Archive: February 2015

DGCL §220 Books and Records Request Improper as Stockholder Demonstrates Proper Purpose but is Unable to Show Loss or Harm to Corporation

By Porter Sesnon and Kristy Harlan

A Final Master’s Report recommended that the Chancery Court deny a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and grant the defendant’s cross-motion for summary judgment, relating to plaintiff’s demand to inspect a Delaware corporation’s books and records to investigate possible mismanagement, waste and breaches of fiduciary duty.

In October 2012, the plaintiff, Mr. Walther, made a demand to inspect the books and records of ITT Educational Services, Inc. (“ITT”) under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).  The Section 220 request stemmed from ITT’s public disclosures and a Majority Committee Staff Report (“Committee Report”) issued by the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee relating to ITT’s compliance with federal Title IV student loan eligibility requirements and its student loan default rates.

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Chancery Court Finds No Fiduciary Duty for Limited Partners

By Scott Waxman and Eric Jay

Chancery Court grants motion to dismiss against former limited partners seeking damages for a freeze-out merger they claimed was a self-dealing transaction by the general partner and its affiliates.  The Court granted the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction with regard to the general partner defendants based on a standard arbitration clause that referenced AAA Rules. The Court also granted the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim with regard to the affiliated limited partner defendants because majority ownership of the merged entities, without more, did not create a fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs.

On February 10, 2015, Vice Chancellor Parsons issued a memorandum opinion in Lewis v. AimCo Properties, L.P., 2015 WL 557995, (Del. Ch. Feb. 10, 2015) granting Motions to Dismiss for each group of defendants in the case. The case was brought by several former holders of limited partnership units (“Plaintiffs”) in four Delaware limited partnerships (the “Partnerships”). Each of the Partnerships was managed by corporate entity general partners (“GP Defendants”) that were each indirectly owned by Apartment Investment and Management Company (“AimCo”).  AimCo also indirectly held a majority of the limited partnership units of each Partnership through various affiliates (together with various officers, the “LP Defendants”).

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Court of Chancery Applies New DGCL § 205 to Determine Validity of Defective Corporate Acts

By Eric Freedman and Sophia Lee Shin

In In Re Numoda Corporation Shareholders Litigation, the Court of Chancery exercised its new powers under Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) § 205, which became effective as of April 1, 2014, to resolve various disputes regarding the capital structures of two related corporations that consistently failed to follow corporate formalities.

In In Re Numoda Corporation Shareholders Litigation, C.A. No. 9163-VCN (Del. Ch. January 30, 2015) (Noble, V.C.) (the “Numoda Shareholders Litigation Decision”), the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed a dispute concerning the capital structures of two corporations, Numoda Corporation (“Numoda Corp.”) and Numoda Technologies, Inc. (“Numoda Tech.”).  The Numoda Shareholders Litigation Decision came on the heels of a decision of the Court of Chancery in a prior related action, Bons v. Schaheen, 2013 WL 6331287 (Del. Ch. Dec. 2, 2013) (the “225 Action”), in which the Court of Chancery refused to recognize several purported stock issuances due to a failure to comply with corporate formalities.  Because DGCL § 204 (Ratification of defective corporate acts and stock) and DGCL § 205 (Proceedings regarding validity of defective corporate acts and stock) became effective on April 1, 2014, after the decision in the 225 Action, the Court in the Numoda Shareholders Litigation Decision used its new statutory powers to untangle the capital structures that had been the subject of the 225 Action.

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It’s a Family Affair… but Not Any More, as Chancery Court Grants Motion to Dissolve General Partners Under Section 273 of the DGCL

By Annette Becker and Lauren Garraux

The Chancery Court granted a petition in accordance with Section 273 of the Delaware General Corporation Law to dissolve two Delaware corporations, the general partners of two Massachusetts limited partnerships, initially formed by the patriarchs of the Grossman and Cohen families to own three real estate properties for the benefit of their respective family members, after the families reached an impasse as to how to dispose of the assets of the business.

In 1992, the patriarchs of the Grossman and Cohen families formed two Massachusetts limited partnerships (the “Partnerships”) to own three real estate properties for the benefit of their family members (at the time of this dispute, 25 Grossmans and 6 Cohens), who are limited partners in the Partnerships.  The general partners of the Partnerships (the “General Partners”) are two Delaware corporations, each of which is a joint venture corporation with two 50% stockholders, at the time of the dispute, the petitioner, Louis Grossman (“Louis”), and the respondent, Claire Cohen (“Claire”).

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Chancery Court Finds No “Gap” to be Filled, No Implied Covenant Claim in Earn-Out Dispute

By Nick Froio and Lauren Garraux

Chancery Court grants defendant’s motion to dismiss alternative claims of breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent inducement and negligent misrepresentation in earn-out dispute, holding that merger agreement set the standard to determine whether non-payment of earn-out was improper.

Fortis Advisors LLC v. Dialog Semiconductor PLC, C.A. No. 9522-CB (January 30, 2015) involves a dispute over whether earn-out payments are owed to the former equityholders of iWatt, Inc. (“iWatt”) pursuant to an Agreement and Plan of Merger dated as of July 1, 2013 (the “Merger Agreement”) whereby Dialog Semiconductor PLC (“Dialog”) acquired iWatt. Under the Merger Agreement, Dialog was to pay earn-out payments of up to $35 million depending on the post-merger revenues of Dialog’s Power Conversion Business Group, of which iWatt became a part post-closing. In addition, the terms of the Merger Agreement required that Dialog use its “commercially reasonable best efforts” to achieve and pay the earn-out payments in full. Revenues, however, fell short of the threshold amount to trigger the earn-out payments.

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Chancery Court Holds Merger Agreement’s Forum Selection Clause Trumps Stockholders Agreement

By Jamie Bruce and Mark Hammes

Chancery Court finds that three individual stockholders, as beneficiaries of a merger agreement, were equitably estopped from challenging the valid forum selection clause contained therein despite the fact that they did not personally sign the merger agreement.

In McWane, Inc. v. Lanier, C.A. No. 9488-VCP (Del. Ch. January 30, 2015) (Parsons, V.C.), the Chancery Court denied a motion to dismiss or stay from three individual defendant stockholders who argued that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over them in a dispute regarding whether certain representations and warranties in a merger agreement were violated.  The court determined that a forum selection clause in a stockholders agreement they had personally signed was trumped by the forum selection clause in the merger agreement that they had not personally signed.  The court determined that not only was the clause in the stockholders agreement merely permissive compared to the merger agreement’s mandatory language, but also that the stockholders agreement fundamentally related to the merger agreement, and the defendants, as beneficiaries of the merger agreement, were equitably estopped from challenging the forum selection clause in the merger agreement.

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Chancery Court Finds that Deal Price Represents Fair Value of Shares in Appraisal Proceeding

By David Bernstein and Meredith Laitner

In response to demands for appraisal of Ancestry.com shares, the Chancery Court found that the agreed upon merger price, which was greater than the price determined by the Court’s discounted cash flow analysis, represented the fair value of the shares.

On January 30, 2015, the Delaware Chancery Court in In re: Appraisal of Ancestry.com, Inc., C.A. No. 8173-VCG (Del. Ch. January 30, 2015) (Glasscock, V.C.) issued its determination as to the fair value of shares held by petitioners at the time of Ancestry’s acquisition by Permira Advisors.  Ancestry stockholders received merger consideration of $32 per share; petitioners in this case sought appraisal under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.

In an appraisal proceeding, because neither the petitioner nor the respondent has a burden of proof, the burden falls on the Court to establish fair value. The Court said that the statute requires it to consider all relevant factors, and while the agreed upon price is one of the relevant factors, the Court must go beyond that.

With respect to sale itself, the Court found Ancestry’s auction process sufficiently robust to make the price it generated a reliable and relatively untainted indicator of value.  However, it also made its own discounted cash flow analysis, after dissecting discounted cash flow analyses presented by petitioners’ and Ancestry’s experts, whose valuations differed significantly.  Among other things, Vice Chancellor Glasscock found the experts’ analyses problematic because they were based on projections prepared by Ancestry’s management for the purpose of selling the company and for the purpose of making it possible to obtain a fairness opinion with regard to the price a buyer was likely to pay.  In the end, Vice Chancellor Glasscock came up with a discounted cash value that was slightly below the agreed upon merger price.  He then ruled that the sale price (i.e., the merger price) best represented the fair value, and said his discounted cash value analysis gave him comfort that no undetected factor skewed the sale process.  It is noteworthy that if the Vice Chancellor had determined that the value of the Ancestry shares was the value yielded by his discounted cash flow analysis, the petitioners would have received less than the price paid in the merger.

In re Appraisal of Ancestry.com, Inc., C.A. No. 8173-VCG (Del. Ch. January 30, 2015)(Glasscock, V.C.)

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