Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
Reliant Life Shares, LLC v. Cooper
Reliant Life Shares, LLC (Reliant or LLC) was a profitable limited liability company owned in equal parts by three members. Two of them, SM and DC, were longtime friends and business partners. After DC stopped working out of the offices of Reliant because of a medical condition, no one at Reliant expected him to return to work, but SM assured CDC he remained a loyal business partner. Before long, however, SM and the third member of Reliant, SG, tried to force out DC, splitting the company’s profits and other revenues 50/50 and paying DC nothing. The LLC sued DC, seeking a declaratory judgment that he was properly removed as a member of the LLC. DC cross-complained against the parties and the LLC, alleging breach of contract, fraud, breach of the duty of loyalty and several other causes of action, seeking damages, an accounting and imposition of a constructive trust over funds obtained through violation of fiduciary duties. The jury awarded DC damages and valued his equity interest. The LLC, SM, SG, and several of their entities appealed. They assert a multitude of arguments for reversal of the judgment. The Second Appellate District found no merit in any of the claims and affirmed the judgment in full. The court found that the trial court acted well within its discretion when it decided alter ego claims in phase one. Further, the court found no merit in the election of remedies argument, either as it relates to prejudgment interest or anything else. View "Reliant Life Shares, LLC v. Cooper" on Justia Law
Metropolitan Washington Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. v. DC
Metropolitan Washington Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (“Metro Washington”), a corporate trade organization representing construction companies, brought this pre-enforcement challenge to the constitutionality of the District of Columbia First Source Employment Agreement Act of 1984. The statute requires contractors on D.C. government-assisted projects to grant hiring preferences to D.C. residents. Metro Washington appealed the district court’s Rule 12 dismissals of the claims under the dormant Commerce Clause, U.S. Const. and the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the grant of summary judgment to the District of Columbia on the substantive due process claim. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of Metro Washington’s dormant Commerce Clause claim and Rule 12(c) dismissal of the Privileges and Immunities Clause claim. The court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the District of Columbia on the inapplicability of the Privileges and Immunities Clause to a corporation. Further, although Metro Washington has Article III standing as an association, it lacks third-party standing to raise its alternative Privileges and Immunities claim based on incorporation through the Fifth Amendment, and therefore the court dismissed this alternative contention. View "Metropolitan Washington Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. v. DC" on Justia Law
Jaludi v. Citigroup & Co.
Jaludi worked at Citigroup. After he reported company wrongdoing, he was demoted, transferred, and (in 2013) terminated. He claims Citigroup blacklisted him from the financial industry. In 2015, Jaludi sued Citigroup for retaliation under both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and RICO. The district court sent his claims to arbitration. Jaludi appealed the arbitration order. In early 2018, while that appeal was pending, he filed an administrative complaint with the Secretary of Labor, adding one new allegation that, in late 2017, a headhunter had stopped returning his calls. In 2019, the Third Circuit remanded, holding that he was not required to arbitrate his Sarbanes-Oxley claims.On remand, the district court dismissed, finding his administrative complaint untimely. Though Sarbanes-Oxley required an administrative complaint within 180 days of the retaliatory conduct, he had waited more than two years after the last incident. Jaludi argued that the court should have granted him leave to amend because the 2017 allegation that he added in his administrative complaint happened fewer than 180 days before that complaint, making it timely. The Third Circuit affirmed. Although neither filing the administrative complaint after the statute of limitations had run nor suing before exhausting his administrative remedies was jurisdictional under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Jaludi’s delay in filing justified the dismissal. View "Jaludi v. Citigroup & Co." on Justia Law
Farnum v. Iris Biotechnologies Inc.
Iris, incorporated in 1999, went public in 2007. In 2019, the SEC revoked the registration of Iris’s securities. Since its incorporation, Chin has been chairman of Iris’s three-member board of directors, its president, secretary, CEO, CFO, and majority shareholder. Chin’s sister was also a board member. Farnum was a board member, 2003-2014, and owned eight percent of Iris’s stock. In 2014, Farnum requested inspection of corporate minutes, documents relating to the acquisition of Iris’s subsidiary, and cash flow statements, then, in his capacity as a board member and shareholder, sought a writ of mandate. Before the hearing on Farnum’s petition, Farnum was voted off Iris’s board. The court denied Farnum’s petition (Corporations Code 1602) because Farnum no longer had standing to inspect corporate records due to his ejection from the board, and his request was “overbroad and lack[ed] a statement of purpose reasonably related to his interests as a shareholder.”Weeks later, Farnum served 31 inspection requests on Iris and subsequently filed another mandamus petition. The superior court denied the petition and Farnum’s associated request for attorney fees. On remand with respect to certain records, Farnum sought reimbursement of his expenses in enforcing his rights as a shareholder ($91,000). The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the request. Farnum scored “only a partial victory” given the scope of what he sought; there was no showing that on the whole, Iris acted without justification in refusing Farnum’s inspection demands. View "Farnum v. Iris Biotechnologies Inc." on Justia Law
Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation
A corporate shareholder alleged the corporation violated his statutory right to inspect certain records and documents. The superior court found that the shareholder did not assert a proper purpose in his request. The shareholder appealed, arguing the superior court erred by finding his inspection request stated an improper purpose, sanctioning him for failing to appear for his deposition, and violating his rights to due process and equal protection by being biased against him. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order finding that the shareholder did not have a proper purpose when he requested the information at issue from the corporation, but it affirmed the superior court’s discovery sanctions. View "Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation" on Justia Law
ZF Micro Solutions, Inc. v. TAT Capital Partners, Ltd.
ZF Micro Solutions, Inc., the successor of now deceased ZF Micro Devices, Inc., alleged TAT Capital Partners, Ltd., murdered its predecessor by inserting a board member who poisoned it. The trial court decided the claim for breach of TAT’s fiduciary duty as a director was equitable rather than legal and, after a court trial, entered judgment for TAT. ZF Micro Solutions argued this was error. The Court of Appeal agreed, holding that while examining the performance of a board member’s fiduciary duties would be required, resolution of this claim did not implicate the powers of equity, and it should have been tried as a matter at law. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "ZF Micro Solutions, Inc. v. TAT Capital Partners, Ltd." on Justia Law
Potter v. Cozen & O’Connor
Attorneys Blume, Cozen, and Madonia were involved in the sale to The Institutes of LLCs owned by the Shareholders. Blume also served on the board of directors and as General Counsel for one of the LLCs, assisting the Shareholders in making business decisions. Unbeknownst to the Shareholders, Cozen represented The Institutes in several matters, including negotiating the price for their transaction. After the deal closed, the Shareholders allegedly determined that they had sold the LLCs at a price substantially below their fair market value and that the attorneys had wrongfully secured a favorable outcome for The Institutes by using confidential client information.Shareholder Potter sued in the Shareholders' names, claiming breach of fiduciary duty and professional malpractice, although he identified the harm as “the difference in the true value of the [LLCs] and the purchase price” that was to be paid to the LLCs themselves. The lawyers argued that under the “shareholder standing rule,” the individuals did not have the legal right to bring the entities' claims in their own names. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, stating that the Shareholders “lack[ed] Article III standing." The Third Circuit vacated. The third-party standing rule is merely prudential, not constitutional and jurisdictional, and is properly considered under Rule 12(b)(6), not Rule 12(b)(1). There are different considerations in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) that could produce a different outcome in this case. View "Potter v. Cozen & O'Connor" on Justia Law
Griffith v. Stein
An objector appealed a Delaware Court of Chancery decision approving a litigation settlement for claims alleging excessive non-employee director compensation. Initially, the parties agreed to a preliminary settlement and presented it to the Court of Chancery for approval. The Court of Chancery sided with the objector and refused to approve a non-monetary settlement of the derivative claims. The court also awarded the objector fees. After the court denied a motion to dismiss, the parties came up with a new settlement that included a financial benefit to the corporation. The objector renewed his objection, this time arguing that the new settlement improperly released future claims challenging compensation awards and that the plaintiff was not an adequate representative for the corporation’s interests. The Court of Chancery approved the new settlement and refused to award the objector additional attorneys’ fees. On appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, the objector argued the court erred by: (1) approving an overbroad release; (2) approving the settlement without finding that the plaintiff was an adequate representative of the corporation’s interests; and (3) reducing the objector’s fee because the court believed it would have rejected the original settlement agreement without the objection. Though the Supreme Court acknowledged the Court of Chancery and the parties worked diligently to bring this dispute to a close, it reversed the judgment because the settlement agreement released future claims arising out of, or contemplated by, the settlement itself instead of releasing liability for the claims brought in the litigation. View "Griffith v. Stein" on Justia Law
Graham v. Peltz
Hackers compromised customer-payment information at several Wendy’s franchisee restaurants. Shareholders took legal action against Wendy’s directors and officers on the corporation’s behalf to remedy any wrongdoing that might have allowed the breach to occur. Three shareholder derivative legal efforts ensued—two actions and one pre-suit demand—leading to a series of mediation sessions. Two derivative actions (filed by Graham and Caracci) were consolidated and resulted in a settlement, which the district court approved after appointing one of the settling shareholder’s attorneys as the lead counsel. Those decisions drew unsuccessful objections from Caracci, who had not participated in the latest settlement discussions. No other shareholder objected. Caracci appealed decisions made by the district court, which together had the effect of dramatically reducing Caracci’s entitlement to an attorney’s fees award.The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The court acted within the bounds of its wide discretion to manage shareholder litigation in its appointment of a lead counsel, its approval of the settlement, and its interlocutory orders on discovery and the mediation privilege. View "Graham v. Peltz" on Justia Law
West Dakota Oil v. Kathrein Trucking, et al.
Lee Kathrein appealed a judgment piercing the veil of Kathrein Trucking, LLC. In May 2020, West Dakota Oil, Inc. sued Kathrein Trucking, LLC and its owner, Kathrein, for failing to pay for fuel West Dakota provided. West Dakota amended its complaint in January 2021 and alleged breach of contract, unjust enrichment and quantum meruit. A bench trial was held in June 2021. In September 2021, the district court issued a memorandum opinion finding in favor of West Dakota. The court issued its findings of fact and judgment, ordering Kathrein Trucking and Kathrein to pay $63,412.35, jointly and severally. In deciding to pierce the veil of Kathrein Trucking, the district court found Kathrein disregarded the formalities required of limited liability companies, provided West Dakota title to a trailer Kathrein personally owned as security for the company’s debt, charged items at West Dakota that Kathrein personally used, and utilized company assets for personal use. The court found Kathrein operated his company as an alter ego based on a totality of the circumstances and the rubric for factors used to pierce a veil. After reviewing the record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the evidence did not support findings under the applicable factors or a conclusion the company’s veil should have been pierced. The decision to pierce the veil and hold Kathrein personally liable was reversed. View "West Dakota Oil v. Kathrein Trucking, et al." on Justia Law