March 29, 2024

Proposed 2024 DGCL Amendments: “Chancery Court Cleanup in Aisle 3!”

The Chancery Court’s recent decisions in Crispo, Moelis, and Activision Blizzard have caused a lot of angst in the M&A community. Yesterday, the Delaware Bar took steps to calm the storm by recommending proposed amendments to the DGCL designed to address the uncertainty created by these decisions.  Here’s an excerpt from this Richards Layton memo summarizing some of the proposed changes:

– Section 122, which enumerates express powers that a corporation may exercise, is being amended in response to the Delaware Court of Chancery’s opinion in West Palm Beach Firefighters’ Pension Fund v. Moelis & Co., — A.3d —, 2024 WL 747180 (Del. Ch. Feb. 23, 2024), to provide that a corporation may enter into governance agreements with stockholders and beneficial owners where the corporation agrees, among other things, to restrict itself from taking action under circumstances specified in the contract, require contractually specified approvals before taking corporation action, and covenant that it or one or more persons or bodies (which persons or bodies may include the board or one or more current or future directors, stockholders or beneficial owners of stock) will take, or refrain from taking, contractually specified actions.

– New Section 147 is being added in light of the Delaware Court of Chancery’s opinion in Sjunde AP-Fonden v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., 2024 WL 863290 (Del. Ch. Feb. 29, 2024), to provide that, where the DGCL requires the board of directors to approve an agreement, document or other instrument, the board may approve the document in final form or substantially final form.  The new section will also provide that, where the board has previously taken action to approve an agreement, document or other instrument that is required to be filed with the Delaware Secretary of State (or required to be referenced in a certificate so filed (e.g., a certificate of merger or certificate of amendment)), the board may ratify the agreement, document or other instrument before the instrument effecting the act becomes effective.

– New Section 261(a)(1) is being added in light of Crispo v. Musk, 304 A.3d 567 (Del. Ch. 2023), to provide, among other things, that a target company may include in a merger agreement a provision that allows the target to seek damages, including damages attributable to the stockholders’ loss of a premium, against a buyer that has failed to perform its obligations under the merger agreement, including any failure to cause the merger to be consummated.

– New Section 261(a)(2) is being added to provide that stockholders may, through the adoption of a merger agreement, appoint a person to act as stockholders’ representative to enforce the rights of stockholders in connection with a merger, including rights to payment of merger consideration or in respect of escrow or indemnification arrangements and settlements.

Other proposed amendments would address additional concerns raised by these decisions. In response to Activision, Section 232 of the DGCL would be amended to provide that any materials included with a notice to stockholders would be deemed to be part of that notice, and a new Section 268 would be added to address ministerial matters relating to the adoption of a merger agreement.

John Jenkins