California Corporation Code Information, Books And Records Requests – I See A Lot Of These

In corporate disputes and litigation I see a lot of requests for corporation information, books and records. Sometimes I represent the corporation, sometimes I represent the person requesting the information, books and records.

Below I have pasted select relevant provisions from California Corporations Code sections 1600-1605, which provide responsibilities and rights pertaining to requests for corporation information, books and records.

Note that the below provisions apply to California domestic corporations and also to foreign (non-California incorporated) corporations that meet certain requirements.

Also note that LLC entities have their own separate Corporation Code provisions pertaining to information, books and records – while the LLC provisions are similar in nature, they are also more detailed.

Finally, also note that requests for information, books and records should be worded appropriately with sufficient detail and specificity.

There are also provisions for enforcing in a court of law information, books and records requests that are not satisfied.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq., Royse Law Firm, Menlo Park, California

The following are select relevant provisions from California Corporations Code sections 1600-1605, which provide responsibilities and rights pertaining to requests for corporation information, books and records.

California Corporations Code §1600 (in relevant part, underline added, applies to both California domestic corporations and foreign corporations having their principal executive office in California or customarily holding meetings of its board in California)

(a) A shareholder or shareholders holding at least 5 percent in the aggregate of the outstanding voting shares of a corporation or who hold at least 1 percent of those voting shares and have filed a Schedule 14A with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (or in case the corporation is a bank the deposits of which are insured in accordance with the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, have filed a Form F-6 with the appropriate federal bank regulatory agency) shall have an absolute right to do either or both of the following: (1) inspect and copy the record of shareholders’ names and addresses and shareholdings during usual business hours upon five business days’ prior written demand upon the corporation, or (2) obtain from the transfer agent for the corporation, upon written demand and upon the tender of its usual charges for such a list (the amount of which charges shall be stated to the shareholder by the transfer agent upon request), a list of the shareholders’ names and addresses, who are entitled to vote for the election of directors, and their shareholdings, as of the most recent record date for which it has been compiled or as of a date specified by the shareholder subsequent to the date of demand. The list shall be made available on or before the later of five business days after the demand is received or the date specified therein as the date as of which the list is to be compiled. A corporation shall have the responsibility to cause its transfer agent to comply with this subdivision.

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(c) The record of shareholders shall also be open to inspection and copying by any shareholder or holder of a voting trust certificate at any time during usual business hours upon written demand on the corporation, for a purpose reasonably related to such holder’s interests as a shareholder or holder of a voting trust certificate.

California Corporations Code §1601 (in relevant part, underline added)

(a) The accounting books and records and minutes of proceedings of the shareholders and the board and committees of the board of any domestic corporation, and of any foreign corporation keeping any such records in this state or having its principal executive office in this state, shall be open to inspection upon the written demand on the corporation of any shareholder or holder of a voting trust certificate at any reasonable time during usual business hours, for a purpose reasonably related to such holder’s interests as a shareholder or as the holder of such voting trust certificate. The right of inspection created by this subdivision shall extend to the records of each subsidiary of a corporation subject to this subdivision.

California Corporations Code §1602 (in relevant part, underline added)

Every director shall have the absolute right at any reasonable time to inspect and copy all books, records and documents of every kind and to inspect the physical properties of the corporation of which such person is a director and also of its subsidiary corporations, domestic or foreign. Such inspection by a director may be made in person or by agent or attorney and the right of inspection includes the right to copy and make extracts. This section applies to a director of any foreign corporation having its principal executive office in this state or customarily holding meetings of its board in this state.

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May 15, 2017, Preliminary Injunction Order Against Uber – A Lot Of People Should Take Personal Note – Officers, Directors, Employees, Agents, Suppliers And Consultants

You may have heard, this week on May 15, 2017, Judge William Alsup in the Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc. case (U.S. District Court, No. District of California) issued his Order Granting In Part and Denying In Part Plaintiff’s Motion For Provisional Relief, i.e., for a preliminary injunction. The Order is 26 pages. Plaintiff has brought multiple claims in the case including for trade secret misappropriation, patent infringement and unfair competition, but the Order is for preliminary injunction only on the trade secret misappropriation claim. The trade secret claim is brought under both the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act.

I’m not going to go through the evidence in this post – as indicated above, the Order is 26 pages in length. The Order states that it is narrowly-tailored to balance the interests of the parties and the public. In summary, the decision whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction is based on the evidence now available, the legal claims alleged, the now perceived likelihood of the plaintiff prevailing at trial on the relevant claim or claims, and the interests of the parties and the public. Preliminary injunction motions are significantly based on the strength of the evidence now available and presented and the Judge’s view of that evidence. In this instance, in my view based on the Court’s Order, there was strong evidence that trade secret information possibly was misappropriated, but either no evidence or not particularly strong evidence that Uber had involvement in that possible misappropriation or that Uber had access to or used that information.

Here’s where the Court’s Order gets interesting – in the scope of relief granted. I have pasted below the wording from the Scope of Relief Granted part of the Order. In short aside from the provisions pertaining to Mr. Levandowski, and certain expedited discovery granted, the Order essentially requires Uber to conduct an extensive investigation and to file and disclose a detailed report and account by June 23, 2017, which is a very, very short time to conduct the investigation. In my view it is questionable whether the extent of the investigation can be completed and written-up to be filed in that short of time. And, as you will note, the investigation also includes, or example, all communications with any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, or consultant of defendants on the relevant topics. Thus, Uber is required to conduct discovery upon itself in the form of the report and account to be filed, and depending on the documents and information obtained the report and account could well bring individual officers, directors, employees, agents, suppliers and consultants personally into focus in the case – if they haven’t done so already, all of those people should be expansively reviewing their possible involvement, if any, in the issues that are involved in the case and consulting with legal counsel about their possible exposure to legal action and personal liability, and how they should proceed.

For your further reading, below is the Scope of Relief Granted provision from the Order.

Best to you. David Tate, Esq.

  1. SCOPE OF RELIEF GRANTED.

Having considered the foregoing, the Court ORDERS as follows:

  1. The term “downloaded materials,” as used in this provisional order, means any and all materials that Anthony Levandowski downloaded from Waymo and kept upon leaving Waymo’s employment, regardless of how long he kept them for and whether or not any such materials qualify as trade secrets or proprietary or confidential information.
  2. Defendants must immediately and in writing exercise the full extent of their corporate, employment, contractual, and other authority to (a) prevent Anthony Levandowski and all other officers, directors, employees, and agents of defendants from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials; and (b) cause them to return the downloaded materials and all copies, excerpts, and summaries thereof to Waymo (or the Court) by MAY 31 AT NOON. Copies essential for counsel of record and their litigation experts to use in defending this civil action are exempted from the foregoing requirement.9
  3. With respect to Anthony Levandowski, defendants shall immediately (a) remove him from any role or responsibility pertaining to LiDAR; (b) take all steps in their power to prevent him from having any communication on the subject of LiDAR with any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, consultant, or customer of defendants; and (c) prohibit him from consulting, copying, or otherwise using the downloaded materials in any way. Defendants shall instruct all their officers, directors, employees, agents, suppliers, consultants, and customers in writing of this prohibition, and further instruct them in writing to immediately report any suspected breaches thereof to the special master (or to the Court).
  4. With respect to all other persons, including those with Stroz Friedberg, defendants shall conduct a thorough investigation and provide a detailed accounting under oath setting forth every person who has seen or heard any part of any downloaded materials, what they saw or heard, when they saw or heard it, and for what purpose. In their investigation, defendants must do more than query servers with term searches. For example, they must interview personnel with particular focus on anyone who has communicated with Anthony Levandowski on the subject of LiDAR. Defendants’ accounting shall not be limited to Uber but shall include all persons who fit the foregoing description, including Levandowski and his separate counsel. The accounting may exclude, for only the time period after the commencement of this civil action, the attorneys of record and their staff and experts employed for this litigation. The accounting shall not be limited to downloaded materials that happened to make their way into some due diligence report but shall cover any and all downloaded materials. The accounting shall also identify the complete chains of custodians for every copy of any downloaded materials or due diligence report referencing downloaded materials. Defendants must also use the full extent of their authority and influence to obtain cooperation with the foregoing procedure from all involved. For example, if a potential custodian refuses to cooperate, then defendants’ accounting shall set forth the particulars, including all efforts made to obtain cooperation. The accounting must be filed and served by JUNE 23 AT NOON. The accounting may be filed under seal only to the extent that it quotes or appends downloaded materials.
  5. Also by JUNE 23 AT NOON, defendants shall provide Waymo’s counsel and the Court with a complete and chronologically organized log of all oral and written communications — including, without limitation, conferences, meetings, phone calls, one-on-one conversations, texts, emails, letters, memos, and voicemails — wherein Anthony Levandowski mentioned LiDAR to any officer, director, employee, agent, supplier, or consultant of defendants. The log shall identify for each such communication the time, place (if applicable), mode, all persons involved, and subjects discussed, as well as any and all notes or records referencing the communication.
  6. Waymo is hereby granted further expedited discovery in aid of possible further provisional relief. Subject to the protective order, and upon reasonable notice, Waymo’s counsel and one expert may inspect any and all aspects of defendants’ ongoing work involving LiDAR — including, without limitation, schematics, work orders, source code, notes, and emails — whether or not said work resulted in any prototype or device. With respect to its trade secret misappropriation claims only, Waymo may take seven further depositions on seven calendar days notice, may propound 28 reasonably narrow document requests for which the response time is reduced to 14 calendar days, and may propound 28 reasonably narrow interrogatories for which the response time is also reduced to 14 calendar days. If Waymo moves for further provisional relief before trial, then all its declarants in support of such motion must sit for depositions on an expedited basis. Otherwise, defendants may take only normal, unexpedited discovery. After Waymo has exhausted its expedited discovery, it may continue with normal discovery.
  7. Defendants shall keep complete and accurate records of their compliance with all of the foregoing requirements, including directives given to Anthony Levandowski and others. The special master shall monitor and verify said compliance. To that end, the special master shall promptly develop proposed monitoring and verification protocols with the parties’ input and then submit the proposed protocols to the Court for approval. The protocols shall provide for the special master to visit defendants’ facilities and monitor communications as necessary to ensure that Anthony Levandowski remains sealed off from LiDAR activities.

The foregoing provisional relief shall become effective upon the posting by Waymo of a bond or other security in the amount of FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

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New COSO Updated ERM Framework – Coming Soon – End of June, Perhaps – Could Be Very Important

Just a heads up, a source has suggested that the new long-anticipated COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission) ERM update might finally be out at the end of June. COSO is spending a very long time (since October 2014) preparing and vetting this “update” of the 2004 Enterprise Risk Management — Integrated Framework. COSO’s sponsoring organizations are the American Accounting Association (AAA), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Financial Executives International (FEI), The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and the National Association of Accountants (now the Institute of Management Accountants [IMA]), and the Commission includes representatives from industry, public accounting, investment firms, and SROs (exchanges).

We’ll have to wait and see what we get with this “update,” which will either simply be a relatively unimpressive or vague tweak, or a useful, modernized, sufficiently detailed guide which might become the standard to achieve, or somewhere in between. I’m hopeful for the useful version – ERM needs a big boost – this “update” is important. I find that there really are only three ways to provide this type of boost: sponsorship and push by large or influential organizations and people, mandatory (i.e., by law, regulation or rule) adoption, or, sometimes, push and expectancy by the public.

Here is the link to the COSO website https://www.coso.org/Pages/default.aspx

Best to you, David Tate, Esq., Litigation, D&O, audit committees, etc., Royse Law Firm http://rroyselaw.com/

A few things I am working on this week – because sometimes people don’t know what litigation attorneys do

I should do posts like this more often, just for the fun of it. The following are a few of the things that I am working on this week. Because sometimes people don’t know what litigation attorneys do. Of course I cannot provide names or too many specifics. Best to you. David Tate

1.  Preparation for taking a deposition of a party to the litigation, outline questions and issues to cover, select exhibits to ask about, and take the deposition – trust dispute case with possible no contest clause implications.

2.  Prepare and have served a subpoena for banking records in a case with an upcoming trial date.

3.  Prepare a detailed status conference statement to the court for a status hearing next week, and request additional trial dates on issues not resolved.

4.  Interact with the mediator in a case to see if settlement can still be achieved, or achieved on some of the issues.

5.  Work a complaint for failure to pay holdback and earnout amounts from an asset purchase agreement.

6.  Attend a court status hearing, and possibly obtain a trial date.

7.  New litigation client meeting – business litigation.

8.  Many interactions with opposing counsel.

9.  Review documentation relating to a possible new trust litigation case.

10.  And more, of course.

California Audit Of UC – Many Questions And What About Oversight – Video From Banter Pals – A Different Presentation

Here’s something different in terms of presentation. I have been playing around with this approach for several months. Additional improvements are coming. The video is from Banter Pals, http://banterpals.com

The direct link to Banter Pals is http://wp.me/p7Tk9b-18, or click on the following video:

Litigation Update Royse Law April 19, 2017

Greetings all. The following is a link to the April 19, 2017, Litigation Update for Royse Law of which I am the editor, http://conta.cc/2p46oKU

I primarily practice out of the Menlo Park office. We also have offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Brea. My practice includes civil litigation (business, real estate, D&O, professional responsibility, employment, IP, insurance, etc.) and trust, estate and elder litigation and contentious administrations. You can email me at dtate@rroyselaw.com, or call me at (650) 813-9700 extension 233. Best, David Tate

Evaluating Director Independence – Zynga Shareholder Derivative Suit

Thomas Sandys Derivatively on Behalf of Zynga, Inc. v. Pincus, et al., Delaware Supreme Court, Case No. 157,2016, December 5, 2016, highlights the sometimes difficulty, and the importance of evaluating director independence in the circumstance of a shareholder derivative suit.

In Zynga the plaintiff filed his shareholder derivative suit without first making a demand upon the board that the Company sue Company insiders that were alleged to have improperly sold Company stock. Instead of first making the demand upon the board, plaintiff argued that such a demand would have been futile because a majority of the nine person board members lacked independence.

In summary, the plaintiff alleged two derivative claims based on allegations that certain top managers and directors at Zynga were given an exemption to the Company’s standing rule preventing sales of stock by insiders until three days after an earnings announcement, and that the insiders who participated in the sale breached their fiduciary duties by misusing confidential information when they sold their shares while in possession of adverse, material non-public information. And plaintiff also asserted a duty of loyalty claim against the directors who approved the sale.

The holding in Zynga is that at the pleading stage there was sufficient evidence to suggest that a majority of the board did lack independence so as to excuse not making the demand upon the board. The holding is primarily interesting for the Court’s discussion about three particular board members, and the reasons why the Court determined that there was evidence to sufficiently suggest that those three directors did in fact lack independence to impartially consider a demand that the Company bring suit against the selling insiders, which resulted in a majority of the board also lacking independence, so as to excuse making the pre-suit demand upon the board.

To plead demand excusal the plaintiff must plead particularized factual allegations that create a reasonable doubt that, as of the time the complaint was filed, the board of directors could have properly exercised its independent and disinterested business judgment in responding to a demand. At the pleading stage, a lack of independence turns on whether the plaintiff has pleaded facts from which the director‘s ability to act impartially on a matter important to the interested party can be doubted because that director may feel subject to the interested party‘s dominion or beholden to that interested party.
With respect to one of the directors in question, the Court found troubling for the purpose of independence or lack thereof that the particular board member and her husband co-owned an unusual asset, an airplane, with Zynga’s former CEO and controlling stockholder, which the Court found was suggestive of an “extremely intimate personal friendship between their families.”

And with respect to the other two directors, the Court found troubling for the purpose of independence or lack thereof that the directors are partners at a prominent venture capital firm and that they and their firm not only controlled 9.2% of Zynga‘s equity as a result of being early-stage investors, but have other interlocking relationships with the controller and another selling stockholder outside of Zynga. More specifically the Court stated “Although it is true that entrepreneurs like the controller need access to venture capital, it is also true that venture capitalists compete to fund the best entrepreneurs and that these relationships can generate ongoing economic opportunities. There is nothing wrong with that, as that is how commerce often proceeds, but these relationships can give rise to human motivations compromising the participants’ ability to act impartially toward each other on a matter of material importance. Perhaps for that reason, the Zynga board itself determined that these two directors did not qualify as independent under the NASDAQ rules, which have a bottom line standard that a director is not independent if she has ―a relationship which, in the opinion of the Company‘s board of directors, would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment . . . .[Footnote #1: NASDAQ Marketplace Rule 5605(a)(2)] Although the plaintiff’s lack of diligence made the determination as to these directors perhaps closer than necessary, in our view, the combination of these facts creates a pleading stage reasonable doubt as to the ability of these directors to act independently on a demand adverse to the controller‘s interests. When these three directors are considered incapable of impartially considering a demand, a majority of the nine member Zynga board is compromised for Rule 23.1 purposes and demand is excused. Thus, the dismissal of the complaint is reversed.”

As you might correctly assume, board member independence can arise as an issue in several different corporate and governance related circumstances.

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