Articles Posted in Securities Law

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Plaintiffs Peter Brinckerhoff and his trust, were long-term investors in Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (“EEP”), a Delaware master limited partnership (“MLP”). A benefit under Delaware law of this business structure was the ability to eliminate common law duties in favor of contractual ones, thereby restricting disputes to the four corners of the limited partnership agreement (“LPA”). This was not the first lawsuit between Brinckerhoff and the Enbridge MLP entities over a conflicted transaction. In 2009, Brinckerhoff filed suit against most of the same defendants in the current dispute, and challenged a transaction between the sponsor and the limited partnership. Enbridge, Inc. (“Enbridge”), the ultimate parent entity that controlled EEP’s general partner, Enbridge Energy Company, Inc. (“EEP GP”), proposed a joint venture agreement (“JVA”) between EEP and Enbridge. Brinckerhoff contested the fairness of the transaction on a number of grounds. After several rounds in the Court of Chancery leading to the dismissal of his claims, and a trip to the Delaware Supreme Court, Brinckerhoff eventually came up short when the Court of Chancery’s ruling that he had waived his claims for reformation and rescission of the transaction by failing to assert them first in the Court of Chancery was affirmed. A dispute over the Clipper project would again go before the Court of Chancery. In 2014, Enbridge proposed that EEP repurchase Enbridge’s interest in the Alberta Clipper project excluding the expansion rights that were part of the earlier transaction. As part of the billion dollar transaction, EEP would issue to Enbridge a new class of EEP partnership securities, repay outstanding loans made by EEP GP to EEP, and, amend the LPA to effect a “Special Tax Allocation” whereby the public investors would be allocated items of gross income that would otherwise be allocated to EEP GP. According to Brinckerhoff, the Special Tax Allocation unfairly benefited Enbridge by reducing its tax obligations by hundreds of millions of dollars while increasing the taxes of the public investors, thereby undermining the investor’s long-term tax advantages in their MLP investment. The Court of Chancery did its best to reconcile earlier decisions interpreting the same or a similar LPA, and ended up dismissing the complaint. On appeal, Brinckerhoff challenged the reasonableness of the Court of Chancery’s interpretation of the LPA. The Supreme Court agreed with the defendants that the Special Tax Allocation did not breach Sections 5.2(c) and 15.3(b) governing new unit issuance and tax allocations. But, the Court found that the Court of Chancery erred when it held that other “good faith” provisions of the LPA “modified” Section 6.6(e)’s specific requirement that the Alberta Clipper transaction be “fair and reasonable to the Partnership.” View "Brinckerhoff v. Enbridge Energy Company, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Noteholders succeeded in securing warrants that the issuer of the notes had promised as a result of the resolution of a previous event of default. When addressing the merits, the Court of Chancery held that the promise of warrants had become a right of the noteholders under the notes, as amended after the default. On that ground, the Court of Chancery awarded the noteholders the warrants they sought. The noteholders then sought to recover their attorneys’ fees based on a fee-shifting provision in the notes which entitled the noteholders to attorneys’ fees if: (1)”any indebtedness” evidenced by the notes was collected in a court proceeding; or (2) the notes were placed in the hands of attorneys for collection after default. But, the Court of Chancery denied this request and the noteholders appealed. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found that because the warrants were a form of indebtedness that the noteholders had to collect through an action in the Court of Chancery, the noteholders were entitled to attorneys’ fees. The noteholders were also entitled to attorneys’ fees because they had to seek the assistance of counsel to collect the warrants after default. View "Washington v. Preferred Communication Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs were all affiliates of Arthur and Angela Williams, who owned stock in Citigroup. The defendants were Citigroup and eight of its officers and directors. In 1998, Citicorp and Travelers Group, Inc. merged, forming Citigroup. At that point, Arthur Williams's shares in Travelers Group were converted into 17.6 million shares of Citigroup common stock, which were valued at the time of the merger at $35 per share. In 2007, the Williamses had these shares transferred into AHW Investment Partnership, MFS Inc., and seven grantor-retained annuity trusts, all of which the Williamses controlled. In 2007, the Williamses sold one million shares at $55 per share. But, the Williamses halted their plan to sell all of their Citigroup stock because, based on Citigroup's filings and financial statements, they concluded that there was little downside to retaining their remaining 16.6 million shares. The Williamses allegedly held those shares for the next twenty-two months, finally selling them in March 2009 for $3.09 per share. After selling their 16.6 million shares, the Williamses sued Citigroup in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, arguing that their decision not to sell all of their shares in May 2007, and their similar decisions to hold on at least three later dates, were due to Citigroup‘s failure to disclose accurate information about its true financial condition from 2007 to 2009. The Second Circuit certified a question of Delaware law to the Delaware Supreme Court arising from an appeal of a New York District Court decision. The Second Circuit asked whether the claims of a plaintiff against a corporate defendant alleging damages based on the plaintiff‘s continuing to hold the corporation's stock in reliance on the defendant's misstatements as the stock diminished in value properly brought as direct or derivative claims. The Delaware Court answered: the holder claims in this action were direct. "This is because under the laws governing those claims [(]those of either New York or Florida[)] the claims belong to the stockholder who allegedly relied on the corporation's misstatements to her detriment. Under those state laws, the holder claims are not derivative because they are personal to the stockholder and do not belong to the corporation itself." View "Citigroup Inc., et al. v. AHW Investment Partnership, MFS, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was an interlocutory appeal by the Court of Chancery of a preliminary injunction halting consummation of a stock purchase agreement under which Vivendi, S.A. would have divested itself of its controlling interest in Appellee Activision Blizzard, Inc., and an Activision stockholder. Appellees convinced the trial court that the company’s charter required that a majority of the public stockholders vote in favor of the transaction. The relevant provision applied to "any merger, business combination, or similar transaction" involving Vivendi and Activision. The trial court held that Activision's purchase of its own stock would be a business combination because significant value would be transferred to Vivendi in exchange for Activision's acquisition of a newly-formed Vivendi subsidiary that held Vivendi's Activision stock. In October 2013, the Supreme Court reversed, and this opinion set forth the basis for its decision. View "Activision Blizzard, Inc., et al. v. Hayes, et al." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Chancery Court was required to dismiss a Delaware derivative complaint after a California federal court entered final judgment dismissing the same complaint brought by different stockholders. The Chancery Court determined it was not required to give preclusive effect to the California judgment. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the Chancery Court erred in its determination: (1) the lower court held as a matter of Delaware law that the stockholder plaintiffs in the two jurisdictions were not in privity with one another; (2) that the California stockholders were not adequate representatives of the defendant corporation; (3) California law controlled the issue, and derivative stockholders were in privity with one another because they acted on behalf of the corporation; and (4) the Chancery Court adopted a presumption of inadequacy without the record to support it. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Pyott v. Louisiana Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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In 2006, a German bank organized two affiliated entities under Delaware law. One sold a class of securities (Trust Preferred Securities) as part of the bank's effort to raise capital. In 2009, the bank acquired a second German bank by merger, whereby the bank assumed an obligation of the acquired bank to make certain payments with respect to a class of the acquired bank's securities. The bank made those payments in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, Plaintiff, who is the Property Trustee for the holders of the acquiror bank's Trust Preferred Securities sued claiming the 2009 and 2010 payments on the acquired bank's securities (which was a "Parity Security") triggered a contractual obligation by the bank to make comparable payments on the Trust Preferred Securities. The bank argued that it had no such contractual obligation. On cross motions for summary judgment, the Court of Chancery rejected the Trustee's claim on the basis that, because the 2009 and 2010 payments were not made on "Parity Securities," the bank had no obligation to make payments on the Trust Preferred Securities. Because the Supreme Court disagreed and concluded that the Court of Chancery erred, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter final judgment for the Trustee. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Commerzbank Capital Funding Trust II" on Justia Law

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The Court of Chancery held that Defendants-Appellants, Americas Mining Corporation (AMC), a subsidiary of Southern Copper Corporation's (Southern Peru) controlling shareholder, and affiliate directors of Southern Peru, breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty to Southern Peru and its minority stockholders by causing Southern Peru to acquire the controller’s 99.15% interest in a Mexican mining company, Minera Mexico, S.A. de C.V., for much more than it was worth (at an unfair price). The Plaintiff challenged the transaction derivatively on behalf of Southern Peru. The Court of Chancery found the trial evidence established that the controlling shareholder through AMC, "extracted a deal that was far better than market" from Southern Peru due to the ineffective operation of a special committee. To remedy the Defendants' breaches of loyalty, the Court of Chancery awarded the difference between the value Southern Peru paid for Minera ($3.7 billion) and the amount the Court of Chancery determined Minera was worth ($2.4 billion). The Court of Chancery awarded damages in the amount of $1.347 billion plus pre- and postjudgment interest, for a total judgment of $2.0316 billion. The Court of Chancery also awarded the Plaintiff's counsel attorneys' fees and expenses in the amount of 15% of the total judgment, which amounts to more than $304 million. Defendants raised five issues on appeal pertaining to their perceived errors at trial, the valuation of the shares and companies involved and the awarding of attorneys fees. Upon review, the Supreme Court determined that all of the Defendants' arguments were without merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Chancery was affirmed. View "Americas Mining Corp. v. Theriault Southern Copper Corp." on Justia Law

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Nantichoke filed a hospital lien for the cost of Maria Acosta's medical treatment resulting from a car accident. Appellant law firm represented Acosta in a personal injury claim against the tortfeasor who caused her injuries. Nationwide subsequently paid her a sum to settle her claim. Nantichoke argued that its hospital lien attached to the entirety of Acosta's recovery and the law firm contended that the hospital lien did not attach until the attorney's fees have been deducted from the settlement fund. The court held that an attorney's charging lien existed at common law and the law firm's agreed contingent fee must be deducted from the recovery before the hospital lien. View "Doroshow, Pasquale Krawitz & Bhaya v. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, et al." on Justia Law

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SVIP brought an action in the Court of Chancery against ThoughtWorks for a declaratory judgment of the meaning of the phrase "funds legally available" as it related to ThoughtWorks' obligation under its Amended Charter to redeem Series A Preferred Stock. The court held that because the record supported the Court of Chancery's conclusion that SVIP did not show that ThoughtWorks had "funds legally available," even under its own proposed definition of that phrase, the court affirmed the judgment. View "SV Investment Partners, LLC, et al. v. Thoughtworks, Inc." on Justia Law

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Liberty commenced this action against the Trustee under the Indenture, seeking injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the proposed Capital Splitoff would not constitute a disposition of "substantially all" of Liberty's assets in violation of the Indenture. The Court of Chancery concluded, after a trial, that the four transactions at issue should not be aggregated, and entered judgment for Liberty. The Court of Chancery concluded that the proposed splitoff was not "sufficiently connected" to the prior transactions to warrant aggregation for purposes of the Successor Obligor Provision. The court agreed with the judgment of the Court of Chancery and affirmed. View "The Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co. v. Liberty Media Corp." on Justia Law