Topic: Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Court of Chancery Allows LLC’s Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Aiding and Abetting, and Breach of Contract Claims to Proceed, But Not Fraud

By Justin H. Roeber and Peter Ayers

In Largo Legacy Group, LLC v. Evens Charles et al., C.A. No. 2020-0105-MTZ (Del. Ch. June 30, 2021), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss brought by defendants against Plaintiff Largo Legacy Group, an investor in Largo Hotel, LLC (“Largo Hotel”), a hotel development company.  The Court found that Plaintiff successfully stated claims against the company’s principals for breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting, and breach of contract arising from the defendants’ efforts to launch a parallel hotel venture on an adjacent piece of land owned by Largo Hotel.  The Court, however, concluded that Plaintiff’s claim for fraud did not survive the motion to dismiss due to failure to plead the claim with particularity.

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Chancery Court Dismisses Disclosure and Breach Claims in LLC Financing Litigation

By: Michael J. Ross and Ryan Reilly

In Daniel Feldman et al. v. AS Roma SPV GP, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 2020-0314-PAF (Del. Ch. July 22, 2021), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed a suit brought by minority members (“Plaintiffs”) of AS Roma SPV GP, LLC (the “Company”) for breach of fiduciary duties by the managing member for breach of the Company’s limited liability company agreement (“LLC Agreement”) for failure to disclose material information, and breach of fiduciary duties by the investor committee in connection with pandemic-driven financing and recapitalization efforts.  In granting the Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court emphasized the Defendants’ limited disclosure duties and the Plaintiffs’ failure to adequately plead harm.

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FACEBOOK ESCAPES SHAREHOLDER DERIVATIVE SUIT AS COURT QUESTIONS VALIDITY OF ARONSON AND FINDS PLAINTIFF FAILED TO SUPPORT CLAIMS OF DEMAND FUTILITY

By: Michael Waller and Caitlin Velasco

In United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Participating Food Industry Employers Tri-State Pension Fund v. Zuckerberg, et al., C.A. No. 2018-0671 (Del. Ch. Oct. 26, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed a derivative suit brought by the stockholders (the “Plaintiffs”) of Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) because the Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead demand futility under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1.  The derivative suit accused members of the Facebook board of directors (the “Board”) and Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, of breaching their fiduciary duties of care and loyalty by pursing and approving a stock reclassification proposal that would have allowed Zuckerberg to retain voting control of Facebook while donating a significant portion of his common stock to charitable causes.  The Court discussed the two primary tests for determining demand futility in derivate actions – Aronson and Rales – and determined that demand futility turns on whether, at the time of filing the complaint, the majority of a board of directors is disinterested, independent, and capable of impartially evaluating a litigation demand to bring suit on behalf of a company.

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Produce those documents; Conflict allegations sufficient to merit inspection of books and records under Section 220 of the DGCL.

By: Joanna A. Diakos and Kara Maynard Guio

In Alexandria Venture Inv. LLC et al. v. Verseau Therapeutics, Inc., C.A. No. 2020-0593-PAF (Del. Ch. Dec. 18, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted plaintiff stockholder’s motion seeking to compel inspection of certain books and records of Verseau Therapeutics pursuant to Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).  The Court ruled that the stockholders met the low threshold necessary to establish a credible basis for believing that corporate wrongdoing had occurred. While disagreements with management decisions are insufficient to meet this burden, evidence of a conflict of interest in making management decisions is sufficient.

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Chancery Court Declines to Expand Gentile Doctrine

By: Scott Waxman and Doug Logan

In Dr. Thomas Markusic et al. v. Michael Blum et al. memorandum opinion 200818, the Delaware Chancery Court (the “Court”) declined to extend the Gentile doctrine. In so doing, the Court held that the counterclaims attempting to rely on it had to be dismissed.

Firefly Space Systems, Inc. (“Original Firefly”) was an aerospace startup founded by Michael Blum, Patrick Joseph King, and Thomas Markusic in late 2013 with the aim of launching small-load rockets into orbit. Counterclaim-Plaintiffs Blum, King, Lauren McCollum, Steven Begleiter, Green Desert N.V., Swing Investments BVBA, Bright Success Capital Ltd., and Wunderkind Space Ltd. (collectively, “Original Firefly Investors”) each owned stock in Original Firefly, with Markusic in the role of CEO and sole board member of Original Firefly at all relevant times.

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CEO’s Role in Preparation of a Proxy Statement for a Merger Exposes CEO to Duty of Care Claims

By Lisa Stark and Jonathan Shallow 

In In Re Baker Hughes Inc. Merger Litig., C.A. No. 2019-0638-AGB (Del. Ch. Oct. 27, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery declined to dismiss claims that the CEO of Baker Hughes Incorporated (“Baker Hughes”) breached his fiduciary duty of care by failing to include unaudited financial statements of the oil and gas segment of the General Electric Company (“GE O&G”) in a proxy statement soliciting the stockholder vote on Baker Hughes merger with GE O&G.  As a result, the Court found that (1) the stockholder vote was uninformed, and (2) enhanced scrutiny under Revlon, Inc. v. McAndrews & Forbes Hldgs., Inc., 506 A.2d 173 (Del. 1986). (“Revlon”), not the business judgment review under Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC (125 A.3d 304, 306 (Del. 2015)), applied to its decision whether plaintiffs had adequately pled a predicate breach of fiduciary duty by the Baker Hughes board for purposes of an aiding and abetting claim asserted against General Electric Company (“GE”).  At the time of its decision, none of the Baker Hughes directors were named as defendants in the action except for Baker Hughes’ CEO who was named as a defendant in the action solely in his capacity as an officer of Baker Hughes.

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WHAT’S SELECTED TO HAPPEN IN VEGAS, STAYS IN VEGAS: CHANCERY COURT ENFORCES FORUM SELECTION CLAUSE IN RE-DOMESTICATED NEVADA CORPORATION BYLAWS, DESPITE ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OCCURRING WHILE ENTITY WAS A DELAWARE CORPORATION

By David L. Forney and Lauren McFadden

In Sylebra Capital Partners Master Fund, Ltd., and P Sylebra Ltd. v. Ronald O. Perelman et al., C.A. No. 2019-0843-JRS (Del. Ch. October 9, 2020), Sylebra Capital Partners Master Fund, Limited and P Sylebra Ltd. (together, “Plaintiff”), had sued Scientific Games, a Nevada corporation (“Company”), and its controlling stockholder and members of its Board (“Defendants”) for breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”). The Company’s Nevada bylaws, however, contained a provision requiring stockholders to bring claims for breach of fiduciary duty in the courts of Clark County, Nevada. The Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss and held that Plaintiff’s claims were subject to the forum selection provision in the bylaws of the Company and must be brought in Nevada courts.

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“consistent with longstanding principles of law and capitalism”: chancery court finds that a bidder cannot be liable for directors’ breach of fiduciary duty without knowledge of the breach

By: Scott Waxman and Jeremy Crites

In Jacobs v. Meghji, et al. (C.A. No. 2019-1022-MTZ), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed Mark Jacobs’ direct and derivative claims that Ares Management Corporation (“Ares”) aided and abetted breaches of fiduciary duty allegedly committed by directors of Infrastructure &  Energy Alternatives, Inc. (“IEA”) on the grounds that Jacobs failed to plead a necessary element of the claim. Additionally, the Court dismissed Jacobs’ claim of unjust enrichment against Ares, again finding that Jacobs failed to plead a necessary element of the claim.

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Can’t Have It Both Ways: Court Grants Grupo México’s 12(b)(2) Motion To Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

By Joanna Diakos and Ian Edwards

In Lacey v. Mota-Velasco, et al. (C.A. No. 2019-0312-SG), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed Grupo México S.A.B, de C.V (“Grupo México”) from a derivative lawsuit filed by a stockholder of Southern Copper Corporation (“Southern Copper”) on the grounds that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over Mexico-based Grupo México.

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DELAWARE COURT OF CHANCERY DENIES MOTIONS TO DISMISS CLAIMS ALLEGING BREACHES OF FIDUCIARY DUTY IN ALLEGED CONTROLLING STOCKHOLDER TENDER OFFER

By: David Forney and Caitlin Velasco

In In Re Coty Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0336-AGB (Del. Ch. Aug. 17, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) denied a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss claims brought by stockholders (the “Plaintiffs”) of Coty Inc. (“Coty”) against its directors and de facto controlling stockholder, JAB Holding Company S.à.r.l. and its affiliates (“JAB”), over JAB’s 2019 partial tender offer, whereby it increased its ownership stake in Coty from 40% to 60%. The Plaintiffs alleged that JAB opportunistically timed and priced the tender offer so that it undervalued Coty and structured the tender offer in a coercive manner.

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Chancery Court Dismisses Former LLC Member’s Claims for Alleged Amounts Owed and Breach by Former Co-Members

By: Scott E. Waxman and Michael C. Payant

In Terry L. Menacker v. Overture, L.L.C., et al., C.A. No. 2019-0762-JTL (Del. Ch. Aug. 4, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) considered a motion to dismiss claims by a former member of Overture L.L.C. (the “Company”) concerning a dispute over a buyout payment allegedly due upon his withdrawal as a member, certain other alleged past-due amounts, and an alleged breach of fiduciary duty by former co-members of the Company. The Court dismissed all claims, holding that (i) the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the buyout payment dispute because it was subject to arbitration; (ii) plaintiff’s allegations regarding other amounts owed failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted; and (iii) plaintiff’s claims for breach of duty were derivative claims for which plaintiff lacked standing.

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Chancery Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Claims against Three Former Members of the Board

By: Scott Waxman and Pouya Ahmadi

In Jacob Hasher Hindlin v. Lukasz Gottwald et al., C.A. No. 2019-0586-JRS (Del. Ch. July 22, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against three former members of the board of managers of Core Nutrition, LLC (“Core” or the “Company”) for breach of fiduciary duty and the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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