Not So Fast – Challenges in Reincorporating from California to Delaware

There are several reasons that a California corporation may want to reincorporate to Delaware. Venture capital funds or other investors may demand a reincorporation to Delaware as a condition to financing. Cumulative voting for director elections, required for California corporations but not required for Delaware corporations, may have become a problem. The corporation may want to take advantage of the flexibility of Delaware’s business laws, the abundance of legal precedent and the availability of the Court of Chancery to resolve corporate disputes. Whatever the reason, reincorporating from California to Delaware may be more challenging than originally anticipated due to a few complicating factors: (1) California’s long-arm statute, (2) the availability of exemptions from registration and qualification under state and federal securities laws and (3) restrictions under the company’s contracts.[1] Continue Reading

Delaware Chancery Court Strictly Construes Appraisal Statute to Deny Stockholders Appraisal Rights in a Reverse Triangular Merger

In City of North Miami Beach Gen. Employees’ Ret. Plan v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., C.A. No. 2018-0227-AGB, 2018 WL 2473150 (Del. Ch. June 1, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery (Bouchard, C.) denied stockholders of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (“Dr Pepper”) appraisal rights related to the reverse triangular merger of Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (“Keurig”) and a subsidiary of Dr Pepper created for the purpose of effectuating the merger. This decision clarifies standing requirements for appraisal petitions in this merger structure and continues Delaware jurisprudence holding that, to perfect appraisal rights, stockholders must at a minimum meet the requirements of 8 Del. C. § 262 as plainly written. Continue Reading

New York Court of Appeals Rules that Civil Securities Fraud Claims Brought Under Martin Act are Subject to Three-Year Statute of Limitations

In People v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, No. 40, 2018 WL 2899299 (N.Y. June 12, 2018), the Court of Appeals for the State of New York ruled that the three-year statute of limitations of Section 214(2) of the New York Civil Practice Law & Rules (“CPLR”) applies to civil enforcement actions brought under the Martin Act (General Business Law article 23-A) on the basis of a “fraudulent practice” as defined in General Business Law § 352(1). In doing so, the Court overruled both the New York Supreme Court and the Appellate Division and rejected the New York Attorney General’s (“NYAG”) attempt to apply a six-year statute of limitations under CPLR 213(8), which governs the limitations period for common law fraud. The Court’s decision narrows the window of opportunity to assert civil securities fraud claims under the Martin Act’s more forgiving standard. Prosecutors wishing to avail themselves of CPLR 213’s generous six-year statute of limitations will now be required to demonstrate their civil securities fraud claims meet all of the elements of common law fraud. Continue Reading

SEC Expands the Definition of “Smaller Reporting Company”

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted amendments to the definition of “smaller reporting company” which expand the number of companies that qualify as smaller reporting companies and can thereby take advantage of the scaled disclosure requirements applicable to such companies. The amendments to the definition of “smaller reporting company” will be effective on September 10, 2018. Continue Reading

New Law Requires SEC to Expand Regulation A+ To Exchange Act Reporting Companies

On May 24, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the “Act”). The Act, which primarily focuses on rolling back certain regulatory provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, also contained a significant change in the law for companies looking to undertake securities offerings in reliance on the revamped Regulation A (commonly referred to as “Regulation A+”) under the Securities Act of 1933. Continue Reading

Contracts with Foreign Companies May Require a Rewrite

A recent California case may force companies doing business with foreign entities to reconsider—and maybe rewrite—their contracts. In Rockefeller Tech. Invs. (Asia) VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Tech. Co., No. B272170, 2018 WL 2455092 (Cal. App. June 1, 2018), the California Court of Appeal held that parties may not contract around the formal service requirements of the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, commonly referred to as the Hague Service Convention. The decision could have profound implications for international business. Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Enforces Delaware Forum Selection Clause Contained in Certificate of Incorporation

In Bushansky v. Soon-Shiong, 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 493 (Cal. App. May 25, 2018), the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, affirmed the dismissal of a shareholder derivative action brought in the Superior Court of California, San Diego County, on forum non conveniens grounds based upon an exclusive Delaware forum selection clause in the corporation’s certificate of incorporation. This decision interpreted for the first time a condition in a forum selection clause requiring that the Delaware courts have personal jurisdiction over all indispensable parties in order to trigger exclusive forum selection. The Court rejected plaintiff’s assertion that Delaware personal jurisdiction must exist at the time of the filing of the suit, and instead held that post-filing conduct by a defendant voluntarily accepting Delaware personal jurisdiction within a reasonable timeframe thereafter was sufficient. In so doing, the Court disagreed expressly with a decision from the Washington Court of Appeals. This decision reflects continued deference by the California courts to Delaware forum selection clauses in certificates of incorporation. Continue Reading

United States Supreme Court Holds that Foreign Corporations May Not Be Held Liable Under the Alien Tort Statute

In Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, 584 U.S. ___, 2018 WL 1914663 (U.S. Apr. 24, 2018) (Kennedy, J.), the Supreme Court of the United States held that foreign corporations may not be sued under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), 28 U.S.C. § 1350. The Court, disagreeing with opinions from the Seventh, Ninth and District of Columbia Circuits (see blog articles here and here), concluded that United States courts do not have authority under the ATS to impose liability on foreign corporations for violations of international human rights laws where the law of nations does not impose such liability. This decision provides relief to foreign corporations that otherwise could have been held liable for committing violations of international law under the ATS, in the area of human rights and beyond. Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Splits From Other Circuits, Holding That a Negligence Standard Applies to a Claim Challenging Tender Offer Disclosures Under Section 14(e)

In Varjabedian v. Emulex Corp., No. 16-55088, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 10000 (9th Cir. Apr. 20, 2018), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit split from the Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Eleventh Circuits to hold that the liability standard for challenging alleged misstatements or omissions in connection with a tender offer under Section 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78n(e), is mere negligence, not fraudulent intent or scienter. The district court had granted defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s Section 14(e) claim for failure to plead facts showing scienter. The Ninth Circuit, however, reversed and remanded to allow the district court to consider the sufficiency of the complaint under a negligence standard. This is the first instance in which a Court has allowed a Section 14(e) claim to proceed without a showing of scienter. Continue Reading

Second Circuit Limits Reach of SLUSA Preclusion in State Law Variable Annuity Class Action

In O’Donnell v. AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co., No. 17-cv-1085, 2018 WL 1720808 (2d Cir. Apr. 10, 2018), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed an order dismissing a variable annuity policyholder’s putative class action against AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (“AXA”) as precluded by the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (“SLUSA”), 15 U.S.C. § 78bb(f). Plaintiff alleged that AXA breached its contractual duties by employing a new strategy for its variable annuity policies without obtaining proper approval from the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”). AXA allegedly misled the regulator by failing to adequately inform and explain the significance of the changes to its insurance product in documentation submitted to DFS. The Court held that because the plaintiff and putative class members were unaware of the defendant’s alleged misrepresentation to DFS, the misrepresentation could not have been “in connection with” a purchase or sale of securities, and thus could not be governed by SLUSA. This decision establishes important limits on SLUSA preclusion and the scope of the United States Supreme Court’s seminal SLUSA decision, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v. Dabit, 547 U.S. 71 (2006). Continue Reading

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