Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs Peter Brinckerhoff and his trust, were long-term investors in Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (“EEP”), a Delaware master limited partnership (“MLP”). A benefit under Delaware law of this business structure was the ability to eliminate common law duties in favor of contractual ones, thereby restricting disputes to the four corners of the limited partnership agreement (“LPA”). This was not the first lawsuit between Brinckerhoff and the Enbridge MLP entities over a conflicted transaction. In 2009, Brinckerhoff filed suit against most of the same defendants in the current dispute, and challenged a transaction between the sponsor and the limited partnership. Enbridge, Inc. (“Enbridge”), the ultimate parent entity that controlled EEP’s general partner, Enbridge Energy Company, Inc. (“EEP GP”), proposed a joint venture agreement (“JVA”) between EEP and Enbridge. Brinckerhoff contested the fairness of the transaction on a number of grounds. After several rounds in the Court of Chancery leading to the dismissal of his claims, and a trip to the Delaware Supreme Court, Brinckerhoff eventually came up short when the Court of Chancery’s ruling that he had waived his claims for reformation and rescission of the transaction by failing to assert them first in the Court of Chancery was affirmed. A dispute over the Clipper project would again go before the Court of Chancery. In 2014, Enbridge proposed that EEP repurchase Enbridge’s interest in the Alberta Clipper project excluding the expansion rights that were part of the earlier transaction. As part of the billion dollar transaction, EEP would issue to Enbridge a new class of EEP partnership securities, repay outstanding loans made by EEP GP to EEP, and, amend the LPA to effect a “Special Tax Allocation” whereby the public investors would be allocated items of gross income that would otherwise be allocated to EEP GP. According to Brinckerhoff, the Special Tax Allocation unfairly benefited Enbridge by reducing its tax obligations by hundreds of millions of dollars while increasing the taxes of the public investors, thereby undermining the investor’s long-term tax advantages in their MLP investment. The Court of Chancery did its best to reconcile earlier decisions interpreting the same or a similar LPA, and ended up dismissing the complaint. On appeal, Brinckerhoff challenged the reasonableness of the Court of Chancery’s interpretation of the LPA. The Supreme Court agreed with the defendants that the Special Tax Allocation did not breach Sections 5.2(c) and 15.3(b) governing new unit issuance and tax allocations. But, the Court found that the Court of Chancery erred when it held that other “good faith” provisions of the LPA “modified” Section 6.6(e)’s specific requirement that the Alberta Clipper transaction be “fair and reasonable to the Partnership.” View "Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Company, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Philip Shawe and his mother, Shirley Shawe, filed an interlocutory appeal of an August 13, 2015 Chancery Court opinion and July 18, 2016 order appointing a custodian to sell TransPerfect Global, Inc., a Delaware corporation. After a six-day trial the Court issued an opinion concluding that the “warring factions” were hopelessly deadlocked as stockholders and directors. The court carefully considered three alternatives to address the dysfunction and deadlock, and in the end decided that the circumstances of the case required the appointment of a custodian to sell the company. On appeal, the Shawes did not challenge the Court’s factual findings; instead, Philip Shawe claimed for the first time on appeal that the court exceeded its statutory authority when it ordered the custodian to sell a solvent company. Alternatively, Shawe contended that less drastic measures were available to address the deadlock. Shirley Shawe argued for the first time on appeal that the custodian’s sale of the company might result in an unconstitutional taking of her one share of TransPerfect Global stock. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Shawes and affirmed the Chancery Court’s judgment. View "Shawe v. Elting" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff was a limited partner/unitholder in a publicly-traded master limited partnership (“MLP”). The general partner proposed that the partnership be acquired through merger with another limited partnership in the MLP family. The seller and buyer were indirectly owned by the same entity, creating a conflict of interest. The general partner in this case sought refuge in two of the safe harbor conflict resolution provisions of the partnership agreement: “Special Approval” of the transaction by an independent Conflicts Committee, and “Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval.” The plaintiff alleged in its complaint that the general partner failed to satisfy the Special Approval safe harbor because the Conflicts Committee was itself conflicted. The general partner moved to dismiss the complaint and claimed that, in the absence of express contractual obligations not to mislead investors or to unfairly manipulate the Conflicts Committee process, the general partner need only satisfy what the partnership agreement expressly required: to obtain the safe harbor approvals and follow the minimal disclosure requirements. The Court of Chancery “side-stepped” the Conflicts Committee safe harbor, but accepted the general partner’s argument that the Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval safe harbor required dismissal of the case. The court held that, even though the proxy statement might have contained materially misleading disclosures, fiduciary duty principles could not be used to impose disclosure obligations on the general partner beyond those in the partnership agreement, because the partnership agreement disclaimed fiduciary duties. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the Court of Chancery erred when it concluded that the general partner satisfied the Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval safe harbor, because he alleged sufficient facts to show that the approval was obtained through false and misleading statements. The Supreme Court determined that the lower court focused too narrowly on the partnership agreement’s disclosure requirements. “Instead, the center of attention should have been on the conflict resolution provision of the partnership agreement.” The Supreme found that the plaintiff pled sufficient facts, that neither safe harbor was available to the general partner because it allegedly made false and misleading statements to secure Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval, and allegedly used a conflicted Conflicts Committee to obtain Special Approval. Thus, the Court reversed the Court of Chancery’s order dismissing Counts I and II of the complaint. View "Dieckman v. Regency GP LP, Regency GP LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal in a derivative suit brought by a stockholder of Zynga, Inc. centered on whether the Court of Chancery correctly found that a majority of the Zynga board could impartially consider a demand and thus correctly dismissed the complaint for failure to plead demand excusal under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1. The Supreme Court reversed dismissal of plaintiff's complaint: "Fortunately for the derivative plaintiff, however, he was able to plead particularized facts regarding three directors that create a reasonable doubt that these directors can impartially consider a demand. [. . .] in our view, the combination of these facts creates a pleading stage reasonable doubt as to the ability of these directors to act independently on a demand adverse to the controller's interests. When these three directors are considered incapable of impartially considering a demand, a majority of the nine member Zynga board is compromised for Rule 23.1 purposes and demand is excused." View "Sandys v. Pincus, et al." on Justia Law

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Caris Life Sciences, Inc. operated three business units: Caris Diagnostics, TargetNow and Casrisome. The Diagnostics unit was consistently profitable. TargetNow generated revenue but not profits, and Carisome was in the developmental stage. To secure financing for TargetNow and Carisome, Caris sold Caris Diagnostics to Miraca Holdings. The transaction was structured using a "spin/merge" structure: Caris transferred ownership of TargetNow and Carisome to a new subsidiary, then spun off that subsidiary to its stockholders. Owning only Caris Diagnostics, Caris merged with a wholly owned subsidiary of Miraca. Plaintiff Kurt Fox sued on behalf of a class of option holders of Caris. Fox alleged that Caris breached the terms of the Stock Incentive Plan because members of management as Plan Administrator, rather than the Board of Directors, determined how much the option holders would receive. Regardless of who made the determination, the $0.61 per share attributed to the spun off company was not a good faith determination, and resulted from an arbitrary and capricious process. The Court of Chancery found that fair market value was not determined, and the value received by the option holders was not determined in good faith and that the ultimate value per option was determined through a process that was "arbitrary and capricious." Caris appealed, arguing the Court of Chancery erred in arriving at its judgment. Finding no reversible error in the Court of Chancery's judgment, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed. View "CDX Holdings, Inc. v. Fox" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery issued four opinions which were appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court. In sum, the appeal and cross-appeal in this case centered on the Chancery Court’s final judgment finding that RBC Capital Markets, LLC aided and abetted breaches of fiduciary duty by former directors of Rural/Metro Corporation ("Rural" or the "Company") in connection with the sale of the Company to an affiliate of Warburg Pincus LLC, a private equity firm. RBC raised six issues on appeal, namely: (1) whether the trial court erred by holding that the board of directors breached its duty of care under an enhanced scrutiny standard; (2) whether the trial court erred by holding that the board of directors violated its fiduciary duty of disclosure by making material misstatements and omissions in Rural’s proxy statement, dated May 26, 2011; (3) whether the trial court erred by finding that RBC aided and abetted breaches of fiduciary duty by the board of directors; (4) whether the trial court erred by finding that the board of directors’ conduct proximately caused damages; (5) whether the trial court erred in applying the Delaware Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act ("DUCATA"); and (6) whether the trial court erred in calculating damages. After careful consideration of each of RBC’s arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the "principal legal holdings" of the Court of Chancery. View "RBC Capital Markets, LLC v. Jervis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed this action seeking books and records from HP under 8 Del. C. 220. At issue was whether a letter concerning allegedly inappropriate conduct by a corporate executive should be kept under seal. The court held that the Court of Chancery acted well within its discretion in holding that the intervenor did not establish good cause to maintain the confidentiality of the letter and therefore, the letter should be unsealed. View "Hurd v. Espinoza and Hewlett-Packard Co." on Justia Law

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Sagarra, a Spanish corporation, was a minority shareholder of Uniland, also a Spanish corporation. Sagarra brought a Court of Chancery action to rescind the sale, by CPV, of Giant, to Uniland. CPV was the controlling stockholder of both Giant and Uniland. Sagarra purported to sue derivatively on behalf of a wholly-owned Delaware subsidiary of Uniland, UAC, which was specifically created as the vehicle to acquire Giant. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that Sagarra lacked standing to enforce a claim on behalf of UAC. The Court of Chancery held that Sagarra's standing to sue was governed by Spanish law, because Uniland - the only entity in which Sagarra owned stock - was incorporated in Spain. The court upheld the Court of Chancery's reasoning and judgment because Sagarra failed to satisfy the demand requirements of Spanish law. View "Sagarra Inversiones, S.L., v. Cementos Portland Valderrivas, S.A., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this action under 8 Del. C. 220 to inspect certain books and records of defendant. More specifically, plaintiff sought to inspect one document that defendant refused voluntarily to disclose: an interim report (Covington Report) prepared by defendant's outside counsel in connection with an internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against defendant's former CEO. The Court of Chancery denied plaintiff relief and held that plaintiff had not demonstrated a need to inspect the Covington Report sufficient to overcome the attorney-client privilege and work product immunity protections. The court affirmed, but on the alternative ground that plaintiff had not shown that the Covington report was essential to his stated purpose, which was to investigate possible corporate wrongdoing. View "Espinoza v. Hewlett-Packard Co." on Justia Law

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Liberty commenced this action against the Trustee under the Indenture, seeking injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the proposed Capital Splitoff would not constitute a disposition of "substantially all" of Liberty's assets in violation of the Indenture. The Court of Chancery concluded, after a trial, that the four transactions at issue should not be aggregated, and entered judgment for Liberty. The Court of Chancery concluded that the proposed splitoff was not "sufficiently connected" to the prior transactions to warrant aggregation for purposes of the Successor Obligor Provision. The court agreed with the judgment of the Court of Chancery and affirmed. View "The Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co. v. Liberty Media Corp." on Justia Law