Topic: Proper Purpose

Court of Chancery Holds That Shareholder Satisfied Burden of Proof under Section 220 to Show Credible Basis to Infer That Company Misled Shareholders Regarding Biggest Client

By David Forney & Tami Mack

In Elow v. Express Scripts Holding Company, C.A. No.12721-VCMR and Khandhar v. Express Scripts Holding Company, C.A. No. 12734-VCMR (Del. Ch. May 31, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that plaintiff shareholder Clifford Elow’s (“Elow”) demand to inspect certain books and records of Express Scripts Holding Company (the “Company”) met all statutory requirements and stated a proper purpose, while plaintiff (and purported shareholder) Amitkumar Khandhar’s (“Khandhar”) demand did not. Thus, the Court granted Elow’s Section 220 demand subject to a confidentiality agreement and denied Khandhar’s demand.

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Chancery Court Finds Unqualified Inspection Right in Statutory Trust Agreement Renders Default Preconditions and Defenses Inapplicable

By: Scott Waxman and Eric Jay

In Grand Acquisition LLC v. Passco Indian Springs DST, C.A. No. 12003-VCMR (Del. Ch. Aug. 26, 2016) the Delaware Court of Chancery found that under the Delaware Statutory Trust Act (the “Act”), the governing instrument of a Delaware statutory trust (DST) does not need to affirmatively disavow the preconditions and defenses applicable to inspection rights related to a DST’s books and records under Section 3819 of the Act in order to create a separate and distinct contractual right that can, in some circumstances, render statutory preconditions and defenses inapplicable to such requests. Read More

Chancery Court Blocks Stockholders’ Push for Search of Non-Employee Directors’ Personal Email Accounts, But Orders Production of Certain Documents Withheld as Privileged, in Books and Records Action under DGCL Section 220

By Whitney Smith and Lauren Garraux

In an April 30, 2015 Memorandum Opinion, Vice Chancellor Parsons denied in part and granted in part a motion by two lululemon athletica, inc. (“lululemon” or the “Company”) stockholders to enforce a prior court order directing the Company to produce books and records relating to an investigation of potential insider trading or Brophy claims against the Company’s founder and then-chairman of the board of directors, and potential claims for mismanagement against the other directors. In doing so, the Court held that requiring the Company to search its non-employee directors’ personal email accounts for responsive documents was unwarranted, but determined that certain documents withheld as privileged should be produced pursuant to the fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege.

In May and October 2013, respectively, lululemon stockholders Hallandale Beach Police Officers and Firefighters’ Personnel Retirement Fund and Laborers’ District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) commenced separate actions under Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) Section 220, seeking documents relating to trades of Company stock involving Dennis Wilson, lululemon’s founder and then-chairman of its board in June of 2013. In particular, the timing of the trades — which were made within days of lululemon’s then-CEO’s announcement both to Wilson and the Company’s board that she planned to resign — raised questions, even prompting the Wall Street Journal (“WSJ”) to email the Company for confirmation of certain facts for a story regarding Wilson’s trades for an article which noted their favorable timing for Wilson.

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Chancery Court Holds That a Proper Purpose with a Credible Basis to Investigate is Required to Grant a Section 220 Action in Pursuit of a Future Derivative Litigation

By Meghan Wotherspoon and Calvin Kennedy

The Chancery Court held that a stockholder must show that there is a proper purpose with a credible basis in order to succeed in a Section 220 action to inspect the books and records of a corporation.

In Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority v. AbbVie Inc. and James Rizzolo v. AbbVie Inc., the plaintiffs, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (“SEPTA”) and James Rizzolo (“Rizzolo”), as shareholders of defendant AbbVie Inc. (“AbbVie”), made individual written demands on AbbVie for inspection of certain books and records pursuant to Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”). The plaintiffs sought to obtain records to demonstrate that AbbVie’s directors breached their fiduciary duties. AbbVie rejected the demands for failure to state a proper purpose and each plaintiff then filed a Section 220 Complaint. As the actions stemmed from the same event, the Court utilized a single Memorandum Opinion to deliver its decisions.

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Stating That an Inspection under DGCL Section 220 Is Not “Merely For The Curious,” The Chancery Court Reaffirms The Need for a Stockholder to Show a Proper Purpose for a Section 220 Demand and, in Doing So, Holds That a Derivative Suit That is Dismissed With Prejudice is Collateral Estoppel as to All Stockholders

By David Bernstein and Lauren Garraux

Vice Chancellor Noble denied the demand of plaintiff Fuchs Family Trust to inspect the books and records of defendant Parker Drilling Company under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law and, in doing so, held that Fuchs’s ability to institute future stockholder derivative litigation — one of the stated purposes underlying its demand — was barred by collateral estoppel based on the dismissal with prejudice of a prior stockholder derivative lawsuit — to which Fuchs was not a party — on procedural grounds.

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Valuing Stock in a Delisted Corporation Is a Proper Purpose for a Books and Records Request Under DGCL §220; Evaluating Risk in That Company Is Not

By David Bernstein and B. Ashby Hardesty, Jr.

A Post-Trial Master’s Report ruled that conducting a risk evaluation regarding a company was not a proper purpose for a Section 220 books and records demand, but that valuing the company was.

On February 26, 2015, Master LeGrow issued her Final Report in Southpaw Credit Opportunity Master Fund LP v. Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc., C.A. No. 9542-ML (Del. Ch. February 26, 2015), recommending that the Court order Advanced Battery Technologies, Inc. (“ABAT”) to produce certain books and records for inspection under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, subject to a standard confidentiality agreement.

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DGCL §220 Books and Records Request Improper as Stockholder Demonstrates Proper Purpose but is Unable to Show Loss or Harm to Corporation

By Porter Sesnon and Kristy Harlan

A Final Master’s Report recommended that the Chancery Court deny a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and grant the defendant’s cross-motion for summary judgment, relating to plaintiff’s demand to inspect a Delaware corporation’s books and records to investigate possible mismanagement, waste and breaches of fiduciary duty.

In October 2012, the plaintiff, Mr. Walther, made a demand to inspect the books and records of ITT Educational Services, Inc. (“ITT”) under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).  The Section 220 request stemmed from ITT’s public disclosures and a Majority Committee Staff Report (“Committee Report”) issued by the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee relating to ITT’s compliance with federal Title IV student loan eligibility requirements and its student loan default rates.

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Jefferson v. Dominion Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 8663-VCN (September 24, 2014) (Noble, V.C.)

By Jamie Bruce and Carty Bibee

On September 24, 2014, Vice Chancellor Noble issued his opinion in Jefferson v. Dominion Holdings, Inc., a matter involving a dispute between a corporation and one of its stockholders over the scope, and attendant confidentiality concerns, in the stockholder’s inspection of the books and records of the corporation under 8 Del. C. § 220.

The Court concluded after trial that the plaintiff stockholder Jefferson (“Plaintiff Stockholder”) demonstrated that valuing his stock in defendant Dominion Holdings, Inc. (“Defendant Corporation”) was a proper purpose for his requested inspection.  In this Order, Vice Chancellor Noble addressed two issues: (1) the scope of the production of books and records and (2) the confidentiality concerns of Defendant Corporation.

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