In a recent “precedential” opinion, the Third Circuit, applying New Jersey law, approved an employer’s use of an additional, extra-stringent restrictive covenant for its high-performing salespeople, subject to careful blue lining by the court to ensure that the covenant does not create an unreasonable burden for the employees. ADP, LLC, the well-known provider of payroll and other human resources services, required its new sales employees, as a condition of employment, to sign a Sales Representative Agreement and a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Together, the two agreements essentially prohibited the employee, for one year after the termination of employment, from soliciting ADP customers “with which the Employee was involved or exposed” while employed at ADP. Once employed, ADP’s sales staff could earn stock awards by meeting certain sales targets. But to receive an award, the employee had to sign a third agreement, a Restrictive Covenant Agreement, which imposed still more post-employment restrictions on the employee. Among other things, the Restrictive Covenant Agreement essentially prohibited the employee for two years after termination from soliciting all current and prospective ADP customers, whether or not the employee was “involved or exposed” to the customer while employed by ADP. The Restrictive Covenant Agreement also contained a geographic...
Tagged: Chancery Practice
Delaware Supreme Court Orders Production of Emails in Response to Section 220 Demand and Refuses to Restrict Knock-On Litigation to Delaware
In KT4 Partners LLC v. Palantir Technologies Inc., the Delaware Supreme Court required a corporation to produce emails in response to a “books and records” demand under 8 Del. C. §220; it also refused to limit any knock-on litigation on the merits to the Delaware Court of Chancery. KT4 is a stockholder in Palantir and received certain rights under a series of Investor Rights Agreements and a First Refusal and Co-Sale Agreement. After a falling out between KT4 and Palantir’s management, Palantir amended the Investor Rights Agreement in ways detrimental to KT4. KT4 responded with a request to inspect Palantir’s “books and records” pursuant to 8 Del. C. §220, which entitles a stockholder to inspect a corporation’s “books and records” if, and to the extent that, the requested inspection “is for a proper purpose.” Palantir refused to comply, and KT4 filed a §220 action in the Delaware Court of Chancery to compel production of the requested documents. The Court of Chancery ruled that KT4 had a statutory “proper purpose” of investigating three areas of potential corporate wrongdoing: 1) Palantir’s failure to hold stockholder meetings, 2) Palantir’s amendment of the Investor Rights Agreement, and 3) Palantir’s potential breach of the Investor...
New Jersey Chancery Division Adopts Watered-Down Trulia Standard and Approves Disclosure-Only Settlement of Merger Litigation
Nearly three years ago, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued its landmark opinion in In re Trulia, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, in which Chancellor Bouchard strongly criticized the use of disclosure-only settlements in class-action merger challenges and subjected such settlements to a heightened level of judicial review. In a disclosure-only settlement the merging parties agree to enhance their disclosures about the challenged merger in exchange for a broad release from a settlement class comprised of their shareholders. According to Chancellor Bouchard, all too often the enhanced disclosures in such settlements provide little, if any, value to the shareholders, while class counsel get large fee awards and the corporations get “deal insurance” because their shareholders have released them and their boards from liability arising from the transaction. Because disclosure-only settlements so rarely give meaningful relief to the shareholders, Chancellor Bouchard held that a court should approve them only if “the supplemental disclosures address a plainly material misrepresentation or omission and the subject matter of the proposed release is narrowly circumscribed.” In the first published New Jersey state court opinion addressing the Trulia standard, the Chancery Division in Strougo v. Ocean Shore Holding Co. followed Trulia in holding that disclosure-only settlements are to be...
Delaware Chancery Court Rejects Appraisal Rights for Stockholders Who Relinquish Control of their Corporation Through Merger Involving a Special Merger Subsidiary
Delaware law generally grants appraisal rights to shareholders of corporations involved in statutory mergers or consolidations. But, what are the rights of shareholders when control of their corporation is relinquished through a merger between a specially-created merger subsidiary and another corporation? According to Chancellor Bouchard’s recent opinion, the shareholders have no appraisal rights because they do not own shares in a “constituent corporation in the merger.” Chancellor Bouchard also found that the shareholders are not entitled to appraisal rights because they will retain their shares in the parent corporation in the contemplated transaction. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., a publicly-traded corporation, and Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., a privately-held corporation, wanted to combine their businesses. They therefore agreed to a so-called reverse triangular merger, pursuant to which (1) Dr. Pepper will create a new subsidiary, (2) that subsidiary will be merged into Keurig’s owner, Maple Parent Holdings Corp., and (3) Maple Parent will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dr. Pepper. In addition, Maple Parent will pay a $9 billion dividend to Dr. Pepper and receive enough shares in Dr. Pepper to give it a controlling 87% share of Dr. Pepper’s common stock. Maple Parent’s $9 billion payment to Dr. Pepper will...
Delaware Supreme Court Gives Preclusive Effect to Federal Court Dismissal of Derivative Suit for Failure to Show Demand Futility
In its highly anticipated opinion in California State Teachers’ Retirement System v. Alvarez, the Delaware Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a group of Delaware shareholders’ derivative actions, holding that a previous dismissal by a federal court for failure to plead demand futility precluded other shareholders from pursuing additional derivative actions so long as the other shareholders were adequately represented in the earlier suit. Following the New York Times 2012 exposure of Wal-Mart executives’ alleged mishandling of bribery allegations, Wal-Mart shareholders brought derivative suits in the Western District of Arkansas and the Delaware Court of Chancery. In May 2015, the Arkansas court dismissed the case before it, because the shareholders had failed to adequately plead demand futility. Prompted by the Arkansas dismissal, the Delaware Court of Chancery initially dismissed the Delaware action, but, after some ping-ponging back and forth between the Court of Chancery and the Delaware Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery issued a supplemental opinion, recommending that the Supreme Court adopt a rule proposed in EZCORP Inc. Consulting Agreement Deriv. Litig., which held that constitutional Due Process permits a derivative suit to have a preclusive effect on a subsequent derivative suit only if the plaintiff in the first...
Delaware Supreme Court Clarifies Reach of Personal Jurisdiction Over Nonresident Directors and Officers of Delaware Corporations Under 10 Del. C. § 3114
The Delaware Supreme Court, in Marc Hazout v. Tsang Mun Ting, No. 353, 2015 (Feb. 26, 2016) (Strine, C.J.), held that the reach of personal jurisdiction under 10 Del. C. § 3114 over nonresident officers and directors of Delaware corporations, contrary to Court of Chancery precedent, is not limited to claims by stockholders against such officers and directors for breach of fiduciary duty. Rather, under the plain language of the statute, a nonresident officer or director of a Delaware corporation, by virtue of accepting and holding office, has consented to personal jurisdiction in Delaware, subject to the requirements of due process, in two classes of cases: (i) “all civil actions or proceedings brought in this State, by or on behalf of, or against such corporation, in which such officer [or director] is a necessary or proper party”; or (ii) “any action or proceeding against such officer [or director] in violation of a duty in such capacity.”
On December 16, 2013, in a published decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Waste Management of New Jersey, Inc. v. Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority clarified the standard governing interlocutory injunctions in New Jersey state courts. The court held that a trial judge’s denial of an interlocutory injunction based solely on the determination that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on the merits constituted reversible error because “the judge mistakenly overlooked his authority to impose interlocutory relief to preserve the parties’ positions and subject matter of the suit[.]” Stated otherwise, Waste Management holds that one can obtain an injunction preserving the status quo even where he or she cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits.
New Jersey Chancery Division Determines Insurance Agents are Not Franchises for Purposes of the New Jersey Franchise Practices Act
New Jersey insurers and insurance agents must be aware that agents are not entitled to the broad protections of the New Jersey Franchise Practices Act (“NJFPA”) pursuant to a recent Chancery Division decision in DeLuca v. Allstate Insurance Co., in which the Court held that insurance agents do not meet the definition of a “franchise.” The Court thus concluded that Allstate Insurance Company was free to terminate its agents pursuant to the terms of their respective agency agreements, which permitted termination with or without cause.
Creditors of Insolvent Delaware Limited Liability Companies Lack Standing to Pursue Derivative Claims
Relying on the plain language of Delaware’s Limited Liability Company Act, the Delaware Supreme Court, in CML V, LLC v. John Bax, et al., recently ruled that creditors of insolvent Delaware limited liability companies lack standing to sue derivatively for their managers’ alleged breach of their fiduciary duties. According to Chief Justice Myron T. Steele, writing for the Court, 6 Del. C. § 18-1002 of Delaware’s Limited Liability Company Act is “unambiguous and limits derivative standing in LLCs exclusively to ‘member[s]’ or ‘assignee[s].’” In so holding, the Court distinguished insolvent LLCs from insolvent corporations, which are subject to derivative claims by creditors, noting that “the General Assembly is free to elect a statutory limitation on derivative standing for LLCs that is different than that for corporations, and thereby preclude creditors from attaining standing.”
Delaware Supreme Court Endorses Reasonable “Conceivability” on Motion to Dismiss Over Twombly-Iqbal’s “Plausibility” Standard
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly in 2007 and Ashcroft v. Iqbal in 2009, many Delaware Court of Chancery decisions have applied the Twombly-Iqbal “plausibility” standard in ruling on motions to dismiss. In its recent decision in Central Mortgage Company v. Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Holdings LLC, however, the Delaware Supreme Court refused to apply the Twombly-Iqbal “plausibility” standard and, instead, held that — at least for now — Delaware’s less stringent reasonable “conceivability” standard is what governs motions to dismiss in Delaware courts.