Delaware Docket

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

 

Chancery Court Finds No Breach of Duty in Failed Corporate Inversion

By Joanna Diakos and Tom Sperber

In Kyle Ellis (AbbVie, Inc.) v. Richard A. Gonzalez, et al., the Delaware Chancery Court dismissed a derivative suit for failing to make a demand and to allege particularized facts demonstrating that demand would have been futile. Kyle Ellis (“Plaintiff”) alleged breaches of fiduciary duty by the CEO of AbbVie, Inc. (“AbbVie”), Richard A. Gonzalez (“Gonzalez”), and the individual members of AbbVie’s board of directors (“Director Defendants”) in connection with a proposed but ultimately abandoned corporate inversion between pharmaceutical giants AbbVie and Shire plc (“Shire”). The Court held that because AbbVie’s certificate of incorporation contained a Section 102(b)(7) exculpatory clause, Plaintiff had to allege that a majority of the board faced a substantial likelihood of liability for breaching the duty of loyalty in order for demand to be excused. Ultimately, Plaintiff failed to do that.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was a minority stockholder of AbbVie, a Delaware corporation headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Shire was an Island of Jersey biopharmaceutical company with its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

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CHANCERY COURT FINDS THAT LANGUAGE OF LIMITED PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT GOVERNS WHICH CLAIMS SURVIVE SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN MASTER LIMITED PARTNERSHIP’S RELATED PARTY TRANSACTION

By Scott Waxman and Adrienne Wimberly

In Mesirov v. Enbridge Company, Inc., et al. C.A. No. 11314-VCS (Del. Ch. Aug.29, 2018), the Delaware Chancery Court dismissed five of eight counts alleged with respect to a transaction where Enbridge Energy Company (EEP) repurchased for $1 billion a two-thirds interest in Alberta Clipper Pipelines (AC interest), despite the fact that EEP had sold that same interest years prior for $800 million and the business had steadily declined since such sale.  The dismissals were based primarily upon the language and obligations included in EEP’s limited partnership agreement.

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Delaware Chancery Court Makes Groundbreaking “Material Adverse Effect” Finding Allowing Buyer to Terminate Merger Agreement

By: Peter Flocos, Lisa Stark, Rick Giovannelli and Mark Hammes

In a landmark decision, a Delaware court has, for what is widely believed to be the first time ever, found that a material adverse effect actually occurred in an acquisition transaction, giving the buyer a right to terminate the pending transaction.  In Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi AG,[1] the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held, following a trial, that the buyer properly terminated the parties’ merger agreement, due to such a material adverse effect between signing and closing, under the terms of the agreement and the pertinent Delaware case law.  Unlike prior decisions rejecting buyer material adverse effect claims,[2] the Court found that a pre-closing decline in the business of the target – Akorn – was not merely a “cyclical trend” and was likely to have a post-closing, durationally-significant effect that was “material when viewed from the longer-term perspective of a reasonable acquiror.”[3]  Although groundbreaking, the Akorn decision reflects that the Delaware courts will still approach the question of whether an MAE has occurred on a case-by-case basis and does not establish a particular “bright line” test.

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Chancery Court Claims for Breach of Fiduciary Duty Dismissed for Failure to Establish Demand Futility

By: Annette Becker and Geoffrey Locher

Jennifer L. Stritzinger v. Dennis Barba, et al., letter opinion 180831

In Jennifer L. Stritzinger v. Dennis Barba, et al. Civil Action No. 12776-CB, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss Stritzinger’s derivative lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty for alleged mismanagement of Newark Country Club (the “Club”), a private corporation located in Newark, Delaware.  The Court dismissed Stritzinger’s suit finding Stritzinger failed to establish demand futility before filing suit against the Club.

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Some Claims Survive Summary Judgment in the Ebix Shareholder Litigation

By: Josh Gaul and Samira Torshizi

Only a handful of the claims survived summary judgment in the recent order issued by Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III in In re Ebix, Inc. Stockholder Litig.  This was the third major ruling in a five-year-old, repeatedly amended stockholder suit that involved stock incentives, a past acquisition bonus, and allegedly inadequate disclosures.  Of the ten causes of action, the only ones to survive summary judgment were claims for breach of fiduciary duty to disclose material facts that alleged false or misleading disclosures that could have altered deliberations of a reasonable shareholder.

The surviving disputes, which are now headed to trial, concerns three documents that created executive compensation arrangements  in 2009 and 2010: (1) an Acquisition Bonus Agreement (“ABA”) that Ebix, Inc. (“Ebix”) entered into with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robin Raina in 2009; (2) a 2010 Stock Incentive Plan (the “2010 Plan”), (3) a proxy statement issued before Ebix’s 2010 annual meeting (the “2010 Proxy Statement”) in which Ebix’s board of directors (“Board”) recommended approval of the 2010 Plan, and (4) the proxy statement issued in 2016 that included the 2016 CEO bonus plan (the “2016 Proxy Statement”).  Read More

CHANCERY COURT VALIDATES A DEFECTIVE MERGER AND REAFFIRMS RELIANCE ON OUTSIDE LEGAL COUNSEL UNDER DELAWARE LAW

By Holly Hatfield and Dean Brazier

In The Cirillo Family Trust v. Aram Moezinia, Lewis Tepper, Mark Walter, and DAVA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., C.A. No. 10116-CB (Del. Ch. Jul. 11, 2018), the Delaware Chancery Court granted the defendants’ motion dismissing certain claims arising from the 2014 merger between DAVA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“DAVA”) and an affiliate of Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (such affiliate, “Endo”).  The Court held that Section 205 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (the “DGCL”) validated deficiencies in the written consents to the merger (the “Written Consents”) and a director’s reasonable, good faith reliance on the advice of legal counsel hired for specific expertise can exculpate the director for a fiduciary duty breach.  The Court also granted part of the plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint to add a claim against certain directors in their capacities as officers of DAVA.

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Board’s Lack of Independence from Interested Director Excuses Stockholder Demand as Futile

By: Christopher B. Tillson and J. Tyler Moser

In Sciabacucchi v. Liberty Broadband Corp., et al., C.A. No. 11418-VCG (Del. Ch. July 26, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied in part a motion to dismiss brought by defendants Liberty Broadband Corporation (“Liberty”), Liberty’s largest stockholder, and the board of directors of Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter,” and collectively “Defendants”), for failure to plead demand futility.  The Court ruled that the Plaintiff, a stockholder of Charter, pleaded sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that the influence of Liberty’s largest stockholder would prevent the Charter board of directors from exercising independent and disinterested business judgment when considering a demand to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the corporation.

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Chancery Court Enforces LLC Agreement, Further Demonstrating that LLCs are Creatures of Contract

By Scott E. Waxman and Priya Chadha

In A&J Capital, Inc. v. Law Office of Krug, C.A. No. 2018-0240-JRS (July 18, 2018), A&J Capital, Inc. (“A&J”) sought a declaratory judgment that it was improperly removed from its position as manager of LA Metropolis Condo, I LLC (the “Company”) because it was not given notice or an opportunity to be heard prior to removal.  Vice Chancellor Slights denied A&J’s motion for summary judgment, holding that A&J’s removal was proper under both the Company’s governing documents and common law.

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CONTROLLER BREACHES FIDUCIARY DUTIES BY COERCING ONEROUS FINANCING TERMS

By: Kent Carlson and Rich Minice

In Basho Technologies, Inc. v. Georgetown Basho Investors, LLC, C.A. No. 11802-VCL (Del. Ch. July 6, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery reaffirmed the principle that a stockholder with actual control of a corporation violates its fiduciary duties by advancing its own interests to the detriment of the corporation.  Applying the entire fairness standard in its decision following trial, the court held that Georgetown Basho Investors, LLC (“Georgetown”), the controlling stockholder of Basho Technologies, Inc. (“Basho”), owed and breached fiduciary duties to Basho as a stockholder with actual-but not majority-control. The court ultimately awarded plaintiffs Earl Gallaher (“Gallaher”) and various investment funds under his control (the “Plaintiff(s)”) damages in the aggregate amount of $20,268,878.

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Chancery Court Cites Flawed Process in its Resort to Traditional Valuation Methodology and Reliance on All Relevant Factors in a Recent Appraisal Action

By Jill B. Louis and Rashida Stevens

The Delaware Court of Chancery determined that a flawed deal process kept the merger price from being a reliable indication of value in the Blueblade Capital Opportunities LLC and Blueblade Capital Opportunities CI LLC (collectively, “Blueblade”) v. Norcraft Companies, Inc. (“Norcraft”) (C.A. No. 11184-VCS (Del. Ch. July 27, 2018)), appraisal action.

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CHANCERY COURT SETS FAIR VALUE IN APPRAISAL ACTION AT DEAL PRICE LESS SYNERGIES

By: Annette Becker and Caitlin Velasco

In In re Appraisal of Solera Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 12080-CB (Del. Ch. July 30, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery, applying an adjusted deal price analysis in a statutory appraisal proceeding, determined that the fair value of the stock of Solera Holdings, Inc. (“Solera” or the “Company”) at the time of its March 2016 going-private merger transaction was $53.95 per share–the deal price less estimated synergies. The Court reached this conclusion after thoroughly examining and ultimately rejecting the use of (a) the discounted cash flow (“DCF”) analysis, proposed by seven investment funds that were former stockholders of Solera (the “Petitioners”) and the (b) the unaffected market price analysis, proposed by Solera in supplemental briefing in response to the use of such analysis in Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL (Del. Ch. May 21, 2018). Read More

A Conflicted Controller Transaction Survives a Motion to Dismiss

By: Lisa R. Stark and Samira F. Torshizi

In In re Hansen Medical, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 12316-VCMR (Del. Ch. June 18, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery found that plaintiffs had stated a reasonably conceivable claim that the acquisition of Hansen Medical, Inc. (“Hansen”) by Auris Surgical Robotics, Inc. (“Auris”) should be reviewed under the entire fairness standard of review because the transaction involved a controlling stockholder group which extracted benefits from the transaction not shared with the minority. The Court denied motions to dismiss filed by the alleged control group and Hansen’s directors and officers.

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