Imposing Caremark Fiduciary Duty on Corporate Officers

I previously posted on the Midland Grange case [Delaware Imposing Same Fiduciary Duty on Officers as Directors] where the Delaware Chancery Court imposed the same obligations on officers as directors, including the duty of loyalty and the duty of care.

In Miller v. McDonald, et al., ( D. Del., Bankr., April 9, 2008), the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware ruled on corporate governance issues related to the fiduciary duties of officers and directors. The Bankruptcy Court denied a motion to dismiss in the course of ruling that Caremark duties would be imposed on an officer (who was not a director), that was on the management team when the President of the company committed fraud and other actions and omissions that ultimately led to the bankruptcy filing of the company.

It is correct that Delaware law does not impose fiduciary duty on “employees” generally, but it is incorrect that it does not impose failure of oversight (fiduciary duty) as to officers. . . . While it is true that all of the cases relied upon by the Trustee involved directors’ conduct, not officers’, I believe the Caremark decision itself suggests that the same test would be applicable to officers.

The corporate entity in Miller v. McDonald is a Florida corporation, so the court is exporting this concept of similar duties between officers and directors from Delaware to Florida.

Thus, it is clear that under both Delaware and Florida law both officers and directors owe fiduciary duties to the corporation.

Thanks to the Harvard Law School Corporate Governance Blog and Francis G.X. Pileggi of Fox Rothschild LLP and the Delaware Corporate and Commercial Litigation Blog for pointing out this case: Court Imposes Caremark Fiduciary Duty on Corporate Officer.