Delaware Docket

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

 

Delaware Court of Chancery Finds That “Blocking Rights” Exercised By Minority Investors May Amount to an “Actual Control” Position

By Scott E. Waxman and Frank J. Mazzucco

In Skye Mineral Investors, LLC and Clarity Copper, LLC v. DXS Capital (U.S.) Limited et al., C.A. No. 2018-0059-JRS (Del. Ch. Feb. 24, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery allowed claims to survive a motion to dismiss when such claims sufficiently pled that, by exercising certain “blocking rights,” minority members of an LLC achieved an actual control position over the LLC and, in bankrupting the LLC’s subsidiary in order to purchase its assets at a reduced price, breached their related fiduciary duties.

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Caremark Claim Dismissed Due to Inadequate Pleading of Demand Futility

By: Michelle McCreery and Zane Madden

In Hubert Owens, Derivatively on Behalf of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. v. Tim M. Mayleben, et al., C.A. No. 12985-VCS (Del. Ch. February 13, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint (the “complaint”) for failure to adequately plead demand futility.  After analyzing the allegations in the complaint, the Court concluded that plaintiff’s claims failed because the facts alleged did not demonstrate at the dismissal stage that a majority of the board of directors (the “board”) could not exercise independent and disinterested judgment with regard to a litigation demand.  The plaintiff was at all relevant times a stockholder of the Company.  The members of the board and the Chief Medical Officer of the Company were the defendants.

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COURT OF CHANCERY ORDERS SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE OF MERGER AGREEMENT, FINDING THAT FRAUD CONTAINED IN FDA FILINGS FOR APPROVAL OF TARGET PRODUCT DID NOT RISE TO A “MATERIAL ADVERSE EFFECT”

By: Annette Becker and Teresa Teng

In Channel Medsystems, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corporation, C.A. No. 2018-0673-AGB (Del. Ch. December 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery ordered specific performance of a merger agreement, finding that breaches of the representations and warranties arising from the fraud of a key employee of the seller did not rise to the level of a “Material Adverse Effect.” As a result, the buyer was not entitled to terminate the merger agreement and breached the further assurances provision of the merger agreement by failing to meaningfully engage with seller upon seller’s discovery of the fraud.

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IN A SECTION 262 APPRAISAL RIGHTS PROCEEDING, CHANCERY COURT ACCEPTS A MODIFIED VERSION OF PETITIONERS’ VALUATION OF A MERGING COMPANY’S STOCK

By: Christopher Bellavia and Adam Heyd

In Manichaean Capital, LLC, et al. v. SourceHOV Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0673-JRS (Del. Ch. January 30, 2019), certain minority stockholders of a merging company filed a petition with the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) to exercise their appraisal rights under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (“Section 262”). After reviewing competing valuations prepared by experts of the Company and the minority stockholders respectively, the Court adopted a modified version of the minority stockholders’ expert valuation. In doing so, the Court reiterated its significant discretion to discharge its independent obligation to determine fair market value and instead select one of the parties’ valuation models as a guide.

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Court of Chancery Finds Deal Price Exceeded Fair Value, but Company Nonetheless Not Entitled to Refund for Prepayment of Deal Price to Dissenting Stockholders

By: Eric Freedman and Serena Hamann

In a memorandum opinion in the case of In re Appraisal of Panera Bread Company, C.A. No. 2017-0593-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jan. 31, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled that deal price, minus the value of synergies, was the correct metric to value the stock of Panera Bread Company (“Panera”), because the process that yielded the deal price bore sufficient objective indicia of reliability. The Court found that under this metric, the dissenting stockholders received more than fair value for each share of Panera stock but that nonetheless, because Panera prepaid the entire deal price to dissenting stockholders without deducting any value for synergies, and did not negotiate a clawback, Panera had no right to a refund under the appraisal statute, Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) § 262.

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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 FINDS THAT RES JUDICATA BARS PLAINTIFF’S DEMAND FOR INFORMATION RIGHTS UNDER MERGER AGREEMENT

By: Annette Becker and Caitlin Velasco

In the Memorandum Opinion, Fortis Advisors LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc., No. 2018-0933-JRS (Del. Ch. Feb. 13, 2020), the Court of Chancery granted Shire US Holdings, Inc.’s motion to dismiss under the doctrine of res judicata because the breach of contract claim brought by Fortis Advisors LLC arises from the same transaction that was the subject of a prior action (the “2016 Action”) between the parties, Fortis Advisors LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc., No. 12147-VCS (Del. Ch. Aug. 9, 2017).

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Alleged Scheme to Exercise Partnership Agreement Call Right at Unfair Price Supports Breach, Tortious Interference Claims

By: Scott E. Waxman and Michael C. Payant

In In re CVR Refining, LP Unitholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0062-KSJM (Del. Ch. Jan. 31, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) concluded plaintiffs had pleaded reasonably conceivable breach of partnership agreement and tortious interference with contract claims in connection with an alleged scheme by defendants to exercise a contractual call right and buy out minority partnership unitholders at artificially depressed prices. The Court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss.

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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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Request for Attorneys’ Fees Denied Under Corporate Benefit Doctrine

By: Annette Becker and Zack Sager

In Martin v. Harbor Diversified, Inc., the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees under the corporate benefit doctrine because the corporate benefit produced by the litigation was “a mere externality” to the plaintiff’s ultimate, personal goal of achieving a buyout of his interest in the corporation.

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