Multiple New Suits Challenge Exclusive Forum Selection Bylaws in Delaware Court of Chancery

Multiple New Suits Challenge Exclusive Forum Selection Bylaws in Delaware Court of Chancery

We typically focus on summarizing corporate and commercial decisions of Delaware's Supreme Court and Court of Chancery, but today we find noteworthy a bevy of new lawsuits just filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery. These new suits challenge bylaws in several companies that require shareholder suits to be filed exclusively in the Delaware Court of Chancery.  If suits are filed elsewhere, the company threatens to sue those shareholders to recoup fees for breach of the bylaw provision. The challenge is based on the alleged violation of due process rights because there was no mutual consent by the shareholders. The suits were filed by the highly-regarded corporate litigator Michael Hanrahan of the Prickett Jones firm in Wilmington. Among the companies sued by shareholders challenging the exclusive forum bylaw provision, in separate lawsuits, are the following Delaware corporations:

Navistar International Corp., AutoNation, Inc. Chevron Corp., SPX Corp., Superior Energy Services, Inc., Franklin Resources, Inc., Curtiss-Wright Corp., Danaher Corp., and Solutia Inc.

Scholarship on the Topic

Corporate law scholars have written extensively about this topic and we have featured much of that scholarship on these pages. For example, Professor Joseph Grundfest of Stanford, who is credited by many as originating the idea of adding a charter provision (as compared with a bylaw provision), with an exclusive forum selection clause for shareholder suits, presented a lecture in Delaware before the Bench and Bar on the issue, as discussed on these pages here . Prof. Steven Davidoff provided insights on the topic here.

Although Delaware Courts have not squarely decided the issue of a forum selection clause in a bylaw provision, that is not voted on by the shareholders, a California court struck down a provision in a case noted on these pages here. Professor Bainbridge comments on the topic here.  Prof. Brian J.M. Quinn wrote a law review article on the issue, available here. 

Our post here  on this topic and related issues, includes commentary by the late, great scholar Prof. Larry Ribstein and others who have addressed the related problems with multi-jurisdictional litigation and the challenges that arise with an apparent increase in the number of non-Delaware courts deciding issues of Delaware corporate law. A ruling on these new cases by the Delaware Court of Chancery, which will likely be appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, will be a welcome addition to provide a measure of certainty on this cutting edge topic.

Read more Delaware business litigation case summaries and commentary on Delaware Corporate and Commercial Litigation Blog, a blog hosted by Francis G.X. Pileggi, of Eckert Seamans.

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