Delaware Court of Chancery Strictly Construes Right to Discovery of Stockholders Represented By a Contractually Created “Shareholder Representative”

Merger agreements involving acquisitions of private companies often contain terms creating post-merger obligations or “earnouts” in favor of certain classes of selling stockholders.  To address potential claims that may arise from such post-merger arrangements, selling stockholders typically designate a “shareholder representative” to handle such claims on their behalf pursuant to specifically delineated rights and duties.  In Fortis Advisors, LLC v. Allergan W.C. Holding, Inc., 2020 Del. Ch. LEXIS 181 (Del. Ch. May 14, 2020) (Zurn, V.C.), the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed the scope of such rights and duties in the context of a discovery dispute.  The Court considered the shareholder representative to be distinct from the selling stockholders on whose behalf the representative is acting, such that the selling stockholders were not deemed to be “parties” to a claim pursued by the representative.  Thus, in a letter ruling, the Court held that the defendant could obtain discovery of the selling stockholders only through third-party discovery, not through party discovery directed to the shareholder representative.  The Court based its decision on a strict reading of the terms of the agreements establishing the shareholder representative and negotiated information rights contained therein. Continue Reading

SEC Adopts Comprehensive Changes to “Significance” Tests and Financial Disclosure Requirements of Acquired and Disposed Businesses

On May 20, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission formally adopted amendments to financial disclosure regulations regarding the acquisition and disposition of certain businesses. The final rules – which are intended to update disclosure requirements for the benefit of registrants and investors – represent the most comprehensive revision to the SEC’s regulations in this area in more than 30 years. The new rules can be found here. Continue Reading

Second Circuit Holds That Investors Who Delegate Discretionary Authority to Investment Advisors are not Members of a “Group” for Purposes of Section 16(b) Liability

In Rubenstein v. Int’l Value Advisers, LLC, No. 19-560-CV, 2020 WL 2549507 (2d Cir. May 20, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision holding that an investor was not a member of a “group” of corporate insiders for purposes of short-swing profit liability under Section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “1934 Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78p(b).  In affirming, the Second Circuit determined that the investor’s investment management agreement delegating discretionary authority to an advisor was not an agreement with the “issuer,” and that an investment advisor’s client does not become an insider group member simply because the advisor files a Schedule 13D.  The decision provides helpful guidance regarding the extremely narrow limits of Section 16(b) liability, and shields passive investors who merely delegate management authority over their portfolios to investment advisors. Continue Reading

FinCEN Director Addresses COVID-19 Related Virtual Currency Issues at Consensus Blockchain Conference

On May 13, 2020, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) Director Kenneth Blanco delivered remarks to the Consensus Blockchain Conference regarding the agency’s recent observations in connection with virtual currencies, including the current risks of criminal exploitation of virtual currency, significant issues FinCEN anticipates for virtual currencies in the future, and the industry’s compliance with the Travel Rule. Continue Reading

SEC Offers Limited Rule Relief to Spur Small Business Crowdfunding During Pandemic

On May 4, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a temporary final rule easing some restrictions on small businesses seeking to raise capital pursuant to Regulation Crowdfunding (“Reg CF”).  The SEC made the move in response to feedback from its Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee and other outreach conducted by SEC staff regarding the industry’s urgent need for expedited access to capital while maintaining investor protections as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Continue Reading

SEC Co-Director of Enforcement Outlines Division’s Response to COVID-19

On May 12, 2020, speaking at the Securities Enforcement Forum West 2020, Steven Peikin, the co-Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division, provided an overview of the division’s activities over the last several months as it has responded to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Division is actively monitoring issuers and market participants for any sign of abuse of the situation, swiftly implementing interim trading suspensions where the possibility of such abuse is identified, and filing enforcement actions in record time where it determines such abuse has occurred. Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds that Law Firm Cannot Claim Privilege Over Client Identity in IRS Probe

In Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm P.L.L.C. v. United States, No. 19-50506, 2020 WL 1966844 (5th Cir. Apr. 24, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a Texas-based estate and tax-planning law firm (“Taylor Lohmeyer” or the “firm”) could not invoke the attorney-client privilege to quash a summons by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) seeking the identities of firm clients.  In affirming the district court’s decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that Taylor Lohmeyer could not use the privilege as a “blanket” to circumvent compliance with the summons, but may have viable arguments to shield disclosure of specific documents through the use of a privilege log. Continue Reading

Fed Updates Main Street Loan Program

On April 30, 2020 the Federal Reserve released new term sheets for the Main Street Loan Program, which is a $600 billion loan program, that will include $75 billion capitalized by the Treasury Department under the $454 billion Congressional appropriation of Section 4003(b)(4) of Title IV of the CARES Act.   The loans will target small and mid-sized companies, defined as having less than 15,000 employees or $5 billion or less in 2019 annual revenue, and will be made by banks and other eligible lenders, with the government then purchasing between 85% to 95% of the lenders’ interest in the loans.

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Delaware Court of Chancery Addresses Pleading ‘With Particularity’ Under Rule 23.1

Rule 23.1 of the Delaware Court of Chancery Rules requires a plaintiff asserting a shareholder derivative action to plead “with particularity the efforts, if any, made by the plaintiff to obtain the action the plaintiff desires from the directors or comparable authority and the reasons for the plaintiff’s failure to obtain the action or for not making the effort” (emphasis added).  In Elburn v. Albanese, 2020 Del. Ch. LEXIS 156 (Del. Ch. Apr. 21, 2020), the Delaware Court of Chancery (Slights, V.C.), addressed the “fundamental,” but rarely asked, “question of what is required to plead a fact ‘with particularity’ under Rule 23.1.”  In addressing this question, the Court applied authority interpreting the particularity requirement set forth in Rule 9(b) of the Court of Chancery Rules holding that the standard is met so long as the plaintiff pleads particularized facts sufficient to apprise the defendants of the basis for the claim.  The Court declined to require the pleading of “so-called ‘newspaper facts’—who, what, when, where and how” —in all cases under Rule 23.1, holding that even under Rule 9(b) such details are not required in all cases.  The Court’s analysis in Elburn recognizes that a shareholder plaintiff’s burden to plead specific facts varies depending on the plaintiff’s reasonable access to the facts underlying his or her theory of demand futility. Continue Reading

CARES Act Loans Available for National Security Businesses

The US Treasury Department is accepting CARES Act Title IV loan applications from national security businesses to provide liquidity to offset covered losses, which include losses incurred directly or indirectly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Treasury Department will review loan applications submitted by 3:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 1, 2020. The Treasury Department does not guarantee that applications submitted after that deadline will be reviewed.

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