The following key Delaware corporate and commercial decisions from the first four months of 2012 are a follow-up to our summary of the key decisions that we featured from 2011. We highlight on these pages all the corporate and commercial opinions from Delaware’s Supreme Court and Court of Chancery, and we have chosen the following 2012 rulings as being especially noteworthy, as the month of April comes to a close. Comments are welcome if readers think we missed a decision that should be included in this list.
Supreme Court Decisions
EMAK Worldwide, Inc. v. Kurz, No. 512, 2011 (Del. Supr., April 17, 2012). Issue Addressed: Whether the Court of Chancery properly granted an interim fee award in a shareholders’ suit which did not produce an immediate monetary benefit. Short Answer: Yes. Summary available here. (The Supreme Court’s stately building in Dover is featured at right.)
Cambium Ltd. v. Trilantic Capital Partners, No. 363, 2011 (Del. Supr., Jan. 20, 2012. This Order of the Delaware Supreme Court applied the recent decision of Delaware’s High Court in the Central Mortgage case in which it clarified that Delaware has not adopted the federal standard for motions to dismiss under Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) as described in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Twombly and Iqbal decisions, despite the truism that the Delaware Rules of Civil Procedure are generally based on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A fuller overview is available here. The recent Delaware Supreme Court decision in Central Mortgage taking this position was highlighted here.
Shocking Technologies, Inc. v. Michael, C. A. No. 7164-VCN (Del. Ch. April 10, 2012). Issue Addressed: Whether the Court of Chancery has the inherent authority to remove a director for breach of fiduciary duty, other than via DGCL Section 225? Short answer: The issue was not directly decided, but based on the facts of this case, the Court was not inclined to exercise such an inherent power, if such a power exists, prior to the expedited trial. Summary available here.
In Re K-Sea Transportation Partners LP Unitholders Litigation, C.A. No. 6301-VCP (Del. Ch. April 4, 2012). The prior Chancery decision in this case was highlighted on these pages here. Issues Addressed: The issues addressed by the Court of Chancery in this matter were whether the fiduciary duty claims and the contractual claims were barred by the provisions in the limited partnership agreement, including whether a provision in the agreement that established a presumption of good faith barred claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Summary available here.
Manning v. Vellardita, C.A. No. 6812-VCG (Del. Ch. March 28, 2012), is an important decision of the Delaware Court of Chancery on legal ethics as applied to non-Delaware attorneys who appear before the Court pro hac vice. Issues Addressed: Whether lack of complete candor to the Court in a Motion for Admission Pro Hac Vice is a basis to either: (i) disqualify counsel, and/or (ii) revoke the admission pro hac vice. The Court also addressed standards (articulated in this context for the first time), of candor and full disclosure, regarding potential conflicts, that those seeking admission pro hac vice must now follow. Summary available here.
Badii v. Metropolitan Hospice Inc., C.A. No. 6192-VCP (March 12, 2012), involves a post-trial decision on an action under 8 Del. C. § 291 for the appointment of a receiver for an insolvent, closely held corporation, Metropolitan Hospice, Inc. (“MHI”) which owed, among other things, approximately $2 million to the IRS for back taxes, penalties, and interest. Summary available here.
In re Delphi Financial Group Shareholder Litigation, Cons. C.A. No. 7144 -VCG (Del. Ch. Mar. 6, 2012). This is the third Delaware Court of Chancery decision in as many weeks that denied injunctive relief, in an expedited opinion, in response to a challenged transaction–despite criticism in two of the cases, of the process and the players, but ultimately leaving it up to the shareholders to decide whether to accept offers of a substantial premium to sell their shares. Summary available here. See In Re El Paso, summarized here, and In Re Micromet, summarized here.
In Re El Paso Corporation Shareholder Litigation, Consol. C. A. No. 6949-CS (Del. Ch. Feb. 29, 2012). Chancellor Strine denied the stockholder plaintiffs request for a preliminary injunction to enjoin a merger between El Paso Corporation and Kinder Morgan, Inc. While the Court in a 33-page opinion, severely criticized the actions of a number of the players, in the end the Chancellor decided to give the shareholders of El Paso the opportunity to decide for themselves if they liked the price being offered to them. Summary available here. The Court’s opinion in this matter marks the second time in the span of only a few months that the Delaware Court of Chancery has strongly criticized Goldman Sachs for conflict of interest issues in multi-billion dollar transactions. The most recent high-profile criticism was in the Court of Chancery’s 100-plus page decision in the Southern Peru Copper case highlighted on these pages here. Our LexisNexis videocast on this opinion is available here.
Danenberg v. Fitracks, C.A. No. 6454-VCL (Del. Ch. Mar. 5, 2012), addressed important issues of advancement and indemnification and established a protocol for resolving the amount of fees payable pursuant to the grant of advancement rights. Summary available here.
Matthew v. Laudamiel, C.A. No. 5957-VCN (Del. Ch. Feb. 21, 2012). Apparently no prior Delaware law directly addressed the issue of whether the dissolution and cancellation of an LLC transformed derivative claims into direct claims held proportionately by the members of the LLC. The Court concluded that, after the filing of the certificate of cancellation, such claims must be brought in the name of the LLC by a trustee or a receiver appointed under 6 Del. C. Section 18-805, or directly by the LLC, or derivatively by its members after reviving the LLC by obtaining a revocation of its certificate of cancellation. Summary available here.
Hermelin v. K-V Pharmaceutical Company, C.A. No. 6936-VCG (Del. Ch., Feb. 7, 2012). Issues Addressed: The Court of Chancery addressed an issue of first impression in Delaware regarding: “what evidence is relevant to an inquiry into whether an indemnitee acted in good faith for the purposes of permissive indemnification” under DGCL §§145(a) and (b). The Court also addressed: (1) Whether the former CEO is entitled to mandatory indemnification as a matter of law; (2) Whether additional discovery is required to determine whether the former CEO acted in good faith (in which case he would be entitled to statutorily permissive indemnification pursuant to his rights under an indemnification agreement.) Summary available here.
Auriga Capital Corp. v. Gatz Properties LLC, C.A. No. 4390-CS (Del. Ch., Jan. 27, 2012). What this Case is About and Why it is Important: This case establishes a high-water mark in terms of providing the most comprehensive explanation, based on legislative history and a review of Delaware cases, to explain why the default standard in the LLC context is that fiduciary duty principles will apply to managers of an LLC unless those duties are expressly and clearly limited or eliminated in an LLC agreement. Summary available here.
Dweck v. Nasser, C. A. No. 1353-VCL (Del. Ch. Jan. 18, 2012), found that Dweck, the former CEO, a director and 30% stockholder in Kids International Corporation (“Kids”), and Kevin Taxin, Kids’ President, breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty to Kids by establishing competing companies that usurped Kids’ corporate opportunities and converted Kids’ resources. The Court also imposed liability on an officer of the company for approving the reimbursement with company funds of the personal expenses of his superior. Summary available here.
Steinhardt v. Howard-Anderson, C.A. No. 5878-VCL (Del. Ch. Jan. 6, 2012). Issue Addressed: This opinion addressed the issue of whether representative plaintiffs in a putative class action should be in sanctioned for trading on the basis of confidential information obtained in the litigation. The motion was granted. Summary available here.
Gerber v. Enterprise Products Holdings, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 5989-VCN (Del. Ch., Jan. 6, 2012). Issue Addressed: This decision speaks to the limitations imposed by 6 Del. C. § 17-1101 on Delaware courts to address sanctionable conduct by partners and members of alternate entities that have contracted away their fiduciary duties. Summary available here.
Paul v. China MediaExpress Holding, Inc., C.A. No. 6570-VCP (Del. Ch. Jan. 5, 2012). Issues Addressed: (1) Whether a Section 220 case should be stayed pending the outcome of a related federal securities suit; and (2) Whether the shareholder in this case established a proper purpose to inspect books and records under DGCL Section 220. Short Answer: (1) Based on a three-part test as applied to the facts of this case, the Court refused to stay this action in favor of a pending related federal securities suit, even though a motion to stay was also pending in the federal court. (2) In this post-trial opinion, the Court determined that the shareholder established a proper purpose and was entitled to the documents necessary to investigate that proper purpose. Summary available here.
An important development during the first 4 months of 2012 was the promulgation by the Court of Chancery of its inaugural Practice Guidelines, highlighted here.