Federal Forum Provisions

After the Delaware Supreme Court’s March 2020 decision in Salzberg v. Sciabacucchi upholding the facial validity of corporate charter provisions designating federal court as the forum for Securities Act liability claims, several questions remained. Among the questions is whether others’ states courts will recognize and enforce federal forum provisions in Delaware corporations’ charters. This issue has been teed up for decision in a Section 11 lawsuit pending in San Mateo County court in California, in a case involving Dropbox. Dropbox has filed a motion urging the California state court to dismiss the action, in reliance on the federal forum provision in its corporate charter.

As discussed Alison Frankel’s July 13 post on her On the Case blog (here), a group of six ex-judges from Delaware has now entered an amicus brief on the issue in the case, urging the California court to recognize Delaware legal authority and enforce the federal forum provision in Dropbox’s charter. The Dropbox case, according to Frankel, is “shaping up as an early test of the application of the [Sciabacucchi decision] that forum selection clauses requiring shareholders to litigate Securities Act claims in federal court are facially valid because they concern the corporation’s internal affairs.”
Continue Reading California Court to Address Enforceability of Delaware Corporation’s Federal Forum Provision

In March 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Cyan that state courts retain concurrent jurisdiction for liability actions under the Securities Act of 1933. As a result, defendants could face the prospect of parallel litigation in both federal and state court, with no means of consolidating the proceedings. In the following guest post, Bruce G. Vanyo, Richard H. Zelichov, Michael J. Lohnes, and Jonathan Rotenberg, all of the Katten law firm, take a look at Cyan’s impact and review some recent positive developments that address some of the concerns Cyan has led to. 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: Section 11 Cases in State Court Post-Cyan – Is the Tide Turning?

The Delaware Supreme Court unanimously held that corporate charter provisions requiring claims under the Securities Act of 1933 to be litigated in federal court are facially valid. These kinds of provisions were proposed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 decision in Cyan affirming that state court’s retain concurrent jurisdiction for ’33 Act liability actions. However, in December 2018, the Delaware Chancery Court ruled that federal forum provisions are invalid and unenforceable. In its March 18, 2020 decision (here), the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Chancery Court, holding that federal forum provisions are a valid form of “private ordering.” The ruling has important implications, which are discussed below. And as also discussed below, there is a very interesting backstory – involving key D&O insurance industry players – to this successful appeal.
Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Holds Federal Forum Provisions Facially Valid

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 decision in the Cyan case that state courts retain concurrent jurisdiction for ’33 Act liability actions, one idea that circulated was that companies could avoid securities class action lawsuits in state court by adopting a charter provision designating a federal forum for these kinds of suits. Unfortunately, in December 2018, Delaware Chancery Court Vice Chancellor Travis Laster held in Sciabacucchi v. Salzburg that under Delaware law federal forum provisions are invalid and ineffective, as discussed here. The Sciabacucchi decision, which is now on appeal, is the subject of a comprehensive critique in a recent article by Stanford Law Professor Joseph Grundfest, entitled “The Limits of Delaware Corporate Law: Internal Affairs, Federal Forum Provisions, and Sciabacucchi” (here). Professor Grundfest argues that Sciabacucchi was wrongly decided and that a under a “straightforward” application of applicable Delaware statutory law, federal forum provisions are valid and permitted.
Continue Reading A Critique of the Delaware Chancery Court Decision on Federal Forum Provisions

As I noted at the time (here), on December 19, 2018, Delaware Vice Chancellor Later held that under Delaware law, a corporate charter provision specifying that liability actions under Section 11 of the Securities Act of 1934 must be brought in federal court are invalid and ineffective. A copy of Laster’s opinion in Sciabacucchi v. Salzburg (referred to below as the Blue Apron decision) can be found here. In the following guest post, Paul Ferrillo, Robert Horowitz, and Steven Margolin of the Greenberg Traurig law firm take a look at the Blue Apron decision and examine whether or not Congress will act to eliminate concurrent state court jurisdiction for state court claims. The authors also examine the steps companies should take now in light of the possibility of facing litigation in both state and federal court. I would like to thank the authors for their willingness to allow me to publish their article as a guest post. 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 an article. Here is the authors’ article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Section 11 Claims May Remain in State Court; How Will Companies and D&O Carriers Respond?

One idea circulating since the U.S. Supreme Court held in Cyan that state court Section 11 actions are not removable to federal court is that companies could avoid state court actions by adopting a federal forum bylaw or charter provision. Indeed, a number of companies recently have adopted these provisions prior to going public. Late last year, a shareholder of several IPO companies filed an action in Delaware Chancery Court seeking a judicial declaration that the companies’ Federal Forum Provisions are invalid. On December 19, 2018, Vice Chancellor Travis Laster issued a memorandum opinion agreeing with the plaintiff and holding that under Delaware law, Federal Forum Provisions are invalid and ineffective. A copy of Laster’s opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Holds Charter Provision Designating a Federal Forum for Section 11 Claims is Invalid