Board’s Good-Faith Oversight of “Mission Critical” Risks Insulates Directors from “Caremark” Claim

In 1996, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued its seminal decision in In re Caremark International Inc. Derivative Litigation, which establishes the framework for director oversight liability under Delaware law. Over time, Delaware courts frequently observed that this type of claim was “possibly the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment,” and these claims rarely advanced beyond the motion-to-dismiss stage. However, in a three-year span beginning in 2019, Delaware courts denied motions to dismiss Caremark claims in five cases, leading some to question whether the Caremark standard has been relaxed. A recent Court of Chancery decision issued earlier this summer provides an important counterpoint to this recent commentary, while underscoring that boards must exercise rigorous oversight over “mission critical” risks.

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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…)

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Caremark’s Comeback Includes Potential Director Liability in Connection With Data Breaches

A Caremark­-based claim against a board of directors alleging a failure to monitor corporate operations has been said to be “the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment,” or at least to withstand a motion to dismiss.  Yet, Caremark has taken on renewed importance — as noted by this blog — following recent high-profile successes on duty-to-oversee claims, most notably in Marchand v. Barnhill in 2019 and In re Boeing in September 2021, and recent shareholder lawsuits alleging that data breach- and cybersecurity-related failures would have been preventable were it not for oversight failures by corporate officers and directors, are being plead asserting Caremark claims. (more…)

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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.

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Delaware Chancery Court Affirms Importance of Director Oversight in Wake of Boeing Crashes

Two years ago the Delaware Supreme Court, in Marchand v. Barnhill, allowed Caremark claims to proceed against a group of directors in connection with a listeria outbreak at their company’s ice cream manufacturing plants. Applying Caremark — often quoted as “possibly the most difficult theory in corporat[e] law” — the court determined the board failed to implement reasonable oversight and monitoring on “mission critical issues.” There, food safety was “mission critical.” Since Marchand¸ courts have applied these principles to, among other cases, a biopharmaceutical company’s failure to comply with FDA regulations and an auto parts company’s failure to properly monitor its financial reporting.  Now, the Delaware Chancery Court has provided another guidepost, this time in the aerospace industry, finding that certain of Boeing’s stockholders adequately pled Caremark claims against Boeing’s Board. (more…)

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Boeing Case Highlights Risk For Health, Life Sciences Boards

On Sept. 7, the Delaware Chancery Court allowed In re: The Boeing Co. Derivative Litigation to proceed, surviving a motion to dismiss.[1]

The action alleges that directors breached their fiduciary duties with respect to their oversight of safety issues and arises out of two crashes of the company’s 737 MAX aircraft. (more…)

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A Delaware Corporate and M&A Checklist: 11 Cases That Every Practitioner Should Know

As regular readers know, this blog typically covers the latest developments and trends emerging from the Delaware Court of Chancery. For this post, however, we revisit first principles and remind our readers of the bedrock decisions of modern Delaware M&A practice, and highlight 11 key decisions with which every practitioner should be familiar. (more…)

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Latest Caremark Dismissal Reinforces High Bar for Alleging Oversight Liability and Import of Exculpatory Provisions for Corporate Directors

The Court of Chancery’s March 30 decision in LendingClub is another example of the significant difficulty plaintiffs face in adequately alleging demand futility in the context of a derivative corporate oversight claim governed by Caremark, especially so in the face of an applicable exculpatory provision contained in a corporate charter.

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Caremark Claims: Not Mission Impossible, but Still Risky Business for Plaintiffs

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.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Reaffirms Heightened Standard for Caremark Claims — But Reminds That Outlier Facts Yield Outlier Results

On August 24, 2020, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III issued a rare denial of a motion to dismiss so-called Caremark claims in a case against directors of AmerisourceBergen Corporation (the Company). Although the decision reiterates the significant pleading burden that such oversight claims must meet, and exemplifies that only extraordinary facts typically permit a plaintiff’s claims to proceed to discovery, it is also a useful reminder that board-level best practices can, among other things, help address and limit any such liability.

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