Showing 30 posts in Delaware Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Affirms Court of Chancery’s Decision Directing “Long Dark” Company to Produce Books and Records to a Stockholder Free of Confidentiality Restrictions
Hauppauge Digital, Inc. v. Rivest, C.A. No. 2019-0848 (Del. July 10, 2023).
Under Delaware law, once a stockholder has established a proper purpose to inspect a corporation's books and records, the Court of Chancery has the discretion to impose limitations or conditions on the Section 220 production. In this case, the Supreme Court of Delaware agreed with the Court of Chancery's decision not to impose any limitations on the production. More ›
Supreme Court Finds Contractually Required Board Committee Determination Under Stock Option Agreements Did Not Bar Judicial Review
Terrell v. Kiromic Biopharma Inc., No. 299, 2022 (Del. May 4, 2023)
This dispute between a company and a former director involved the meaning of a stock option agreement and option grant notice. The Court of Chancery had found that, under a contractual alternative dispute resolution provision, the dispute was to be resolved in accordance with a board committee’s interpretation of the relevant documents. The trial court stayed the action for that purpose. After the committee resolved the issue in the company’s favor, the trial court promptly dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s stay to allow the committee’s determination in the first instance but reversed and remanded for the trial court to review the matter before dismissing the action. The Supreme Court explained that the provision “is an expert determination, not an arbitration, and because it requires the Committee to reach legal determinations, not issue findings of fact within its area of expertise, the Court of Chancery is not required to defer to the Committee's conclusions." Thus, the trial court was required to engage in a de novo interpretation of the agreements.
Weinberg v. Waystar, Inc., No. 274, 2022 (Del. March 16, 2023)
The appellant was a former chief marketing officer of the appellee, a Delaware corporation. Soon after her termination, the appellant timely exercised her equity options and converted them to partnership units. The appellee thereafter exercised its call rights to repurchase the units. The appellant filed suit, arguing that the use of the word "and” in the options agreements meant that both of two conditions (termination of employment and breach of a restrictive covenant) had to be satisfied before the appellee could exercise its call rights. The Court of Chancery ruled in favor of the appellee, finding that "and” meant either of the two conditions would trigger the appellee's call rights. More ›
Delaware Supreme Court Affirms Delaware Choice-of-Law Ruling In Dismissal of D&O Liability Insurance Coverage Dispute
Stillwater Mining Company v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA et al., No. 24, 2022 (Del. Jan. 12, 2023)
This decision from Delaware Supreme Court addresses choice-of-law questions for D&O insurance contract disputes and cautions litigants to remain consistent in the positions they take before the trial court. The appellant here, an insured under a tower of directors and officers’ liability insurance policies, asserted that Delaware law applied to the claims in its original complaint for coverage of its defense costs in an appraisal action. Following a decision from the Delaware Supreme Court in another matter (In re Solera Ins. Coverage Appeals), which held that an insurer is not obligated to provide coverage for appraisal actions under a similar insurance policy, the insured amended its complaint and, in so doing, argued that Montana rather than Delaware law controlled. More ›
Supreme Court Interprets an Alleged Irrevocable Proxy and Finds It Does Not Run with Shares and Bind Subsequent Owner
Daniel v. Hawkins, No. 184, 2022 (Del. Jan. 6, 2023)
Through an irrevocable proxy, the appellant held voting power for 100 shares of a partnership. The proxy had been a tool to immediately transfer the shares' voting power to the appellant, away from a beneficial owner experiencing legal troubles, to minimize the risk of tainted control harming the business pending transfer of beneficial ownership. Years later, with beneficial ownership having transferred for 75 shares, the appellee sought to purchase those shares free of the proxy. The appellant argued that the proxy was irrevocable and could not be relinquished. Appellee filed suit in the Court of Chancery, seeking a declaratory judgment that the irrevocable proxy did not apply to subsequent third-party owners. The Court of Chancery determined that the irrevocable proxy's plain language did not establish a grant of agency authority that ran with the shares. More ›
Boardwalk Pipeline Partners L.P. v. Bandera Master Fund LP, C.A. No. 2018-0372 (Del. Dec. 19, 2022)
Delaware Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) can structure their organization to permit maximum flexibility, including eliminating fiduciary duties and limiting investor rights to the four corners of the MLP agreement. At issue in this case was whether the partnership's general partner properly exercised a call right to take the partnership private. Under the partnership agreement, the general partner could exercise this right if it received an opinion from counsel acceptable to the general partner that certain changes in regulation would have a specific effect on the business. More ›
Implied Covenant of Good Faith Covers Contractual Conditions “Too Obvious” to State Expressly in Indemnification Dispute
Baldwin v. New Wood Resources, LLC, App. No. 303, 2021 (Del. Aug. 16, 2022)
This appeal involved an underlying claim that Baldwin had improperly refused to repay litigation expenses advanced to him under New Wood Resource’s limited liability company agreement. The agreement provided Baldwin with indemnification so long as he acted in good faith, and it also specified a process for determining whether Baldwin had done so. One narrow issue on appeal was whether the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing required the good faith determination itself to be conducted in good faith. Reversing the Superior Court, an en banc panel of the Supreme Court ruled that the implied covenant did apply. The Court relied upon its earlier decision in Dieckman v. Regency GP LP to restate the principle that one function of the implied covenant is to cover those contractual conditions that are "too obvious" to include expressly. That "too obvious" category included the condition that the good faith determination be made in good faith. Because New World Resources conceded this point at argument and did not make a persuasive alternative argument, the Court remanded the case.
Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies That There Is No Blanket Rule Requiring Dismissal Of An Overbroad Section 220 Demand And That A Proper Purpose May Be Established Through Hearsay
Nvidia Corp. v, City of Westland Police and Fire Ret. Sys., et al., No. 259, 2021 (Del. July 19, 2022)
In this decision, the Delaware Supreme Court clarified two points concerning books and records actions under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law: (i) there is no blanket rule requiring the Court of Chancery to dismiss overbroad demands; and (ii) a stockholder may establish a proper purpose under Section 220 through hearsay evidence, but this exception should not be abused. More ›
Delaware Supreme Court Explains Appraisal Rights and Finds Disclosure Violation Relating to Pre-Closing Dividend Contingent on a Merger
In re GGP, Inc. Stockholder Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0267 (Del. July 19, 2022)
Here, the defendants organized a merger so that a large majority of the total value of the merger would be granted as a pre-closing dividend to stockholders and that the remaining amount would be granted in return for the stockholder’s shares. In the resulting litigation, stockholders argued that the defendants’ structuring of the merger unlawfully denied or diluted the stockholders’ right to seek appraisal and that the defendants’ disclosures regarding the structuring were deficient. The defendants prevailed on a motion to dismiss before the Court of Chancery. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found that the dividend conditioned on the merger’s consummation was part of the merger consideration for appraisal purposes under Delaware law, that receipt of the dividend did not disqualify stockholders from seeking appraisal, and that plaintiff’s claim regarding the structure, therefore, was properly dismissed. But the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the related disclosure claim. The plaintiffs alleged that the director defendants, aided and abetted by the acquirer, had deprived stockholders of their appraisal rights by improperly describing what would be subject to appraisal. The Supreme Court agreed and held that the disclosures were confusing and materially misleading. The proxy stated that stockholders were entitled only to the amount that remained after the pre-closing dividend. But this was incorrect as a matter of Delaware law, as the stockholders were also entitled to appraisal for the pre-closing dividend. Two justices dissented from the majority’s holding regarding the disclosure claim.
Delaware Supreme Court Enforces Class Vote Requirement, Reasons There Is No Insolvency Exception to Section 271 Of The Delaware General Corporation Law
Stream TV Networks, Inc. v. SeeCubic, Inc., No. 360, 2021 (Del. June 15, 2022)
Section 271 of the Delaware General Corporation Law provides, among other things, that a majority vote of stockholders is required to sell all or substantially all of a corporation’s assets. As an issue of first impression, the Delaware Supreme Court reasoned that there is no insolvency exception to Section 271’s requirement of a stockholder majority vote. More ›
Diep v. Trimaran Pollo Partners, No. 313, 2021 (Del. June 28, 2022)
After the Court of Chancery denied an initial motion to dismiss, the company formed a special litigation committee (“SLC”) to investigate the claims and determine whether the company should allow the plaintiff to proceed, take over the litigation, or move to dismiss. The SLC investigated and then moved to dismiss the claims, which the Court of Chancery granted under Zapata. Among other rulings, the Supreme Court affirmed and upheld the Court of Chancery’s rejection of the plaintiff’s contention that the SLC did not meet its burden to establish the independence of the SLC members. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the record did not establish that as directors the SLC members had specific knowledge of the facts and circumstances that led the Company, as nominal defendant, to join the initial motion to dismiss those claims that the SLC later was charged with investigating. Justice Valihura dissented because she believed that material issues of fact existed regarding the SLC members’ independence.
North American Leasing, Inc. v. NASDI Holdings, LLC, No. 192, 2020 (Del. Apr. 11, 2022)
Defendants acquired construction entities from plaintiffs and agreed to indemnify plaintiffs for any losses arising from performance and payment bonds on existing projects. Losses occurred in connection with one of the projects in 2017, and plaintiffs gave the defendants notice of indemnification claims for nearly $21 million. Defendants rejected the claims as untimely under the acquisition agreement, which they argued had a strict notice deadline of 2016. More ›
Cox Communications v. T-Mobile, No. 340, 2021 (Del. Mar. 3, 2022)
Delaware courts have a “general aversion” to enforcing agreements to agree. But Delaware law also recognizes enforceable preliminary agreements that create an obligation to try to negotiate a final agreement on all material terms in good faith. Here, two companies, Cox Communications and T-Mobile, disputed whether a particular provision of a settlement agreement was enforceable and to what extent. The provision related to Cox partnering with a mobile network provider and generally obligated Cox to negotiate with T-Mobile. Those negotiations failed, Cox partnered with Verizon, and this suit resulted. The Court of Chancery entered an injunction that enforced the provision by prohibiting Cox from partnering with another provider besides T-Mobile. On appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court vacated the injunction and reversed, finding the provision left open several material terms of a future definitive agreement, was not itself an enforceable agreement, and instead was a “Type II” preliminary agreement that obligated the parties to negotiate open items in good faith. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a determination of whether the parties fulfilled that obligation.
Delaware Supreme Court Permits Substitution of Bankruptcy Trustee as Plaintiff to Resolve “Procedural Conundrum”
Lenois v. Lawal, No. 33, 2021 (Del. Dec. 9, 2021)
A company’s bankruptcy filing during an appeal of a dismissal of a derivative action presents questions of who, if anyone, has the standing to pursue the company’s potential claims. As this case shows, Delaware is loathe to permit such claims to abate merely because the procedural path forward is unclear. More ›
Delaware Supreme Court Affirms that Seller’s Change of Business Operations in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Excused Buyer’s Obligation to Close
AB Stable VIII LLC v. Maps Hotels and Resorts One LLC, No. 71-2021 (Del. Dec. 8, 2021)
This Supreme Court decision affirms the Court of Chancery’s decision below (reported here) that a buyer’s obligation to purchase a $5.8 billion group of hotel properties was excused due to the seller’s failure to comply with a covenant that, between signing and closing, it would operate “only in the ordinary course of business, consistent with past practice in all material respects.” More ›