Topic: LLC Agreement

MANAGERS NOT PROPERLY REMOVED FROM LLC DESPITE SOLE MEMBER’S INTENT

By: Scott Waxman and Zack Sager

In Llamas v. Titus, the Court of Chancery held that, despite the intent of an LLC’s sole member, certain managers of the LLC were not removed as such because the sole member did not expressly remove them.  In its analysis, the Court applied corporate law principles by analogy because the LLC adopted a corporate-like structure.

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Court of Chancery Finds that the Implied Contractual Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing Requires Delaware LLC to Exercise Discretion in Good Faith

By: Scott Waxman and Zack Sager

In Coca-Cola Beverages Florida Holdings, LLC v. Goins, the Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a claim for breach of the implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and, in so doing, found that the discretion afforded to a Delaware limited liability company under an agreement was required to be exercised in good faith.  In addition, the Court analyzed a motion to dismiss claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and fraud.

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CHANCERY COURT FINDS THAT LANGUAGE IN AN LLC AGREEMENT THAT STATES AN ASSIGNMENT IS “NULL AND VOID” TRUMPS THE COMMON LAW AND RENDERS EQUITABLE DEFENSES INEFFECTIVE

By: Scott Waxman and Calvin Kennedy

In Absalom Absalom Trust f/k/a Anne Deane 2013 Revocable Trust v. Saint Gervais LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0452-TMR (Del. Ch. June 27, 2019), the Court of Chancery found that the transfer of membership interests in an LLC was void, rather than voidable as it ordinarily would be at common law, due to the plain language of the Company’s LLC agreement (the “LLC Agreement”). Further, the Court held that equitable defenses were unavailable to the plaintiff with regards to the transfer because the contractual language of the LLC Agreement trumped common law. Lastly, the Court found that the unambiguous contractual language controlled despite the flexibility of LLCs and the alleged purpose of the provision.

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SOPHISTICATED PARTY OR NOT, LLC AGREEMENT STILL GOVERNS

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Durham v. Grapetree, LLC, Civil Action No. 2018-0174-SG (Del. Ch. June 4, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the request made by Grapetree, LLC ( “Grapetree”) to shift its fees incurred in defending this litigation to the mostly unsuccessful plaintiff, Andrew Durham (“Durham”). In shifting Grapetree’s fees under this litigation, the Court reinforced the longstanding principal that Delaware law is contractarian in nature, and that parties shall be held to their bargains regardless of their legal sophistication. The underlying litigation and the Court’s initial findings (the “Books and Records Action”) were previously summarized by this blog here.

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Chancery Court finds Commission under Sales Agreement was not “Required” such that entry into Sales Agreement Required Additional Approvals

By Scott E. Waxman and Michael C. Payant

In CompoSecure, L.L.C. v. CardUX, LLC f/k/a Affluent Card, LLC, C.A. No. 12524-VCL (Del. Ch. June 5, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) concluded in a Report on Remand from the Delaware Supreme Court that a Sales Agreement (“Agreement”) entered into by CompoSecure, L.L.C. (“CompoSecure”) and CardUX, LLC (“CardUX”) was not subject to the heightened approval requirements contained in the CompoSecure LLC Agreement because the Agreement did not require CompoSecure to expend more than $500,000 in any fiscal year.

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COURT OF CHANCERY HOLDS THAT MEMBER OF LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY IS ENTITLED TO ADVANCEMENT WHILE DEFENDING A LAWSUIT IN ITS “OFFICIAL CAPACITY”

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank J. Mazzucco

In Freeman Family LLC v. Park Avenue Landing LLC, C.A. No. 2018-0683-TMR (Del. Ch. April 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that a member of a limited liability company, in defending a lawsuit in its “official capacity” brought by the company’s managing member, was entitled to advancement of litigation expenses under the company’s operating agreement.

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CONTRACTUAL AMBIGUITIES FAVOR THE NON-MOVING PARTY AT MOTION TO DISMISS STAGE

By: Scott Waxman and Rich Minice

In Coyne v. Fusion Healthworks, LLC Civil Action No. 2018-0011-MTZ (Del. Ch. April 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (the “Motion”) filed by Fusion Healthworks, LLC (the “LLC”), James Sheehan with his personal medical practice, and Andrew Lietzke, with his personal medical practice (collectively, the “Defendants”). In denying the Motion, the court reiterated the standing principal that, when presented with a contractual ambiguity, dismissal at the motion to dismiss stage is only appropriate “if the defendants’ interpretation [of the ambiguity] is the only reasonable construction as a matter of law.” Coyne highlights the critical nature of competent drafting of LLC Agreements.

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WHEN SOMEONE SHOWS YOU WHO THEY ARE, BELIEVE THEM THE FIRST TIME, OR RISK YOUR CLAIMS BEING TIME BARRED

By Scott Waxman and Adrienne Wimberly

In Winklevoss Capital Fund, LLC et al. v. Stephen Shaw, et al., C.A. No. 2018-0398-JRS, the Delaware Court of Chancery, in a Memorandum Opinion, granted a Motion to Dismiss counterclaims against individual Plaintiffs Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss and their investment firm (altogether “Plaintiffs”) because the claims were barred by laches. In an attempt to capitalize on the publicity from their depiction in the movie The Social Network, the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, launched an investment firm, Winklevoss Capital Fund, LLC (WCF). The twins selected Treats! LLC, founded by Stephen Shaw, to be one of their first investments. Treats! LLC owns and operates Treats! magazine, a print and digital magazine depicting nude and semi-nude photographs of models and celebrities. In August 2012, WCF invested $1,310,000 in Treats! in exchange for 1,310,000 series A preferred units under a written Purchase Agreement and Amended LLC Agreement. WCF also loaned Treats! $20,000 as evidenced by a promissory note delivered in October 2012. However, the business relationship between the parties quickly soured as the twins refused to allow Shaw to publicly announce their investment in Treats! and the twins believed Shaw was mismanaging the company.

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Purported Assignment of Limited Liability Company Interest Impacts Jurisdiction Under Conspiracy Theory of Jurisdiction

By: Scott Waxman and Zack Sager

In Perry v. Neupert, the Delaware Court of Chancery found that it could exercise personal jurisdiction over a Liechtenstein entity under the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction.  In reaching this conclusion, the Court analyzed the effects of an assignment by a sole member of a Delaware limited liability company of its entire limited liability company interest to a single assignee under the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act currently in effect and in effect prior to the 2016 amendments thereto.

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FOR CAUSE REMOVAL MUST BE FOR CAUSE

By Scott E. Waxman and Annamarie C. Larson

In A&J Capital, Inc. v. Law Office of Krug, Civil Action No. 2018-0240-JRS (Del. Ch. January 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted an LLC manager a final declaratory judgment that the manager had been improperly removed, and the Court ordered immediate reinstatement of the manager.  In short, if a Delaware LLC’s operating documents only allow “for cause” removal of the manager, then the manager cannot be removed “on a whimsy” by the members who then manufacture cause after-the-fact to justify the removal.

Plaintiff A&J Capital, Inc. (“A&J”) was selected as the manager of LA Metropolis Condo I, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (the “Company”). The Company was organized to raise $100 million from 200 Chinese nationals so they could become United States lawful permanent residents through the EB-5 program. The capital was invested in a construction loan for the development of real estate in downtown Los Angeles, and the loan was extended to Greenland LA Metropolis Development I, LLC (“Greenland”).

When the real estate project was substantially completed, funds from the sale of the condominium units were released to a pledge account in Greenland’s name for the benefit of the Company. Greenland approached A&J with an offer to repay the loan before its maturity date in order to free up capital to redeploy for other projects. Also, the amount in the pledge account could foreseeably exceed the principal of the loan, potentially violating the members’ EB-5 requirements. Greenland and A&J negotiated a prepayment plan and a $1 million prepayment fee for A&J, in exchange for A&J foregoing $1.6 million in management fees that it would otherwise receive at maturity of the loan.

A&J notified the members of the prepayment plan and the prepayment fee and requested the members’ approval. Any member’s abstention from voting was counted as a vote in favor of the plan. The members ultimately rejected the plan, as Greenland had a change of heart and became concerned that A&J would not commit the redeployed funds to Greenland on favorable terms.

Pursuant to the Management Agreement between A&J, the Company, and its members, the manager may be removed only by a majority vote of the members for gross negligence, intentional misconduct, fraud, or deceit. Other documents such as the Private Placement Memorandum support this standard.

James Krug, attorney for some of the members and defendant in this case, sent a removal ballot to the members, asking them to vote for (1) removal of A&J as manager and (2) election of Mr. Krug as the new manager. Importantly, the removal ballot did not state the basis for removal. Out of 200 members, 105 members voted to remove A&J; however, the authenticity of the ballots was questionable. A&J brought this suit to request that it be reinstated as manager.

Mr. Krug made two arguments that A&J violated the required standard of conduct. First, he argued that A&J’s request for a prepayment fee plus the structure of the first vote revealed fraudulent intent. The Court rejected this argument, because A&J unabashedly disclosed to the members the reasons for the prepayment plan and fee and made clear that it was up to the members to decide whether to approve the proposal. Ultimately, the members voted to reject the proposal.

Second, Mr. Krug argued that A&J made improper payments to its strategic partner, Henry Global. The Court quoted language from the Operating Agreement allowing the manager to enter into agreements it reasonably deems appropriate for any purpose beneficial to the Company. The Court found that Henry Global provided significant services to the Company, including organizing conferences with potential investors, translating loan documents, assisting investors with their immigration applications, traveling with investors outside of China to open escrow accounts, and assisting with currency transfers. The Court emphasized that Henry Global was not paid out of the members’ initial $100 million investments, rather out of the interest income, and that the members themselves were not able to receive a high amount of interest due to the structured purpose of the EB-5 investment program. Finally, the Court noted that A&J ordered an independent accounting firm to review the Company’s financial statements, including payments to Henry Global, and A&J later distributed such statements to the members.

The Court held that a “for cause” removal was not warranted and therefore reinstated A&J as manager of the company. One footnote explains, “a holding that would allow removal for any reason unearthed after the fact of removal would circumvent the for-cause contractual predicate for which A&J bargained. And it would deny the Members of the opportunity meaningfully to participate in the removal process because, by definition, their removal votes would not have been informed by the after-acquired evidence.”

Breaking-up Is Hard To Do: CSH Theatres, LLC v. Nederlander of San Francisco Associates

By:  Christopher J. Voss and Jeremiah W. Schwarz

CSH Theatres, LLC v. Nederlander of San Francisco Associates, CA No. 9830-VCMR (Del. Ch. July 31, 2018) concerns the dramatic break-up of a prominent theater company partnership in San Francisco involving claims and counterclaims alleging violations of contractual and fiduciary duties and charges of self-dealing and bad faith conduct.  The Delaware Court of Chancery found that no enforceable contract to renew the lease to San Francisco’s Curran Theater existed but the Court did grant the theater operator a declaratory judgment that the principals of the owner had breached their common law fiduciary duties while they were also serving as managers of the theater operator.

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