Delaware County Employees Retirement Fund, et al. v. Sanchez, et al.Annotate this Case
This case involved an appeal from a complicated transaction between a private company whose equity was wholly owned by the family of A.R. Sanchez, Jr., Sanchez Resources, LLC (the “Private Sanchez Company”), and a public company in which the Sanchez family constituted the largest stockholder bloc with some 16% of the shares and that was dependent on the Private Sanchez Company for all of its management services, Sanchez Energy Corporation (the “Sanchez Public Company”). The transaction at issue required the Sanchez Public Company to pay $78 million to: (i) help the Private Sanchez Company buy out the interests of a private equity investor; (ii) acquire an interest in certain properties with energy-producing potential from the Private Sanchez Company; (iii) facilitate the joint production of 80,000 acres of property between the Sanchez Private and Public Companies; and (iv) fund a cash payment of $14.4 million to the Private Sanchez Company. In this derivative action, the plaintiffs alleged that this transaction involved a gross overpayment by the Sanchez Public Company, which unfairly benefited the Private Sanchez Company by allowing it to use the Sanchez Public Company‟s funds to buy out their private equity partner, obtain a large cash payment for itself, and obtain a contractual right to a lucrative royalty stream that was unduly favorable to the Private Sanchez Company and thus unfairly onerous to the Sanchez Public Company. As to the latter, the plaintiffs alleged that the royalty payment was not only unfair, but was undisclosed to the Sanchez Public Company stockholders, and that it was the Sanchez family's desire to conceal the royalty obligation that led to a convoluted transaction structure. The Court of Chancery dismissed the complaint, finding that the defendants were correct in their contention that plaintiffs had not pled demand excusal under "Aronson v. Lewis," (473 A.2d 805 (1984)). "Determining whether a plaintiff has pled facts supporting an inference that a director cannot act independently of an interested director for purposes of demand excusal under "Aronson" can be difficult. And this case illustrates that." Because of that, the Supreme Court found that plaintiffs pled facts supporting an inference that a majority of the board who approved the interested transaction they challenged could not consider a demand impartially. Therefore, the Court reversed and remanded so that plaintiffs could prosecute this derivative action.