Topic: Uncategorized

COURT OF CHANCERY RULES ON THE APPLICABILITY OF FORUM SELECTION CLAUSES TO NON-SIGNATORIES TO A CONTRACT AND A PLAINTIFF’S BURDEN IN ALLEGING BREACH OF THE “COMMERCIALLY REASONABLE EFFORTS” STANDARD

By: Scott E. Waxman and Teresa Teng

In Neurvana Medical, LLC v. Balt USA, LLC et al., C.A. No. 2019-0034-KSJM (Del. Ch. Sep. 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss by a defendant parent company, whose subsidiary entered into a purchase agreement containing a Delaware forum selection clause. The court applied the “closely related” test in finding that the plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to show that the non-signatory parent entity was “closely related” to the underlying purchase agreement and as a result, plaintiff could not bind the parent entity to the agreement’s forum selection clause.

In the subsequent Neurvana Medical, LLC v. Balt USA, LLC et al., C.A. No. 2019-0034-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb. 27, 2020), the court split its decision in granting the motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over one of the defendant officers of the purchaser in the transaction, and for failure to state a claim with respect to all but one count of the plaintiff’s complaint. The court denied the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction with respect to another officer of the purchaser who had also served as chairman of the board of the seller. The court also denied such defendant’s motion to dismiss on the cause of action of breach of fiduciary duty.

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CHANCERY COURT DENIES PURCHASER’S THEORY OF RECOUPMENT WITH TIME-BARRED CLAIMS TO OFFSET POST-MERGER EARN-OUT PAYMENTS

By: David L. Forney and Marissa Leon

The Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) recently rejected a Purchaser’s theory of recoupment with claims of breach of contract and fraudulent inducement that were time-barred by the statute of limitations. Claros Diagnostics, Inc. Shareholders Representative Committee v. OPKO Health, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0262-SG, 2020 WL 829361 (Del. Ch. February 19, 2020).

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DEMAND FOR BOOKS AND RECORDS UNDER SECTION 220 TO AID IN PROXY CONTEST IS NOT A PROPER PURPOSE, CHANCERY COURT FINDS

By: C.J. Voss and Adam Heyd

In High River Limited Partnership, Icahn Partners Master Fund LP, and Icahn Partners LP v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation, C.A. No. 2019-0403-JRS (Del. Ch. November 14, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed a demand by stockholders of Occidental Petroleum Corporation (“Occidental”) under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (“Section 220”) for documents and information relating to Occidental’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum and related transactions. The Court held that the stockholders’ demand for books and records to aid in a proxy contest did not constitute a proper purpose, and that a broad demand for corporate records was not necessary and essential to the stockholders’ purpose of challenging company management over its decision to enter into a transaction.

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Transactions Involving Controlling Stockholder as a Result of Actual or Inherent Coercion are Subject to Entire Fairness Standard of Review

By: Annette Becker and Rich Minice

In In re Tesla Motors, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 12711-VC (Del. Ch. Feb. 4, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery rejected the defendants’ (Elon Musk and the Tesla, Inc. (“Tesla”) board of directors (“Defendants”)) novel position that “inherent coercion” doctrine–as it relates to a controlling stockholder–evaporates when a case for breach of fiduciary duty moves beyond the pleading stage and stockholder ratification exists, and re-affirmed the Delaware principle that entire fairness is the appropriate standard of review.  The Court rejected motions for summary judgment by both parties finding that there remained issues of material fact to be determined as to whether stockholder ratification was fully informed and uncoerced, and whether a majority of the Tesla board of directors approving the merger was independent.

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Stockholder Letter Requesting Remedial Action Deemed a Pre-Suit Demand

By: Joanna Diakos Kordalis and Zack Sager

In Solak v. Welch, the Court of Chancery found that a letter from a stockholder to the board of directors, which requested remedial action to address allegedly excessive non-employee director compensation, was a pre-suit demand and dismissed the stockholder’s complaint for failing to allege wrongful demand refusal.

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rejecting a suit seeking a 43.9% higher payout, the delaware chancery court declared that the $18 per share price paid for stillwater was the fair value.

By Scott E. Waxman and Pouya Ahmadi

In In Re: Appraisal of Stillwater Mining Company, Consol. C.A. No. 2017-0385-JTL (Del. Ch. Aug 21, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that the fair value of Stillwater Mining Company (“Stillwater”) at the time of its acquisition through a reverse triangular merger with Sibanye Gold Limited (“Sibanye”) was $18 per share, equal to the merger consideration.

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Termination Fee is Not Exclusive Remedy for Breach of No-Shop

By Sara Kirkpatrick and Lisa Stark

On September 9, 2019, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that Genuine Parts Company (“GPC”) adequately pled facts that supported a pleading stage inference that Essendant Inc. breached its merger agreement with GPC by terminating the agreement to pursue a transaction with non-party Sycamore Partners (“Sycamore”) pursuant to a superior proposal termination right. The Court further found that GPC adequately pled that its acceptance of a termination fee from Essendant did not preclude GPC from pursuing breach of contract claims against Essendant for its alleged breaches of the parties’ merger agreement.

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COURT OF CHANCERY APPLIES POLITICAL QUESTION DOCTRINE IN DEFERRING TO U.S. PRESIDENT’S RECOGNITION OF VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT AND HOLDS THAT EXTRA-TERRITORIAL EFFECTS DO NOT PRECLUDE APPLICATION OF THE ACT OF STATE DOCTRINE

By: CJ Voss and Teresa Teng

In Jiménez v. Palacios et al., C.A. No. 2019-0490-KSJM (Del. Ch. Aug. 2, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery accepted as binding the U.S. President’s recognition of a foreign government and upheld the validity of that government’s appointments to the board of directors of a state-owned oil company. In turn, the state-owned oil company could validly appoint the board of directors of its Delaware subsidiaries. However, the court determined that the consents appointing the boards of directors of the Delaware subsidiaries were not appropriately considered on a motion for judgment on the pleadings and granted the plaintiffs the opportunity to identify facts in dispute foreclosing summary judgment in favor of the defendants. 

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In a $1.365 Billion Merger, the Target Company “Blindsided” the Proposed Buyer by Terminating the Merger Agreement and the Court Upheld the Termination; Court Requests Further Briefing re the $126.5 Million Reverse Termination Fee

By: Kevin Stichter and Tami Mack

In Vintage Rodeo Parent, LLC et al. v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0927-SG (Del. Ch. March 14, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that the target company Rent-A-Center, Inc. (“Rent-A-Center”) validly exercised its right to terminate the $1.365 billion merger under the merger agreement (the “Merger Agreement”) among Rent-A-Center and the proposed buyer Vintage Capital Management, LLC and certain affiliates (collectively, “Vintage”), despite Vintage’s claims that the term of the Merger Agreement had already been extended or, alternatively, that Rent-A-Center had not validly terminated.

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Chancery Court Interprets the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

By: Scott E. Waxman and Stephanie S. Liu

In AlixPartners, LLP v. Benichou, (C.A. No. 2018-0600-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 10, 2019)), the Court of Chancery decided, as a matter of first impression, that the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) narrowly provides a cause of action in Delaware for unauthorized computer access or unauthorized access to information; it does not cover incidents involving misuse of information that was obtained through authorized access.

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Court to Sellers: Stockholder Notice Rights Matter

By Scott Waxman and Nadia Brooks

In Mehta v. Mobile Posse, Inc., six causes of action were before the Delaware Court of Chancery in Plaintiff’s complaint alleging inadequate stockholder notice and breach of directors’ fiduciary duty of disclosure regarding the merger of Mobile Posse. The defendants, Mobile Posse and its board, asserted motions for judgments on the pleadings for all counts, arguing they were entitled to the judgments because the violations were remedied by the supplemental notice they issued. The Court denied all but one of defendants’ motions, finding numerous deficiencies in the notice process and finding that the merger was not entirely fair.

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