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Delaware Court Rules That Overbroad Questionnaires “Went Too Far” in Decision to Enjoin Closed-End Funds From Invalidating Shareholder Nominations

July 15, 2019
Steve Wolosky, Andrew Freedman, Lori Marks-Esterman, Ron Berenblat and Kyle Kolb
Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation

On June 27, 2019, the Delaware Chancery Court entered an injunction requiring the boards of trustees of two closed-end investment funds (the “Funds”) to count the votes in favor of director candidates nominated by shareholder Saba Capital at the annual meetings scheduled for July 8, 2019.  Saba Capital had timely given notice of its nominations in compliance with the Funds’ advance notification bylaws.  In a response weeks later, the Funds asked that the nominees complete a supplemental questionnaire, which had “nearly one hundred questions over forty-seven pages, and was due in five business days.”  The Funds declared the nominations invalid after Saba Capital missed the five-day deadline for submitting the questionnaires.  In the case captioned Saba Capital Master Fund, Ltd. v. BlackRock Credit Allocation Income Trust, et al., Vice Chancellor Zurn granted Saba Capital’s request for injunctive relief, finding that the Funds’ rejection of the nominations submitted by Saba Capital violated the Funds’ bylaws.  As discussed in this Client Alert, the Court’s ruling is consistent with views recently expressed by Olshan that overzealous defense advisors continue to “cross the line” by using onerous, overbroad questionnaires as traps to thwart shareholder nominations and chill activist campaigns. 

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