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Forum Selection Clause Valid in Delaware

Posted on Jun 29th, 2013

In a major win for corporations worried about choice of law, the Delaware Court of Chancery held that forum selection bylaws adopted by corporation boards are at least facially valid as a matter of contract under Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL). Boilermakers Local 154 Retirement Fund v. Chevron Corporation stands for the proposition that bylaws which designate a specific forum for legal dispute resolution will stand up in court, taking some of the concern away for corporations in the realm of multiforum litigation.

In the case at bar, both Chevron and FedEx had adopted bylaws in their certificates of incorporation which indicated that Delaware would be the sole forum for any stockholder litigation. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge of these forum selection provisions and held that the DGCL in fact does permit this kind of forum designation contractually.

The court’s reasoning was in part that the DGCL permits corporations to regulate themselves in order to function smoothly, and these kinds of bylaws assisted the smooth governance of the corporation. The court also found that both federal and Delaware law rendered forum selection bylaws contractually enforceable. This finding is based on the fact that the charters of the corporations in question granted unilateral power to the boards to adopt bylaws, and that this binding power was known to stockholders.

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