As discussed in a previous post, the Delaware General Assembly has tabled its consideration of a bill that would ban fee-shifting bylaws for traditional corporations until the next legislative session. This legislative push followed the Delaware Supreme Court’s holding, in responding to certified questions of law, that “fee shifting provisions in a non-stock corporation’s bylaws can be valid and enforceable under Delaware law”. See ATP Tour, Inc., et al. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund (German Tennis Federation), et al., No. 534, 2013 (Del. Supr. May 8, 2014). The fee-shifting bylaws being considered are designed to shift the company’s costs (including attorneys’ fees) of successfully defending against litigation prosecuted by a company’s stockholders to the stockholder plaintiff. As one might imagine, such a scenario might be seen as a “game changer” with regard to shareholder representative litigation.
While once somewhat of a novelty, the creation and adoption of specialized business or commercial courts—designed to adjudicate complex business and commercial disputes in an efficient manner to meet the needs of a jurisdiction’s corporate and commercial citizens—continues to mature. Moreover, the resources available discussing these specialized courts or dockets are constantly expanding.
As of April 1st, the Delaware General Corporation Law contains a new § 204, which provides Delaware corporations with a statutory safe harbor procedure for ratifying acts or transactions (including stock issuances) that due to a “failure of authorization” would be void or voidable. A copy of the Synopsis and Bill are attached here.
This is an important addition to the DGCL, as it allows companies to “clean up” certain prior missteps in approving corporate events, and represents the General Assembly’s intent to overturn case law such as STARR Surgical Co. v. Waggoner, 588 A.2d 1130 (Del. 1990), which made it difficult to ratify or otherwise seek validation on equitable grounds acts that were taken but not in strict compliance with the DGCL or the company’s governing documents.
Drafting minutes of meetings—particularly for meetings of boards of directors or special committees of boards—is an art rather than a science, and while there are certainly many ways to accurately record the proceedings, understanding the ways minutes might be used later is very important.
In the world of Delaware corporate law, minutes of board meetings often play a pivotal role in shareholder litigation challenging the acts of the directors. Indeed, in a recent high-profile decision in which the Court of Chancery refused to enjoin the annual meeting for Sotheby’s in the face of a vigorous proxy fight, the Vice Chancellor’s opinion remarks upon the contents of board minutes on several occasions, and in a manner that provides some practical tips for consideration when drafting minutes. See, Third Point LLC v. Ruprecht, et al., C.A. Nos. 9469-VCP; 9497-VCP, Mem. Op. (Del. Ch. May 2, 2014).
On May 8, 2014, the Delaware Supreme Court issued an en banc response to certified questions of law from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, in which the Supreme Court held that a “fee shifting” bylaw provision in a non-stock corporation’s bylaws “can be valid and enforceable under Delaware law.” ATP Tour, Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund (German Tennis Federation), et al., No. 534, 2013 (Del. May 8, 2014). The bylaw at issue would shift the company’s defense fees and costs to a member who had sued the company (or any other member) and was unsuccessful in “substantially achiev[ing], in substance and amount, the full remedy sought” in the litigation.
While not necessarily “breaking news” at this point, as of August 1, 2013, the Delaware General Corporation Law was amended to make two-step mergers—tender offers with back-end mergers—easier to complete. Pursuant to new § 251(h), third-party acquirors and targets may enter into merger agreements that specifically opt in to this statute and will allow the acquiror to complete the second-stage merger without a shareholder vote if the acquiror obtains a sufficient number of shares in the opening tender offer (usually more than 50%) that its vote alone would be sufficient to approve the merger.
The lawyers of the Wilmington, DE, office of Duane Morris LLP are pleased to announce the launch of a new blog designed to highlight developments in all aspects of Delaware Business Law. Readers who follow the blog will receive timely reports on: (1) important new opinions from the Delaware Supreme Court, Delaware’s Court of Chancery, and the Complex Commercial Division of the Superior Court; (2) announcements and analysis of amendments to Delaware’s General Corporation Law and alternative-entity statutes; (3) important developments in IP law from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware; and (4) news from Delaware’s Bankruptcy Court.