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

Cleary Gottlieb’s “2019 Developments in Securities and M&A Litigation” discusses major developments from 2019 and highlights significant decisions and trends ahead.

In Lorenzo, the most significant securities decision of 2019, the Supreme Court clarified the scope of “scheme liability” under Rule 10b-5(a) and (c). The Court also declined to rule on several

Vice Chancellor Slights, of the Delaware Court of Chancery, included a slightly self-effacing, and only slightly humorous, note in his recent opinion in a fiduciary claim against the directors of Tesla, Inc., to the effect that the defendants have reason to believe that they drew the wrong judge in the case.  The case relates to the 2018 incentive compensation award to Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, that caps out at about $55 billion (that “b” is not a typo).  The footnote concerns, in part, Vice Chancellor Slights’ determination, in a separate recent claim alleging fiduciary breaches by the Tesla board, that members of Tesla’s board were not independent.[1]
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Standardization can be a virtue and one that M&A lawyers, likely due to self-interest and ego, sometimes resist.  If venture financing and derivatives practices can have widely accepted forms of legal documentation as a starting point, why should M&A be an exception?  Ironically, agreements for takeovers of publicly traded companies – once revered as a rarified realm that only an elite group huddled in skyscrapers in Manhattan could navigate – has evolved considerably toward standard forms thanks to enhanced attention to these publicly filed agreements and an effort by Delaware courts to draw clearer guidelines about precisely what will and will not fly in the world of “public M&A.” 
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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. 
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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.
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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]
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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.
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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.   
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