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Module VII – Fiduciary Duties. Chapter 17 Shareholder Litigation. Bar exam. Corporate practice. Law profession. Derivative vs. direct actions Derivative action: 2 suits in 1- enforce fiduciary duties to corporation Direct action: representative suit - protect Sh rights

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chapter 17 shareholder litigation

Module VII – Fiduciary Duties

Chapter 17Shareholder Litigation

Bar

exam

Corporate practice

Law profession

Derivative vs. direct actions

Derivative action: 2 suits in 1- enforce fiduciary duties to corporation

Direct action: representative suit - protect Sh rights

Distinction between two: who recovers?

Demand requirement

Board decides lawsuit’s merits

Aronson test: (1) director disinterest + independence, (2) decision protected by BJR

Citizen of world

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide2
Fundamentals

Introduction to firm

Corporate basics

Corporations and policy

Corporate federalism

Corporate social responsibility

Corporate political action

Corporate form

Organizational choices

Incorporation

Locating corporate authority

Corporate finance

Numeracy for corporate lawyers

Capital structure

Corporate externalities

Piercing corporate veil

Corporate environmental liability

Corporate criminal liability

Corporate governance

Shareholder voting

Shareholder information rights

Public shareholder activism

Fiduciary duties

Shareholder litigation

Board decision making

Board oversight

Director conflicts

Executive compensation

Corporate groups

Stock trading

Securities markets

Securities fraud class actions

Insider trading

Corporate deals

Sale of control

Antitakeover devices

Deal protection

Close corporations

Planning

Oppression

  • Fundamentals
    • Introduction to firm
    • Corporate basics
  • Corporations and policy
    • Corporate federalism
    • Corporate social responsibility
    • Corporate political action
  • Corporate form
    • Organizational choices
    • Incorporation
    • Locating corporate authority
  • Corporate finance
    • Numeracy for corporate lawyers
    • Capital structure
  • Corporate externalities
    • Piercing corporate veil
    • Corporate environmental liability
    • Corporate criminal liability
  • Corporate governance
    • Shareholder voting
    • Shareholder information rights
    • Public shareholder activism
  • 10. Close corporations
    • Planning
    • Oppression
  • 7. Fiduciary duties
    • Shareholder litigation
    • Board decision making
    • Board oversight
    • Director conflicts
    • Executive compensation
    • Corporate groups

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

enforcement of fiduciary duties

Enforcement of fiduciary duties …

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

derivative suit enforce duties to corporation
Derivative suit(enforce duties to corporation)

Delaware Supreme Court:

“if an action is derivative, the plaintiffs are then required to comply with the requirements of Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, that the stockholder:

(a) retain ownership of the shares throughout the litigation;

(b) make pre-suit demand on the board; and

(c) obtain court approval of any settlement. Further, the recovery, if any, flows only to the corporation.”

Corporation

Shareholder

(lawyer)

Fiduciaries

“on behalf of corporation”

violation of

corporate duties

(recovery to corporation)

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

class action enforce duties to shareholders
Class action(enforce duties to shareholders)

Shareholder

class

Sh rep

(lawyer)

violation of

direct duties

(recovery to shareholders)

“on behalf of class”

Insiders

Corporation

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

demand requirement in delaware

Demand requirement …[in Delaware]

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

aronson v lewis del 1984
Aronson v. Lewis (Del. 1984)

Shareholders

Meyers Parking gives its CEO (and 47% shareholder) a sweetheart employment and retirement package.  

Sh Lewis (a serial plaintiff – really a plaintiff’s law firm) claims this is waste. Why is this a derivative suit?

Who controls the corporation’s litigation decisions. Why doesn’t plaintiff ask the board to sue?

Asking the board to sue all the directors is futile - no? Who dominates the board?

Where does the court start its analysis? Why the BJR?

Plaintiffshareholder

Board

Corporation

Directors

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide8
Our view is that in determining demand futility the Court of Chancery in the proper exercise of its discretion must decide whether, under the particularized facts alleged, a reasonable doubt is created that:
  • the directors are disinterested and independent and
  • the challenged transaction was otherwise the product of a valid exercise of business judgment.

Hence, the Court of Chancery must make two inquiries, one into the independence and disinterestedness of the directors and the other into the substantive nature of the challenged transaction and the board\'s approval thereof.

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide9

4. In Aronson v. Lewis …

    • Directors dominated because CEO was 47% Sh
    • Directors interested because all directors were sued
    • Demand was not excused
  • 5. After Aronson v. Lewis a Sh must have particularized facts that …
    • Current directors personally tied to interested director
    • Current directors financially interested in challenged tx
    • All directors interested/dominated
  • In Delaware, a Sh who makes demand on board …
    • Concedes board is disinterested and independent
    • Can still sue and show board interested and non-independent
    • Can sue after waiting for 90 days for board to act
  • Which of the following should be a derivative suit?
    • Board issues new stock, without preemptive rights
    • Board has Corp buy majority Sh’s art collection
    • Board gives lifetime employment to CEO
  • Delaware requires Shs make demand on board …
    • Always
    • when time is of essence
    • Unless excused as futile
  • Delaware excuses demand …
    • When current board majority $$ interested
    • When current board not independent
    • When BJR not apply

Answers: 1-b (c – either deriv, direct) / 2-c / 3-abc / 4-c / 5-b / 6-a

Chapter 29

Planning in CHC

slide11
MBCA (demand in derivative litigation)

§ 7.42 Demand

No shareholder may commence a derivative proceeding until:

(1) a written demand has been made upon the corporation to take suitable action; and

(2) 90 days have expired from the date the demand was made unless … the demand has been rejected by the corporation or unless irreparable injury to the corporation would result by waiting ….

§ 7.44 Dismissal

(a) A derivative proceeding shall be dismissed by the court on motion by the corporation if one of the groups specified in subsection (b) … has determined in good faith after conducting a reasonable inquiry upon which its conclusions are based that the maintenance of the derivative proceeding is not in the best interests of the corporation.

(b) … the determination in subsection (a) shall be made by: (1) a majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors if the independent directors constitute a quorum; or (2) a majority vote of a committee consisting of two or more independent directors appointed by majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors, whether or not such independent directors constituted a quorum.

(c) None of the following shall by itself cause a director to be considered not independent for purposes of this section:

(1) the nomination or election of the director by persons who are defendants in the derivative proceeding or against whom action is demanded;

(2) the naming of the director as a defendant in the derivative proceeding or as a person against whom action is demanded; or

(3) the approval by the director of the act being challenged in the derivative proceeding or demand if the act resulted in no personal benefit to the director.

Corporations:

A Contemporary Approach

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

Slide 11

of 17

slide12

4. In MBCA derivative suit must be dismissed if in good faith and after reasonable inquiry …

    • Ds constituting board quorum ask
    • Special litigation committee (properly chosen/composed) asks
    • Demand was not excused
  • 5. In MBCA Ds are not independent …
    • If they have personal ties to interested director
    • If they have financial interest in challenged tx
    • If they have been sued
  • In MBCA, a Sh who makes demand on board …
    • Concedes board is disinterested and independent
    • Can still sue to show current Ds interested and non-independent
    • Can sue after waiting for 90 days for board to act
  • Which of the following should be a derivative suit?
    • Board misleads Shs about impending merger
    • Board has Corp buy CEO’s wife’s art collection
    • Board announces revised dividend policy
  • MBCA requires Shs make demand on board …
    • Always (except emergency)
    • When time is of essence
    • Unless excused as futile
  • MBCA requires dismissal of derivative suit …
    • When current board asks
    • When majority of independent, disinterested Ds ask
    • When Sh makes demand

Answers: 1-b (c – either deriv/direct) / 2-a / 3-b / 4-b / 5-b / 6-c

Chapter 29

Planning in CHC

the end

The end

Corporations:

A Contemporary Approach

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

Slide 13

of 17

chapter 17 shareholder litigation1

Module VII – Fiduciary Duties

  • Special litigation committee
    • Judicial review: BJR or more?
    • MBCA: universal demand + board dismissal
  • Plaintiff standing
    • Adequacy
    • Contemporaneous ownership
  • Policy issues
    • Who guards the guards?
    • Challenge of settlements
    • Nature of attorneys’ fees

Chapter 17Shareholder Litigation

Bar

exam

Corporate practice

Law profession

Derivative vs. direct actions

Derivative action: 2 suits in 1- enforce fiduciary duties to corporation

Direct action: representative suit - protect Sh rights

Distinction between two: who recovers?

Demand requirement

Board decides lawsuit’s merits

Aronson test: (1) director disinterest + independence, (2) decision protected by BJR

Citizen of world

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

shareholder self protection
Shareholder self-protection
  • Vote
    • Approve fundamental transactions
    • Elect directors (annually, special meetings)
    • Remove directors / fill vacancies
    • Initiate action (amend bylaws, adopt resolutions)
  • Sue
    • Enforce fiduciary duties (derivative suits)
    • Protect rights (disclosure, voting, appraisal, inspection)
  • Sell
    • Liquidity (except insider trading)
    • Takeovers (tender offer)

Prof. Robert Thompson

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

corporations shareholder checklist
Corporations(shareholder checklist)
  • Structure of corporation
  • Financial rights
  • Corporate externalities (limited liability)
  • Corporate governance
  • Fiduciary duties (directors, controlling Shs)
    • Shareholder litigation
    • Board decision making
    • Board oversight
    • Director self dealing (conflicts)
    • Executive compensation
    • Duties within corporate groups
  • Liquidity rights
    • Stock trading
    • Corporate deals
  • Close corporation

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

enforcement of fiduciary duties1

Enforcement of fiduciary duties …

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

derivative suit enforce duties to corporation1
Derivative suit(enforce duties to corporation)

Delaware Supreme Court:

“if an action is derivative, the plaintiffs are then required to comply with the requirements of Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, that the stockholder:

(a) retain ownership of the shares throughout the litigation;

(b) make pre-suit demand on the board; and

(c) obtain court approval of any settlement. Further, the recovery, if any, flows only to the corporation.”

Corporation

Shareholder

(lawyer)

Fiduciaries

“on behalf of corporation”

violation of

corporate duties

(recovery to corporation)

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

class action enforce duties to shareholders1
Class action(enforce duties to shareholders)

Shareholder

class

Sh rep

(lawyer)

violation of

direct duties

(recovery to shareholders)

“on behalf of class”

Insiders

Corporation

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

how distinguish

How distinguish …

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

tooley v donaldson lufkin jenrette del 2004
Tooley v. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette  (Del. 2004)

CS agrees to buy DLJ - through a $90 tender offer.  

CS exercises its rights to delay the tender offer by 22 days, which the DLJ board accepts.

Tooley (and his law firm) claim the board violated duties to the public DLJ shareholders.

Why was lawsuit brought as class action?

Why is this not a derivative action?

Minority

shareholders

Plaintiffshareholder

Credit Suisse

(new 71% SH)

Board

DLJ

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide22
Delaware Supreme Court:

.. in determining whether a stockholder\'s claim is derivative or direct … That issue must turn solely on the following questions:

who suffered the alleged harm (the corporation [derivative] or the suing stockholders [direct], individually); and

who would receive the benefit of any recovery or other remedy (the corporation [derivative] or the stockholders, individually [direct])?

ALI Principles

A derivative action …

(1) Creates recovery goes to the corporation [class action recovery shared by all shareholders in class]

(2) Has preclusive effect that spares corporation and defendants multiplicity of actions

(3) Entitles successful plaintiff to an award of attorneys\' fees from corporation [class action, from the fund]

(4) Allows board to take over the action or to seek dismissal

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide23
Hypos

Board issues new stock, but denies preemptive rights to existing shareholders. Sh sues.

Parent corporation refuses to allocate business opportunities to partially-owned sub. Sh of sub sues parent.

Board grants CEO a lifetime employment contract. Sh sues.

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

demand requirement

Demand requirement …

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

rule 23 1 derivative actions
Rule 23.1. Derivative Actions

(a) Prerequisites. This rule applies when one or more shareholders … bring a derivative action to enforce a right that the corporation may properly assert but has failed to enforce. The derivative action may not be maintained if it appears that the plaintiff does not fairly and adequately represent the interests of shareholders who are similarly situated in enforcing the right of the corporation or association.

(b) Pleading Requirements. The complaint must be verified and must:

  • allege that the plaintiff was a shareholder or member at the time of the transaction complained of, or that the plaintiff\'s share or membership later devolved on it by operation of law;
  • allege that the action is not a collusive one to confer jurisdiction that the court would otherwise lack; and
  • state with particularity: (A) any effort by the plaintiff to obtain the desired action from the directors or comparable authority and, if necessary, from the shareholders or members; and (B) the reasons for not obtaining the action or not making the effort.

(c) Settlement, Dismissal, and Compromise. A derivative action may be settled, voluntarily dismissed, or compromised only with the court\'s approval. Notice of a proposed settlement, voluntary dismissal, or compromise must be given to shareholders or members in the manner that the court orders.

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

frcp 23 1 derivative actions
FRCP 23.1. Derivative Actions

(a) Prerequisites. This rule applies when one or more shareholders … bring a derivative action to enforce a right that the corporation may properly assert but has failed to enforce. The derivative action may not be maintained if it appears that the plaintiff does not fairly and adequately represent the interests of shareholders who are similarly situated in enforcing the right of the corporation or association.

(b) Pleading Requirements. The complaint must be verified and must:

  • allege that the plaintiff was a shareholder or member at the time of the transaction complained of, or that the plaintiff\'s share or membership later devolved on it by operation of law;
  • allege that the action is not a collusive one to confer jurisdiction that the court would otherwise lack; and
  • state with particularity: (A) any effort by the plaintiff to obtain the desired action from the directors or comparable authority and, if necessary, from the shareholders or members; and (B) the reasons for not obtaining the action or not making the effort.

(c) Settlement, Dismissal, and Compromise. A derivative action may be settled, voluntarily dismissed, or compromised only with the court\'s approval. Notice of a proposed settlement, voluntary dismissal, or compromise must be given to shareholders or members in the manner that the court orders.

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

aronson v lewis del 19841
Aronson v. Lewis (Del. 1984)

Shareholders

Meyers Parking gives its CEO (and 47% shareholder) a sweetheart employment and retirement package.  

Shareholder Lewis (a serial plaintiff) claims this is waste. Why is this a derivative suit?

Who controls the corporation’s litigation decisions. Why doesn’t Lewis ask the board to sue?

Asking the board to sue all the directors is futile - no? Who dominates the board?

Where does the court start its analysis? Why the BJR?

Plaintiffshareholder

Board

Corporation

Directors

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide28
Our view is that in determining demand futility the Court of Chancery in the proper exercise of its discretion must decide whether, under the particularized facts alleged, a reasonable doubt is created that:
  • the directors are disinterested and independent and
  • the challenged transaction was otherwise the product of a valid exercise of business judgment.

Hence, the Court of Chancery must make two inquiries, one into the independence and disinterestedness of the directors and the other into the substantive nature of the challenged transaction and the board\'s approval thereof.

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide29
Quick quiz (Delaware law)

True or False. Fink “dominated” the directors since he owned 47% of the company’s stock and chose them to the board.

True or False. Shareholders can avoid making a demand on the board by suing all the directors, who become necessarily “interested” in the lawsuit.

True or False. Fink’s deal (where it was unlikely the corporation would receive any services) is a “waste of corporate assets” - nobody would say corporation got its money’s worth.

True or False. Despite academic claims of board “structural bias,” boards regularly decide to sue their own members.

True or False. Whether a lawsuit has merit is something judges know better than directors - no reason for BJR abstention.

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

board dismissal

Board dismissal ….

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

derivative suit board request for dismissal
Derivative suit(board request for dismissal)

Board

(SLC)

Delaware Supreme Court:

[When confronted with a request for dismissal from an SLC] first, the court should inquire into the independence and good faith of the committee and the bases supporting its conclusions. …. The second step provides a balance of corporate and shareholder interests … the Court should determine applying own independent business judgment whether to dismiss.”

Corporation

Shareholder

(lawyer)

Directors

“on behalf of corporation”

violation of

corporate duties

(recovery to corporation)

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

slide32
MBCA (demand in derivative litigation)

§ 7.42 Demand

No shareholder may commence a derivative proceeding until:

(1) a written demand has been made upon the corporation to take suitable action; and

(2) 90 days have expired from the date the demand was made unless … the demand has been rejected by the corporation or unless irreparable injury to the corporation would result by waiting ….

§ 7.44 Dismissal

(a) A derivative proceeding shall be dismissed by the court on motion by the corporation if one of the groups specified in subsection (b) … has determined in good faith after conducting a reasonable inquiry upon which its conclusions are based that the maintenance of the derivative proceeding is not in the best interests of the corporation.

(b) … the determination in subsection (a) shall be made by: (1) a majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors if the independent directors constitute a quorum; or (2) a majority vote of a committee consisting of two or more independent directors appointed by majority vote of independent directors present at a meeting of the board of directors, whether or not such independent directors constituted a quorum. (c) None of the following shall by itself cause a director to be considered not independent for purposes of this section:

(1) the nomination or election of the director by persons who are defendants in the derivative proceeding or against whom action is demanded;

(2) the naming of the director as a defendant in the derivative proceeding or as a person against whom action is demanded; or

(3) the approval by the director of the act being challenged in the derivative proceeding or demand if the act resulted in no personal benefit to the director.

Corporations:

A Contemporary Approach

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

Slide 32

of 17

derivative suit board request for dismissal1
Derivative suit(board request for dismissal)

Wisconsin Supreme Court:

Independence depends on:

Whether named as defendant

Whether approved challenged transaction

Whether have financial dealings with corporation

Whether have non-financial relationships with insiders

Whether acts as consultant, counsel

Whether small SLC (less group think)

Whether SLC is well advised by banker, lawyer

Board

(SLC)

Corporation

Shareholder

(lawyer)

Directors

“on behalf of corporation”

violation of

corporate duties

(recovery to corporation)

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

delaware

MBCA

SLC

SLC

Board

Board

Delaware

Demand

Demand

Dismiss

Dismiss

Shareholder

Suit

Shareholder

Suit

Court

Court

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

the end1

The end

Corporations:

A Contemporary Approach

Chapter 17

Shareholder Litigation

Slide 35

of 17

slide36
"Delaware’s Balancing Act" JOHN ARMOUR, University of Oxford - Faculty of Law, Oxford-Man Institute of Quantitative Finance, European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)BERNARD S. BLACK, Northwestern University - School of Law, Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)BRIAN R. CHEFFINS, University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law, European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)Delaware’s courts and well-developed case law are widely seen as integral elements of Delaware’s success in the competition among states for incorporations. Today, however, Delaware’s popularity as a venue for corporate litigation is under threat. Increasingly, as the empirical evidence summarized in this paper shows, corporate cases involving Delaware-incorporated companies are being brought and decided elsewhere. This paper examines the implications of this “out-of-Delaware” trend, emphasizing in so doing a difficult balancing act that the Delaware courts face. If Delaware accommodates litigation too readily, plaintiffs’ attorneys will file a plethora of “weak” cases and companies, fearful of lawsuits, may begin to incorporate elsewhere. On the other hand, if plaintiffs’ attorneys believe the Delaware judiciary is unwelcoming, they will tend to file cases in other courts. Delaware could then lose its status as the de facto national corporate law court and may no longer offer the rich body of up-to-date case law precedent upon which “users” of Delaware corporate law depend. Delaware’s overall corporate law “brand” could in turn become less valuable, thus jeopardizing its pre-eminence in the competition for incorporations.
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