Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion Summaries
In re Fox Corporation/Snap Inc. Section 242 Litigation
In 2022, Fox Corporation and Snap Inc. amended their corporate charters to exculpate their officers from damages liability for breaches of the duty of care. The amendments were authorized by recent Delaware legislation. The companies' Class A non-voting common stockholders claimed that these amendments deprived them of their power to sue officers for damages for duty of care violations and, thus, a separate class vote was required to approve the amendments. However, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware affirmed the Court of Chancery's decision that a separate class vote was not required. The court held that the ability to sue directors or officers for duty of care violations was a general right of the stockholders, not a class-based power stated in the corporate charter. Therefore, it was not a "power, preference, or special right" of the Class A common stock under Section 242(b)(2) of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which requires a separate class stockholder vote to amend a corporate charter if the amendment would adversely affect the powers, preferences, or special rights of the shares of such class. The holding was based on long-standing precedent and the court's interpretation of related sections of the Delaware General Corporation Law. View "In re Fox Corporation/Snap Inc. Section 242 Litigation" on Justia Law
Hardaway v. Howard Industries, Inc.
In the case before the Supreme Court of Mississippi, Vince Hardaway brought an action against his employer, Howard Industries, Inc., claiming bad faith denial of his workers’ compensation benefits for temporary partial disability due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Howard Industries had contracted CorVel Enterprise, a third-party claims administrator, to manage workers’ compensation claims. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Howard Industries, finding that the company's conduct did not constitute gross negligence or an independent tort.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the trial court's decision. The court found that under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-125(1), Howard Industries was permitted to delegate its duty to administer employee workers’ compensation claims to CorVel. The Court also determined that Hardaway failed to provide sufficient evidence that Howard Industries acted with actual malice or gross negligence in denying his benefits. Therefore, his claims did not survive summary judgment. The court held that any failure to pay benefits by Howard Industries under these circumstances did not amount to gross negligence. View "Hardaway v. Howard Industries, Inc." on Justia Law
Gammons v. Adroit Medical Systems, Inc.
The United States Court of Appeals affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Adroit Medical Systems, Inc., Grazyna Gammons, Kelley Patten, and Gene Gammons. The plaintiff, Scott Gammons, alleged that his father and stepfamily, who controlled the family business, Adroit, were diverting company funds for personal use without accounting for tax consequences. He claimed that after he reported their financial misdeeds to the IRS, they fired him. Scott brought an action under federal and state whistleblower statutes and state common law.The court found that while Scott’s reporting of alleged financial malfeasance to the IRS was protected conduct and may have contributed to his termination, the defendants had clear and convincing evidence that they would have fired Scott due to his attempted hostile takeover of the company, irrespective of his whistleblowing. Scott had obtained an emergency conservatorship over his father, Gene, which he used to control the family business. When the conservatorship was dissolved, the defendants regained control and promptly fired Scott.Scott also brought claims under the Tennessee Public Protection Act (TPPA) and state common law. The court found that Scott failed to show that the defendants’ legitimate reason for terminating him was pretextual. The court also rejected Scott’s state common law claims, holding that the individual defendants were immune from tortious interference claims as they were acting within their corporate capacities and did not personally benefit from Scott’s termination. View "Gammons v. Adroit Medical Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Kellner v. AIM Immunotech Inc., et al.
In the case before the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, plaintiff and counterclaim-defendant Ted D. Kellner sought to challenge certain bylaws adopted by AIM ImmunoTech Inc., defendant and counterclaim-plaintiff, and its board of directors. Kellner, Deutsch, and Chioini sought to nominate themselves as director candidates for AIM's 2023 annual meeting. Kellner claims that AIM's advance notice bylaws, which were amended in 2023, are invalid and inequitable. He also asserts that the Board's rejection of his nomination notice was improper.The court found that four out of six challenged provisions of AIM's amended bylaws were inequitable and therefore invalid. These provisions were found to be overly broad and ambiguous, effectively obstructing the stockholder franchise and providing the Board with undue discretion to reject a nomination. The court also found that Kellner's notice complied with the remaining, valid bylaws and that AIM's rejection of the notice was therefore improper.The court's decision means that Kellner's nominees must be included on the ballot for AIM's 2023 annual meeting. The four invalid provisions of the bylaws have been struck down and are of no force or effect. The remaining provisions of the bylaws, which were not challenged, stand. In essence, the court found that AIM's board of directors overstepped in its efforts to ward off a proxy contest, and in doing so, it infringed on the rights of stockholders. View "Kellner v. AIM Immunotech Inc., et al." on Justia Law
A.C. & C.E. Investments, Inc. v. Eagle Creek Irrigation Company
The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the lower court's decision that A.C. & C.E. Investments, Inc. (AC&CE) did not properly plead a derivative action and lacked standing to bring a direct claim in a lawsuit against Eagle Creek Irrigation Company (Eagle Creek). AC&CE, a shareholder of Eagle Creek, a nonprofit mutual irrigation corporation, challenged amendments made to Eagle Creek's bylaws and articles of incorporation that increased the number of capital shares the corporation was authorized to issue and removed a provision that Eagle Creek would hold all the water rights it acquired “in trust” for the benefit of its shareholders. AC&CE claimed Eagle Creek breached its fiduciary duty and requested that the district court declare the proposed amendments void. However, the district court concluded that AC&CE's complaint did not properly plead a derivative action, that AC&CE lacked standing to bring a direct claim, and that the amendments were validly adopted by a majority shareholder vote. The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed these conclusions. The court also found that AC&CE's claim regarding the increase in the number of authorized capital shares was not ripe for adjudication because no additional shares had been issued. Finally, the court affirmed the lower court's denial of Eagle Creek's request for attorney fees. View "A.C. & C.E. Investments, Inc. v. Eagle Creek Irrigation Company" on Justia Law
Lebanon County Employees’ Retirement Fund v. Collis
A case involving Lebanon County Employees' Retirement Fund and Teamsters Local 443 Health Services & Insurance Plan, as plaintiffs-appellants, and Steven H. Collis, Richard W. Gochnauer, Lon R. Greenberg, Jane E. Henney, M.D., Kathleen W. Hyle, Michael J. Long, Henry W. McGee, Ornella Barra, D. Mark Durcan, and Chris Zimmerman, as defendants-appellees, was heard by the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. The plaintiffs, shareholders in AmerisourceBergen Corporation, brought a derivative complaint against the directors and officers of the Corporation alleging that they failed to adopt, implement, or oversee reasonable policies and practices to prevent the unlawful distribution of opioids. The plaintiffs claimed that this led to AmerisourceBergen incurring liability exceeding $6 billion in a 2021 global settlement related to the Company's role in the opioid epidemic. The Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware initially dismissed the complaint, basing its decision on a separate federal court finding that AmerisourceBergen had complied with its anti-diversion obligations under the Controlled Substances Act. However, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware reversed the Court of Chancery's dismissal of the complaint, ruling that the lower court had erred in considering the federal court's findings as it changed the date at which demand futility should be considered and violated the principles of judicial notice. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Lebanon County Employees' Retirement Fund v. Collis" on Justia Law
Illumina v. FTC
In 2020, Illumina, a for-profit corporation that manufactures and sells next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms, which are crucial tools for DNA sequencing, entered into an agreement to acquire Grail, a company it had initially founded and then spun off as a separate entity in 2016. Grail specializes in developing multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests, which are designed to identify various types of cancer from a single blood sample. Illumina's acquisition of Grail was seen as a significant step toward bringing Grail’s developed MCED test, Galleri, to market.However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) objected to the acquisition, arguing that it violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions that may substantially lessen competition. The FTC contended that because all MCED tests, including those still in development, relied on Illumina’s NGS platforms, the merger would potentially give Illumina the ability and incentive to foreclose Grail’s rivals from the MCED test market.Illumina responded by creating a standardized supply contract, known as the "Open Offer," which guaranteed that it would provide its NGS platforms to all for-profit U.S. oncology customers at the same price and with the same access to services and products as Grail. Despite this, the FTC ordered the merger to be unwound.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the FTC had applied an erroneous legal standard in evaluating the impact of the Open Offer. The court ruled that the FTC should have considered the Open Offer at the liability stage of its analysis, rather than as a remedy following a finding of liability. Furthermore, the court determined that to rebut the FTC's prima facie case, Illumina was not required to show that the Open Offer would completely negate the anticompetitive effects of the merger, but rather that it would mitigate these effects to a degree that the merger was no longer likely to substantially lessen competition.The court concluded that substantial evidence supported the FTC’s conclusions regarding the likely substantial lessening of competition and the lack of cognizable efficiencies to rebut the anticompetitive effects of the merger. However, given its finding that the FTC had applied an incorrect standard in evaluating the Open Offer, the court vacated the FTC’s order and remanded the case for further consideration of the Open Offer's impact under the proper standard. View "Illumina v. FTC" on Justia Law
Saba Cap. CEF Opportunities 1, Ltd., Saba Cap. Mgmt., L.P. v. Nuveen
Defendants-Appellants Nuveen Floating Rate Income Fund, Nuveen Floating Rate Income Opportunity Fund, Nuveen Short Duration Credit Opportunities Fund, Nuveen Global High Income Fund, Nuveen Senior Income Fund, and their trustees (collectively, “Nuveen”) appealed from a final judgment entered in favor of Plaintiffs-Appellees Saba Capital CEF Opportunities, Ltd. and Saba Capital Management, L.P. (collectively, “Saba”). The district court granted summary judgment for Saba, declaring it unlawful and rescinding an amendment to Nuveen’s investment company bylaws that restricts shareholders from voting shares acquired above specified levels of ownership. On appeal, Nuveen challenged Saba’s Article III standing and the district court’s judgment with respect to the legality of Nuveen’s amendment. Nuveen argues that Saba lacks standing because Saba has not alleged, or supported with evidence, an actual or imminent injury that is concrete. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Section 12(d)(1) says nothing about the proper interpretation of the ICA’s meaning of “voting stock” and “voting security.” That Congress has imposed, in another section of the ICA, voting conditions and exceptions on presumptively unlawful acquisitions does not permit Nuveen to impose its own more extreme vote-stripping measures directly at odds with Section 18(i)’s language. Further, the court explained that Nuveen points to Section 1(b)(4), which reflects Congress’s concern over investment companies that are “inequitably distributed” and “unduly concentrated through pyramiding or inequitable methods of control.” But Congress directly addressed those concerns in other provisions of the ICA, which restricts investment company acquisitions. View "Saba Cap. CEF Opportunities 1, Ltd., Saba Cap. Mgmt., L.P. v. Nuveen" on Justia Law
Engel v. Pech
A limited liability partnership and one of its partners retained a lawyer but limited the scope of representation to having the lawyer represent the partnership in a specific, ongoing case. After the partnership lost the case, the partner sued the lawyer for malpractice. In an amended complaint, the partnership was added as a plaintiff. The partner’s complaint was filed before the statute of limitations ran; the amendment was filed after. The trial court issued its judgment of dismissal, the partner filed a motion for reconsideration along with a proposed second amended complaint. The trial court denied the motion as untimely and without merit because the proffered second amended complaint did not “present any new allegations which could support the claim. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court concluded as a matter of law that the partner has suffered no damage as a result of the attorney’s alleged malpractice to the LLP during the Wells Fargo litigation and that the partner’s malpractice claims were properly dismissed. Further, the court held that given that all damages for any malpractice claims were suffered by and belong to the LLP, there is no “reasonable possibility” that the partner can amend the complaint to state a viable malpractice claim. View "Engel v. Pech" on Justia Law
Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor
Petitioner was employed at Office Depot as a senior financial analyst. He was responsible for, among other things, ensuring data integrity. One of Ronnie’s principal duties was to calculate and report a metric called “Sales Lift.” Sales Lift is a metric designed to quantify the cost-reduction benefit of closing redundant retail stores. Petitioner identified two potential accounting errors that he believed signaled securities fraud related to the Sales Lift. Petitioner alleged that after he reported the issue, his relationship with his boss became strained. Eventually, Petitioner was terminated at that meeting for failing to perform the task of identifying the cause of the data discrepancy. Petitioner filed complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and OSHA dismissed his complaint. Petitioner petitioned for review of the ARB’s decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that a reasonable person with his training and experience would believe this conduct constituted a SOX violation, the ARB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The court wrote that Petitioner’s assertions that Office Depot intentionally manipulated sales data and that his assigned task of investigating the discrepancy was a stalling tactic are mere speculation, which alone is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact as to the objective reasonableness of Petitioner’s belief. View "Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law