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Showing 275 posts in Fiduciary Duty.

Chancery Dismisses Oversight Claim Based on Board’s Response to Red Flags

Posted In Caremark, Chancery, Fiduciary Duty

In re McDonald's Corp. Stockholder Derivative Litig., CA No. 2021-0324-JTL (Del. Ch. March 1, 2023)
A plaintiff can plead an oversight claim against a board by alleging particularized facts to support an inference that the directors either: (1) utterly failed to implement a reporting or information system or controls or (2) consciously failed to monitor or oversee the business and, as a result, disabled themselves from being informed of problems or risks that required their attention. A "prong-two" failure to monitor Caremark claim, or "red flags" claim, requires that the plaintiff plead that the board's information system generated red flags and that the board subsequently failed to respond and address the red flags. More ›


Chancery Examines Director’s Personal Ties and Dismisses Duty of Loyalty Claim

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, Independence, M&A

In re Orbit/FR, Inc. S’holders Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0340-SG (Jan. 24, 2023)
This decision involved a stockholder challenge to a merger between Orbit and its controller, Microwave Vision. A certain director who served on a special committee was alleged to have breached his fiduciary duty of loyalty in approving the transaction, arising out of his alleged conflict as an employee beholden to the controller for his job. After admitting the allegation of an employment relationship was a mistake, the plaintiff shifted to alleging the director lacked independence based on his personal relationship with another director, who served on the boards of both Orbit and Microwave Vision. The two directors had been neighbors, their children were contemporaries, and they frequently went bicycling together years earlier. On a motion to dismiss, the Court of Chancery found that these "casual sharing of interests between neighbors” did not give rise to a conflict for the at-issue director and did not support a non-exculpated duty of loyalty claim against him.


Chancery Finds Delaware’s Officer Consent Statute Extends Beyond “Formal Officers” to De Facto or Acting Officers

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, Personal Jurisdiction

Harris v Harris, C.A. No. 2019-0736-JTL (Del. Ch. January 19, 2023)
Delaware's Officer Consent Statute provides for service of process on anyone who "accepts election or appointment as an officer of a corporation…or who after such date serves in such capacity." In this case, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster addressed an issue of first impression and found that the Statute can be used to serve process on a person who performs the duties of an officer regardless of the person's formal title or acceptance of the position. This decision allows plaintiffs to engage in jurisdictional discovery to determine whether the company's advisor acted as its de facto officer. More ›


Chancery Denies Motion to Dismiss Finding Primedia Argument Inapplicable

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

In Re Orbit/FR, Inc. Stockholders Litig., C.A. No. 2018-0340-SG (Del. Ch. January 9, 2023)
In In re Primedia, Inc. S’holders Litig., 67 A.3d 455 (Del. Ch. 2013), the Court examined whether a litigation asset being pursued derivatively was extinguished by the sale of the company to a third party that had no interest in pursuing the claim and had not valued the claim as an asset in the merger. Primedia sets forth certain stringent standards to assert a claim that the merger was unfair based on such a derivative claim. More ›


Chancery Finds SPAC’s Sponsor and Board Potentially Violated Fiduciary Duties by Depriving Public Stockholders of the Information Material to the Stock Redemption Decision

Delman v. GigAcquisitions3 LLC, C.A. No. 2021-0679-LWW (Del. Ch. January 4, 2023)
Delaware law establishes that fiduciaries of a corporation cannot be exempted from "their loyalty obligation and the attendant equitable standards of review that [the] court will apply to enforce it." In this case, following last year's Multiplan decision (discussed here), stockholders alleged that a SPAC's sponsor and board members breached their fiduciary duties by failing to disclose information material to the stockholders' decision on whether to redeem the stock prior to the de-SPAC transaction. This decision denies the defendants' motion to dismiss and finds that stockholders properly brought the lawsuit as a class action based on the fact that the alleged harm they suffered was individually compensable. More ›


Chancery Upholds Claims Post-Merger

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

Harris v. Harris, C.A. No. 2019-0736-JTL (Del. Ch. Jan. 6, 2023)
Delaware law allows for two exceptions to the continuous stock ownership rule for stockholders to bring and maintain standing to assert derivative claims that predate a transaction: (1) when the transaction, which would otherwise deprive the plaintiffs of standing, is essentially a reorganization that does not affect the plaintiff’s relative ownership in the post-merger enterprise; or (2) when a plaintiff stockholder loses standing based on a merger consummated for the purpose of depriving the stockholder of the ability to bring or maintain a derivative action. Stockholders with derivative claims that predate a transaction also may assert direct claims to challenge a merger by pleading that the value of the derivative claim is material in the context of the merger, that the acquirer did not assign value or provide additional consideration for the value of the derivative claim, and that the acquirer will not assert the derivative claim.  More ›


Chancery Finds Plaintiff Failed To State A Non-Exculpated Claim Against Special Committee Defendants In Complaint Challenging A Merger

Ligos v. Tsuff, C.A. No. 2020-0435-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 1, 2022)
The Delaware Supreme Court’s Cornerstone Therapeutics decision established that, although a transaction involving a controller must satisfy entire fairness review, plaintiffs seeking money damages against independent directors protected by an exculpation clause must still state a non-exculpated claim against each such director, or that director will be entitled to dismissal. In other words, to proceed against independent directors, the complaint must adequately plead that they breached the fiduciary duty of loyalty. More ›


Chancery Dismisses Claims Against Controller and its Affiliates Based on Group Pleading and Vague, General Allegations of Claims for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Posted In Chancery, Controlling Stockholder, Fiduciary Duty

Bocock v. Innovate Corp., C.A. No. 2021-0224-PAF (Del. Ch. Oct. 28, 2022)
A holding company acquired a controlling stake in an owner/operator of low-power television stations via a stock purchase agreement. The controller then designated certain of its own affiliates’ officers and directors as officers and directors of the acquired company. More than three years later, stockholders and option holders filed a complaint alleging that the controller, its affiliates, and the officers and directors had conspired to loot the company by usurping corporate opportunities, transferring assets for insufficient consideration, and entering into agreements that drained value from the company. The claims included breach of fiduciary duty, corporate waste, aiding and abetting, conspiracy, and tortious interference. More ›


Delaware Supreme Court Overturns $700 Million Award in Master Limited Partnership Litigation

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 ›


Chancery Dismisses Caremark Claim Against Energy Company Alleging Failure of Board Oversight Related to Fatal Pipeline Explosion

Posted In Caremark, Chancery, Demand Futility, Fiduciary Duty

City of Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System v. Hamrock, C.A. No. 2021-0370-KSJM (Del. Ch. June 30, 2022)
Stockholder plaintiff filed a derivative suit on behalf of an energy company alleging that certain of the company’s former and current directors were liable for oversight failures leading to the fatal explosion of an over-pressurized gas pipeline. When the defendants moved to dismiss for failure to make a demand on the board, the plaintiff argued that demand was excused because a majority of the demand board faced a substantial likelihood of liability for oversight failures based on the following three theories of Caremark liability: (1) the board’s utter failure to implement a pipeline safety monitoring or reporting system; (2) the board’s failure to acknowledge “red flags” that put it on notice of the company’s numerous violations of pipeline safety laws; and (3) the board’s knowing encouragement of legal violations in the pursuit of corporate profit. The Court rejected all three of the plaintiff’s theories of Caremark liability and dismissed the action for failure to make a demand. The Court reasoned as follows: (1) according to the plaintiff’s own allegations, the company had set up a pipeline safety monitoring and reporting system which included a committee specifically tasked with pipeline safety that was active, therefore the plaintiff had not adequately pled “utter failure” to set up such a system; (2) any causal connection between the “red flags” identified by the plaintiff and the explosion were too tenuous to put the board on notice of the corporate trauma that occurred; and (3) plaintiff had not adequately pled that the board was “in the business” of encouraging violation of the law for profit because, according to plaintiff’s own allegations, the company actually discouraged legal violations through the formation of several committees tasked with regulatory compliance.


Chancery Upholds Brophy Claim and Finds Post-Merger Direct Standing Based On Process Challenge

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, M&A, Standing

Goldstein v. Denner, C.A. No. 2020-1061-JTL (Del. Ch. June 2, 2022)
This motion to dismiss decision upholds a Brophy claim against an activist investor and director who was alleged to have concealed an eventual acquiror’s expression of interest while he leveraged that inside information to buy more stock and profit after the short-swing period’s expiration. The Court of Chancery found it was reasonable in the circumstances to infer materiality of the expression of interest, which represented a nearly 65% premium over the company’s trading price, and that the fiduciary was motivated to act upon it. The Court also found that a merger did not eliminate the plaintiff’s standing under the contemporaneous ownership requirement. The Court rejected the defendant's argument under Primedia regarding the asserted immateriality of the value of the plaintiff’s claims in the context of the merger. As the Court explained, under Parnes, a stockholder could may assert “a direct claim challenging a merger if the facts giving rise to what otherwise would constitute a derivative claim led either to the price or the process being unfair.” Here, the plaintiff’s allegations challenged the fairness of the sale process – a process that the activist allegedly delayed to serve his own interests at the expense of the Company running a better process or remaining independent. 


Delaware Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal Under Zapata

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.


Chancery Holds That A General Partner Of A Limited Partnership Cannot Breach Fiduciary Duties It Does Not Owe

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, Limited Partnerships

JER Hudson Group XXI LLC, et al. v. DLE Investors, LP, C.A. No. 2021-0478-MTZ (Del. Ch. May 2, 2022)
Under Delaware law, the purpose of a limited partnership and a general partner’s authority and fiduciary duties may be defined by the terms of a limited partnership agreement (“LPA”). In this post-trial decision, the Court of Chancery held, among other things, that a limited partner failed to prove fiduciary claims against a general partner because the partnership’s express purpose and the general partner’s fiduciary duties did not require it to take actions the limited partner alleged would be value-maximizing.  More ›


Chancery Dismisses Contract, Dissolution, and Direct Claims, But Upholds Derivative Claim for Alleged Transfer of Funds Between Medicinal Marijuana Entities

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, LLCs

BET FRX LLC v. Myers, C.A. No. 2019-0894-KSJM (Del. Ch. Apr. 27, 2022)
A minority member of a limited liability company had invested $8 million in the LLC. The LLC owned a majority interest in an entity that held a Pennsylvania medical marijuana grower and processor license. In addition to obtaining its membership interest, the plaintiff’s investment also secured appointment rights for one of the three manager positions, rights to participate in board decisions, and a veto right over sixteen types of actions. Ultimately, the plaintiff brought a series of claims in the Court of Chancery, alleging that the other members and their principals had funneled the plaintiff’s investment into a company that they owned—an Ohio-based medical marijuana company—via intercompany loans that were not being repaid and coverage of other corporate expenses. Defendants sought to dismiss all claims. More ›


Chancery Addresses Fiduciary Duty Claims Involving Activist Investor

Posted In Chancery, Fiduciary Duty, M&A

Goldstein v. Denner, C.A. No. 2020-1061-JTL (Del. Ch. May 26, 2022)
In this case, an activist investor and director was alleged to have concealed an eventual acquiror’s expression of interest while he leveraged that inside information to buy more stock and profit after the short-swing period’s expiration. And others at the company were alleged to have manipulated the company’s projections to justify the deal price at a lower valuation. The Court of Chancery found well-pled fiduciary duty claims against the alleged wrongdoers and aligned parties that avoided a Corwin dismissal. Among other things, the Court’s decision illustrates constellations of facts sufficient to question the independence of otherwise disinterested fiduciaries. Here, such combinations involved directors’ symbiotic relationships with an activist investor that resulted in repeat directorships in targeted companies.



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