Archive: October 2019

rejecting a suit seeking a 43.9% higher payout, the delaware chancery court declared that the $18 per share price paid for stillwater was the fair value.

By Scott E. Waxman and Pouya Ahmadi

In In Re: Appraisal of Stillwater Mining Company, Consol. C.A. No. 2017-0385-JTL (Del. Ch. Aug 21, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that the fair value of Stillwater Mining Company (“Stillwater”) at the time of its acquisition through a reverse triangular merger with Sibanye Gold Limited (“Sibanye”) was $18 per share, equal to the merger consideration.

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Chancery Court Dismisses Uber Derivative Suit for Failure to Make Demand or Plead Demand Futility

By Annette Becker and Will Smith

In McElrath v. Kalanick, C.A. No. 2017-0888-SG (Ch. Del. April 1, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed a derivative suit brought by a stockholder of Uber Technologies, Inc. (“Uber”) for damages arising from its acquisition of Ottomotto, LLC (“Otto”), an autonomous vehicle technology company. Plaintiff did not make demand on the defendant board of directors of Uber (the “Board”) for action prior to pursuing litigation. The Court dismissed the derivative suit finding that a majority of the Board that would have evaluated a demand was disinterested and independent, and therefore, had plaintiff made demand of the Board, such a demand would not have been futile.

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MAINTAINING GOOD CORPORATE GOVERNANCE: ENTIRE FAIRNESS CREEPING INTO ACTIONS BENEFITING A CONTROLLING STOCKHOLDER

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Tornetta v. Musk, Civil Action No. 2018-0408-JRS (Del. Ch. Sep. 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed the appropriate standard of review to apply when examining stockholder approval of a conflicted controller for the controller’s own executive incentive compensation package. In January 2018, Tesla, Inc.’s board of directors (the “Board”) approved a compensation package (the “Award”) for its CEO, Elon Musk. The Board then submitted the Award to Tesla’s stockholders for approval. The Award was overwhelmingly approved. Tornetta (“Plaintiff”), a Tesla stockholder, brought four direct and derivative claims against Musk and members of the Board (the “Defendants”) alleging the Award is a product of breaches of fiduciary duty, constitutes waste, and unjustly enriches Musk. The Defendants moved to dismiss all counts under Rule 12(b)(6) (the “Motion”).

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A SIGNATURE ALONE IS NOT DISPOSITIVE EVIDENCE OF AN INTENT TO BE BOUND IN AN AGREEMENT

By: Scott E. Waxman and Mehreen Ahmed

In Eagle Force Holdings, LLC, and EF Investments, LLC, v. Stanley V. Campbell, 2999991.08000 (Del. Ch. Aug. 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that Stanley Campbell’s (“Campbell”) conduct and communications with the Plaintiff before and during the signing of the transaction documents did not constitute an overt manifestation of assent to be bound by the documents. Therefore, the breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims failed.

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Failure to Make Demand on Board Prior to Commencing Derivative Action Not Excused When Plaintiff Did Not Demonstrate that Demand Would Have Been Futile Because Directors Acted in Bad Faith by Knowingly Breaching their Oversight Responsibilities

By: Eric E. Freedman and Serena M. Hamann

In Juan C. Rojas derivatively and on behalf of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. v. Marvin R. Ellison, et al, C.A. No. 2018-0755-AGB (Del. Ch. July 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed with prejudice a derivative claim brought against J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (“J.C. Penney,” or the “Company”) and current and former members of the Company’s board of directors (the “Board”), on the grounds that the failure of plaintiff Juan Rojas (“Rojas”) to make a demand on the Board prior to filing suit did not satisfy the requirements of Delaware law for excuse from the requirement to make such a demand. The Court held that Rojas had failed to allege facts from which the Court could reasonably infer that any of the Board members had acted in bad faith by knowingly failing to exercise their oversight responsibilities, and that Rojas therefore had not demonstrated that a demand on the Board would have been futile.

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Director Independence and Demand Futility: A Holistic Inquiry of the Pleading

By: Josh Gaul and Rich Minice

In In re BGC Partners, Inc. Derivative Litigation, Civil Action No. 2018-0722-AGB (Del. Ch. Sep. 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied motions to dismiss for (i) failure to establish demand futility and (ii) failure to state a claim for relief (the “Motions”) filed by nominal defendant BGC Partners, Inc. (“BGC”), its affiliates CF Group Management, Inc. (“CF”) and Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. (“Cantor”), Howard Lutnick, the CEO, Chairman of the Board, and controlling stockholder of BGC (“Lutnick”), and four “independent” members of the Board of Directors of BGC (the “Special Committee Defendants” and all of which, together, are the “Defendants”). In denying the Motions in this stockholder derivative litigation, the court primarily discussed and applied recent guidance from the Delaware Supreme Court on the Aronson test for demand futility. In re BGC Partners, Inc. puts controlling stockholders on notice that their professional and personal ties to board members may undermine the purported independence of those board members.

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waiver of appraisal rights in a stockholder agreement is enforceable under delaware law

By Annette Becker and Pouya Ahmadi

In Manti Holdings, LLC v. Authentix Acquisition Co., Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0887 SG (Del. Ch. Aug 14, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that Contractual agreements limiting or waiving future appraisal rights are not prohibited as a matter of law under the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).

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Termination Fee is Not Exclusive Remedy for Breach of No-Shop

By Sara Kirkpatrick and Lisa Stark

On September 9, 2019, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that Genuine Parts Company (“GPC”) adequately pled facts that supported a pleading stage inference that Essendant Inc. breached its merger agreement with GPC by terminating the agreement to pursue a transaction with non-party Sycamore Partners (“Sycamore”) pursuant to a superior proposal termination right. The Court further found that GPC adequately pled that its acceptance of a termination fee from Essendant did not preclude GPC from pursuing breach of contract claims against Essendant for its alleged breaches of the parties’ merger agreement.

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COURT OF CHANCERY APPLIES POLITICAL QUESTION DOCTRINE IN DEFERRING TO U.S. PRESIDENT’S RECOGNITION OF VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT AND HOLDS THAT EXTRA-TERRITORIAL EFFECTS DO NOT PRECLUDE APPLICATION OF THE ACT OF STATE DOCTRINE

By: CJ Voss and Teresa Teng

In Jiménez v. Palacios et al., C.A. No. 2019-0490-KSJM (Del. Ch. Aug. 2, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery accepted as binding the U.S. President’s recognition of a foreign government and upheld the validity of that government’s appointments to the board of directors of a state-owned oil company. In turn, the state-owned oil company could validly appoint the board of directors of its Delaware subsidiaries. However, the court determined that the consents appointing the boards of directors of the Delaware subsidiaries were not appropriately considered on a motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted the plaintiffs the opportunity to identify facts in dispute foreclosing summary judgment in favor of the defendants. 

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earn-out provision of merger agreement requires extrinsic evidence to aid interpretation

By Scott E. Waxman and Pouya D. Ahmadi

In Western Standard, LLC, v. SourceHOV Holdings, Inc. and Pangea Acquisitions, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0280-JRS (Del. Ch. July 24, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) refused to the grant SourceHOV Holdings, Inc. (“SourceHOV”) and Pangea Acquisitions, Inc.’s (“Pangea”) motion to dismiss, holding that more extrinsic evidence was needed for the Court to be able to interpret the terms of the merger agreement (the “Merger Agreement”) among Pangea and BancTec, Inc. (“BancTec”) and decide whether there was a valid breach of a contract claim.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Allows Stockholder to Inspect Books and Records Over Defendant Corporation’s Objections

By Scott Waxman and Serena Hamann

In Senetas Corporation, Ltd. v. DeepRadiology Corporation, C.A. No. 2019-0170-PWG (Del. Ch. July 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery allowed a stockholder’s books and records inspection despite objections raised by the defendant corporation because the stockholder established a proper purpose for the inspection by proving a credible basis from which the Court could infer mismanagement or wrongdoing may have occurred and because the defendant failed to prove the plaintiff’s stated purpose was offered under false pretenses.

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