Tag: Forum selection

Corporate Law and The Limits of Private Ordering

James D. Cox is the Brainerd Currie Professor of Law of Duke Law School. The following post is based on an article forthcoming in the Washington University Law Review. This post is part of the Delaware law series; links to other posts in the series are available here. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Private Ordering and the Proxy Access Debate by Lucian Bebchuk and Scott Hirst (discussed on the Forum here).

Solomon-like, the Delaware legislature in 2015 split the baby by amending the Delaware General Corporation Law to authorize forum-selection bylaws and to prohibit charter or bylaw provisions that would shift to the plaintiff defense costs incurred in connection with shareholder suits that were not successfully concluded. The legislature acted after the Boilermakers Local 154 Retirement Fund. v. Chevron Corp ATP Tour, Inc. v. Deutscher Tennis Bund, broadly empowered the board vis-à-vis the shareholders through the board’s power to amend the bylaws. Repeatedly the analysis used by each court referenced the contractual relationship the shareholders had through the articles of incorporation and the bylaws with their corporation. The action of the Delaware legislation hardly puts the important question raised by each opinion to bed: are there limits on the board of directors to act through the bylaws to alter the rights shareholders customarily enjoy? Stated differently, can the board of directors’ authority to amend the bylaws extend to changing both the procedural and substantive relationship shareholders have with their corporation. In examining this question, the article, Corporate Law and The Limits of Private Ordering, develops two broad points: the shareholder’s relationship is more than just a contract and, even if the relationship was contractual, bedrock contract law does not support the results reached in Boilermakers and ATP Tour, Inc. In conclusion, the article also uncovers an issued overlooked in the debate over the relative prerogatives of shareholders and the board of directors, namely that bylaws proposed by the board of directors carry a strong presumption of propriety whereas those proposed by shareholders do not.


Glass Lewis’ Updated Voting Policy Guidelines

Andrew R. Brownstein is partner and co-chair of the Corporate practice group, and David A. Katz is a partner specializing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and activism, and crisis management at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This post is based on a Wachtell Lipton memorandum by Mr. Brownstein, Mr. Katz, David M. Silk, Trevor S. NorwitzSabastian V. Niles, and S. Iliana Ongun.

Glass Lewis has released updated U.S. proxy voting guidelines for the 2016 proxy season. Key areas of focus include: (i) nominating committee performance; (ii) changing the Glass Lewis approach to exclusive forum provisions if adopted in the context of an initial public offering; (iii) director “overboarding;” (iv) evaluation of conflicting management and shareholder proposals when both are put to a vote of shareholders; and (v) withhold recommendations in the context of failures of environmental and social risk oversight.


Enforcement Discretion at the SEC

David Zaring is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Zaring.

The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act allowed the Securities & Exchange Commission to bring almost any claim that it can file in federal court to its own Administrative Law Judges. The agency has since taken up this power against a panoply of alleged insider traders and other perpetrators of securities fraud. Many targets of SEC ALJ enforcement actions have sued on equal protection, due process, and separation of powers grounds, seeking to require the agency to sue them in court, if at all.

The SEC has vigorously—and, my article argues, correctly—defended its power to choose where it sues. Agencies have always enjoyed unfettered discretion to choose their enforcement targets and their policy making fora. Formal adjudication under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which is the process SEC ALJs offer, has been with us for decades, and has never before been thought to be unconstitutional in any way. It violates no rights, nor offends the separation of powers; if anything scholars have bemoaned the fact that it offers inefficiently large amounts of process to defendants, administered by insulated civil servants who in no way threaten the president’s control over the executive branch. Nonetheless, because defendants, advised by high profile lawyers, have raised appointments clause, due process, equal protection, and right to a jury trial claims against the agency, the article reviews the reasons why these claims will fail, and discusses the timing issues that have led the two appellate courts to address the claims to dismiss them as prematurely brought.


SEC Proposed Amendments to Rules for Administrative Proceedings

Barry R. Goldsmith is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn client alert by Mr. Goldsmith, Joel CohenMarc J. Fagel, Monica K. Loseman, and Mark Schonfeld.

On September 24, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had voted to propose amendments to rules governing its administrative proceedings. SEC Chair Mary Jo White noted that the “proposed amendments seek to modernize our rules of practice for administrative proceedings, including provisions for additional time and prescribed discovery for the parties.” [1] These proposals follow the SEC’s June 2014 announcement that it intended to bring more cases through administrative proceedings rather than in federal court [2] and the release of the Division of Enforcement’s May 2015 guidance entitled “Approach to Forum Selection in Contested Actions,” explaining how the SEC chooses between administrative proceedings and federal court to litigate its claims. [3]

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.


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.


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.


“Exclusive Forum” Bylaws Fast Becoming an Item in M&A Deals

Robert B. Little is partner in the Mergers and Acquisitions group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. This post is based on a Gibson Dunn publication by Mr. Little and Chris Babcock. 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 Court of Chancery’s endorsement of exclusive forum bylaws—bylaw provisions establishing that certain types of lawsuits relating to internal corporate governance matters may only be pursued in a designated forum—has led to the extensive use of these bylaws as a way to manage the litigation that commonly accompanies public mergers and similar transactions. In particular, following the decision in City of Providence v. First Citizens BancShares, [1] where the Court determined that it was not a per se violation of a board’s fiduciary duties to adopt exclusive forum bylaws in the context of an upcoming acquisition, it appears that public company targets have more often than not adopted these provisions. Examining a sample of public M&A deals taking place after City of Providence, we found that the target adopted exclusive forum bylaws prior to or at the time of the acquisition in over two-thirds of the deals reviewed. This finding suggests that adoption of such bylaw provisions is becoming a routine part of public M&A practice.


Governance Issues in Spin-Off Transactions

The following post comes to us from Stephen I. Glover, Partner and Co-Chair of the Mergers & Acquisitions practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on a Gibson Dunn M&A Report by Mr. Glover, Elizabeth Ising, Lori Zyskowski, and Alisa Babitz. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

Spin-off transactions require a focused, intensive planning effort. The deal team must make decisions about how best to allocate businesses, assets and liabilities between the parent and the subsidiary that will be spun-off. It must address complex tax issues, securities law questions and accounting matters, as well as issues related to capital structure, financing and personnel matters. In addition, it must resolve a long list of governance issues, including questions about the composition of the spin-off company board, the importance of mechanisms for dealing with conflicts of interest and the desirability of robust takeover defenses.


2014 Delaware Decisions and What They Mean For 2015

The following post comes to us from John L. Reed, chair of the Wilmington Litigation group and a partner in the Corporate and Litigation groups at DLA Piper LLP, and is based on portions of a DLA Piper Corporate Update; the complete publication is 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.

Delaware has long been known as the corporate capital of the world, and it is now the state of incorporation for 66 percent of the Fortune 500 and more than half of all companies whose securities trade on the NYSE, Nasdaq and other exchanges. Each year, the Delaware courts issue a number of significant opinions demonstrating that the Delaware courts are neither stockholder nor management biased. Many of those recent and important cases are discussed in this post, which is intended to provide sufficient detail so as to be helpful to in-house counsel, but is also written in a way so that the often-long and complex Delaware decisions can be easily understood by directors and other fiduciaries. Takeaway observations are also provided.


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