Archive: April 2020

Stockholder’s Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim against Chairman of Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. Dismissed by Delaware Court of Chancery

By: Joanna Diakos and Marissa Leon

In Bay Capital Finance, L.L.C. v. Barnes and Noble Education, Inc. (C.A. No. 2019-0539-KSJM), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) enforced a company’s advance notice provision in its bylaws, dismissed a stockholder’s breach of fiduciary claim against a company’s chairman and ordered the stockholder to pay the defendants’ attorneys’ fees as a result of its bad faith litigation conduct.  

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Court of Chancery Applies Entire Fairness Standard to PennyMac’s Reorganization Transaction

By: Annette Becker and Marissa Leon

In Robert Garfield v. BlackRock Mortgage Ventures, LLC, et al (the “Defendants”) (C.A. No. 2018-9017-KSJM), the Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss claims of breach of fiduciary duties filed by Robert Garfield (the “Plaintiff”), an investor that claims a reorganization of Private National Mortgage Acceptance Company, LLC (“PennyMac, LLC”) was unfair to certain stockholders.  The Court of Chancery found that the complaint stated a claim when evaluated under the entire fairness standard of review where stockholders constituting a “control group” stood to benefit from the transaction.

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Court Reviews Fiduciary Disclosure Obligations in Connection with Seeking Investments

By Annette E. Becker and Samira F. Torshizi

In Clark v. Davenport, C.A. No. 2017-0839-JTL (Del. Ch. July 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled on a motion to dismiss claims brought by Plaintiff Kenneth Clark (“Clark” or “Plaintiff”) against former officers, directors, and controlling stockholders of a now-defunct Basho Technologies Inc. (“Basho”) by an investor, who accused defendants of violating their fiduciary duties and committing fraud by inducing plaintiff to invest millions in what defendants knew was a failing enterprise.  The motions to dismiss were granted in part and denied in part dependent on the involvement of the particular defendant in the scheme. 

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Court of Chancery Holds That Sole, Conflicted General Partner Cannot, By Reason of its Conflict, Delegate its Otherwise Valid Power to Manage Derivative Litigation

By: Scott Waxman and Tami Mack

In Wenske v. Blue Bell Creameries, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0699-JRS (Del. Ch. August 28, 2019), the Court of Chancery held that Blue Bell Creameries, Inc., the sole general partner (the “General Partner”) of Blue Bell Creameries, LP (the “Partnership”), was not a disinterested entity such that it could delegate its otherwise valid power to manage derivative litigation. The Court also held that it was not appropriate to undertake a conflict analysis with respect to the individual members of the board of directors of the General Partner (the “GP Board”), because such analysis would disregard the established policy of respecting the legal fiction of the business entity.

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CHANCERY COURT FINDS PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS OF FRAUD, BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY, AND RELATED CLAIMS, PASS MUSTER UNDER 12(b)(6)

By: Scott E. Waxman and Douglas A. Logan

In Simon Ogus v. SportTechie, Inc., memorandum opinion 200131, C.A. No. 2018-0869-AGB, the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”), generally held that Simon Ogus (the “Plaintiff”), pled sufficiently claims for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting, civil conspiracy and breach of contract against  Oak View Group, LLC (“Oak View”) and individuals Taylor Bloom, Francesca Bodie, Daniel Kaufman (each a “Defendant” and together the “Defendants”). The claims stemmed from the Plaintiff’s termination and subsequent forced sale of shares in SportTechie, Inc. (“SportTechie or the “Company”), and the Court allowed most of the Plaintiff’s claims to survive the 12(b)(6) motion but dismissed a small number as well.

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COURT OF CHANCERY DENIES ITALIAN CITIZEN’S MOTION TO DISMISS

By:  Scott E. Waxman and Rachel Cheasty Sanders

In AlixPartners, LLP et al. v. Giacomo Mori, Case No. 2019-0392-KSJM (Del. Ch. Nov. 26, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed Defendant Giacomo Mori’s motion to dismiss for (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction and standing, (2) lack of personal jurisdiction, (3) improper venue, and (4) failure to state a claim. Defendant primarily contended that two foreign laws divested the Court of subject matter jurisdiction and that the forum selection clauses contained in particular agreements to which he was a party were unenforceable.  The Court rejected Defendant’s contentions finding that the claims against Defendant were transitory in nature and did not divest the Court of subject matter jurisdiction, the forum selection clauses were sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over Defendant, and that Plaintiffs’ compliant adequately stated numerous claims. In denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss, however, the Court stayed certain counts against Defendant which arose solely from his employment agreement with one of the Plaintiffs on the basis of the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

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DELAWARE DENIES INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL OF ORDINARY ADVANCEMENT ENTITLEMENT DECISION

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Sider et al. v. Hertz Global Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0237-KSJM; C.A. No. 2019-0240-KSJM; C.A. No. 2019-0243-0243-KSJM; CA. No. 2019-0246-KSJM (Del. Ch. June 17, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery re-affirmed its support for advancement consistent with corporate bylaw provisions and denied the Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (the “Defendant”) motion seeking immediate appellate review of advancement entitlement. The Court held that Defendant’s concern that plaintiffs would be unable to repay any advanced expenses, which they could later be found not to have been entitled to, did not outweigh Delaware’s preference for advancement. Defendant’s recourse for recouping advanced expenses is via “indemnification or on appeal after issues of reasonableness have been resolved.”

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Delaware Court of Chancery Dismisses Petition for Equitable Dissolution of an LLC by a Non-Member

By Scott E. Waxman and Jessica A. Pingleton

In SolarReserve CSP Holdings v. Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0791-JRS (Del. Ch. Mar. 18, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed a non-member/non-manager’s petition for equitable dissolution of a limited liability company where there was no statutory basis for dissolution and insufficient evidence of wrongdoing by the members or managers of the limited liability company to warrant such an extreme remedy.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Applies Narrow Arbitration Provision in Member Dispute; Stays Claims Pending Arbitration

By Scott E. Waxman and Jessica A. Pingleton

In 360 Campaign Consulting, LLC et al. v. Diversity Communication, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 2019-0807-MTZ (Del. Ch. Mar. 20, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) applied a middle ground approach based on the plain language of an arbitration provision in a governing limited liability company agreement (the “LLC Agreement”), holding that only disputes, controversies or claims between Members arising out of or relating to the LLC Agreement were arbitrable. The Court granted a stay of all remaining claims pending resolution of the arbitration.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Finds That “Blocking Rights” Exercised By Minority Investors May Amount to an “Actual Control” Position

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank J. Mazzucco

In Skye Mineral Investors, LLC and Clarity Copper, LLC v. DXS Capital (U.S.) Limited et al., C.A. No. 2018-0059-JRS (Del. Ch. Feb. 24, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery allowed claims to survive a motion to dismiss when such claims sufficiently pled that, by exercising certain “blocking rights,” minority members of an LLC achieved an actual control position over the LLC and, in bankrupting the LLC’s subsidiary in order to purchase its assets at a reduced price, breached their related fiduciary duties.

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Caremark Claim Dismissed Due to Inadequate Pleading of Demand Futility

By: Michelle McCreery and Zane Madden

In Hubert Owens, Derivatively on Behalf of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. v. Tim M. Mayleben, et al., C.A. No. 12985-VCS (Del. Ch. February 13, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint (the “complaint”) for failure to adequately plead demand futility.  After analyzing the allegations in the complaint, the Court concluded that plaintiff’s claims failed because the facts alleged did not demonstrate at the dismissal stage that a majority of the board of directors (the “board”) could not exercise independent and disinterested judgment with regard to a litigation demand.  The plaintiff was at all relevant times a stockholder of the Company.  The members of the board and the Chief Medical Officer of the Company were the defendants.

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COURT OF CHANCERY ORDERS SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE OF MERGER AGREEMENT, FINDING THAT FRAUD CONTAINED IN FDA FILINGS FOR APPROVAL OF TARGET PRODUCT DID NOT RISE TO A “MATERIAL ADVERSE EFFECT”

By: Annette Becker and Teresa Teng

In Channel Medsystems, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corporation, C.A. No. 2018-0673-AGB (Del. Ch. December 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery ordered specific performance of a merger agreement, finding that breaches of the representations and warranties arising from the fraud of a key employee of the seller did not rise to the level of a “Material Adverse Effect.” As a result, the buyer was not entitled to terminate the merger agreement and breached the further assurances provision of the merger agreement by failing to meaningfully engage with seller upon seller’s discovery of the fraud.

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