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.Read More
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.
In MHS Capital LLC v. Goggin, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss a breach of fiduciary duty claim against the manager of a Delaware limited liability company because all of the manager’s conduct that could have formed the basis of such claim was covered by the duties of the manager delineated in the limited liability company agreement. The Court also analyzed and dismissed claims for, among other things, fraud, breach of the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation of trade secrets.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Elow v. Express Scripts Holding Company, C.A. No.12721-VCMR and Khandhar v. Express Scripts Holding Company, C.A. No. 12734-VCMR (Del. Ch. May 31, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that plaintiff shareholder Clifford Elow’s (“Elow”) demand to inspect certain books and records of Express Scripts Holding Company (the “Company”) met all statutory requirements and stated a proper purpose, while plaintiff (and purported shareholder) Amitkumar Khandhar’s (“Khandhar”) demand did not. Thus, the Court granted Elow’s Section 220 demand subject to a confidentiality agreement and denied Khandhar’s demand.
By letter report dated June 8, 2017, Master of Chancery Morgan T. Zurn recommended dismissal of the complaint in Walker v. Cabo Verde Capital, Inc., C.A. No. 11696-MZ (Del. Ch. June 8, 2017), finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to compel inspection of a non-extant Delaware company’s books and records. Citing recent developments in Delaware law, the Court held that the plaintiff could not satisfy the “stockholder” prerequisite for filing a Section 220 action because all stockholder interest had been previously extinguished by the company’s merger into a foreign corporation.
In Rodgers v. Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0070-AGB (Del. Ch. April 17, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that shareholder plaintiff T.J. Rodgers (“Rodgers”) had established several proper purposes for his demand to inspect certain books and records of Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (the “Company”), along with a credible basis to infer wrongdoing by at least one of the Company’s directors. The Court granted Rodgers’ Section 220 action and directed the parties to meet and submit an order for production of all responsive documents.
In Haque v. Tesla Motors, Inc., C.A. No. 12651-VCS (Feb. 2, 2017), Vice Chancellor Slights declined to compel the defendant, Tesla Motors, Inc. (“Tesla”), to produce certain books and records demanded by Plaintiff stockholder in an action brought under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (“Section 220”). Applying well settled Delaware law that a stockholder’s right to inspect books and records under Section 220 is broad but not unlimited, Vice Chancellor Slights denied Plaintiff’s demand, ruling that the Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a credible basis from which the Court could infer wrongdoing.