The resolution of corporate law disputes has a significant impact on the stockholders, directors, officers, and employees of companies around the world. With more than 60% of the Fortune 500 incorporated in Delaware, decisions of the state’s courts have a direct impact on leading companies worldwide and greatly influence the law of other jurisdictions. The Enhanced Scrutiny blog provides timely updates and thoughtful analysis on M&A and corporate governance matters from the Delaware courts and, on occasion, from other jurisdictions.

Delaware Supreme Court Upholds Federal Forum Provisions

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.

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Special Committee Must Be Formed “Ab Initio” to Cleanse a Transaction With a Majority-Conflicted Board

The Delaware Chancery Court recently held that, for a transaction involving a majority-conflicted board to be entitled to business judgment review (rather than the entire fairness standard), the special committee that approved the transaction must have been sufficiently constituted and authorized ab initio (i.e., “from the beginning”). Salladay v. Lev (Del. Ch. Feb. 27, 2020). In doing so, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III borrowed from the framework used to cleanse a controlling stockholder transaction under Kahn v. M&F Worldwide Corp. (MFW), 88 A.3d 624 (Del. 2014). Under MFW, a controlling stockholder transaction is entitled to business judgment review if the controller conditions the transaction ab initio on both the approval of an independent special committee and the uncoerced, informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders.

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