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

An important recent litigation phenomenon that I have been monitoring on this site is the recent revival of the duty of oversight as a legal theory on which plaintiffs can try to assert claims against corporate boards. Delaware’s court have recently sustained several of these kinds of claims – often referred to as “Caremark” claims in reference to the 1986 Delaware Court of Chancery decision that first recognized the legal theory behind these claims – and indeed on recent federal court decision sustained a breach of the duty of oversight claim under Ohio law. In light of these developments, boards will need to anticipate the possibility that these kinds of claims can arise, which possibility in turn raises the question of what boards can do to protect themselves from these kinds of claims.
Continue Reading The Duty of Oversight and the Need for Regular Board Review of Corporate Risk

One issue I have been monitoring on this site recently is the apparent revival of claims against corporate directors and officers for breach of the duty of oversight. Up until now, my focus has been on developments in Delaware’s courts. However, a recent Ohio federal district court decision in an opioid-related derivative suit against the board of the pharmaceutical distribution firm Cardinal Health examined issues addressed sufficiency of breach the duty of oversight allegations under Ohio law.

In an interesting February 8, 2021 decision (here) highlighting the fact these issues are relevant under other states’ laws, Southern District of Ohio Judge Sarah D. Morrison denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s breach of the duty of oversight claims against the Cardinal Health board, although she granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claim for waste of corporate assets.
Continue Reading Court Sustains Opioid-Related Duty of Oversight Breach Claims Against Cardinal Health Board

As I have noted in prior posts, there has been a recent renewed focus among observers of Delaware corporate case law development on breach of the duty of oversight claims (sometimes called Caremark claims in reference to the initial Court of Chancery decision elaborating on the duty of oversight). Indeed, at least one academic commentator has suggested, based on a series of Delaware court rulings during 2019-2020, that we have entered a “new era” of Caremark claims.

But though there have been a number of high profile cases in which breach of the duty of oversight claims have been sustained, a recent Delaware Court of Chancery decision underscores the fact that the pleading hurdles for these types of claims are still substantial, and, indeed, as discussed below, at least one set of commentators has suggested that this most recent decision raises the question whether the pleading bar for these types of claims has changed at all. The Delaware Court of Chancery’s December 31, 2020 decision in Richardson v. Clark can be found here.
Continue Reading Del. Chancery Court: Caremark Claims Against MoneyGram Board Not Sustained

One of the more noteworthy recent developments in corporate and securities litigation has been the resurgence of Delaware law “duty of oversight” claims, as I noted in my recent annual round-up of D&O liability issues. Delaware courts have sustained several of these kinds of “Caremark duty” claims, which until recently were distinctly disfavored – which raises the questions of why these claims are now proving viable, and whether the renewed risk of duty of oversight claims is here to stay? In a December 2020 paper entitled “A New Caremark Era: Causes and Consequences” (here), Professor Roy Shapira of IDC Herzliya Radzyner Law School identifies what he believes to be the causes of the recent revival of duty of oversights, and presents his view that the changes are here to stay. Professor Shapira’s views are summarized in a January 18, 2021 post (here) on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.
Continue Reading A “New Era” of Caremark Claims?

Although Delaware’s courts recognized a cause of action for directors’ breach of the duty of oversight in the 1996 Caremark decision, claims against directors based on alleged oversight duty breaches have long been seen as difficult to plead and prove. However, in two 2019 rulings – the Marchand v. Barnhill decision (discussed here) and the Clovis Oncology decision (discussed here) – Delaware courts allowed breach of the duty of oversight claims to proceed. Now in a more recent ruling, the Delaware Court of Chancery has allowed yet another duty of oversight claim to proceed.

As noted in a May 1, 2020 post on the Duane Morris Delaware Business Law Blog (here), the most recent Delaware duty of oversight ruling reinforces the view that “directors and officers who neglect their oversight responsibilities may be personally liable for resulting harm to the company and its stockholders.” The Delaware Court of Chancery’s April 27, 2020 decision in Hughes v. Hu can be found here.
Continue Reading Another Delaware Breach of the Duty of Oversight Case Survives Dismissal Motion

Many readers may have seen the news this past week that the estate of a deceased Walmart employee who had died of complications from COVID-19 has filed a Wrongful Death lawsuit against the company. According to the lawyer who filed the complaint, the lawsuit is the “first known COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuit.” Even though a Wrongful Death lawsuit is far outside this blog’s usual remit, I tracked the complaint down and read it carefully, in order to think more about possible future coronavirus blame casting that could arise in the D&O claims arena. While the wrongful death lawsuit may be the first of its type, it surely will not be the last, and its filing may foreshadow other possible claims.
Continue Reading Thinking About Coronavirus Blame and the Possible Course of D&O Claims

In the following guest post, Dan Gold, Thad Behrens, Kit Addleman, Emily Westridge Black, Carrie L. Huff, Timothy Newman, Matt McGee, and Odean L. Volker of the Haynes and Boone, LLP law firm review the key developments during 2019 in securities litigation and enforcement, including significant securities related decisions by the Supreme Court and federal appellate courts, key developments in SEC enforcement, and significant rulings in state law fiduciary litigation against directors and officers of public companies. A version of this article previously was published as a Haynes and Boone client alert. I would like to thank the authors for their willingness to allow 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: 2019 Securities Litigation: Key Takeaways and Trends

The liability environment for directors and officers is always in a state of change, but 2019 was a particularly eventful year in the D&O liability arena, with important consequences for the D&O insurance marketplace. The past year’s many developments have significant implications for what may lie ahead in 2020 – and possibly for years to come, as well.  I have set out below the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2019, with a focus on the future implications.
Continue Reading The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2019

Earlier this year, in Marchand v. Barnhill, the Delaware Supreme Court underscored that boards that fail to establish oversight procedures for their company’s mission critical functions can be held liable for breach of their Caremark duties. In an October 1, 2019 decision in the Clovis Oncology Derivative Litigation, the Delaware Chancery Court provided further perspective on directors’ potential liability for breaches of the duty of oversight. The Chancery court held, citing Marchand,  that boards not only must be able to show that they have made good faith efforts to implement an oversight system, but that also that they monitor the system – particularly when a company operates in a highly regulated industry.  The Chancery Court’s October 1, 2019 decision in the Clovis Oncology Derivative Litigation can be found here.
Continue Reading Caremark Duties Include Duty Not Only to Establish Oversight Processes but Also to Monitor Them