Archive: October 2014

Mehta v. Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., C.A. No. 6891-VCL (October 20, 2014) (Laster, V.C.)

By Scott Waxman and Caitlin Howe

Pro se plaintiffs, Ram and Neena Mehta (the “Mehtas”), owned common stock of defendant Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation (“Smurfit”), which, after reorganizing in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, merged with a wholly-owned acquisition subsidiary of Rock-Tenn Company (“Rock-Tenn Sub” and “Rock-Tenn Parent”, respectively). The Mehtas challenged (i) decisions leading to Smurfit’s bankruptcy, (ii) the merger with Rock-Tenn Sub, and (iii) Rock-Tenn Sub’s failure to pay the Mehtas the merger consideration from the Rock-Tenn Sub/Smurfit merger. The defendants moved to dismiss the Mehtas’ claims for failure to state a claim, and Vice Chancellor Laster granted the defendants’ motion with respect to claims (i) and (ii); however, claim (iii) survives, with the caveat that the Mehtas are not entitled to indirect or consequential damages.

On June 21, 2010, Smurfit emerged from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, having cancelled and re-issued 95% of its stock to its former creditors and the remainder to its shareholders, including the Mehtas who owned 1,486 shares after the reorganization. Less than six months later, Smurfit and Rock-Tenn Parent announced their plans for a merger for cash and Rock-Tenn Parent stock consideration. The Mehtas timely filed a demand for appraisal, and the merger was subsequently consummated. However, the Mehtas eventually withdrew their demand and never filed a petition for appraisal. The Mehtas did not receive any merger consideration.

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In Re: Crimson Exploration Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 8541-VCP (October 24, 2014) (Parsons, V.C.)

By William Axtman and Ryan Drzemiecki

In Re: Crimson Exploration Inc. Stockholder Litigation involved a consolidated class action claim made by certain minority stockholders (“Plaintiffs”) of Crimson Exploration, Inc. (“Crimson”) challenging the completed acquisition of Crimson by Contango Oil & Gas Co. (“Contango”).  The transaction was structured as a stock-for-stock merger (the “Merger”), with the Crimson stockholders holding approximately 20.3 % of the combined entity following the merger and an exchange ratio representing a 7.7% premium based on the April 29, 2013 trading price of Contango common stock and Crimson common stock.  Plaintiffs also alleged that the members of Crimson’s Board of Directors (the “Directors”) and various entities affiliated with the investment management firm Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. (“Oaktree”) breached their respective fiduciary duties by selling Crimson below market value for self-serving reasons.  In total, Plaintiffs brought claims against Crimson, the Directors, Oaktree, Contango Acquisition, Inc. (the “Merger Sub”) and Contango (“Defendants”).

A major premise of Plaintiffs’ complaint is that Oaktree controlled Crimson and thereby had fiduciary duties to the minority stockholders of Crimson.  Oaktree owned roughly 33.7% of Crimson’s pre-Merger outstanding shares and a significant portion of Crimson’s $175 million Second Lien Credit Agreement, which Contango agreed to payoff after the signing of the Merger, including a 1% prepayment fee (the “Prepayment”).  Also, in connection with the Merger, Oaktree negotiated to receive a Registration Rights Agreement (the “RRA”) so that it had the option to sell its stock in the post-Merger combined entity through a private placement.

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In re KKR Financial Holdings LLC Shareholder Litigation, C.A. No. 9210-CB (October 14, 2014) (Bouchard, C.)

By Kristy Harlan and Eric Taylor

This case involves a challenge to a stock-for-stock merger by a group of stockholders of the target company who alleged breaches of fiduciary duty by both the board of directors of the target (the “Board”) and an alleged controlling stockholder who held less than 1% of the stock of the target. The transaction (the “Merger”) involved the acquisition of KKR Financial Holdings LLC (“KFN”) by KKR & Co. L.P. (“KKR”). KFN was managed by an affiliate of KKR, which was responsible for day-to-day operations of KFN, subject to the oversight of the Board pursuant to a management agreement between the parties. In October 2013, KKR expressed interest in acquiring KFN to a member of the Board. Over the next several months, the Board began to discuss the approach from KKR, set up a transaction committee to review the potential transaction, and met several times with representatives from KKR to negotiate for better terms. In mid-December 2013, the Board approved the Merger and KFN and KKR executed a merger agreement. The transaction was valued at approximately $2.6 billion.

This case is the consolidated result of nine separate actions that were filed challenging the Merger in December 2013 and January 2014. KFN and KKR moved for summary judgment, which the plaintiffs sought to overcome by arguing that the Merger should be subject to “entire fairness” review, instead of the presumed business judgment review. The Court held that the business judgment rule applied, granted summary judgment to KFN and KKR and dismissed the suit with prejudice.

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Lake Treasure Holdings, Ltd., et al v. Foundry Hill GP, LLC, et al and Foundry Hill Holdings, LP and CP-1 LLC, C.A. No. 6546-VCL (October 10, 2014) (Laster, V.C.)

By Eric Feldman and Porter Sesnon

In Lake Treasure Holdings, Ltd., the plaintiffs, investors in a now-defunct start-up, Foundry Hill Holdings LP (the “Partnership”), sued the Partnership, one of its founders (Ulric Taylor (“Taylor”)),  one of Taylor’s subsequent business partners (Christopher Klee (“Klee”)), and various other Partnership-related entities and operating subsidiaries for breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting the breach of fiduciary duty, as well as under the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“DUFTA”) and Delaware Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“DUTSA”), in connection with a series of transactions whereby all of the assets of the Partnership were ultimately transferred to entities owned and/or controlled by Taylor and Klee. 

Taylor controlled the Partnership through his control of the Partnership’s general partner.  As a result, the Court initially found that Taylor owed fiduciary duties, including the duty of loyalty, to the Partnership and its limited partners.  In analyzing the transactions at issue, the Court further found that Taylor stood on both sides of such transactions and that therefore the entire fairness standard applied in analyzing such transactions.  In applying the entire fairness test, the Court held that Taylor had breached his duty of loyalty when he granted a security interest in all of the assets of the Partnership, including its primary asset, high frequency trading software, to Klee in exchange for a $28,000 loan from Klee to the Partnership.  Prior to the $28,000 loan by Klee, Taylor and Klee had previously contemplated Klee purchasing the software for $500,000 with an enterprise valuation of $3 million. 3 months following the granting of the security interest, as foreseen by Taylor and Klee at the time the loan was made, the Partnership defaulted on the loan, Klee foreclosed on the security interest, and Taylor amicably surrendered all of the assets of the Partnership, including all interest in the software, to an entity controlled by Klee.  The Court determined that Taylor and Klee “acted in concert to move the Partnership’s high frequency trading software out of the Partnership and into an entity where Taylor and Klee could enjoy its benefits.”  Upon finding the fiduciary duty breach by Taylor, the Court then also found that Klee had aided and abetted such breach of fiduciary duty.

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Black Horse Capital, LP, et al. v. Xstelos Holdings, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 8642-VCP (September 30, 2014) (Parsons, V.C.)

By David Edgar and Joshua Haft

In Black Horse Capital, LP, et al. v. Xstelos Holdings, Inc., et al., the plaintiffs, including Cheval Holdings, Ltd. (“Cheval Holdings”), Black Horse Capital, LP, Black Horse Capital Master Fund Ltd. (together with Black Horse Capital, LP, “Black Horse”), and Ouray Holdings I AG, filed a breach of contract action arising out of a transaction in which the plaintiffs and defendants, Jonathan M. Couchman, Xstelos Holdings, Inc., and Xstelos Corp. (formerly known as Footstar Inc. and Footstar Corp. (“Footstar”)) jointly acquired a pharmaceuticals company, CPEX Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“CPEX”), which is now wholly owned by defendant FCB I Holdings, Inc. (“FCB Holdings”), an entity jointly owned by Footstar and Cheval Holdings. Immediately following the closing of the acquisition, FCB Holdings was owned 80.5% by Footstar and 19.5% by Cheval Holdings.

The plaintiffs’ claims arose out of an alleged oral promise in December 2010 by the defendants to transfer to the plaintiffs certain assets of CPEX, specifically an additional 60% ownership interest in the drug product known as SER-120 and referred to as “Serenity” by the court. The transfer was to occur after the closing of the CPEX acquisition in exchange for the plaintiffs funding a disproportionately large bridge loan to FCB Holdings (the “Serenity Agreement”). On January 3, 2011, each of Black Horse and Footstar entered into separate bridge loan commitment letters with FCB Holdings and CPEX in the amounts of $10 million and $3 million, respectively. In April 2011, the bridge loans were made to FCB Holdings and the CPEX acquisition closed. In connection with the CPEX acquisition, the bridge loans, and the other related transactions, the parties entered into customary transaction documents. Although the alleged oral promise of the Serenity Agreement was made prior to the parties entering into the transaction documents, none of the transaction documents executed in connection with the loan or the merger referenced the Serenity Agreement. Furthermore, the transaction documents also contained customary integration clauses. By December 2012, the transfer of assets contemplated by the Serenity Agreement had not occurred and relations between the parties deteriorated to the point where the plaintiffs filed this action in June 2013.

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In re Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 8922-VCG (Sept. 26, 2014) (Glasscock, V.C.)

By Annette Becker and Mark Hammes

In In Re Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. S’holder Litig., 2014 WL 4418169 (Del. Ch. Sept. 10, 2014), Defendant directors of Cornerstone Therapeutics Inc. (“Cornerstone”) brought a motion to dismiss based on an exculpatory provision in Cornerstone’s certificate of incorporation pursuant to Section 102(b)(7) of the Delaware General Corporation Laws in the context of a controlling stockholder freeze-out merger. In the memorandum opinion, the Court denied the motion to dismiss, finding that, since entire fairness applied to the transaction at the outset, the director defendants must await a determination of entire fairness at trial before the Court could consider whether they were exculpated by the provision. The director defendants moved for interlocutory appeal under Delaware Supreme Court Rule 42 challenging the denial of the Court’s decision regarding the motion to dismiss.

This decision considers the motion for interlocutory appeal. The Court held that the defendant directors are entitled to an interlocutory appeal of the order denying the motion to dismiss. An interlocutory appeal may be certified by the Court only when the appealed decision (1) determines a substantial issue, (2) establishes a legal right, and (3) meets one or more criteria further enumerated in Rule 42, including that the decision falls under any of the criteria for certification of questions of law set forth in Rule 41. Here, the denial of the motion, if reversed, would result in dismissal of the defendant directors from the suit, so it is a substantial issue. Further, it establishes a legal right in that it necessitates the defendant directors be held as parties to the litigation. Finally, it satisfies the further “conflicting decisions” qualification set forth in Rule 41(b)(ii) because decisions of the Courts of Chancery have been conflicting as to whether, in a transaction subject to entire fairness review at the outset, in which there is a claim for “breach of duty on the part of facially disinterested directors who negotiated …. or otherwise facilitated the transaction needs to be specifically pled” and whether an exculpatory provision must be ignored at the motion to dismiss stage to await consideration of entire fairness at trial. As a result, the Court granted the defendant directors’ application for certification of interlocutory appeal.

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Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System v. Citigroup Inc., C.A. No. 9587-ML (Sept. 30, 2014) (LeGrow, A., M.C.)

By Annette Becker and Caitlin Howe

This final report stems from plaintiff-shareholder Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System’s (“Oklahoma Firefighters” or “Plaintiff”) demand under 8 Del. C. §220 for access to defendant Citigroup Inc.’s (“Citigroup” or “Defendant”) books and records in connection with alleged fraud and money laundering at two Citigroup subsidiaries. Following a paper record trial in June 2014, the court concluded in its draft report that Plaintiff had a proper purpose in seeking access to the books and records, but the court narrowed the scope of Plaintiff’s initial request.  At the present phase of the case, Citigroup objects to the conclusions reached in the draft report, arguing that the incidents at the subsidiaries do not give Plaintiff a credible basis from which to infer wrongdoing or mismanagement on the part of the Citigroup Board of Directors.  Moreover, Citigroup contends that even if Plaintiff’s purpose were proper, the scope of the documents requested is still too broad.

The demand arises from incidents at Banco Nacional de Mexico, S.A. (“Banamex”) and Banamex USA, which together account for 10% of the global profits of Citigroup.  At Banamex, a fraudulent accounts receivables finance arrangement was discovered, which caused Citigroup to adjust downward its 2013 fourth quarter and full year financials by $235 million. Investigations into the fraud indicated that Citigroup may not have had the proper internal controls in place to prevent fraud, and Moody’s subsequently downgraded Banamex’s debt and deposit ratings due to the allegations surrounding the bank. Another smaller fraud of $30 million was also uncovered at Banamex.  At Banamex USA, grand jury subpoenas were issued by the United States District Attorney for the District of Massachusetts regarding compliance with Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) and Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) regulations.  The grand jury subpoenas were issued subsequent to a number of consent orders between Citigroup and various financial regulatory agencies regarding insufficient BSA and AML controls, risk management, the flow of drug cartel-related funds, and general oversight.  In response to the BSA and AML concerns, the Citigroup Board of Directors charged the Board’s Audit Committee with responsibility for legal compliance oversight.

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Wolst v. Monster Beverage Corporation, C.A. No. 9154-VCP (Del. Ch. October 3, 2014) (Noble, V.C.)

By David Bernstein and Meredith Laitner

On October 3, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court issued its ruling in Wolst v. Monster Beverage Corporation, C.A. No. 9154-VCP (Del. Ch. October 3, 2014) (Noble, V.C.), rejecting the plaintiff’s request to inspect Monster Beverage Corporation’s books and records pursuant to Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.

The plaintiff’s stated purpose for her request to inspect Monster’s books was to determine whether there was a basis for her to bring a derivative suit against Monster based on insider trading that occurred seven years ago.  A class action regarding the insider trading had been settled for $16.25 million and a prior derivative suit, in which the plaintiff had been a participant, had been dismissed for failure to make a demand on the Board.  Subsequently a demand on the Board had been made and rejected.

The Court held that the possible new derivative suit that was the reason for the plaintiff’s Section 220 demand was time-barred by laches. Further, Vice Chancellor Noble refused to extend to derivative claims the general rule that a class action tolls the statute of limitations for the members of the class pursuing individual direct claims.

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Quadrant Structured Products Company v. Vertin, C.A. No. 6990-VCL (October 1, 2014) (Laster, V.C.)

By William Axtman and Dotun Obadina

In Quadrant Structured Products Company v. Vertin, creditor plaintiff Quadrant Structured Products Company, Ltd. (“Quadrant”) asserted breach of fiduciary duty claims derivatively against the Board of Directors (the “Board”) of the Athilon Capital Corp. (the “Company”) and EBF & Associates (“EBF”), the holder of all of equity and certain junior debt of the Company.  EBF also managed the operations of the Company through service and license agreements between the Company and an affiliate of EBF, Athilon Structured Investment Advisors, LLC (“ASIA”), and appointed all five directors of the Board, three of which are current employees of EBF.

Quadrant, as holder of senior notes of the Company, asserted that (a) the Company was insolvent and (b) the directors of the Board and EBF breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty and committed corporate waste by (i) continuing to unnecessarily make interest payments on the junior debt, even though such payments could be deferred for an extended period of time (past the likely date of dissolution and liquidation of the Company), (ii) paying excessive service and license fees to ASIA and EBF to operate the Company, and (iii) changing the Company’s business model to take on greater risk under a strategy where EBF would  benefit from any upside as the sole holder of the junior debt and the Company’s equity, but the Company’s more senior creditors (including Quadrant) would bear the cost of any downside.  In addition, Quadrant asserted claims under the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act based on the non-deferral of interest on the junior debt and the payment of excessive service and license fees to ASIA and EBF to operate the Company.

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JD Holdings, L.L.C., et. al. v. The Revocable Trust of John Q. Hammons, et. al., C.A. 7480-VCL (Laster, V.C.)

By Masha Trainor and Ryan Drzemiecki

This case involves a dispute over interpretation of a right of first refusal clause. In 2005, John Q. Hammons, a hotel entrepreneur, entered into a complex transaction (the “2005 Transaction”), structured as a triangular merger, in which Hammons’ publicly traded company, John Q. Hammons Hotels, Inc., emerged as indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of JD Holdings, LLC, which is controlled by Jonathan Eilian. As part of the 2005 Transaction, Hammons granted Eilian a right of first refusal (the “ROFR”) to purchase any interest in a hotel or other real property described therein (each a “JQH Subject Hotel”).

The plaintiffs, entities affiliated with Eilian (“Plaintiff”), originally filed suit to obtain a declaration regarding the meaning of certain provisions of the ROFR Agreement. Subsequently, Hammons died. The parties agreed that, pursuant to the ROFR Agreement, Hammons’ death triggered a 90-day period during which Eilian would negotiate exclusively with JQH Trust and Hammons’ estate (“Defendant”) to determine whether Eilian would buy the JQH Subject Hotels. However, they disagreed about the JQH Trust’s obligations following the expiration of the exclusivity period. Plaintiff argued that the ROFR clause required the JQH Trust to liquidate all of the JQH Subject Hotels for cash within a certain period after Hammons’ death even if the parties did not agree on a transaction during the exclusivity period, and the ROFR would apply to any such sale. In the answer and counterclaim to the amended complaint, Defendant rejected this interpretation of the ROFR, contending, among other things, that the ROFR failed to create any affirmative obligation to sell and, even if it did, would be void under the rule against perpetuities. The parties have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings on this and other claims and counterclaims.

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