Tag: Fiduciary Duty

Court of Chancery Allows LLC’s Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Aiding and Abetting, and Breach of Contract Claims to Proceed, But Not Fraud

By Justin H. Roeber and Peter Ayers

In Largo Legacy Group, LLC v. Evens Charles et al., C.A. No. 2020-0105-MTZ (Del. Ch. June 30, 2021), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion to dismiss brought by defendants against Plaintiff Largo Legacy Group, an investor in Largo Hotel, LLC (“Largo Hotel”), a hotel development company.  The Court found that Plaintiff successfully stated claims against the company’s principals for breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting, and breach of contract arising from the defendants’ efforts to launch a parallel hotel venture on an adjacent piece of land owned by Largo Hotel.  The Court, however, concluded that Plaintiff’s claim for fraud did not survive the motion to dismiss due to failure to plead the claim with particularity.

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As the Battle over the Universata Acquisition Rages, the Chancery Court Finds that the Appropriate Standard of Review Regarding Actions of a Stockholders’ Representative is “Subjective Good Faith”

By: Gregory R. Youman and Scott G. Ofrias

As the battle over the acquisition of equity in Universata, Inc. continues, the Court of Chancery, in Houseman v. Sagerman, C.A. No. 8897-VCG (Del. Ch. July 20, 2021), resolved two general exceptions asserted by Plaintiffs to the Special Master’s Final Report (“Final Report”).  In doing so, the Court decided that an escrow fund was properly created pursuant to the Merger Agreement, and further held that the appropriate standard of review regarding actions of the Stockholders’ Representative is “subjective good faith.”  However, the ultimate resolution of all the exceptions awaits further briefing by the parties.

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Chancery Court Reaffirms Application of Business Judgment Rule from M & F Worldwide While Dismissing Unsupported Complaint

By Michael Waller and Molly Mugford

In Franchi v. Firestone, et al., C.A. No. 2020-0503-KSMJ (Del. Ch. May 10, 2020), Defendants’ moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ action challenging a going-private transaction claiming that the Special Committee set up by the Board of Directors (“Board”) to analyze the merger lacked independence and failed to exercise its duty of care, and the vote of the minority stockholders was not informed. The Chancery Court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, relying on the business judgment rule and finding that Plaintiffs’ claims were unsupported and insufficient to undermine “the cleansing effect of the MFW conditions.”

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Chancery Court Declines to Expand Gentile Doctrine

By: Scott Waxman and Doug Logan

In Dr. Thomas Markusic et al. v. Michael Blum et al. memorandum opinion 200818, the Delaware Chancery Court (the “Court”) declined to extend the Gentile doctrine. In so doing, the Court held that the counterclaims attempting to rely on it had to be dismissed.

Firefly Space Systems, Inc. (“Original Firefly”) was an aerospace startup founded by Michael Blum, Patrick Joseph King, and Thomas Markusic in late 2013 with the aim of launching small-load rockets into orbit. Counterclaim-Plaintiffs Blum, King, Lauren McCollum, Steven Begleiter, Green Desert N.V., Swing Investments BVBA, Bright Success Capital Ltd., and Wunderkind Space Ltd. (collectively, “Original Firefly Investors”) each owned stock in Original Firefly, with Markusic in the role of CEO and sole board member of Original Firefly at all relevant times.

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Chancery Court Sustains Derivative Action Alleging Caremark Claims

By Scott Waxman and Claire Suni

In Teamsters Local 443 Health Services & Insurance Plan, et al. v. John G. Chou, et al., C.A. No. 2019-0816-SG (Del. Ch. August 24, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that stockholders of AmerisourceBergen Corporation (“ABC”), a pharmaceutical sourcing and distribution company, adequately pled facts supporting the inference that certain ABC officers and directors breached fiduciary duties and acted in bad faith to consciously disregard a variety of red flags of illegal activity in connection with ABC’s packaging and distribution of cancer medications. The Court denied in full the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Rejects Business Judgment Rule Protection for Stockholder-Negotiated Redemption

By: Joanna A. Diakos Kordalis and Monica Romero

In In re Dell Tech. Inc. Class V. Stockholders Litig., Consol. C.A. No. 2018-0816-JTL (Del. Ch. Jun. 11, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the breach of fiduciary duty claim asserted against them finding that the complaint alleged facts that made it “reasonably conceivable” that the safe harbor established by Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp., 88 A.3d 635 (Del. 2014), would not apply and defendants would not get the benefit of the business judgment rule.

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Chancery Orders Accounting for Payments to Former Director and CEO Affiliate; Rejects Most Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

By: Remsen Kinne and Pouya Ahmadi

In Avande, Inc. v. Shawn Evans, C.A. No. 2018-0203-AGB (Del. Ch. Aug. 13, 2019), the Court of Chancery rejected most of the claims brought by Avande, Inc. (“Avande”) against Avande’s former director and chief executive officer (“CEO”) Shawn Evans (“Evans”) other than a claim for breach of fiduciary duty for engaging in self-interested transactions, authorizing improper expenditures and failure to maintain appropriate documentation of expenditures. The Court awarded Avande only $21,817.70 of the more than $5.3 million in damages sought to recover from Evans. The Court held that DC Risk Solutions, Inc. (“DC Risk”), an affiliate of Evans that provided Avande insurance broker services and bookkeeping services, would be liable as an aider and abettor for any damages that are assessed as a result of the accounting ordered by the Court as to payments made to DC Risk.

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Stockholder’s Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim against Chairman of Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. Dismissed by Delaware Court of Chancery

By: Joanna Diakos and Marissa Leon

In Bay Capital Finance, L.L.C. v. Barnes and Noble Education, Inc. (C.A. No. 2019-0539-KSJM), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) enforced a company’s advance notice provision in its bylaws, dismissed a stockholder’s breach of fiduciary claim against a company’s chairman and ordered the stockholder to pay the defendants’ attorneys’ fees as a result of its bad faith litigation conduct.  

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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 RULES ON THE APPLICABILITY OF FORUM SELECTION CLAUSES TO NON-SIGNATORIES TO A CONTRACT AND A PLAINTIFF’S BURDEN IN ALLEGING BREACH OF THE “COMMERCIALLY REASONABLE EFFORTS” STANDARD

By: Scott E. Waxman and Teresa Teng

In Neurvana Medical, LLC v. Balt USA, LLC et al., C.A. No. 2019-0034-KSJM (Del. Ch. Sep. 18, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted a motion to dismiss by a defendant parent company, whose subsidiary entered into a purchase agreement containing a Delaware forum selection clause. The court applied the “closely related” test in finding that the plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to show that the non-signatory parent entity was “closely related” to the underlying purchase agreement and as a result, plaintiff could not bind the parent entity to the agreement’s forum selection clause.

In the subsequent Neurvana Medical, LLC v. Balt USA, LLC et al., C.A. No. 2019-0034-KSJM (Del. Ch. Feb. 27, 2020), the court split its decision in granting the motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over one of the defendant officers of the purchaser in the transaction, and for failure to state a claim with respect to all but one count of the plaintiff’s complaint. The court denied the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction with respect to another officer of the purchaser who had also served as chairman of the board of the seller. The court also denied such defendant’s motion to dismiss on the cause of action of breach of fiduciary duty.

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Out of the money: breach of fiduciary duty claim survives motion to dismiss when the board approved an asset sale that left no consideration for the common unitholders

By: Scott E. Waxman and Chris Fry

In JJS, Ltd., et al., v. Steelpoint CP Holdings, LLC, et al., No. 2019-0072-KSJM (Del. Ch. 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) held that John Sarkisian, individually and on behalf of JJS, Ltd. and PPS Investors Ltd., L.P. (together, the “Plaintiffs”) successfully stated a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against a venture capital fund and its appointed board members in approving a transaction for the asset sale of Pro Performance Sports, LLC (the “Company”) where the common unitholders receive no compensation, the board members are under common ownership or employment with the venture capital fund, and one board member received an extraordinary severance package. The Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ remaining claims, which turned on the interpretation of the voting rights provision of the limited liability company (“LLC”) agreement of the Company, finding that the operative language was not ambiguous and that a careful reading of the agreement would have given Plaintiffs notice of the voting rights mechanics. 

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Settlement Agreement Violates Preferred Stockholder Consent Rights

By: Jill B. Louis and Pouya D. Ahmadi

In PWP Xerion Holdings III LLC v. Red Leaf Resources Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0235-JTL (Del. Ch. Oct. 23, 2019), the Delaware Court of Chancery (the “Court”) granted Xerion Holdings III LLC’s (“Xerion”) motion for partial summary judgement on a breach of contract claim, holding that the Red Leaf Resources, Inc. (“Red Leaf” or the “Company”) breached Xerion’s contractual right to consent as the holder of a majority of the shares of the Company’s Series A preferred stock.

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