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Showing 244 posts in Fiduciary Duty.

Chancery Holds Prior Rulings in Appraisal and Securities Litigation Do Not Bar New Columbia Pipeline Fiduciary Duty Action

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, M&A


In re Columbia Pipeline Group, Inc. Merger Litigation, C.A. No. 2018-0484-JTL (Del. Ch. Mar. 1, 2021)
Certain judicial doctrines, including collateral estoppel and stare decisis, promote efficiency and finality by barring the re-litigation of factual and legal issues. For these doctrines to apply, however, there must be overlap between the parties, the claims or the legal posture. This case demonstrates that, without such overlap, courts will permit subsequent claims even when the underlying transaction has already been the subject of significant prior litigation. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Derivative Breach of Contract Claim Against Directors for Alleged Violations of Certificate of Incorporation

Posted In Breach of Contract, Chancery, Fiduciary Duty

Lacey v. Mota-Velasco, C.A. No. 2019-0312-SG (Del. Ch. Feb. 11, 2021)

A corporate charter represents a contractual agreement between the corporation and its stockholders. In Lacey, the Court of Chancery addressed whether a breach of contract claim for damages based on an alleged violation of a provision in the certificate of incorporation could be brought derivatively against director defendants. More ›

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Chancery Sustains Claims Against CBS Fiduciaries Concerning CBS-Viacom Merger, While Questioning the Viability of “Holder” Claims Under Delaware Law

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

In re CBS Corp. S’holder Class & Deriv. Litig., C.A. No. 2020-0111-JRS (Del. Ch. Jan. 27, 2021)

This decision is one of several by the Delaware Court of Chancery arising out of efforts to merge CBS Corporation and Viacom by the companies’ controlling stockholder—National Amusements, Inc., controlled by Shari Redstone. Recently, in In re Viacom Inc. Stockholders Litigation, 2020 WL 7711128 (Del. Ch. Dec. 29, 2020), the Court upheld claims by the Viacom stockholders against Viacom fiduciaries arising out of the CBS-Viacom merger. This decision is the flipside of that same coin, with the Court upholding claims by the CBS stockholders against CBS fiduciaries, including special transaction committee members, arising out of the same merger. 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 Dismisses Stockholder’s Claim that Directors Provided Materially-Deficient Notice of their Intent to Use Equity Bonus Plan to Reward Past Performance

Posted In Chancery, Disclosure Claims, Fiduciary Duty

Pascal v. Czerwinski, C.A. No. 2020-0320-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 16, 2020)

This decision concerned a motion to dismiss a stockholder’s direct claim that Director-Defendants breached their duties by providing a materially-deficient proxy statement advocating adoption of an equity incentive plan (“EIP”) that ultimately allowed Defendants to award themselves bonuses. As a result of the alleged deficiencies, Plaintiffs sought invalidation of the entire EIP. More ›

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Plaintiff’s Failure to Plead Demand Futility Leads to Dismissal of Caremark Claims Against MoneyGram Directors

Posted In Caremark, Chancery, Demand Futility, Fiduciary Duty

Richardson v. Clark, C.A. No. 2019-1015-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 31, 2020)
Under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, a derivative plaintiff’s must make a demand on the corporation’s board of directors unless the plaintiff can plead particular facts to establish that demand was excused. Although demand may be excused where a majority of the board faces a substantial likelihood of personal liability, merely alleging wrongdoing by the corporation’s directors will not suffice. More ›

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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 Confirms that, Without More, Threat of Proxy Contest from Activist Investor is Insufficient to Render Director Defendants Conflicted in Sale Transaction

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

Rudd v. Brown, C.A. No. 2019-0775 MTZ (Del. Ch. Sept. 11, 2020)

The Court of Chancery recently confirmed that the threat of a proxy contest from an activist investor alone was insufficient to render director defendants conflicted in a post-closing challenge to a sale of the company. Here, an activist investor that acquired a significant stake in the corporation expressed dissatisfaction with the board of directors for not exploring a potential sale of the company. Thereafter, the company announced that it would explore strategic alternatives. The company then entered into a cooperation agreement permitting the investor to appoint three members of the nine member board in exchange for not mounting a proxy fight. The strategic process resulted in a sale to a financial acquirer. The plaintiff then brought suit against the company’s board of directors and an officer alleging that that board’s acceptance of an inadequate offer was motivated by self-interest to avoid a proxy contest. 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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Chancery Dismisses Claim for Breach of Fiduciary Duty Where Parties’ Commercial Relationship Was One of Ordinary Care

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty

Nieves v. Insight Building Co., LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0464-SG (Del. Ch. Aug. 4, 2020)

The Court of Chancery used an unlikely vehicle — a dispute over stormwater drainage — to further explain the limits of common law fiduciary duties. Plaintiffs/Homeowners experienced drainage issues and brought several claims against their builder, as well as the developer (“Developer”) from which the builder had purchased lots. One such claim was that Developer had breached a fiduciary duty to Homeowners, even though Plaintiffs did not purchase their lots directly from Developer or otherwise have a contractual or commercial relationship with Developer. Plaintiffs/Homeowners alleged Developer “owes a common law fiduciary duty … because Plaintiffs reposed a special trust in and reliance on the judgment of the developer.” (internal citations omitted.) 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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Court of Chancery Sustains Aiding-and-Abetting Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim Against Financial Advisor Based on its Conflicts of Interest in Going-Private Transaction

Posted In Aiding and Abetting Claims, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

Morrison v. Berry, C.A. No. 12808-VCG (Del. Ch. June 1, 2020)

Even if fiduciary duty of care claims against a target company’s board of directors are exculpated, an aiding-and-abetting claim against a financial advisor to the board may survive a motion to dismiss when the advisor is alleged to have knowingly misled the board and prevented the board from running a reasonable sales process. More ›

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Chancery Finds Employment Agreement’s Forum Selection Clause Did Not Reach Fiduciary Duty Claims, But Stays Case Pending Resolution of First-Filed Texas Action

Posted In Fiduciary Duty, Forum Selection Provisions

EnVen Energy Corp. v. Dunwoody, C.A. No. 2019-0579-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 28, 2020)

This case illustrates Delaware’s approach in interpreting contractual forum selection provisions and in considering whether to stay a later-filed action under the well-known McWane doctrine. More ›

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Corporate Opportunity Doctrine Waiver Does Not By Itself Also Constitute a Waiver of Default Fiduciary Duties under an LLC Agreement

Posted In Fiduciary Duty, LLC Agreements

77 Charters, Inc. v. Gould, C.A. No. 2019-0127-JRS (Del. Ch. May 18, 2020)

The Court of Chancery held that a waiver of the corporate opportunity doctrine did not by itself constitute a waiver of default fiduciary duties under an LLC agreement. 

Plaintiff 77 Charters, Inc. held non-preferred ownership interests in a joint venture. Defendant Jonathan Gould indirectly held similar non-preferred interests and managed the joint venture’s managing member. Subsequently, Gould indirectly purchased an owner’s preferred interests, and revised the joint venture’s waterfall repayment structure to provide a guaranteed, higher rate of return for preferred interests, at the expense of the residual, non-preferred interests, and reduced the standard of care for the Gould managing member. After 77 Charters filed a books and records demand and settled a related action, Gould sold the joint venture at a price that returned no funds to 77 Charters as a residual owner of non-preferred interests. 77 Charters filed contract and tort claims, and defendants moved to dismiss. 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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