Three recently filed shareholder derivative lawsuits contain intentionally provocative allegations that, despite public statements emphasizing the importance of diversity within their respective organizations, the boards and executive management teams of Oracle, Facebook, and Qualcomm remain largely white and male, and have failed to deliver on their commitments to diversity. While calls to strengthen commitments to
These days, most public company mergers continue to attract one or more boilerplate complaints, usually filed by the same roster of plaintiffs’ law firms, asserting that the target company’s proxy statement contains materially false or misleading statements. These complaints usually also assert that the stockholder meeting to approve the merger should be enjoined unless and until the company “corrects” the false or misleading statements by making supplemental disclosures. While not too long ago cases like this tended to be filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery and other state courts asserting breaches of state-law fiduciary duties, including the duty of disclosure, after Trulia the vast majority of these cases today are filed in federal court under Section 14 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Continue Reading Rare Federal Court Decision Casts Doubt On Merger Disclosure Claims, But Will It Change Anything?
In an important decision for M&A professionals and other board advisors, the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed a stockholder plaintiff’s claims that the target board’s financial advisor and law firm, as well as the private equity buyer, aided and abetted a breach of fiduciary duty by the target board in connection with a take-private merger. See Morrison v. Berry, C.A. No. 12808-VCG (Del. Ch. June 1, 2020). While the claim against the financial advisor was allowed to proceed, the claims against the law firm and buyer were dismissed. These diverging results provide early guidance as to when the Delaware courts will (and when they will not) dismiss aiding and abetting claims. In many cases, the determining factor will be whether the complaint pleads facts raising a reasonably conceivable inference that the advisor, buyer, or other third party knew the board was engaging in a breach of its fiduciary duty. This has important implications for the way board advisors and M&A buyers should approach a situation in which they become aware that the board of a target company is unaware of some material fact that could conceivably affect its ability to fulfill its fiduciary duties.
Continue Reading Knowledge Is Key: Recent Decision Addresses Aiding and Abetting Claims Against Board Advisors And Buyer
On March 18, 2020, the Delaware Supreme Court issued an opinion in the closely watched appeal in Sciabacucchi v. Salzberg, a case involving a challenge to charter provisions of three Delaware corporations requiring stockholder plaintiffs to litigate claims under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “1933 Act”) in federal court. The en banc Supreme…
After the Delaware Supreme Court’s recent Aruba decision, many commentators predicted that, going forward, the Court of Chancery would not rely on the target’s unaffected market trading price to determine fair value in appraisal cases, other than as a “check” on other valuation methodologies. It may therefore come as a surprise that in a decision issued last Friday, the Court of Chancery determined fair value to be equal to the target’s unaffected trading price. See In re: Appraisal of Jarden Corporation, Consolidated C.A. No. 12456-VCS (Del. Ch. July 19, 2019). Although still subject to appeal, this decision is also notable because the fair value determination came out 18% below the deal price despite the petitioners having some success in attacking the target board’s sale process, which involved no pre- or post-signing market check.
Continue Reading Appraisal Update: Unaffected Market Price Makes a Comeback
The Delaware Supreme Court issued a decision last week that further clarifies when MFW’s “dual protections” must be put in place in order to qualify the transaction for deferential business judgment review. See Olenik v. Lodzinski, No. 392, 2018 (Del. April 5, 2019).
Under MFW, business judgment review applies to a merger proposed by a controlling stockholder conditioned “ab initio” on two procedural protections: (1) the approval of an independent, adequately-empowered special committee that fulfills its duty of care; and (2) the uncoerced, informed vote of a majority of the minority stockholders. If the controlling stockholder does not commit to these dual protections ab initio, i.e., from the beginning of negotiations, then the traditional entire fairness standard applies instead.
Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Provides Further Guidance on Timing Requirement Under MFW
In recent years, in part in response to decisions like Corwin that have raised the pleading standard for stockholder plaintiffs, the Delaware courts have encouraged stockholders to seek books and records under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) before filing stockholder derivative or post-merger damages suits, and – in response – each year more stockholders have done so. As a result of this trend, we have already seen several important decisions addressing books and records demands in 2019. These decisions have (i) clarified the types of documents that may be obtained, including (in some limited circumstances) personal emails or text messages; (ii) explained when a stockholder’s demand will be denied as impermissibly lawyer-driven (and when it will not be); and (iii) described the threshold showing of suspected wrongdoing that stockholders must make. As the plaintiffs’ bar makes more use of Section 220, these are important issues for boards of directors to consider.
Continue Reading The Rise of Books and Records Demands Under Section 220 of the DGCL
On December 19, 2018, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued an opinion holding that Delaware law does not permit corporations to use charter provisions to require stockholders to litigate certain claims brought under the federal securities laws in a specific forum. In Sciabacucchi v. Salzberg, Vice Chancellor Laster determined that such forum-selection provisions are…
In In re Xura, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, decided earlier this week, the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the target CEO’s motion to dismiss claims that he breached his fiduciary duties by “steer[ing]” the company into an allegedly unfair acquisition by a private equity firm that promised to retain him post-acquisition, while knowing that his job was in jeopardy if the target remained independent. This case is yet another example of why disclosures are so important in the post-Corwin era: Vice Chancellor Slights rejected the CEO’s argument that the claims against him were extinguished by the stockholder vote approving the transaction, finding that a number of material omissions precluded a finding that the stockholders’ vote was fully informed. The vote was thus ineffective to invoke the business judgment rule at the pleading stage.
Continue Reading Claim Against Target CEO Survives Dismissal, While Aiding and Abetting Claim Against Private Equity Buyer is Dismissed
The Delaware Court of Chancery recently denied Corwin cleansing in a case involving the sale of a public company while it was engaged in a restatement of its prior audited financial statements. See In re Tangoe, Inc. S’holders Litig., C.A. No. 2017-0650-JRS (Del. Ch. Nov. 20, 2018). If this sounds familiar, that is because it is the second time in two years that the Court of Chancery has denied a motion to dismiss shareholder litigation on Corwin grounds where the target was in the middle of a restatement process. Together, these decisions suggest that if a board decides to sell the company while under a cloud of an ongoing restatement process, it would need to satisfy a heightened level of scrutiny of its disclosures in order to obtain the benefit of Corwin. The court in Tangoe, however, sought to reassure practitioners that it is not impossible to satisfy Corwin in a case involving an ongoing restatement by the target, and provided a checklist of the kinds of facts that, if disclosed, would result in pleading stage dismissal of a shareholder lawsuit in such a case.
Continue Reading Corwin Cleansing Denied For Company Sold During Restatement Process—Sound Familiar?