Topic: Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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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Court Finds Defendants Did Not Breach Fiduciary Duties by Causing Company to Accumulate Cash in Anticipation of Stock Redemption Rather than Investing in Long-Term Growth

By: David L. Forney and Michael C. Payant

In The Frederick Hsu Living Trust v. Oak Hill Capital Partners III, L.P., et al., C.A. No. 12108-VCL (Del. Ch. May 4, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that the controlling stockholder, directors, and named officers of ODN Holding Corporation (the “Company”) had not breached their fiduciary duties to the Company when they chose to pursue a cash-accumulation strategy in anticipation of redeeming preferred shares, rather than investing in the Company’s business for long-term growth for the possible benefit of common stockholders.

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Chancery Court Declines to Dismiss Derivative Claims for Audit Committee Oversight Failure and Unjust Enrichment

By: Remsen Kinne and Michael C. Payant

In William Hughes, Jr. v. Xiaoming Hu, et al., C.A. No. 2019-0112-JTL (Del. Ch. April 27, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that stockholder plaintiff’s failure to make a demand on the board of directors (the “Board”) was excused and therefore denied defendants’ motions to dismiss under Court of Chancery Rules 23.1 and 12(b)(6) derivative claims brought by plaintiff on behalf of Kandi Technologies Group, Inc., a public Delaware corporation based in China (the “Company”).  The derivative claims alleged that the Board, acting through its Audit Committee (the “Committee”), breached fiduciary duties by failing to implement effective oversight of the Company’s disclosure and financial information reporting controls and procedures and that as a result Company officers were unjustly enriched.

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Court of Chancery Analyzes LLC Valuation Reports in Connection With Breach of Fiduciary Duty

By: Scott Waxman and Zack Sager

In Zachman v. Real Time Cloud Services, LLC, the Delaware Court of Chancery analyzed competing expert reports valuing a Delaware limited liability company in connection with a breach of fiduciary duty claim.  The Court also denied motions to exclude a valuation report and for sanctions relating to discovery abuses, and denied the Delaware limited liability company’s counterclaims for conversion and tortious interference with contract.

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ATTEMPT TO SEIZE CONTROL OF A BEVERAGE COMPANY? COURT OF CHANCERY FINDS INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF CIVIL CONSPIRACY

By: C. Cartwright Bibee and Claire Suni

In Todd O’Gara and Wanu Water, Inc. v. Sheldon Coleman, et al., C.A. No. 2018-0708-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb. 14, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted a motion to dismiss claims made in connection with an alleged conspiracy to seize control of a beverage company by certain former directors and current stockholders. The founder and the company itself filed the complaint asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with business relations and contract, civil conspiracy, and libel. The Court found that the complaint failed to plead facts satisfying the essential elements of each claim and, furthermore, did not establish personal jurisdiction over certain of the defendants.

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Derivative Suit Dismissed for Failing to Plead Demand Futility

By: Rem Kinne and Zack Sager

In Shabbouei v. Potdevin, C.A. No. 2018-0847-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 2, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed a derivative suit against the board of directors (the “Board”) of lululemon athletica inc. (the “Company”) by a Company stockholder (“Plaintiff”) for failing to plead demand futility.  The Court held that Plaintiff did not plead with the requisite particularity that the Board was self-interested in a Separation Agreement with the Company’s CEO Laurent Potdevin (“Potdevin”) negotiated by the Board and that the Board’s decision to settle with, instead of firing, Potdevin for cause was outside the bounds of proper business judgment.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Interprets “Sufficient Particularity” Pleading Standard Under Rule 23.1

By Annette E. Becker and Frank J. Mazzucco

In Robert Elburn v. Robert Albanese et al. and Investors Bancorp, Inc.,C.A. No. 2019-0774-JRS (Del. Ch. Apr. 21, 2020), defendants moved to dismiss a complaint under Court of Chancery Rules 12(b)(6) and 23.1 for failure to state viable claims and failure to plead demand futility.  The Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) interpreted the “sufficient particularity” pleading standard under Rule 23.1, noting that demand futility was pled with sufficient particularity to raise doubt that the board of directors could act impartially in response to a litigation demand.

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