Archive: November 2014

NAMA Holdings LLC v. Related WMC LLC, et al., C.A. No. 7934-VCL (November 17, 2014) (Laster, V.C.)

By Joshua Haft and Scott Waxman

In NAMA Holdings, LLC v. Related WMC LLC, The Related Companies, L.P., and WMC Venture, LLC, the plaintiff, NAMA Holdings, LLC (“NAMA”) filed claims against Related WMC LLC (“Related Sub”) for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and against The Related Companies, L.P. (“Related Parent”) and World Market Center Venture, LLC (“WMCV”) for tortious interference with contract. The case originated from a suit filed by Related Sub and WMCV seeking a declaration that they complied with certain of their contractual obligations under the WMCV operating agreement, in which the Delaware Chancery Court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Related Sub and WMCV. In this Memorandum Opinion, the Delaware Chancery Court issued its post-trial decision after a trial on NAMA’s claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by Related Sub and tortious interference with contract by Related Parent and WMCV.

The plaintiff’s claims arose out of the development of a retail shopping mall in Las Vegas, Nevada called the World Market Center (the “Center”). In order to develop the Center, Alliance Network, LLC (“Alliance Network”) was formed by Prime Associates Group, LLC, which was owned by Shawn Samson and Jack Kashani, Crescent Nevada Associates, LLC, owned by relatives of Kashani, and NAMA. NAMA contributed 70% of the capital for Alliance Network, but after a dispute over additional needed capital, the project was restructured such that WMCV was formed by Alliance Network and Related Parent, a New York City real estate firm. WMCV had two members, Network World Market Center, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance Network (“Network”), and Related Sub.

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In re: Allergan, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 9609-CB (Del. Ch. November 7, 2014) (Bouchard, C.)

By David Bernstein and Meredith Laitner

On November 7, 2014, Chancellor Bouchard denied the plaintiffs’ requests for summary judgment in In re: Allergan, Inc. Stockholder Litigation.  This ruling comes amid an acrimonious proxy fight in which a company owned by Valeant and Pershing Square are seeking to remove six of the nine members of the Allergan Board and request that the Board engage in good faith discussions with Valeant with regard to a Valeant proposal to merge with Allergan that will come to a head at a special stockholder meeting scheduled for December 18, 2014.

The charter and bylaw provisions challenged by the plaintiffs permitted holders of 25% of Allergan’s stock to call a special meeting or act by stockholder consent, but not with regard to any matter that is identical or substantially similar to one presented at a stockholder meeting held during the previous year (a so-called “Similar Items” provision).  In a Supplemental Proxy Statement, Allergan had stated that this would permit stockholders to remove directors, but not to replace them by written consent at a meeting called by stockholders if an election had occurred within the past year.  The plaintiffs asked for a declaratory judgment that the Similar Items provisions would not prevent the stockholders from, at a special meeting, both removing the entire Board and electing a new Board so long as the new directors had not been up for election during the preceding year.

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Higher Education Management Group, Inc. v. Matthews, C.A. No. 911-VCP (November 3, 2014) (Parsons, V.C.)

By David Bernstein and Max Kaplan

On November 3, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss derivative claims in Higher Education Management Group, Inc. v. Mathews, C.A. No. 911-VCP (Del. Ch. Nov. 3, 2014) (Parsons, V.C.), after finding, among other things, that plaintiffs failed to plead with particularity facts showing demand upon nominal defendant’s board would have been futile.  In this case, defendant corporation’s subsidiary, Aspen University, paid out nearly $2.2 million in what were apparently expense reimbursements between 2003 and 2011.  These outlays were never recorded in the firm’s accounts—a fact discovered by management through a November 2011 audit. Apparently, rather than recording the expense, which would have required Aspen to restate previous years’ financial statements, management chose to treat the $2.2 million as a secured loan receivable owed by Aspen University’s former CEO—plaintiff Patrick Spada—with the intention of taking a write-off in the future.  Spada denied there ever was a loan and alleged that defendant officers and directors materially misrepresented the corporation’s finances by knowingly mischaracterizing the $2.2 million as a loan.

The court did not reach the merits of plaintiffs’ accusations, and it instead found that plaintiffs failed to either make a demand on the board or sufficiently plead that such a demand would be futile.  Plaintiffs had argued that the director defendants had made knowing misrepresentations that exposed them to a “substantial likelihood” of liability, and therefore all the directors were “interested” for purposes of satisfying the demand futility test.  However, Plaintiffs pled events that, if taken as true, showed only that two directors knew that there was no loan.  With regard to all the other directors, plaintiffs alleged only general knowledge of the loan being fake, attributing identical actions to all of the directors as a group without making specific allegations with regard to individual directors.  According to the court, “such broad and identical assertions . . . do not meet the requirements of pleading facts with particularity.”  Having found that the facts pled by the plaintiffs were only sufficient to show that a minority of directors were “interested,” the court concluded that a demand had not been shown to be futile and dismissed the claim.

Higher Education Management Group, Inc. v. Mathews

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. v. Apollo (Mauritius) Holdings Pvt. Ltd., et al., C.A. No. 8980-VCG (October 31, 2014) (Glasscock, V.C.)

By David Bernstein and Marisa DiLemme

This decision involves a merger agreement (the “Agreement”) between Apollo (Mauritius) Holdings Pvt. Ltd. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (“Cooper”), a principal purpose of which was for Apollo to acquire Cooper’s 65% interest in Chengshan Cooper Tires (“CCT”), a Chinese tire manufacturer. After the merger was announced, the minority owner of CCT apparently caused CCT’s union workers to go on strike by telling them that if they did not protest, they would be fired.  The minority partner also prevented Cooper from getting access to CCT’s financial records, which made it impossible for Cooper to prepare and deliver financial statements for the third quarter of 2013 as required by the Agreement.  Apollo refused to consummate the merger and sought a judicial declaration that its refusal was not a breach of the Agreement because Cooper had not satisfied several conditions to closing.

Vice Chancellor Glasscock agreed that Apollo was not required to carry out the merger because Cooper had not satisfied some of the conditions to closing.  Among other things, he found that the strike at CCT violated a Cooper covenant to cause each of its subsidiaries to “conduct its business in the ordinary course of business consistent with past practice.”  Cooper argued that an exception to the definition of “Material Adverse Effect” for a negative reaction to the Agreement by Cooper’s labor unions or joint venture partners also applied to the covenant to cause all subsidiaries to conduct their businesses in the ordinary course, but Vice Chancellor Glasscock rejected this argument, pointing out that even within the definition of Material Adverse Effect, there were some things (events that would prevent Cooper from fulfilling its obligations under the Agreement or from consummating the merger) that were not subject to the exception.

Another argument that Cooper made is that by attempting to negotiate terms on which the minority owner of CCT would withdraw its opposition to the transaction, Apollo acquiesced in proceeding with the merger despite what the minority owner was doing.  Vice Chancellor Glasscock rejected this argument, saying that Apollo was negotiating with the minority owner in an effort to make it possible for the merger to proceed.

CoopervApollo

In re TPC Group Inc. Shareholders Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 7865-VCN (October 29, 2014) (Noble, V.C.)

By Jamie Bruce and Lauren Garraux

The issue before the Court in In re TPC Group Inc. Shareholders Litigation was whether plaintiffs, shareholders of TPC Group Inc. (“TPC”) (“Plaintiffs”), were entitled to attorneys’ fees due to an increase in the merger price obtained between their commencement of shareholder litigation challenging the merger and the acquisition’s closing under an amended merger agreement.  Shortly after TPC announced its acquisition by First Reserve Corporation, SK Capital Partners and their affiliates (collective, the “PE Group”), Plaintiffs filed complaints in Delaware Chancery Court challenging the intended merger on a number of grounds, including inadequate price.  Ultimately, Plaintiffs’ claims were mooted by subsequent bidding and a supplemental proxy statement, which resulted in, inter alia, an increase of $5 per share ($79 million aggregate), an increase which TPC, its board and PE Group (collectively, “Defendants”) attributed to a competing proposal.

According to the Court, the critical issue with respect to Plaintiffs’ request was causation, i.e., whether Plaintiffs’ legal challenge was the cause of the price increase.  Under Delaware law, it is presumed that plaintiffs are a cause; therefore, the burden is on the defendant to prove, by the preponderance of the evidence, that no causal connection (whether direct or indirect) existed between the price increase and plaintiffs’ litigation efforts.  PE Group submitted affidavits citing concern over a competing proposal, negative publicity, public opposition by a significant shareholder, and the potential for an unfavorable evaluation by Institutional Shareholder Services when deciding whether PE Group should raise its bid.  While acknowledging that these affidavits were self-serving, the Court indicated that Defendants’ account was the most credible and was consistent with the record, and the Court concluded that Defendants had met their burden in this regard and, therefore, denied Plaintiffs’ request for attorneys’ fees relating to an increase in the merger price.

InReTPC

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