Archive: January 13, 2017

Delaware Chancery Court Confirms the Invalidity of Fee-Shifting Bylaws for Stock Corporations

By Lisa R. Stark and Taylor B. Bartholomew

In Solak v. Sarowitz, C.A. No. 12299-CB (Del. Ch. Dec. 27, 2016), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that plaintiff stated a claim that a stock corporation’s fee-shifting bylaw was facially invalid under Section 109(b) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”).  The fee-shifting bylaw purported to apply to a stockholder who sought to litigate claims involving the corporation’s internal corporate governance in a forum other than Delaware in violation of the corporation’s forum-selection bylaw.  No stockholder had violated the forum-selection bylaw at the time of the decision, and the plaintiff successfully overcame a ripeness defense.  In rendering its decision, the Court of Chancery confirmed that fee-shifting bylaws relating to internal corporate claims are impermissible for stock corporations following the 2015 amendments to the DGCL (the “2015 DGCL Amendments”) which prohibit stock corporations from enacting fee-shifting bylaws or certificate of incorporation provisions, in each case, relating to “internal corporate claims.”  Under Section 115 of the DGCL, “internal corporate claims” are claims, including derivative claims, (1) that are “based upon a violation of a duty by a current or former director or officer or stockholder in such capacity” or (2) as to which the DGCL “confers jurisdiction upon the Court of Chancery.”

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