Tag: Derivative Action

COURT OF CHANCERY DISMISSES EXCESSIVE PAY CLAIMS

By: Scott Waxman and Claire Suni

In Dahle et al. v. Pope et al., C.A. No. 2019-0136-SG (Del. Ch. 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) dismissed a derivative suit by stockholders of R.R. Donnelly & Sons Company (the “Company”) under Delaware Chancery Rule 23.1 (“Rule 23.1”) alleging excessive pay of the Company’s board of directors (the “Board’).  The Court found that a letter from the stockholders (the “Letter”) to the Board constituted a pre-suit litigation demand that had been rejected by the Board, and as a result, Plaintiffs’ claim was not entitled to proceed derivatively under Delaware law. {Hard Return}

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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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Court of Chancery Holds That Sole, Conflicted General Partner Cannot, By Reason of its Conflict, Delegate its Otherwise Valid Power to Manage Derivative Litigation

By: Scott Waxman and Tami Mack

In Wenske v. Blue Bell Creameries, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0699-JRS (Del. Ch. August 28, 2019), the Court of Chancery held that Blue Bell Creameries, Inc., the sole general partner (the “General Partner”) of Blue Bell Creameries, LP (the “Partnership”), was not a disinterested entity such that it could delegate its otherwise valid power to manage derivative litigation. The Court also held that it was not appropriate to undertake a conflict analysis with respect to the individual members of the board of directors of the General Partner (the “GP Board”), because such analysis would disregard the established policy of respecting the legal fiction of the business entity.

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Failure to Make Demand on Board Prior to Commencing Derivative Action Not Excused When Plaintiff Did Not Demonstrate that Demand Would Have Been Futile Because Directors Acted in Bad Faith by Knowingly Breaching their Oversight Responsibilities

By: Eric E. Freedman and Serena M. Hamann

In Juan C. Rojas derivatively and on behalf of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. v. Marvin R. Ellison, et al, C.A. No. 2018-0755-AGB (Del. Ch. July 29, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed with prejudice a derivative claim brought against J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (“J.C. Penney,” or the “Company”) and current and former members of the Company’s board of directors (the “Board”), on the grounds that the failure of plaintiff Juan Rojas (“Rojas”) to make a demand on the Board prior to filing suit did not satisfy the requirements of Delaware law for excuse from the requirement to make such a demand. The Court held that Rojas had failed to allege facts from which the Court could reasonably infer that any of the Board members had acted in bad faith by knowingly failing to exercise their oversight responsibilities, and that Rojas therefore had not demonstrated that a demand on the Board would have been futile.

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Court of Chancery Sides with Papa John’s Founder on Books and Records Inspection Demand

By Scott Waxman and Will Grossenbacher

John Schnatter’s falling-out with Papa John’s, the company he founded in the back of his father’s bar in Louisville, Kentucky, has been highly publicized since the dispute began in late 2017. Now, the Delaware Court of Chancery has waded into the fray.  In John Schnatter v. Papa John’s International, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0542-AGB (Del. Ch. Jan. 15, 2019), the Court ruled in favor of Schnatter, granting his demand to inspect four categories of the Company’s books and records, subject to certain limitations and exclusions.

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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 Dismisses Inseparable Fraud Claim Based on Derivative Claims That Former Shareholders Lacked Standing To Maintain

By Scott E. Waxman and Russell E. Deutsch

In In re Massey Energy Company Derivative And Class Action Litigation, C.A. No. 5430-CB (Del. Ch. May 4, 2017), the Chancery Court dismissed both the direct class action claim for “inseparable fraud” and the derivative claim brought by the former shareholders of Massey Energy (“Massey” or the “Corporation”) against the former directors and officers of Massey for breaching their fiduciary duties by causing Massey to operate in willful disregard of safety regulations. The court dismissed the derivative claim holding that the plaintiffs were not continuous shareholders, and therefore lacked standing to bring a derivative claim after Massey merged into Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (Alpha) in June of 2011. The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ direct claim for “inseparable fraud” claim holding that, though pled as a direct claim, it was, in fact, also a derivative claim that the plaintiffs’ lacked the standing to maintain.

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