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
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank is one of those singular events, charged with implications and fraught with dangerous possibilities, but that is also still so recent that it is difficult to discern what it ultimately will mean. Earlier this week, in an excellent webinar presented by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at the…
As readers of this blog know, the various board diversity lawsuits that the plaintiffs’ lawyers filed in late 2020 and early 2021 have uniformly fared poorly in the courts. In the latest dismissal motion ruling in one of these suits, the court in the board diversity suit filed against the directors of Cisco Systems has granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, albeit without prejudice. The court’s ruling in the Cisco Systems board diversity suit is noteworthy because the court addressed the merits of the plaintiff’s Section 14(a) claims. A copy of the court’s March 1, 2022 dismissal order can be found here.
Continue Reading Board Diversity Suit Against Cisco Systems’ Directors Dismissed
The “economic structure” of SPACs creates an ‘inherent conflict” between the SPAC sponsor and the SPAC’s public shareholders, according to a new paper from two leading law professors. The conflict arises from the SPAC sponsor’s financial interest in completing a merger even if the merger is not value-creating, which may conflict with the shareholders’ interest in redeeming their shares if they believe that the proposed merger is disadvantageous. Because of the potential conflict, it is critical that the SPAC’s board independently reviews the proposed merger and inform shareholders about the merger with appropriate candor. However, if the board members’ compensation aligns their interests with those of the sponsor, the sponsor’s conflict could extend to the directors themselves – a circumstance the paper’s authors call the “epitome of bad governance.”
The solution, the authors suggest, is for the SPAC to structure the board members’ compensation in a way that aligns the directors’ financial interests with those of the shareholders. Moreover, the authors contend, courts reviewing shareholders’ allegations that a SPAC’s board members breached their fiduciary duties should consider the potential for conflict inherent in the SPAC’s structure and accordingly review the underlying circumstances using the “entire fairness” standard. These considerations are relevant to cases now pending in the Delaware courts, which have the potential to be “groundbreaking.” Stanford Law Professor Michael Klausner and NYU Law Professor Michael Ohlrogge’s November 19, 2021 paper entitled “SPAC Governance: In Need of Judicial Review” can be found here.
Continue Reading SPACs’ Structural Conflicts, Shareholder Litigation, and Judicial Review
The filing of data breach and other cybersecurity incident-related shareholder derivative lawsuits against corporate boards is nothing new; plaintiffs’ lawyers have been filing these kinds of claims now for several years. However, in recent months, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have shown an increasing inclination to file these claims based on allegations of breach of the duty of oversight. The latest example of this type of claim is the shareholder derivative suit filed this week against the board of T-Mobile USA. Although the plaintiff’s complaint does not expressly use the words “breach of the duty of oversight” or refer to “Caremark duties,” the complaint does refer to the board’s alleged “failure to monitor” and to the board’s alleged failure “to heed red flags” – the very kind of allegations that are at the heart of breach of the duty of oversight claims. A copy of the plaintiff’s complaint in the November 29, 2021 lawsuit can be found here.
Continue Reading Data Breach-Related Derivative Suit Filed Against T-Mobile USA Board
In the latest example of claimants seeking to assert the newly revitalized type of claim for breach of the duty of oversight against corporate boards, plaintiff shareholders have filed a derivative lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court against certain past and current directors of technology company SolarWinds, based on the massive cybersecurity incident involving the company’s software and systems discovered in December 2020. As discussed below, there are several interesting features of this lawsuit in light of recent developments involving claims for alleged breaches of the duty of oversight. A copy of the heavily redacted publicly available version of the plaintiffs’ complaint against the SolarWinds board can be found here.
Continue Reading Cybersecurity-Related Breach of the Duty of Oversight Claim Filed Against SolarWinds Board
Regular readers will recall that last year and earlier this year, plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a series of shareholder derivative lawsuits against the directors of several companies alleging that the lack of diversity on the companies’ boards breached the directors’ fiduciary duties. In the latest ruling to address preliminary motions in these various cases, the court in the board diversity lawsuit filed against directors and officers of Oracle has granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. As discussed in greater detail below, the plaintiffs’ track record on the board diversity lawsuits is not good so far; the ruling in the Oracle suit represents the third successive dismissal granted in these suits.
Continue Reading Dismissal Motion Granted in Oracle Board Diversity Lawsuit
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
In a March 2021 paper entitled “Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance” (here), the UK government set out a number of proposed reforms in order to try to increase trust in corporate governance, including, among other things, proposed new company reporting requirements. In the following guest post, Andrew Milne discusses the potential implications for UK directors from the reform proposals under consideration. Andrew is a Senior Associate at the CMS law firm, and a co-author of the UK Chapter in Directors’ Liability and Indemnification. I would like to thank Andrew for allowing me to publish his 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 Andrew’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: UK Sarbanes Oxley?
On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, I will be participating in a PLUS webinar entitled “New Risks of Claims Against Directors from COVID-19, Cyber Attacks, and The Growing Support for ESG and Diversity and Inclusion.” The webinar will be hosted by Greg Markel of the Seyfarth Shaw law firm. The panel will include Paul Lavelle, of…