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?

The directors’ and officers’ liability environment is always changing, but 2020 was a particularly eventful year, with important consequences for the D&O insurance marketplace. The past year’s many developments also have significant implications for what may lie ahead in 2021 – and possibly for years to come.  I have set out below the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2020, with a focus on the future implications. Please note that on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST, my colleague Marissa Streckfus and I will be conducting a free, hour-long webinar in which we will discuss The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2020. Registration for the webinar can be found here. I hope you will please join us for the webinar.
Continue Reading The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2020

Brent Ashley

In a recent post (here), I reviewed the steps that well-advised companies can take in light of the current coronavirus outbreak to try to mitigate their risk of management liability claims arising out of the pandemic. In the following guest post, Brent Ashley of the Hirschler law firm takes a look at the steps corporate boards can take in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to try to insulate themselves against claims based on alleged breaches of the duty of oversight. I would like to thank Brent 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 Brent’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: 7 Steps for Ensuring Director Oversight During COVID-19

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

As I have noted in prior posts (most recently here), the current coronavirus outbreak presents corporate boards with a number of challenging issues. In the following guest post, Nick Goldin, Eric Swedenburg and Brad Goldberg of the Simpson Thacher law firm review the considerations that corporate boards should take into account as their companies grapple with the challenges that the pandemic poses. The authors extend their appreciation to Sarah Eichenberger for her substantial contributions to this piece. A version of this article previously was published as a Simpson Thacher client memorandum. 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: Considerations for Corporate Directors As Their Companies Confront COVID-19

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

In prior posts on this site (for example, here), I have noted the phenomenon of directors’ and officers’ liability claims arising in the wake of antitrust enforcement actions. These follow-on civil actions arguably represent one part of an increasing trend toward trying to hold individual directors and officers accountable for their companies’ antitrust violations. According to a recent paper, as a result of trends in relevant doctrines and enforcement policies, the risk to directors and officers from these developments is “likely to continue rising in the foreseeable future.” In his February 12, 2020 paper entitled “D&O Liability for Antitrust Violations” (here), University of Arizona Law Professor Barak Orbach details the developments contributing to these trends and reviews the implications for director and officer liability. Professor Orbach’s paper raises a number of interesting considerations, particularly from an insurance perspective, as discussed below.
Continue Reading Directors’ and Officers’ Antitrust Liability Risks and D&O Insurance Concerns