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The 21st Tulane Corporate Law Institute Begins Tomorrow

Posted In News

Here is the brochure for the program, which takes place April 2-3.  The panelists are among the most respected and knowledgeable legal minds and financial experts involved in corporate law and M&A, including Chief Justice Myron T. Steele and Justice Jack B. Jacobs of the Delaware Supreme Court and Vice Chancellors Leo E. Strine, Jr., Stephen P. Lamb, and Donald F. Parsons, Jr., of the Delaware Court of Chancery.      


Court of Chancery Explains Options Cases

Weiss v. Swanson, C.A. No. 2828-VCL (Del Ch. March 7, 2008)

In the latest of the Chancery decisions on complaints challenging the grant of options, the Court has explained what it takes to state a derivative complaint that excuses demand on the Board. Briefly, the Court here focused on what was disclosed to the stockholders when they were asked to approve option plans or elect directors who had received option grants. First, full disclosure is required, particularly of practices that are likely to lead to increasing the value of the options, such as the bullet-dodging alleged in this case.

Second, the fact that a majority of the board received the options also made them interested enough to excuse demand.


Court of Chancery Reviews Class Representative Qualifications

Posted In Class Actions

In re SS&C Technologies, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, C.A. No. 1525-VCL (March 6, 2008)

For a long time it has been evident that some plaintiffs show up frequently as class representatives. The recent scandal involving perhaps the major securities class action law firm has only reminded everyone of the odd "coincidence" that one person could have so many class actions to bring. Now the Court of Chancery has done something about it and a warning has been issued as a result. This decision awarded attorney fees to the defendants in a man-bites-dog twist to the ending of a class action.

Of course, the facts in this case are highly unusual. When the named plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to have the court approve a settlement basically for attorney fees alone, he then tried to just dismiss the case, conditioned upon defendants' agreement to keep certain information confidential. Instead, the defendants fought back and discovered the named class representative had a string of investment entities that in turn owned very small stakes in many publicly owned corporations. No rational financial purpose justified these investments, except as a way to pursue law suits. When the plaintiff conditioned settlement on secrecy, the court held that was bad faith and awarded attorney fees to the defendants for resisting such a dismissal.

It is now likely that we will see much more aggressive pursuit of oppositions to class certifications. Discovery of the named plaintiff and his connections to the class counsel will be the new trend. As this decision illustrates, the ability to do data searches to find all the actions filed by a plaintiff and any law firm will also aid in that effort.




Court of Chancery Explains Requirements For SLC Report

Sutherland v. Sutherland, C.A. No. 2399-VCL (February 14, 2008).

This is another decision that explains what must be done to have the report of a special litigation committee ("SLC") respected by the court. To begin with, the use of a single board member for the SLC "pressed the theory of Zapata to the extreme". Thus, one-member SLCs are generally not a good idea.

In addition, the report of an SLC needs to include sufficient detail to support its conclusions. It is better practice to include documentation of the report's conclusions, such as the documents it relied on, the interviews it conducted and the advice it received. This is controversial for a good reason. If the court refuses to dismiss the derivative litigation despite the SLC recommendation, then the report may serve as a roadmap for the plaintiff going forward.  Thus, the decision on whether to use a SLC should be considered carefully. There are still excellent reasons for using a SLC, but it must be done correctly.


Court of Chancery Grants Advancement to an Employee

Sassano v. CIBC World Markets Corp., C.A. No. 3066-VCL ( January 17, 2008).

It is not widely recognized that Delaware law permits a corporation to grant advancement of attorney fees to employees who are not directors and may even be fairly minor employees. Here, the bylaws provided advancement of fees for an officer with "management supervisory functions". The court carefully went over whether the plaintiff had those duties and found that he did and thus, should be advanced his fees for the defense of an SEC investigation.

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