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Entire Fairness Standard Applies Where Controller Has Substantive Discussions with Minority Stockholders before Agreeing to MFW Protections

In re HomeFed Corporation Stockholder Litigation, C.A. 2019-0592-AGB (Del. Ch. July 13, 2020)
This case illustrates that the Court of Chancery will apply the entire fairness standard to review a squeeze-out merger by a controller, if the controller engages in substantive economic discussions before the company has enacted the procedural protections outlined in Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp, 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014) (“MFW”) that would permit business judgment review. In this case, Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (“Jefferies” or the “Controller”), which owned 70% of HomeFed Corporation (“HomeFed”), acquired the remaining shares of HomeFed in a share exchange in which each HomeFed minority shareholder received two Jefferies shares in exchange for one of its HomeFed shares (the “Transaction”). A HomeFed director originally proposed the 2:1 share exchange to Jefferies in September 2017, and Jefferies subsequently discussed the share exchange with HomeFed’s second largest shareholder Beck, Mack and Oliver, LLC (“BMO”). In December 2017, HomeFed’s board of directors (the “Board”) formed a special committee (the “Special Committee”) that had the exclusive power to evaluate and negotiate a potential transaction. When the parties were unable to agree to merger terms, the Special Committee “paused” its process in March 2018. Despite pausing the Special Committee, Jefferies continued to discuss a potential transaction with BMO for the next year.  More ›

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Delaware Supreme Court Affirms Use of Unaffected Market Price to Determine Public Corporation’s “Fair Value” in Appraisal Proceeding

Fir Tree Value Master Fund, L.P. v. Jarden Corp., No. 454, 2019 (Del. July 9, 2020)

Adding to its appraisal jurisprudence, the Supreme Court of Delaware recently affirmed the use of the unaffected trading price of a public corporation’s stock to determine its “fair value” in the circumstances presented, while clarifying that “it is not often that a corporation’s unaffected market price alone could support fair value.” More ›

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Chancery Values Non-Public Company with No Reliable Market-Based Data Using Discounted Cash Flow Analysis

Posted In Appraisal, Chancery

Kruse v. Synapse Wireless, Inc., C.A. No. 12392-VCS (Del. Ch. July 14, 2020)

This case illustrates how appraisal works outside of the public market context when a lack of data hinders a reliable valuation. Here, stockholder William Richard Kruse (“Kruse”) sought appraisal of his shares of SynapseWireless, Inc. (“Synapse”), a privately-owned corporation. McWane Inc. (“McWane”) acquired Synapse in two rounds of investments: McWane, first, acquired a controlling interest in 2012, and, then, acquired the remaining Synapse shares in 2016 in a cash-out merger (the “Merger”). As part of the 2012 transaction, McWane gained the right to purchase newly issued Synapse shares at a price set by the 2012 acquisition. Synapse had disappointing performance after the 2012 merger, posting less than half of the projected revenues used to calculate the 2012 merger price. To mitigate Synapse’s poor performance, McWane provided loans and purchased Synapse shares at the price set by the 2012 merger. For example, in 2014, McWane bought $31 million of shares at $4.99 per share to keep Synapse afloat, and to increase McWane’s ownership of Synapse to realize tax benefits. More ›

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Chancery Orders Trial to Determine Meaning of Ambiguous Post-Closing Covenants in a Stock Purchase Agreement

Posted In Chancery, Earn-Out, M&A

Schneider Nat’l Carriers, Inc. v. Kuntz, C.A. No. 2017-0711-PAF (Del. Ch. July 16, 2020)

If parties to a contract offer reasonable but conflicting interpretations of ambiguous contractual language, the Court of Chancery may deny summary judgment and order trial for purposes of weighing conflicting extrinsic evidence and witness testimony to interpret the meaning of the contractual language. More ›

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Delaware Superior Court Allows Statutory Tort Claims for Computer Crimes to Proceed Alongside Breach of Contract Claims

Work Capital, LLC v. AlphaOne Capital Partners, LLC, C.A. No. N19C-08-036 PRW CCLD (Del. Super. June 25, 2020)
Delaware law may provide statutory tort remedies in addition to contractual remedies for actions involving computer system misuse, as demonstrated by a recent Delaware Superior Court opinion. In Work Capital v. AlphaOne Capital Partners, plaintiff Work Capital brought an action in the Superior Court initially alleging only three counts for breach of contract. Plaintiff later amended the complaint, adding one count for violation of Delaware’s Computer Related Offenses Act, 11 Del. C. §§ 931-941 (the “Act”). More ›

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Chancery Declines to Apply Status Quo Order to Prevent Sale of Litigant’s Personal Interest in Indirect Foreign Subsidiary of Delaware LLC

Carlos Eduardo Lorefice Lynch v. R. Angel Gonzalez Gonzalez, C.A. No. 2019-0356-MTZ (Del. Ch. June 22, 2020)

In this control dispute, the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to amend a status quo order, finding that the proposed amendment would require the Court to enforce orders beyond its jurisdictional purview.  More ›

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Chancery Interprets Merger Agreement Termination Fee Provision But Denies Summary Judgment to Resolve Questions of Fact in Continuing Busted Deal Litigation Between The Williams Companies and Energy Transfer

The Williams Cos., Inc. v. Energy Transfer LP, C.A. No. 12168-VCG (Del. Ch. July 2, 2020)

The Court of Chancery will enforce a merger agreement’s plain and unambiguous terms, including parties’ agreed-upon conditions for liability of a termination fee. Termination fee litigation, however, often involves critical factual determinations, such as issues of materiality or best efforts that may require a trial to develop the appropriate record to determine liability. More ›

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Chancery Interprets Right of First Refusal Provision in LLC Agreement

HUMC Holdco, LLC, et al. v. MPT of Hoboken TRS, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 2019-0972-KSJM (Del. Ch. July 2, 2020)

Litigation arose among members of a limited liability company regarding the operating agreement’s right of first refusal provision after certain members entered in an agreement to sell membership interests and certain real estate to a third party. While the Court of Chancery denied defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court offered notable guidance on the interpretation of first-refusal right provisions. More ›

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Court Finds LLC Manager Consent Statute Authorizes Personal Jurisdiction for Tort Claims Related to the Company, Not Just Alleged Breaches of Managers’ Duties; However, Court Dismisses Investor Defendants with Insufficient Delaware Contacts

CLP Toxicology, Inc. v. Casla Bio Holdings LLC, C.A. 2018-0783-PRW (Del. Ch. Jun. 29, 2020) & NC18C-10-332 PRW CCLD (Del. Super. Jun. 29, 2020)

In both the corporation and LLC contexts, Delaware law employs consent statutes, which authorize personal jurisdiction over officers and directors of corporations and over managers (in name or in fact) of LLCs. Despite broad language in such statutes, courts traditionally interpreted the statutes to apply to only claims related to breaches of fiduciary or statutory duties. As demonstrated here, however, the modern trend is to interpret consent statutes to apply to a broader range of claims related to the entity. More ›

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Chancery Interprets Contractual Language Permitting Asset Sale

AM Gen. Holdings LLC v. The Renco Grp., Inc., C.A. No. 7639-VCS (Del. Ch. June 26, 2020)

Under fundamental contract interpretation principles, the Court of Chancery will interpret a contract to give effect to specific over general contract language, and to avoid interpretations that render contractual language as surplusage. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Challenge to Top Executives’ Stock Awards in Disney-Fox Merger, Finds Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Pursue Derivative Claim

Brokerage Jamie Goldenberg Komen Rev TRU U/A 06/10/08 Jamie L Komen Trustee for the Benefit of Jamie Goldenberg Komen v. Breyer, C.A. No. 2018-0773-AGB (Del. Ch. June 26, 2020)

Following a merger that alters a stockholder’s ownership status, the stockholder may be able to challenge the entirety of the merger as a direct claim, but the stockholder will typically lack standing to challenge the individual aspects of the merger as derivative claims. The instant case, involving the Disney-Fox merger, shows the difficulties a stockholder faces in attempting to mount such a challenge. More ›

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Court of Chancery Dismisses Aiding and Abetting Claim Against NetSuite’s Fiduciaries for Role in Alleged Overpayment by Oracle

In re Oracle Corp. Derivative Litig, Consol. C.A. No. 2017-0337-SG (Del. Ch. June 22, 2020)

At the pleadings stage, a claim for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty requires that it is reasonably conceivable that the alleged aider and abettor knowingly provided substantial assistance in the breach of fiduciary duty. This decision reflects that substantial assistance in an alleged conspiracy of silence might not meet the reasonably conceivable standard if public statements and securities filings contain sufficient information about the underlying course of conduct. More ›

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Chancery Finds Party Waived Privilege When Documents Were Produced to FCC

In re Straight Path Communications Inc. Consol. S’holder Litig., C.A. No. 2017-0486-SG (Del. Ch. June 15, 2020)

Plaintiffs brought a Motion to Compel seeking thirty-one documents withheld by Defendant on attorney-client privilege grounds. The documents had previously been disclosed by Defendant to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) in 2016 during an investigation related to the current litigation. Plaintiffs did not argue that the documents were not privileged at the time of creation, but rather that the privilege was waived when the Defendant provided those documents to the government. More ›

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Chancery Dismisses Action Involving Unusual Issue of Personal Jurisdiction

Sustainability Partners LLC, v. Jacobs, C.A. No. 2019-0742-SG (Del. Ch. June 11, 2020)

In this action involving “an unusual issue of personal jurisdiction,” plaintiff Sustainability Partners LLC (“SP” or the “Company”) sought a declaratory judgment that defendant, a former SP employee (the “Defendant” or “Jacobs”), had no rights under a purported oral agreement between the Defendant and the Company. Despite the fact that Jacobs was not a signatory, the Company claimed that there was personal jurisdiction over Jacobs pursuant to the forum selection clause in the Company’s Operating Agreement based on a theory of equitable estoppel. The Court of Chancery disagreed and dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Chancery Court Rule 12(b)(2).  More ›

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In Post-Trial Opinion, Chancery Finds for Defendant, Rejecting Claims Alleging Breach of Purchase Agreement and Right to “Board Packages”

Braga Investment & Advisory, LLC v. Yenni Income Opportunities Fund I, L.P., C.A. No. 2017-0393-AGB (Del. Ch. June 8, 2020)

In this post-trial opinion, the Court of Chancery held in favor of defendant Yenni Income Opportunities Fund I, L.P. (the “Fund”) finding that the Fund was not required to obtain the signature of Braga Investment & Advisory, LLC (“Braga”) as a “Buyer” when it executed a side letter agreement (the “Side Letter”), nor had the Fund breached a co-investment agreement by denying Braga access to certain materials in connection with its position as a board observer. More ›

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