Author: Serena Hamann

Delaware Court of Chancery Rejects Business Judgment Rule Protection for Stockholder-Negotiated Redemption

By: Joanna A. Diakos Kordalis and Monica Romero

In In re Dell Tech. Inc. Class V. Stockholders Litig., Consol. C.A. No. 2018-0816-JTL (Del. Ch. Jun. 11, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the breach of fiduciary duty claim asserted against them finding that the complaint alleged facts that made it “reasonably conceivable” that the safe harbor established by Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp., 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014), would not apply and defendants would not get the benefit of the business judgment rule.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Imposes Charging Order on Distributions Related to Defendant’s LLC Membership Interest

By: Scott E. Waxman and Serena M. Hamann

In GFM ELCM Fund L.P. et al. v. ELCM HCRE GP LLC et al., C.A. No. 2018-0840-SG (Del. Ch. May 18, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) and imposed an Interim Charging Order on the limited liability company interest of an individual defendant and ordered that any distributions related to the defendant’s membership interest be made directly to the Plaintiffs in satisfaction of amounts due.

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Court of Chancery Finds Deal Price Exceeded Fair Value, but Company Nonetheless Not Entitled to Refund for Prepayment of Deal Price to Dissenting Stockholders

By: Eric Freedman and Serena Hamann

In a memorandum opinion in the case of In re Appraisal of Panera Bread Company, C.A. No. 2017-0593-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jan. 31, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled that deal price, minus the value of synergies, was the correct metric to value the stock of Panera Bread Company (“Panera”), because the process that yielded the deal price bore sufficient objective indicia of reliability. The Court found that under this metric, the dissenting stockholders received more than fair value for each share of Panera stock but that nonetheless, because Panera prepaid the entire deal price to dissenting stockholders without deducting any value for synergies, and did not negotiate a clawback, Panera had no right to a refund under the appraisal statute, Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) § 262.

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Directors Breach Fiduciary Duties in Coercive Self-Tender

By: Annette Becker and Serena Hamann

In Robert A. Davidow v. LRN Corporation, et al., C.A. No. 2019-0150-MTZ (Del. Ch. Feb. 25, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty claims brought against the founder and two directors (the “Individual Defendants”) of LRN Corporation, a corporation that advises on ethics and compliance (“LRN”) because the plaintiff (on behalf of the former stockholders who tendered shares in the tender offer) (“Plaintiff”) adequately pled facts sufficient to state a claim that the Individual Defendants breached their fiduciary duties by launching a coercive self-tender at an unfair price, providing inadequate disclosure, and authorizing the self-tender notwithstanding the Individual Directors’ interestedness.

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Undisclosed Post-Merger Compensation Plan for CEO Also Serving as Lead Merger Negotiator Found Insufficient to Rebut Business Judgment Rule and Insufficient to Show Board Acted in Bad Faith

By: Scott E. Waxman and Serena M. Hamann

In the class action, In re Towers Watson & Co. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. no. 2018-0132-KSJM (Del. Ch. July 25, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed the complaint in its entirety under Rule 12(b)(6) because the Plaintiffs failed to plead facts sufficient to rebut the application of the business judgment rule and failed to show the Towers Board acted in bad faith.

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Partnership Agreement May Provide Grounds for Relief in Case Involving Drop in Unit Price Following Disclosure of General Partner’s Intent to Exercise Call Right

By: Scott E. Waxman and Serena M. Hamann

In Bandera Master Fund LP, et al. v. Board Pipeline Partners, LP, C.A. No. 2018-0372-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 7, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) denied the defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss breach of contract claims because the plaintiffs had established reasonably conceivable breaches of the governing partnership agreement. These breaches related to the defendants’ public statements concerning the general partner’s possible exercise of a call right leading to a sharp decrease in partnership unit prices prior to the actual exercise of the call right.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Holds Deal Price Generated Through Reliable Sales Process Was Fair Value

By: Shoshannah D. Katz and Serena M. Hamann

In the statutory appraisal proceeding, In re Appraisal of Columbia Pipeline Group, Inc., Cons. C.A. No. 12736-VCL (Del. Ch. August 12, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery determined that the fair value of Columbia Pipeline Group, Inc. (“Columbia” or the “Company”) common stock at the effective date of acquisition by TransCanada Corporation (“TransCanada”) was the deal price of $25.50 per share, not the $32.47 per share price proposed by the petitioners. The petitioners argued that the Court should determine fair value using the discounted cash flow method (“DCF”), while TransCanada proposed use of the deal price minus synergies and Columbia’s unaffected trading price as valuation indicators. The Court ruled the sale process in this case was sufficiently reliable to make the deal price a persuasive indicator of fair value.

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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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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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