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Showing 44 posts in Controlling Stockholder.

Chancery Sustains Fiduciary Duty Claims Arising From Option Grants At Pandemic-Low Price

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty


Knight v. Miller, C.A. No. 2021-0581-SG (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2022)
In mid-March 2020, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the corporation’s stock price to trade at a periodic low, the corporation’s compensation committee awarded stock options to themselves and other directors and officers. Addressing the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the Court reasoned that the circumstances did not support an inference of bad faith. Nevertheless, because the compensation committee members received options and thus were personally interested in determining their terms, such claims were subject to entire fairness review. Similarly, option grants to certain directors who together also were the corporation’s controlling stockholders would be subject to entire fairness review as involving non-ratable benefits to a controller. The Court rejected, however, the stockholder-plaintiffs’ theory that certain officer-defendants breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty by receiving the awards. Surveying prior cases, the Court reasoned that to sustain such a claim, the circumstances would have to be such that the recipient acted with scienter (i.e., in “bad faith”) by receiving the compensation at-issue. Finally, given that the awards potentially resulted from breaches of fiduciary duty by the director-defendants, the Court sustained at the pleading stage a claim that all recipients were unjustly enriched. 

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Chancery Upholds Claims Against Controller’s Family Member

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty


In re Straight Path Communications Inc. Consol. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 2017-0486-SG (Del. Ch. Feb. 17, 2022)
This summary judgment decision arose out of a transaction involving the company Straight Path.  Straight Path’s controller had sold company assets to another company controlled by his family, IDT, for an allegedly inadequate price.  One of the assets was an indemnification claim against IDT, which used to be Straight Path’s parent company, for indemnification rights arising following Straight Path’s spin-off.  Straight Path thereafter was sold to Verizon, eliminating derivative standing for the company’s stockholders to challenge derivatively the asset sale to IDT.  Straight Path’s controller allegedly leveraged his control to wrest that indemnification claim from the company’s stockholders prior to the Verizon transaction.  Stockholders brought direct claims against the family members and an affiliated trust in this action.  Their claims previously survived dismissal, and in this decision their claims survived summary judgment.  More ›

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Chancery Dismisses All Claims in Stockholder Challenge to Cash-Out Merger Transaction

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Corwin Doctrine, Disclosure Claims


Harcum v. Lovoi, C.A. No. 2020-0398-PAF (Del. Ch. Jan. 3, 2022)
In Harcum, the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed all claims brought in a stockholder suit alleging fiduciary breaches in connection with the $1 billion dollar acquisition of Roan Resources Inc. by Citizen Energy Operating, LLC. The Court found that the transaction was “cleansed” pursuant to Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC, 125 A.3d 304, 312 (Del. 2015), because the plaintiff failed to adequately plead that any alleged controllers were conflicted or that the transaction was not approved by an uncoerced, fully informed stockholder vote.  More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Derivative Claims That Private Equity Sponsors Comprised A Control Group

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Demand Futility, Derivative Claims


Patel v. Duncan, C.A. No. 2020-0418-MTZ (Del. Ch. Sept. 30, 2021)
For stockholders to comprise a control group, the alleged group members must be connected in some “legally significant way – such as by contract, common ownership, agreement or another arrangement – to work together toward a shared goal.” Sheldon v. Pinto Tech. Ventures, L.P., 220 A.3d 245, 251-52 (Del. 2019). There must be “an indication of an actual agreement, although it need not be formal or written.” Id. Here, the court dismissed a claim alleging that two private equity funds comprised a control group that agreed to cause the corporation to engage in two unfair, self-interested transactions as a quid pro quo arrangement between them. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged they agreed to cause the corporation to overpay in two successive transactions in which the counterparties who benefitted unfairly were affiliates of the respective private equity funds.  More ›

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Chancery Examines Cornerstone Standard for Establishing Non-Exculpated Fiduciary Duty Claims

Posted In Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Demand Futility, M&A


In Re BGC Partners, Inc. Derivative Litigation, Consol. C.A. No. 2018-0722-LWW (Del. Ch. Sep. 20, 2021)
A director protected by an exculpatory provision is entitled to dismissal in a breach of fiduciary duty action unless the plaintiff advances a non-exculpated claim. Under In re Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. Shareholder Litigation, 115 A.3d 1173 (Del. 2015), to establish a non-exculpated claim plaintiff must show that a director: (1) “harbored self-interest adverse to the stockholders’ interests”; (2) “acted to advance the self-interest of an interested party from whom they could not be presumed to act independently”; or (3) “acted in bad faith.” This decision explains Cornerstone’s second prong. More ›

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Chancery Applies Rule 15(aaa), Declines to Revive Dismissed Claims under the Law of the Case Doctrine

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Rules of Procedure


Sciabacucchi v. Malone, C.A. No. 11418-VCG (Del. Ch. Aug. 18, 2021).
Court of Chancery Rule 15(aaa) provides that, if a plaintiff files an answering brief opposing a Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 23.1 motion, a decision granting the motion is with prejudice unless the court “for good cause shown, shall find that dismissal with prejudice shall not be just under all the circumstances.” In this decision, the court applied that rule and the law of the case doctrine to deny a motion to amend to reassert dismissed claims. More ›

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Chancery Upholds Fiduciary Duty Claims Arising Out Of Deal Involving an Alleged Control Group That Included Non-Stockholders and a Sale Process Managed By a Disinterested and Independent Special Committee

Posted In Boards of Directors, Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty, M&A


In re Pattern Energy Grp. Inc. Stockholders Litig., C.A. No. 2020-0357-MTZ (Del. Ch. May 6, 2021)
This decision mostly denying a motion to dismiss examines several important issues in post-closing M&A fiduciary duty litigation relevant to stating a claim and overcoming an otherwise claim-cleansing stockholder vote under the Corwin doctrine. These include what it takes to adequately plead the existence of a control group, a fraud-on-the-board theory, a bad faith breach of fiduciary duty by admittedly disinterested and independent directors charged with managing a sale process and overseeing potential conflicts, and claims against individual officers. Core to the plaintiff’s well-pled complaint in this action were allegations that the committee and certain officers favored a buyer preferred by a private equity fund, which, among other things, formed the company, controlled its upstream supplier, and held significant contractual consent rights.  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

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Special Committees


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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Chancery Sustains Claims Against Target’s CEO, Target’s Financial Advisor, and Acquirer for Allegedly Covertly Steering Merger Bidding Process

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

Firefighters’ Pension System of The City of Kansas City, Missouri Trust v. Presidio, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0839-JTL (Del. Ch. Jan. 29, 2021)

Presidio illustrates potential pitfalls for parties in the M&A process, including executives managing personal interests in potential post-transaction employment while negotiating a deal, financial advisors with future business interests in mind while controlling competitive offer information, and acquirers potentially aware of a bidding process being steered in their direction. More ›

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Chancery Addresses Standing Defense And Control Allegations In Abandoned Tender Offer Dispute

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Standing

In re WeWork Litig., C.A. No. 2020-0258-AGB (Del. Ch. Dec. 14, 2020)

This decision is the companion to another dismissal opinion in same case of the same date and arising out of the same abandoned multi-step tender offer transaction between WeCompany (“WeWork” or the “Company”) and SoftBank Group Corp. and Vision Fund (AIV M1) L.P. (together, “Softbank”). A summary of the companion opinion is available hereMore ›

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Chancery Sustains Complaint for Breach of Fiduciary Duty against Viacom Controllers

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

In re Viacom Inc. Stockholders Litig., C.A. No. 2019-0948-JRS (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2020), as corrected (Dec. 30, 2020)

This case exemplifies that the Court of Chancery will review a transaction under the entire fairness standard where a controller receives a non-ratable benefit and the controller fails to condition the transaction on the approval of a special committee and of a majority of the disinterested minority stockholders. Plaintiffs, minority stockholders of Viacom International (“Viacom”), sued Shari Redstone, her corporate entities (together with Ms. Redstone, the “Controllers”), and Viacom directors that were allegedly loyal to Ms. Redstone. Ms. Redstone indirectly controls both Viacom and CBS Corporation (“CBS”). Among other things, the plaintiffs contended that the Controllers breached their fiduciary duties in causing the merger between Viacom and CBS on terms beneficial to the Controllers but detrimental to Viacom’s public stockholders.   More ›

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Chancery Upholds Class Claims Alleging Breaches of Fiduciary Duty in Alleged Controlling Stockholder’s Tender Offer

Posted In Chancery, Class Actions, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty

In re Coty Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0336-AGB (Del. Ch. Aug. 17, 2020)  

JAB Holding Company S.à.r.l. and its affiliates (together “JAB”) completed a partial tender offer (the “Tender Offer”) for shares of Coty Inc. (“Coty”) on April 25, 2019, increasing its ownership stake from 40% to 60% of the outstanding Coty shares. At the time of the Tender Offer, Coty had a nine-member board of directors – four directors affiliated with JAB (the “JAB Directors”) and five individual directors (the “Individual Directors”). Pierre Laubies, the CEO of Coty, was one of the Individual Directors. Although Laubies was the only Individual Director with a management position at Coty, he, like all of the Individual Directors, had professional ties to JAB and its officers, with Laubies having formerly served as CEO of a JAB affiliate.  More ›

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Entire Fairness Standard Applies Where Controller Has Substantive Discussions with Minority Stockholders before Agreeing to MFW Protections

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

In re HomeFed Corporation Stockholder Litigation, C.A. 2019-0592-AGB (Del. Ch. July 13, 2020)
This case illustrates that the Court of Chancery will apply the entire fairness standard to review a squeeze-out merger by a controller, if the controller engages in substantive economic discussions before the company has enacted the procedural protections outlined in Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp, 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014) (“MFW”) that would permit business judgment review. In this case, Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (“Jefferies” or the “Controller”), which owned 70% of HomeFed Corporation (“HomeFed”), acquired the remaining shares of HomeFed in a share exchange in which each HomeFed minority shareholder received two Jefferies shares in exchange for one of its HomeFed shares (the “Transaction”). A HomeFed director originally proposed the 2:1 share exchange to Jefferies in September 2017, and Jefferies subsequently discussed the share exchange with HomeFed’s second largest shareholder Beck, Mack and Oliver, LLC (“BMO”). In December 2017, HomeFed’s board of directors (the “Board”) formed a special committee (the “Special Committee”) that had the exclusive power to evaluate and negotiate a potential transaction. When the parties were unable to agree to merger terms, the Special Committee “paused” its process in March 2018. Despite pausing the Special Committee, Jefferies continued to discuss a potential transaction with BMO for the next year.  More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Claims that Minority Stockholders who Rolled Over Equity in a Controlling Stockholder Merger Joined a “Control Group”

Posted In Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

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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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

Posted In Arbitration, Controlling Stockholder

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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