Delaware Docket

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

 

Undisclosed Post-Merger Compensation Plan for CEO Also Serving as Lead Merger Negotiator Found Insufficient to Rebut Business Judgment Rule and Insufficient to Show Board Acted in Bad Faith

By: Scott E. Waxman and Serena M. Hamann

In the class action, In re Towers Watson & Co. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. no. 2018-0132-KSJM (Del. Ch. July 25, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed the complaint in its entirety under Rule 12(b)(6) because the Plaintiffs failed to plead facts sufficient to rebut the application of the business judgment rule and failed to show the Towers Board acted in bad faith.

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Books and Records: Court Explains a Failure to Clear the Sometimes Deceptively Challenging Credible Basis Hurdle

By: David Forney and Rich Minice

In Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and Boston Retirement System v. Facebook, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0228-JRS (Del. Ch. Oct. 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery reaffirmed its requirement that stockholders seeking records to investigate possible wrongdoing must have some credible basis from which the court can infer waste or mismanagement occurred. Here, following trial, the court granted judgment in favor of Facebook because the Plaintiffs (defined below) failed to make a credible showing, through documents, logic, testimony or otherwise, that there are or may be legitimate issues of wrongdoing which would warrant further investigation of the matter through grant of the books and records request.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Grants Stockholder’s Section 220 Demand for Books and Records

By Annette E. Becker and Frank J. Mazzucco

In Michael Donnelly v. Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0892-SG (Del. Ch. Oct. 24, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a plaintiff stockholder’s demand for a company’s books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law in connection with a proposed merger.

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Partnership Agreement May Provide Grounds for Relief in Case Involving Drop in Unit Price Following Disclosure of General Partner’s Intent to Exercise Call Right

By: Scott E. Waxman and Serena M. Hamann

In Bandera Master Fund LP, et al. v. Board Pipeline Partners, LP, C.A. No. 2018-0372-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 7, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) denied the defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss breach of contract claims because the plaintiffs had established reasonably conceivable breaches of the governing partnership agreement. These breaches related to the defendants’ public statements concerning the general partner’s possible exercise of a call right leading to a sharp decrease in partnership unit prices prior to the actual exercise of the call right.

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Out of the money: breach of fiduciary duty claim survives motion to dismiss when the board approved an asset sale that left no consideration for the common unitholders

By: Scott E. Waxman and Chris Fry

In JJS, Ltd., et al., v. Steelpoint CP Holdings, LLC, et al., No. 2019-0072-KSJM (Del. Ch. 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that John Sarkisian, individually and on behalf of JJS, Ltd. and PPS Investors Ltd., L.P. (together, the “Plaintiffs”) successfully stated a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against a venture capital fund and its appointed board members in approving a transaction for the asset sale of Pro Performance Sports, LLC (the “Company”) where the common unitholders receive no compensation, the board members are under common ownership or employment with the venture capital fund, and one board member received an extraordinary severance package. The Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ remaining claims, which turned on the interpretation of the voting rights provision of the limited liability company (“LLC”) agreement of the Company, finding that the operative language was not ambiguous and that a careful reading of the agreement would have given Plaintiffs notice of the voting rights mechanics. 

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Not quite instantaneous, Holmesian “Bad Men” can win by knowing the law: Plaintiffs who tried to preserve direct and derivative claims in a settlement agreement failed to realize that they had already bargained them away

By: Scott E. Waxman and Chris Fry

In Urdan v. WR Capital Partners, LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0343-JTL (Del. Ch. 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that Urban and Woodward (the “Plaintiffs”) lost the ability to assert their derivative and direct claims by failing to properly preserve their claims in the stock repurchase agreements and settlement agreement among the Plaintiffs, Energy Efficient Equity, Inc. (the “Company”), and the private equity group that essentially pushed the Plaintiffs out of the Company, WR Capital Partners, LLC, et al., (the “PE Firm”).  The Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ remaining claims for fraud, as the Plaintiffs could not reasonably rely on puffery, and unjust enrichment, as this is more properly a derivative claim dismissed with the direct and derivative claims above.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Dismisses Derivative Claims in Reliance on Exculpatory Language in Limited Liability Company Agreement

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank J. Mazzucco

In MKE Holdings, Ltd. and David Bergevin v. Kevin Schwartz, et al. and Verdesian Life Sciences, LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0729-SG (Del. Ch. Sept. 26, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery relied on exculpatory language in a Limited Liability Company  Agreement to grant a defendant’s motion to dismiss a derivative claim alleging breach of duty by the company’s managers.

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ANOTHER “WELL-PLED” CAREMARK CLAIM SURVIVES A MOTION TO DISMISS

By: Lisa R. Stark and Sara M. Kirkpatrick

In a recent decision, In Re Clovis Oncology, Inc. Derivative Litigation, C.A. No. 2017-0222-JRS, 2019 WL 4850188 (Del. Ch. Oct. 1, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that stockholders of Clovis Oncology, Inc. (“Clovis”), a developmental biopharmaceutical company, adequately pled facts that supported a pleading stage inference that the Clovis board of directors breached its fiduciary duties by failing to oversee the clinical trial of the company’s most promising drug and then allowing the company to mislead the market regarding the drug’s efficacy.

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Settlement Agreement Violates Preferred Stockholder Consent Rights

By: Jill B. Louis and Pouya D. Ahmadi

In PWP Xerion Holdings III LLC v. Red Leaf Resources Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0235-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 23, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted Xerion Holdings III LLC’s (“Xerion”) motion for partial summary judgement on a breach of contract claim, holding that the Red Leaf Resources, Inc. (“Red Leaf” or the “Company”) breached Xerion’s contractual right to consent as the holder of a majority of the shares of the Company’s Series A preferred stock.

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Stockholder Letter Requesting Remedial Action Deemed a Pre-Suit Demand

By: Joanna Diakos Kordalis and Zack Sager

In Solak v. Welch, the Court of Chancery found that a letter from a stockholder to the board of directors, which requested remedial action to address allegedly excessive non-employee director compensation, was a pre-suit demand and dismissed the stockholder’s complaint for failing to allege wrongful demand refusal.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Grants Stockholder’s Post-Merger Request to Review Company’s Books and Records under DGCL § 220

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank J. Mazzucco

In Kosinski v. GGP Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0540-KSJM (Del. Ch. Aug. 28, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted a stockholder’s request, following a merger, to review a company’s books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).

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Delaware Court of Chancery Denies Plaintiff’s Request for Declaration of Status as Majority Stockholder, Sole Director, and Chief Executive Officer

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank J. Mazzucco

In In Re Hawk Systems, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0288-JRS (Del. Ch. Sept. 4, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) denied a plaintiff’s request for a declaration that he was the majority stockholder, sole director, and chief executive officer of a company.

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