Delaware Docket

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

 

Court of Chancery Clarifies Method of Determining Specific Advancements

By Scott Waxman, Hilda Li, and B. Ashby Hardesty, Jr.

In this case, Vice Chancellor Laster issued a memorandum opinion in Edward M. Weil, et al v. Vereit Operating Partnership, L.P., C.A. No. 2017-0613-JTL, granting partial summary judgment in favor of individual plaintiffs, who served as senior officers and members of the board of directors of Vereit, Inc, (“Vereit”) the sole general partner of Vereit Operating Partnership, L.P. (the “Partnership”). Read More

Court of Chancery Compels Production of Some, but not all, Books and Records for Plaintiff’s Permitted Purposes

By Scott Waxman and Ernest Simons

In Aloha Power Company, LLC v. Regenesis Power, LLC, the Court of Chancery granted in part and denied in part plaintiff’s action to compel inspection and production of certain books and records pursuant to provisions in the defendant’s operating agreement and the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act.  The Court held that the operating agreement expressly required production of certain books and records without demand for inspection and determined whether there existed a proper purpose for inspection for the remaining demanded books and records.

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Chancery Court Applies Contract Terms to Clarify Difference Between Void and Voidable Stock Issuances

By Jessica Pearlman and Jonathan Miner

Southpaw Credit Opportunity Master Fund, L.P. v. Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0059-TMR (Del. Ch. Feb. 1, 2018) came before the Delaware Court of Chancery as a dispute over control of the board of directors of Roma Restaurant Holdings, Inc. (“Roma” or the “Company”). Plaintiffs were a stockholder group that had taken a majority position in Roma’s common stock. After learning of Plaintiffs’ majority position, the Roma board adopted a new equity compensation plan and issued sufficient shares of restricted stock to Roma employees to dilute Plaintiffs below a majority ownership position. Plaintiffs considered the dilutive restricted stock issuances as invalid for a number of reasons, including the Company’s failure to obtain contractually mandated stockholder agreement joinder documents from each recipient before issuance, and presented Roma with a written consent that removed two of Roma’s current directors (the “Defendant Directors”) and replaced them with Plaintiffs’ nominees. Roma contested the validity of Plaintiffs’ written consent and the case came before the Court under Section 225 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) to determine the proper composition of Roma’s board of directors. Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves found that the disputed restricted stock issuances were void and could not be counted toward a stockholder vote.

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COURT OF CHANCERY HOLDS THERE MUST BE A GAP IN AGREEMENT FOR AN IMPLIED COVENANT OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING

By: Scott E. Waxman and Douglas A. Logan

In Christopher Miller, et al., v. HCP & Company, et al., memorandum opinion 180201, the Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss because the underlying Limited Liability Company Agreement did not contain a “gap” for an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing to fill. Rather, the Court of Chancery held that the Limited Liability Company Agreement contained negotiated investor favorable provisions regarding good faith and fair dealing, thus undercutting any argument that the Court of Chancery should read an implied covenant into the operating agreement.

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Transparency is the Best Policy: Teetering on the Edge of Misleading

By Lisa Stark and Rashida Stevens

In Chatham Asset Management, LLC v. Papanier, C.A. No. 2017-008-AGB (Del. Ch. Dec. 22, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery found that the plaintiffs, Chatham Asset Management, LLC, Chatham Fund, LP, and Chatham Asset High Yield Master Fund, Ltd. (collectively, “Chatham”), pleaded sufficient facts to avoid dismissal of a claim that the director defendants of Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (“Twin River”) breached their fiduciary duties by making materially false and misleading statements in tender offer materials. Read More

Court of Chancery Holds That Corwin Defense Is Not Appropriate for the Limited Scope and Purpose of a Books and Records Action Under Section 220

By: David Forney and Tami Mack

In Lavin v. West Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0547-JRS (Del. Ch. December 29, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that stockholder plaintiff Mark Lavin (“Lavin”) had adequately demonstrated a credible basis from which the Court could infer that wrongdoing had occurred regarding the merger of West Corporation (the “Company”) and Apollo Global Management (“Apollo”) in support of Lavin’s Section 220 demand for inspection, and that a Corwin defense (that the transaction at issue was approved by a majority of disinterested and informed stockholders) is not a bar to an otherwise properly supported Section 220 demand for inspection.

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CHANCERY COURT FINDS ORAL AGREEMENT TO SETTLE PROXY CONTEST BINDING AND ORDERS SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE OF THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

By Josh Gaul and Caitlin Velasco

In Sarissa Capital Domestic Fund LP, et al. v. Innoviva, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0309-JRS (Del. Ch. Dec. 8, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled in favor of dissident stockholder plaintiffs, Sarissa Capital Domestic Fund LP, et al. (“Sarissa”) of Innoviva, Inc. (“Innoviva”), concluding that Sarissa and Innoviva entered into a binding, oral settlement agreement to resolve a proxy contest prior to Innoviva’s 2017 annual stockholder meeting and specific performance of the settlement agreement was warranted. Read More

Court of Chancery Grants Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Finding No Implied Condition as to the Accuracy of Information in Financial Reports

By: John Blair and Ernest Simons

In Greenstar IH Rep, LLC and Gary Segal v. Tutor Perini Corporation, the Court of Chancery granted the plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion to dismiss counterclaims in a breach of contract suit arising out of the sale of GreenStar Services Corporation to Tutor Perini Corporation (“Tutor Perini”) in 2011 (the “Acquisition”). The merger agreement that memorialized the Acquisition (the “Merger Agreement”) provided Greenstar IH Rep, LLC (“Plaintiff”) a right to receive post-closing earn out consideration from Tutor Perini (“Earn-Out Payments”) over a five year period in the event that certain pre-tax profit milestones were reached on an annual basis.  Tutor Perini made Earn-Out Payments in the first and second years following the Acquisition, but declined Plaintiff’s demand for Earn-Out Payments in the third, fourth, and fifth years. As such, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking damages relating to Tutor Perini’s failure to make Earn-Out Payments; Tutor Perini counterclaimed alleging fraud and a right to offset any harm caused by fraud.

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CHANCERY COURT HOLDS BUSINESS STRATEGY DISPUTES MAY NOT BE RESOLVED BY APPOINTMENT OF A RECEIVER UNDER SECTION 291

By: Annette Becker and Rich Minice

In, In re: Geneius Biotechnology, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0297-TMR (Del. Ch. Dec. 8, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a minority stockholder’s petition for the appointment of a neutral third-party receiver under Section 291 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”) because the petitioner minority stockholder failed to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that Geneius Biotechnology, Inc. (“Geneius”) was insolvent.  The court held that Section 291 actions are not to be used as a method of resolving business strategy disputes between stockholders and management.

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CHANCERY COURT HOLDS THIRD PARTY IS LIKELY SUBJECT TO DELAWARE SERVICE OF PROCESS UNDER THE STATE’S LONG-ARM STATUTE AND THEREFORE THE COURT NEED NOT DETERMINE IF ADDITION AS INVOLUNTARY COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFF IS PROPER

By: Scott E. Waxman and Douglas A. Logan

In Lilly Lea Perry v. Dieter Walter Neupert and Cote d’Azur Estate Corporation, C.A. No. 2017-0290-VCL (Del. Ch. Dec. 6, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that the BGO Foundation (the “Foundation”) was a party that should be joined for just resolution of the underlying dispute between Lilly Lea Perry (“Ms. Perry”), the plaintiff, and Dieter Walter Neupert (“Mr. Neupert”) and Cote d’Azur Estate (the “Company”), the defendants. The Court of Chancery also held that because it appeared that the Foundation could be served under the Delaware Long-Arm Statute, it was not necessary for the court to consider adding the Foundation as an involuntary counterclaim plaintiff.

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Director’s Breach of Contract Lawsuit Found to Violate the Underlying Contract’s Confidentiality Clause

By: David Forney and Benjamin Kendall

In Cappella Holdings, LLC v. Anderson, C.A. No. 9809-VCS (Del. Ch. Nov. 29, 2017), the Chancery Court dismissed a director’s breach of contract claims against his former employer relating to alleged violations of an anti-dilution provision in his employment agreement.  The Court instead found that the director’s initial complaint, which included highly sensitive information about the company, violated the confidentiality provision of the underlying contract on which his claims were based.

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Class Action Dismissed as Demand was Not Excused as Futile; Plaintiff Failed to Allege Facts Sufficient to Establish that a Majority of the Board Faced Substantial Likelihood of Liability for Non-Exculpated Claims

By: Annette Becker and Will Smith

In Lenois, et al. v. Lawal, et al., and Erin Energy Corporation, C.A. No. 11963-VCMR (Del. Ch. November 7, 2017), plaintiff Robert Lenois (“Plaintiff”) on behalf of himself and other stockholders brought a class action for breach of fiduciary duty against controllers and the board of directors of Erin Energy Corporation (“Erin”) for approving what was claimed to be an unfair transaction. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed the class action suit under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, holding that the directors were protected by an exculpatory charter, and Plaintiff failed to meet the heightened pleading standard for demand futility set by the second prong of Aronson v. Lewis, 473 A.2d 805 (Del. 1984). Although Plaintiff pled with particularity that one director acted in bad faith, the complaint did not allege facts sufficient to establish that a majority of the board faced a substantial likelihood of liability for non-exculpated claims.

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