A parent corporation is typically not held liable for the acts of a subsidiary. As such, disregarding the corporate form (i.e., by piercing the corporate veil) and holding the parent liable is an extraordinary remedy. That said, if a parent company exercises enough control over a subsidiary, however, courts may hold the parent liable. Because there is often some degree of overlap between a parent and its subsidiary, a question courts are often faced with is just how much control is enough to justify imposing liability on a parent for its subsidiary’s actions?
This past year, Proskauer’s private fund litigation blog highlighted a Delaware Chancery case adopting an expansive view in favor of parties seeking information from companies under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law. The Delaware Supreme Court recently affirmed the Chancery Court’s ruling, providing additional appellate guidance on Section 220 and endorsing limits the Chancery Court set on certain defenses companies may have against such requests.
In Salladay v. Lev, the Delaware Chancery Court elaborated on how early a corporate board must take protective measures to shield a conflicted transaction from entire fairness review.
Salladay involved a motion to dismiss a challenge to a merger agreement based on alleged director conflicts at the target company. The defendants argued that the transaction was approved by an independent committee of directors and a shareholder vote, warranting deferential business judgment review and, in turn, dismissal. The court held that business judgment review was inappropriate because the independent committee only became involved in negotiations after they had begun—too late to “replicate the value-enhancing structure of an arms-length transaction”—and the shareholder vote was not fully informed. Instead, the much stricter standard of entire fairness applied, rather than the more lenient business judgment rule, and therefore dismissal was inappropriate.