Archive: October 2017

Chancery Court Dismisses Claims Against Defendants and Holds that the Transactional Structure in M&F Worldwide Applies to Conflicted One Sided Controller Transactions

By: Annette Becker and Joshua Haft

In In re Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 11202-VC (Ch. Ct  August 18, 2017) former stockholders of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (“MSLO”) brought a consolidated class action suit against Martha Stewart (“Stewart”), the former controlling stockholder of MSLO, for breach of fiduciary duty and against Sequential Brands Group, Inc. (“Sequential”), the acquirer of MSLO by merger, for aiding and abetting that breach claiming that Stewart leveraged her position as a controller to obtain disparate consideration for herself as compared to the minority stockholders of MSLO in the acquisition of MSLO.  Plaintiffs moved to dismiss, with the Court finding that the complaint failed to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Stewart, and on that basis need not reach the question of whether the complaint adequately pleads the elements of aiding and abetting such a breach, and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the complaint.

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Chancery Court Partially Grants Books and Records Request

By David Forney and Jonathan Miner

In Mehta v. Kaazing Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0087-JRS (Del. Ch. Sept. 29, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery partially granted and partially denied a plaintiff shareholder’s books and records inspecting demand under Section 220(c) of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).  Although valuation of equity is usually a proper purpose, here the shareholder did not identify any reason why his equity needed to be valued, so this purpose was deemed improper.  The shareholder’s other purposes, including alleged wrongdoing and mismanagement, were deemed proper notwithstanding the shareholder’s open employment litigation action against the company, but the scope of his requests were limited only to those documents that addressed the crux of those purposes.

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Chancery Court Defines De Novo Standard of Review for Appeals of Receiver’s Decisions Disallowing Claims

By: Jessica Pearlman and Will Smith

In B.E. Capital Management Fund LP v. Fund.Com Inc., C.A. No. 12843-VCL (Del. Ch. October 4, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied an appeal from a receiver’s decision disallowing a claim for breach of contract against a company in receivership. The Court held that the appropriate standard of review for an appeal of a receiver’s decision was de novo as to both law and facts, and in particular, that the Court had discretion to consider additional evidence not presented on record to the receiver. Applying this standard, the Court upheld the receiver’s decision, but on different grounds. The Court ruled that the breach of contract claim was time-barred by the doctrine of laches, not the contract’s choice-of-law provision, as choice-of-law provisions must expressly reference statutes of limitations to apply to statutes of limitations.

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COURT OF CHANCERY DISMISSES DERIVATIVE BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY CLAIMS FOR FAILURE TO MAKE A PRE-SUIT DEMAND OR DEMONSTRATE DEMAND FUTILITY

By: Annette Becker and Caitlin Velasco

In Chester Cty. Emp. Ret. Fund v. New Residential Inv. Corp., C.A. No. 11058-VCMR (Del. Ch. Oct. 6, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiff’s direct and derivative claims for breach of fiduciary duties under the Court of Chancery Rules 23.1 and 12(b)(6), because the plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand or demonstrate that doing so would be futile.  The Court found that although the facts alleged gave rise to a derivative claim, the plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand or plead particularized facts sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt that a majority of the directors on the New Residential Corp. (“New Residential”) board could have exercised their independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a demand.

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Court of Chancery Applies Corwin Ratification to Merger Involving Private Equity Firm Favored by Company’s Founder

By: Nicholas I. Froio and Taylor B. Bartholomew

In Morrison v. Berry, C.A. No. 12808-VCG (Del. Ch. Sept. 28, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery held on a motion to dismiss that plaintiff failed to plead facts from which it was reasonably conceivable that a tender of nearly eighty percent of the shares of The Fresh Market (the “Company”) was uninformed or coerced for purposes of surviving ratification under applicable caselaw in connection with the Company’s acquisition by private equity firm Apollo Management, L.P. (“Apollo”).

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CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES BREACH OF FIDUCIARY CLAIMS FOLLOWING THE CLOSING OF A MERGER INVOLVING INSIDER SIDE DEALS

By Joanna Diakos and Dean Brazier

In Alan Kahn v. Michael D. Stern, et al., C.A. No. 12498-VCG (Del. Ch. Aug. 28, 2017), the Delaware Chancery Court granted a motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiff’s claims that the director defendants breached their fiduciary duties when they approved a merger that included side deals.  The Court noted that the plaintiff had the burden of proving either that the board was not disinterested or that the board acted in bad faith with respect to the disclosures in the information statement released to stockholders.  The Court concluded that the plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

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