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Delaware, Consent, And The Adequacy Of Email Notice

Since the turn of this century, Delaware has allowed corporations to give notices to stockholders by electronic transmission.  8 Del. Code § 232(a).  However, the statute is conditioned upon the stockholder's consent.  California has a similar consent requirement in Corporations Code § 20.  Delaware is now proposing to amend Section 232 to permit a corporation to give notice by electronic mail unless the stockholder has objected.  See Senate Bill No. 88.  The bill would also define "electronic mail" for the first time.

As I was pondering these changes, I came across the following observations about the adequacy of email notifications penned by the estimable and eminently quotable Justice William W. Bedsworth of the California Court of Appeal:

"Email has many things to recommend it; reliability is not one of them. Between the ease of mistaken address on the sender’s end and the arcane vagaries of spam filters on the recipient’s end, email is ill-suited for a communication on which a million dollar lawsuit may hinge.  A busy calendar, an overfull in-box, a careless autocorrect, even a clumsy keystroke resulting in a 'delete' command can result in a speedy communication being merely a failed one."

Lasalle v. Vogel, 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 533 (footnote omitted).  Justice Bedsworth's comments were directed to the adequacy of email notice before taking a default judgment and not the Delaware bill.  Nonetheless, his concerns about the adequacy of email are entirely apposite to stockholder notice.

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About this Author

Keith Paul Bishop, Corporate Transactions Lawyer, finance securities attorney, Allen Matkins Law Firm

Keith Paul Bishop is a partner in Allen Matkins' Corporate and Securities practice group, and works out of the Orange County office. He represents clients in a wide range of corporate transactions, including public and private securities offerings of debt and equity, mergers and acquisitions, proxy contests and tender offers, corporate governance matters and federal and state securities laws (including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Dodd-Frank Act), investment adviser, financial services regulation, and California administrative law. He regularly advises clients...