Shareholders Derivative Litigation

In what is one of the largest derivative lawsuit settlements ever, and — according to the statement from one of the co-lead plaintiffs in the case — the largest settlement ever in Delaware of a Caremark/breach of the duty of oversight case, the parties to the Boeing 737 Max Crash shareholder derivative suit in Delaware Chancery Court have agreed to settle the case for a payment of $237.5 million, all of which is to be funded by D&O insurance. As part of the settlement, the company also agreed to adopt several safety and oversight protocols and other corporate governance measures. The settlement is subject to court approval. A copy of the November 5, 2021 statement of the co-lead plaintiff, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, about the settlement can be found here. A copy of the parties’ settlement stipulation can be found here.
Continue Reading Boeing Air Crash Derivative Lawsuit Settles for $237.5 Million

For those whose job it is to worry about the U.S. litigation risk for non-U.S. companies, the focus historically has been on the risk of U.S. securities class action litigation. However, as detailed in a new white paper from AIG and the Clyde & Co law firm, over the last 18 months a small group of U.S. plaintiffs’ law firms has filed a series of shareholder derivative lawsuits in U.S. courts on behalf of non-U.S. companies and alleging violations of the companies’ home country laws. As discussed below, these lawsuits potentially could represent a significant new source of U.S. litigation exposure and D&O liability risk for directors and officers of non-U.S. companies. A copy of the paper, which is entitled “Shareholders Increasingly Targeting D&Os of Foreign Companies in New York Derivative Actions,” can be found here.
Continue Reading Litigation Alert: U.S. Derivative Lawsuits Against Boards of Non-U.S. Companies

In one of the largest shareholder derivative lawsuit settlements ever, involving a very unusual derivative claim under Cayman Island law prosecuted in a U.S. court on behalf of a China-based Cayman Islands company, the parties to the Renren derivative litigation have agreed to settle the case for at least $300 million. The settlement is subject to a “true up” process that could increase the ultimate amount of the settlement payments. The settlement is also subject to court approval. The parties’ October 7, 2021 settlement stipulation can be found here. Renren’s October 8, 2021 press release about the settlement can be found here. An October 8, 2021 press release from the lead plaintiff’s counsel about the settlement can be found here.
Continue Reading N.Y. Derivative Suit Against China-Based Cayman Islands Company Settles for $300 Million

Last month, when the Delaware Court of Chancery sustained the breach of the duty of oversight claim against the Boeing board, some observers suggested we could see an increase in board oversight breach lawsuits. We may yet see more breach of the duty of oversight claims, but another more recent Delaware Chancery Court decision in the Marriott data breach shareholder derivative suit suggests claimants still face an uphill battle in asserting these kinds of claims. On October 5, 2021, Delaware Vice Chancellor Lori Will granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss in the case, in part on grounds related to the plaintiff’s breach of the duty of oversight claims. As discussed below, the ruling could have particular significance with respect to the prospects for claims of breach of the duty of oversight relating to cybersecurity issues. A copy of Vice Chancellor Will’s opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Cybersecurity-Related Oversight Duty Breach Claim Against Marriott Board Dismissed

In the following guest post, Gregory A. Markel, Paul Ferrillo, Daphne Morduchowitz and Sarah A. Fedner take a look at and consider the implications of the Delaware Supreme Court’s September 23, 2021 decision in United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. Zuckerberg, et al, in which the Court articulated a new test for determining whether demand is excused as futile in shareholder derivative actions under Delaware law. Greg, Paul, and Daphne are partners and Sarah is an associate at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Director Liability in the Wake of the New Delaware Demand Futility Test

In an important decision that highlights the liability exposures facing corporate boards for claims alleging breaches of the duty of oversight, a Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor denied in substantial part the defendants’ motion to dismiss in the shareholder derivative suit pending against the board of Boeing relating to the 737 Max air crashes. The court concluded that the plaintiff had sufficiently alleged that the company’s board had breached its oversight obligations by failing to establish safety oversight mechanisms prior to the October 2018 Lion Air crash and ignoring red flags about safety issues after the Lion Air crash and before the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash. Vice-Chancellor Morgan Zurn’s September 7, 2021 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Del. Court Substantially Denies Boeing Duty of Oversight Claim Dismissal Motion

Starting last summer and through the early part of this year, plaintiffs’ lawyers filed several shareholder derivative lawsuits against the boards of a number of companies alleging that the directors had breached their fiduciary duties by failing to include African American individuals on their boards. As I have detailed in previous posts (most recently here), these suits have not fared well, as courts have granted the motions to dismiss each of the cases in which courts have ruled on dismissal motions. In the past week, the courts in two more of these cases – involving the boards of NortonLifeLock and OPKO Health – granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss. The August 30, 2021 order in the NortonLifeLock case can be found here and the September 1, 2021 order in the OPKO Health case can be found here.
Continue Reading Two More Board Diversity Lawsuits Dismissed

As I noted in prior posts (here and here), in the last few days a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers that includes former SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson and Yale Law Professor John Morley filed shareholder derivative suits against the boards of three SPACs alleging that the SPACs had improperly failed to register as investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940. In response, a group of 49 corporate law firms has now issued a joint statement decrying the lawsuits and trashing the plaintiffs’ arguments that SPACs are investment companies merely because the SPACs invest their IPO proceeds in trust accounts while seeking a merger partner. The corporate law firms’ joint statement sheds interesting light on the legal theories asserted in the new lawsuits. A copy of the August 27, 2021 joint statement can be found here.
Continue Reading 49 Corporate Law Firms Trash SPACs-Are-Investment-Companies Lawsuits

Last week, when a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a shareholder’s derivative suit against Bill Ackman’s SPAC seeking damages and alleging the company was really an Investment Company that should be registered under the Investment Company Act, I assumed the attorneys filed the suit because it was Ackman’s firm; because of the size and prominence of the SPAC; and because of Ackman’s unusual plan to invest the SPAC’s IPO proceeds in a minority interest. Well, it turns out, the plaintiffs’ lawyers involved were just getting started. They have now filed two more shareholders derivative suits against two other SPACs’ boards and sponsors, based on the same theory as in the Ackman SPAC suit that the SPACs involved are really Investment Companies that should be registered under the Investment Company Act. Looks like these SPACs-are-Investment-Companies suits are a thing now, and this could all get very interesting.
Continue Reading More SPACs-Are-Really-Investment-Companies Derivative Suits Filed

Regular readers know that I have been tracking SPAC-related securities class action lawsuits and other SPAC-related litigation. As I discuss in the second item below, the SPAC-related class actions have continued to be filed as the year has progressed. There have also been SPAC-related shareholder derivative lawsuits filed as well, but none quite like the derivative lawsuit filed this week on behalf of Wall Street investor William Ackerman’s SPAC vehicle, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings Ltd. against the SPAC’s directors and other defendants. The suit claims that the defendants structured massive compensation arrangements for the SPAC sponsor and the SPAC directors in violation of the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Continue Reading Bill Ackman’s SPAC’s Directors Hit With Derivative Suit Over “Staggering” Compensation