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Showing 104 posts in Books and Records.

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

Posted In Books and Records

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 Further Explains the “Proper Purpose” Requirement for Section 220 Demands

Posted In Books and Records

Lebanon County Employees’ Retirement Fund v. AmerisourceBergen Corp., C.A. No. 2019-0527-JTL (Del. Ch. Jan. 13, 2020).

Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) provides stockholders seeking information for a proper purpose with the right to inspect a corporation’s books and records. This recent decision provides additional guidance by (i) rejecting a “purpose-plus-an-end” test as inconsistent with the text of Section 220 and Delaware Supreme Court precedent; and (ii) explaining that a stockholder may have a proper purpose to investigate wrongdoing regardless of whether she can show potentially viable claims against a board of directors.  More ›

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Chancery Finds Proper Purpose in Books and Records Demand to Investigate Potential Wrongdoing in CBS-Viacom Merger, Orders Narrowed Inspection that Includes Electronic Documents

Posted In Books and Records

Bucks Cty. Employees Ret. Fund v. CBS Corp., C.A. No. 2019-0820-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 25, 2019).

A stockholder seeking books and records in Delaware states a proper purpose for inspection by demonstrating a credible basis to suspect that fiduciaries engaged in wrongdoing. So long as the documents sought are necessary and essential to that purpose, the Court of Chancery will order inspection. The Court generally will not, however, require a broad production of electronic documents akin to plenary discovery. More ›

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Chancery Declines to Establish New Rule Concerning Books and Records Inspections Related to Proxy Contests

Posted In Books and Records, Chancery, Proxy Contest

High River Limited Partnership v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., C.A. No. 2019-0403-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 14, 2019).

Section 220 of the DGCL grants stockholders a qualified right to inspect corporate books and records “necessary and essential” to a “proper purpose.”  One recognized proper purpose is investigating potential corporate wrongdoing or mismanagement.  In such cases, the stockholder must establish a “credible basis” for the suspicion before the Court of Chancery will order inspection.  When a stockholder makes that showing, the Court has permitted use of the produced books and records to mount a proxy contest.  However, as the Court of Chancery observes in this decision, no Delaware court has compelled inspection “when the stockholder’s only stated purpose for inspection is a desire to communicate with other stockholders in furtherance of a potential proxy contest.”  And under the facts and circumstances of this case, the Court declines to be first.   More ›

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Chancery Rejects Claim that Books and Records Demand was “Pretextual,” Finds Sufficient Overlap Between Demand Letter and Plaintiff’s Purpose

Posted In Books and Records

Donnelly v. Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0892-SG (Del. Ch. Oct. 24, 2019).

A stockholder-plaintiff seeking a corporation’s books and records must have a genuine proper purpose, and cannot rely simply on a lawyer-crafted demand letter to justify her request.  There must be alignment between a plaintiff’s books and records demand and her own stated interest in seeking books and records.  In this recent decision, the Court of Chancery considers and rejects an attempt by a defendant-corporation to argue that a books and records demand was really driven by plaintiff’s counsel, and that the plaintiff lacked any genuine proper purpose. More ›

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Chancery Denies Section 220 Bid for Executive Compensation Records Involving Facebook

Posted In Books and Records, Cases, Chancery

Southeastern Pa. Trans. Auth. v. Facebook, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0228-JRS (Oct. 29, 2019)

Shareholders of a Delaware corporation have a qualified right to access corporate books and records for a “proper purpose.” One such proper purpose is to investigate potential mismanagement or fiduciary wrongdoing. Indeed, Delaware law encourages shareholders to use this “tool at hand” prior to bringing a derivative action. But this type of inspection has an important precondition: the shareholder must advance some evidence to suggest a “credible basis” from which the Court can infer actionable wrongdoing. As this decision involving Facebook illustrates, the credible basis standard is lenient but not meaningless, and may turn on, among other things, the potential for monetary damages arising out of the alleged wrongdoing. After a trial on a paper record, the Court of Chancery denied an attempt by two stockholders of defendant Facebook, Inc. to obtain additional documents related to the company’s executive compensation practices. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies: No Presumption of Confidentiality for Documents Produced Pursuant to a Books and Records Request

Posted In Books and Records

Tiger v. Boast Apparel, Inc., C.A. No. 23, 2019 (Del. Aug. 7, 2019).

The Delaware Supreme Court held that documents produced pursuant to a request for books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law are not subject to a presumption of confidentiality. More ›

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Chancery Finds Unauthorized Transfer of LLC Interest Void and Denies Transferee Inspection Rights

Posted In Books and Records, LLC Agreements

Absalom Absalom Trust v. Saint Gervais LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0452-TMR (Del. Ch. June 27, 2019).

Plaintiff was assigned a membership interest in the defendant, a Delaware limited liability company, and sought to exercise books and records inspection rights.  But the LLC’s operating agreement circumscribed its members’ ability to transfer their interests, stating that any disposition without prior written consent of all members was “null and void,” and otherwise authorized only members to inspect books and records.  According to the Court of Chancery, because the transferor never received prior written consent for the transfer to plaintiff, the transfer was void under the LLC agreement, plaintiff was not a member of the LLC, and plaintiff had no right to inspect the LLC’s books and records.  In addition, the Court relied on the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in CompoSecure, L.L.C. v. CardUX, LLC to find that the plaintiff could not rely on equitable theories to validate the transfer.  According to the Court, equity can only validate voidable acts, not void acts.  And the LLC agreement’s plain language in this case rendered the attempted transfer void, even if it would have been only voidable under common law.

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Chancery Finds Former Limited Partner Lacks Standing to Seek Books and Records

Posted In Books and Records

Greenhouse v. Polychain Fund I LP, C.A. No. 2018-0214-JRS (Del. Ch. May 29, 2019).

Seeking to inspect an entity’s books and records to value an investment typically is a proper purpose. But a plaintiff must have standing to demand inspection. More ›

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Del. Supreme Court Finds Emails May Be Subject to Production in Books-and-Records Actions

Posted In Books and Records

Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law permits a stockholder to inspect the books and records of a corporation, provided that the demand for inspection meets certain form and manner requirements, and the inspection is sought for a proper purpose—e.g., one reasonably related to the interests of stockholders. Plaintiff stockholders bear the burden of proving that each category of documents sought is essential to accomplish the stockholders’ purpose for the inspection. Section 220 inspections of books and records are not intended to produce a comprehensive set of documents that would likely be produced under discovery rules in a plenary action. Rather, the goal in a 220 action is to provide stockholders with a discrete set of documents sufficient or necessary to accomplish their purpose. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Books and Records Action Based on Pending Plenary Action

Posted In Books and Records

CHC Investments LLC v. Firstsun Capital Bancorp, C.A. No. 2018-0610-KSJM (Del. Ch. Jan. 24, 2019).

One proper purpose for a books and records inspection under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law is to investigate potential plenary claims. But what happens when the stockholder seeks records under Section 220 after it already initiated its plenary claims on the same subject? Shouldn’t investigations, by their nature, precede a charge? And may Section 220 be used as an end-around discovery rules in the pending plenary action? This decision addresses these issues, discusses the relevant Delaware precedent, and explains that, “although there is no bright-line rule prohibiting stockholders from using Section 220 to investigate pending plenary claims, Delaware courts have enforced those inspection demands in special circumstances only.”  Special circumstances may include where the plenary complaint was dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend. No special circumstances were present in this books and records action, so the Court of Chancery dismissed it.

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Chancery Addresses Lawyer-Driven Effort Defense to Books and Records Inspection

Posted In Books and Records

Inter-Local Pension Fund GCC/IBT v. Calgon Carbon Corp., C.A. No. 2017-0910-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jan. 25, 2019).

It is sometimes fair to characterize plaintiff-side representative litigation in the corporate context as lawyer-driven. This decision is notable because it addresses how that dynamic might affect a stockholder’s right to inspect corporate books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. The right to access records is not a license to fish. A stockholder can get necessary records, for a proper purpose—one that is in fact the stockholder’s true and primary purpose. That is where a lawyer’s involvement might make a difference. The purposes stated by counsel might not align with the stockholder’s actual motivations. More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Addresses Emails and Jurisdictional Use Conditions in Books and Records Actions

Posted In Books and Records

KT4 Partners LLC v. Palantir Technologies Inc., No. 281, 2018 (Del. Jan. 29, 2019) (Strine, Chief Justice).

Two prevailing questions for books and records inspections under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law are what records can I get, and what can I do with them? This decision from the Delaware Supreme Court addresses both issues. More ›

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Chancery Addresses Books and Records Demand Under Section 220 by Papa John’s Founder

Posted In Books and Records

Schnatter v. Papa John’s Int’l, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0542-AGB (Del. Ch. Jan. 15, 2019). 

As a general matter, under Section 220 of the DGCL, directors of a Delaware corporation enjoy the right to virtually unfettered access to the corporation’s books and records so they can exercise their fiduciary duties.  In this recent post-trial decision, the Court of Chancery addressed a request by Papa John’s founder and longtime spokesperson, John Schnatter, to inspect documents and communications leading up to the formation of a special committee that decided to terminate certain relationships with him following remarks construed as racial in nature.  While the parties resolved most of their disputes consensually, the remaining issues turned largely upon the Court’s factual finding that Schnatter sincerely wished to investigate potential mismanagement in connection with the committee’s decision to distance the company from him.  Particularly noteworthy, after considering recent precedents in this area, the Court ordered the production of communications relating to this issue that may be found in the other directors’ personal email accounts or on personal devices.  Also notable, in light of all the circumstances, the Court declined to find a separate action for breach of fiduciary duty filed by Schnatter in his capacity as a stockholder was a basis for denying inspection in his capacity as a director.

 

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Delaware District Court Explains Tolling Based on Books and Records Inspection

Posted In Books and Records, Statute of Limitations

Norman v. Elkin, C.A. No. 06-005-LPS (D. Del. Sept. 4, 2018)

Litigation seeking to inspect a corporation’s records under Section 220 of the DGCL might toll the statute of limitations for certain claims under the right circumstances.  There are important limits to this form of tolling.  For example, it is not automatic and will only apply to claims that are the subject of the inspection demand.  This decision does a good job of explaining these limits and the factors a court will consider in determining whether inspection-based tolling should apply.  It otherwise examines and applies the law on the statute of limitations and issues of inquiry notice.

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