On April 4, 2024, the Delaware Supreme Court issued its decision on a stockholder suit challenging the fairness of IAC/InterActiveCorp’s separation from its controlled subsidiary, Match Group, Inc.[1]  In this decision, the Delaware Supreme Court provided clarity and guidance on two important issues involving the application of the MFW framework.Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Provides Important Guidance on Application of MFW Framework to Controlling Stockholder Transactions

With a stroke of the pen, the Delaware Court of Chancery invalidated commonplace provisions in scores of stockholder agreements relating to public corporations and likely many more relating to private corporations.  In West Palm Beach Firefighters’ Pension Fund v. Moelis & Company (“Moelis”)[1], Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster, struck down an entire package of stockholder veto rights and held that provisions in a stockholder agreement purporting to restrict the size of the board of directors, requiring the board to recommend in favor of a stockholder nominee, requiring the board to fill any vacancy on the board with a stockholder nominee or to include a stockholder nominated director on committees of the board, are all facially invalid as a matter of Delaware law.  Vice Chancellor Laster noted that many of these provisions would have been valid if set out in the corporation’s certificate of incorporation, rather than in the stockholder agreement.Continue Reading Delaware Court of Chancery Invalidates Common Provisions in Stockholder Agreements

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2024”.

In 2023, Delaware courts continued to vigorously apply Caremark’s duty of oversight in cases involving corporate misconduct, expressly recognizing for the first time that such claims can be brought against officers in addition to directors.  While a Caremark claim does not necessarily require illegal conduct, Delaware courts continue to make clear that knowing inaction when confronted with illegal conduct is often enough to satisfy its bad faith requirement. This emphasis on bad faith and misconduct may suggest a more functional approach to Caremark claims by Delaware courts, and a departure from the more formal categories of Caremark claims that Delaware courts relied on in the past.  At the same time, we saw Delaware courts sidestep hot-button issues related to corporate political advocacy and defer to the business judgment of boards in order to navigate those sometimes controversial issues.  Finally, we ended 2023 with an uncertain understanding of the scope of MFW review, which has expanded beyond the squeeze-out context in recent years.  The Delaware Supreme Court is currently considering whether to cut back on such “MFW creep.”Continue Reading Delaware Courts Beef Up Caremark Claims Involving Corporate Misconduct While Leaving Hot-Button Political and ESG Issues to the Boardroom

Much has been written lately about a circuit split on the question whether a company’s forum selection bylaw mandating shareholder derivative lawsuits be brought in Delaware state court trumps a federal lawsuit asserting a derivative claim under Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (which can only be asserted – if at all – in federal court).  The Seventh Circuit answered this question “no”[1] while the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc answered “yes,”[2] in both cases over vigorous dissents.  Many have speculated that the U.S. Supreme Court may weigh in to resolve this clear circuit split.Continue Reading Bringing an End to “Derivative” Section 14(a) Claims – Without Waiting for the Supreme Court to Weigh In

In a recent decision, the Delaware Court of Chancery grappled with the question whether—and to what extent—claims for breach of fiduciary duty can be waived ex ante in a corporate shareholder agreement.  Specifically, in New Enterprise Associates 14 LP v. Rich, the court denied a motion to dismiss claims for breach of fiduciary duties brought against directors and controlling stockholders of Fugue, Inc. (the “Company”) by sophisticated private fund investors who had agreed to an express waiver of the right to bring such claims.[1]  Importantly, the court found that fiduciary duties in a corporation can be tailored by parties to a shareholders agreement who are sophisticated, and were validly waived by the voting agreement in this case (which specifically addressed the type of transaction at issue).  The court, however, held that public policy prohibits contracts from insulating directors or controlling stockholders from tort or fiduciary liability in a case of intentional wrongdoing, which the court found was plausibly alleged in this case. The court’s opinion has implications for sophisticated investors in venture capital and other private transactions involving Delaware corporations. The opinion cautions against overreliance on express contractual waivers, on the one hand, while also serves as a reminder that at least in some circumstances sophisticated parties can contract around default legal principles (including fiduciary duties), even with respect to corporations.Continue Reading Delaware Chancery Court Highlights Tension Between Freedom of Contract and Corporate Fiduciary Duties

On May 1, 2023, the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed an unsettled question under Delaware law—whether a fully informed, uncoerced vote of disinterested stockholders (so-called “Corwin cleansing”[1]) can be applied to defeat claims to enjoin defensive measures under Unocal Corp. v. Mesa Petroleum Co.Continue Reading Corwin Cleansing Denied In Action For Post-Closing Injunctive Relief Under Unocal

In a recent opinion addressing breaches of fiduciary duties and disclosure violations in connection with a take-private of Mindbody, Inc. by Vista Equity Partners, the Delaware Court of Chancery reinforced the significance (to both buyers and sellers) of avoiding conflicts in a sell-side process and ensuring all material facts are disclosed to the target’s board 

The Delaware legislature recently amended Delaware’s General Corporation Law (DGCL) to allow corporations to limit the personal liability of corporate officers for money damages for breaches of their fiduciary duty of care. Prior to this amendment, Delaware only allowed for such “exculpation clauses”—which must be set forth in the certificate of incorporation—for corporate directors.
Continue Reading Delaware Extends Exculpation from Personal Liability to Senior Officers

In a noteworthy new post-sale appraisal ruling, the Delaware Court of Chancery in BCIM Strategic Value Master Fund, LP v. HFF, Inc.[1] awarded the petitioner additional consideration based on an increase in the value of the target company that arose between signing and closing.  The unique facts of this case, and particularly the sustained outperformance of the target in the interim period before closing, are worth keeping in mind in evaluating the risk that a successful appraisal proceeding can increase the amount of consideration payable in a public company acquisition.  Below we break down the Court’s analysis in determining fair value, how changes in each merger party’s valuation drove the appraisal result, and key takeaways.
Continue Reading Appraisal Update: Post-Signing Value Changes Drive Appraisal Result

In Wei v. Zoox, Inc., the Delaware Court of Chancery found that an appraisal petition had been filed for the sole purpose of gathering discovery to be used in drafting a fiduciary duty complaint challenging a merger where the former stockholders had lost standing to seek books and records under Section 220 due to the rapid closing of the merger.  Nonetheless, in a novel ruling, the court permitted the appraisal petitioners to pursue some discovery in the appraisal action, limited to what would have been available to them under Section 220 had they not lost standing to seek such records.  The court rejected the petitioners’ request for broader discovery that is normally available in an appraisal action in light of its finding that the petitioners’ true purpose in filing the appraisal action was to seek Section 220-like books and records.
Continue Reading A Back-Door Section 220? Chancery Court Limits Appraisal Petitioners’ Demand for Broad Discovery