Cleary Gottlieb’s “2019 Mid-Year Developments in Securities and M&A Litigation” discusses major developments from the first half of 2019 and highlights significant decisions and trends ahead.

In Lorenzo, the most significant securities decision in 2019 so far, the Supreme Court clarified the scope of “scheme liability” under Rule 10b-5(a) and (c). The

After the Delaware Supreme Court’s recent Aruba decision,[1] 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

Last week, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Delaware Court of Chancery’s dismissal of a Caremark claim[1] that arose out of the Blue Bell ice cream listeria outbreak in the mid-2010s.  See Marchand v. Barnhill, No. 533, 2018 (Del. June 18, 2019).  The Delaware Supreme Court’s opinion in this closely watched case provides useful guidance to directors on the proper role of the board in overseeing risk management.
Continue Reading

The German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) recently had the opportunity to clarify a number of important practical questions of corporate law in connection with asset disposals, the allocation of responsibilities among directors and transactions concluded with board members. We summarize the three relevant decisions from 2018/2019 below.
Continue Reading

In late March 2019, the Hertz Corporation and Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (collectively, “Hertz”), filed two complaints (the “Damages Proceedings”) against its former CEO, CFO, General Counsel and a group president seeking recovery of $70 million in incentive payments and $200 million in consequential damages resulting from Hertz’s 2015 decision to restate its financial statements and an ensuing SEC settlement against Hertz and federal class action lawsuit (which was dismissed).  At the same time, the defendants in those actions each filed separate complaints (which have been consolidated in the Delaware Chancery Court) demanding advancement of their legal fees in the Damages Proceedings (the “Advancement Proceedings”).  The litigation between Hertz and its former executives raises novel questions about whether executives have a legally cognizable duty to set the right “tone at the top” and the consequences if they fail to do so.  The litigation also raises important and interesting questions regarding clawbacks and indemnification.[1]    
Continue Reading

In the wake of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed clawback rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Protection and Consumer Reform Act of 2010, many US public companies began implementing clawback policies.[1]  Although the proposal was originally issued in 2015 and the SEC has yet to adopt final clawback rules, instances of alleged executive misconduct in recent years has begun leading to claims under the clawback policies.  Increased scrutiny from legislators, institutional investors, shareholders and the general public has put significant pressure on boards of directors and compensation committees to exercise their rights to claw back compensation in the event of a corporate scandal.[2]

This post discusses two recent developments related to the exercise of compensation clawbacks.  The first confirms that boards should have broad discretion in deciding when to exercise a clawback, and the second discusses important indemnification and advancement issues that can arise in connection with a claim for the enforcement of a clawback policy.
Continue Reading

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.[1]
Continue Reading

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

Last week, the Delaware Court of Chancery found that a target company in an agreed merger properly terminated the merger agreement following the passage of the specified “end date” where the buyer failed to exercise its right under the agreement to extend the end date.  See Vintage Rodeo Parent, LLC v. Rent-a-Center, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0927-SG (Del. Ch. Mar. 14, 2019).  The decision is a stark reminder that courts will enforce the terms of a merger agreement as written, and that the failure to comply with seemingly ministerial formalities can have severe consequences.   
Continue Reading

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