Topic: Duty of Good Faith

CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES STOCKHOLDERS’ BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY AND AIDING AND ABETTING CLAIMS RELATING TO STOCK-FOR-STOCK MERGER

By Remsen Kinne and Calvin Kennedy

In In re MeadWestvaco Stockholders Litigation, the defendants moved to dismiss class action claims brought by stockholders of MeadWestvaco Corporation (the “Company”) for breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting claims relating to the Company’s board of director’s approval of a strategic stock-for-stock merger of equals entered into between the Company and Rock-Tenn Company that closed in 2015.  The court held that the complaint did not contain factual allegations sufficient to state a claim against the directors for bad faith in connection with the approval of the merger.

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Court of Chancery Denies Motion To Dismiss Claim Alleging Breach of Fiduciary Duty Involving Option Grants to Directors and Voting Agreement

By: Cartwright Bibee and Ernest Simons

In Williams v. Ji, C.A. No. 12729-VCMR (Del. Ch. June 28, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that the option and warrant grants and voting agreements in question were subject to entire fairness and that the Defendant directors had not carried their burden at that stage. The Defendants also moved to stay in favor of an earlier filed case in the Court, but the motion was denied as moot because the earlier filed case had settled.

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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 Holds That Stockholder Vote on Merger Was Neither Fully-Informed nor Uncoerced

By: Lisa R. Stark and Taylor B. Bartholomew

In In re Saba Software, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 10697-VCS (Del. Ch. Mar. 31, 2017, revised Apr. 11, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery held that the board of Saba Software, Inc. could not invoke the business judgment rule under the Corwin doctrine in response to a fiduciary challenge arising from Saba’s acquisition by Vector Capital Management, L.P.  According to the Court, plaintiff pled facts which supported a reasonable inference that the stockholder vote approving the acquisition was neither fully-informed nor uncoerced.  The Court also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims that the Saba board breached its duty of loyalty and engaged in acts of bad faith by rushing the sales process, refusing to consider alternatives to the merger and granting itself substantial equity awards.

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Chancery Court Enforces Good Faith Standard of Care in Limited Partnership Agreement

By Eric Feldman and Priya Chadha

In Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Co., Inc., et al., C.A. No. 11314-VCS (April 29, 2016), the Delaware Court of Chancery reiterated its adherence to the principle stated in the Delaware Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act (“DRULPA”) of giving “maximum effect to the principle of freedom of contract and to the enforceability of partnership agreements” as well as to the ability under DRULPA of parties to a limited partnership agreement to define their respective standards of care and scope of duties and liabilities, including to eliminate default fiduciary duties, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

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Directors’ Failure to Consider Speculative Projections in Recommending Tender Offer to Stockholders Insufficient to Plead a Claim for Breach of the Duty of Loyalty Based on Bad Faith

By: Michelle McCreery Repp and Benjamin Kendall

In In re Chelsea Therapeutics International Ltd. Stockholders Litigation, Consol. C.A. No. 9640-VCG (Del. Ch. May 20, 2016), the Delaware Chancery Court held that Plaintiffs, who alleged bad faith on the part of corporate directors based on a failure to adequately take into account speculative financial projections in evaluating the adequateness of an acquisition offer, had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted.

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CHANCERY COURT REAFFIRMS THE ABILITY OF LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS TO CONTRACT AROUND FIDUCIARY DUTIES

By: Scott Waxman and Tony Brown

In Adrian Dieckman v. Regency GP LP, C.A. No. 11130-CB (Del. Ch. Mar. 29, 2016), the Court of Chancery held that a limited partnership agreement can extinguish the common law duty of disclosure that exists under Delaware law.  Where a limited partnership agreement expressly eliminated fiduciary duties and replaced them with an alternative contractual governance scheme, the court declined to reinsert a duty of disclosure and determined that additional disclosure obligations are not compelled by the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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Chancery Court Dismisses Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims Against Company and Its Board of Directors Relating to 2014 Recapitalization, But Holds That Contract Claims May Proceed

By Annette Becker and Lauren Garraux

In a July 8, 2015 letter opinion, Vice Chancellor John W. Noble granted in part and denied in part the motion of Capella Holdings, Inc. and Capella Healthcare, Inc. (“Capella” or the “Company”) and five Capella directors (the “Director Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”) to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract claims asserted against them by James Thomas Anderson (“Anderson”), a founder and former director and officer of Capella, relating to a 2014 recapitalization of the Company.

Anderson’s counterclaims against Defendants all arise from a recapitalization of Capella which the Director Defendants approved in April 2014.  Anderson voted against the recapitalization, which decreased Anderson’s ownership percentage in the Company, as well as that of the minority shareholders, and increased the ownership percentage of affiliates of GTCR Golder Rauner II LLC (“GTCR”), which, upon Capella’s formation, made an equity investment of approximately $206 million in the Company.

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Court of Chancery Finds That Manager Breached Her Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty by Engaging in Numerous Self-Interested Transactions

By Nick Froio and Zack Sager

In this memorandum opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery found Sandra Manno (“Manno”), the manager of CanCan Development, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (the “Company”), liable for breaching her fiduciary duty of loyalty to the Company by engaging in numerous self-interested transactions.

A manager of a Delaware limited liability company owes traditional fiduciary duties of care and loyalty unless the organizational documents of the limited liability company modify such duties.  The Court, citing Feeley v. NHAOCG, LLC, 62 A.3d 649 (Del. Ch. 2012), implied that the organizational documents of the Company did not modify the traditional fiduciary duties.

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In Re Comverge, Inc. Shareholders Litigation

By Sherwin Salar and Whitney Smith

In Re Comverge, Inc. Shareholders Litigation involves a stockholder challenge to a merger between Comverge, Inc. and H.I.G Capital, L.L.C.  The plaintiff stockholders of Comverge contend that the Comverge board of directors (the “Board”) breached their fiduciary duties by: (1) conducting a flawed sales process and not suing HIG for an alleged breach of a non-disclosure agreement between the parties (the “NDA”); and (2) agreeing to deal protection measures that precluded the possibility of a topping bid.  On November 25, 2014, Vice Chancellor Parsons granted HIG’s motion to dismiss with respect to the first claim, but denied the motion on the second claim.  Furthermore, Vice Chancellor Parsons dismissed Plaintiffs’ claim that HIG aided and abetted the Board’s breaches of fiduciary duties, stating that even if there was a predicate breach of fiduciary duties by the Board, the Plaintiffs only allege conclusory facts that do not support a claim that HIG participated in those breaches.

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In re: El Paso Pipeline Partners L.P. Derivative Litigation, C.A. No. 7141-VCL (June 12, 2014)

By Eric Feldman and Porter Sesnon

In In re: El Paso Pipeline Partners L.P. Derivative Litigation, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing in connection with a conflicted transaction.

In March 2010, El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P., a Delaware limited partnership that operates as a publicly traded master limited partnership (the “MLP”), purchased a 51% interest in two entities that owned certain liquid natural gas (“LNG”) assets (the “Drop-down”) from its parent corporation that “sponsored” the MLP, El Paso Corporation (the “Parent”). Parent also indirectly owned the general partner of the MLP, El Paso Pipeline GP, L.L.C. (the “General Partner”), giving it control over and an economic interest in the MLP. As a result, the proposed Drop-down created a conflict of interest for the General Partner.

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Frank v. Elgamal, C.A. No. 6120-VCN (March 10, 2014) (Noble, V.C.)

By Annette Becker and Claire White

In this opinion, Vice Chancellor Noble considered defendants’ motion for summary judgment in connection with various breach of fiduciary duty claims asserted by a former stockholder, Richard Frank, against the Board of Directors and two employees of American Surgical Holdings, Inc. (“ASH”), a public company, in connection with the merger of ASH with an affiliate of Great Point Partners I, L.P. (“GPP”).  In connection with the motion the Chancery Court examined:

• the “entire fairness” standard of review;

• the effect of a special committee on the standard of review;

• the standard of review for Revlon claims upon a motion for summary judgment, particularly where the target’s charter includes an exculpatory clause;

• a special committee’s examination of projections underlying a fairness opinion, including where multiple sets of projections are prepared; and

• the interaction between a shareholder’s unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty claims upon a motion for summary judgment.

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