Christine S. Azar is the Partner in Charge of Labaton Sucharow's Wilmington, Delaware Office. A longtime advocate of shareholders' rights, Christine concentrates her practice on prosecuting complex merger and derivative litigation in the Delaware Court of Chancery and throughout the United States.
Christine's caseload represents some of the most sophisticated litigation in her field. Currently, she is representing California State Teachers' Retirement System as co-lead counsel in In re Wal-Mart Derivative Litigation. The suit alleges that Wal-Mart's board of directors and management breached their fiduciary duties owed to shareholders and the company as well as violated the company's own corporate governance guidelines, anti-corruption policy and statement of ethics. In In re Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Derivative Litigation, Christine represents shareholders in a suit against the current board of directors of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. in connection with two acquisitions made by Freeport totaling approximately $20 billion. The suit alleges the transactions were tainted because the directors approving them were not independent nor disinterested: half of the Freeport board of directors comprise a majority of the board of directors of the one company (McMoRan Exploration Co.) and a third of McMoRan is owned or controlled by Plains Exploration & Production Co., the other company Freeport plans to acquire. Most recently, Christine is co-lead counsel in a derivative suit against JP Morgan Chase & Co. ("JPMorgan") and several of its senior officers and directors in The Police Retirement System of St. Louis v. Bell, et al. The suit against JPMorgan alleges that the company's officers and directors breached their fiduciary duties by allowing or disregarding serious risks and allowing the company's traders, especially the infamous "London Whale," to amass billions of dollars of bad bets in the credit derivative market that led to over six billion dollars in losses for the company and a scathing rebuke by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations investigation in a report entitled "JPMorgan Chase Whale Trades: A Case History of Derivatives Risks and Abuses."
In recent years, Christine has worked on some of the most groundbreaking cases in the field of merger and derivative litigation. Acting as co-lead counsel in In re El Paso Corporation Shareholder Litigation, in the Delaware Court of Chancery in which shareholders alleged that acquisition of El Paso by Kinder Morgan, Inc. was improperly influenced by conflicted financial advisors and management, Christine helped secure an unprecedented $110 million settlement for her clients. In In re TPC Group Inc. Shareholders Litigation, Christine served as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in a shareholder class action that alleged breaches of fiduciary duties by the TPC Group, Inc.'s ("TPC") board of directors and management in connection with the buyout of TPC by two private equity firms. During the course of the litigation shareholders received over $79 million in increased merger consideration. Acting as co-lead counsel in In re J.Crew Shareholder Litigation, Christine helped secure a settlement that increased the payment to J.Crew's shareholders by $16 million following an allegedly flawed going-private transaction. Christine also assisted in obtaining $29 million in settlements on behalf of Barnes & Noble investors in In re Barnes & Noble Stockholders Derivative Litigation which alleged breaches of fiduciary duties by the Barnes & Noble management and board of directors.
Acting as co-lead counsel in In re RehabCare Group, Inc. Shareholders Litigation, Christine was part of the team that structured a settlement that included a cash payment to shareholders as well as key deal reforms such as enhanced disclosures and an amended merger agreement. Representing shareholders in In re Compellent Technologies, Inc. Shareholder Litigation, regarding the proposed acquisition of Compellent Technologies Inc. by Dell, Inc., Christine was integral in negotiating a settlement that included key deal improvements including elimination of the "poison pill" and standstill agreement with potential future bidders as well as a reduction of the termination fee amount. In In re The Student Loan Corporation, Christine was part of the team that successfully protected the minority shareholders in connection with a complex web of proposed transactions that ran contrary to shareholders' interest by securing a recovery of almost $10 million for shareholders.
Prior to joining Labaton Sucharow, Christine practiced corporate litigation at Blank Rome LLP with a primary focus on disputes related to corporate mismanagement in courts nationwide as well as in the Delaware Court of Chancery. Christine began her career at Grant & Eisenhofer, P.A., where she specialized in the representation of institutional investors in federal and state securities, corporate governance, and breach of fiduciary duty actions. There she served as counsel in In re Hayes Lemmerz International Bondholder Litigation and In re Adelphia Communications Securities Litigation.
Christine writes regularly on issues of shareholder concern in the national press and is a featured speaker on many topics related to financial reform. Most recently, she authored "Mitigating Risk in a Growing M&A Market," The Deal, June 12, 2012 and "Will 'Say on Pay' Votes Prompt Firms to Listen?," American Banker, May 1, 2012.
In recognition of her many accomplishments, Christine was recently featured on The National Law Journal's Plaintiffs' Hot List, recommended by The Legal 500 and named a Local Securities Litigation Star in Delaware by Benchmark Plaintiff.
Christine received her J.D. and graduated cum laude from University of Notre Dame Law School and received a B.A. from James Madison University.
In addition to her active legal practice, Christine serves as a Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem in the Office of the Child Advocate. In this capacity, she has represented children in foster care in the state of Delaware to ensure the protection of their legal rights.