Perhaps because it addresses the usually unexciting topic of forum non conveniens, a recent decision by Vice Chancellor Laster has flown largely under the radar. In Focus Financial Partners, LLC v. Holsopple, C.A. No. 2020-0188-JTL (Nov. 2, 2020), the Court issued a characteristically in-depth analysis of that sleepy doctrine in a case involving claims relating to the enforcement of a noncompete.
The Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, recently enforced a Delaware corporation’s charter provision mandating that claims brought under the Securities Act of 1933 be filed in a federal court. This marked the first decision outside of Delaware to enforce an exclusive federal forum provision since the Delaware Supreme Court decided in March 2020 that such provisions are valid under Delaware law.
On March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court, in Salzberg v. Sciabacucchi, upheld the validity under Delaware law of “federal-forum provisions,” in which Delaware corporations mandate that claims brought under the Securities Act of 1933 be filed in a federal court.
The highly anticipated opinion, reversing a Chancery Court decision, underscores Delaware’s preference for private ordering and confirms that corporate managers and stockholders have significant latitude in choosing the fora for certain types of litigation. While the decision confirms the facial validity of this particular type of forum provision, other ramifications of this decision remain unclear, and this topic will undoubtedly be the subject of further litigation or possibly legislative action.