Category Archives: Legislative & Regulatory Developments

DGCL Amendments Authorize Exclusive Forum Provisions and Prohibit Fee-Shifting Provisions

Laura D. Richman is counsel and Andrew J. Noreuil is partner at Mayer Brown LLP. This post is based on a Mayer Brown Legal Update, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

A great deal of attention has been paid over the past few years to efforts made by corporations to control in which courts internal corporate claims may be brought or to compel unsuccessful plaintiffs in internal corporate claims to pay the defendant’s attorneys’ fees and costs. Recently enacted amendments [1] to the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) address, among other things, two types of charter or bylaw provisions on these topics that some companies have adopted.

The amendments specifically authorize provisions that specify Delaware as the exclusive forum for internal corporate claims, defined as “claims, including claims in the right of the corporation, (i) that are based upon a violation of a duty by a current or former director or officer or stockholder in such capacity, or (ii) as to which this title confers jurisdiction upon the Court of Chancery.” However, the amendments ban fee-shifting provisions that would impose liability for attorneys’ fees and costs on stockholders bringing unsuccessful internal corporate claims. The amendments to the DGCL become effective on August 1, 2015.

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Amendments to the DGCL

Gregory P. Williams is chair of the Corporate Department at Richards, Layton & Finger. This post is based on a Richards, Layton & Finger publication, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

Senate Bill 75, which contains several important amendments to the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware (the “DGCL”), was signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on June 24, 2015. As described in this post, the 2015 legislation includes, among other things:

  • Prohibition on Fee Shifting. The legislation amends Sections 102 and 109 to prohibit “fee shifting” provisions in certificates of incorporation and bylaws of stock corporations.
  • Authorization of Delaware Forum Selection Clauses. The legislation adds new Section 115 to validate provisions in certificates of incorporation and bylaws that select the Delaware courts as the exclusive forum for “internal corporate claims.”
  • Flexibility in Stock and Option Issuances. The legislation amends Section 152 to provide greater flexibility in stock issuances, and makes corresponding amendments to Section 157 in respect of the authorization of rights and options to purchase stock.
  • Ratification of Defective Corporate Acts and Stock. The legislation amends Sections 204 and 205 to clarify and streamline the procedures for ratifying defective corporate acts and stock.
  • Public Benefit Corporations. The legislation amends Section 363 to loosen the restrictions on (x) an existing corporation becoming a “public benefit corporation” and (y) a public benefit corporation ceasing to be a public benefit corporation. It also adds a “market out” exception to the appraisal rights provided in Section 363(b) in connection with a corporation becoming a public benefit corporation.

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New DGCL Amendments Endorse Forum Selection Clauses and Prohibit Fee-Shifting

Jack B. Jacobs is Senior Counsel at Sidley Austin LLP, and a former justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. The following post is based on a Sidley update, and is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

As expected, the Delaware State Legislature approved amendments to the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL) that will (i) authorize forum selection clauses in the charters or bylaws of Delaware corporations specifying Delaware as an exclusive forum for litigating internal corporate claims, (ii) prohibit clauses designating only courts outside of Delaware as the exclusive forum for internal corporate claims and (iii) invalidate fee-shifting provisions in the charters or bylaws of Delaware stock corporations. The bill incorporating the amendments passed the Delaware Senate on May 12, 2015 and the Delaware House on June 11, 2015. If the Governor of Delaware signs the bill into law as expected, the amendments will become effective on August 1, 2015.

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Does Pending Delaware Legislation Cover Fee Shifting in Securities Cases?

Neil J. Cohen is the publisher of the Bank and Corporate Governance Law Reporter. The article is part of a series of articles on the Delaware legislation regarding fee shifting, published in the June 2015 issue of the Bank and Corporate Governance Law Reporter (available here). This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Senate by a 16-5 vote has passed Bill 75 banning fee-shifting provisions in charters and bylaws in stock corporations for “internal corporate claims”. The bill also contains a prohibition of bylaws or charter provisions that designate a forum other than Delaware as the exclusive forum. That provision would prevent corporations from designating forums that allow fee-shifting provisions.

The Senate resisted a lobbying effort by the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform to insert a provision expanding the Court of Chancery’s discretionary authority to shift to include cases that “plainly should not have been brought but that do not satisfy the extremely narrow ‘bad faith’ or ‘frivolousness’ exceptions”.

The House is expected to approve the bill in June. If enacted, the amendments would become effective on August 1, 2015.

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“No Pay” Provisions: The Forgotten Middle Ground In The Fee-Shifting Battle

A. Thompson Bayliss is a partner at Abrams & Bayliss LLP. This post is based on a Abrams & Bayliss publication by Mr. Bayliss and Mark H. Mixon, Jr. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

If it becomes law, Delaware State Senate Bill 75 will prohibit Delaware stock corporations from adopting provisions in their bylaws or certificates of incorporation that would shift legal fees to the losing party in stockholder litigation. [1] The debate over these so-called “loser pays” provisions and the proposed legislation prohibiting them has generated controversy nationwide. Opponents of the legislation argue that abusive lawsuits impose a “merger tax” and that prohibiting “loser pays” provisions would “eliminate an important mechanism” that could “protect innocent shareholders against the costs of abusive litigation.” [2] Proponents of the legislation contend that “loser pays” provisions would “foreclose meritorious stockholder claims [and] render illusory the fiduciary obligations of corporate directors.” [3] Both sides of the public debate have overlooked the availability of “no pay” provisions, which could transform stockholder litigation without the effects that make “loser pays” provisions unpalatable to many. [4]

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SEC Responds to FAQs on 2014 Money Market Reform Release

John M. Loder is partner and co-head of the Investment Management practice group at Ropes & Gray LLP. This post is based on a Ropes & Gray Alert.

On April 22, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) staff released guidance (available here), titled “2014 Money Market Fund Reform Frequently Asked Questions,” that discusses various interpretive issues arising from the SEC’s 2014 Money Market Fund Reform release (the “2014 Reform Release”). On April 23, 2015, the SEC staff released additional guidance (available here), titled “Valuation Guidance Frequently Asked Questions,” that discusses the valuation guidance applicable to all mutual funds that was included within the 2014 Reform Release. Both the April 22 release and the April 23 release (together, the “Guidance”) were in a question-and-answer format and represent the views of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management’s staff (the “IM Staff”). This post discusses the highlights of the Guidance.

For a detailed discussion of the 2014 Reform Release’s effects on money market funds, please refer to our August 2014 Alert, which can be accessed here.

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SEC Broadens Focus on and Requirements for 13D Amendment Disclosure

Philip Richter is co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Richter, Steven Epstein, Abigail Pickering Bomba, and Gail Weinstein. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance about blockholder disclosure includes The Law and Economics of Blockholder Disclosure by Lucian Bebchuk and Robert J. Jackson Jr. (discussed on the Forum here), and Pre-Disclosure Accumulations by Activist Investors: Evidence and Policy by Lucian Bebchuk, Alon Brav, Robert J. Jackson Jr., and Wei Jiang.

The SEC recently announced settlements of charges against insiders relating to three different going private transactions. The settlement orders (the “Orders”) reflect a general increased focus by the SEC on insiders’ compliance with Schedule 13D amendment requirements in connection with going private transactions (and possibly other extraordinary transactions), as well as possibly expanded requirements for disclosure of steps taken during the preliminary stage of consideration of a transaction. The charges were against eight directors, officers or major stockholders for their respective failures to file timely amendments to their Schedule 13D filings to disclose their plans to take the companies private. The charges were based on steps these parties had taken in furtherance of the going private transactions, but that had only been disclosed months (or in some cases years) afterward in the proxy statements or Schedule 13E-3 statements relating to the transactions. READ MORE »

SEC Adopts Final Rules Implementing “Regulation A+”

The following post comes to us from James Moloney, partner and co-chair of the Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn publication. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

On March 25, 2015, in a unanimous vote, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC” or the “Commission”) approved final rules to create a new avenue for certain issuers to raise capital in transactions exempt from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). The set of new rules, collectively referred to as “Regulation A+,” amends the existing Regulation A offering exemption and is intended to create additional opportunities for companies to raise capital without having to comply with several of the more burdensome aspects of the traditional registration process. The new rules are expected to be effective on or about June 19, 2015. The adopting release and the Regulation A+ rules are available here: Final Rules.

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Delaware Enacts New Rapid Arbitration Act

The following post comes to us from David J. Berger, partner focusing on corporate governance at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and is based on a WSGR Alert memorandum. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The Delaware Rapid Arbitration Act (DRAA)—which provides a streamlined arbitration process that will allow for prompt, cost-effective resolution of business disputes—was passed by the Delaware House of Representatives on March 19, 2015, and the Delaware Senate on March 31, 2015, and was signed by Governor Jack Markell on April 3, 2015. The DRAA will become effective on May 4, 2015, and will be codified as new Chapter 58 of Title 10 of the Delaware Code. As summarized in more detail below, the DRAA offers a real alternative to the litigation process, providing companies with the chance to engage in a fast, relatively low-cost dispute resolution process without the burden of extensive discovery. The DRAA may be particularly beneficial to companies that are in commercial relationships with each other and that seek to avoid a lengthy, extensive, and public litigation process.

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Delaware Innovates to Create a World-Class Arbitration Regime

The following post comes to us from Greg Varallo, Director and Executive Vice President at Richards, Layton & Finger. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

On March 11, 2015, the Delaware State Bar Association gave its formal approval to HB 49, which was filed yesterday in the Delaware Legislature. If passed by the Legislature, the bill, which bears the title the Delaware Rapid Arbitration Act, will establish Delaware as a cutting-edge seat for business arbitrations. Building on the best of the state’s earlier experiment with judicially annexed arbitration, the new legislation was crafted with extensive consultation and input from constituencies around the US and internationally. One thing became clear as a result of those consultations: businesses and their advisors are alarmed at the marked drift in arbitration practice away from timely, efficient dispute resolution.

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