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Court of Chancery Explains Burden Needed to Support Inspection for Suspected Wrongdoing

Barnes v. Sprouts Farmers Market Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0735-MTZ (Del. Ch. July 18, 2018)

An investor seeking books and records for the purpose of investigating wrongdoing or mismanagement must establish a “credible basis” from which to infer such conduct may have occurred. This Master in Chancery report well demonstrates how the Court of Chancery analyzes a books and records demand for such a purpose. The decision discusses several important principles. First, the credible basis standard is very low, requiring only some evidence to suggest misconduct. Second, proving a credible basis is not the same thing as proving actual misconduct. Thus, as the other side of that same coin, the Court generally will not consider defenses that go to the merits of whether wrongdoing actually occurred. Third, the Court will analyze the action before it and not necessarily be influenced by a decision in another court regarding similar allegations.

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