Southpaw Credit Opportunity Master Fund, L.P. v. Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0059-TMR (Del. Ch. Feb. 1, 2018) came before the Delaware Court of Chancery as a dispute over control of the board of directors of Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc. (“Roma” or the “Company”). Plaintiffs were a stockholder group that had taken a majority position in Roma’s common stock. After learning of Plaintiffs’ majority position, the Roma board adopted a new equity compensation plan and issued sufficient shares of restricted stock to Roma employees to dilute Plaintiffs below a majority ownership position. Plaintiffs considered the dilutive restricted stock issuances as invalid for a number of reasons, including the Company’s failure to obtain contractually mandated stockholder agreement joinder documents from each recipient before issuance, and presented Roma with a written consent that removed two of Roma’s current directors (the “Defendant Directors”) and replaced them with Plaintiffs’ nominees. Roma contested the validity of Plaintiffs’ written consent and the case came before the Court under Section 225 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) to determine the proper composition of Roma’s board of directors. Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves found that the disputed restricted stock issuances were void and could not be counted toward a stockholder vote.
In Christopher Miller, et al., v. HCP & Company, et al., memorandum opinion 180201, the Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss because the underlying Limited Liability Company Agreement did not contain a “gap” for an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing to fill. Rather, the Court of Chancery held that the Limited Liability Company Agreement contained negotiated investor favorable provisions regarding good faith and fair dealing, thus undercutting any argument that the Court of Chancery should read an implied covenant into the operating agreement.
By Lisa Stark and Rashida Stevens
In Chatham Asset Management, LLC v. Papanier, C.A. No. 2017-008-AGB (Del. Ch. Dec. 22, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery found that the plaintiffs, Chatham Asset Management, LLC, Chatham Fund, LP, and Chatham Asset High Yield Master Fund, Ltd. (collectively, “Chatham”), pleaded sufficient facts to avoid dismissal of a claim that the director defendants of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (“Twin River”) breached their fiduciary duties by making materially false and misleading statements in tender offer materials. Read More
In Lavin v. West Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0547-JRS (Del. Ch. December 29, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that stockholder plaintiff Mark Lavin (“Lavin”) had adequately demonstrated a credible basis from which the Court could infer that wrongdoing had occurred regarding the merger of West Corporation (the “Company”) and Apollo Global Management (“Apollo”) in support of Lavin’s Section 220 demand for inspection, and that a Corwin defense (that the transaction at issue was approved by a majority of disinterested and informed stockholders) is not a bar to an otherwise properly supported Section 220 demand for inspection.
In Sarissa Capital Domestic Fund LP, et al. v. Innoviva, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0309-JRS (Del. Ch. Dec. 8, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled in favor of dissident stockholder plaintiffs, Sarissa Capital Domestic Fund LP, et al. (“Sarissa”) of Innoviva, Inc. (“Innoviva”), concluding that Sarissa and Innoviva entered into a binding, oral settlement agreement to resolve a proxy contest prior to Innoviva’s 2017 annual stockholder meeting and specific performance of the settlement agreement was warranted. Read More
In Greenstar IH Rep, LLC and Gary Segal v. Tutor Perini Corporation, the Court of Chancery granted the plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion to dismiss counterclaims in a breach of contract suit arising out of the sale of GreenStar Services Corporation to Tutor Perini Corporation (“Tutor Perini”) in 2011 (the “Acquisition”). The merger agreement that memorialized the Acquisition (the “Merger Agreement”) provided Greenstar IH Rep, LLC (“Plaintiff”) a right to receive post-closing earn out consideration from Tutor Perini (“Earn-Out Payments”) over a five year period in the event that certain pre-tax profit milestones were reached on an annual basis. Tutor Perini made Earn-Out Payments in the first and second years following the Acquisition, but declined Plaintiff’s demand for Earn-Out Payments in the third, fourth, and fifth years. As such, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking damages relating to Tutor Perini’s failure to make Earn-Out Payments; Tutor Perini counterclaimed alleging fraud and a right to offset any harm caused by fraud.
In, In re: Geneius Biotechnology, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0297-TMR (Del. Ch. Dec. 8, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a minority stockholder’s petition for the appointment of a neutral third-party receiver under Section 291 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) because the petitioner minority stockholder failed to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that Geneius Biotechnology, Inc. (“Geneius”) was insolvent. The court held that Section 291 actions are not to be used as a method of resolving business strategy disputes between stockholders and management.
In Lilly Lea Perry v. Dieter Walter Neupert and Cote d’Azur Estate Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0290-VCL (Del. Ch. Dec. 6, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that the BGO Foundation (the “Foundation”) was a party that should be joined for just resolution of the underlying dispute between Lilly Lea Perry (“Ms. Perry”), the plaintiff, and Dieter Walter Neupert (“Mr. Neupert”) and Cote d’Azur Estate (the “Company”), the defendants. The Court of Chancery also held that because it appeared that the Foundation could be served under the Delaware Long-Arm Statute, it was not necessary for the court to consider adding the Foundation as an involuntary counterclaim plaintiff.
In Cappella Holdings, LLC v. Anderson, C.A. No. 9809-VCS (Del. Ch. Nov. 29, 2017), the Chancery Court dismissed a director’s breach of contract claims against his former employer relating to alleged violations of an anti-dilution provision in his employment agreement. The Court instead found that the director’s initial complaint, which included highly sensitive information about the company, violated the confidentiality provision of the underlying contract on which his claims were based.
In Lenois, et al. v. Lawal, et al., and Erin Energy Corporation, C.A. No. 11963-VCMR (Del. Ch. November 7, 2017), plaintiff Robert Lenois (“Plaintiff”) on behalf of himself and other stockholders brought a class action for breach of fiduciary duty against controllers and the board of directors of Erin Energy Corporation (“Erin”) for approving what was claimed to be an unfair transaction. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed the class action suit under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, holding that the directors were protected by an exculpatory charter, and Plaintiff failed to meet the heightened pleading standard for demand futility set by the second prong of Aronson v. Lewis, 473 A.2d 805 (Del. 1984). Although Plaintiff pled with particularity that one director acted in bad faith, the complaint did not allege facts sufficient to establish that a majority of the board faced a substantial likelihood of liability for non-exculpated claims.
By: Scott E. Waxman and Daisy Sexton
In Brett Kandell v. Dror Niv et al., the Delaware Chancery Court denied in part and granted in part a motion to dismiss a derivative action brought by a stockholder (“Plaintiff”) against nominal defendant FXCM, Inc. (“FXCM” or “the Company”), a foreign exchange (“FX”) broker. The claim was brought against FXCM directors (“Defendants”) for losses associated with the “Flash Crash” in the value of the euro relative to the Swiss franc, which happened when the Swiss decoupled the two currencies. As a result of these huge losses, FXCM had to obtain a loan under onerous conditions. Two main causes of action were asserted: (1) that the directors’ ability to exercise business judgment with respect to the Flash Crash was impaired, and (2) that the directors knowingly violated 17 C.F.R. § 5.16 (“Regulation 5.16”) which prohibits foreign exchange traders from representing that they will limit clients’ trading losses. Plaintiff did not make a demand on the company prior to bringing suit.
In In re Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 11202-VC (Ch. Ct August 18, 2017) former stockholders of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (“MSLO”) brought a consolidated class action suit against Martha Stewart (“Stewart”), the former controlling stockholder of MSLO, for breach of fiduciary duty and against Sequential Brands Group, Inc. (“Sequential”), the acquirer of MSLO by merger, for aiding and abetting that breach claiming that Stewart leveraged her position as a controller to obtain disparate consideration for herself as compared to the minority stockholders of MSLO in the acquisition of MSLO. Plaintiffs moved to dismiss, with the Court finding that the complaint failed to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Stewart, and on that basis need not reach the question of whether the complaint adequately pleads the elements of aiding and abetting such a breach, and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the complaint.