (Del. Ch. Mar. 27, 2020).

A party seeking a preliminary injunction must demonstrate a likelihood of success at trial. In a breach of non-compete action, this burden may not be met when economically unjustified restrictive provisions are “too broad as they would essentially prevent Defendant from operating … anywhere in the United States.” More ›

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Chemours v. DowDuPont: Chancery Requires Subsidiary to Arbitrate Separation Agreement Dispute with Parent Despite the Subsidiary’s Lack of “Real World” Consent to the Separation Agreement

The Chemours Co. v. DowDuPont Inc., et al., C.A. No. 2019-0351-SG (Del. Ch. Mar. 30, 2020).

The subsidiary-plaintiff, created after the reorganization of the parent-defendant, brought an action against its parent and related entities challenging the enforceability of the Separation Agreement memorializing the terms of the subsidiary’s spin-off, including its arbitration clause. According to the subsidiary, certain liabilities assigned to the subsidiary in the spin-off were “vastly and wrongfully underestimated” by the parent, and the subsidiary brought suit to limit its obligations for those liabilities. The defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Separation Agreement contained an arbitration clause.        More ›

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Delaware Court of Chancery Declares Board Action Void For Equitable Reasons, Finding Corporate Directors Deceived Other Board Members into Attending Board Meeting

Palisades Growth Capital II, L.P. v. Bäcker, C.A. No. 2019-0931-JRS (Del. Ch. Mar. 26, 2020).

In keeping with longstanding Delaware precedent, the Delaware Court of Chancery recently held that it may void an action by a board of directors – even where the action is not otherwise in violation of the corporate charter or the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) – when equity so requires. 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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Chancery Enforces LLC Agreement Arbitration Clause and Finds that Member’s Resignation Did Not Prevent Enforcement

360 Campaign Consulting, LLC v. Diversity Communication, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0807-MTZ (Del. Ch. Mar. 20, 2020).

Following a dispute between the two members of a Delaware LLC, Plaintiff filed an eleven (11) count complaint against the Defendant former member, the LLC, its manager and others. Defendant moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on an arbitration provision in the LLC Agreement. The Court’s threshold question was whether it (as opposed to an arbitrator) had jurisdiction to decide whether the dispute was arbitrable, an issue otherwise known as substantive arbitrability.  More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Holds that Federal Forum Selection Clauses for Securities Cases Are Valid in Delaware Corporate Charters

Salzberg v Sciabacucchi, No. 346, 2019 (Del. Mar. 18, 2020).

Reversing the Court of Chancery, the Delaware Supreme Court has concluded that federal forum selection clauses, requiring that litigation under the Securities Act of 1933 (“’33 Act”) may only be filed in federal courts, are allowable provisions in a Delaware corporation’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws.  More ›

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Chancery Denies Non-Member, Non-Manager’s Bid for Equitable Dissolution of LLC

SolarReserve CSP Holdings, LLC v.  Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC, C.A. 2019-0791-JRS (Del. Ch. Mar. 18, 2020).

While the Court of Chancery has recognized the concept of equitable standing to seek judicial dissolution, this case shows that equity is not a tool to rewrite the plain language of an operating agreement or to help a party regain the rights it bargained away. More ›

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toconnell@morrisjames.com
T 302.888.6892
Tyler O’Connell is a partner in the Corporate and Commercial Litigation group. He represents companies, members of management and investors in business disputes before the …
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