Showing 13 posts in Control Disputes.
Court of Chancery Awards Plaintiffs Attorneys’ Fees and Costs in Section 225 Action for Obtaining a Substantial Benefit for the Corporation and its Stockholders
Totta v. CCSB, LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0173-KSJM (Del. Ch. Nov. 3, 2022)
Delaware follows the “American Rule”: each party bears its own legal fees and expenses. However, there are certain exceptions. This includes the “corporate benefit exception,” where a party has obtained a substantial benefit for the corporation or its stockholders through prosecuting the lawsuit. In this recent decision from the Court of Chancery, the Court awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses to a plaintiff in a Section 225 action under the corporate benefit exception. More ›
Chancery Addresses Real-Party-In-Interest and Collateral Estoppel Doctrines in Section 225 Dispute
Hawk Investment Holdings Ltd. v. Stream TV Networks Inc., C.A. No. 2022-0930-JTL (Del. Ch. Nov. 29, 2022)
This Section 225 decision involved Stream TV Networks, Inc. and its secured creditor, Hawk Investment Holdings Ltd. Under certain pledge agreements securing Hawk’s loans, Stream granted Hawk the right to vote all of its common shares in subsidiary Technovative Media, Inc. following an event of default. Hawk exercised those voting rights to remove and replace Technovative’s sole director, resulting in this litigation. In this decision addressing pre-trial motions, the Court validated Hawk’s standing to pursue its Section 225 claim as a stockholder notwithstanding that had assigned certain rights to an affiliate. In doing so, the Court explained statutory standing and the real-party in-interest doctrine in the Section 225 context. The Court also applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to resolve several issues in Hawk’s favor based on prior litigation involving Stream.
Chancery Determines Divorcee Was One Share Short of Equal Ownership Needed To Avoid Removal from Leadership of Business Empire
Haart v. Scaglia, C.A. No. 2022-0145-MTZ (Del. Ch. Aug. 4, 2022)
In public, a high-powered couple presented themselves as equal owners of an operating company, of which the wife was also the CEO and a director. After marrying, the husband transferred fifty percent of the common stock of an umbrella holding company to his wife. He also transferred to her one share shy of equal ownership of preferred stock—leaving her with 49.9995957 percent of the preferred shares. After she realized this imbalance, the wife continued to insist they were equal owners. As their marriage deteriorated, the husband used his one-share majority to remove her from leadership at the holding company and the operating company, of which the holding company was the sole member and managing member. She brought claims in the Court of Chancery, alleging equal ownership and a corporate deadlock, seeking judicial dissolution. More ›
Chancery Applies Schnell and Blasius Review and Upholds Deadlock-Breaking Stock Issuance
Coster v. UPI Companies, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0440-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 2, 2022)
This case involved a control dispute of the defendant corporation, UPI Companies. After disputes arose between two fifty percent co-owners, one caused the company to issue long promised equity to an executive, which broke the deadlock. When the other co-owner challenged the transaction, the Court of Chancery found the stock sale satisfied the entire fairness standard and declined to invalidate it. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found the trial court should have examined the sale under Schnell or Blasius. In this decision on remand, the Court of Chancery engaged in a thorough discussion of the Schnell and Blasius standards and the state of Delaware law on those tests. Applying its reading of those standards, the Court found the stock sale was not approved for inequitable purposes and had some good faith basis, and therefore was not invalid under Schnell. The Court also found that the stock sale was not primarily motivated by thwarting the co-owner’s vote, but, instead, was motivated by the best interests of the company and a desire to moot litigation that threatened it in the circumstances. The Court further found that, in any event, the company had a compelling justification for its action and an appropriately tailored response, and thus satisfied Blasius.
Chancery Enforces LLC Members’ Right to Approve Amendments to LLC Agreement
Zohar III Ltd. v. Stila Styles LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0384-JRS (Del. Ch. May 26, 2022)
This decision arises out of control disputes involving the portfolio companies of the entity Zohar III – here, the limited liability company Stila Styles LLC. Stila Styles’ Manager had approved via written consent a transaction that purported to create new units, with those new units controlling who served as the LLC’s Manager. The LLC agreement did authorize the Manager to create new units. But it generally authorized amendment or modification of the agreement “only by the Members.” Because the transaction effectively amended the LLC agreement by taking away certain Members’ rights respecting the Manager role, and the Manager did not obtain the Members’ approval, the Manager’s written consent approving the transaction was invalid and the transaction was void.
Chancery Resolves Section 225 Dispute and Declines to Invalidate Written Consents
Zhou v. Deng, C.A. No. 2021-0026-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 6, 2022)
When deciding a summary proceeding regarding a disputed corporate office under Section 225 of the DGCL, the Court of Chancery may consider whether an election, appointment, or removal was tainted by fraud, deceit, or breach of contract. This decision involves the Court considering such defenses to the defendants’ removal and replacement as directors. Here, the Court declined to invalidate the challenged written consents based on allegations of breaches of fiduciary duty, breaches of contract, and fraud. The Court, for instance, rejected the breach of contract defense concerning stock purchases because the breach was already remedied in another action by an award of damages and the sale contract had not been rescinded.
Section 225 Action Filed Eight Months After Removal Barred by Laches
Simple Global, Inc. v. Banasik, C.A. No. 2018-0809-PAF (Del. Ch. June 24, 2021)
Under Delaware law, a director or officer who disputes her removal as such may be subject to equitable defenses if she does not proceed promptly to contest it. Here, plaintiff Simple Global was owned by three stockholders, one of which, defendant Banasik, was removed as a director and officer by the others in June 2018. In November 2018, Simple Global sued Banasik for breach of fiduciary duty, to which Banasik responded in April 2019 by, among other things, filing a counterclaim under Section 225 of the DGCL asserting he was not properly removed as a director. More ›
Court of Chancery Harmonizes Operating Agreement Governance Provisions To Resolve LLC Control Dispute
Pearl City Elevator, Inc. v. Gieseke, C.A. No. 2020-0419-JRS (Del. Ch. Mar. 23, 2021)
Under Delaware law, limited liability company agreements are interpreted like other contracts; they are read as a whole in light of the commercial context, in a manner that gives effect to and harmonizes all of their terms. In this expedited control dispute, the Court of Chancery applied those canons to consider whether certain of the plaintiff’s purchases of units from other members complied with transfer restrictions. More ›Share
Chancery Addresses Authority of Executives to Remove Managers of Affiliate Entities
Roccia v. Mugica, C.A. No. 2020-0641-MTZ (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2020)
The inherent authority of officers of Delaware companies generally extends to powers in the usual and ordinary course of the relevant company’s business. Officers otherwise gain authority through either express grants from the company’s governing body or implied grants based on past practice. In the LLC context, sources of an officer’s actual authority may include the LLC’s operating agreement and any employment agreement. In this decision, the Court of Chancery held that the plain language of a Delaware LLC’s operating agreement and the relevant employment agreement did not grant the President and CEO of a parent-entity the authority to act on the parent’s behalf to remove a member of the board of managers of a sub-entity. More ›
Chancery Declines to Apply Stockholder Approval Requirement of DGCL § 271 to Agreement to Transfer All Assets in Lieu of Foreclosure
Stream TV Networks, Inc. v. SeeCubic, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0310-JTL (Del. Ch. Dec. 8, 2020)
In this decision, the Delaware Court of Chancery reviews the history of requirements to approve transfers of all assets both at common law and under the Delaware General Corporation Law, and concludes that Delaware law does not require majority stockholder approval for an insolvent corporation’s transfer of assets to a secured creditor in lieu of a foreclosure. The Court thus rejected an attempt by the corporation’s founders, who owned a majority of its stock, to invalidate the corporation’s agreement in that regard. More ›Share
Chancery Determines Validity of LLC Ownership Following Fraud and Deceit in Cross-Border Control Dispute
Lynch v. Gonzalez, C.A. No. 2019-0356-MTZ (Del. Ch. July 31, 2020)
Disputes over control of a Delaware limited liability company can turn on rigorous fact-finding efforts by the Court of Chancery where issues of witness credibility may be paramount. As this decision illustrates, the Court will not permit trickery or misrepresentations to prevail in a control dispute, nor will it apply the doctrine of unclean hands to permit an undeserved windfall or countenance a fraudulent scheme. More ›
Chancery Declines to Apply Status Quo Order to Prevent Sale of Litigant’s Personal Interest in Indirect Foreign Subsidiary of Delaware LLC
Carlos Eduardo Lorefice Lynch v. R. Angel Gonzalez Gonzalez, C.A. No. 2019-0356-MTZ (Del. Ch. June 22, 2020)
In this control dispute, the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to amend a status quo order, finding that the proposed amendment would require the Court to enforce orders beyond its jurisdictional purview. More ›
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 ›Share