Delaware Docket

Timely, brief summaries of cases handed down by the Delaware Court of Chancery and the Delaware Supreme Court.

 

An Insolvent Corporations May Transfer All of its Assets to its Creditors without Stockholder Approval

By: Lisa R. Stark and Marissa Leon

In Stream TV Networks, Inc. v. SeeCubic, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0310-JTL (Del. Ch. Dec. 8, 2020), the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (the “Court”) ruled that all of the assets of an insolvent 3D television technology company, Stream TV Networks Inc. (“Stream”), could be transferred to its secured creditors even though Stream did not seek  stockholder approval of the sale under Section 271 of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”) or its certificate of incorporation. Accordingly, the Court enforced an agreement between Stream and its secured creditors pursuant to which Stream agreed to transfer all of its assets to an affiliate of its two secured creditors.

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Music Industry Executive Lawsuit against Record Label Partially Dismissed

By Scott E. Waxman and Marissa Leon

In Todd Moscowitz v. Theory Entertainment LLC (C.A. No. 2019-0780-MTZ), the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware (the “Court”)  narrowed the claims in a lawsuit challenging the buyout of a music industry executive’s ownership interest in a record label he co-founded.

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Interpretation of an LLC Agreement with Respect to the Appointment and Removal of Board Members Is Strictly Based on the Plain Language Contained in the Four Corners of the LLC Agreement

By Scott E. Waxman and Jennifer J. Yeung

Where one fifty-percent owner of a single member LLC wished to remove the existing tiebreaker director, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that he could not do so.  A governing LLC agreement’s plain language must be strictly construed; and in this case, it did not provide for unilateral removal of a board member.

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Chancery Court Holds that Subsidiary must Advance Legal Fees to Parent Company to Cover Costs from Separate Suit by Subsidiary Against Parent Company

By Scott E. Waxman and Mick G. Pence

In International Rail Partners, LLC v. American Rail Partners, LLC, C.A. No. 2020-0177-PAF (Del. Ch. November 24, 2020) plaintiffs International Rail Partners LLC, Boca Equity Partners LLC, Patriot Equity LLC, and Marino (“Plaintiffs”) and defendant American Rail Partners LLC. (“Company”) both filed motions for judgment on the pleadings. The Delaware Court of Chancery (“Court”) granted the Plaintiffs’ motion that sought advancement of expenses incurred while defending an action filed against them by the Company in the Delaware Superior Court. The Court held that the parties’ Limited Liability Company Agreement (“LLC Agreement”) unambiguously provided that the Company must advance the Plaintiffs’ fees incurred in defending the Superior Court action.

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CEO’s Role in Preparation of a Proxy Statement for a Merger Exposes CEO to Duty of Care Claims

By Lisa Stark and Jonathan Shallow 

In In Re Baker Hughes Inc. Merger Litig., C.A. No. 2019-0638-AGB (Del. Ch. Oct. 27, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery declined to dismiss claims that the CEO of Baker Hughes Incorporated (“Baker Hughes”) breached his fiduciary duty of care by failing to include unaudited financial statements of the oil and gas segment of the General Electric Company (“GE O&G”) in a proxy statement soliciting the stockholder vote on Baker Hughes merger with GE O&G.  As a result, the Court found that (1) the stockholder vote was uninformed, and (2) enhanced scrutiny under Revlon, Inc. v. McAndrews & Forbes Hldgs., Inc., 506 A.2d 173 (Del. 1986). (“Revlon”), not the business judgment review under Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC (125 A.3d 304, 306 (Del. 2015)), applied to its decision whether plaintiffs had adequately pled a predicate breach of fiduciary duty by the Baker Hughes board for purposes of an aiding and abetting claim asserted against General Electric Company (“GE”).  At the time of its decision, none of the Baker Hughes directors were named as defendants in the action except for Baker Hughes’ CEO who was named as a defendant in the action solely in his capacity as an officer of Baker Hughes.

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DELAWARE COURT OF CHANCERY DENIES MOTIONS TO DISMISS CLAIMS ALLEGING BREACH OF CONTRACT

By Whitney J. Smith and Mehreen Ahmed

In Re WeWork Litigation, C.A. No. 2020-0258-AGB (Del. Ch. Oct. 30, 2020), concerns a transformative transaction involving The We Company, a real estate company specializing in shared workspaces more commonly known as WeWork. Adam Neumann (“Neumann”), the CEO of WeWork, brought a case against both SoftBank Group (“SBG”) and SoftBank Vision Fund (AIV MI) L.P. (“Vision Fund”) for two counts of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty as controlling stockholders. SBG and Vision Fund filed partial motions to dismiss the complaint. Vision Fund, but not SBG, sought to dismiss the contract claim against it, whereas, both SBG and Vision Fund sought to dismiss the fiduciary duty claim. In a memorandum opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery denied Vision Fund’s motion to dismiss the contract claim, except as to one provision, and granted the motion to dismiss the fiduciary duty claim as that claim was duplicative of the contract claims against them.

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WHAT’S SELECTED TO HAPPEN IN VEGAS, STAYS IN VEGAS: CHANCERY COURT ENFORCES FORUM SELECTION CLAUSE IN RE-DOMESTICATED NEVADA CORPORATION BYLAWS, DESPITE ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OCCURRING WHILE ENTITY WAS A DELAWARE CORPORATION

By David L. Forney and Lauren McFadden

In Sylebra Capital Partners Master Fund, Ltd., and P Sylebra Ltd. v. Ronald O. Perelman et al., C.A. No. 2019-0843-JRS (Del. Ch. October 9, 2020), Sylebra Capital Partners Master Fund, Limited and P Sylebra Ltd. (together, “Plaintiff”), had sued Scientific Games, a Nevada corporation (“Company”), and its controlling stockholder and members of its Board (“Defendants”) for breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”). The Company’s Nevada bylaws, however, contained a provision requiring stockholders to bring claims for breach of fiduciary duty in the courts of Clark County, Nevada. The Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss and held that Plaintiff’s claims were subject to the forum selection provision in the bylaws of the Company and must be brought in Nevada courts.

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“consistent with longstanding principles of law and capitalism”: chancery court finds that a bidder cannot be liable for directors’ breach of fiduciary duty without knowledge of the breach

By: Scott Waxman and Jeremy Crites

In Jacobs v. Meghji, et al. (C.A. No. 2019-1022-MTZ), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed Mark Jacobs’ direct and derivative claims that Ares Management Corporation (“Ares”) aided and abetted breaches of fiduciary duty allegedly committed by directors of Infrastructure &  Energy Alternatives, Inc. (“IEA”) on the grounds that Jacobs failed to plead a necessary element of the claim. Additionally, the Court dismissed Jacobs’ claim of unjust enrichment against Ares, again finding that Jacobs failed to plead a necessary element of the claim.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Finds Oral Agreement to Form a Joint Venture Enforceable

By: Scott Waxman and Serena Hamann

In Leonard F. Iacono Sr. et al. v. Estate of Joseph M. Capano et al, C.A. No. 11841-VCL (Del. Ch. June 29, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment because the evidence, construed in favor of the Plaintiffs, could support a finding that an enforceable oral agreement to form a joint venture existed between the parties.

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MetLife Stockholders Demand Futility Claims Dismissed

By: Scott E. Waxman and Marissa Leon

In the matter of In Re MetLife Inc. Derivative Litigation (Consol. C.A. No. 2019-0452-SG), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that stockholder plaintiffs seeking to hold corporate fiduciaries liable to MetLife, Inc. for failure to adequately oversee the operation of the business failed to plead facts sufficient to imply director liability or otherwise excuse demand under Rule 23.1.

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Chancery Court Enforces Merger Agreement Milestone Payment Despite Time and Cost to Bring Experimental Drug to Market

By: Scott Waxman and Zane Madden

In Shareholder Representative Services LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc. and Shire Pharmaceuticals LLC , C.A. No. 2017-0863-KSJM (Del. Ch. October 12, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that Shire US Holdings, Inc.’s (together with Shire Pharmaceuticals LLC, “Shire”) failure to initiate Phase III clinical trials for an experimental drug acquired via merger was improper because said failure was due to a series of development delays routine to the pharmaceutical industry and every-day business decisions, in contravention of the language of the merger agreement.

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DIRECT AND DERIVATIVE? CHANCERY COURT CERTIFIES INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL, ASKS SUPREME COURT TO CLARIFY DUAL CHARACTER STOCKHOLDER CLAIMS

By Scott E. Waxman and Cate H. Gelband

In In re Terraform Power, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0757-SG (Del. Ch. November 24, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted defendants’ Application for Certification of Interlocutory Appeal, giving the Delaware Supreme Court (the “Supreme Court”) an opportunity to clarify its decision in Gentile v. Rossette (“Gentile”) under which stockholders’ claims for a specific type of breach of fiduciary duty can have “dual character” as both derivative and direct. The Court relied on two factors under Delaware Supreme Court Rule 42 (“Rule 42”)—whether consideration of the appeal may end the litigation, and whether review of the appeal may serve considerations of justice—and held that the matter presented “a rare case” in which an interlocutory appeal was justified.

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