Best Practices for Minute-Taking: Three Lessons from Recent Caremark Decisions

As has been frequently noted on this page, the Delaware Supreme Court’s landmark 2019 decision, Marchand v. Barnhill, marked the beginning of a series of cases in which Delaware courts refused to dismiss shareholder derivative actions alleging oversight breaches—so-called Caremark claims, which are often quoted as “possibly the most difficult theory in corporat[e] law” on which to bring a successful lawsuit. Typically following a books and records demand, these cases shine a spotlight not only on the oversight that boards perform, but also on the manner in which that oversight is documented in a company’s formal records. This post reviews, from a corporate record-keeping perspective, themes drawn from a selection of recent cases in which Delaware courts permitted cases to proceed on Caremark theories and implications for best practices in light of these themes. (more…)

, , ,

Litigation Trends in Delaware and How Businesses and Boards Can Mitigate Risk

New structures, new rules? Delaware’s Chancery Court provides guidance on disclosure, conflicts, and risk allocation. We take a look at the latest Delaware rulings and what they say about SPAC directors’ fiduciary duty, as well as COVID’s effect on M&A deals, and how corporations and boards can mitigate their liability. Join host and Sidley partner, Sam Gandhi, as he speaks with two of the firm’s thought leaders on these subjects — Jim Ducayet and Charlotte Newell.
(more…)

, ,

The Disclosure Process Defense to Securities Fraud Claims, Part II: Protecting the Attorney-Client Privilege

This article addresses potential privilege issues that arise from the integral role that in-house counsel typically plays in a company’s disclosure process.

When faced with allegations of securities fraud, a defendant’s reliance on a robust and well-functioning disclosure process can be a powerful tool to negate scienter, i.e., fraudulent intent. Part one of this article discussed the theory behind the disclosure process defense as well as key prophylactic steps that can be taken to strengthen the defense for when it is needed. This Part Two addresses potential privilege issues that arise from the integral role that in-house counsel typically plays in a company’s disclosure process. First, it distinguishes the superficially similar advice of counsel defense, which requires waiver of the attorney-client privilege. Then it identifies important steps that corporate counsel can take to protect the privilege when a disclosure process defense is asserted. (more…)

,

The Disclosure Process Defense to Securities Fraud Claims, Part I: Key Steps for Litigation Preparedness

One of the most effective—but underutilized—defenses against claim a of securities fraud is a disclosure process defense: that the defendants reasonably relied on a robust process for drafting, reviewing, and approving the public disclosures at issue.

It will come as no surprise to corporate counsel that public companies should be prepared to face allegations of securities fraud. Private securities class actions are filed after nearly any sharp stock-price decline, and government enforcement actions are on the rise and are increasingly aggressive. One of the most effective—but underutilized—defenses against such claims is a disclosure process defense: that the defendants reasonably relied on a robust process for drafting, reviewing, and approving the public disclosures at issue. (more…)

Seventh Circuit Says Delaware Companies May Not Bar The Door To Federal Court For Federal Proxy Fraud Derivative Claims

I.        Introduction

The Seventh Circuit recently issued an important decision holding that an exclusive forum provision in a company’s bylaws requiring that all derivative actions be brought in Delaware Chancery Court is unenforceable as applied to derivative cases brought under the federal proxy laws. On its face, Seafarers Pension Plan v. Bradway seems to foreclose the use of exclusive forum provisions for claims for which there is exclusive federal jurisdiction. As the Seventh Circuit notes, that would seem to be consistent with both federal proxy fraud law, which forbids contractual waivers of compliance with the law, as well as Delaware state law. But as discussed below, there is reason to believe that the decision may not be the last word on the topic, and, indeed, that it could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. (more…)

, , ,

Board Oversight: Key Focus Areas for 2022

In her regular column on corporate governance issues, Holly Gregory explores issues that are likely to require board attention in 2022 in an environment of heightened scrutiny of the board’s oversight role. (more…)

, ,

Sidley Perspectives on M&A and Corporate Governance

Sidley is pleased to share the December 2021 issue of Sidley Perspectives on M&A and Corporate Governance, a quarterly newsletter designed to keep you current on what we consider to be the most important legal developments involving M&A and corporate governance matters. (more…)

, , ,

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

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…)

, , ,

Increased Scrutiny Has Boards of Directors in the Hot Seat

Life is getting harder for boards of directors of public companies. Increased scrutiny of companies — particularly in heavily regulated industries — has led to greater risk of criminal and civil liability. And recent Delaware cases have ratcheted up the pressure, allowing lawsuits to proceed against boards for failure of oversight. What should directors know about their oversight responsibilities? And what can boards do to mitigate their risk? Our latest episode of The Sidley Podcast grapples with those questions and many others. Join host and Sidley partner, Sam Gandhi, as he speaks with two of the firm’s thought leaders on the subject — Holly Gregory and Dr. Paul Kalb.

(more…)

,

Delaware Supreme Court Confirms Appraisal Rights May Be Waived Contractually — Query What Else May Be

On September 13, 2021, over a rare dissent, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery’s dismissal of a petition for appraisal filed by minority stockholders (the “Petitioners”) of Delaware corporation Authentix Acquisition Company, Inc. (“Authentix”). The high court agreed that the Petitioners could waive the statutory right to an appraisal through provisions in a stockholder agreement (the “Stockholders Agreement”). Significantly, this ruling may open the door for corporations to contractually waive other permissions portions of the Delaware General Corporation Law (“DGCL”). (more…)

, , ,