Archive: 2015

Chancery Court Grants in Part and Denies in Part Motion to Dismiss in Fraud Dispute

By Eric Feldman and James Parks

On a motion to dismiss in Prairie Capital III, L.P. v. Double E Holding Corp., the Delaware Court of Chancery, granting in part and denying in part the defendant’s motion, re-enforced the importance of bargained-for contractual terms in the context of a dispute over a transaction consummated pursuant to a stock purchase agreement.

The case involves a transaction between two private equity firms, Prairie Capital Partners and Incline Equity Partners. Prairie Capital Partners, through its sponsored funds Prairie Capital III, L.P and Prairie Capital III QP, L.P. (collectively, “Prairie Capital”), owned Double E Parent LLC (the “Company”), a portfolio company, which it sold to Double E Holding Corp., which was an acquisition vehicle formed by Incline Equity Partners III, L.P., which was sponsored by Incline Equity Partners (collectively the “Buyer”). Prairie Capital III L.P. and Prairie Capital III QP, L.P. (the “Sellers”) were the principal sellers, and the Stock Purchase Agreement (the “SPA”) was signed and the transaction closed on April 4, 2012.  The SPA established an escrow fund for a limited period of time for the parties’ respective indemnification obligations and included procedures to make a claim against such escrow fund.

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Chancery Court Holds That a Limited Partner’s Claims are Dual-Natured and Can Be Pursued After a Related-Party Merger; $171 Million Award to Be Recovered Pro Rata By Unaffiliated Limited Partners

By Scott Waxman and Joshua Haft

The Chancery Court held that a plaintiff’s claim that a general partner was liable for breach of a limited partnership agreement, for which the general partner was previously found liable by the Chancery Court, was best viewed as a dual-natured claim.  Dual-natured claims should be viewed as derivative for purposes of Chancery Court Rule 23.1 and the demand doctrine, but should be viewed as direct for purposes of claim termination after a merger that extinguished a limited partnership.  Thus, the Chancery Court granted pro-rata recovery of a liability award for breach of a limited partnership agreement to limited partners who were not affiliated with the general partner at the time of the related-party merger that resulted in termination of the limited partnership.

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Chancery Court Denies Defendant Fund Manager’s Request to Pay Ongoing Legal Fees from Disputed Assets; Permits Payment of Administrative Fees Incurred in Completing Necessary SEC and Tax Filings

By Scott Waxman and Max Kaplan

By letter-order dated November 25, 2015, Vice Chancellor John W. Noble issued a “Status Quo Order” in Capital Link Fund I, LLC v. Capital Point Management, LP. By this order, the court approved disbursement of certain administrative fees sought by defendants from the assets in dispute, but denied defendants’ request to pay its legal fees from the same disputed assets.

Plaintiffs in this action are limited partners to an investment fund of which defendant Capital Point Management, LP (“CPMLP”) is the general partner. In July of 2014, CPMLP caused the partnership to sell all of its assets to defendant Princeton Capital Corporation (“Princeton Capital”)—a CPMLP affiliate. Plaintiffs allege that CPMLP, in violation of the controlling partnership agreement, did so without providing notice to or obtaining approval from the limited partners or the partnership’s Board of Advisors.

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In Related Actions, Chancery Court Orders Advancement of Expenses and Confirms that New DGCL Section 205 Provides Limited Authority for the Court to Invalidate Corporate Acts

By Lisa Stark and John Sun

In In re Genelux Corp., C.A. Nos. 10612, 10042-VCP (Del. Ch. Oct. 22, 2015), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that Dr. Aladar Szalay, a former director and officer of Genelux Corporation (“Genelux”), was entitled to advancement of his fees and expenses incurred as an intervenor in an action brought by Genelux to invalidate Szalay’s Genelux stock and the election of two Genelux directors (the “Section 205/225 Action”).  The Court also awarded Szalay his fees in prosecuting the advancement action.  In the Section 205/225 Action, the Court held that new Section 205 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (the “DGCL”) does not authorize the Court of Chancery to invalidate any defective corporate act, including putative stock, other than defective corporate acts ratified pursuant to Section 204 of the DGCL.  The Court also held that Szalay’s election of two Genelux directors based on the disputed stockholdings to be valid under Section 225 of the DGCL.

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Court of Chancery Reallocates Limited Liability Company Distributions According to Prior Agreements between the Parties

By Andrew Skouvakis and Thomas Meyer

In Finger Lakes Capital Partners, LLC v. Honeoye Lake Acquisition, LLC, the Court of Chancery held that proceeds from a limited liability company’s liquidity event distributed to the members of the limited liability company should be reallocated in accordance with prior agreements between the members. The Court found that an integration clause in the limited liability company agreement did not supersede allocation provisions in the prior agreements.

In 2003, Zubin Mehta and Gregory Shalov formed Finger Lakes Capital Partners, LLC (“Finger Lakes”) to sponsor investments in portfolio companies. Lyrical Partners, L.P. (“Lyrical”) provided the majority of the capital for these investments. In 2004, Mehta, Shalov, and Lyrical executed a binding term sheet (the “Term Sheet”) addressing the ongoing business relationship between Finger Lakes and Lyrical. Under the Term Sheet, Lyrical received a 25% ownership interest in Finger Lakes and was entitled to a percentage of portfolio company management fees that would otherwise go to Finger Lakes.

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Delaware Chancery Court Denies Creditor Plaintiff’s Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Fraudulent Transfer, and Breach of Covenant Claims

By Scott Waxman and Dotun Obadina

In Quadrant Structured Products Company v. Vertin, plaintiff creditor Quadrant Structured Products Company, Ltd. (“Quadrant”) asserted claims against defendant Athilon Capital Corporation (“Athilon” or the “Company”), challenging transactions made by Athilon in which Athilon purchased securities and notes from Merced Capital, L.P. and its affiliates (together, “Merced”), owners of 100% of the Athilon’s equity and significant amounts of Athilon’s publicly-traded junior and senior notes.[1]  Quadrant contended at trial that the repurchase of Merced’s notes breached express covenants in the indenture governing the notes and also violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  Quadrant also contended that the repurchases of the notes constituted a fraudulent transfer.  Finally, relying on its status as a creditor of an insolvent company, Quadrant claimed derivatively that the repurchases of the notes and securities constituted breaches of fiduciary duty by Merced and the individual defendants, who comprised Athilon’s board of directors.  The court rejected all of Quadrant’s claims.

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Chancery Court Holds That Merger Price That Resulted from a Thorough and Vigorous Sale Process Is the Best Indication of Fair Value in Appraisal Proceeding

By Susan Apel and Calvin Kennedy

Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP v. BMC Software, Inc. concerns an appraisal proceeding under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law in which the Chancery Court found that the deal price generated by the market through a thorough and vigorous sales process was the best indication of fair value.

On September 13, 2013, the petitioners, Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP (together, “Merion”), filed a Verified Petition for Appraisal of Stock pursuant to 8 Del. C. § 262 (the “Appraisal Statute”) against respondent, BMC Software, Inc. (“BMC”). The action stemmed from a merger pursuant to which BMC’s stockholders were cashed out at a price of $46.25 per share (the “Merger”).   Merion (who the court noted are “arbitrageurs who bought, not into an ongoing concern, but instead into this lawsuit”) owned 7,629,100 shares of BMC common stock. The Court presided over a four day trial in this matter, at which Merion presented expert testimony claiming that the stock was undervalued and BMC presented expert testimony claiming that the Merger price actually exceeded fair value.

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Stockholder’s Challenge to $35M Stock Issuance to Freeport-McMoran CEO Dismissed by Delaware Court of Chancery

By Holly Hatfield and James Parks

A stockholder’s claims regarding a $35 million stock issuance to Freeport-McMoran CEO Richard Adkerson were dismissed. Governance changes within Freeport that were thought to have triggered an option in Adkerson’s employment contract that would have permitted him to quit and receive a $46 million severance package allowed the board to preempt that eventuality by issuing him $35 million in stock.

In Shaev v. Adkerson, C.A. No. 10436-VCN (Del. Ch. Oct. 5, 2015), Vice Chancellor Noble, writing for the Delaware Court of Chancery, granted defendant Freeport-McMoran’s (“Freeport” or the “Company”) motion to dismiss plaintiff Victoria Shaev’s (“Shaev” or “Plaintiff”) direct and derivative claims under Court of Chancery Rules 12(b)(6) and 23.1.

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Delaware Chancery Court Asserts Personal Jurisdiction over Third Party Defendants in Connection with Contribution Sought for the Advancement of Legal Fees and Costs

By Annette Becker and Sophia Lee Shin

In Konstantino v. AngioScore, Inc. v. Quattro Vascular PTE Ltd, et al., the Delaware Court of Chancery reviewed a motion to dismiss filed by three Singapore entity defendants seeking dismissal of a third party claim brought by AngioScore, Inc. (“AngioScore”) for lack of personal jurisdiction and by the Singapore entity defendants and a Delaware entity defendant for failure to state a claim for contribution and tortious interference with contract in connection with the manufacture and sale of a competing product. The Court of Chancery denied the third party defendants’ motion in part, holding that the Court had personal jurisdiction over the three Singapore entity defendants under the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction, and that AngioScore stated a claim for contribution from all of the third party defendants, and granted the motion in part, holding that AngioScore had not stated a claim for tortious interference with contract.

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Chancery Court Confirms Delaware’s Merger Statutes Inapplicable to Options

By Lisa Stark and Eric Jay

In Kurt Fox v. CDX Holdings, Inc. (f/k/a Caris Life Sciences, Inc.), C.A. No. 8031-VCL (Del. Ch. July 28, 2015), the Delaware Court of Chancery confirmed that Delaware’s merger statutes do not effect a statutory conversion of options at the effective time of a merger. Rather, the treatment of stock options in a merger is governed by the underlying stock option plan, which must be amended in connection with a merger if the treatment of options in the merger differs from the treatment contemplated by the plan. The Court also confirmed that a standard qualification in stock option plans, requiring a corporation’s board of directors to determine the fair market value of the option for purposes of cashing out the options, could not be satisfied by informal board action or a delegation to management or a third party.

This class action arose from a 2011 spin-off/merger transaction pursuant to which Miraca Holdings, Inc. (“Miraca”) acquired CDX Holdings, Inc. (formerly known as Caris Life Sciences, Inc.) (“Caris”) for $725 million (the “Merger”). Immediately prior to the Merger, Caris spun off two of its three subsidiaries to its stockholders (the “Spin-Off”). In the Merger, each share of Caris stock was converted into the right to receive $4.46 in cash. Each option was terminated with the right to receive the difference between $5.07 per share and the exercise price of the option, minus 8% of the total option proceeds, which were held back to fund an escrow account from which Miraca could satisfy indemnification claims brought post-closing.

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Court of Chancery Discusses Statute of Limitations in Claim for Indemnification

By Scott Waxman and Stephanie S. Liu

In Francis S. Branin, Jr. v. Stein Roe Investment Counsel, LLC, et al, the Court of Chancery considered whether Plaintiff’s claim for indemnification for expenditures related to litigation that had begun in 2002, but not was resolved with finality until 2012, was time-barred. The Court concluded that the statute of limitations on Branin’s indemnification claim did not begin to run until the underlying litigation was resolved, and thus his claim was timely. The Court granted Branin’s motion to strike Defendants’ affirmative defenses and granted his motion for summary judgment on Defendants’ obligation to indemnify him. The Court also found that Branin was entitled to prejudgment simple interest at the statutory legal rate, as well as fees incurred in successfully prosecuting his indemnification claim.

After Plaintiff Francis S. Branin, Jr. (“Branin” or the “Plaintiff”) resigned from Bessemer Trust, N.A. (“Bessemer”) on July 12, 2002, he began working for Defendant Stein Roe Investment Counsel LLC (“SRIC LLC”). On November 22, 2002, Bessemer sued Branin for improperly soliciting its clients and impairing its goodwill in violation of a New York implied covenant (“New York Action”). In 2012, after a decade of litigation, Branin successfully defended against all claims. On April 17, 2013, Branin turned to the Court to enforce a purported indemnification right against SRIC LLC, Stein Roe Investment Counsel, Inc., and Atlantic Trust Group, Inc. (collectively, the “Defendants”).

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Delaware Court of Chancery Reiterates Standard for Terminating a Receivership and Finds 10% Net Recovery Contingency for a Receiver Fee Reasonable under Delaware General Corporate Law

By Scott Waxman and Anthony L Yerry

In Jagodzinski v. Silicon Valley Innovation Company, LLC, Christian Jagodzinski, a unitholder in Silicon Valley Innovation Company, LLC (“SVIC”), fueled by personal disputes with Bram Portnoy, the receiver of SVIC, brought a motion to terminate the court-appointed receivership over SVIC or, alternatively, to reduce the receiver’s pay.  Setting aside the personal disputes between Portnoy and Jagodzinski, the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled that Jagodzinski failed to make a sufficient showing to justify terminating the receivership but held that the 10% contingency portion of Portnoy’s fees are to be based off of the net, instead of the gross, recovery of the receivership.

In 2000, Jagodzinski invested $1 million in SVIC, which was an incubator for other startup technology companies.  After about four years of allegedly successful investments, SVIC stopped sending reports to the equity holders.  Jagodzinski unsuccessfully attempted to contact SVIC and investigate the state of the company’s affairs.  Eventually on February 18, 2011, Jagodzinski initiated a books and records action against SVIC in the Delaware Court of Chancery.  The then manager of SVIC refused to cooperate with the court, and the court appointed Portnoy as a limited receiver of SVIC with the specific task of collecting the books and records of the SVIC.

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