By letter report dated June 8, 2017, Master of Chancery Morgan T. Zurn recommended dismissal of the complaint in Walker v. Cabo Verde Capital, Inc., C.A. No. 11696-MZ (Del. Ch. June 8, 2017), finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to compel inspection of a non-extant Delaware company’s books and records. Citing recent developments in Delaware law, the Court held that the plaintiff could not satisfy the “stockholder” prerequisite for filing a Section 220 action because all stockholder interest had been previously extinguished by the company’s merger into a foreign corporation.
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.
By memorandum-opinion dated February 27, 2017, Vice Chancellor Glasscock dismissed plaintiff’s Verified Complaint to Compel Inspection of Books and Records in Weingarten v. Monster Worldwide, Inc. after finding plaintiff lacked standing to bring such a claim. Specifically, the Court held that, under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, only a current stockholder may bring an action to redress the denial of access to a corporation’s books and records, even if the plaintiff had been a stockholder when initially demanding access.
In I.A.T.S.E. Local No. One Pension Fund v. General Electric Company, et al., No. 11893-VCG (Del. Ch. Ct. December 6, 2016), the Delaware Court of Chancery, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss and held that a breach of fiduciary duty claim is personal and does not adhere to the stock of the company where the transaction at issue severs the relationship between the stockholder and the entity.
In Merion Capital LP v. BMC Software, Inc., the Chancery Court held that a person who became the record owner of shares after the record date for voting on a merger could seek appraisal with regard to those shares so long as that person did not vote the shares in favor of the merger, without having to demonstrate that the shares had not been voted in favor of the merger by a prior record owner.
On January 5, 2015, the Delaware Chancery Court issued its ruling in Merion Capital LP v. BMC Software, Inc., C.A. No. 8900-VCG (Del. Ch. January 5, 2015) (Glasscock, V.C.), finding that petitioner Merion Capital LP had standing to seek an appraisal with regard to shares of which it became the record owner after the record date for voting on a merger without having to prove that those shares had not been voted in favor or the merger.
Amid debates around the merits of “appraisal arbitrage,” the Chancery Court held in In re: Appraisal of Ancestry.com, Inc. that the hedge fund petitioner did not need to prove that the Ancestry.com shares of which it became the beneficial owner after the record date for voting on an Ancestry merger had not been voted in favor of the merger in order to pursue appraisal rights with regard to those shares. The Court said any problems with DGCL Section 262 itself should be solved by the legislature, not the courts.
On January 5, 2015, the Delaware Chancery Court issued its ruling in In re: Appraisal of Ancestry.com Inc., C.A. No. 8173-VCG (Del. Ch. January 5, 2015) (Glasscock, V.C.), finding that petitioner Merion Capital L.P., the beneficial owner of Ancestry.com, Inc. shares, did not need to prove that the specific Ancestry shares with respect to which petitioner seeks appraisal were not voted in favor of an Ancestry merger in order to have standing to seek appraisal.
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.
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.
Lucas v. Hanson involves two procedural questions – standing and personal jurisdiction – with respect to the plaintiff’s claims for declaratory and injunction relief against the forced distribution of assets of a limited partnership, Covenant Investment Fund LP (“Covenant”), to its limited partners. Prosapia Capital Management LLC (“Prosapia Capital”) is the general partner and limited partner of Covenant, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Prosapia Financial LLC (“Prosapia Financial”). The plaintiff, Alan Lucas, is a member of Prosapia Financial and the manager of both Prosapia Capital and Prosapia Financial. The defendants are limited partners of Covenant, none of whom are residents of Delaware or involved in the management of Covenant. Following Mr. Lucas’ criminal conviction in Iowa for theft involving expenditures and the liquidation of Covenant’s funds and assets, the Iowa courts declared that the cash held in Covenant’s accounts was the property of its limited partners and should have been distributed to the defendants.