Trial Judgment “Knocks The Stuffing” Out Of Putative Derivative Suit Relating To Opioid Distribution
Last month, Delaware’s Court of Chancery issued two significant decisions in a stockholder litigation involving AmerisourceBergen Corporation (the “Company”) and its wholesale distribution of prescription opioids in the United States. Together, the decisions provide companies and their directors and officers with further guidance regarding the viability of so-called Caremark claims alleging breaches of fiduciary duties.
Camping World Plaintiffs Left Out In The Cold: Application of Zuckerberg Test For Demand Futility Bars Claim
In October 2021, in United Food v. Zuckerberg, the Delaware Supreme Court adopted a new three-part test for evaluating whether demand is futile in derivative suits. Prior to Zuckerberg, demand futility was long governed by Aronson v. Lewis (1984) and Rales v. Blasband (1993). The Aronson test excuses demand as futile if the allegations raise a reasonable doubt that “the directors are disinterested and independent” or that “the challenged transaction was otherwise the product of a valid business judgment.” The Rales test excuses demand if the allegations create a reasonable doubt that a majority of the board in place at the time of the demand “could have properly exercised its independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a demand.” Without expressly overruling Aronson and Rales, the Delaware Supreme Court in Zuckerberg adopted a new three-part test, applied on a director-by-director basis, that excuses demand as futile if any of the three parts is true for at least a majority of the members of the board. The Delaware Supreme Court’s affirmance of the Court of Chancery’s holding in In re Camping World that the plaintiffs did not properly plead that demand was futile further cements the utilization of the Zuckerberg standard as the governing law in demand futility analysis.
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…)
The Refined Demand Futility Standard Takes Shape
Over the past several months, a number of decisions released by the Delaware courts have begun to grapple with the new Zuckerberg three-part demand futility standard announced by the Delaware Supreme Court in September. Many cases spotlight the need to assess demand futility on a director-by-director basis. But at least one recent decision has highlighted another aspect of the test, and instead turns on the need to assess demand futility on a transaction-by-transaction basis. In In re Vaxart, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, Vice Chancellor Fioravanti dismissed several claims from a shareholder derivative suit purportedly filed on behalf of Vaxart, Inc. because the plaintiffs failed to allege that a majority of the directors received a material personal benefit or faced a substantial likelihood of liability from the specific transaction that would have been the subject of the pre-suit demand. (more…)
Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies the Standards for Demand Futility
A pair of opinions released by the Delaware Supreme Court in a single week have revisited longstanding precedent governing shareholder suits that claim corporate wrongdoing. As discussed in a companion post on this blog, the first of those opinions, Brookfield Asset Management Inc. v. Rosson, restricted the ability of shareholders to bring direct claims under certain circumstances, instead forcing them to pursue more procedurally challenging derivative suits. In the second case, United Food & Commercial Workers Union & Participating Food Industry Employers Tri-State Pension Fund v. Zuckerberg, the Delaware Supreme Court adopted a new three-part demand-futility test that clarifies the standard shareholders must meet to file such derivative suits, without first taking their complaints to the company’s board of directors. (more…)