Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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This matter was before the court on a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, for failure to make a pre-suit demand upon the board, and Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. At issue was whether actions taken by certain director defendants fell outside of the fiduciary boundaries existing under Delaware case law - and were therefore subject to judicial oversight - or whether the acts complained of were within those broad boundaries, where a law-trained judge should refrain from acting. The court held that the facts pled in support of allegations that the director defendants violated fiduciary duties in setting compensation levels and failing to oversee the risks created thereby, if true, only supported a conclusion that the directors made poor business decisions. Thus, plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim. Consequently, the court need not reach the Rule 12(b)(6) issue. View "In re: The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Shareholder Litigation" on Justia Law

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In this action brought pursuant to 8 Del. C. 225, plaintiffs sought a determination that certain written consents validly removed defendant directors and replaced them with a new slate. Defendant directors contended that they could not be removed or a new slate elected without the consent of a majority of the Series B Preferred Stock. Applying enhanced scrutiny, the court held that defendant directors breached their fiduciary duties when issuing the Series B Preferred Stock where, although they honestly believed they were acting in the best interests of the company, they breached their duty of loyalty by structuring the stock issuance to prevent an insurgent group from waging a successful proxy contest. Therefore, the class provision could not be given effect and the written consents validly elected a new board. View "Johnston, et al. v. Pedersen, et al." on Justia Law

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This post-trial opinion determined the voting membership of GnB, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company. The parties disputed whether Firehouse Gallery, LLC, a Florida limited liability company, was a voting member of GnB. The parties also disputed whether GnB possessed an exclusive license to use the first-tier, generic domain name candles.com; held an option to purchase candles.com; and owned other assorted domain names relating to the candles business. The court held that Firehouse and plaintiff, who controlled GnB, each held a 50% voting membership interest; GnB owned the exclusive license and option to purchase candles.com and the other domain names; and plaintiff and defendant, the current principal of Firehouse, each breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty to GnB and must account for the profits and personal benefits they received. The court held that defendant was not otherwise liable to GnB or plaintiff. Because all of the litigants engaged in misconduct that could support fee-shifting, the doctrine of unclean hands applied with particular salience. Accordingly, the court held that all parties would bear their own fees and costs. View "Phillips v. Hove, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a motion seeking approval of its appointment of James Gallagher as its "Designated Consultant" pursuant to the Stipulation and Order for the Production and Exchange of Proprietary Information entered by the court on February 22, 2010. Defendant objected to Gallagher's designation. The court held that because the terms of the order did not prevent the selection of a likely fact witness as a Designated Consultant - and the order did not otherwise prevent Gallagher's designation - and because compensating Gallagher as a Designated Consultant (and not as a fact witness) would not violate the Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct, plaintiff's Motion to Approve Designated Consultant was granted. View "BAE Sys. Info. and Elec. Sys. Integration Inc. v. Lockheed Martin Corp." on Justia Law

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This action arose out of the sale of Giant Cement Holding, Inc. (Giant) by defendant Cementos Portland Valderrivas (CPV) to defendant Corporacion Uniland S.A. Sagarra Inversiones, S.L. (Sagarra) challenged the transaction on the basis of CPV's self-dealing because of its position as the majority shareholder on both sides of the transaction. Sagarra purported to bring this action individually and derivatively on behalf of nominal defendant Uniland Acquisition Corp. (Uniland Delaware). The court held that to the extent the Complaint asserted a multiple derivative action on behalf of Uniland Delaware, it must be dismissed because Sagarra did not have standing to raise those claims based on the court's review of Spanish law. The court held that for the same reasons, Counts I and II, which assert multiple derivative claims on behalf of Uniland Delaware, were dismissed. The court's determination with respect to Sagarra's lack of standing as to Counts I and II was equally applicable to Count III. The court finally held that because Count IV raised fiduciary duty claims under Spanish law, the better course of action was for the court to exercise its discretion and dismiss Count IV. Therefore, defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint was granted and an implementing order would be entered. View "Sagarra Inversiones, S.L. v. Cementos Portland Valderrivas, S.A., et al." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute between Omniglow, LLC's three members (Leemon, Holland, and Achaian). At issue was whether one member of a Delaware limited liability company could assign its entire membership interest, including that interest's voting rights, to another existing member, notwithstanding the fact that the limited liability company agreement required the affirmative consent of all of the members upon the admission of a new member, or, must the existing member assignee be readmitted with respect to each additional interest it acquired after its initial admission as a member. The court held that the answer depended in the first instance on the specific provisions governing the transferability of Interests in Omniglow's LLC Agreement. When Omniglow's LLC Agreement was read as a whole, as it must be, it allowed an existing Member to transfer its entire Membership Interest, including voting rights, to another existing Member without obtaining the other Members' consent. Thus, Holland's assignment of its 30% Interest to an existing member, Achaian, was effective to vest all of the rights associated with that Interest in Achaian, and Omniglow now had two coequal 50% Members. View "Achaian, Inc. v. Leemon Family LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute between a hedge fund manager and the hedge fund's seed investor. The central issue was contractual and involved whether the hedge fund manager could use the Gate Provision in the Partnership Agreement to lock up the seed investor. The court held that the hedge fund manager's refusal to honor the withdrawal request and return the seed investor's capital in full was a violation of the Seeder Agreement and a breach of contract. The court held that, in the alternative, even if the Gates were potentially applicable, it was a breach of fiduciary duty for the hedge fund manager to use the Gates solely for a selfish reason. Therefore, the court ordered the immediate return to the seed investor of all of its capital and awarded interest to compensate it for the delay. The court also disposed of several other claims raised by the hedge fund manager and the seed investor. View "Paige Capital Mgmt., LLC, et al. v. Lerner Master Fund, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, shareholders of Ness Technologies, Inc. (Ness), moved to expedite proceedings in this putative class action, which they filed to enjoin a proposed transaction through which Ness's largest shareholder, Citi Venture Capital International (CVCI), would, through a wholly owned subsidiary, acquire Ness in a cash transaction at $7.75 per share (Proposed Transaction). Plaintiffs contended that the Proposed Transaction was the product of a flawed sales process and that the members of the Board, aided and abetted by CVCI, breached their fiduciary duties to plaintiffs and the class by approving the transaction. Plaintiffs asserted both price and process claims and claims that the Board's disclosures regarding the Proposed Transaction were inadequate. The court held that plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Proceedings was granted only to the extent that they could take expedited, but necessarily limited and focused, discovery regarding the question of whether either the Board's or the Special Committee's financial advisors were conflicted because of their relationships with CVCI. The motion was denied in all other aspects. View "In re Ness Technologies, Inc. Shareholders Litigation" on Justia Law

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This matter involved a supposed "asset protection trust" (Henry's trust) settled by and for the benefit of respondent where petitioner, BNY Mellon Trust of Delaware (BNY), held a demand note representing a several hundred thousand dollar loan BNY had made to respondent, secured by the assets of his mother's estate and trust. At issue was whether BNY was entitled to summary judgment on the issue of breach of fiduciary duty in its management of Henry's trust. The court held that respondents failed to articulate a theory, and have failed to allege any specific facts, which would indicate that BNY acted in bad faith. The court also held that because respondent had failed to allege facts indicating that BNY's decision to pledge trust assets, and to liquidate and hold trust assets in cash, were taken in bad faith, summary judgment on the remaining fiduciary claims was appropriate. View "The Irrevocable Asset Protection Trust of Henry C. Rohlf" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a significant stockholder in a holding company managed by the individual defendants, alleged, both on behalf of a class and derivatively, breaches of fiduciary duty regarding defendants' adoption of a stock buyback plan, their adoption of an options plan, issuance of the options to themselves, and the decision by the company to vote in favor of a transaction involving the sale of a subsidiary's interest in a third entity. At issue was whether the court should grant defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The court denied defendants' motion to dismiss Count II only with regard to the claim that defendants' vote of Winmill & Co. Incorporated's ("Winmill") interest in Bexil Corporation in favor of the York Insurance Services Group, Inc. sale was self-interested and unfair to Winmill. The court otherwise granted defendants' motion to dismiss. View "The Ravenswood Investment Co., L.P. v. Winmill, et al." on Justia Law