Has The Delaware Court Been Compromised?
A Checkered Past
For those who may not know, since October of 2015, I have fervently questioned Delaware Chancellor Andre Bouchard, who prior to his appointment to the bench was a Democratic activist, over his appointments for the position of Chief Deputy for the Register of Wills Office in Sussex County, Delaware. I challenged him for appointing three democrats (possibly political favoritism) over more accomplished personnel already within the office of the Register of Wills. Since the appointments, each of them have failed in their duties and have since been replaced, one after the other.
Instead of following the recommendation of the elected Register of Wills, Cindy Green (a Republican), who highly recommended a competent, experienced, electronic-filing expert already employed within the system, Bouchard has created dissension and multiple problems resulting in delays for people needing to get their estates in order. Hopefully Bouchard’s next appointment will be better. Following this background is another situation involving a current case in Bouchard’s Court, which I find interesting:
I have been made aware of a Delaware corporation operating in New York City that is in litigation in Delaware’s Chancery Court. The Honorable Chancellor Bouchard is presiding over the case. I have obtained significant documentation, letters, affidavits, and so on. The company’s name is TransPerfect Global and it is owned by Phillip Shawe and Elizabeth Elting. Elting (the Plaintiff in the case), wants to sell her half of the business, but she wants more for her stock than it is worth. She wants the controlling share. Shawe wants to buy her out and keep growing the business, but Elting will not agree, so hence, the Chancery Court has taken over. When these things happen, equity is supposed to reign, not arbitrary and capricious rulings which may end up destroying a viable American company.
What would you call a situation where a Delaware Corporation named TransPerfect Global, a very successful $600 million dollar company that employs 4000 people, is being forced by the Chancery Court to be sold because one stockholder chooses to be greedy? Delaware’s Chief Chancellor, Andre Bouchard refuses to address the evidence presented to him, and force an equitable sale to the willing partner, but chose to dissolve the company.
I call it inequitable, especially when the company will most likely be put up for sale and thousands of jobs will be lost. Does this sound equitable?
Bouchard installed a custodian who is a friend of his, and that man, Bob Pincus, received a detailed letter from 75 senior staff members at TransPerfect asking him and the judge not to sell the company. They asserted faith in Shawe as a manager and their roles in keeping the company in great financial standing. Pincus, a former Partner of Bouchard’s at “Skadden Arps”, chose not to share the letter with Bouchard. Instead, he claimed that he got “a letter from some of the staff” airing their grievances.
Instead of refuting Bouchard’s claim that the company is in disarray, Pincus failed to disclose the fact that 75 top employees expressed concern over the court forcing a sale, and demonstrated that the company is running smoothly.
These employees also made an offer of $200 million to buy out Plaintiff Elizabeth Elting. Understanding the amount is less than 50% of the company’s worth, and less than the figure Shawe offered to Elting, which she turned down, the point is that the employees were willing to put their own money up because they trust Phillip Shawe to run TransPerfect.
Chancellor Bouchard apparently is not considering this in his assessment. From his rulings so far, he has empowered himself by declaring the successful firm in harm’s way.
Affidavits on public file in a NYS court were also handed to Bouchard showing over 175 employees’ outstanding opinions of Phillip Shawe as a manager who cares about his company. Folks, as Shakespeare once said, “Something is rotten in Denmark.”
What do you call it when the temporary court appointed custodian, a man named Bob Pincus, is appointed to run the company by Chancellor Bouchard and it turns out that Pincus just happens to be a friend of Bouchard’s? I call it cronyism, scratching the back of your buddy.
Pincus, according to the evidence and complaints by the current company employees, has unnecessarily spent millions of dollars in ridiculous consulting fees, all while running up the cost of the litigation. Ouch!!
Particularly outrageous, is that Bouchard recently appeared on a Tulane Law School panel discussion with Plaintiff Elting’s attorney, Kevin Shannon a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans at Tulane University (* a reference is provided below). The “jury is still out” in this case and Bouchard is the sole jurist. Their joint appearance certainly has the “appearance of impropriety” and should be cause for Bouchard’s recusal from the case. Additionally, the impropriety could be justification for an appeal or even a sanction from the Delaware Bar Association?
What do you call it when Chancellor Bouchard appears on a public panel in New Orleans with the plaintiff’s attorney? I call it impropriety, especially when Bouchard is about to decide the fate of the defendant in the case.
Under Delaware law “the appearance of an impropriety is as bad as the impropriety itself.” Bouchard should recuse himself from this case. It appears from the evidence, pleadings, and denials I have reviewed that Chancellor Andre Bouchard continuously plays loose with not only fairness and equity, but also with propriety and ethics.
From my perspective, the concern here is that Delaware depends on its corporate fees to fill its coffers. Delaware is known as the corporate state. When its equity court, the Court of Chancery, becomes compromised by poor decisions and the appearances of impropriety, then why would people continue to incorporate their businesses in Delaware? This should be of great concern to our legislators, our business people, and all of our citizens. Delaware’s economic growth is depleted enough as it is.
There is much more to come on this topic and this is the primary salvo. This is an interesting scenario – and a first of its kind – whereby a viable business could be forced out of business by the judicial branch of Delaware’s government.
I have sent my opinions to Chancellor Bouchard, who is supposed to rule on this case on April 27th. I am curious to see what happens, however all indications from the previous pleadings and denials which are public record indicate that the company will go on the auction block and could be eventually outsourced abroad, killing thousands of American jobs.
Folks, this is not what America is supposed to be about. Indeed, I find this possible scenario most disconcerting.
Your comments are welcome and subject to being forwarded.
JUDSON Bennett-Coastal Network