Delaware Default Fiduciary Fix

In its per curiam opinion in Gatz Properties, LLC v. Auriga Capital Corporation, 59 A.3d 1223 (Del. 2012)(en banc) (slip opinion), the Delaware Supreme Court called on the Delaware legislature to settle the questions of whether, when the LLC agreement is silent, those involved with LLCs owe fiduciary duties. See Gary Rosin, Gatz Properties, LLC. v. Auriga Capital Corp. (Del. 2012): Strine Affirmed on other Grounds and Chastised (Nov. 8, 2012).

Proposed legislation has been working its way through the Delaware State Bar Association. On May 9, 2012, the result, House Bill No. 126, was introduced in current Delaware legislative session. Section 8 of the bill provides:

Section 8. Amend § 18-1104, Title 6 of the Delaware Code by making insertions as shown by underlining as follows:

In any case not provided for in this chapter, the rules of law and equity, including the rules of law and equity relating to fiduciary duties and the law merchant, shall govern.

As noted by Doug Batey, Uncertainty Over Delaware LLC Fiduciary Duties To Be Clarified (April 16, 2013), the bill implicitly endorses the reasoning of Chancellor Stine in Auriga Capital Corp. v. Gatz Properties, LLC, 40 A.3d 839 (Del. Ch. 2012) (slip op.) that fiduciary duties are rooted in equity.

As a side note, in his opinion in Feeley v. NHAOCG, LLC, C.A. No. 7304-VCL (Nov. 28, 2012)(slip op.), Vice Chancellor Laster noted that , in Gatz Properties, LLC, the Delaware Supreme Court had left open the question of default fiduciary duties, and had Chancellor for even discussing the question. Laster then treated Strine’s opinion as if it were a law review article, slip op, at 16-17, and adopted Strine’s reasoning. Feeley , slip op. at 14-22. Laster’s opinion also has a nice discussion of the introductory phrase to Del. Sec. 18-1101(c), which allows contracting out of fiduciary duties:

To the extent that, at law or in equity, a member or manager or other person has duties (including fiduciary duties),

As explained by the Vice Chancellor, whether a member, or some other person, owes fiduciary duties is context specific. For example, in a manager-managed LLC, a non-controlling member does not owe fiduciary duties. Likewise, a person who is not a manager or a member might assume fiduciary duties by becoming and office or agent of the LLC. Feeley, slip op. at 18-21.

Gary Rosin



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