Delaware Corporate Law
The Rights and Duties of Blockholder Directors
J. Travis Laster and John Mark Zeberkiewicz, 70(1): 33-60 (Winter 2014/2015)
Delaware corporate law embraces a “board-centric” model of governance contemplating that, as a general matter, all directors will participate in a collective and deliberative decision-making process. Rather than serving as a justification for a board majority to disempower directors elected or appointed by or at the direction of a particular class or series of stock or an insurgent group—which we refer to as “blockholder” directors—this system recognizes the need for a balancing of both majority and minority rights. In this article, we review the rights and duties of all directors and highlight cases where both board majorities and blockholder directors have overstepped their bounds. We caution that board majorities should deliberate carefully before taking action that limits a blockholder director’s rights or excludes the blockholder director from participation in fundamental corporate matters. At the same time, we caution that blockholder directors should take care when exercising their rights, given that their affiliation with investors may make them vulnerable to duty of loyalty claims. We urge both sides to proceed with a sense of empathy toward the other and seek to make reasonable accommodations, and we emphasize the role that experienced corporate counsel can play in mediating disputes, resolving tensions, and striking the appropriate balance in the boardroom.
Consent in Corporate Law
Lawrence A. Hamermesh; 70(1): 161-174 (Winter 2014/2015)
Recent Delaware case law explores and extends what the author describes as the “doctrine of corporate consent,” under which a stockholder is deemed to consent to changes in the corporate relationship that are adopted pursuant to statutory authority (such as by directors adopting bylaws). This essay examines whether and to what extent there may be limits on the application of the doctrine of corporate consent and whether fee-shifting bylaws exceed those limits.
Delaware Courts Continue to Excel in Business Litigation with the Success of the Complex Commercial Litigation Division of the Superior Court
Joseph R. Slights III and Elizabeth A. Powers, 70(4): 1039-1058 (Fall 2015)
Although still in its infancy, the Delaware Superior Court’s Complex Commercial Litigation Division (“CCLD”) has already earned a reputation as a premier business court in keeping with the Delaware judiciary’s tradition of excellence in the resolution of corporate and business controversies. Regarded as an “accent” to the Court of Chancery, the CCLD offers businesses a forum dedicated to the resolution of commercial disputes where equitable jurisdiction is lacking. The CCLD’s collaborative and uniquely flexible approach to the management of complex commercial litigation is a model for what the modern business court should be. Not surprisingly, business litigants have embraced the CCLD, as evidenced by the wide variety of complex commercial disputes that have been filed and adjudicated in this forum. The CCLD continues Delaware’s status as the world’s most respected forum for adjudicating highly complex business disputes.
Judicial Dissolution: Are the Courts of the State that Brought You In the Only Courts that Can Take You Out?
Peter B. Ladig and Kyle Evans Gay; 70(4): 1059-1082 (Fall 2015)
In early 2014, the then-managing members of the limited liability company (“LLC”) that owned The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com filed nearly simultaneous petitions for judicial dissolution of the LLC in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia and the Delaware Court of Chancery. The dual petitions created the anomaly that everyone agreed on dissolution, but no one could agree where it should take place. Both courts were asked to address a unique question: could a Pennsylvania court judicially dissolve a Delaware LLC? According to existing precedent, the answer was not so clear. This article proposes that the answer should be clear: a court cannot judicially dissolve an entity formed under the laws of another jurisdiction because dissolution is different than other judicial remedies. This approach gives full faith and credit to the legislative acts of the state of formation, but also permits the forum state to protect its own citizens by granting the remedies it feels necessary, short of dissolution.
Financial Advisor Engagement Letters: Post-Rural/Metro Thoughts and Observations
Eric S. Klinger-Wilensky and Nathan P. Emeritz, 71(1): 53-86 (Winter 2015/2016)
The liability of RBC in last year’s In re Rural/Metro decision was derivative of several breaches of fiduciary duty by the Rural/Metro directors, including those directors’ failing “to provide active and direct oversight of RBC.” In discussing that failure, the Court of Chancery stated that a “part of providing active and direct oversight is acting reasonably to learn about actual and potential conflicts faced by directors, management and their advisors.” In the year since Rural/Metro, there has been an ongoing discussion—in scholarly and trade journals, courtrooms and the marketplace—regarding how, if at all, the process of vetting potential financial advisor conflicts should evolve. In this article, we set out our belief that financial advisor engagement letters are an efficient (although admittedly not the only) tool to vet potential conflicts of a financial advisor. We then discuss four contractual provisions that, we believe, are helpful in providing the active and direct oversight that was found lacking in Rural/Metro.
Appraisal Arbitrage—Is There a Delaware Advantage?
Gaurav Jetley and Xinyu Ji; 71(2): 427-458 (Spring 2016)
The article examines the extent to which economic incentives may have improved for appraisal arbitrageurs in recent years, which could help explain the observed increase in appraisal activity. We investigate three specific issues. First, we review the economic implications of allowing petitioners to seek appraisal on shares acquired after the record date. We conclude that appraisal arbitrageurs realize an economic benefit from their ability to delay investment for two reasons: (1) it enables arbitrageurs to use better information about the value of the target that may emerge after the record date to assess the potential payoff of bringing an appraisal claim and (2) it helps minimize arbitrageurs’ exposure to the risk of deal failure. Second, based on a review of the recent Delaware opinions in appraisal matters, as well as fairness opinions issued by targets’ financial advisors, we document that the Delaware Chancery Court seems to prefer a lower equity risk premium than bankers. Such a systematic difference in valuation input choices also works in favor of appraisal arbitrageurs. Finally, we benchmark the Delaware statutory interest rate and find that the statutory rate more than compensates appraisal petitioners for the time value of money or for any bond-like claim that they may have on either the target or the surviving entity.
Our findings suggest that, from a policy perspective, it may be useful to limit petitioners’ ability to seek appraisal to shares acquired before the record date. We also posit that, absent any finding of a flawed sales process, the actual transaction price may serve as a useful benchmark for fair value. We conjecture that, while the statutory interest rate may not be the main factor driving appraisal arbitrage, it does help improve the economics for arbitrageurs. Thus, the proposal by the Council of the Delaware Bar Association’s Corporation Law Section to limit the amount of interest paid by appraisal respondents—by allowing them to pay appraisal claimants a sum of money at the beginning of the appraisal action—seems like a practical way to address concerns regarding the statutory rate. However, paying appraisal claimants a portion of the target’s fair value up front is akin to funding claimants’ appraisal actions, which may end up encouraging appraisal arbitrage.
The Bylaw Puzzle in Delaware Corporate Law
David Skeel; 72(1): 1-30 (Winter 2016/2017)
In less than a decade, Delaware’s legislature has overruled its courts and reshaped Delaware corporate law on two different occasions: with proxy access bylaws in 2009 and with shareholder litigation bylaws in 2015. Having two dramatic interventions in quick succession would be puzzling under any circumstances. The interventions are even more puzzling because with proxy access, Delaware’s legislature authorized the use of bylaws or charter provisions that Delaware’s courts had banned, and with shareholder litigation, it banned bylaws or charter provisions that the courts had authorized. This article attempts to unravel the puzzle.
Starting with corporate law doctrine, I find that a doctrinal account has more explanatory power than one might initially expect. In particular, Delaware’s courts appear to be zealous in protecting the discretion of corporate managers and directors, whereas the legislature on each occasion intervened to revitalize shareholder protections. But this distinction leaves a variety of questions unanswered, such as the rapidity of the legislature’s response and its use of a default rule with proxy access, as compared to a mandatory shareholder litigation rule. To more fully explain the interventions, we need to consider several other factors, including the importance of protecting the credibility of Delaware’s judges. The credibility concern suggests that legislative thunderbolts are unlikely to become routine because routine legislative intervention would undercut the authority of Delaware’s judiciary.
The Case Against Fiduciary Entity Veil Piercing
Mohsen Manesh; 72(1): 61-100 (Winter 2016/2017)
The doctrine of USACafes holds that whenever a business entity (a “fiduciary entity”) exercises control over and, therefore, stands in a fiduciary position to another business entity (the “beneficiary entity”), those persons exercising control, whether directly or indirectly, over the fiduciary entity (the “controller(s)”) owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary entity and its owners. Focusing on control as the defining element, courts have applied this far-reaching doctrine across all statutory business forms—including corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies—and through successive tiers of parent-subsidiary entity structure to assign liability to the individuals who ultimately exercise control over an entity. In this respect, USACafes enables what two prominent business law jurists have aptly described as “a particularly odd pattern of routine veil piercing.”
This article argues that USACafes is a needless doctrine that stands in conflict with other, more fundamental precepts of law and equity. Accordingly, when presented with the opportunity, the courts of Delaware and other jurisdictions should reject its holding. Instead, the law ought to respect the fiduciary entity for what it is: a legal person separate and apart from its owners and controllers. If the limited liability veil of a fiduciary entity is to be pierced, then it should be under the more rigorous legal standard that courts have traditionally applied in veil-piercing cases.
The “Long Term” in Corporate Law
J.B. Heaton, 72(2): 353-366 (Spring 2017)
To read influential corporate lawyers, legal academics, and jurists, shareholders are an alarmingly myopic bunch who demand that corporate directors and managers make short-term decisions that sacrifice long-term value. But here is the mystery: there is virtually no evidence that shareholders prefer short-term gains that are smaller than larger (discounted) long-term gains.
This article makes a simple claim: the short term/long term rhetoric in Delaware corporate law masks the real battle, one between a rational desire by clear-sighted shareholders for shareholder value maximization, on the one hand, and a desire by courts and others for corporate longevity— i.e., long-term corporate survival—on the other. Corporate law directs, or at least allows, directors to manage for long-term survival under cover of long-term shareholder wealth maximization, i.e., a state of sufficient ongoing profitability that allows the corporation to exist for as long as possible, regardless whether that level of profitability actually is value-maximizing for shareholders.
The problem this raises is obvious: if Delaware allows corporations to prioritize longevity, then that is a goal often at odds with what shareholders want. Whether this policy is good or bad for society, I leave for another day. But so long as Delaware leaves the power of the vote with shareholders while giving directors a hidden power to act against shareholder interests in the name of corporate longevity, we can expect (and will continue to see) shareholder objections and activist efforts in many cases where corporations are worth more in different form, whether differently oriented, smaller, acquired and merged into larger organizations, or, to put it harshly, liquidated and dead altogether.
Public Company Virtual-Only Annual Meetings
Lisa A. Fontenot, 73(1): 35-52 (Winter 2017/2018)
Public companies traditionally hold annual shareholder meetings using a formal in-person format. Some companies have more recently supplemented the meeting with audio or video streaming and are now adding an electronic component to a physical meeting to allow for remote participation, commonly referred to as a “hybrid meeting.” A relatively small but fast-growing number of companies are holding their annual shareholder meetings on an electronic-only basis with no physical meeting, known as a “virtual-only meeting.” This article discusses the legal landscape for virtual-only meetings, briefly reviews the history of the practice, and explores the controversy they present with certain institutional investors and activists. Its objective is to provide an initial roadmap of legal and practical considerations for companies considering virtualonly shareholders meetings.
Death by Auction: Can We Do Better?
Peter B. Ladig; 73(1): 53-84 (Winter 2017/2018)
The purpose of a business divorce is to sever the business relationship between or among the owners of the business. The most common judicial means of achieving this goal is a state dissolution statute. Most state dissolution statutes empower courts to sever the business relationship through various means. Some states even permit the entity or the other equity interests to avoid dissolution by exercising a statutory right to buy out the plaintiff’s interests. Delaware has eschewed this approach, instead providing few statutory directions or options and trusting its Court of Chancery to exercise its equitable discretion appropriately. Delaware courts historically were reluctant to dissolve operating, profi table entities, but in recent years Delaware courts have come to recognize the fallacy of forcing people to continue a business relationship that has fallen apart, and judicial dissolution is no longer the rarity it once was. A continuing problem, however, is that there is little common law guidance on how dissolution should be accomplished in a manner that is consistent with principles of Delaware law and that also recognizes the unique nature of these kinds of business divorces. In the absence of such guidance, Delaware courts default to what they know: an auction or sale process designed to attract the most number of bidders to maximize the entity’s value. This article suggests that the Court of Chancery should not consider an auction or other public sale process to be the default solution, that general principles of equity permit the Court of Chancery to grant many of the statutory remedies available in other states, and that a forced public sale should be the remedy of last resort.
Securities on Blockchain and the Uniform Commercial Code
Reade Ryan and Mayme Donohue; 73(1): 85-108 (Winter 2017/2018)
This article initially provides a high-level description of blockchain technology intended to be accessible to those without a technical background, and illustratively describes an existing blockchain system that already evidences securities issued and being traded. The article then sets forth and analyzes how Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code covers blockchain securities as “uncertificated securities.” Finally, the article provides guidance to corporate lawyers faced with giving a legal opinion relating to the issuance and sale of securities on a blockchain.
The Demand Review Committee: How It Works, and How It Could Work Better
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. and S. Michael Sirkin, 73(2): 305-318 (Spring 2018)
Stockholders must ordinarily make a demand on their board of directors before initiating litigation on the corporation’s behalf. But the litigation consequences of a stockholder demand—a binding concession of the board’s ability to impartially consider a demand—are so harsh in the ensuing litigation that stockholders rarely choose that path. The demand requirement is thus falling short of its promise as an internal dispute resolution mechanism. If, as we suggest, stockholders typically avoid making a demand and instead prefer to initiate litigation and raise demand futility arguments, no matter how weak, they deprive independent boards of the opportunity to consider the merits of potential litigation outside the courtroom. We propose a private-ordering solution, in which stockholders and boards can agree, if they choose, to reserve rights on demand futility arguments while a demand review process is undertaken. This would allow boards to engage with stockholders in the review process, and would replace some demand futility litigation with boardroom deliberation, thereby restoring the internal dispute resolution function to the demand requirement.
Distributed Stock Ledgers and Delaware Law
J. Travis Laster and Marcel T. Rosner, 73(2): 319-336 (Spring 2018)
Effective August 1, 2017, the Delaware General Corporation Law (the “DGCL”) now authorizes Delaware corporations to use blockchain technology to maintain stock ledgers and communicate with stockholders. Consistent with the DGCL’s status as an enabling act that facilitates private ordering, the blockchain amendments are permissive. In the near term, they create a foundation for a technology ecosystem by removing any uncertainty about the validity of shares that have been issued or are maintained using blockchain technology. Over a longer time horizon, the amendments foreshadow a more flexible, dynamic, and digital future in which distributed ledger technology and smart contracts play major roles.
The Delaware Court of Chancery’s 225th Anniversary
Andre G. Bouchard, 73(4) 953-960 (Fall 2018)
Finding the Right Balance in Appraisal Litigation: Deal Price, Deal Process, and Synergies
Lawrence A. Hamermesh and Michael L. Wachter, 73(4) 961-1010 (Fall 2018)
This article examines the evolution of Delaware appraisal litigation and concludes that recent precedents have created a satisfactory framework in which the remedy is most effective in the case of transactions where there is the greatest reason to question the efficacy of the market for corporate control, and vice versa. We suggest that, in effect, the developing framework invites the courts to accept the deal price as the proper measure of fair value, not because of any presumption that would operate in the absence of proof, but where the proponent of the transaction affirmatively demonstrates that the transaction would survive judicial review under the enhanced scrutiny standard applicable to fiduciary duty-based challenges to sales of corporate control. We also suggest, however, that the courts and expert witnesses should and are likely to refine the manner in which elements of value (synergies) should, as a matter of well-established law, be deducted from the deal price to arrive at an appropriate estimate of fair value.
What Injures a Corporation? Toward Better Understanding Corporate Personality
J.B. Heaton, 73(4) 1031-1050 (Fall 2018)
Understanding what injures a corporation can help us better understand corporate personality. Traditional corporate injury is injury to corporate assets or profits. This makes sense, because without defining impairment to corporate assets and profits as corporate injury, most of what we think of as “essential” about a corporation—locking assets into a protected partition—would be impossible: (1) protecting the going concern value of the corporation; (2) maintaining creditor priority; and (3) contracting through the corporate form. More recent expansions of what constitutes corporate injury, including injuries to a corporation’s right to political speech (Citizens United) and religious freedom (Hobby Lobby), seem at first to fit poorly with existing corporate theory. But corporations can “lock in” and “partition” more than assets; they can partition beliefs and virtues as well. Viewed this way, existing corporate theory (and the idea of corporate injury as harm to whatever is partitioned by the corporate form) may provide more help in understanding corporate constitutional rights than previously recognized.
Give Me Back My Money: A Proposed Amendment to Delaware’s Prepayment System in Statutory Appraisal Cases
R. Garrett Rice, 73(4) 1051-1092 (Fall 2018)
In 2016, the Delaware General Assembly amended section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law to provide surviving corporations with the option to prepay stockholders in appraisal cases. Specifically, the amendment gives a surviving corporation the option to pay, in advance of a trial, to determine the stock’s fair value, whatever amount per share that it chooses. Doing so cuts off the statutory interest on the prepaid amount, which theoretically should disincentivize investors from filing appraisal petitions solely to turn a profit from the statutory interest rate—a strategy known as “interest-rate arbitrage.” But in amending the statute, the General Assembly did not specify whether the petitioning stockholders must return to the corporation any amount by which the prepayment exceeds the court’s determination of fair value. The resulting ambiguity has not only caused uncertainty among litigants and costly motion practice in the Delaware Court of Chancery—a consequence, ironically, that the legislative amendment was aimed at avoiding—but has also diminished the amendment’s effect on curbing interest-rate arbitrage and, more generally, appraisal arbitrage. This article explores the history behind the prepayment amendment, including the evolution of Delaware’s appraisal statute and two Court of Chancery cases in which the Court foresaw the need for an effective prepayment system. This article also examines the legislative history of the 2016 amendment and other scholars’ suggestions for dealing with the statutory ambiguity. Finally, the article offers a new model for legislative reform, one that retains section 262’s core and advances the policy objectives that underlie Delaware’s appraisal system.
Dilution, Disclosure, Equity Compensation, and Buybacks
Bruce Dravis, 74(3) 631-658 (Summer 2019)
Equity compensation and company share buybacks are complementary: Equity compensation share issuances increase outstanding shares; buybacks decrease outstanding shares. Yet the two types of transactions require very different approval processes and securities and financial disclosures, and generate different financial and tax results, all of which are described in this article, and illustrated by data collected from fifty-nine of America’s largest public companies. This article encourages critics of buybacks to consider the complexity and interrelationship of buybacks and equity compensation.
Simple Insolvency Detection for Publicly Traded Firms
J.B. Heaton, 74(3) 723-734 (Summer 2019)
This article addresses current limitations of financial-market-based solvency tests by proposing a simple balance-sheet solvency test for publicly traded firms. This test is derived from an elementary algebraic relation among the inputs to the balance-sheet solvency calculation. The solvency test requires only the assumption that the market value of assets equals the sum of the market value of the firm’s debt plus the market value of the firm’s equity. The solvency test is a generated upper bound on the total amount of debt the firm can have and still be solvent or, alternatively, the minimum amount of stock-market capitalization the firm must have if it is solvent at current debt prices. The virtue of the method—apart from its ease of implementation—is that it makes possible the detection of balance-sheet insolvent firms notwithstanding the possibility that not all of the firm’s liabilities—including hard-to-quantify contingent liabilities—can be identified. As a result, the method allows for the detection of balance-sheet insolvent firms that otherwise might escape detection. The method proposed here can identify insolvent firms that should be retaining assets and not paying them out to shareholders as dividends or repurchases, identify stocks that brokers and investment advisers should treat as out-of-the-money call options that may be unsuitable investments, and can help auditors identify publicly traded firms that are candidates for going-concern qualifications and other disclosures.
Asking the Right Question: The Statutory Right of Appraisal and Efficient Markets
Jonathan Macey and Joshua Mitts, 74(4): 1015-1064
In this article, we make several contributions to the literature on appraisal rights and similar cases in which courts assign values to a company’s shares in the litigation context. First, we applaud the recent trend in Delaware cases to consider the market prices of the stock of the company being valued if that stock trades in an efficient market, and we defend this market-oriented methodology against claims that recent discoveries in behavioral finance indicate that share prices are unreliable due to various cognitive biases. Next, we propose that the framework and methodology for utilizing market prices be clarified. We maintain that courts should look at the market price of the securities of a target company whose shares are being valued, unadjusted for the news of the merger, rather than at the deal price that was reached by the parties in the transaction.
The Shifting Sands of Conflict of Interest Standards: The Duty of Loyalty Meets the Real World with Questions of Process and Fairness
Stuart R. Cohn, 74(4): 1077-1104 (Fall 2019)
Standards governing the validity of conflict-of-interest transactions by corporate directors or others in dominant positions have significantly evolved from the early days of strict judicial condemnation to the current statutory provisions. These provisions place great faith in and emphasis on the judgment of disinterested directors or shareholders. This evolution has not been consistent among states, given that substantial variations exist regarding both statutory provisions and judicial interpretations. To illustrate the variations, this article examines and compares the Delaware and Model Business Corporation Act standards. The variations reflect the concerns that arise when a director’s fiduciary duty of loyalty conflicts with the realities and demands of the commercial world. This article examines the evolution of conflict-of-interest standards and existing variations in light of two fundamental issues: (i) whether the combination of statutory and fiduciary standards obligates directors to obtain advance approval of conflict transactions and (ii) the capacity of shareholders to challenge conflict transactions on the grounds of fairness to the corporation, even after board or shareholder approval. The article concludes that statutory and fiduciary standards obligate directors to obtain advance approval of conflict transactions and provides recommendations for addressing these two issues in a manner consistent with statutory provisions and fiduciary standards.
The Limits of Delaware Corporate Law: Internal Affairs, Federal Forum Provisions, and Sciabacucchi
Joseph A. Grundfest; 75(1): 1319-1398 (Winter 2019-2020)
The Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) provides for concurrent federal and state jurisdiction. Securities Act claims were historically litigated in federal court, but in 2015 plaintiffs began filing far more frequently in state court, where dismissals are less common and where weaker claims are more likely to survive. Directors’ and officers’ insurance costs for initial public offerings (“IPOs”) have since significantly increased. Today, approximately 75 percent of section 11 corporate defendants face state court proceedings. Federal forum provisions (“FFPs”) respond to the migration of Securities Act claims to state court and to increased insurance costs by requiring that Securities Act claims be litigated in their traditional federal forum.
Interview with Marty Lipton
Jessica C. Pearlman; 75(2): 1709-1724 (Spring 2020)
In September of 2019, after wrapping up meetings of the Mergers and Acquisitions (“M&A”) Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association (“ABA”), I took the train from Washington, D.C. to New York City to meet with Marty Lipton—the well-known founder of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz—in a conference room at his firm. It was perfect timing to have this conversation with Mr. Lipton, given recent developments relating to corporate views on the constituencies corporations may take into account in their decision-making.
Loss Causation and the Materialization of Risk Doctrine in Securities Fraud Class Actions
Richard A. Booth; 75(2): 1791-1814 (Spring 2020)
In the context of a claim for securities fraud under SEC Rule 10b-5, most federal circuit courts have ruled or recognized that loss causation can be proven by an event that demonstrates an earlier statement by a defendant company to be false. In other words, corrective disclosure need not take the form of speech. Rather, a statement can be shown to be false by the materialization of a risk that was concealed by the company, and investors can be compensated for any losses they suffer as a result. Although this doctrine is well established, its ultimate effect is to overcompensate investors, thus encouraging excessive securities litigation and chilling voluntary disclosure.
Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. at 100: The Enduring Legacy of Corporate Law’s Most Controversial Case
Michael J. Vargas, 75(3): 2103-2122 (Summer 2020)
This article examines Dodge v. Ford on its 100th anniversary. In Dodge v. Ford, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a business corporation is organized for the profit of its shareholders, and the directors must operate it in service to that end. Despite the fact that Dodge v. Ford is rarely cited in judicial opinions, the case continues to spark controversy in legal scholarship. There is little justification for this scholarly attention because the factual basis is little more than a caricature of Henry Ford, and subsequent developments in corporate law have all but eviscerated the precedential value of the case. Rather, the legacy of Dodge v. Ford may simply be that it serves as a convenient talisman, standing for the one sentence anyone actually cares about and rolled out with each new battle in the war between shareholder profit maximization and corporate social responsibility.
The Paradox of Delaware’s “Tools at Hand” Doctrine: An Empirical Investigation
James D. Cox, Kenneth J. Martin, and Randall S. Thomas 75(3): 2123-2172 (Summer 2020)
Much has been written on the subject of abusive shareholder litigation. The last decade has witnessed at first an increase and then a dramatic spike in such suits, primarily suits filed in connection with mergers and acquisitions. Delaware courts are known for not just their deep experience in corporate lawsuits but as being doctrinal innovators. One such innovation occurred in Rales v. Blasband, 634 A.2d 927 (Del. 1993), establishing the “tools at hand” doctrine, whereby, before considering whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court admonishes the shareholder to resort to inspection rights accorded by the Delaware General Corporation Law so as to gather facts necessary for the complaint to survive the pretrial motion.