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Does Delaware Get the Final Say?

posted by Stephen Lubben

I've been doing some reading on officer and director fiduciary duties to creditors, and I am surprised that how much the academic and practitioner consensus seems to have settled on the notion that, in light of the Delaware caselaw following Gheewalla, it is essentially impossible for creditors to bring a fiduciary action against a board. Namely, because Delaware caselaw has held that such claims are derivative (with all the procedural limits thereon) and have narrowed the duty to apply, if at all, to cases of actual insolvency, most claims will not be viable. Moreover, most authors implicitly assume that these claims are subject to the internal affairs doctrine (i.e., that they are subject to Delaware law no matter where the case is brought).

That analysis seems right to me only if we are sure that these sorts of claims arise out of the corporate form. But if creditor fiduciary duty claims instead arise out the debtor-creditor relationship itself, then it is not clear to me Delaware gets to decide these issues. Indeed, more often New York would seem to provide the relevant law (if the debtor-creditor relationship is subject to New York law). Of course, some might argue that the debtor-creditor relationship is purely contractual, but it strikes me that the source of these claims is a greatly under-discussed issue.

Comments

Is a federally created bankruptcy estate even subject to state corporate governance law? I can think of one case, Houston Sports Net, that says no. It kind of makes sense given the Bankruptcy Code's various corporate governance provisions.

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