In Segway Inc. v. Hong Cai, 2023 Del. Ch. LEXIS 643 (Del. Ch. Dec. 14, 2023), the Delaware Court of Chancery (Will, V.C.) dismissed a claim for breach of fiduciary duty brought by Segway Inc. (the “Company”) against its former President and Vice President of Finance (the “Officer”). The Company framed its claim as a claim for breach of the duty of oversight, commonly known as a Caremark claim (from the landmark case In re Caremark Int’l Inc. Derivative Litigation, 698 A.2d 959 (Del. Ch. 1996)). Continue Reading The Delaware Court of Chancery Confirms that Duty of Oversight Claims Against Corporate Officers Are Subject to the Same High Pleading Standards Applicable to Duty of Oversight Claims Against Corporate Directors
John Stigi is a partner in the Business Trial Practice Group, leader of the firm's Securities Enforcement and Litigation Team, and Office Managing Partner of the firm's Century City office.
In Briskin v. Shopify, Inc., No. 22-15815, 2023 WL 8225346 (9th Cir. Nov. 28, 2023), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Canada-based company Shopify, Inc. (“Shopify”), which provides a web-based payment processing platform to online merchants across the United States (and the world), is not subject to specific personal jurisdiction in California courts under California data privacy laws based solely upon Shopify’s collection, retention and use of customer data from California residents. In making this ruling, the Ninth Circuit became the first Circuit in the nation to address this type of personal jurisdiction question involving a global online payment platform.Continue Reading In a Case of First Impression, Ninth Circuit Addresses Personal Jurisdiction Issues Involving Non-Resident Corporation Providing a Web-Based Payment Processing Platform
In Roth v. Foris Ventures, LLC, Nos. 22-16632, 22-16633, 2023 U.S. App. LEXIS 30081 (9th Cir. Nov. 13, 2023), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit partially reversed the dismissal of a shareholder derivative suit seeking to recover disgorgement of short-swing profits under Section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. § 78p(b). The three-judge panel held that the district court erred in holding that the company’s board was required to approve the stock sale transactions for the specific purpose of exempting it from Section 16(b) liability pursuant to Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Rule 16b-3(d)(1). The Court’s decision provides a board of directors with more latitude to approve securities transactions by Section 16 reporting persons without risk of liability under the short-swing profits rule.Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Provides Guidance on SEC Rule 16b-3 Short-Swing Profit Liability Exemption
In Anderson v. Magellan Health, Inc., No. 2021-0202, — A.3d —-, 2023 WL 4364524 (Del. Ch. July 6, 2023) (McCormick, C.), the Delaware Court of Chancery addressed the circumstances under which the Court will award a shareholder plaintiff attorneys’ fees in disclosure-based deal litigation. In particular, Anderson analyzed the history of disclosure-based deal litigation in Delaware and the Court’s evolving standard for awarding fees where shareholder action has caused a company to issue additional pre-merger disclosures “mooting” pending deal litigation. Prior to the decision in Anderson, the state of the law was unsettled. The first line of cases would award fees as long as the shareholder plaintiff secured additional disclosures that were “helpful” such that they provided “some benefit” to shareholders. The second line of cases, however, adopted a stricter standard requiring that the supplemental disclosures be “plainly material.” In an effort to combat the so-called “deal tax” associated with disclosure-based merger litigation, Anderson comes out in favor of the stricter standard. Going forward, the Court will only award disclosure-based mootness fees when the complaining shareholder obtains additional disclosures that are “plainly material” to the shareholders. Companies, boards and advisors engaging in M&A transactions should pay attention to this decision as it will weigh on the proper strategy for approaching a shareholder challenge to an M&A transaction. Continue Reading Delaware Court of Chancery Clarifies Heightened Standard for Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in Disclosure-Based Deal Litigation
In Lee v. Fisher, No. 21-15923, 2023 U.S. App. LEXIS 13521 (9th Cir. June 1, 2023), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, affirmed the dismissal of a shareholder derivative complaint alleging, among other things, violations of Section 14(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 78n(a), and SEC Rule 14a-9, 17 C.F.R. § 240.14a-9 (collectively, the “Proxy Claims”), enforcing a forum-selection clause in the defendant company’s bylaws designating the Delaware Court of Chancery as the exclusive jurisdiction for adjudicating any derivative claims involving the company. By affirming the dismissal, the Ninth Circuit called into question whether the Proxy Claims were properly classified as derivative claims, noting that the Exchange Act’s antiwaiver provision was not triggered when the shareholder plaintiff could pursue the Proxy Claims directly in federal court. The Ninth Circuit’s decision creates a circuit split with the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Seafarers Pension Plan ex rel. Boeing Co. v. Bradway, 23 F.4th 714 (7th Cir. 2022), raising the specter that the United States Supreme Court eventually will weigh in on the issue.Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Enforces Delaware Forum Selection Clause to Affirm Dismissal of Derivative Claim for Alleged Violation of Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
In Slack Technologies, LLC v. Pirani, No. 22-200, 2023 U.S. LEXIS 2301 (U.S. June 1, 2023), the Supreme Court of the United States (Gorsuch, J.) held that Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”), 15 U.S.C. § 77k, requires plaintiffs to show that they purchased securities registered under the registration statement they seek to challenge, a requirement the Supreme Court referred to as “tracing.” In Slack, the public offering occurred under circumstances that did not allow the plaintiff or other purchasers to trace any security to the challenged registration statement. As a result, the Court vacated the decision of a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that had relieved plaintiff of a tracing obligation. The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion confirms that courts must strictly enforce Section 11’s tracing requirement even when doing so precludes all purchasers in an offering from accessing Section 11’s liability provisions.Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Holds That Section 11 Plaintiffs Must Purchase Securities Issued Under the Registration Statement They Seek to Challenge
This article was originally published in Law360 on April 14, 2023.
Providing legal advice to business entities raises important issues regarding the application of attorney-client privilege between the entity and its directors. Delaware’s approach to corporate privilege springs from the recognition that corporate directors and the corporation they control are deemed “joint clients” of legal advice received while the directors form part of the board.Continue Reading Protecting Privilege in Case of a Dispute with Former Director
In ZF Micro Solutions, Inc. v. TAT Capital Partners, Ltd., 2022 WL 4090879 (Cal. App. Aug. 8, 2022), the Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal decided, as a matter of first impression, that a non-derivative breach of fiduciary duty cause of action seeking compensatory damages was legal rather than equitable, and therefore required a jury trial as a matter of law. The Court arrived at its conclusion by evaluating the right and relief requested. In so doing, the Court concluded that because the claim at hand exhibited all the characteristics of a cause of action at law, it was legal, rather than equitable, and should have been tried to a jury.Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Holds that a Corporation’s Direct Cause of Action for Breach of Fiduciary Duty is Legal Rather than Equitable, Requiring a Trial by Jury
In SEC v. Rio Tinto PLC, No. 21-2042, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 19577 (2d Cir. July 15, 2022) (Jacobs, J.), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit declined to impose “scheme liability” under subsections (a) and (c) of the Securities & Exchange Commission Rule 10b-5 (17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5) where the challenged conduct amounted solely to the making of a material misstatement or omission. The Rio Tinto decision is noteworthy because it limits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lorenzo v. SEC, 139 S. Ct. 1094 (2019) (blog article here), which potentially expanded “scheme liability” to defendants who may have been tangentially involved in the issuance of a misleading statement.Continue Reading Second Circuit Declines to Allow SEC Rule 10b-5 Claim for “Scheme Liability” to Proceed Where the Alleged Misconduct Amounted Only to the Making of Material Misstatements or Omissions
In Fowler v. Golden Pacific Bancorp, Inc., 2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 548 (Cal. App. June 23, 2022), the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District (Krause, J.), reinforced the near absolute right of directors of a California corporation to inspect their company’s books and records pursuant to Section 1602 of the California Corporations Code. The Court clarified that these rights hold even when the director has a conflict of interest or is involved in litigation with the corporation. Generally, directors may be denied access to books and records only in the most extreme cases, such as when evidence shows the director intends to abuse his or her rights under Section 1602 to violate fiduciary duties or commit a tort against the company.Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Reaffirms Broad Inspection Rights Accorded to Directors Under Section 1602 of the California Corporations Code
In Sirott v. Superior Court, 2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 389 (Cal. App. May 5, 2022), the First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal (Humes, J.) analyzed the ownership requirements a plaintiff must satisfy to pursue derivative claims on behalf of a limited liability company. Under California Corporations Code § 17709.02 (“Section 17709.02”), a putative derivative plaintiff must show both “contemporaneous” and “continuous” ownership to proceed with a derivative lawsuit. Subject to certain statutorily defined exceptions, the contemporaneous ownership prerequisite requires the plaintiff to plead that it was a member of the limited liability company at the time of the transaction or any part of the transaction of which the plaintiff complains took place. The continuous ownership requirement, in turn, obligates the plaintiff to remain a member of the limited liability company through the conclusion of the litigation. In Sirott, the plaintiff’s derivative claims were properly ordered dismissed because the plaintiff lacked standing after it lost its interest in the limited liability company—i.e., the real party in interest with respect to the derivative claims. Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Clarifies that a Derivative Plaintiff Must Demonstrate Both “Contemporaneous” and “Continuous” Ownership to Maintain a Derivative Suit on Behalf of a Limited Liability Company