Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
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The case involves BitGo Holdings, Inc. and Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd., who entered into a merger agreement. BitGo, a technology company, was required to submit audited financial statements to Galaxy, the acquirer, by a specified date. When BitGo submitted the financial statements, Galaxy claimed they were deficient because they did not apply recently published guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s staff. BitGo disagreed, but submitted a second set of financial statements. Galaxy found fault with the second submission and terminated the merger agreement. BitGo then sued Galaxy for wrongful repudiation and breach of the merger agreement.The Court of Chancery sided with Galaxy and dismissed the complaint. The court found that the financial statements submitted by BitGo did not comply with the requirements of the merger agreement, providing Galaxy with a valid basis to terminate the agreement.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Delaware reversed the decision of the Court of Chancery. The Supreme Court found that the definition of the term “Company 2021 Audited Financial Statements” in the merger agreement was ambiguous. The court concluded that both parties had proffered reasonable interpretations of the merger agreement’s definition. Therefore, the court remanded the case for the consideration of extrinsic evidence to resolve this ambiguity. View "BitGo Holdings, Inc. v. Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd., et al." on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of pension funds (plaintiffs) who filed a lawsuit against Inovalon Holdings, Inc., and its board of directors (defendants), challenging an acquisition of Inovalon by a private equity consortium led by Nordic Capital. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties and unjustly enriched themselves through the transaction. They also alleged that the company's charter was violated because the transaction treated Class A and Class B stockholders unequally.In the lower court, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, the defendants moved to dismiss the case. They argued that the transaction satisfied the elements of a legal framework known as MFW, which would subject the board's actions to business judgment review. The Court of Chancery granted the defendants' motions to dismiss in full.On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware reversed the decision of the Court of Chancery. The Supreme Court found that the lower court erred in holding that the vote of the minority stockholders was adequately informed. The Supreme Court determined that the proxy statement issued to stockholders failed to adequately disclose certain conflicts of interest of the Special Committee’s advisors. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that the transaction did not comply with the MFW framework, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Sarasota Firefighters' Pension Fund v. Inovalon Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves a shareholder lawsuit challenging the fairness of IAC/InterActiveCorp’s separation from its controlled subsidiary, Match Group, Inc. The plaintiffs alleged that the transaction was unfair because IAC, a controlling shareholder of Match, received benefits in the transaction at the expense of the Match minority shareholders. The defendants claimed that business judgment review applied because they followed the MFW framework, which included approval by an independent and disinterested “separation committee” and a majority of uncoerced, fully informed, and unaffiliated Match shareholders. The Court of Chancery agreed and dismissed the complaint.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Delaware concluded that in a suit claiming that a controlling shareholder stood on both sides of a transaction with the controlled corporation and received a non-ratable benefit, entire fairness is the presumptive standard of review. The controlling shareholder can shift the burden of proof to the plaintiff by properly employing a special committee or an unaffiliated shareholder vote. But the use of just one of these procedural devices does not change the standard of review. If the controlling shareholder wants to secure the benefits of business judgment review, it must follow all MFW’s requirements. The court reversed the lower court's finding that the separation committee functioned as an independent negotiating body. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Match Group, Inc. Derivative Litigation" on Justia Law

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This appeal pertains to a merger between TerraForm Power, Inc. (“TerraForm”) and affiliates, officers, and other executives of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (“Brookfield”). The plaintiffs, former TerraForm stockholders, filed a lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duty by the defendants. The case involves the application of the legal framework established in Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp. (MFW), which provides for business judgment review if certain conditions are met.The trial court dismissed the case, holding that the merger satisfied the MFW conditions, thus entitling the transaction to business judgment review rather than the more stringent "entire fairness" review. The trial court also found that the plaintiffs had failed to adequately allege coercion under MFW and had failed to adequately plead that the stockholder vote was not fully informed.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Delaware concluded that the trial court correctly dismissed the coercion claim. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court's conclusion on the disclosure issues. The Supreme Court held that it was reasonably conceivable that the proxy statement's failure to disclose certain of the special committee’s advisors’ conflicts of interest and certain management fees Brookfield anticipated from the merger was a material omission that rendered the minority stockholders' vote uninformed.Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and held that the case should not have been dismissed. View "City of Dearborn Police and Fire Revised Retirement System v. Brookfield Asset Management Inc." on Justia Law

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In the State of Delaware, a lawsuit was brought by two non-profit organizations against multiple public officials, including tax collectors in Delaware's three counties. The organizations sought increased funding for Delaware’s public schools. The Court of Chancery held that the organizations were entitled to attorneys’ fees and expenses. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Delaware held that the Court of Chancery erred in its application of the "common benefit doctrine" and its expansion of a precedent case, Korn v. New Castle County, beyond taxpayer suits. The Supreme Court affirmed the Chancery Court's award of expenses, but reversed the award of attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court held that the litigation brought by the organizations was to compel the defendant county governments to comply with the law, a benefit that did not warrant an exception to the "American Rule" which states that each party bears its own attorneys' fees, absent certain exceptions. The Court also held that, even if this case were a taxpayer suit, it does not meet the standard set forth in Korn because there was not a quantifiable, non-speculative monetary benefit for all taxpayers. View "In re Delaware Public Schools Litigation" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware, Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., a global financial services company, appealed a decision by the Court of Chancery. The case involved the company's contractual provisions that allowed it to withhold distributions otherwise owed to a partner who leaves the partnership and then competes with the partnership. The plaintiffs were six former partners who had their distributions, ranging from under $100,000 to over $5 million, withheld after they left Cantor Fitzgerald and joined competing businesses.The lower court held that these "forfeiture for competition" provisions were unenforceable, ruling they were unreasonable restraints on trade. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision. It ruled that, under Delaware law, courts should enforce such agreements absent unconscionability, bad faith, or other extraordinary circumstances. The court emphasized the importance of freedom of contract, particularly in the context of sophisticated parties entering into a limited partnership agreement. It argued that public policy considerations favored enforcing the agreement, particularly as the parties had voluntarily agreed to the terms. As such, it held that Cantor Fitzgerald was within its rights to withhold the distributions based on the plaintiffs' competitive activities. The case was remanded to the lower court for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. v. Ainslie" on Justia Law

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In 2022, Fox Corporation and Snap Inc. amended their corporate charters to exculpate their officers from damages liability for breaches of the duty of care. The amendments were authorized by recent Delaware legislation. The companies' Class A non-voting common stockholders claimed that these amendments deprived them of their power to sue officers for damages for duty of care violations and, thus, a separate class vote was required to approve the amendments. However, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware affirmed the Court of Chancery's decision that a separate class vote was not required. The court held that the ability to sue directors or officers for duty of care violations was a general right of the stockholders, not a class-based power stated in the corporate charter. Therefore, it was not a "power, preference, or special right" of the Class A common stock under Section 242(b)(2) of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which requires a separate class stockholder vote to amend a corporate charter if the amendment would adversely affect the powers, preferences, or special rights of the shares of such class. The holding was based on long-standing precedent and the court's interpretation of related sections of the Delaware General Corporation Law. View "In re Fox Corporation/Snap Inc. Section 242 Litigation" on Justia Law

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In 2022, Fox Corporation and Snap Inc. amended their corporate charters to protect their officers from liability for duty of care violations, following recent legislation in Delaware. Class A non-voting common stockholders of both companies filed a lawsuit, claiming that a separate class vote was required for these amendments, as it deprived them of the power to sue officers for damages for duty of care violations. The Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware ruled in favor of Fox and Snap, holding that the ability to sue corporate officers for damages was not a class-based power stated in the charters and thus separate Class A stockholder votes were not required. The Court of Chancery also noted that the amendments did not affect any peculiar attribute of the class of stock, and hence, did not necessitate a separate vote. The Supreme Court of the State of Delaware affirmed this decision, holding that the powers, preferences, or special rights of class shares in Section 242(b)(2) refers to those authorized for a class by Section 151(a) and expressed in the charter as required by Sections 102(a)(4) and 151(a). The ability to sue directors or officers for duty of care violations is an attribute of the Companies’ stock, but not a power, preference, or special right of the Class A common stock under Section 242(b)(2). View "In re Fox Corporation/Snap Inc. Section 242 Litigation" on Justia Law

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A case involving Lebanon County Employees' Retirement Fund and Teamsters Local 443 Health Services & Insurance Plan, as plaintiffs-appellants, and Steven H. Collis, Richard W. Gochnauer, Lon R. Greenberg, Jane E. Henney, M.D., Kathleen W. Hyle, Michael J. Long, Henry W. McGee, Ornella Barra, D. Mark Durcan, and Chris Zimmerman, as defendants-appellees, was heard by the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. The plaintiffs, shareholders in AmerisourceBergen Corporation, brought a derivative complaint against the directors and officers of the Corporation alleging that they failed to adopt, implement, or oversee reasonable policies and practices to prevent the unlawful distribution of opioids. The plaintiffs claimed that this led to AmerisourceBergen incurring liability exceeding $6 billion in a 2021 global settlement related to the Company's role in the opioid epidemic. The Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware initially dismissed the complaint, basing its decision on a separate federal court finding that AmerisourceBergen had complied with its anti-diversion obligations under the Controlled Substances Act. However, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware reversed the Court of Chancery's dismissal of the complaint, ruling that the lower court had erred in considering the federal court's findings as it changed the date at which demand futility should be considered and violated the principles of judicial notice. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Lebanon County Employees' Retirement Fund v. Collis" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware reversed the decision of the Superior Court of the State of Delaware. The case centered around an insurance dispute involving Verizon Communications, Inc. and several of its insurers. The dispute arose after Verizon settled a lawsuit brought by a litigation trust, which was pursuing claims against Verizon arising out of a transaction Verizon had made with FairPoint Communications Inc. The litigation trust had alleged that Verizon made fraudulent transfers in the course of the transaction, which harmed FairPoint's creditors. After settling the lawsuit, Verizon sought coverage for the settlement payment and defense costs from its insurers.The insurers denied coverage, arguing that the litigation trust's claims did not qualify as a "Securities Claim" under the relevant insurance policies. The Superior Court disagreed, ruling that the litigation trust's claims were brought derivatively on behalf of FairPoint by a security holder of FairPoint, as required to qualify as a Securities Claim under the policies.The Supreme Court of Delaware reversed this decision, finding that the litigation trust's claims were direct, not derivative. The court reasoned that the trust's claims were brought on behalf of the creditors, not FairPoint or its subsidiary, and the relief sought would benefit the creditors, not the business entity. Therefore, the claims did not meet the definition of a Securities Claim under the insurance policies. Consequently, the Supreme Court held that the insurers were not obligated to cover Verizon's settlement payment and defense costs. View "In re Fairpoint Insurance Coverage Appeals" on Justia Law