Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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A client who retained Plaintiff, the Law Corporation, to represent him in a marital dissolution action. The client assigned the judgments to Musick Peeler & Garrett LLC (Musick Peeler). In October 2019, the Law Corporation filed a motion (the setoff motion) in the superior court to set off against its judgment debt to Musick Peeler a debt that Dougherty allegedly owes to the Law Corporation. The client’s alleged tortious actions to hinder, delay, or defraud the Law Corporation in its efforts to collect on a 1999 default judgment prior to our opinion vacating that judgment and declaring it void in 2009. The trial court denied the motion and the Law Corporation appealed.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that to the extent the Law Corporation incurred any fees or costs in connection with its defense against the collateral attack actions in California, they were incurred in defending actions by the client, not a third person. These actions, therefore, do not support a setoff claim based on the tort of another doctrine. Further, even if the Law Corporation’s motion was procedurally proper, the Law Corporation failed to support its setoff claims with relevant evidence and, therefore, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion. View "Karton v. Musick, Peeler, Garrett LLP" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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Plaintiff initiated an action for involuntary dissolution of R. R. Crane Investment Corporation, Inc. (R. R. Crane), a family-owned investment business that he shared with his brother. To avoid corporate dissolution, the brother and R. R. Crane invoked the statutory appraisal and buyout provisions of the Corporations Code.1 In December of 2020, after a prolonged appraisal process, the trial court confirmed the fair value of Plaintiff’s shares at over $6.1 million, valued as of November 13, 2017, the date Plaintiff filed for dissolution.   On appeal, Plaintiff contends the trial court erred by failing to award him prejudgment interest on the valuation of his shares. He argues he was entitled to interest at a rate of 10 percent per annum from the date he first sought dissolution until the eventual purchase of his shares more than three years later. The Second Appellate District disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court held that it disagrees that prejudgment interest must be added to the appraised value of Plaintiff’s shares.   The court explained that a plaintiff’s entitlement to prejudgment interest pursuant to Civil Code section 3287, subdivision (a), does not apply to a buyout of shares under Corporations Code section 2000. Further, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s alternative contention that he is entitled to prejudgment interest under Civil Code section 3288also fails. The trial court correctly applied the plain language of Civil Code section 3288 and concluded that the valuation award “is not based on the breach of an obligation not arising from contract or a showing of oppression, fraud, or malice.” View "Crane v. R. R. Crane Investment Corp., Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his direct suit against Defendant Brightstar Asia, Ltd. In connection with the sale of his company, Harvestar, to Brightstar Asia, Plaintiff entered into a contract with Brightstar Asia, Harvestar, and his co-founder. The contract provided that conflicted transactions between Brightstar Asia and Harvestar must be on “terms no less favorable to” Harvestar than those of an arms-length transaction. Plaintiff alleged in his complaint that Brightstar Asia engaged in conflicted transactions that rendered his options rights worthless. Those actions, according to Plaintiff, breached both the express terms of the contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court dismissed his complaint for raising claims that could be brought only in a derivative suit.   The Second Circuit agreed that Plaintiff can bring a claim for breach of the express conflicted-transactions provision only in a derivative suit. However, the court held that Plaintiff may bring a direct suit for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing because that covenant is based on his individual options rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s judgment.   The court explained that the inquiry into whether a claim is direct, and a plaintiff, therefore, has “standing” to bring it, is not an Article III standing inquiry Even if the district court were right that Plaintiff’s claims had to be brought in a derivative suit, it should have dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. View "Miller v. Brightstar Asia, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who owned a 1 percent interest in a limited liability company (LLC), filed a lawsuit seeking judicial dissolution of the LLC under Corporations Code section 17707.03. Defendants, other members of the LLC who together held 50 percent of the membership interests, filed a motion to avoid the dissolution by purchasing Plaintiff’s 1 percent interest. Then Plaintiff, together with other members owning 49 percent of the membership interests in the LLC—for a total of 50 percent—voted to dissolve the LLC.   The issue on appeal is whether the vote to dissolve the LLC extinguished the right Defendants otherwise would have had to purchase Plaintiff’s 1 percent interest and avoid dissolution of the LLC. The Second Appellate District concluded, in accordance with the plain language of section 17707.01, that the answer is “yes,” and the vote of 50 percent of the LLC membership interests to dissolve the LLC must be given effect. Consequently, the court held that the trial court erred when it issued an order appointing appraisers to determine the price Defendants must pay to purchase Plaintiff’s 1 percent membership interest. The court ordered the trial court to dismiss the buyout proceeding as moot and directed the parties to wind up the activities of the LLC. View "Friend of Camden v. Brandt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a shareholder and citizen of Illinois, brought this shareholder derivative action alleging breach of fiduciary duties by FleetCor’s directors and executives without first making a demand on the board. Plaintiff argued that demand was excused because a majority of the board faced a substantial likelihood of liability for their breach of fiduciary duties. The district court held that Plaintiff had failed to adequately plead that demand was excused and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint under Rule 23.1. The court held that Plaintiff failed to plead particularized facts showing demand was excused. The court explained that because Plaintiff failed to adequately plead Board knowledge of the allegedly fraudulent scheme, all three of his claims that purportedly show that a majority of the Board faced a substantial likelihood of liability fail. View "Jerrell Whitten v. Ronald F. Clarke, et al." on Justia Law

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Under Pennsylvania law, a court may appoint a custodian to take control of a corporation if the corporation’s board of directors is deadlocked or if the directors’ acts are illegal, oppressive, fraudulent, or wasteful. The eight-person FRBK Board of Directors became evenly split into two factions until one of the Hill Directors died. The Madonna Directors immediately used their new numerical advantage to start rearranging the bank’s leadership and took steps to fill the Board vacancy with an ally.The Hill Directors sued. Within hours, the district court ordered the Madonna Directors to cease their actions. Nine days later, without an evidentiary hearing or fact-finding, the court appointed a custodian to take control of FRBK and to hold a special shareholders’ meeting to fill the vacant Board seat. The following month, the court – without prompting from any shareholder or Board member – directed the custodian to add a Board seat and to fill that seat at the special shareholders’ meeting.The Third Circuit reversed. The decision to displace the corporate governance structure of a publicly-traded company did not reflect the required caution, circumspection, or justification for such a drastic step. FRBK’s bylaws describe how the Board should proceed after the death of a director. The Madonna Directors followed those instructions. The court abused its discretion by hastily supplanting the Bylaws with its own process. There was no deadlock, illegality, oppression, or any other ground for appointing a custodian. View "Hill v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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Tribune and Sinclair announced an agreement to merge. Tribune abandoned the merger and sued Sinclair, accusing it of failing to comply with its contractual commitment to “use reasonable best efforts” to satisfy the demands of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and the FCC, both of which could block the merger. Sinclair settled that suit for $60 million; the settlement disclaims liability. While the merger agreement was in place, investors bought and sold Tribune’s stock. In this class action investors alleged violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by failing to disclose that Sinclair was “playing hardball with the regulators,” increasing the risk that the merger would be stymied.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The principal claims, which rest on the 1934 Act, failed under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Questionable statements, such as predictions that the merger was likely to proceed, were forward-looking and shielded from liability because Tribune expressly cautioned investors about the need for regulatory approval and the fact that the merging firms could prove unwilling to do what regulators sought, 15 U.S.C. 78u–5(c)(1)..With respect to the 1933 Act, the registration statement and prospectus through which the shares were offered stated all of the material facts. The relevant “hardball” actions occurred after the plaintiffs purchased shares. “Plaintiffs suppose that, during a major corporate transaction, managers’ thoughts must be an open book." No statute or regulation requires that. View "Arbitrage Event-Driven Fund v. Tribune Media Co." on Justia Law