In a case arising out of the purchase by Great Hill Partners of Plimus (now known as BlueSnap, Inc.), the Delaware Court of Chancery, after a 10-day trial and extensive post-trial briefing and oral argument, recently rejected all of the fraud-based claims made by Great Hill against the two founders of Plimus, Messrs. Daniel Kleinberg and Tomer Herzog (the “founders”), who were also directors and major shareholders of Plimus at the time of the transaction. The Court’s decision in Great Hill Equity Partners IV, LP v. SIG Growth Equity Fund I, LLLP, No. 7906-VCG, 2018 WL 6311829 (Del. Ch. Dec. 3, 2018), is notable for its rejection of several claims Great Hill pressed for years after initiating the litigation in September 2012.Read More
In Trascent Management Consulting, LLC v. George Bouri, C.A. No. 10915-VCMR (Del. Ch. Sept. 10, 2018), the Court of Chancery declared a limited liability company agreement unenforceable and rescinded a related employment agreement with the defendant, George Bouri, due to Bouri’s fraudulent and false statements that induced the plaintiff’s principal, Rakesh Kishan, to form Trascent Management Consulting, LLC (“Trascent”), and for Kishan and Trascent to enter into the LLC agreement and the employment agreement with Bouri. In addition, the Court awarded certain attorneys’ fees and costs to Trascent as sanctions for defendant’s continued fraudulent and false statements during the litigation proceedings. Read More
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.
In MHS Capital LLC v. Goggin, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss a breach of fiduciary duty claim against the manager of a Delaware limited liability company because all of the manager’s conduct that could have formed the basis of such claim was covered by the duties of the manager delineated in the limited liability company agreement. The Court also analyzed and dismissed claims for, among other things, fraud, breach of the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and misappropriation of trade secrets.
In Sparton Corporation v. Joseph F. O’Neil et al., Civil Action No. 12403-VCMR (Del. Ch. August 9, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss in its entirety because the plaintiff failed to state a claim for fraud and breach of contract. Seeking extra-contractual relief from a merger agreement, the plaintiff-buyer claimed, among other losses, $1.8 million in damages caused by the sellers’ misrepresentation of the target company’s working capital. The plaintiff argued that the defendant-sellers’ alleged extra-contractual misrepresentations warranted judicial intervention despite express anti-reliance and exclusive remedy provisions in the merger agreement.
By Scott E. Waxman and Russell E. Deutsch
In In re Massey Energy Company Derivative And Class Action Litigation, C.A. No. 5430-CB (Del. Ch. May 4, 2017), the Chancery Court dismissed both the direct class action claim for “inseparable fraud” and the derivative claim brought by the former shareholders of Massey Energy (“Massey” or the “Corporation”) against the former directors and officers of Massey for breaching their fiduciary duties by causing Massey to operate in willful disregard of safety regulations. The court dismissed the derivative claim holding that the plaintiffs were not continuous shareholders, and therefore lacked standing to bring a derivative claim after Massey merged into Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (Alpha) in June of 2011. The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ direct claim for “inseparable fraud” claim holding that, though pled as a direct claim, it was, in fact, also a derivative claim that the plaintiffs’ lacked the standing to maintain.
In LVI Group Investments, LLC v. NCM Group Holdings, LLC, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware looked to Delaware corporate law for demand futility pleading requirements in dismissing a derivative claim for breach of fiduciary duties against managers of a Delaware limited liability company (an “LLC”). In addition, the Court of Chancery analyzed the requirements for a member of an LLC sufficiently to plead a direct claim against managers of the LLC and analyzed the requirements for pleading a claim of fraud.
In IAC Search, LLC, v. Conversant LLC (f/k/a ValueClick, Inc.), C.A. No. 11774-CB (Del. Ch. Ct. November 30, 2016) the Chancery Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s fraud claim based on the inclusion of provisions in the purchase agreement that disclaimed reliance on extra-contractual statements that bar plaintiff’s fraud claim. The Court also granted defendant’s motion to dismiss one breach of contract claim, but denied the motion with respect to several other breach of contract claims.
In a mixed ruling, the Chancery Court denied, in part, baseball legend Derek Jeter’s motion to dismiss claims that he breached his fiduciary duty as a director of undergarment manufacturer RevolutionWear, that he violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and that he fraudulently induced a contract with RevolutionWear and fraudulently concealed restrictions in his endorsement contract with Nike that precluded Jeter from fulfilling his promise to allow RevolutionWear to announce his role as a founder, substantial owner, and director.
In FdG Logistics v. A&R Logistics, C.A. No. 9706-CB (Del. Ch. Feb. 23, 2016), the Court of Chancery held that a non-reliance provision contained in a merger agreement was ineffective to bar a buyer’s fraud claims based on extra-contractual statements made during the due diligence and negotiation process because the non-reliance provision was formulated solely as a limitation on the seller’s representations and warranties. According to the Court, for a non-reliance provision to be effective against a buyer, it must be formulated as an affirmative promise by the buyer that it did not rely on any extra-contractual statements made by the seller during the sales process. The decision clarifies the Court of Chancery’s 2015 decision in Prairie Capital III, L.P. v. Double E Holding Corp., C.A. No. 10127-VCL (Del. Ch. Nov. 24, 2015) in which the Court emphasized that “no magic words” are required for a non-reliance provision to be effective.
By Eric Feldman and James Parks
On a motion to dismiss in Prairie Capital III, L.P. v. Double E Holding Corp., the Delaware Court of Chancery, granting in part and denying in part the defendant’s motion, re-enforced the importance of bargained-for contractual terms in the context of a dispute over a transaction consummated pursuant to a stock purchase agreement.
The case involves a transaction between two private equity firms, Prairie Capital Partners and Incline Equity Partners. Prairie Capital Partners, through its sponsored funds Prairie Capital III, L.P and Prairie Capital III QP, L.P. (collectively, “Prairie Capital”), owned Double E Parent LLC (the “Company”), a portfolio company, which it sold to Double E Holding Corp., which was an acquisition vehicle formed by Incline Equity Partners III, L.P., which was sponsored by Incline Equity Partners (collectively the “Buyer”). Prairie Capital III L.P. and Prairie Capital III QP, L.P. (the “Sellers”) were the principal sellers, and the Stock Purchase Agreement (the “SPA”) was signed and the transaction closed on April 4, 2012. The SPA established an escrow fund for a limited period of time for the parties’ respective indemnification obligations and included procedures to make a claim against such escrow fund.
In Black Horse Capital, LP, et al. v. Xstelos Holdings, Inc., et al., the plaintiffs, including Cheval Holdings, Ltd. (“Cheval Holdings”), Black Horse Capital, LP, Black Horse Capital Master Fund Ltd. (together with Black Horse Capital, LP, “Black Horse”), and Ouray Holdings I AG, filed a breach of contract action arising out of a transaction in which the plaintiffs and defendants, Jonathan M. Couchman, Xstelos Holdings, Inc., and Xstelos Corp. (formerly known as Footstar Inc. and Footstar Corp. (“Footstar”)) jointly acquired a pharmaceuticals company, CPEX Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“CPEX”), which is now wholly owned by defendant FCB I Holdings, Inc. (“FCB Holdings”), an entity jointly owned by Footstar and Cheval Holdings. Immediately following the closing of the acquisition, FCB Holdings was owned 80.5% by Footstar and 19.5% by Cheval Holdings.
The plaintiffs’ claims arose out of an alleged oral promise in December 2010 by the defendants to transfer to the plaintiffs certain assets of CPEX, specifically an additional 60% ownership interest in the drug product known as SER-120 and referred to as “Serenity” by the court. The transfer was to occur after the closing of the CPEX acquisition in exchange for the plaintiffs funding a disproportionately large bridge loan to FCB Holdings (the “Serenity Agreement”). On January 3, 2011, each of Black Horse and Footstar entered into separate bridge loan commitment letters with FCB Holdings and CPEX in the amounts of $10 million and $3 million, respectively. In April 2011, the bridge loans were made to FCB Holdings and the CPEX acquisition closed. In connection with the CPEX acquisition, the bridge loans, and the other related transactions, the parties entered into customary transaction documents. Although the alleged oral promise of the Serenity Agreement was made prior to the parties entering into the transaction documents, none of the transaction documents executed in connection with the loan or the merger referenced the Serenity Agreement. Furthermore, the transaction documents also contained customary integration clauses. By December 2012, the transfer of assets contemplated by the Serenity Agreement had not occurred and relations between the parties deteriorated to the point where the plaintiffs filed this action in June 2013.