Tag: Business Judgment

CHANCERY COURT CLARIFIES MFW PROTECTIONS MUST BE IMPLEMENTED PRIOR TO ANY SUBSTANTIVE ECONOMIC NEGOTIATIONS

By: David Forney and Claire Suni

In In re HomeFed Corporation Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0592-AGB (Del. Ch. July 13, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) found that the controlling stockholder of HomeFed Corporation undertook substantive economic negotiations with its minority stockholders in connection with a proposed squeeze-out merger transaction prior to implementing the procedural protections set forth in Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp. (“MFW”).   As a result, the Court ruled that the appropriate standard of review for the plaintiff’s claims of breach of fiduciary duty against the controlling stockholder and the board of directors was entire fairness, and not business judgment. The Court further found that two of the company’s directors were not independent and therefore could not avail themselves of exculpatory language in the company’s certificate of incorporation. The Court denied in full the defendants’ motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for relief.

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Court of Chancery Defers to Board of Director’s Business Judgment in Response to Stockholder’s Dividend Demand

By: James S. Bruce and Marissa Leon

In Buckley Family Trust v. Charles Patrick McCleary, et al. (C.A. No. 2018-0903-AGB), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted defendants’ motion to dismiss a stockholder’s claims to compel the company to pay a dividend and also dismissed the stockholder’s claim alleging breach of fiduciary duty of care regarding decisions made by the board of directors of the company.

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WINDFALL OR FAIR? BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY AND UNJUST ENRICHMENT CLAIM SURVIVES MOTION TO DISMISS

By Whitney J. Smith and Mehreen Ahmed

In Gary D.  Voigt v. James S. Metcalf et. al. and NCI Building Systems, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0828-JTL (Del Ch. Feb. 10, 2020), the court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the transaction at issue should be reviewed under the entire fairness standard and that the plaintiff, a stockholder of NCI Building Systems, Inc. (“NCI”), successfully stated claims for breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment against private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier, & Rice (“CD&R”) and most of NCI’s directors in connection with a stock-for-stock merger between NCI and Ply Gem Parent, LLC (“Ply Gem”). The headline issue for the motion to dismiss was whether the plaintiff had pled facts that made it reasonably conceivable that CD&R controlled NCI despite owning less than a majority of NCI’s outstanding shares.

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Court of Chancery Applies Entire Fairness Standard to PennyMac’s Reorganization Transaction

By: Annette Becker and Marissa Leon

In Robert Garfield v. BlackRock Mortgage Ventures, LLC, et al (the “Defendants”) (C.A. No. 2018-9017-KSJM), the Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss claims of breach of fiduciary duties filed by Robert Garfield (the “Plaintiff”), an investor that claims a reorganization of Private National Mortgage Acceptance Company, LLC (“PennyMac, LLC”) was unfair to certain stockholders.  The Court of Chancery found that the complaint stated a claim when evaluated under the entire fairness standard of review where stockholders constituting a “control group” stood to benefit from the transaction.

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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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IN REJECTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR DISMISSAL, CHANCERY COURT FINDS THAT INDIVIDUAL FIDUCIARY MAY BE HELD LIABLE FOR TRADES THAT AN ASSOCIATED ENTITY OR FUND MAKES

By: Scott E. Waxman and Adrienne Wimberly

In the consolidated stockholder derivative litigation, In re Fitbit, Inc., CA No. 2017-0402-JRS (Del. Ch. Dec. 14, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ insider trading and breach of fiduciary duty claims. The claims stem from alleged insider knowledge of members of Fitbit’s Board of Directors (the Board) and chief financial officer that Fitbit’s PurePulse™ technology was not as accurate as the company claimed. Plaintiffs alleged that members of the Board structured the company’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) and Secondary Offering (together, “the Offerings”) to benefit Fitbit insiders and voted to waive employee lock-up agreements, thereby allowing those insiders, to prematurely sell stock in the Secondary Offering. As a result of their sales, the alleged insiders sold about 6.2 million shares for over $115 million in the IPO and about 9.62 million shares for over $270 million in the Secondary Offering.

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Chancery Court Denies Dismissal of Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims after Concluding that Stockholder Vote was Not Informed

By: David Forney and Rachel P. Worth

In In re Tangoe, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 2017-0650-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 20, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the director defendants’ motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiffs’ claim for breach of fiduciary duties on the basis that the stockholder vote approving the transaction was not informed and the defendants were therefore not entitled to business judgment rule deference at the pleading stage. The Court also found that the plaintiffs had adequately pled a breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty against each of the director defendants, which would not be covered by the exculpatory clause in the company’s certificate of incorporation.

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Court of Chancery Dismisses Derivative Suit for Failure to Demonstrate Demand Futility because Plaintiff Failed to Allege Particularized Facts

By: Charles Carter and Caitlin Velasco

In Steinberg on behalf of Hortonworks, Inc. v. Bearden, C.A. No. 2017-0286-AGB (Del. Ch. May 30, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiff’s derivative claims for breach of fiduciary duties under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, because the plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand or demonstrate that doing so would be futile. The Court found that the plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts sufficient to raise reasonable doubt that a majority of the directors on the Hortonworks, Inc. board could have exercised their independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a pre-suit demand. Read More

MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT MANAGER AND DIRECTORS REMAIN AT RISK

By: Kevin Stichter and Samira Torshizi

In Cumming v. Edens, et al., C.A. No. 13007-VCS (Del. Ch. Feb. 20, 2018), the Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss a derivative suit for breach of fiduciary duties brought by a stockholder of New Senior Investment Group, Inc. (“New Senior”) against New Senior’s board of directors (the “Board”) and related parties in connection with New Senior’s $640 million acquisition of Holiday Acquisition Holdings LLC (“Holiday”). The Court made clear that compliance with Section 144 does not necessarily provide a safe harbor against claims for breach of fiduciary duty and invoke business judgment review of an interested transaction. Because the complaint alleged with specificity “that the Board acted out of self-interest or with allegiance to interest other than the stockholders,” the court applied the entire fairness standard of review and concluded that the transaction was not fair to New Senior stockholders. Read More

Chancery Court Dismisses Claims Against Defendants and Holds that the Transactional Structure in M&F Worldwide Applies to Conflicted One Sided Controller Transactions

By: Annette Becker and Joshua Haft

In In re Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Consolidated C.A. No. 11202-VC (Ch. Ct  August 18, 2017) former stockholders of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (“MSLO”) brought a consolidated class action suit against Martha Stewart (“Stewart”), the former controlling stockholder of MSLO, for breach of fiduciary duty and against Sequential Brands Group, Inc. (“Sequential”), the acquirer of MSLO by merger, for aiding and abetting that breach claiming that Stewart leveraged her position as a controller to obtain disparate consideration for herself as compared to the minority stockholders of MSLO in the acquisition of MSLO.  Plaintiffs moved to dismiss, with the Court finding that the complaint failed to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Stewart, and on that basis need not reach the question of whether the complaint adequately pleads the elements of aiding and abetting such a breach, and granted the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the complaint.

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COURT OF CHANCERY DISMISSES DERIVATIVE BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY CLAIMS FOR FAILURE TO MAKE A PRE-SUIT DEMAND OR DEMONSTRATE DEMAND FUTILITY

By: Annette Becker and Caitlin Velasco

In Chester Cty. Emp. Ret. Fund v. New Residential Inv. Corp., C.A. No. 11058-VCMR (Del. Ch. Oct. 6, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the stockholder plaintiff’s direct and derivative claims for breach of fiduciary duties under the Court of Chancery Rules 23.1 and 12(b)(6), because the plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand or demonstrate that doing so would be futile.  The Court found that although the facts alleged gave rise to a derivative claim, the plaintiff failed to make a pre-suit demand or plead particularized facts sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt that a majority of the directors on the New Residential Corp. (“New Residential”) board could have exercised their independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a demand.

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Chancery Court Dismisses Breach of Duty Claim and Denies Quasi-Appraisal Relief Sought by Stockholders after Merger

By Scott E. Waxman and Uri S. Segelman

In In re Cyan, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 11027-CB (May 11, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed Cyan, Inc. stockholders’ complaint alleging breach of duty by Cyan’s board in merging with Ciena Corp., holding that the plaintiffs had failed to plead sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that a majority of Cyan’s board was interested in the transaction or acted in bad faith so as to sustain a non-exculpated claim for breach of fiduciary duty. In so doing, the court further denied plaintiffs’ claim for equitable relief of quasi-appraisal, holding that since such relief is typically awarded to redress disclosure deficiencies that are the product of a fiduciary breach, and given that plaintiffs failed to identify any material misrepresentation or omission from Cyan, or to allege any other viable claim for a fiduciary breach, there was no basis to impose a quasi-appraisal remedy.

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