Delaware Docket

Timely, brief summaries of cases handed down by the Delaware Court of Chancery and the Delaware Supreme Court.

 

A SIGNATURE ALONE IS NOT DISPOSITIVE EVIDENCE OF AN INTENT TO BE BOUND IN AN AGREEMENT

By: Scott E. Waxman and Mehreen Ahmed

In Eagle Force Holdings, LLC, and EF Investments, LLC, v. Stanley V. Campbell, 2999991.08000 (Del. Ch. Aug. 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that Stanley Campbell’s (“Campbell”) conduct and communications with the Plaintiff before and during the signing of the transaction documents did not constitute an overt manifestation of assent to be bound by the documents. Therefore, the breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty claims failed.

Read More

Failure to Make Demand on Board Prior to Commencing Derivative Action Not Excused When Plaintiff Did Not Demonstrate that Demand Would Have Been Futile Because Directors Acted in Bad Faith by Knowingly Breaching their Oversight Responsibilities

By: Eric E. Freedman and Serena M. Hamann

In Juan C. Rojas derivatively and on behalf of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. v. Marvin R. Ellison, et al, C.A. No. 2018-0755-AGB (Del. Ch. July 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed with prejudice a derivative claim brought against J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (“J.C. Penney,” or the “Company”) and current and former members of the Company’s board of directors (the “Board”), on the grounds that the failure of plaintiff Juan Rojas (“Rojas”) to make a demand on the Board prior to filing suit did not satisfy the requirements of Delaware law for excuse from the requirement to make such a demand. The Court held that Rojas had failed to allege facts from which the Court could reasonably infer that any of the Board members had acted in bad faith by knowingly failing to exercise their oversight responsibilities, and that Rojas therefore had not demonstrated that a demand on the Board would have been futile.

Read More

Director Independence and Demand Futility: A Holistic Inquiry of the Pleading

By: Josh Gaul and Rich Minice

In In re BGC Partners, Inc. Derivative Litigation, Civil Action No. 2018-0722-AGB (Del. Ch. Sep. 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied motions to dismiss for (i) failure to establish demand futility and (ii) failure to state a claim for relief (the “Motions”) filed by nominal defendant BGC Partners, Inc. (“BGC”), its affiliates CF Group Management, Inc. (“CF”) and Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. (“Cantor”), Howard Lutnick, the CEO, Chairman of the Board, and controlling stockholder of BGC (“Lutnick”), and four “independent” members of the Board of Directors of BGC (the “Special Committee Defendants” and all of which, together, are the “Defendants”). In denying the Motions in this stockholder derivative litigation, the court primarily discussed and applied recent guidance from the Delaware Supreme Court on the Aronson test for demand futility. In re BGC Partners, Inc. puts controlling stockholders on notice that their professional and personal ties to board members may undermine the purported independence of those board members.

Read More

waiver of appraisal rights in a stockholder agreement is enforceable under delaware law

By Annette Becker and Pouya Ahmadi

In Manti Holdings, LLC v. Authentix Acquisition Co., Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0887 SG (Del. Ch. Aug 14, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that Contractual agreements limiting or waiving future appraisal rights are not prohibited as a matter of law under the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”).

Read More

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.

Read More

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. 

Read More

earn-out provision of merger agreement requires extrinsic evidence to aid interpretation

By Scott E. Waxman and Pouya D. Ahmadi

In Western Standard, LLC, v. SourceHOV Holdings, Inc. and Pangea Acquisitions, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0280-JRS (Del. Ch. July 24, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) refused to the grant SourceHOV Holdings, Inc. (“SourceHOV”) and Pangea Acquisitions, Inc.’s (“Pangea”) motion to dismiss, holding that more extrinsic evidence was needed for the Court to be able to interpret the terms of the merger agreement (the “Merger Agreement”) among Pangea and BancTec, Inc. (“BancTec”) and decide whether there was a valid breach of a contract claim.

Read More

Delaware Court of Chancery Allows Stockholder to Inspect Books and Records Over Defendant Corporation’s Objections

By Scott Waxman and Serena Hamann

In Senetas Corporation, Ltd. v. DeepRadiology Corporation, C.A. No. 2019-0170-PWG (Del. Ch. July 30, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery allowed a stockholder’s books and records inspection despite objections raised by the defendant corporation because the stockholder established a proper purpose for the inspection by proving a credible basis from which the Court could infer mismanagement or wrongdoing may have occurred and because the defendant failed to prove the plaintiff’s stated purpose was offered under false pretenses.

Read More

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.

Read More

Delaware Supreme Court calculates Aruba’s fair value in an appraisal using deal price minus synergies, reversing lower court’s 30-day stock price calculation

By: Jessica Pearlman, Marina Mehrtens and Joseph Phelps

In Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. and Verition Multi-Strategy Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL (Del. Ch. Apr. 16, 2019), the Delaware Supreme Court unanimously held that the Court of Chancery abused its discretion when it calculated the fair value per share of the common stock of Aruba Networks, Inc. (“Aruba”) in an appraisal proceeding. The Court of Chancery assessed Aruba’s per share value at $17.13 by using the 30-day average market price at which Aruba’s shares publicly traded before Aruba’s merger negotiation with Hewlett Packard Company (“HP”) became public. The Delaware Supreme Court found this improper and affirmed its practice of viewing merger consideration as evidence of fair value, calculating Aruba’s fair value per share as $19.10 (the deal price minus the portion of synergies left with the seller).

Read More

COURT OF CHANCERY FIND PROVISIONS OF MERGER AGREEMENT AMBIGUOUS AND DENIES TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS

By: Scott E. Waxman and Rachel Cheasty Sanders

In Charles F. Dolan v. Altice USA, Inc. et al., Case No. 2018-0651-JRS (Del. Ch. June 27, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery address Defendants’ 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss filed in response to the Plaintiff’s complaint containing the following six causes of action: (i) breach of contract, (ii) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (iii) equitable fraud, (iv) promissory estoppel, (v) negligent misrepresentation, and (vi) declaratory relief. Defendants include telecommunications and media companies Altice USA, Inc. and Altice Europe N.V. (collectively, “Altice”). Additionally, Plaintiffs named as nominal defendants Cablevision Systems Corporation (“Cablevision”) and News 12 Networks, LLC (“News12”). Plaintiffs include members of the Dolan family, the controlling shareholders of Cablevision and News12 prior to the sale of those companies to Altice. The Court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss on the Dolan family’s claims for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and declaratory relief and granted the motion pertaining to the claims for breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, equitable fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. (1)

Read More

Delaware Court of Chancery Allows Stockholder’s Derivative Claim to Proceed Against Alleged Controlling Stockholder Under Entire Fairness Standard of Review

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank Mazzucco

In Reith v. Lichtenstein et al., C.A. No. 2018-0277-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jun. 28, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery, in considering a motion to dismiss, allowed a stockholder’s derivative complaint to proceed against a minority stockholder under the entire fairness standard of review, because the complaint had sufficiently alleged that such minority stockholder, by exercising “actual control” as part of transactions being challenged, was effectively a controlling shareholder and thus owed fiduciary duties.

Read More

Copyright © 2019, K&L Gates LLP. All Rights Reserved.