Topic: Contract Interpretation

CHANCERY COURT FINDS THAT LANGUAGE OF LIMITED PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT GOVERNS WHICH CLAIMS SURVIVE SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN MASTER LIMITED PARTNERSHIP’S RELATED PARTY TRANSACTION

By Scott Waxman and Adrienne Wimberly

In Mesirov v. Enbridge Company, Inc., et al. C.A. No. 11314-VCS (Del. Ch. Aug.29, 2018), the Delaware Chancery Court dismissed five of eight counts alleged with respect to a transaction where Enbridge Energy Company (EEP) repurchased for $1 billion a two-thirds interest in Alberta Clipper Pipelines (AC interest), despite the fact that EEP had sold that same interest years prior for $800 million and the business had steadily declined since such sale.  The dismissals were based primarily upon the language and obligations included in EEP’s limited partnership agreement.

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Delaware Chancery Court Makes Groundbreaking “Material Adverse Effect” Finding Allowing Buyer to Terminate Merger Agreement

By: Peter Flocos, Lisa Stark, Rick Giovannelli and Mark Hammes

In a landmark decision, a Delaware court has, for what is widely believed to be the first time ever, found that a material adverse effect actually occurred in an acquisition transaction, giving the buyer a right to terminate the pending transaction.  In Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi AG,[1] the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held, following a trial, that the buyer properly terminated the parties’ merger agreement, due to such a material adverse effect between signing and closing, under the terms of the agreement and the pertinent Delaware case law.  Unlike prior decisions rejecting buyer material adverse effect claims,[2] the Court found that a pre-closing decline in the business of the target – Akorn – was not merely a “cyclical trend” and was likely to have a post-closing, durationally-significant effect that was “material when viewed from the longer-term perspective of a reasonable acquiror.”[3]  Although groundbreaking, the Akorn decision reflects that the Delaware courts will still approach the question of whether an MAE has occurred on a case-by-case basis and does not establish a particular “bright line” test.

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Chancery Court Enforces LLC Agreement, Further Demonstrating that LLCs are Creatures of Contract

By Scott E. Waxman and Priya Chadha

In A&J Capital, Inc. v. Law Office of Krug, C.A. No. 2018-0240-JRS (July 18, 2018), A&J Capital, Inc. (“A&J”) sought a declaratory judgment that it was improperly removed from its position as manager of LA Metropolis Condo, I LLC (the “Company”) because it was not given notice or an opportunity to be heard prior to removal.  Vice Chancellor Slights denied A&J’s motion for summary judgment, holding that A&J’s removal was proper under both the Company’s governing documents and common law.

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Court of Chancery Dismisses Fraud Claim for Alleged Extra-Contractual Misrepresentations Based on Anti-Reliance Clause

By: Claire S. White and Rachel P. Worth

In ChyronHego Corporation, et al., v. Cliff Wight and CFX Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0548-SG (Del. Ch. July 31, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim for extra-contractual fraud on the basis that the stock purchase agreement contained an effective anti-reliance clause that precluded such claim. The Court found that the anti-reliance clause rebutted the common law fraud element of reliance on any extra-contractual representations, as described further below.  At the same time, the Court dismissed the defendants’ motion to dismiss claims for fraud and breaches of express representations and warranties under the stock purchase agreement, finding that the plaintiffs had sufficiently pleaded the elements of these claims.

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Chancery Court Denies Motion to Dismiss a Breach of Contract Claim Based on Language in Limited Partnership Agreement

By: Scott E. Waxman and Stephanie S. Liu

In Ms. Mary Giddings Wenske, et al. v. Blue Bell Creameries, Inc., et al., the Delaware Chancery Court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss a breach of contract claim, finding that Plaintiffs had pled a set of facts that allow a reasonable inference that Defendants breached the standards set forth in its partnership agreement.

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CHANCERY COURT FINDS REQUEST FOR SPECIFIC ENFORCEMENT OF A PARTNERSHIP INTEREST CALL RIGHT IS PROVED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE

By Scott E. Waxman and Joseph Phelps

In Simon-Mills II, LLC v. Kan Am USA XVI Ltd. Partnership, No. 8520-VCG (Del. Ch. May 30, 2018), the plaintiffs, a number of entities organized under an umbrella real estate investment trust and referred to as “Simon,” sought specific performance of a call right applicable to partnership interests under a joint venture agreement (the “JVA”) with the defendant Kan Am, a group of Delaware limited partnerships.  In exchange for the called units, Simon proposed to issue to Kan Am units (the “Successor Units”) that it argued had “substantially the same” rights as the originally contemplated consideration units (the “Original Units”).  The Court of Chancery concluded that the Successor Units did indeed have “substantially the same” rights as the Original Units, within the meaning of the JVA, and that Simon proved by clear and convincing evidence that it was entitled to specific performance of the call right. Read More

Chancery Court Applies Contract Terms to Clarify Difference Between Void and Voidable Stock Issuances

By Jessica Pearlman and Jonathan Miner

Southpaw Credit Opportunity Master Fund, L.P. v. Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0059-TMR (Del. Ch. Feb. 1, 2018) came before the Delaware Court of Chancery as a dispute over control of the board of directors of Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc. (“Roma” or the “Company”). Plaintiffs were a stockholder group that had taken a majority position in Roma’s common stock. After learning of Plaintiffs’ majority position, the Roma board adopted a new equity compensation plan and issued sufficient shares of restricted stock to Roma employees to dilute Plaintiffs below a majority ownership position. Plaintiffs considered the dilutive restricted stock issuances as invalid for a number of reasons, including the Company’s failure to obtain contractually mandated stockholder agreement joinder documents from each recipient before issuance, and presented Roma with a written consent that removed two of Roma’s current directors (the “Defendant Directors”) and replaced them with Plaintiffs’ nominees. Roma contested the validity of Plaintiffs’ written consent and the case came before the Court under Section 225 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) to determine the proper composition of Roma’s board of directors. Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves found that the disputed restricted stock issuances were void and could not be counted toward a stockholder vote.

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Director’s Breach of Contract Lawsuit Found to Violate the Underlying Contract’s Confidentiality Clause

By: David Forney and Benjamin Kendall

In Cappella Holdings, LLC v. Anderson, C.A. No. 9809-VCS (Del. Ch. Nov. 29, 2017), the Chancery Court dismissed a director’s breach of contract claims against his former employer relating to alleged violations of an anti-dilution provision in his employment agreement.  The Court instead found that the director’s initial complaint, which included highly sensitive information about the company, violated the confidentiality provision of the underlying contract on which his claims were based.

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CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES BREACH OF CONTRACT AND FIDUCIARY DUTY CLAIMS BROUGHT UNDER AN UNENFORCEABLE CONTRACT

By Scott E. Waxman and Michael Bill

In Eagle Force Holdings, LLC v. Campbell, No. 10803-VCMR (Del. Ch. Ct. September 1, 2017), the Court of Chancery dismissed plaintiffs’ breach of contract and fiduciary duty claims against the defendant due to a lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Plaintiffs argued the defendant consented to personal jurisdiction in Delaware by entering into the (1) Contribution and Assignment Agreement (the “Contribution Agreement) and (2) Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement (the “LLC Agreement,” and together with the Contribution Agreement, the “Transaction Documents”), but the Chancery Court found the Transaction Documents to be missing material terms and, thus, held them to be unenforceable.

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Court of Chancery Denies Motion to Dismiss Claim Alleging that General Partner Breached Contractual Duty of Good Faith

By: Scott Waxman and Zack Sager

In Morris vs. Spectra Energy Partners (DE) GP, LP, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware found that a limited partner adequately pled that the general partner of a master limited partnership breached its contractual duty to act in good faith in connection with a conflicted transaction between the master limited partnership and the indirect parent of the general partner.  The Court also dismissed claims for breach of the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing and tortious interference with a partnership agreement.

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Chancery Court Denies Cross-Motions for Partial Summary Judgment Due to Ambiguities in Contract Language of LLC Agreement Governing Joint Venture

By Scott E. Waxman and Rachel Cheasty Sanders

In AM General Holdings LLC v. The Renco Group, Inc., C.A. No. 7639-VCS  and The Renco Group, Inc. v. MacAndrews AMG Holdings LLC, C.A. No. 7668-VCS (Del. Ch. May 17, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied cross-motions for partial summary judgment after reviewing the LLC Agreement of AM General Holdings LLC, which governs the joint venture relationship between Plaintiff, The Renco Group, Inc. (“Renco”), and Defendant, MacAndrews AMG Holdings LLC (“MacAndrews”), both members of AM General Holdings LLC (the “Company”).  Renco brought suit against MacAndrews alleging that MacAndrews, the managing member of the Company, caused the Company to distribute $72.8 million to MacAndrews in breach of the Company’s LLC Agreement.  Renco contended that, according to the LLC Agreement, the $72.8 million should have been distributed to Renco instead.  Both parties pointed to several provisions of the LLC Agreement governing the distribution at issue, and both parties contended that these provisions were clear and unambiguous.  After reviewing the provisions, however, the Court determined that the provisions were, in fact, ambiguous and thus, the case could not be disposed of through summary judgment proceedings.

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Chancery Court Rules Against Enforcement of a Call Right Due to Failure to Tender the Contractual Consideration

By: Jill B. Louis and Gilbert A. Perales

In Simon-Mills II, LLC, et al., v. KanAm USA XVI Limited Partnership, et al., C.A. No. 8520-VCG (Del. Ch. March 30, 2017), the Court of Chancery denied Plaintiffs’ request to enforce its call right and granted Defendants’ request for declaratory judgment when the contracted consideration for the call right could not be tendered.

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