Justia Delaware Court of Chancery Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Huff v. Longview Energy Co.
Longview Energy Company filed a complaint against William Huff, Richard D'Angelo, and Riley-Huff Energy Group as a result of a breach of fiduciary duty committed by Huff and D'Angelo in connection with their usurpation of a corporate opportunity. The corporate opportunity belonging to Longview related to property interests in a large area of land in south Texas called Eagle Ford. A Texas court entered a judgment against Defendants and imposed a constructive trust in favor of Longview on the profits and ownership of Riley-Huff's interests in Eagle Ford and a damage award against Huff and D'Angelo. Huff and D'Angelo appealed and sought indemnification from Longview, a Delaware corporation they served on as directors. The Court of Chancery granted Longview's motion to dismiss the complaint because it did not state a ripe claim. View "Huff v. Longview Energy Co." on Justia Law
Paron Capital Mgmt., LLC, et al. v. Crombie
This action involved claims of fraud and breach of fiduciary against an individual defendant, a former investment professional accused of having committed a massive fraud related to a quantitatively-based trading program that he allegedly developed to trade futures contracts. Plaintiffs, as a result of their association with defendant and Paron, the firm they founded with defendant, claimed that they have been stigmatized and thus face dismal prospects of finding employment in the financial services industry. The court found that defendant committed fraud and breached his fiduciary duties to plaintiff and Paron by making false statements of fact about his program, his investment track record, and his personal financial situation. As a result, plaintiffs were entitled to extensive damages against defendant based on their lost future earnings and other costs associated with the formation and operation of Paron. The court also awarded plaintiffs limited injunctive relief requiring defendant to destroy or return copies of Paron's trading program and to stop marketing any versions of that trading program.View "Paron Capital Mgmt., LLC, et al. v. Crombie" on Justia Law
ASB Allegiance Real Estate Fund, et al. v. Scion Breckenridge Managing Member, LLC, et al.
Entities affiliated with ASB sued to reform the capital-event waterfall provisions in a series of agreements governing real estate joint ventures managed by affiliates of The Scion Group. The erroneously drafter provisions called for Scion to receive incentive compensation know as a "promote" even if the joint ventures lost money. Scion sought to enforce the agreements as written, and its affiliates advanced counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of contract. The court found that plaintiffs have proven their entitlement to reformation by clear and convincing evidence and entered a judgment in their favor of defendants' counterclaims.View "ASB Allegiance Real Estate Fund, et al. v. Scion Breckenridge Managing Member, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
In re Celera Corp. Shareholder Litigation
This putative class action was before the court on an application for the approval of settlement of the class's claims for, among other things, breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with a merger of two publicly traded Delaware corporations. The target's largest stockholder, which acquired the vast majority of its shares after the challenged transaction was announced, objected to the proposed settlement. In addition, defendants' and plaintiffs' counsel disagreed about the appropriate level of attorneys' fees that should be awarded. The court certified the class under Rules 23(a), (b)(1), and (b)(2) with NOERS as class representative; denied BVF's request to certify the class on only an opt out basis; approved the settlement as fair and reasonable; and awarded attorneys' fees to plaintiffs' counsel in the amount of $1,350,000, inclusive of expenses. View "In re Celera Corp. Shareholder Litigation" on Justia Law
Hermelin v. K-V Pharmaceutical Co.
Plaintiff, a former corporate officer, sued defendant, his former employer, for advancement and indemnification in connection with several proceedings that arose out of regulatory and criminal investigations at the defendant corporation following defendant's distribution of oversized morphine sulfate tablets into the market. The dispute centered around whether plaintiff succeeded on the merits of any of the proceedings at issue, thus entitling him to indemnification as a matter of law, or whether additional discovery was required to determine whether plaintiff acted in good faith, in which case he would be entitled to indemnification under the Indemnification Agreement. The court found that plaintiff was not entitled to advancement for the Jail Records Matter; was not entitled to mandatory indemnification for the Criminal Matter or the HHS Exclusion Matter; was entitled to mandatory indemnification for the FDA Consent Decree Matter; and that the evidence relevant to plaintiff's claims for permissive identification was limited to plaintiff's conduct, and the facts related to that conduct, underlying the proceedings for which indemnification was sought. View "Hermelin v. K-V Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law
Dweck, et al. v. Nasser, et al.
This case involved the dispute between Gila Dweck, the CEO, director, and 30% stockholder in Kids International Corporation (Kids) and Albert Nasser, the Chairman and controlling stockholder of Kids. Dweck and Nasser accused each other of breaching their fiduciary duties and Nasser asserted third-party claims for breach of fiduciary duty against Dweck's colleagues Kevin Taxin, Kids' President, and Bruce Fine, Kids' CFO and corporate secretary. The court found that Dweck and Taxin breached their fiduciary duties to Kids by establishing competing companies that usurped Kids' corporate opportunities and converted Kids' resources; Dweck further breached her fiduciary duties by causing Kids to reimburse her for personal expenses; Fine breached his fiduciary duties by abdicating his responsibility to review Dweck's expenses and signing off on them wholesale; Dweck, Taxin, and Fine breached their duties by, inter alia, transferring Kids' customer relationships and business expectancies to their competing companies; and Dweck, Taxin, and Fine were liable to Kids for the damages they caused by their breaches of duty. The court largely rejected Dweck's breach of fiduciary duty claims against Nasser. Nevertheless, Nasser failed to carry his burden of proving that it was entirely fair for Kids to pay him a consulting fee that compensated him equally with Dweck when he performed no work for kids. Nasser was liable to Kids for those fees. Dweck also established her entitlement to an accounting from Nasser for some of the amount in cash that Kids had on hand at the time of the split. View "Dweck, et al. v. Nasser, et al." on Justia Law
Steinhardt, et al. v. Howard-Anderson, et al.
Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on behalf of a class of stockholders of Occam. Defendants moved for sanctions against all plaintiffs other than Derek Sheeler for trading on the basis of confidential information obtained in this litigation. With respect to Michael Steinhardt and the funds, the motion was granted. Consistent with prior rulings by this court when confronted with representative plaintiffs who have traded while serving in a fiduciary capacity, Steinhardt and the funds were dismissed from the case with prejudice, barred from receiving any recovery from the litigation, required to self-report to the SEC, directed to disclose their improper trading in any future application to serve as lead plaintiff, and ordered to disgorge profits. With respect to Herbert Chen, the motion was denied. View "Steinhardt, et al. v. Howard-Anderson, et al." on Justia Law
Encite, LLC v. Soni, et al.
This case involved a claim for breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty that stemmed from a dispute regarding assets of IFCT, a now defunct tech startup company founded by Stephen Marsh to develop potentially revolutionary micro fuel cell technology. The crux of plaintiff's argument was that the Director Defendants conducted an unfair and disloyal bidding process, whereby they favored the Echelon-backed bid and refused to follow up on or negotiate with other superior bids. As a result, IFCT missed its chance to sell its assets at the peak of their value and was forced to sell its assets at a discount in bankruptcy. Given that the Director Defendants have conceded the applicability of entire fairness review and given the fact-intensive nature of that review, the court found that the Director Defendants have not met their burden at this stage to achieve summary judgment against Encite. The court also found that material facts remained as to the liability of Echelon for aiding and abetting the alleged breach of fiduciary duty by the Director Defendants and therefore, the court denied Echelon's motion for summary judgment on that claim. The court finally found that material facts also remained regarding Echelon's third party claims, and so denied Marsh's motion for summary judgment. View "Encite, LLC v. Soni, et al." on Justia Law
Winshall v. Viacom Int’l, Inc., et al.
This case involved a dispute over earn-out payments related to a merger between Viacom and Harmonix where plaintiff was one of the selling stockholders of Harmonix. Plaintiff sued on behalf of the selling stockholders, alleging that Viacom and Harmonix purposefully renegotiated the distribution contract with EA so as to reduce the earn-out payments payable to the Harmonix stockholders, and thus breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in the Merger Agreement. The court dismissed plaintiff's claim and held that it would be inequitable for the court to imply a duty on Viacom and Harmonix's part to share with the selling stockholders the benefits of a renegotiated contract addressing EA's right to distribute Harmonix products after the expiration of the earn-out period. View "Winshall v. Viacom Int'l, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
In re Alloy, Inc. Shareholder Litigation
This case was a class action brought on behalf of the former shareholders of Alloy, challenging a going-private transaction (Merger) that cashed out the company's public shareholders for allegedly inadequate consideration. Although the shareholders voted to approve the Merger, two of Alloy's nine directors retained their senior management positions at and received an equity interest in the now privately-held company. The former shareholders claimed that those two directors thus unfairly extracted for themselves an opportunity to share in Alloy's continued growth without offering the same opportunity to the public shareholders. Regarding the alleged breaches of fiduciary duty by the directors in negotiating and approving the Merger, the court found that the complaint failed to state a claim for damages. The court also found that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to support an inference that the alleged disclosure violations were the product of anything other than good faith omissions by the directors who authorized them. Because of the exculpatory provision of Alloy's certificate of incorporation, the complaint thus failed to state a claim for damages against the Alloy directors for beach of their duty of disclosure. Finally, the court also dismissed the claims for aiding and abetting against defendants who were not affiliated with Alloy. Therefore, the court granted defendants' motions to dismiss in all respects. View "In re Alloy, Inc. Shareholder Litigation" on Justia Law