By

Julia L. Bensur

06 January 2022

New School SPAC Subject to Old School Rules: Court of Chancery Rejects SPAC Sponsor’s Motion to Dismiss

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We previously wrote about the MultiPlan Corp. SPAC litigation relating to the de-SPAC merger of Churchill Capital Corp. III (“Churchill”) and its target, MultiPlan Corp.  On January 3, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued its long-anticipated decision on the defendants’ motion to dismiss—the first dispositive motion to be briefed and decided in the Delaware courts in the wave of recent SPAC litigation.  Below we highlight some key takeaways. (more…)

13 December 2021

Court of Chancery Awards $700M In Opinion Highlighting Opinion Of Counsel Risks And Power Of Contra Proferentem Doctrine

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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…)

06 December 2021

Still in the Crosshairs: Plaintiffs Continue to Take Aim at Post-Merger SPACs

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We previously wrote about the trend of SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) lawsuits filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery, with some combination of the post-merger entity, its board of directors, or the SPAC sponsor named as defendants.  Over the course of this year, we have seen this trend continue, with a number of new SPAC lawsuits filed in the Court of Chancery since we last wrote on this topic.  Several recent complaints filed in the Court of Chancery exemplify that the same recurring issues discussed in this space previously (e.g., alleged sponsor conflicts of interest, a hasty process to speedily complete a de-SPAC deal, lack of pre-merger diligence) likely will continue to feature prominently in SPAC litigations. (more…)

20 September 2021

Court of Chancery Issues Reminder Regarding Utility of Properly Formed SLCs in Resolving Pending Derivative Claims

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For over 40 years, Delaware’s courts have recognized the special litigation committee (“SLC”) as an efficient means of judging the corporate interest served by a derivative suit when the full board is otherwise disabled by self-interest. Paired with that recognition, however, has been a longstanding skepticism of the structural biases that can affect SLC members. In the leading case of Zapata Corp. v. Maldonado, 430 A.2d 779 (Del. 1981), the Delaware Supreme Court warned that courts should “be mindful that directors are passing judgment on fellow directors in the same corporation . . . . The question naturally arises whether a ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ empathy may not play a role. And the further question arises whether inquiry as to independence, good faith and reasonable investigation is sufficient safeguard against abuse, perhaps subconscious abuse.” (more…)

19 July 2021

No Shortcuts Allowed: Court of Chancery Rejects Attempt To Circumvent MFW’s Two-Step Mandate

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On June 30, 2021, the Delaware Court of Chancery largely denied defendant directors’ motion to dismiss derivative claims for breaches of fiduciary duty arising from a controlling stockholder transaction. Vice Chancellor Fioravanti’s decision in Berteau v. Glazek rejected defendants’ “novel” argument that the “MFW doctrine,” set forth in Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp., could mandate application of the business judgment rule absent a majority-of-the-minority vote, and thus also serves as a reminder of the contours of the MFW doctrine.

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08 April 2021

SPAC Litigation Accelerates in Delaware Courts

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As commented on in this space previously (here, here, and here), 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have seen an explosion in popularity of Special Purpose Acquisition Company (“SPAC”) deals.  As readers know, SPACs have become one of the predominant vehicles for raising funds outside of the traditional IPO.  Historically, SPACs have been the target of litigation relatively infrequently, but that trend is changing with the recent SPAC boom and the corresponding increase in public awareness and interest (including from regulators, short sellers, and the securities plaintiffs’ bar).  Along with the increase in federal securities suits filed against pre- and post-de-SPAC companies, a trend likewise may be emerging in the Delaware Court of Chancery: a handful of stockholder suits alleging breach of fiduciary duties have been filed against SPAC entities and/or their boards of directors recently.  We highlight a few below.

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23 October 2020

Delaware Supreme Court Holds That Appraisal Actions Do Not Constitute “Securities Claims” Covered by D&O Policy

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The Delaware Supreme Court reversed a decision of the state’s Superior Court, holding that an appraisal action arising from Vista Equity Partners’ acquisition of Solera Holdings, Inc. (Solera) did not fall within the definition of a “Securities Claim” for the purposes of coverage under Solera’s primary and excess directors’ and officers’ insurance policies (D&O Policies). The decision cautions that such policies should be carefully reviewed on a periodic basis, and that would-be buyers should do the same during diligence.

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