Delaware Docket

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

 

Chancery Court Finds Breach of Fiduciary Duties in Insurance Business Gone Awry

By: Scott Waxman and Will Grossenbacher

In Triple H Family L.P. v. Jerry Neal , C.A. No. 12294-VCMR (Del. Ch. July 31, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that the member-manager of Omni Insurance Group, LLC (“Omni”) breached his fiduciary duties to the company when he misled Omni’s largest customer about lapses in the customer’s insurance coverage. Additionally, the court held that although the other member of Omni owed fiduciary duties to Omni as a de facto manager, that member did not breach his fiduciary duties when he directed business away from Omni after the parties had already agreed to dissolve. Finally, the court held that judicial dissolution of Omni was not required because the members had previously agreed to dissolve Omni, and, as such, all that was required was a winding-up of Omni’s business. Read More

Chancery Court Finds That Stockholders Have Standing For Direct Suit Relating To Unique Claims For Breach Of Fiduciary Duties

By: David L. Forney and Calvin D. Kennedy

In In re Straight Path Communications Inc. Consol. S’holder Litig., C.A. No. 2017-0486-SG (Del. Ch. June 25, 2018), the Court of Chancery, denied a motion to dismiss, finding that the transfer of an indemnification claim to the controller of a company was “sufficiently intertwined” with the company’s sale for the stockholders to make the Plaintiff’s claim a direct claim instead of a derivative claim.  The Court stated that when a controller uses his control to extract a special benefit in a sale, at the expense of the consideration to the stockholders, both the injury and the recovery run directly in favor of the former stockholders. The Court also found that, the controller’s actions related to the purchase of the indemnification claim and other assets from the company for “a manifestly unfair price” were sufficient to state a viable claim for breach of fiduciary duties.

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Chancery Court Rules that Investing in Competing Businesses Does Not Constitute Misappropriation of Trade Secrets When Permitted by Governing Documents

By: Jessica Pearlman and Corinne Smith

In Alarm.com Holdings, Inc. v. ABS Capital Partners, Inc., et al. (C.A. No. 2017-0583-JTL (Del. Ch. June 15, 2018), plaintiff Alarm.com, Inc. (“Alarm”) brought suit against defendants ABS Capital Partners, Inc., ABS Partners V, LLC, and ABS Partners VII, LLC (collectively “ABS”) asserting: (1) the misappropriation of trade secrets under the Delaware Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“DUTSA”), and (2) common law misappropriation of confidential information. Both claims related to ABS’s investments and board appointments in both Alarm and one of its direct competitors. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed both claims for failure to state a claim pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6), ruling that (1) it was not reasonably conceivable that ABS engaged in misappropriation under DUTSA, and (2) DUTSA preempts Alarm’s common law claim because it is based on the same wrongful conduct as its trade secret claim. Read More

Court of Chancery Dismisses Derivative Suit for Failure to Demonstrate Demand Futility because Plaintiff Failed to Allege Particularized Facts

By: Charles Carter and Caitlin Velasco

In Steinberg on behalf of Hortonworks, Inc. v. Bearden, C.A. No. 2017-0286-AGB (Del. Ch. May 30, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiff’s derivative claims for breach of fiduciary duties under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, because the plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand or demonstrate that doing so would be futile. The Court found that the plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts sufficient to raise reasonable doubt that a majority of the directors on the Hortonworks, Inc. board could have exercised their independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a pre-suit demand. Read More

Chancery Court Awards Damages for Breach of Fiduciary Duty Stemming from Director’s Refusal to Sign Self-Help Documents

By: C.J. Voss and Rich Minice

In CertiSign Holding, Inc. v. Sergio Kulikovsky, C.A. No. 12055-VCS, the Court found that Sergio Kulikovsky (“Kulikovsky”), a former director of CertiSign Holding, Inc. (“CertiSign”), had breached his fiduciary duty of loyalty to CertiSign by actively sabotaging corporate self-help efforts in a bid to advance his own personal objectives. The Court also denied Kulikovsky’s counterclaims for judicial validation of certain stock option grants and the assumption by CertiSign of a debt owed to Kulikovsky, and awarded Certisign damages in the amount of $390,455.20 for the “legal fees and expenses incurred by CertiSign in connection with its efforts to remedy its defective capitalization and board issues.”

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Chancery Court Awards Fees in Corporate Benefit Doctrine Case

By: Annette Becker and Will Smith

In Full Value Partners, L.P. v. Swiss Helvetia Fund, Inc., et. al., C.A. No. 2017-0303-AGB (Del. Ch. June 7, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the plaintiff stockholder’s motion for an award of attorney’s fees under the corporate benefit doctrine because the plaintiff’s claim in the underlying stockholder litigation was meritorious when filed and produced a benefit to the defendant corporation.

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Chancery Court Clarifies “Constituent Corporation”

By: Stephan H. Coonrod and Stephanie S. Liu

In City of North Miami Beach General Employees’ Retirement Plan, et al. v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., et al., (C.A. No. 2018-0227-AGB (Del. Ch. June 1, 2018)), the Court of Chancery held that the term “constituent corporation” as used in Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law means only an entity that actually is being merged or combined with another entity in a merger or consolidation and does not include a parent of such entities. Thus, the Court ruled that the Dr Pepper stockholder plaintiffs are not entitled to appraisal rights because Dr Pepper is not a constituent corporation, but rather the parent of one of two corporations to be merged in connection with the proposed transaction.

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CONSENT TO JURISDICTION DOES NOT EQUAL MANDATORY FORUM SELECTION

By Scott E. Waxman and Annamarie C. Larson

In In re Bay Hills Emerging Partners I, L.P., et al (C.A. No. 2018-0234-JRS), Vice Chancellor Slights denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss claims related to their “for cause” removal as general partners, instead staying the action pending resolution of the claims filed in a Kentucky court.  Regarding the forum selection issue, the Court of Chancery held that “the inclusion of the consent language and the lack of language indicating that Kentucky is the exclusive forum—such as by the use of the term ‘any’—[the LPA] does not contain clear language indicating that jurisdiction and venue must lie exclusively in Kentucky.”

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CHANCERY COURT SETS FAIR VALUE IN APPRAISAL ACTION BELOW THE VALUATIONS SUGGESTED BY THE PARTIES

By: Scott Waxman and Benjamin Kendall

In Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL (Del. Ch. May 21, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion for reargument of its earlier decision setting the appraisal value of the shares of Aruba Networks, Inc. (“Aruba” or the “Company”) at the time of its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard Company (“HP”).  Although the merger agreement offered $24.67 per share of the Company, and the Company ultimately suggested that the fair value of the Company’s shares was $19.75, the Court of Chancery set the fair value of the Company’s shares at $17.13. In denying the motion for reargument, the Court of Chancery reiterated its position that the trial court must independently determine the fair value of the shares in an appraisal proceeding and that the market price of a publicly traded firm can itself be an accurate measurement of fair value.

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MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER OF CONTROLLING STOCKHOLDERS DENIED AS NO EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES FOUND

By Annette Becker and Caitlin Velasco

In CBS Corporation, et al. v. National Amusements, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 2018-0342-AGB, the Court of Chancery denied a motion for temporary retraining order brought by CBS Corporation (“CBS”) and five independent directors of CBS (the “Plaintiffs”) to restrain controlling shareholders, Shari Redstone, her father Sumner Redstone, National Amusements, Inc. (“NAI”), NAI Entertainment Holdings LLC, and the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust (the “Defendants”) from taking certain actions that would interfere with the governance of CBS or other proposed actions of the board of directors of CBS.  The Court found that there was no precedent for the type of relief requested by Plaintiff and that no extraordinary circumstances existed to warrant the grant of such relief. Read More

Chancery Court Allows Complaint Alleging Waste of Corporate Assets to Move Forward to Discovery as a Result of Extreme Facts

By Annette Becker and Rashida Stevens

In R.A. Feuer on behalf of CBS Corporation v. Sumner M. Redstone (C.A. No. 12575-CB (Del. Ch. April 19, 2018)), R. A. Feuer (“Plaintiff”), a stockholder of CBS Corporation (“CBS”) brought a derivative suit against the directors of CBS Corporation (“Board”) alleging corporate waste, bad faith, and unjust enrichment for compensation in excess of $13 million dollars paid to Sumner Redstone, the controlling stockholder, former executive chairman and chairman emeritus of CBS (“Redstone”).  The payments were made under an extreme set of circumstances that resulted in the claims partially surviving a Rule 23.1 motion to dismiss for failure to make a pre-suit demand on the board and a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Read More

CHANCERY COURT FINDS REQUEST FOR SPECIFIC ENFORCEMENT OF A PARTNERSHIP INTEREST CALL RIGHT IS PROVED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE

By Scott E. Waxman and Joseph Phelps

In Simon-Mills II, LLC v. Kan Am USA XVI Ltd. Partnership, No. 8520-VCG (Del. Ch. May 30, 2018), the plaintiffs, a number of entities organized under an umbrella real estate investment trust and referred to as “Simon,” sought specific performance of a call right applicable to partnership interests under a joint venture agreement (the “JVA”) with the defendant Kan Am, a group of Delaware limited partnerships.  In exchange for the called units, Simon proposed to issue to Kan Am units (the “Successor Units”) that it argued had “substantially the same” rights as the originally contemplated consideration units (the “Original Units”).  The Court of Chancery concluded that the Successor Units did indeed have “substantially the same” rights as the Original Units, within the meaning of the JVA, and that Simon proved by clear and convincing evidence that it was entitled to specific performance of the call right. Read More

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