Readers who have been around for the past couple of decades will recall well a simpler time in our national politics, when the leader of the free world contended that he had not lied when telling aides, regarding a relationship with a White House intern, that “There’s nothing going on between us” because “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
Companies that have endured a corporate trauma are often faced with a two-headed monster of litigation: first, a federal securities class action, typically alleging that misstatements or omissions inflated the company’s stock price because the company failed adequately to predict, or disclose the likelihood of, the trauma; and, second, stockholder litigation claiming that the company’s directors (and sometimes officers) breached their state-law fiduciary duties in subjecting the company to the costs of defending or settling the securities litigation. In order to avoid (or at least defer unless and until necessary) the expense and distraction of litigating identical or overlapping issues in two or more fora, defendants often have sought a stay, by agreement or motion, of the fiduciary duty litigation, pending at least resolution of a threshold motion to dismiss in federal court. This approach has proven beneficial for all involved because it allows the parties to concentrate their resources in the federal proceeding that will determine whether viable disclosure claims have been alleged; if those claims fail, then there may no longer be any basis to pursue the state-law fiduciary duty claim and all can save the resources of litigating those claims in the meantime. (more…)
The Delaware Supreme Court recently affirmed Vice Chancellor Laster’s much talked of AB Stable post-trial decision, holding that the buyer of a $5.8 billion hotel portfolio could terminate the transaction due to, among other things, the seller’s breach of an ordinary course covenant by making operational changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court’s affirmance provides critical guidance for the interpretation and navigation of such provisions, particularly in extraordinary times. (more…)
Once in a while, a court decision provides not just guidance for participants in corporate transactions but also can serve as a wakeup call for the players’ legal advisors. Such is the case with the post-trial decision in Bandera Master Fund LP et al v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP, in which Vice Chancellor Laster resolved various disputes regarding a transaction through which Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP (“Boardwalk”) was taken private by its controller, Loews Corporation (“Loews”). The resulting $700 million damages award, and sharp criticism of the legal opinions provided in support of the transaction, has garnered headlines, but the decision is also notable for its review of several long-standing principles of Delaware law that provide guidance for contract negotiations and litigation alike. (more…)
Every once in a while, a court admits it made a mistake. And, in even rarer circumstances, that admission comes from a court as prominent as the Supreme Court of Delaware. But that’s exactly what happened last week in Brookfield Asset Management, Inc. v. Rosson, in which Delaware’s highest court overruled its own 2006 holding in Gentile v. Rosette that certain claims of corporate dilution are “dual-natured” and may be pursued both as derivative claims and as direct claims by stockholders. The Court’s decision to revisit a much-criticized decision is likely to restore some predictability and analytic consistency to the resolution of an important and threshold question frequently presented in stockholder litigation: whether a claim is properly characterized as direct (on behalf of one or a class of a company’s stockholders) or derivative (on behalf of the company itself). (more…)
The Delaware Supreme Court recently reversed Chancellor Kathaleen S. McCormick’s post-trial decision upholding a disputed stock sale after concluding that the sale satisfied the entire fairness standard of review. Although the Court affirmed the trial court’s entire fairness finding — Delaware’s most rigorous standard of review under which a defendant must establish that a transaction was the product of both fair dealing and fair price — it nevertheless reversed because the Court of Chancery concluded that entire fairness was the “end of the road” for judicial review and declined to consider the board’s motivations for the transaction. Invoking the principle expressed in the seminal Delaware opinion in Schnell v. Chris-Craft that “inequitable action does not become permissible merely because it is legally possible,” the Supreme Court remanded the case for further consideration of the motivation for and purpose of the subject stock sale.
In the course of affirming a Court of Chancery decision in a seemingly routine dispute relating to a stockholder’s ability to nominate a slate of directors, the Delaware Supreme Court underscored the importance of parties’ (and counsel’s) candor with the Court and the potential consequences should the Court conclude it has been misled. (more…)
According to Cornerstone’s 2020 review of securities class action settlements, settlements in 2020 generally kept pace with trends seen in recent years, notwithstanding COVID-19 and brief lulls in March and April 2020.
We are pleased to share Cornerstone’s latest annual report on federal and state securities class actions, which reflects that new securities case filings fell substantially in 2020. (more…)
The Court of Chancery provided its latest guidance on so-called Caremark claims in a New Year’s Eve opinion issued by Vice Chancellor Glasscock in Richardson v. Clark, an action brought derivatively by a stockholder of Moneygram International, Inc. The opinion dismissing the claims, in which the Court had some fun with film titles from Tom Cruise’s career, provides an important level-setting because some have questioned whether Delaware’s courts are lowering the bar for claims alleging that a board of directors failed in its oversight duties. Richardson should provide some comfort to directors that the standards have not changed: absent particularized allegations of bad-faith action (or inaction) by a board, such claims should not survive a motion to dismiss.