Author: miner

Chancery Court Rules that Investing in Competing Businesses Does Not Constitute Misappropriation of Trade Secrets When Permitted by Governing Documents

By: Jessica Pearlman and Corinne Smith

In Alarm.com Holdings, Inc. v. ABS Capital Partners, Inc., et al. (C.A. No. 2017-0583-JTL (Del. Ch. June 15, 2018), plaintiff Alarm.com, Inc. (“Alarm”) brought suit against defendants ABS Capital Partners, Inc., ABS Partners V, LLC, and ABS Partners VII, LLC (collectively “ABS”) asserting: (1) the misappropriation of trade secrets under the Delaware Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“DUTSA”), and (2) common law misappropriation of confidential information. Both claims related to ABS’s investments and board appointments in both Alarm and one of its direct competitors. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed both claims for failure to state a claim pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6), ruling that (1) it was not reasonably conceivable that ABS engaged in misappropriation under DUTSA, and (2) DUTSA preempts Alarm’s common law claim because it is based on the same wrongful conduct as its trade secret claim. Read More

Chancery Court Applies Contract Terms to Clarify Difference Between Void and Voidable Stock Issuances

By Jessica Pearlman and Jonathan Miner

Southpaw Credit Opportunity Master Fund, L.P. v. Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0059-TMR (Del. Ch. Feb. 1, 2018) came before the Delaware Court of Chancery as a dispute over control of the board of directors of Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc. (“Roma” or the “Company”). Plaintiffs were a stockholder group that had taken a majority position in Roma’s common stock. After learning of Plaintiffs’ majority position, the Roma board adopted a new equity compensation plan and issued sufficient shares of restricted stock to Roma employees to dilute Plaintiffs below a majority ownership position. Plaintiffs considered the dilutive restricted stock issuances as invalid for a number of reasons, including the Company’s failure to obtain contractually mandated stockholder agreement joinder documents from each recipient before issuance, and presented Roma with a written consent that removed two of Roma’s current directors (the “Defendant Directors”) and replaced them with Plaintiffs’ nominees. Roma contested the validity of Plaintiffs’ written consent and the case came before the Court under Section 225 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) to determine the proper composition of Roma’s board of directors. Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves found that the disputed restricted stock issuances were void and could not be counted toward a stockholder vote.

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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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Unclean Hands and Unreasonable Demands — Chancery Court Holds That Plaintiff’s Fiduciary Duty Claims Fail Due to Doctrine of Unclean Hands

By Scott Waxman and Jonathan Miner

In Thomas McKenna, et al., v. David Singer, et al., C.A. No. 11371-VCMR (Del. Ch. July 31, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery relied on the doctrine of unclean hands to rule against the McKennas, a father and son team of would-be energy conversion financiers, who brought a claim for breach of fiduciary duties against their business partners, Daniel and David Singer, for alleged misappropriation of a corporate opportunity. The Singers were brothers and co-owned of an energy distribution business conducted through their companies, Singer Energy Group, LLC (“SEG”) and Robison Energy, LLC (“Robison Energy”). The Singers and McKennas formed two entities together, Robison Energy Fund, LLC (“REF”) and Green Energy Companies, LLC (“GEC”), with the intent of using REF and GEC to create a new financing business that would assist in capitalizing the Singers’ existing businesses and would act as an underwriting arm for loans to customers that wanted to finance energy conversion projects performed by Robison Energy.  These business and financing plans failed and the Singers turned instead to Westport Capital Partners (“Westport”) for a financing deal in which the McKennas, REF and GEC were ultimately not involved. The McKennas then sued the Singers on the theory that the Singers misappropriated an opportunity that belonged to REF and GEC. The Court found that the McKennas had misrepresented their previous financing work, and such misrepresentations had been integral in inducing the Singers to enter into a business relationship with the McKennas. As such, the McKennas could not now “seek to enforce the fiduciary duties that attached in part because of their misrepresentations.” The Court also considered on the merits the McKennas’ misappropriation claim and determined that it also failed because the opportunity with Westport never belonged to REF and GEC and was an opportunity solely for Robison Energy.

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Delaware Chancery Court Dismisses Revlon Claims Based on Fully Informed, Uncoerced Stockholder Vote

By Lisa Stark and Jonathan Miner

In In Re OM Group, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 11216-VCS (Del. Ch. Oct. 12, 2016), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed Revlon claims, on the basis that the challenged merger had been approved by a disinterested, uncoerced and fully-informed majority vote of the target’s stockholders and therefore the business judgment rule applied.

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Advance the Rupees, Please: Sutherland Global Holdings Must Advance Former-Director’s Legal Fees Related to Failed Land Deal in India

By: Joanna Diakos Kordalis and Jonathan Miner

In Narayanan v. Sutherland Global Holdings C.A. No. 11757-VCMR (Del. Ch. July 5, 2016), Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves of the Delaware Chancery Court held, in a post-trial opinion, that the bylaws of Sutherland Global Holdings, Inc. (“Sutherland”) and an indemnification agreement between Sutherland and Plaintiff Muthu Narayanan (“Plaintiff”) are disjunctive and must be read separately, allowing Plaintiff to prevail on his claim for advancement of legal fees and expenses.

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