The Delaware Court of Chancery rejected a lawsuit by a Walt Disney Company stockholder to compel inspection of Disney’s books and records relating to the company’s opposition to Florida’s “don’t say gay” law – a stance that allegedly caused the Governor and legislature to retaliate against Disney. The decision in Simeone v. The Walt Disney Company (Del. Ch. June 27, 2023) holds that inspection of corporate books and records is not available under Delaware law unless the requesting stockholder – not his or her attorneys, who might have their own agenda – has stated a proper purpose for making such a demand. It also emphasizes the role that a corporation’s board of directors must play in making business decisions about controversial social and political issues. In addition, the ruling confirms that a board may exercise its business judgment to consider the interests of “corporate stakeholders” – such as “the workforce that drives a company’s profits” – when making decisions related to building the enterprise’s long-term value.
A California federal court held that a California statute requiring California-based corporations to have a minimum number of directors from designated under-represented groups violates the federal Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The decision in Alliance for Fair Board Recruitment v. Weber (E.D. Cal. May 16, 2023) is one of the latest skirmishes in the culture wars raging around diversity and other ESG-related matters. The ruling addresses the same law that a California state court previously invalidated in a decision that is currently on appeal.
In late October, a New York district court refused to dismiss the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) indictment against defendant Nathaniel Chastain, who was charged with wire fraud and money laundering relating to his using insider knowledge to purchase non-fungible tokens (NFTs) prior to them being featured on OpenSea, an online…
The Delaware Supreme Court held yesterday that a stockholder seeking to inspect corporate books and records may use “reliable” hearsay to establish the propriety of the purpose of the inspection demand. The decision in NVIDIA Corp. v. City of Westland Police and Fire Retirement System (July 19, 2022) does not appear to break new ground on this issue, inasmuch as the Court concluded that it “appeared” to have allowed the use of sufficiently reliable hearsay in a 26-year-old decision, which neither party here asked the Court to revisit or overrule.
The SEC prevailed on a motion to dismiss a closely watched lawsuit alleging that the defendant had engaged in insider trading based on news about a not-yet-public corporate acquisition when he purchased securities of a company not involved in that deal. The January 14, 2022 decision in SEC v. Panuwat (N.D. Cal.) marks the first time a court has considered the theory of “shadow trading,” which involves trading the securities of a public company that is not the direct subject of the material, nonpublic information (“MNPI”) at issue.
The Panuwat decision does not appear to break new ground under the misappropriation theory of insider trading in light of the particular facts alleged. But the “shadow trading” theory warrants attention because, on other sets of allegations, it can have wide-ranging ramifications for traders.
The SEC recently charged a former employee of a biopharmaceutical company with insider trading in advance of an acquisition but with a unique twist: Trading the securities of a company unrelated to the merger. The employee, Matthew Panuwat, did not trade his own company’s or the acquiring company’s securities, but…
While we are growing accustomed to pandemic-based shareholder actions relating to improper health and safety disclosures or misrepresentations relating to COVID-19 treatments and tests, this month brings a novel variant of the COVID-19 lawsuit. A Universal Health Services Inc. investor has filed a derivative suit against company officers and directors, claiming they took advantage of a pandemic-related drop in the company’s stock price to grant and receive certain stock options that were unfair to the company and its stockholders. The plaintiff investor claims that “company insiders took advantage of the temporary drop in the company’s stock price to grant and receive options to buy the company’s stock at rock bottom prices, thereby showering themselves in excessive compensation.” The complaint alleges that the drop in stock price was “not caused by any changes in the company’s fundamentals or business prospects,” but instead was entirely attributable to the effect of the pandemic on the markets writ large.
Late last month, a new batch of plaintiffs filed a stockholder derivative suit against Pinterest, Inc., in Delaware Chancery Court, making similar allegations to those made in a pair of cases filed in the Northern District of California in 2019.
The plaintiffs allege that Pinterest executives ignored and failed to correct systemic race and gender discrimination across the company and retaliated against employees who voiced concerns about the problem.