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Summaries and analysis of recent Delaware court decisions concerning business-related litigation.

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Court of Chancery Details Board Duties in a Merger

Posted In Fiduciary Duty, M&A

Ryan v. Lyondel Chemical Company, C.A. 3176-VCN (July 29, 2008)

This decision is a textbook explanation and summary of the Delaware case law on the duties of a board of directors when considering a takeover proposal. The Court first sets out the Revlon duties in detail including the effect on those duties when the Barkin "exception" may apply. Next, the Court explains how to comply with the principles of both Omnicare and Unocal concerning defensive measures that protect the proposed transaction. Finally, the Court explains why in the context of a summary judgment motion that the otherwise disinterested board may have its good faith questioned.

This last part of the decision is surely its most controversial. While the Delaware statute protects directors from attacks on their decisions based on their lack of care, the loophole has always been that the statute does not protect from act not taken in good faith. When does a lack of care turn into a lack of good faith is the question.

In a series of decisions such as the Disney case, the Delaware Supreme Court has tried to set out some guidance on this issue. However, the test to be applied is still vague and in the context of a summary judgment motion when all inferences must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff, the test becomes even more difficult in application. This decision illustrates that problem and is worth reading for that issue alone.