効率的な契約違反—Leaf Invenergy Co. v. Invenergy Renewables LLC, No. 308, 2018 (Del. May 2, 2019)

Limited Delaware case law exists on the “efficient breach” theory. A new Delaware Supreme Court ruling examines that theory and confirms it is not a bar to recovery or an avenue for modifying damages calculations. Rather, efficient breach is the legal concept that a party might find an intentional breach to be economically advantageous if the breach’s benefits exceed the damages it might owe. Efficient breach aside, the task of Delaware courts is to interpret contracts to fulfill parties’ shared expectations at time of contracting. That is a concept the Supreme Court emphasized when reversing the Court of Chancery’s nominal damages award in this case.

Plaintiff Leaf Invenergy Company invested $30 million in Invenergy Wind LLC. As part of the investment, Leaf secured a Consent Provision that prohibited Invenergy from conducting a “Material Partial Sale” without Leaf’s consent, unless Invenergy acquired Leaf’s interest at a premium, referred to as the “Target Multiple.” Several years into the investment, Invenergy closed a $1.8 billion asset sale without first obtaining Leaf’s consent and without redeeming Leaf’s interest at the Target Multiple. Leaf sued in Delaware.

The Court of Chancery determined Invenergy had breached the Consent Provision but that Leaf was not entitled to the Target Multiple. The Court reasoned that the Consent Provision was not an either-or provision, even though, until late in the litigation, both parties had understood a failure to obtain Leaf’s consent would require redemption at the Target Multiple. Instead, the Court reasoned that Leaf was entitled only to nominal damages, given the Court’s view that Invenergy likely would not have made the Material Partial Sale if it had to pay the Target Multiple and that, in any event, Leaf was no worse off with the transaction. Applying the “efficient breach” theory, the Court of Chancery imagined a hypothetical negotiation exercise in which Leaf would have to show that it would have secured additional consideration if given the opportunity to negotiate for its consent. Ultimately, the Court of Chancery ordered the parties to complete a buyout of Leaf’s interests pursuant to a put-call provision in the operative agreement, which Invenergy exercised during the suit.

On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed, explaining that the Consent Provision was an either-or structure requiring Leaf’s consent or payment, as evidenced by the parties’ own longstanding shared interpretation. The Supreme Court also explained the trial court’s misapplication of the efficient breach theory. Centrally, damages are an issue of contractual expectations. Here, the parties’ expectations were that, for a Material Partial Sale to close, Leaf either would give consent or be redeemed at the Target Multiple. Since Leaf did not give its consent, the appropriate expectation damages were receiving the Target Multiple. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the nominal damages award, substituting an award of the Target Multiple, conditioned on Leaf surrendering its membership interests.

 効率的な契約違反に興味がある方で、この判例の研究をしようと思う研究者は、いらっしゃいませんかね。効率的な契約違反についての理論的な論文は、大掛かりなので難しいとしても、どのような点が現実の事案で問題となったのかを法と経済学の観点から(どの程度、裁判官が法と経済学の議論を理解しているのかを含めて)分析すれば、面白いように思えます。

アサイド

A. Mitchell Polinsky, An Introduction to Law and Economics (5th ed. 2018)

An Introduction to Law and Economics Image

 学部の法の経済分析の講義でこの教科書を種本として用いました。法の経済分析についての網羅的な検討はできませんが、議論が明晰でわかりやすいので、学部の2単位の授業の教科書又は授業の種本として使うには良いと思います。

法と経済学の未来

 シカゴ大学の教授陣が2011年に法と経済学の未来についてのエッセーを執筆している。Richard Posner裁判官及びBecker教授の随筆など、興味深いものが多いが、Eric Posner教授の随筆で興味深い記述があった。

 曰く、法と経済学が支配している法分野として、次の法律分野を挙げる。

  • 契約
  • 商法
  • 破産法
  • 独占禁止法
  • 会社法
  • 証券法

 支配的ではないが影響を与えている法律分野は、次の通りである。

  • 不法行為法
  • 刑法
  • 財産法
  • 民事訴訟法

 法と経済学があまり進展しなかった分野として、次の分野を挙げる。

  • 憲法
  • 移民法
  • 行政法
  • 国際法

 米国ではどの法律分野も一定程度法と経済学の影響を受けているように思えたが、濃淡はあるようだ。

Also Professor Wright

Ronald Coase (1910–2013)

RIP.

Richard A. Epstein writes:

That ignorance did not remain for long. Shortly after I arrived at the University of Southern California in the summer of 1968, I ran into Michael Levine (who is now with me at NYU Law School) in Dean Dorothy Nelson’s office, and somehow the conversation turned to the year that he had just spent as a Law and Economics Fellow at the University of Chicago. Mention of Ronald brought forth a mention of the Coase Theorem and I remember my puzzled reaction to Levine’s insistence that this was an important piece of work that everyone had to take into account in dealing with legal institutions.

My reaction, I soon discovered, was similar to that of most other people who viewed this work. Indeed, the famous story about Ronald was that when he first presented this paper to the fearless law and economics group at the University of Chicago everyone thought that he was wrong — only to be persuaded by the end of the hour that Ronald had indeed seen the world correctly. It was the first of many conversions that would break in his favor.

via Truth on the Market, Truth on the Market, University of Chicago, PB.com, PB.com, PB.com, Richard A. Epstein, Tag Board, Cato Institute, The Economist, John Kay, N.Y. Times, WSJ