Author: froio

Delaware Court of Chancery Declines to Dismiss Claims for Breach of Contract and Breach of Fiduciary Duties

By Nick Froio and Zack Sager

In CMS Investment Holdings, LLC v. Castle, the Delaware Court of Chancery declined to dismiss claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duties, and civil conspiracy, among others.

In Castle, the Plaintiff, CMS Investment Holdings, LLC, was a member of, and holder of Class A units in, RP Holdings Group, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (the “Company”). The business of the Company (i.e., providing non-legal administrative services in connection with mortgage foreclosures) was created by the principal Defendants (i.e., five individuals who practiced law in Colorado and Arkansas). The Defendants held Class B and C units in the Company and ran the business in their various capacities as employees, officers, and managers of the Company. The Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the Defendants, along with several of their affiliated entities, intentionally failed to make distributions to the Plaintiff, as a Class A unitholder, in favor of the Defendants in violation of the Company’s limited liability company agreement (the “LLC Agreement”). The Plaintiff also alleged that the Defendants purposefully took actions to block the Company from receiving much-needed debt refinancing, facilitated the Company‘s decline into insolvency, secretly negotiated with its creditors, and then, through their affiliated entities, purchased on favorable terms a major part of the Company’s business back from the Company in receivership.

The Plaintiff brought direct claims against the Defendants alleging (1) breach of the LLC Agreement and the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (2) breach of fiduciary duties, (3) aiding and abetting breaches of fiduciary duties, (4) civil conspiracy, and (5) violation of the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

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Court of Chancery Finds That Manager Breached Her Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty by Engaging in Numerous Self-Interested Transactions

By Nick Froio and Zack Sager

In this memorandum opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery found Sandra Manno (“Manno”), the manager of CanCan Development, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (the “Company”), liable for breaching her fiduciary duty of loyalty to the Company by engaging in numerous self-interested transactions.

A manager of a Delaware limited liability company owes traditional fiduciary duties of care and loyalty unless the organizational documents of the limited liability company modify such duties.  The Court, citing Feeley v. NHAOCG, LLC, 62 A.3d 649 (Del. Ch. 2012), implied that the organizational documents of the Company did not modify the traditional fiduciary duties.

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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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Seaport Village Ltd. v. Seaport Village Operating Company, LLC, C.A. No. 8841-VCL (Sept. 24, 2014) (Laster, V.C.)

By Nick Froio and Zack Sager

Seaport Village Operating Company, LLC (the “LLC”) sought to recover from Seaport Village Ltd. (“Limited”) attorneys’ fees and expenses that the LLC incurred in two related actions.  The limited liability company agreement of the LLC (the “LLC Agreement”) provided that if any action was brought by a party against another party relating to or arising out of the LLC Agreement, the prevailing party shall be entitled to recover from the other party reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.  Limited’s only defense was that because the LLC did not sign the LLC Agreement, it was not a “party” to the LLC Agreement.  The Court of Chancery rejected this argument citing Section 18-101(7) of the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act, which states that “[a] limited liability company is bound by its limited liability company agreement whether or not the limited liability company executes the limited liability company agreement.”  The court held that since the LLC was bound to the LLC Agreement and that, as a matter of contract law principles, “only parties to a contract are bound by that contract,” the LLC was a party to the LLC Agreement and could enforce the fee-shifting provision.

SeaportVillageLtdvSeaportVillageOperating

2009 Caiola Family Trust, et al. v. PWA, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 8028-VCP (Apr. 30, 2014) (Parsons, V.C.)

By Nick Froio and Marisa DiLemme

In this opinion, Vice Chancellor Parsons considers the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment as to the proper interpretation of a key provision of the operating agreement (the “Operating Agreement”) of Dunes Point West Associates, LLC (the “Company”), a Delaware limited liability company, relating to the Company’s management. The plaintiffs, together, own 90% of the Company, and are the only non-managing members of the Company. The defendants are PWA, LLC (“PWA”), the Company’s managing member and the holder of a10% interest in the Company, and Ward Katz, the managing member of PWA and sole owner of the Company’s property manager, Dunes Residential Services, Inc. (“DRS”). In July 2012, plaintiffs voted to terminate DRS as property manager. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs voted to terminate PWA as managing member for “Cause” due to PWA having materially breached the Operating Agreement by not implementing their decision to replace DRS with a new property manager.

The plaintiffs argued that Section 8.4(a) of the Operating Agreement allows the non-managing members to mandate removal of the property manager by majority vote since one of the actions upon which the non-managing members are entitled to vote under Section 8.4(a) included the termination of the management agreement under which DRS was appointed property manager. The defendants argued that Section 8.4(a) of the Operating Agreement only gives the non-managing members a limited veto right over those Company actions. The Court found Section 8.4(a) to be unambiguous and agreed with the defendant’s interpretation of the provision as granting only a limited veto power.

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Caspian Select Credit Master Fund Ltd. v. Key Plastics Corporation, C.A. No. 8625-VCN (Noble, V.C.)

By Nick Froio

In this opinion, Vice Chancellor Noble considered a dispute involving a minority investor, Caspian Select Credit Master Fund Ltd. (“Caspian”), in a closely-held portfolio company, Key Plastics Corporation (“Key Plastics”), seeking to obtain certain books and records of Key Plastics pursuant to 8 Del. Code § 220.  The Court found in favor of Caspian, holding that Caspian had stated proper purposes under Section 220, and that Key Plastics failed to demonstrate that those purposes were false or a pretense.

In initiating this Section 220 action, Caspian argued that the proper purposes for its books and records requests were to investigate the value of its interest and the potential waste, mismanagement, self-dealing, and other improper transactions related to a loan transaction between Key Plastics and an affiliate of Key Plastics’ controlling stockholders (the “Affiliated Loan”). Key Plastics argued that Caspian’s alleged purposes were not its primary motive and that they were a false pretense:  Caspian already had the information needed to investigate any potential wrongdoing and was litigating solely to pressure the controlling stockholders to purchase its interest.

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