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

In a February 28, 2024 opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery confirmed an arbitrator’s award resulting in a seller of a $40 million company unexpectedly having to pay a buyer over twice that amount – $87 million – in a customary post-closing purchase price adjustment. The adjustment seems to have resulted from an ambiguity in the purchase agreement involving a drafting technicality in the definition of “Closing Date Indebtedness” and seller and buyer taking a different view of the pre- and post-closing accounting treatment of indebtedness of a joint venture in which the target company held a one-third interest due to an internal reorganization conducted at buyer’s request. Despite the court’s view that the award was economically divorced from the intended goals of the purchase agreement, it awarded summary judgement for the buyer, concluding that the arbitrator acted within the scope of his authority. The case illustrates the importance of understanding the accounting implications of legal drafting in the customary purchase price adjustment sections of a purchase agreement, as well as the choice of what type of dispute resolution mechanism is selected by the parties for purchase price adjustment disputes.Continue Reading Raw Deal: Seller Ordered to Pay Buyer Over Twice the Purchase Price in Post-Closing Purchase Price Adjustment Dispute

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

On January 30, 2024, the Delaware Court of Chancery struck down Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s $55 billion performance-based stock option package, ruling that Tesla’s directors did not satisfy the stringent “entire fairness” standard in approving his compensation. This case comes on the heels of a $735 million settlement in which Tesla directors disgorged previously-received compensation following shareholder claims of unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty.[1] The court applied the entire fairness standard because of Musk’s enormous control over the transaction, referring to him as a “Superstar CEO”[2] who wielded maximum possible influence over the board. While the compensation package was approved by a majority of disinterested shareholders, the court concluded proxy disclosure was deficient and therefore shareholders were not fully informed.[3] Ultimately, the Tesla board was not able to prove the benefit received from Musk’s leadership was worth the $55 billion Tesla paid for it.Continue Reading It’s Not DE, It’s You: 55 Billion Reasons Tesla is Not ‘Your Company’

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

As 2024 gets off to a busy start, companies, boards and management teams are facing a host of new and developing business issues and a large array of regulatory developments, from new and growing risks and opportunities from the adoption of artificial intelligence, to ever-changing ESG issues and backlash, as well as enhanced focus on government enforcement and review. As has become a tradition, we have asked our colleagues from around our firm to boil down those issues in their fields that boards of directors and senior management of public companies will be facing in the coming year, yielding focused updates in eighteen topics that will surely feature at the top of board agendas throughout the year.Continue Reading Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2024

Delaware law provides parties with significant flexibility to restrict or eliminate fiduciary duties in LLC agreements.  Sophisticated parties regularly take advantage of this flexibility by eliminating fiduciary duties of members and directors of LLCs.  These same parties, however, often choose not to extend these waivers to officers of the LLCs, often stemming from a desire to ensure that officers still have a fiduciary duty to be loyal to the LLC.  A new ruling from the Delaware Court of Chancery highlights the unintended consequences of excluding officers from the scope of the fiduciary duty waiver.Continue Reading New Delaware Ruling Highlights Unintended Consequences of Excluding Officers from Fiduciary Duty Waivers

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 May 29, 2023 opinion by the Delaware Chancery Court addressing a claim by sellers for specific performance under a merger agreement following buyer’s termination for breach of the capitalization representation, the court found that sellers breached the capitalization representation under the merger agreement based on the post-signing discovery that a former employee held phantom equity in a subsidiary of the target company.  Despite buyer’s concession that the financial value of the former employee’s interest in the subsidiary was “minor relative to the deal value,”[1]  the court concluded that buyer was entitled to terminate the merger agreement since the capitalization representation was brought down flat at closing (and not subject to any de minimis or materiality qualifier).Continue Reading Private Equity Buyer Permitted to Walk From Deal Based on Capitalization Representation Breach

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