In In re Terraform Power, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0757-SG (Del. Ch. November 24, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted defendants’ Application for Certification of Interlocutory Appeal, giving the Delaware Supreme Court (the “Supreme Court”) an opportunity to clarify its decision in Gentile v. Rossette (“Gentile”) under which stockholders’ claims for a specific type of breach of fiduciary duty can have “dual character” as both derivative and direct. The Court relied on two factors under Delaware Supreme Court Rule 42 (“Rule 42”)—whether consideration of the appeal may end the litigation, and whether review of the appeal may serve considerations of justice—and held that the matter presented “a rare case” in which an interlocutory appeal was justified.Read More
In In Re Coty Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2019-0336-AGB (Del. Ch. Aug. 17, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) denied a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss claims brought by stockholders (the “Plaintiffs”) of Coty Inc. (“Coty”) against its directors and de facto controlling stockholder, JAB Holding Company S.à.r.l. and its affiliates (“JAB”), over JAB’s 2019 partial tender offer, whereby it increased its ownership stake in Coty from 40% to 60%. The Plaintiffs alleged that JAB opportunistically timed and priced the tender offer so that it undervalued Coty and structured the tender offer in a coercive manner.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
In Sheldon v. Pinto Technology Ventures, C.A. No. 2017-0838-MTZ (Del. Ch. Jan. 25, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery in a Memorandum Opinion granted a motion to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty claims and other allegations brought by the founder and an early stockholder (“Plaintiffs”) of non-party IDEV Technologies, Inc., a Delaware corporation (“IDEV”). The Court found that Plaintiffs’ primary claims were derivative, rejecting Plaintiffs’ assertion that Defendants were judicially estopped by a Texas state court ruling from arguing for that characterization of the claims, and dismissed the complaint for failure to comply with Chancery Court Rule 23.1’s derivative claims demand or demand futility pleading requirements.Read More
In Buttonwood Tree Value Partners L.P., et al. v. R.L. Polk & Co., Inc., et al., C.A. No. 9250-VCG (Del. Ch. July 24, 2017), the Delaware Chancery Court denied, in part, a motion to dismiss claims for breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty brought by minority stockholders in R. L. Polk and Co., Inc. (“Polk”) against the directors of Polk and members of the Polk family, who controlled Polk, in connection with a self-tender offer. In this case, the Court held that it was reasonably conceivable that the Polk directors who were affiliated with the Polk family deliberately caused Polk to conduct a self-tender offer at a low price to enable Polk family insiders to maximize their proceeds from a future sale of Polk.
In Sciabacucchi v. Liberty Broadband Corporation, C.A. No. 11418-VCG (Del. Ch. May 31, 2017), the Court of Chancery ruled on a motion to dismiss by defendants Liberty Broadband Corporation (“Liberty”), a stockholder of Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”) and officers and directors of Charter. The Court held that facts alleged by plaintiff, a Charter stockholder, supported the inference that a vote by Charter stockholders approving a shares issuance to and voting proxy agreement with Liberty was structurally coercive. The Court determined that since the vote was coercive, it did not ratify actions by Liberty and Charter’s directors and officers claimed by plaintiff to have breached fiduciary duties of loyalty. As a result, the Court held, defendants were not entitled to dismissal of plaintiff’s claims solely on the basis that stockholder vote ratification operated to “cleanse” fiduciary duties breaches.
In In re Merge Healthcare Inc. Stockholders Litigation, No. 11388-VCG (Del. Ch. Ct. January 30, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendant directors’ motion to dismiss brought against the plaintiff stockholders, holding that the cleansing effect of an uncoerced and fully informed vote of a majority of disinterested shares shields company directors from liability for alleged fiduciary violations as to an improper merger price and process. The Court found that the business judgment rule applied on review as opposed to the entire fairness standard.