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Showing 12 posts in Delaware Business Court Insider.

Rales, Aronson and … Zuckerberg: Delaware Supreme Court Adopts Three-Part Demand Futility Standard

Posted In Delaware Business Court Insider

On September 23, 2021, the Delaware Supreme Court decided United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Participating Food Industry Employers Tri-State Pension Fund v. Zuckerberg, et al., __ A.3d __, 2021 WL 4344361 (Del. Sept. 23, 2021). In affirming the Court of Chancery’s decision, the high Court concurred with the Court-below’s articulation of a new three-part standard to assess whether a derivative plaintiff meets her pleading burden to show that a pre-suit demand upon the board would have been futile. More ›

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Board Approval of Stock Sale for Purpose of Interfering with Stockholder Voting Rights Must Have a Compelling Justification

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Coster v. UIP Companies, Inc., No. 49, 2020, --- A.3d ---- (Del. June 28, 2021) (Seitz, C.J.)
The Delaware Supreme Court has recognized that the stockholder franchise is the “ideological underpinning upon which the legitimacy of the directors managerial power rests.” A proper balance between the stockholders’ right to elect directors and the board’s right to manage the company is dependent on the stockholders’ unimpeded right to vote in an election of directors. Accordingly, Delaware courts carefully scrutinize board actions that are designed for the primary purpose of interfering with or impeding the effective exercise of a stockholder vote, especially board actions designed to dilute an insurgent stockholder’s vote in an election of directors.  More ›

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Chancery Court Strikes Down Anti-Activist Poison Pill as Unreasonably Broad

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In a recent post-trial decision the Delaware Court of Chancery upheld a stockholder challenge to a “poison pill” rights plan adopted by The Williams Companies’ board of directors, declaring the plan unenforceable and issuing a mandatory injunction against its continued operation. See The Williams Companies Stockholder Litigation, C.A. 2020-0707-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb.26, 2021). Following the Delaware Supreme Court’s 1985 decision in Moran v. Household International upholding a poison pill as a valid anti-takeover device provided it satisfies the Unocal intermediate review standard, public companies have employed this defensive measure successfully, not only to address takeover threats but also to protect valuable net operating loss assets and to respond to certain stockholder activism. In Williams, however, the court found that the defendants had failed to establish that particular unprecedented terms of the plan constituted a reasonable, proportionate response to the activist threat perceived by the board. More ›

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Chancery Rules Failure to Disclose “Intrinsic Value” Precludes Corwin Defense – But Does Not Necessarily Suggest a Breach of the Duty of Loyalty

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In In re USG Corp. S’holder Litig., 2020 WL 5126671 (Del. Ch. Aug. 31, 2020), the Court of Chancery granted the director-defendants’ motions to dismiss post-closing money damages claims arising out of the sale of USG Corporation (“USG”) for less than what USG’s directors allegedly thought was its intrinsic value. Although the failure to disclose such “intrinsic value” prevented dismissal under Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings, LLC, 125 A.3d 304 (Del. 2015), Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III held that, in the circumstances, that omission and the directors’ approval of the sale did not suffice to plead a breach of the directors’ fiduciary duty of loyalty.  More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies Materiality Standard for Director Disclosure

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A plaintiff challenging a merger when a majority of the board approving the transaction is disinterested and independent and there is no controlling stockholder on both sides cannot state a cognizable claim of breach of fiduciary duty unless it can plead facts demonstrating that the business judgment rule does not apply.  More ›

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In New Dell Decision, Special Committee’s Narrow Mandate, Company’s Decision to Bypass Committee and Impermissible “Coercion” Prevent Dismissal Under MFW

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The Delaware Supreme Court’s MFW decision provides a safe harbor for controlling stockholder buyouts that are conditioned upon approval of a special committee of independent directors and a majority-of-the-minority vote, provided, inter alia, “there is no coercion of the minority.” Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp. (MFW), 88 A.3d 635, 645 (Del. 2014). The Court of Chancery’s recent decision in In re Dell Tech. Inc. Class V. S’holders Litig., 2020 WL 3096748 (Del. Ch. Jun. 11, 2020), held that a redemption of minority stockholders’ shares failed to satisfy MFW due to the company’s decisions to give the special committee an impermissibly narrow mandate and then bypass it to negotiate directly with minority stockholders. The Court also found that, in light of the looming threat of undesirable alternative transaction, the company’s offer was impermissibly coercive. More ›

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Court of Chancery Adjudicates Books and Records Request Post-Trial for Delaware LLC

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Trials involving books and records requests have become more common since the Delaware Supreme Court encouraged stockholder plaintiffs to use the “tools at hand” to discover information necessary to establish demand futility prior to pursuing derivative litigation. Less common are decisions post-trial regarding inspection rights for members of a Delaware limited liability company. The recent decision in Riker v. Teucrium Trading LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0314-AGB (Del. Ch. May 12, 2020) reflects the care by which the Court of Chancery applies the applicable standard to determine whether a member has met his burden to show entitlement to documents and, if so, the scope of necessary production. The case also demonstrates that a Company’s hard-fought litigation tactics opposing document requests, which the Court ultimately validates, does not by itself provide grounds to shift attorneys’ fees, particularly where plaintiff did not substantially prevail. More ›

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Minority Members Allegedly Exploited Contract Rights in Breach of Fiduciary Duties to Acquire Company Assets on the Cheap

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Delaware law requires directors of a corporation to strive in good faith and on an informed basis to maximize the value of the corporation for the benefit of all of its stockholders, and not to prefer the interests of stockholders with contract rights or preferences. Consequently, where the interests of stockholders diverge from the contracts rights of other stockholders, directors and controlling stockholders may breach their fiduciary duty of loyalty by exploiting or opportunistically favoring their contract rights over the interests of the stockholders as a whole. More ›

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The Court of Chancery Dismisses Effort to Plead Around Rule 23 in CEO's Attempt to Escape Alleged Oversight Failures

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Judges and commentators frequently characterize Caremark claims (claims seeking to hold directors liable for damages resulting from grossly inadequate reporting regimes or oversight) as the most difficult kind of breach of fiduciary claim to assert with success. In a recent Court of Chancery opinion in David Shabbouei v. Laurent Potdevin, et al. and Lululemon Athletica, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0847-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 2, 2020), Vice Chancellor Slights rejected the plaintiff’s effort to recharacterize what was essentially an inadequate Caremark claim into a self-interested, unfair dealing claim against the Board arising from its termination of a CEO accused of sexual misconduct. Dismissing the claim under a straight-forward Rule 23.1 analysis of demand futility, the court found the allegations did not support an inference that the Board’s decision to make a severance agreement rather than terminate the CEO for cause resulted from the Board’s desire to insulate itself from claims that it had exercised inadequate oversight over the CEO’s conduct. More ›

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Belated Use of Special Committee and Uninformed Stockholder Vote Undermine Bid for Business Judgment Review of Going-Private Merger

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The Court of Chancery’s recent decision in Salladay v. Lev, 2020 WL 954032 (Del. Ch. Feb. 27, 2020) denied the director-defendants’ attempt to invoke procedural safeguards – a special committee and independent stockholder approval – to dismiss a stockholder suit challenging a going-private merger. While there was no controlling stockholder and the defendants contended that any board-level conflicts were appropriately addressed, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III reasoned that a special committee of independent directors was not utilized ab initio in the buyout discussions, and that the disclosures to stockholders were materially incomplete.  More ›

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Delaware Corporate and Commercial Case Law 2019 Year in Review

Posted In Delaware Business Court Insider

This top ten list summarizes significant decisions of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Delaware Court of Chancery over the past calendar year. Our criteria for selection are that the decision either meaningfully changed Delaware law or provided clarity or guidance on issues relevant to corporate and commercial litigation in Delaware. We present the decisions in no particular order. The list does not include every significant decision, but provides litigants and litigators with an array of decisions on varied issues likely to affect business transactions or business litigation.  More ›

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Court of Chancery Finds Possibility of Actual Control and the Doctrine of Inherent Coercion Preclude Summary Judgment Based on Disinterested Stockholder Approval

Posted In Delaware Business Court Insider

The standard of review and who has the burden of proof are important issues in any trial of stockholder litigation. One instance where entire fairness is the standard of review is a merger where a controlling stockholder is on both sides of the transaction. Since the Delaware Supreme Court’s Kahn v. Lynch decision in 1994, Delaware law in that circumstance has mandated an entire fairness standard of review with the burden on the controlling stockholder and the proponents of the transaction to prove that the transaction was fair. But what happens when, after discovery, Plaintiffs fail to adduce evidence that a purported controlling stockholder in fact coerced the minority stockholders into approving the transaction? The Court of Chancery answered that question in In Re Tesla Motors, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Cons. C.A. No. 12711-VCS (February 4, 2020), holding that disputed issues of fact remain to be resolved as to whether Elon Musk, as the owner of 22.1% of Tesla’s shares, was a controlling stockholder. The possibility that he might be a controlling stockholder invokes the potential for inherent coercion and therefore prevents summary judgment based on an informed Corwin-cleansing vote of a majority of the disinterested stockholders. More ›

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