Chancery Finds Defendant Officer Usurped Corporate Opportunity for His Own Competing Venture
Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. v. Mack, C.A. No. 2021-0210-PAF (Del. Ch. September 1, 2023)
Under the corporate opportunity doctrine, an officer or director may not take a corporate opportunity for himself if "(1) the corporation is financially able to exploit the opportunity; (2) the opportunity is within the corporation's line of business; (3) the corporation has an interest or expectancy in the opportunity; and (4) by taking the opportunity for his own, the corporate fiduciary will thereby be placed in a position inimical to his duties to the corporation.” Broz v. Cellular Info. Sys., Inc., 673 A.2d 148, 154-55 (Del. 1996). In this post-trial opinion, the Court of Chancery held that a co-founder and former CEO who stayed on as President following his sale of the company to a strategic acquirer breached his fiduciary duties by usurping its corporate opportunities. While the defendant argued the company lacked the resources to pursue the opportunity, the Court reasoned that there was "no structural or situational barrier" to the company obtaining the capital needed. The Court did not credit the defendant's argument that the company was not likely to pursue the opportunities. The Court also explained that the corporate opportunity "test focuses on the company's ability to pursue the opportunity, not the board's likelihood of actually deciding to do so." The Court also found that the third prong was met because the opportunities were in the same line of business in which the company operated, but the defendant had usurped them for his own venture. It accordingly found the defendant liable and ordered supplemental briefing regarding the appropriate remedies.