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Director Independence and Conflicts

11 May 2022

All Roads Lead to Fair Price: The Tesla Decision

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The Delaware Chancery Court’s recent post-trial decision in In re Tesla Motors, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 12711-VCS (April 27, 2022), includes a helpful discussion of the importance of fair price when analyzing a transaction under the entire fairness analysis. There, Tesla stockholders brought claims against members of Tesla’s board of directors and Tesla’s CEO and controlling shareholder Elon Musk related to Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity Corporation. (more…)

26 April 2022

Fate of Board Diversity Requirements In Jeopardy

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Recent efforts by the California Legislature to increase corporate boardroom diversity hit a road bump due to the Los Angeles County Superior Court decision earlier this month in Crest v. Padilla, Case No. 20-STCV-37513, which held that California Corporations Code § 301.4 (“Section 301.4”) is unconstitutional. The statute, ruled the court, poses a “present total and fatal conflict” with the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution. (more…)

23 March 2022

Corwin Cleanse Clarified: Key Lessons for Interested Directors

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Since Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC, Delaware courts have adhered to the proposition that “when a transaction not subject to the entire fairness standard is approved by a fully informed, uncoerced vote of the disinterested stockholders, the business judgment rule applies.” However, The Delaware Court of Chancery recently issued an opinion (available here)  clarifying the application of Corwin to the fiduciary duties of interested directors. The Court declined to dismiss a complaint alleging that the defendant directors’ approval of a merger was a breach of the directors’ duty of loyalty and constituted unjust enrichment. Specifically, the Court rejected the defendant directors’ contention that Corwin “cleansed” the transaction, and, as a consequence, explained that a duty of loyalty analysis was still appropriate. In what follows, we describe this case and offer some important takeaways concerning interested directors. (more…)

26 January 2022

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

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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…)

01 November 2021

Delaware Court Enjoins Shareholder Meeting for Disclosure Violations

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The Delaware Chancery Court recently issued a rare preliminary injunction delaying the shareholder vote on a proposed merger between QAD, a cloud-based enterprise software company, and the private equity fund Thoma Bravo. The Court required additional disclosures to shareholders but stopped short of enjoining the deal entirely. The case provides useful guidance on conflicts-related disclosure where a controlling shareholder and minority shareholders are “competing” for consideration from a third-party acquirer. It also highlights Delaware’s reluctance to enjoin a transaction that offers shareholders a premium in the absence of a rival bidder, leaving post-closing damages claims as the sole remedy for shareholders who believe the deal involved contractual or fiduciary duty violations. (more…)

13 October 2021

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

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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…)

27 September 2021

Bear Market For Plaintiffs’ Liquidity-Based Conflict Allegations

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In M&A litigation, plaintiffs’ lawyers see actual or perceived conflicts of interest as gold.  Conflict allegations can take many forms and arise in a variety of contexts: for example, a board member of a target company who is offered employment by the would-be acquirer, or a controlling stockholder who sits on both sides of a transaction.  Another common example, and the focus of this post, is a board member or stockholder whose financial interests are alleged to diverge from other stockholders because of a need or desire to quickly liquidate holdings (referred to as a “liquidity-based conflict”). (more…)

30 August 2021

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

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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…)

08 July 2021

When Even “Entirely Fair” Is Not Enough

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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.

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10 June 2021

Chancery Denies Corwin Cleansing In Light of Process Concerns

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Last month Vice Chancellor Zurn issued a significant, 200+ page decision on a motion to dismiss filed by defendants in the ongoing Pattern Energy transaction litigation, captioned In re Pattern Energy Group Inc. Stockholders Litigation, C.A. No. 2020-0357-MTZ. As we previously reported, class actions had been filed in Chancery Court and Delaware Federal District Court following the $6.1 billion going-private sale of Pattern Energy Group, Inc. to Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (“Canada Pension”). Both cases present overlapping breach of fiduciary duty claims. The Chancery Court case has moved forward faster, with that Court now issuing a decision denying defendants’ motion to dismiss. The decision is a reminder to directors and their advisers that without careful adherence to an independent sales process and transaction structure, directors risk losing the liability protections that Delaware law otherwise provides.

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