On January 30, 2024, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick issued a 200-page post-trial opinion voiding the $55 billion compensation package that the Tesla board had approved for the company’s CEO, Elon Musk. In the following guest post, Priya Huskins, Esq., Senior Vice President at Woodruff Sawyer, takes a detailed look at Chancellor McCormick’s opinion
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
Public company D&O insurance policies provide entity coverage (that is, insurance for the benefit of the insured organization) only for “Securities Claims.” But what is a “Securities Claim”? That is the question that Delaware’s courts have grappled with in a long-running dispute between the telecommunications company Verizon and its insurers.
The Delaware Superior Court had…
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?
Some D&O insurance policy exclusions are written with the broad “based upon, arising out of, in any way relating to” preamble. These exclusions sweep broadly, precluding coverage for a wide range of claims. The ever-present question when insurers seek to rely on these exclusions’ sweeping reach is: how broad of a reach it too broad? What is the outer limit of these exclusions’ preclusive effect?
In a decision that is worth reading closely, the Delaware Supreme Court recently concluded that, despite its broad preamble, a management liability insurance policy’s professional services exclusion did not apply to preclude coverage for the underlying claim. The decision not only explores important questions about the reach of exclusions with the broad preamble, but it also underscores the deeper question about the use of the broad preamble for these types of exclusions in the first place. The Delaware Supreme Court’s September 14, 2023, opinion in the case can be found here.Continue Reading The “Broad Preamble” Problem in D&O Insurance Exclusions
In the wake of the 2019 merger of Viacom and CBS that formed ViacomCBS (later renamed Paramount Global), former shareholders of both CBS and Viacom filed separate D&O liability lawsuits. As discussed here, the CBS shareholders’ lawsuit settled $165.5 million. The separate Viacom shareholders’ lawsuit settled for $122.5 million, and now the battle has shifted to insurance coverage litigation in which the Viacom’s excess insurers contend that coverage for the settlement is precluded by the primary policy’s Bump-Up Provision.
In an interesting August 10, 2023, opinion, Delaware Superior Court Judge Sheldon K. Rennie, applying Delaware law, granted Viacom’s motion for partial summary judgment, holding that the Bump-Up Provision does not preclude coverage for the settlement. As discussed below, Judge Rennie’s holding turned on the nature of the transaction in which Viacom and CBS merged, and, even more significantly, on the contrast between the wording of the Bump-Up Provision, on the one hand, and other policy provisions dealing with merger situations, on the other hand. A copy of Judge Rennie’s opinion can be found here.Continue Reading Bump-Up Provision Does Not Bar Viacom Shareholders’ Suit Settlement Coverage
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
In what is as far as I know the largest shareholder derivative lawsuit settlement ever as measured by dollar value, the defendant board members in the Tesla Board compensation derivative suit have agreed to settle the case for a combination of payments and transfers with a total value of $735 million. The agreement settles a Delaware Chancery Court lawsuit that a public pension fund shareholder filed against the board in June 2020 alleging that the since at least 2017 the board had received “unfair and excessive” compensation. The settlement is subject to court approval. A copy of the parties’ stipulation of settlement in the case, filed with the court on July 14, 2023, can be found here.Continue Reading Tesla Board Compensation Derivative Suit Settles for $735 Million
On June 1, 2023, in a much-anticipated decision, the Ninth Circuit held, in a split en banc decision in the long-running board diversity lawsuit filed against the board of The Gap, that the provision in the company’s bylaws designating a Delaware state court forum for derivative actions was enforceable, even as to claims asserted derivatively under Section 14(a), and, accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the action. The decision, which validates company’s use of these kinds of forum selection clauses, also creates a split in the federal judicial circuits which could mean that the issue could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s decision can be found here.Continue Reading Ninth Circuit En Banc Ruling Upholds Forum Selection Clause
As I have chronicled on this blog (most recently, here), a wave of litigation has followed in the wake of the SPAC boom in late 2020 and early 2021. Since January 1, 2021, over 60 SPAC-related securities class actions have been filed, and there has also been a number of Delaware state court breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits, as well. Although many of these suits have only just been filed and therefore have not yet been subjected to judicial scrutiny, there have been several dismissal motion rulings in a number of these cases. A May 2023 memo from the Jones Day law firm entitled “SPAC Litigation: A Review of Recent Developments” (here) reviews the state of play in the various judicial rulings so far in the SPAC-related cases. As the memo notes, “many high-profile suits have recently survived motions to dismiss (at least in part), and at least one has been resolved through a significant settlement.”Continue Reading Key SPAC-Related Litigation Developments