Topic: Equitable Fraud

COURT BALKS AT ARTFUL PLEADING: COURT OF CHANCERY LACKED SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION TO HEAR ACTION FOR COLLECTION OF DEBT

By Scott E. Waxman and Max E. Kaplan

In Yu v. GSM Nation, LLC, C.A. No. 12293-VCMR (Del. Ch. July 7, 2017), the Court of Chancery dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  Looking at the complaint holistically, the Court found plaintiff’s nominal pleading of equitable claims and relief insufficient to create jurisdiction where the alleged non-repayment of debt could be adequately remedied at law.

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Kostyszyn v. Martuscelli, et al., C.A. No. 8828-MA (July 14, 2014)

By Annette Becker and Lauren Garraux

On July 14, 2014, Master in Chancery Kim E. Ayvazian issued her draft report in Kostyszn v. Martuscelli, a dispute between the purchasers (“Plaintiffs”) and sellers (“Defendants”) of Paciugo Gelato and Café (the “Business”), an ongoing business which Plaintiffs purchased in December 2011 for a purchase price of $272,500.00.  According to Plaintiffs, their decision to purchase the Business and the purchase price were based on sales information provided to them by Defendants, as well as subsequent statements made by Defendants regarding, among other things, business earnings, on-site sales, catering sales and profits.

In August 2013, Plaintiffs commenced a lawsuit against Defendants in the Delaware Chancery Court alleging that this information and Defendants’ statements were false and misleading, and directly resulted in Plaintiffs both calculating a purchase price that was more than they otherwise would have been willing to pay for the Business and entering into a long-term lease exposing the assets of the Business to risk and the Plaintiffs to personal liability if the Business ultimately failed.  In their amended complaint (the “Amended Complaint”), Plaintiffs asserted claims against Defendants for breach of contract, breach of warranty, indemnification, equitable fraud, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and sought indemnification and monetary damages from Defendants, as well as cancellation of the agreement to purchase the Business.  Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on grounds that the Chancery Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims.  In her draft report, Master Ayvazian recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiffs’ equitable claim (for equitable fraud) with prejudice, decline to apply the “clean up” doctrine to address Plaintiffs’ remaining legal claims and to allow Plaintiffs to transfer those remaining legal claims to a court of law.

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Capano v. Capano, C.A. No. 8721-VCN (June 30, 2014)

By Eric Feldman and Sophia Lee Shin

Capano, et al. v. Capano, et al. is a consolidated case involving three brothers that came before the Delaware Court of Chancery, in which Joseph and Gerry Capano each filed a complaint against Louis Capano.

Facts

Louis, Joseph and their father, Louis Sr., were equal partners in a Delaware partnership, Capano Investments. Upon Louis Sr.’s death, the partnership structure changed such that Louis and his son controlled 48.5% of the partnership, Joseph and his son controlled 48.5%, and Gerry (as the beneficiary with voting control of CI Trust) controlled 3%. In 2000, the partnership was subsequently converted into a Delaware limited liability company, Capano Investments, LLC (“CI-LLC”), with the same membership and respective ownership interests as those of the partnership

In 2000, Louis and Gerry executed two documents that purportedly granted Louis an interest in CI Trust: (1) Gerry granted Louis the “Power to Direct”, an irrevocable proxy to direct CI Trust’s trustee (at the time, Daniel McCollom) to vote its interest in CI-LLC; and (2) Gerry granted Louis the “Option” to purchase Gerry’s interest in CI Trust, but only with the consent of CI Trust’s trustee, and at a purchase price of $100,000 and the forgiveness of a $100,000 advance. Both the Power to Direct and the Option were signed by Louis and Gerry and had “(SEAL)” printed next their signatures.

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American Capital Acquisition Partners, LLC, et al. v. LPL Holdings, Inc., et al. No. 8490-VCG (February 3, 2014) (Glasscock, V.C.)

By David Bernstein

In 2011, LPL Holdings, Inc. (“LPL”) acquired Concord Capital Partners, Inc. (“Concord”) from American Capital Acquisition Partners, LLC (“American Capital”) under a purchase agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”) that provided for a contingent addition to the purchase price that could be as much as $15 million based upon the 2013 gross margin of Concord (which was renamed “Concord-LPL”). Conford-LPL also entered into employment contracts with senior executives of Concord, which provided for bonuses based upon Concord-LPL’s reaching specified revenue targets in 2011, 2012 and 2013. At the time of the acquisition, LPL discussed with American Capital and Concord’s senior executives the synergies that could be achieved by using LPL’s computerized custody system to provide custody services for Concord-LPL trust accounts. In fact, the LPL computer system could not process those accounts, and LPL did not modify the system to enable it to process them. As a result, Concord-LPL did not generate gross margins sufficient to entitle American Capital to the contingent additional payments and did not generate sufficient revenues to reach the specified targets in the employment contracts. American Capital and the former Concord senior executives sued LPL, alleging that LPL had committed fraud in stating that LPL could, or would become able to, process Concord-LPL’s trust accounts, and had breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in (a) not doing what was necessary to enable the LPL computer system to be used to process those accounts and (b) diverting business away from Concord-LPL to another company to avoid having to make additional payments to American Capital under the Purchase Agreement and provide bonuses to Concord’s senior executives under the employment contracts.

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