Articles Posted in Delaware Court of Chancery

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The Court of Chancery dismissed a case brought by Plaintiff, a stockholder in The Fresh Market, alleging a breach of fiduciary duty by the Market’s directors and that Brett Berry, a former CEO and former vice chairman of the company’s board, aided and abetted that breach of fiduciary duty. The Market was acquired by an entity controlled by a private equity firm, and the founder of the Market rolled his equity ownership in the Market into the acquirer as part of the deal. The court held that because there was no coercion applied to the fully informed vote of the common stockholders ratifying the decision of the directors that the merger was in the stockholders’ best interest and the vote was adequately informed so as to serve as a ratification of the board’s decision, the matter must be dismissed. View "Morrison v. Berry" on Justia Law

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IBM's proposed purchase of Merge Healthcare was supported by a vote of close to 80% of Merge stockholders. Former Merge stockholders sought post-closing damages against the company’s directors for what they alleged was an improper sale process. Merge did not have an exculpation clause in its corporate charter, so its directors have potential liability for acts violating their duty of care, in the context of an allegedly less-than-rigorous sales process. The Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed. Demonstrating such a violation of the duty of care is not trivial: it requires a demonstration of gross negligence, but it is less formidable than showing disloyalty. Regardless of that standard, the uncoerced vote of a majority of disinterested shares in favor of the merger cleansed any such violations, raising the presumption that the directors acted within their proper business judgment. View "In Re Merge Healthcare Inc. Stockholder Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former stockholders of Auspex, filed a putative class action to challenge the propriety of the merger with Teva Pharmaceuticals and seek post-closing damages, alleging that the members of Auspex's board of directors breached their fiduciary duties by permitting senior management to conduct a flawed sales process that ultimately netted stockholders inadequate consideration for their shares. The directors have moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). The court granted the motion, concluding that, even accepting plaintiffs' well-pled facts as true, defendants are entitled to invoke the irrebuttable business judgment rule. In this case, plaintiffs have not pled facts that would allow a reasonable inference that the merger involved a controlling stockholder, much less that a controlling stockholder pushed Auspex into a conflicted transaction in which the controller received nonratable benefits. They are left, then, to overcome the cleansing effect of stockholder approval, which in this case was disinterested, uncoerced and fully informed. View "Larkin v. Shah" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the fair value of stock of ISN Software Corp. (Respondent) held by two minority stockholders, Polaris and Ad-Venture, (collectively, Petitioners) at the time of a merger by which the controller cashed out some, but not all, of the stock held by the minority. The Court of Chancery held (1) the method used by the controller to determine the fair value of the stock is unreliable; (2) a discounted cash flow analysis is the most reliable indicator of fair value; and (3) upon consideration of the expert opinions provided by Petitioners and Respondent, the statutory fair value is $98,783 per share. View "In re ISN Software Corp. Appraisal Litig." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a company that was acquired for $18 per share in an all-cash merger. Five months earlier, the target company declined an offer of $24 per share from the same acquiror. Plaintiffs, former public stockholders of the target company, sued the company’s board of directors and financial advisor, alleging that the board breached its fiduciary duties in approving the merger and that the financial advisor aided and abetted the breaches. The Court of Chancery granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, holding that the business judgment rule standard of review applied to Plaintiffs’ allegations and insulated the merger. View "In re Volcano Corp. Stockholder Litig." on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Company completed a merger that gave rise to appraisal rights. Petitioners, owners of shares of common stock of the Company, seek appraisal. The court concluded that the fair value of the Company on the closing date was $17.62 per share; the legal rate of interest, compounded quarterly, shall accrue on this amount from the date of closing until the date of payment; the parties shall cooperate on preparing a final order for the court; and, if there are additional issues for the court to resolve before a final order can be entered, the parties shall submit a joint letter within two weeks that identifies them and recommends a schedule for bringing this case to conclusion, at least at the trial court level. View "In Re: Appraisal of Dell Inc." on Justia Law

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The Company, a developmental biopharmaceutical company, which has researched and developed a drug called NORTHERA, filed a class action alleging breaches of fiduciary duty against defendants in connection with the sale of Chelsea to Lundbeck through a tender offer and short-form merger (the Transaction). Plaintiffs contend that the Board acted in bad faith by instructing its financial advisors to ignore one set of projections in opining on the fairness of the Transaction, and by choosing to disregard a second set of projections before recommending the Transaction to Chelsea’s stockholders. The court granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6). The Board, after deliberation and in consideration of the sale of the Company, instructed its advisors not to consider projections that its assets would increase in value, years in the future, on speculation that the FDA would approve one of its products for currently-prohibited uses, or would remove a competing drug from the market altogether. Both sets of projections involved contingencies over which the Company had no control, and which might never come to pass. Such actions do not, on their face, plead a conceivable breach of the Directors loyalty-based duty to act in good faith. No other grounds conceivably leading to a finding of bad faith are pled. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re Chelsea Therapeutics Int'l Ltd. Stockholders Litig." on Justia Law

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Dell Inc. completed a merger that gave rise to appraisal rights. Fourteen appraisal petitioners were mutual funds sponsored by T. Rowe Price & Associates, Inc. (T. Rowe) or institutions that relied on T. Rowe to direct the voting of their shares (collectively, Petitioners). Petitioners held their shares through a custodial bank, which was a participant member in a trust company, which held Petitioners’ shares in the name of Cede & Co., which, for purposes of Delaware law, was the holder of record. Cede was constrained to vote Petitioners’ shares as T. Rowe directed and fulfilled its obligation through a chain of authorizations. Although T. Rowe opposed the merger, its voting system generated instructions to vote Petitioners’ shares in favor of it. Ultimately, Cede voted Petitioners’ shares in favor of the merger. Petitioners sought appraisal in favor of the merger. The Court of Chancery held (1) because the holder of record did not dissent as to the shares for which Petitioners sought appraisal, the dissenter requirement was not met of these shares; and (2) therefore, Petitioners’ shares did not qualify for appraisal, and Petitioners remained entitled to the merger consideration without an award of interest. View "In re Appraisal of Dell Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, El Paso Corporation (“El Paso Parent”) sold member interests in three limited liability companies to El Paso Pipeline Partners, LP (“El Paso MLP”). At the time of the sale, El Paso Parent controlled El Paso MLP through its ownership of El Paso Pipeline GP Company, LLC, the sole general partner of El Paso MLP (“El Paso GP”). In 2015, the Court of Chancery issued a post-trial decision concluding that El Paso GP breached the limited partnership agreement governing El Paso MLP by causing El Paso MLP to buy the member interests (the “Fall Dropdown”). In 2012, Plaintiff brought this action challenging the Fall Droptown. While the litigation was pending, Kinder Morgan, Inc., acquired El Paso Parent and therefore indirectly owned and controlled El Paso GP. After trial, Kinder Morgan, El Paso Parent, El Paso MLP, and El Paso GP consummated a merger that ended El Paso MLP’s separate existence as a publicly traded entity. El Paso GP moved to dismiss this litigation, arguing that because Plaintiff styled his claim as derivative the closing of the merger meant that this case must be dismissed. The Court of Chancery denied El Paso GP’s motion to dismiss, holding that the merger did not extinguish Plaintiff’s standing to pursue the claim, and therefore, this Court can implement the liability award. View "In re El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P. Derivative Litig." on Justia Law