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M&A and Corporate Governance Litigation
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  • Delaware Court Of Chancery Applies Contemporaneous Ownership Requirement And Declines To Extend Equitable Derivative Standing
     
    05/17/2022

    On May 13, 2022, Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery dismissed certain stockholder derivative claims for breaches of fiduciary duty brought against the founder-CEO and other directors of Flashpoint Technology, Incorporated (the “Corporation”).  SDF Funding LLC v. Fry, C.A. No. 2017-0732-KSJM (Del. Ch. May. 13, 2022).  Plaintiffs were a limited liability company (the “New LLC”) that held shares in the Corporation and its sole owner (the “Beneficial Owner”).  The New LLC received its shares from another limited liability company (the “Old LLC”) — a nonparty to the suit — also wholly owned by the Beneficial Owner.  Plaintiffs challenged certain related-party transactions, including leases from and loans to entities affiliated with the CEO.  Applying the “contemporaneous ownership requirement,” the Court granted summary judgment to defendants for claims based on conduct that predated the acquisition of shares by the New LLC.  In doing so, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ contention that the Beneficial Owner should have “equitable standing.”
  • Eighth Circuit Affirms Dismissal Of Merger-Related Derivative Suit For Failure To Plead Demand Excusal
     
    04/19/2022

    On April 7, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of derivative claims brought by shareholders of Centene Corporation (the “Corporation”) against directors and officers of the Corporation following its merger with Health Net, Inc. (the “Target”).  Carpenters’ Pension Fund of Ill. v. Neidorff, No. 20-3216 (8th Cir. Apr. 7, 2022).  In connection with the merger, the companies issued a joint proxy statement soliciting shareholder approval of the merger.  Plaintiffs’ central allegation was that defendants purportedly concealed their knowledge of “significant financial problems” faced by the Target.  Plaintiffs thus asserted derivative claims for violation of Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act and breaches of fiduciary duty.  The Court held that pre-suit demand was not excused, because the complaint failed to adequately plead that at least five of the nine board members at the time the suit was filed faced a substantial likelihood of liability.