This year’s round of proposed amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law, introduced on May 8, unquestionably falls a little short in the excitement department, at least compared to last year’s amendments (particularly those relating to director elections and retirement policies).
In the current crop, the most notable changes are to the appraisal statute. Under these proposed amendments:
–Petitions for appraisal can be filed by beneficial owners, rather than only by stockholders of record (although demands for appraisal must still be made by record owners). The Depository Trust Company will surely be relieved not to have to serve as a nominal petitioner in every public company appraisal suit.
–Reference to a “national market system security on an interdealer quotation system by the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc.” has been deleted from the so-called “market out,” in light of last year’s reorganization of the NASDAQ stock markets.
–Most notably, there is to be a presumptive approach to awarding interest in appraisal proceedings. Ordinarily, interest is to “be compounded quarterly and shall accrue at 5% over the Federal Reserve discount rate (including any surcharge) as established from time to time during the period between the effective date of the merger and the date of payment of the judgment.” This has been Delaware’s default legal rate of interest for some time, and has frequently been the basis for awards of interest in recent appraisal cases. By making it the presumptive approach to awards of interest in such cases, however, it is hoped that unproductive litigation efforts on the interest issue can be avoided. Under the proposal, however, the Court of Chancery still retains discretion, for “good cause,” to choose a different approach in awarding interest.
These amendments to the appraisal statute are to apply only with respect to transactions consummated pursuant to agreements entered into after August 1, 2007.
Two other proposed amendments would clarify voting rights in two specialized situations, as described in the synopsis accompanying the legislation:
–An amendment to Section 141(d) clarifies that when a provision of the certificate of incorporation endows some directors with greater or lesser voting power than other directors, that differentiation of voting power applies both in voting by the board of directors and in voting by committees and subcommittees of the board, unless otherwise provided in the certificate of incorporation or bylaws.
–An amendment to Section 216(4) clarifies that, unless otherwise provided in the certificate of incorporation or the bylaws, a plurality vote (and not a majority of the quorum) is the vote required to elect directors where one or more classes or series of stock votes as a separate class or series on the election of directors. Last year’s amendments relating to the ability to provide in the bylaws for majority voting in the election of directors remain unaffected.