Topic: Books and Records Demand

Russian Interference and Data Privacy: Facebook Stockholders Demand Section 220 Inspection to Investigate Wrongdoing of Board and Senior Management

By: Scott Waxman and Adrienne Wimberly

In In re Facebook, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0661-JRS (Del Ch. May 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a Section 220 demand for inspection of Facebook’s books and records, (the “Demand”) for the purpose of investigating potential wrongdoing on the part of the company’s Board of Directors (the “Board”). The consolidated action comes on the heels of news that the data of over 50 million Facebook users were poached by British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica and used to influence the 2016 Presidential Election. In April 2018, Plaintiff, Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local No. 79 General Fund (“Local No. 79”), a Facebook stockholder since 2015, served its initial Section 220 Demand. After receiving about 1,700 pages of significantly redacted books and records, Local No. 79 filed the present action to compel production which was consolidated with two similar Section 220 demands. After holding a paper record trial in March 2019, the Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs with some limitations on the scope of the demand.

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COURT OF CHANCERY FINDS NO SECTION 220 ISSUE WHERE STOCKHOLDER’S AND ITS COUNSELS’ PURPOSES FOR DEMAND ALIGN

By: Megan A. Wotherspoon and Rachel Cheasty Sanders

In Inter-Local Pension Fund GCC/IBT v. Calgon Carbon Corp., C.A. No. 2017-0910-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jan. 25, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery enforced an institutional stockholder’s demand for books and records under Title 8, Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“Section 220”). The Court found that the stockholder’s affidavit affirming the demand in substantially final form, although not in exact final form, did not violate Section 220’s “under oath” requirements where the only change between the versions was the addition of a signature and the date. The Court also found that the stockholder’s demand was not lawyer-driven under Wilkinson v. A. Schulman, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0138-VCL (Del. Ch. Nov. 13, 2017), where the stockholder’s goals of the demand and the purposes stated in the lawyer-drafted demand were not fundamentally misaligned, even where the stockholder’s representative could not articulate all the legal nuances of such purposes in deposition testimony.

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SOPHISTICATED PARTY OR NOT, LLC AGREEMENT STILL GOVERNS

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Durham v. Grapetree, LLC, Civil Action No. 2018-0174-SG (Del. Ch. June 4, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the request made by Grapetree, LLC ( “Grapetree”) to shift its fees incurred in defending this litigation to the mostly unsuccessful plaintiff, Andrew Durham (“Durham”). In shifting Grapetree’s fees under this litigation, the Court reinforced the longstanding principal that Delaware law is contractarian in nature, and that parties shall be held to their bargains regardless of their legal sophistication. The underlying litigation and the Court’s initial findings (the “Books and Records Action”) were previously summarized by this blog here.

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WITHDRAWN LIMITED PARTNER IS NOT ALLOWED TO INSPECT BOOKS AND RECORDS

By Scott E. Waxman and Annamarie C. Larson

In Harry Greenhouse v. Polychain Fund I LP and Polychain 2030, LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0214-JRS (Del. Ch. May 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that a withdrawn limited partner no longer retains an equity interest in the partnership and therefore is not entitled to inspect the partnership’s books and records.

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CHANCERY COURT GRANTS MOTION TO DISMISS SECTION 220 DEMAND MADE DURING A PENDING PLENARY CLAIM DUE TO LACK OF SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

By: Remsen Kinne and Stephanie Winkler

In CHC Investments, LLC v. FirstSun Capital Bancorp, C.A. No. 2018-0610-KSLM (Del. Ch. January 24, 2019), the Court of Chancery (the “Court”), in a motion to dismiss, found that CHC Investments, LLC’s (“CHC” and “Plaintiff”) pending plenary claims rendered CHC’s purpose for demanding inspection corporate books and records pursuant to Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (“Section 220”) improper, and granted FirstSun Capital Bancorp’s (“FirstSun” and “Defendant”) motion to dismiss.

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NO LOVE LOST IN BOOKS AND RECORDS REQUESTS

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Durham v. Grapetree, LLC, Civil Action No. 2018-0174-SG (Del. Ch. January 31, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part a suit to compel books and records under Section 18-305 of the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act. Durham is illustrative of the rule that books and records requests are not a proper method to conduct plenary discovery into a business entity or its management, especially if driven by animus, but must be related to a proper purpose established by the requestor in his or her demand on the business.

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CHANCERY COURT GRANTS CERTAIN BOOKS AND RECORDS DEMANDS BY MINORITY STOCKHOLDER RELATED TO A MERGER AND VALUATION OF UNDERLYING ASSETS

By: Jessica Pearlman and Adam Heyd

In Mudrick Capital Management, L.P. v. Globalstar, Inc., C.A. No. 218-0351-TMR (Del. Ch. July 30, 2018), plaintiff Mudrick Capital Management L.P. (“Mudrick Capital”), a minority stockholder of defendant Globalstar, Inc. (the “Company”), brought a demand under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (“Section 220”) to inspect certain communications and documents relating to the Company’s proposed merger with Thermo Acquisitions, Inc. (“Thermo”).  The Delaware Court of Chancery granted Mudrick Capital’s demand for certain emails, communications and valuation materials relating to the merger, and denied Mudrick Capital’s demand for certain internal draft materials.

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Manager is Entitled to Books and Records in Capacity as Manager, and as a Member Under the LLC Agreement, Despite Assertion of Improper Purpose

By: Scott E. Waxman and Douglas A. Logan

In William T. Obeid v. Gemini Real Estate Advisors, LLC, et al., (C.A. No. 2017-0510-JTL (Del. Ch. June 5, 2018)) the Court ruled the manager of a limited liability company had an essentially unfettered right to access the books and records of the company.

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Chancery Court Limits Access to Books and Records Based on Stockholder’s Failure to State Purpose in Section 220 Demand

By: James S. Bruce and Taylor B. Bartholomew

In KT4 Partners LLC v. Palantir Technologies, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0177-JRS (Del. Ch. Feb. 22, 2018), in a post-trial ruling, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a stockholder limited rights to inspect a corporation’s books and records related to the stated purpose of investigating possible wrongdoing, but the Court denied the stockholder’s request to obtain other books and records related to the purpose of valuing its shares because its initial demand did not explicitly state a valuation purpose.

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Chancery Court Finds Credible Basis for Demand to Inspect Books and Records of UnitedHealth in connection with Possible Medicare Overbilling

By: David Forney and Joshua Haft

In In re UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Section 220 Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 2017-0681-TMR (Ch. Ct February 28, 2018) certain stockholders (“Plaintiffs”) of UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (“UnitedHealth”) sent a books and records inspection demand to UnitedHealth relying on a complaint in a type of whistleblower (qui tam) action alleging that UnitedHealth engaged in improper Medicare billing, United States ex rel. Poehling v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (the “Qui Tam Action”).  The Qui Tam Action was based in part on a 5-year investigation by the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and included depositions of 20 of UnitedHealth’s employees and production by UnitedHealth of over 600,000 documents. Plaintiffs made their demand in order to investigate mismanagement or misconduct, possible breaches of fiduciary duties and the independence and disinterestedness of the board. UnitedHealth rejected the demand and a trial was held on January 9, 2018.  UnitedHealth argued that Plaintiffs were not entitled to inspection of books and records because they lacked a credible basis to infer wrongdoing or mismanagement based on the Qui Tam Action and because the alleged activities of UnitedHealth were not illegal.  The Court found that Plaintiffs’ demand stated a proper purpose and a credible basis from which a court could infer mismanagement or wrongdoing.

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Court of Chancery Compels Production of Some, but not all, Books and Records for Plaintiff’s Permitted Purposes

By Scott Waxman and Ernest Simons

In Aloha Power Company, LLC v. Regenesis Power, LLC, the Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part plaintiff’s action to compel inspection and production of certain books and records pursuant to provisions in the defendant’s operating agreement and the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act.  The Court held that the operating agreement expressly required production of certain books and records without demand for inspection and determined whether there existed a proper purpose for inspection for the remaining demanded books and records.

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Court of Chancery Holds That Corwin Defense Is Not Appropriate for the Limited Scope and Purpose of a Books and Records Action Under Section 220

By: David Forney and Tami Mack

In Lavin v. West Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0547-JRS (Del. Ch. December 29, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that stockholder plaintiff Mark Lavin (“Lavin”) had adequately demonstrated a credible basis from which the Court could infer that wrongdoing had occurred regarding the merger of West Corporation (the “Company”) and Apollo Global Management (“Apollo”) in support of Lavin’s Section 220 demand for inspection, and that a Corwin defense (that the transaction at issue was approved by a majority of disinterested and informed stockholders) is not a bar to an otherwise properly supported Section 220 demand for inspection.

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