Much has been written of late about the growing prevalence of books and records demands by stockholders under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, and the increased willingness of Delaware courts to expand the boundaries of stockholders’ inspection rights conferred by that statute.[1]  A recent decision from the Delaware Court of Chancery exemplifies this trend and introduces an additional risk that companies should consider when determining how to respond to a Section 220 demand.  Specifically, the court’s suggestion that it would consider awarding attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs’ counsel for its costs to litigate the Section 220 action adds a new twist to the already delicate balance that companies must strike when deciding whether (and to what extent) to comply with a stockholder’s Section 220 demand.

Continue Reading Fee-Shifting—A Potential New Tool In Stockholders’ Toolbox When Seeking Books And Records

We are pleased to bring you a substantial update to “Going Public: A Guide to U.S. IPOs for Founders, Officers, Directors and Other Market Participants,” which provides a complete overview of the U.S. IPO process for these and other market participants.

This edition expands on developments relating to:

  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) trends
  • Direct

Late last week – for the first time in 40 years – the SEC announced a settlement of an internal controls case against an issuer arising from its repurchase of its own shares. The SEC found that Andeavor bought back $250 million of stock without first engaging in an adequate process to ensure that the

A recent decision of the Delaware Court of Chancery in the ongoing WeWork/SoftBank litigation addressed a previously unresolved question:  can management withhold its communications with company counsel from members of the board of directors on the basis that such communications are privileged?  Building on past Delaware decisions concerning directors’ rights to communications with company counsel, including in the CBS case we previously discussed here, the court clarified that directors are always entitled to communications between management and company counsel unless there is a formal board process to wall off such directors (such as the formation of a special committee) or other actions at the board level demonstrating “manifest adversity” between the company and those directors.  See In re WeWork Litigation, C.A. No. 0258-AGB (Del. Ch. August 21, 2020).  In other words, management cannot unilaterally decide to withhold its communications with company counsel from the board (or specified directors management deems to have a conflict).

Continue Reading Recent Decision Confirms Directors’ Right to Access Privileged Communications Between Management and Company Counsel

For more than a decade, the SEC has been wrestling with whether and how to regulate the activities of the proxy advisory firms – principally ISS and Glass Lewis – that have come to play such an important role in shareholder voting at U.S. public companies.  On July 22, 2020, the SEC adopted rules and

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

ISS and Glass Lewis have arrogated to themselves the power to make law, promulgating a civil code of astounding breadth and detail, ruling over decisions on board composition, director qualifications, term limits, majority voting standards, executive compensation, capital structure, poison pills, staggered boards, the advisability of  mergers, spin-offs and recapitalizations, and, increasingly, ESG policies ranging from animal welfare to climate change, diversity, data security and political activities.  They enforce this civil code by advising their clients, institutional investors with huge, varied and increasingly concentrated holdings across the economy, to vote against proposals or against directors if any aspect of the new civil code is disobeyed.  The vote of these clients is often decisive, and the implications of the votes – especially when considered in the aggregate – have far-reaching consequences for the operation and performance of US public corporations.
Continue Reading The New Civil Code: Obey

On July 10, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) proposed changes that would substantially reduce the number of investors required to file quarterly reports showing their holdings of U.S.-listed equities on Form 13F. The SEC’s proposal would increase the 13F reporting threshold 35 fold — from $100 million to $3.5 billion — and

On June 1, 2020, the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (the “Department”) released revisions to its guidance regarding the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, which the Department uses in assessing the “adequacy and effectiveness” of a company’s compliance program in connection with any decision to charge or resolve a criminal investigation, including

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