In CBS Corporation, et al. v. National Amusements, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 2018-0342-AGB, the Court of Chancery denied a motion for temporary retraining order brought by CBS Corporation (“CBS”) and five independent directors of CBS (the “Plaintiffs”) to restrain controlling shareholders, Shari Redstone, her father Sumner Redstone, National Amusements, Inc. (“NAI”), NAI Entertainment Holdings LLC, and the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust (the “Defendants”) from taking certain actions that would interfere with the governance of CBS or other proposed actions of the board of directors of CBS. The Court found that there was no precedent for the type of relief requested by Plaintiff and that no extraordinary circumstances existed to warrant the grant of such relief. Read More
In Frechter v. Zier, C.A. No. 12038-VCG (Del. Ch. Jan. 24, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that a corporation’s bylaw, which purported to require 66 2/3% of the voting power of all of the corporation’s outstanding stock to remove directors, was inconsistent with Section 141(k) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”). Section 141(k) of the DGCL provides that, except with respect to corporations having a staggered board or cumulative voting, “[a]ny director or the entire board of directors may be removed, with or without cause, by the holders of a majority of the shares then entitled to vote at an election of directors . . . .” Unlike some other provisions of the DGCL, Section 141(k) does not expressly provide for a default rule that applies “unless otherwise provided in the certificate of incorporation or bylaws.”
In Solak v. Sarowitz, C.A. No. 12299-CB (Del. Ch. Dec. 27, 2016), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that plaintiff stated a claim that a stock corporation’s fee-shifting bylaw was facially invalid under Section 109(b) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”). The fee-shifting bylaw purported to apply to a stockholder who sought to litigate claims involving the corporation’s internal corporate governance in a forum other than Delaware in violation of the corporation’s forum-selection bylaw. No stockholder had violated the forum-selection bylaw at the time of the decision, and the plaintiff successfully overcame a ripeness defense. In rendering its decision, the Court of Chancery confirmed that fee-shifting bylaws relating to internal corporate claims are impermissible for stock corporations following the 2015 amendments to the DGCL (the “2015 DGCL Amendments”) which prohibit stock corporations from enacting fee-shifting bylaws or certificate of incorporation provisions, in each case, relating to “internal corporate claims.” Under Section 115 of the DGCL, “internal corporate claims” are claims, including derivative claims, (1) that are “based upon a violation of a duty by a current or former director or officer or stockholder in such capacity” or (2) as to which the DGCL “confers jurisdiction upon the Court of Chancery.”
In Gorman, IV v. Salamone, Halder and Westech Capital Corp. (“Westech”), the Delaware Chancery Court, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, issued another status quo order to temporarily fix the composition of the board of Westech while the ongoing dispute over control of Westech played out.
Plaintiff John Gorman (“Gorman”) a Westech stockholder and board member brought the Section 225 action based on two developments while a prior Section 225 temporarily designating three directors and keeping the CEO was on appeal before the Delaware Supreme Court.
Chancellor Bouchard finds, as a matter of first impression in Delaware, that a non-reciprocal fee-shifting bylaw is inapplicable to a plaintiff stockholder because it was adopted after the plaintiff’s interest in the corporation was eliminated in a reverse stock split.
In Strougo v. Hollander, C.A. No. 9770-CB (March 16, 2015), Plaintiff – a former stockholder of First Aviation Services, Inc. (“First Aviation”) – challenged (on behalf of himself and a putative class) the fairness of a 10,000-to-1 reverse stock split that cashed out the ownership interests of Plaintiff and the putative class at the request of the Chief Executive Officer and controlling shareholder of First Aviation in order to take First Aviation private. Four days after consummation of the reverse stock split, the First Aviation Board adopted a non-reciprocal fee shifting bylaw that required any “current or prior stockholder or anyone on their behalf” who initiates or asserts a claim or counterclaim against First Aviation or any director, officer or employee and who does not obtain a judgment on the merits that substantially achieves the full remedy sought, to be jointly and severally liable for all fees, costs and expenses incurred in connection with the claim or counterclaim. There was no public announcement to the First Aviation stockholders that the board had adopted the bylaw and Plaintiff was notified of the bylaw after the lawsuit was filed.