Posts Tagged ‘Delaware cases’

Heightened Activist Attacks on Boards of Directors

Editor’s Note: David A. Katz is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and complex securities transactions. The following post is based on an article by Mr. Katz and Laura A. McIntosh that first appeared in the New York Law Journal; the full article, including footnotes, is available here.

This has been called “the heyday of hedge fund activism,” and it is certainly true that today boards of directors must constantly be vigilant to the many and varied ways in which activist investors can approach a target. Commencing a proxy fight long has been an activist tactic, but it is now being used in a different way. Some hedge funds are engaging in proxy fights in order to exercise direct influence or control over the board’s decision-making as opposed to clearing the way for a takeover of the target company or seeking a stock buyback. In some cases, multiple hedge funds acting in parallel purchase enough target shares to hold a voting bloc adequate to elect their director nominees to the board. A recent Delaware case addressed a situation in which a board resisted a threat from hedge funds acting together in this manner. The court determined that a shareholder rights plan, or poison pill, could, in certain circumstances, be an appropriate response. As a general matter, boards of directors facing activist share accumulations and threats of board takeovers can take comfort in this latest affirmation of the respect accorded to an independent board’s informed business judgment.

…continue reading: Heightened Activist Attacks on Boards of Directors

Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

Posted by Yaron Nili, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday July 18, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Stewart D. Aaron, partner in the Securities Enforcement and Litigation practice at Arnold & Porter LLP, and is based on an Arnold & Porter publication by Mr. Aaron and Robert C. Azarow. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Under Delaware’s corporate benefit doctrine, a stockholder who presents a meritorious claim to a board of directors may be entitled to attorneys’ fees if the stockholder’s efforts result in the conferring of a corporate benefit. [1] On June 20, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court considered in Raul v. Astoria Financial Corporation [2] whether attorneys’ fees are warranted under this doctrine when a stockholder identifies potential deficiencies in executive compensation disclosures required by the SEC pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act “say on pay” provisions. [3] The court held that the alleged omissions at issue failed to demonstrate any breach of the Board of Directors’ fiduciary duties under Delaware law and accordingly the Plaintiff did not present a meritorious demand to the Board. This decision makes clear that the courts will not shift fees to a stockholder (and the stockholder’s law firm) who “has simply done the company a good turn by bringing to the attention of the board an action that it ultimately decides to take.” [4]

…continue reading: Delaware Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees for Alleged Dodd-Frank Disclosure Deficiencies

Delaware Court Declines to Dismiss Class Action Challenging Going-Private Transaction

Editor’s Note: Allen M. Terrell, Jr. is a director at Richards, Layton & Finger. This post is based on a Richards, Layton & Finger publication, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In Hamilton Partners, L.P. v. Highland Capital Management, L.P., C.A. No. 6547-VCN, 2014 WL 1813340 (Del. Ch. May 7, 2014), the Court of Chancery, by Vice Chancellor Noble, in connection with a challenge to a going-private transaction whereby American HomePatient, Inc. (“AHP”) was acquired by an affiliate of one of its stockholders, Highland Capital Management, L.P. (“Highland”), refused to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty claims against Highland. The Court held that, for purposes of defendants’ motion to dismiss, plaintiff alleged facts sufficient to support an inference that Highland, which owned 48% of AHP’s stock and 82% of AHP’s debt, was the controlling stockholder of AHP and that the merger was not entirely fair.

…continue reading: Delaware Court Declines to Dismiss Class Action Challenging Going-Private Transaction

Delaware Court: Lack of Fairness Opinion Not Necessarily Constitute Bad Faith

Posted by Allen M. Terrell, Jr., Richards, Layton & Finger, on Monday July 7, 2014 at 9:07 am
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Editor’s Note: Allen M. Terrell, Jr. is a director at Richards, Layton & Finger. This post is based on a Richards, Layton & Finger publication, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

In Houseman v. Sagerman, C.A. No. 8897-VCG, 2014 WL 1600724 (Del. Ch. Apr. 16, 2014), the Court of Chancery, by Vice Chancellor Glasscock, in addressing defendants’ motion to dismiss claims related to the 2011 acquisition of Universata, Inc. (“Universata”) by HealthPort Technologies, LLC (“HealthPort”), held that the failure to obtain a fairness opinion in connection with the acquisition did not rise to the level of bad faith on the part of the board of directors of Universata (the “Board”) and did not support an aiding and abetting claim against the Board’s financial advisor.

…continue reading: Delaware Court: Lack of Fairness Opinion Not Necessarily Constitute Bad Faith

California Superior Court Enforces Exclusive Forum Bylaw

Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Glen T. Schleyer, Joseph B. Frumkin, John L. Hardiman, and Alexandra D. Korry. The complete publication, including footnotes and annex, is available here. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Following the Delaware Court of Chancery’s decision in July 2013 upholding the validity of exclusive forum bylaws, a number of corporations, including over two dozen S&P 500 companies, amended their bylaws to include these provisions, and the provisions were commonly included in the charters or bylaws of companies in initial public offerings. Many public companies, however, determined to take a wait-and-see approach, in order to assess whether non-Delaware courts would enforce the bylaw and whether companies that adopted the bylaw received negative investor feedback in the 2014 proxy season or otherwise.

…continue reading: California Superior Court Enforces Exclusive Forum Bylaw

The Elusive Promise of Reducing Shareholder Litigation Through Corporate Bylaws

Posted by Holly J. Gregory, Sidley Austin LLP, on Monday June 9, 2014 at 9:25 am
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Editor’s Note: Holly J. Gregory is a partner and co-global coordinator of the Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation group at Sidley Austin LLP. This post is based on a Sidley update, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Corporations today are routinely subject to expensive shareholder litigation for which shareholders ultimately foot the bill. Even weak shareholder claims pose significant costs and uncertainty, and exert significant settlement pressures, on corporations. Several recent state court decisions, however, underscore the potential for corporate bylaws, including those adopted by boards, to reduce incentives for the plaintiffs’ bar to file such lawsuits:

  • The Delaware Court of Chancery has upheld, at least as a general matter, the statutory and contractual validity of board-adopted bylaws that seek to limit the forum for intra-corporate litigation.
    • State courts in Louisiana, New York and Illinois have, in turn, enforced Delaware exclusive forum clauses.
  • The Delaware Supreme Court has upheld the statutory and contractual validity of bylaws that allocate the cost of intra-corporate litigation to a losing plaintiff.
  • A state court in Maryland has upheld a corporate bylaw that requires the arbitration of intra-corporate disputes.

…continue reading: The Elusive Promise of Reducing Shareholder Litigation Through Corporate Bylaws

Important Decisions regarding Morrison and Extraterritoriality

Posted by Kobi Kastiel, Co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Friday May 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Lawrence Portnoy, partner in the Litigation Department at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum by Michael S. Flynn. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On May 6, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued the following decision in the City of Pontiac Policemen’s & Firemen’s Ret. Sys. et al. v. UBS AG et al., No. 12-4355 (2d Cir. May 6, 2014). The decision is one of first impression in the Second Circuit with respect to two questions arising out of the Supreme Court’s decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd., 561 U.S. 247 (2010). First, does Morrison bar Exchange Act Section 10(b) claims with respect to the purchase or sale of securities on foreign exchanges when those same securities are cross-listed on a U.S. exchange? The Second Circuit answered with a “yes.” Second, is the mere placement of a buy order in the United States for the purchase of foreign securities on a foreign exchange sufficient to allege that a purchaser incurred irrevocable liability in the United States, such that the U.S. securities laws govern the purchase of those securities under the Second Circuit’s decision in Absolute Activist Value Master Fund Ltd v. Ficeto, 677 F.3d 60 (2d Cir. 2012)? The Second Circuit answered with a “no.”

…continue reading: Important Decisions regarding Morrison and Extraterritoriality

Delaware Court Endorses “Fee-Shifting” Bylaw

Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Wednesday May 14, 2014 at 9:02 am
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Editor’s Note: The following post comes to us from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and is based on a WSGR Alert memorandum by Chancellor William Chandler, David Berger, Katherine Henderson, Steven Guggenheim, Amy Simmerman, and Tamika Montgomery-Reeves. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On May 8, 2014, the Delaware Supreme Court provided an en banc answer to a certified question of law from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware captioned ATP Tour, Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund, concluding that fee-shifting provisions in the bylaws of a Delaware corporation are facially valid under Delaware law and enforceable even against parties who joined the corporation before the bylaw was adopted. [1] Although this opinion arose in the context of a non-stock corporation, as discussed below, the opinion is relevant to traditional stock corporations as well. Further, the court acknowledged that the bylaw would not necessarily be rendered unenforceable as an equitable matter if adopted with the “intent to deter litigation.”

…continue reading: Delaware Court Endorses “Fee-Shifting” Bylaw

Rights Plans and Proxy Contests: Chancery Court Denies Activist’s Motion to Enjoin Sotheby’s Shareholder Meeting

Editor’s Note: Victor Lewkow is a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. This post is based on a Cleary Gottlieb memorandum by Benet J. O’Reilly and Aaron J. Meyers, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On May 2, 2014, the Delaware Chancery Court denied a motion to preliminarily enjoin Sotheby’s annual stockholder meeting based on allegations by an activist stockholder, Third Point LLC, that the Sotheby’s board of directors violated its fiduciary duties by adopting a rights plan (or “poison pill”) and refusing to provide a waiver from its terms in order to obtain an advantage in an ongoing proxy contest. Applying the two-prong Unocal test, Vice Chancellor Parsons held that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability of success on the merits of their claims. Notably, the Chancery Court accepted that the threat of “negative control” (i.e., disproportionate influence over major corporate decisions) by a stockholder with less than 20% ownership and without any express veto rights may constitute a threat to corporate policy justifying responsive action by a board, including the adoption and retention of a right plan.

…continue reading: Rights Plans and Proxy Contests: Chancery Court Denies Activist’s Motion to Enjoin Sotheby’s Shareholder Meeting

Chen v. Howard-Anderson

Editor’s Note: James C. Morphy is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP specializing in mergers & acquisitions and corporate governance. The following post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication by Mr. Morphy, Alexandra Korry, Joseph Frumkin, and Brian Frawley. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here. Additional reading about Chen v. Howard-Anderson is available here.

In a summary judgment opinion issued on April 8, the Delaware Court of Chancery (VC Laster) held that in a change of control case governed by enhanced scrutiny, directors and officers could incur personal liability for a breach of their duty of loyalty if it is established that they acted unreasonably in conducting the sale process and allowed interests other than the pursuit of the best value reasonably available, i.e. an improper motive, to influence their decisions. The Court expressly rejected arguments that directors (or officers) could only be found to have acted in bad faith and thereby be personally liable for a breach of the duty of loyalty if it were determined that they were motivated by an intent to do harm or had consciously disregarded known obligations and utterly failed to attempt to obtain the best sale price, as articulated by the Delaware Supreme Court in Lyondell Chemical Company v. Ryan. Applying the new standard to the case before it, the Court concluded that the evidence against the director defendants was not sufficient to impose personal liability under the new standard, but that the evidence was sufficient to proceed to trial against the officers on the same theory.

…continue reading: Chen v. Howard-Anderson

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