From time to time, I am asked to speak directly to corporate boards of directors. I find these opportunities endlessly fascinating. Among other things, I learn so much from the directors’ questions. One frequently recurring question I get is:  what can directors do to avoid litigation or to be in a position better defend themselves if they are sued. The first thing I always talk about when asked these kinds of question is the importance of board minutes. Because this is one of my go-to talking points when I meet with boards, I was particularly pleased to see the recent post on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance blog written by Leo E. Strine, Jr., the former Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice and Chancellor, in which Strine highlights the importance of board minutes in corporate litigation. Strine’s comments are essential reading for anyone concerned with the liabilities of corporate directors. Strine’s April 4, 2024 article can be found here.Continue Reading The Importance of Board Minutes

In a January 25, 2023, opinion in the McDonald’s case that has become known as McDonald’s I, Delaware Vice Chancellor Travis Laster held, as discussed in detail here, that liability for breach of the duty of oversight can extend to corporate officers as well as to directors. While there have been subsequent cases that have raised breach of the duty of oversight claims against officers, there have been no published decisions analyzing the duty of oversight as pertains to officers — that is, until now.

In a short December 14, 2023, opinion that emphasizes the high bar for oversight claims against officers, Vice Chancellor Lori Will dismissed claims that the personal transportation device company Segway brought against its former President. VC Will expressly rejected any suggestion that the standard to plead an oversight breach claim against a corporate officer is any lower than the high standards applicable to oversight claims against directors. A copy of VC Will’s opinion can be found here.Continue Reading Delaware Court: High Barrier for Oversight Claims Against Officers

By now, readers are well aware that ESG has become a politically divisive issue. In a series of variations on this theme, two conservative legal commentators, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column, argue that ESG is a trojan horse for progressive political objectives that, if Delaware’s courts continue their current course, could cost the state its privileged position as the preferred jurisdiction for corporate organization. The November 25, 2023 Journal op-ed, which was written by former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Washington Attorney and former Department of Labor official Jonathan Berry, and is entitled “Delaware is Trying Hard to Drive Away Corporations,” can be found here.Continue Reading Will Delaware’s Embrace of an “ESG Agenda” Cause Corporations to Flee?

There have recently been a number of Delaware court decisions relating to the Duty of Oversight. In the following guest post, Frederick M Zauderer, Esq., Senior Vice President, Head of Complex Claims – North American Liability at AXIS Capital Holdings, Ltd., Joseph P. Monteleone, Esq., Partner at Weber Gallagher, and Alvin H. Fenichel, CPA, Senior Advisor at H.S. Grace & Company, Inc., take a look at the recent Delaware Duty of Oversight decisions and consider their implications. A version of this article previously was published on the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Docket site (here).   I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their article 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: Board Oversight Duties: Recent Adventures in the Delaware Chancery

If you own a device connected to the Internet, then you know that on Tuesday Dominion Voting Systems and Fox Corp. agreed to a $787.5 million settlement of Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against Fox relating to Fox News’s coverage of the 2020 Presidential election and its aftermath. The settlement doesn’t mean the end of related litigation, however; there is, for example, the separate lawsuit that voting-machine company Smartmatic brought against Fox Corp. in New York state court that remains pending. There are a host of other lawsuits that Dominion is pursuing related the 2020 Presidential election conspiracy theories, including, for example, lawsuits against Mike Lindell, the MyPillow executive, and news outlets such as Newsmax.

And then there is the derivative lawsuit that a Fox Corp. shareholder filed in Delaware Chancery Court last week against Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and four other Fox executives, in which the plaintiff alleges that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by permitting the company’s news subsidiary to make false reports about the 2020 presidential election in order to avoid losing viewers. The shareholder suit, in and of itself, presents some interesting issues, but in light of Tuesday’s settlement in the Dominion lawsuit, and the threatening prospects of the additional litigation still pending against Fox Corp., the shareholder lawsuit may now be even more interesting.Continue Reading The Derivative Suit Against the Fox Board Just Got a Lot More Interesting

Delaware’s courts traditionally have said that breach of the duty of oversight claims (sometimes referred to as Caremark claims) are “possibly the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment.” However, in series of cases following the Delaware Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Marchand v. Barnhill, Delaware courts have sustained a number of breach of the duty of oversight claims. More recently, Vice Chancellor Laster, in a pair of decisions in the McDonald’s case, elaborated significantly on the reach of duty of oversight. Among other things, Laster made it clear that the duty extends to corporate officers as well as to directors. Some commentators (including me) were concerned that Laster’s elaborations could lead to further lawsuits alleging breach of the duty of oversight.

Now, in what is the first high-profile post-McDonald’s Caremark claim of which I am aware, a group of four institutional investors has brought a breach of the duty of oversight claim against certain directors and officers of Meta, alleging that the executives failed to take sufficient action with respect to allegations that the company’s social media sites were being used for human trafficking. The new complaint appears to have been shaped to reflect many of the implications arising from Laster’s decisions in the McDonald’s case. A copy of the redacted public version of the plaintiffs’ March 20, 2023, complaint in the Meta case can be found here.Continue Reading Meta Board and Execs Hit with Oversight Duty Breach Claim Based on Trafficking Allegations

In the latest development in the Delaware courts’ evolving elucidation of the standards surrounding claims for breach of the duty of oversight – sometimes referred to as Caremark claims — a Delaware Court has held that the board of McDonald’s cannot be held liable for an alleged oversight duty breach in connection with the alleged scandals at the company involving sexual harassment allegations. This ruling in the directors’ favor follows closely after the same court’s recent ruling in the same case that the plaintiffs had stated a claim against an officer defendant for breach of the duty of oversight. The court’s recent rulings in the case provide extensive additional insights with respect to what must be alleged to establish a Caremark claim. Vice Chancellor Laster’s March 1, 2023, opinion in the case, dismissing the claims against the McDonald’s directors, can be found here.Continue Reading Breach of Duty of Oversight Claims Against McDonald’s Directors Dismissed

In a shareholder claim against the former global head of HR at McDonald’s, the Delaware Chancery Court has held that liability for breach of the duty of oversight, which Delaware courts had previously extended only to corporate directors, can also extend to corporate officers, as well. In addition, in a separate part of the opinion that may not gain as much attention as the duty of oversight ruling, the same court also held that a breach of fiduciary duty claim can be alleged against an officer based on sexual harassment allegations. The court’s January 25, 2023 opinion in this case, a copy of which can be found here, is likely to be the subject of scrutiny, commentary, and controversy.Continue Reading Breach of the Duty of Oversight Liability Extends to Officers as Well as Directors

As readers of this blog know, there have been important case law developments in Delaware concerning boards’ duty of oversight. In the following guest post, the authors review the key recent developments and consider the practical implications for boards. The authors of this paper are: Sebastian M. Alia, Deputy General Counsel, Hudson Insurance Group; H. Stephen Grace, Ph.D., President, H.S. Grace & Company, Inc.: Alvin H. Fenichel, CPA, Senior Advisor, H.S. Grace & Company, Inc.; and Joseph P. Monteleone, Esq., Partner, Weber Gallagher. A version of this article previously was published in the ACC Docket. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their articles 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: How To Structure a Board to Oversee Mission-Critical Activities

A claim alleging a board’s breach of duty of oversight has long been regarded as one of the most difficult for a plaintiff to sustain. But after the Delaware Supreme Court’s 2019 opinion in Marchand v. Barnhill, breach of the duty of oversight claims (or Caremark claims, as they are sometimes called) have in recent years, as Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock put in in his recent opinion in the SolarWinds case, “bloomed like dandelions after a warm spring rain.” Some commentators questioned whether oversight breach claims were in fact as difficult to sustain as is so often said. However, in his recent opinion, the Vice Chancellor emphasized the oversight breach claims remain “one of the most difficult claims” to sustain and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the cybersecurity-related oversight breach claims asserted against the board of Solar Winds.  A copy of Vice Chancellor Glasscock’s September 6, 2022 opinion in the SolarWinds case can be found here.
Continue Reading Del. Court Dismisses Cybersecurity-Related Oversight Claim Against SolarWinds Board