Forum selection clause

One of the hot topics in the world of corporate and securities litigation in recent years has been the use of forum selection bylaws as a way for companies to try to manage their litigation risk by steering corporate and securities litigation to a specified forum. Courts have largely upheld these provisions. For example, as noted in a recent post, an en banc ruling of the Ninth Circuit dismissed a plaintiff’s claim against the board of The Gap in reliance on a forum selection clause in the company’s bylaws, even though the dismissal effectively deprived the plaintiff of a forum for its derivative Section 14(a) claims.

Now in a further development, a federal district court judge, again in a reliance on a forum selection clause, has granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss in a SolarWinds cyber incident-related derivative suit, even though the dismissal means that the plaintiff has no forum in which to assert his derivative Exchange Act claims – most notably including the plaintiff’s derivative claims under Section 10(b). At a minimum, the ruling expands the reach of what a forum selection clause may achieve, and it possibly could increase the chances that these issues ultimately wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. A copy of the court’s July 12, 2023, order in the federal court derivative lawsuit can be found here. A July 14, 2023, post on about the ruling can be found here.Continue Reading Federal Court Derivative Suit Dismissed Based on Forum Selection Clause, Despite Exchange Act Claims

In the second dismissal motion ruling in one of the many board diversity lawsuits filed in recent months, a magistrate judge has granted the defendants’ dismissal motion in the suit against the board of clothing retailer The Gap. This latest ruling follows the dismissal motion grant last month in the similar lawsuit against Facebook’s board. As discussed below, the court’s dismissal of the case against The Gap’s board was based on the forum selection clause in the company’s bylaws. Northern District of California Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim’s April 27, 2021 ruling in the case can be found here.
Continue Reading Board Diversity Lawsuit Against The Gap Dismissed Based on Forum Clause

As I have documented on this site, over the last few months plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed a series of lawsuits against the directors of companies that allegedly lack African American representatives on their corporate boards. Many of these lawsuits, particularly at the outset of this litigation filing trend, were filed by the same law firm. Among the first of these lawsuits was a shareholder derivative lawsuit filed in July 2020 against the board of the social media company, Facebook. In an order dated March 19, 2021 (here), Northern District of California Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint. The dismissal was without prejudice with respect to the plaintiff’s proxy misrepresentation claims under Section 14(a). As discussed below, the court’s ruling could have important implications for the other pending (and prospective future) board diversity lawsuits.
Continue Reading Facebook Board Diversity Lawsuit Dismissal Motion Granted

One idea that resurfaces from time to time is the suggestion that companies ought to adopt bylaw or charter provisions mandating the arbitration of shareholder claims, including claims under the federal securities laws. The current SEC Chair, Jay Clayton, has said that he does not consider the issue to be a top priority, seemingly shelving the idea for the time being. But various contending parties have continued to agitate on the issue.

In a recent white paper issued by a consumer advocacy group and signed by a number of prominent securities law professors, the professors state their view that Delaware law does not permit federal securities law claims to be resolved in arbitration or in any specific forum. The white paper is sure to stir the pot. As discussed below, it could also have an impact on a case currently pending in Delaware state court that could dictate whether or not Delaware companies may designate a federal court forum for the resolution of claims under the federal securities laws.
Continue Reading Delaware Law and Mandatory Shareholder Claim Arbitration Provisions

For a time a few years ago, litigation management bylaws were all the rage. Driven by concerns about multi-forum merger-related litigation, commentators proposed company adoption of forum selection bylaws for internal corporate disputes. The debate widened when reformers suggested that companies adopt fee-shifting bylaws. The debate subsided in 2015 when the Delaware legislature adopted legislation authorizing the adopting of bylaws designating Delaware’s courts as the preferred forum for disputes under Delaware, but prohibiting fee-shifting bylaws.

The topic of litigation management bylaws resurfaced in recent months in connection with the debate about plaintiffs lawyers’ resorting to state court (primarily in California) to assert securities class action claims, in reliance on the concurrent jurisdiction provisions under the Section 22 of the Securities Act of 1933. Concerns about this kind of litigation has in turn precipitated various self-help measures companies could adopt to try to avoid getting hauled into state court for these kinds of suits.
Continue Reading Delaware Chancery Court Action Challenges Federal Forum Bylaws

gavelIn recent years, we approached the point where nearly every M&A transaction attracted one or more merger objection lawsuit, which all too often was resolved through a “disclosure only settlement” in which the defendant company agreed to make supplemental deal document disclosures and to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees, in exchange for a comprehensive release for the defendants. However, the courts in Delaware, the state where the majority of these cases were filed, have recently shown – in a series of rulings culminating with the Trulia decision last January — their unwillingness to approve these kinds of disclosure -only settlements where there is no material benefit for the company or its shareholders.
Continue Reading More About Litigation Reform Bylaws: Will “No Pay” Provisions Succeed Where Forum Selection Bylaws Have Failed?

delawareMany readers will recall that just a short time ago companies were actively experimenting to try to incorporate litigation management measures into their corporate bylaws. These efforts led to decisions by Delaware courts upholding both forum selection bylaws (about which refer here) and fee-shifting bylaws (refer here). Delaware’s legislature ultimately addressed these bylaw experimentation efforts by adopting statutory provisions allowing forum selection bylaws but prohibiting fee-shifting bylaws.

Following the enactment of this legislation, the payroll software services firm Paylocity adopted a bylaw provision designating Delaware as the forum for any shareholder disputes and holding any shareholder who filed an action outside Delaware and who did not prevail on the merits liable for the company’s attorneys’ fees. A Paylocity shareholder filed an action in Delaware Chancery Court challenging the bylaw’s fee-shifting provision. In an interesting December 27, 2016 opinion (here), Chancellor Andre Bouchard held that the Paylocity bylaw’s penalty provisions violated the Delaware statutory fee-shifting bylaw prohibitions, but dismissed the claims that company’s board had violated its fiduciary duties in enacting the bylaw.
Continue Reading Del. Court Pans Fee-Shifting Portion of Forum Selection Bylaw

delmapWhen Delaware Chancellor Andre Bouchard rejected the proposed disclosure-only settlement in the litigation arising out of Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia, there was some belief that his decision represented the death knell for these kinds of settlements in merger objection lawsuits. There is indeed some evidence that the number of merger objection lawsuits filed has declined. However, as discussed in an April 29, 2016 Washington Legal Foundation article by attorneys Anthony Rickey and Keola R. Whittaker (here), “Delaware’s sister courts continue to approved disclosure only settlements and award six-figure attorneys’ fees.” As discussed below, the net effect of Delaware’s hostility to disclosure only settlements may not necessarily be that fewer of these kinds of cases get filed, it may be that weaker cases are “driven to other jurisdictions.”
Continue Reading Will Disclosure-Only Settlements in Merger Objection Suits Live On Outside Delaware?

nystateOne of the key current concerns in the global D&O insurance marketplace involves questions of cross-border implementation of insurance policy responsibilities and requirements. This concern is usually presented as a problem for policyholders, as they must determine how their insurance might respond to claims arising outside their home jurisdictions. However, a recent decision in the Eastern District of New York and involving one of the individuals caught up in the FIFA improper payments scandal show that the problems involved with cross-border policy implementation represent a challenge for insurers, as well.

In an April 27, 2016 ruling (here), Eastern District of New York Judge Raymond J. Dearie determined that, notwithstanding a provision in FIFA’s D&O insurance policy requiring insurance disputes to be litigated in a Swiss forum, he had the authority to enter a preliminary injunction against FIFA’s insurers requiring them to advance the defense fees of Eduardo Li, one of the defendants in the FIFA criminal proceedings.   
Continue Reading Despite Swiss Forum Selection Clause, U.S. Court Orders FIFA’s Insurers to Advance Insured’s Defense Expense

oregonsealAs readers of this blog will recall, Delaware’s courts have held that under Delaware law bylaws designating Delaware’s courts as the exclusive forum for corporate and shareholder disputes are facially valid. Last summer, Delaware’s legislature adopted a statutory provision adding the permissibility of forum selection bylaws to the Delaware Corporations Code. In response to these judicial and legislative developments, many Delaware corporations have adopted forum selection bylaws. But whether these new bylaw provisions will have their intended effects will depend in part on what the courts in other jurisdictions do. If an action in another jurisdiction is permitted to go forward notwithstanding the bylaw specifying Delaware’s courts as the designated forum, the bylaw’s purpose would be frustrated. A recent decision from the Oregon’s highest court suggests that this potentially frustrating outcome is less likely.
Continue Reading Oregon Supreme Court Holds Delaware Corporation’s Forum Selection Bylaw Valid and Enforceable