In Juul Labs, Inc. v. Daniel Grove, C.A. No. 2020-0005-JTL (Del. Ch. August 13, 2020), defendant and e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, Inc. (“Juul”) is a privately held Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in California. The Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted in part Juul’s motion for declaratory judgment, which sought confirmation that a stockholder seeking inspection rights was limited to rights and remedies under the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”), and could not apply California law, among other things. The Court held that inspection rights are a matter of internal affairs under the internal affairs doctrine articulated by the Supreme Court, and thus Delaware law applies.Read More
In James Rivest v. Hauppauge Digital, Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0848-PWG (Del. Ch. Aug. 3, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery examined the circumstances in which the Court will set aside a default judgment under Court of Chancery Rule 60(b)(1). The Court’s decision illustrates the context in which a party’s failure to timely respond may warrant relief from a previously issued court order. It also highlights the Court’s willingness to consider the unique challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in exercising its discretion.Read More
In Fortis Advisors LLC, v. Allergan W.C. Holding Inc., C.A. No. 2019-0159-NTZ (Del. Ch. May 14, 2020), a shareholder representative appointed pursuant to a merger agreement asserted a claim on behalf of selling stockholders for certain contingent payments. The defendant surviving corporation brought a motion in the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) to (i) compel the selling stockholders to participate in discovery as parties-in-interest to the action and to be subject to trial subpoenas as parties or (ii) compel the shareholder representative to procure and produce discovery from the selling stockholders. The Court denied the motion in full.Read More
In Joseph Stanco v. Rallye Motors Holding LLC, C.A. No. 2019-0751-SG (Del. Ch. Dec. 23, 2019), a former managing member of a Delaware limited liability company (“LLC”) brought an action to compel inspection of the company’s books and records in the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”). The company moved to dismiss the action on the basis that (i) its LLC Agreement designated New York as the venue for dispute resolution and (ii) a different plaintiff was simultaneously pursuing a similar action with respect to the same documents in New York. The Court was not persuaded by either of the company’s arguments and denied its motion to dismiss.Read More
In Paraflon Investments Ltd. v. Linkable Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0611-JRS (Del. Ch. April 3, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted, in part, stockholder Paraflon Investments, Ltd.’s (“Paraflon”) request, after a trial on a paper record, for corporate books and records pursuant to Section 220 of the DGCL where proper purpose was shown with respect to the desire to investigate mismanagement and wrongdoing.Read More
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.
In William T. Obeid v. Gemini Real Estate Advisors, LLC, et al., (C.A. No. 2017-0510-JTL (Del. Ch. June 5, 2018)) the Court ruled the manager of a limited liability company had an essentially unfettered right to access the books and records of the company.
In KT4 Partners LLC v. Palantir Technologies, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0177-JRS (Del. Ch. Feb. 22, 2018), in a post-trial ruling, the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a stockholder limited rights to inspect a corporation’s books and records related to the stated purpose of investigating possible wrongdoing, but the Court denied the stockholder’s request to obtain other books and records related to the purpose of valuing its shares because its initial demand did not explicitly state a valuation purpose.
In In re UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Section 220 Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 2017-0681-TMR (Ch. Ct February 28, 2018) certain stockholders (“Plaintiffs”) of UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (“UnitedHealth”) sent a books and records inspection demand to UnitedHealth relying on a complaint in a type of whistleblower (qui tam) action alleging that UnitedHealth engaged in improper Medicare billing, United States ex rel. Poehling v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (the “Qui Tam Action”). The Qui Tam Action was based in part on a 5-year investigation by the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and included depositions of 20 of UnitedHealth’s employees and production by UnitedHealth of over 600,000 documents. Plaintiffs made their demand in order to investigate mismanagement or misconduct, possible breaches of fiduciary duties and the independence and disinterestedness of the board. UnitedHealth rejected the demand and a trial was held on January 9, 2018. UnitedHealth argued that Plaintiffs were not entitled to inspection of books and records because they lacked a credible basis to infer wrongdoing or mismanagement based on the Qui Tam Action and because the alleged activities of UnitedHealth were not illegal. The Court found that Plaintiffs’ demand stated a proper purpose and a credible basis from which a court could infer mismanagement or wrongdoing.
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.
In Salberg v. Genworth Financial, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0018-JRS (Del. Ch. July 27, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the demand by the plaintiff stockholders (the “Stockholders”) for books and records from defendant Genworth Financial, Inc. (“Genworth”) under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. Genworth asserted the attorney-client privilege and the Stockholders sought to invoke the “celebrated” Garner fiduciary exception. While the § 220 demand was made in the context of a pending merger, influential to the ruling was the fact that the requested books and records were relevant to a separate derivative action among the same parties. Although most of the Garner “good cause” factors weighed in favor of an exception to the privilege, the court held that the unique facts and circumstances surrounding the Stockholders’ demand barred them from accessing privileged information that was shielded from discovery in the derivative suit.
In Elow v. Express Scripts Holding Company, C.A. No.12721-VCMR and Khandhar v. Express Scripts Holding Company, C.A. No. 12734-VCMR (Del. Ch. May 31, 2017), the Court of Chancery held that plaintiff shareholder Clifford Elow’s (“Elow”) demand to inspect certain books and records of Express Scripts Holding Company (the “Company”) met all statutory requirements and stated a proper purpose, while plaintiff (and purported shareholder) Amitkumar Khandhar’s (“Khandhar”) demand did not. Thus, the Court granted Elow’s Section 220 demand subject to a confidentiality agreement and denied Khandhar’s demand.