Topic: Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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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Specific Language of Operating Agreements Key in Chancery Court Dismissal of “Laundry List” of Claims Against LLC Managers

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In 77 Charters, Inc. v. Gould et al.., C.A. No. 2019-0127-JRS (Del. Ch. May 18, 2020), 77 Charters, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) brought suit against defendants Jonathan Gould (“Gould”), Stonemar MM Cookeville, LLC (“Stonemar MM”), Cookeville Corridor, LLC (the “Preferred Purchaser”) and Eightfold Cookeville Investor, LLC (the “New Investor” and together with Gould, Stonemar MM and the Preferred Purchaser, the “Named Defendants”) for a series of alleged “wrongful acts” in connection with the management and sale of a shopping mall (the “Property”), which also implicated Stonemar Cookeville Partners, LLC (“Cookeville Partners”) and Cookeville Retail Holdings, LLC (“Cookeville Retail”). In delivering its opinion, which centered on the nature of Delaware limited liability companies as creatures of contract, and thus, the controlling nature of the applicable operating agreements and contracts into which the parties had entered, the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) ruled that only Plaintiff’s claims which could be connected to an alleged wrongful amendment of the operating agreement of Cookeville Retail could survive Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (the “Motion”).

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Chancery Court Holds Late Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim Is Barred By Laches

By: Annette Becker; Pouya Ahmadi; Julia Knitter

In Gallagher Industries, LLC v. William M. Addy, et al., C.A. No. 2018-0106-SG (Del. Ch. May 29, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that because Gallagher Industries, LLC (the “Plaintiff”) decided not to pursue an appraisal action following a problematic cash-out merger five years earlier, the Plaintiff’s tolling claim against William M. Addy and Joseph E. Eastin (the “Defendants”) for breach of fiduciary duty for disclosure weaknesses was barred by laches.

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Master in Chancery Dismissive of Fiduciary Seeking Dismissal, Applies Familiar 12(b)(6) Standard

By: Rich Minice and Annette Becker

In Hill et al. v. Myers et al., C.A. No. 2018-0160 (Del. Ch. June 15, 2020), Master in Chancery Selena Molina (“Master”) issued a final report, recommending the Court of Chancery deny defendant’s (decedent’s close friend and confident, and attorney-in-fact during his final years)  motion to dismiss claims of undue influence and breach of fiduciary duty.  The Master determined that the motion to dismiss  brought by family members of the late G. Robert Dickerson, should be denied because the family members provided sufficient factual allegations to support their claims and establish standing. 

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Oracle Special Litigation Committee Defeats Motion to Compel Production of Protected Work Product

By: Remsen Kinne and Michael C. Payant

In In re Oracle Corporation Derivative Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 2017-0337-SG (Del. Ch. July 9, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) determined that a special litigation committee (the “SLC”) of the board of directors (the “Board”) of Oracle Corporation (“Oracle”) had properly asserted work production protection and denied lead plaintiff’s motion to compel production on the basis of (i) sufficient need and unavailability of information, (ii) waiver, or (iii) breach of fiduciary duty by the SLC.

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