When a shareholder claims that a director or officer has harmed a corporation through his or her improper conduct, these claims typically must be brought through a derivative action, in which the shareholder sues on behalf of the corporation. Ordinarily, however, a corporation’s board of directors has the authority to bring lawsuits on the company’s behalf, for the benefit of all of the shareholders. Thus, a shareholder who wants the company to pursue claims must first make a demand upon the board to file a lawsuit, unless such a demand would be futile. As courts in Delaware and elsewhere have determined, so-called “demand futility” may be found where there is a “reasonable doubt that, as of the time the complaint is filed, a majority of the board could have properly exercised [their] independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a demand.” In these situations, a demand would be futile because “a shareholder would be effectively asking a majority of the board of directors to cause the corporation to sue themselves.” If a shareholder attempts to bring a derivative suit without first making a demand or without showing futility, that suit may be dismissed on a motion by the defendants. Continue Reading Do Shareholders Need to Make a Demand Upon the Board of Directors Before Filing Suit on a Family-Owned Corporation’s Behalf?
In family businesses, disputes may arise concerning access to company information. Owners who work day-to-day in the business typically have unfettered access to this information, while passive shareholders may feel they are “in the dark” as to the company’s decision-making and performance. Passive shareholders depend on the “insider” owners to provide them with full and accurate information and may become suspicious of the insider owners when the information provided is delayed or incomplete. For their part, the active owners may believe that information requests from other owners are a burden or a distraction to the company’s operation. So, what documents are corporate shareholders entitled to review?