Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
Coscia v. United States
Coscia used electronic exchanges for futures trading and implemented high-frequency trading programs. High-frequency trading, called “spoofing,” and defined as bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution, became illegal in 2010 under the Dodd-Frank Act, 7 U.S.C. 6c(a)(5). Coscia was convicted of commodities fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1348, and spoofing, After an unsuccessful appeal, Coscia sought a new trial, citing new evidence that data discovered after trial establishes that there were errors in the data presented to the jury and that subsequent indictments for similar spoofing activities undercut the government’s characterization of Coscia as a trading “outlier.” He also claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, having an undisclosed conflict of interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even assuming that Coscia’s new evidence could not have been discovered sooner through the exercise of due diligence, Coscia failed to explain how that evidence or the subsequent indictments seriously called the verdict into question. Coscia has not established that his attorneys learned of relevant and confidential information from its cited unrelated representations. Coscia’s counsel faced “the common situation” where the client stands a better chance of success by admitting the underlying actions and arguing that the actions do not constitute a crime. That the jury did not accept his defense does not render it constitutionally deficient. View "Coscia v. United States" on Justia Law
Meland v. Weber
California Senate Bill 826 requires all corporations headquartered in California to have a minimum number of females on their boards of directors. Corporations that do not comply with SB 826 may be subject to monetary penalties. The shareholders of OSI, a corporation covered by SB 826, elect members of the board of directors. One shareholder of OSI challenged the constitutionality of SB 826 on the ground that it requires shareholders to discriminate on the basis of sex when exercising their voting rights, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit for lack of standing. The plaintiff plausibly alleged that SB 826 requires or encourages him to discriminate based on sex and, therefore, adequately alleged an injury-in-fact, the only Article III standing element at issue. Plaintiff’s alleged injury was also distinct from any injury to the corporation, so he could bring his own Fourteenth Amendment challenge and had prudential standing to challenge SB 826. The injury was ongoing and neither speculative nor hypothetical, and the district court could grant meaningful relief. The case was therefore ripe and not moot. View "Meland v. Weber" on Justia Law
Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.
The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 limited the funding of American and foreign nongovernmental organizations to those with “a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking,” 22 U.S.C. 7631(f). In 2013, that Policy Requirement was held to be an unconstitutional restraint on free speech when applied to American organizations. Those American organizations then challenged the requirement’s constitutionality when applied to their legally distinct foreign affiliates. The Second Circuit affirmed that the government was prohibited from enforcing the requirement against the foreign affiliates.The Supreme Court reversed. The plaintiffs’ foreign affiliates possess no First Amendment rights. Foreign citizens outside U.S. territory do not possess rights under the U. S. Constitution and separately incorporated organizations are separate legal units with distinct legal rights and obligations.The Court rejected an argument that a foreign affiliate’s policy statement may be attributed to the plaintiffs, noting that there is no government compulsion to associate with another entity. Even protecting the free speech rights of only those foreign organizations that are closely identified with American organizations would deviate from the fundamental principle that foreign organizations operating abroad do not possess rights under the U.S. Constitution. The 2013 decision did not facially invalidate the Act’s funding condition, suggest that the First Amendment requires the government to exempt plaintiffs’ foreign affiliates from the Policy Requirement, or purport to override constitutional law and corporate law principles. View "Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: The Matter Of The Grand Jury
In 1973, Doe organized his medical practice as a “professional association,” a type of corporation doctors are permitted to form under New Jersey law. Since its creation, Doe has operated his practice through that entity. As of 2011, the entity employed six people. The government alleges that Doe entered into an illicit agreement with OTE, a blood laboratory, whereby it paid him monetary bribes for referring patients to it for blood testing. A grand jury subpoena was served on the entity’s custodian of records, directing it to turn over documents, including records of patients referred to OTE, lease and consulting agreements, checks received by it for reasons other than patient treatment, correspondence regarding its use of OTE, correspondence with specified individuals and entities, and basic corporate records. The district court denied Doe’s motion to quash. Doe persistently refused to let the entity comply; the court found it in civil contempt. Meanwhile, the entity fired its employees and hired independent contractors, tasked with “[m]aint[aining] accurate and complete medical records, kept in accordance with HIPAA and Patient Privacy standards,” and assisting with billing practices. The Third Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Supreme Court precedent indicated that corporations may not assert a Fifth Amendment privilege, and that the subpoena was not overbroad in violation of the Fourth Amendment. View "In Re: The Matter Of The Grand Jury" on Justia Law
Davis v. Parkview Apartments
"The Record in this case is voluminous, and illustrates the complex and, at times, contentious nature of these proceedings. The circuit judge presided over numerous motion hearings and issued numerous orders over the course of this litigation." However, this appeal concerned a final order in which the circuit judge dismissed all of the cases and awarded fees and costs to Respondents as sanctions for Appellants' continued refusal to comply with his previous discovery rulings. In addition, Appellants appealed the judge's failure to disqualify himself at the outset of this litigation and late refusal to recuse himself. Appellants were limited partners in five separate limited partnerships and asserted legal claims in five separate actions against Respondents, their general partners. The limited partnerships were formed in the 1960s to construct and operate the properties at issue, affordable housing projects for low-income citizens in three counties. Respondents became general partners around 1975, and from that point forward, Appellants took no part in the management or business affairs of the complexes. In 1984, Respondents notified Appellants that they had contracted to sell the properties to Boston Financial Group (BFG). The terms of the sale called for a small amount to be paid upfront but the majority would be paid in 1999 in a "balloon" payment with accruing interest. However, BFG defaulted on the payment, and sold the properties without intervention from the partnerships. All of the claims stemmed from Respondents' roles in selling the properties and their actions in the aftermath of BFG's default. Appellants argued on appeal the Supreme Court that the circuit abused its discretion by dismissing these cases under the facts, particularly because" (1) less "draconian" punishments were available to the court; (2) Appellants agreed to receive a less harsh sanction and "took extraordinary steps to avoid dismissal"; (3) the judge consistently espoused Respondents' arguments as evidence constituting a factual basis to support his decisions; and (4) the judge deviated from South Carolina law to effect dismissal. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court in all respects: the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in the rulings it made, and Appellants failed to prove that they suffered any prejudice as a result of the judge's refusal to recuse himself in this case. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis v. Parkview Apartments" on Justia Law
Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius
Kennedy family members own a controlling interest in corporate entities that comprise Autocam. John Kennedy is Autocam’s CEO. The companies are for-profit manufacturers in the automotive and medical industries and have 661 employees in the U.S. The Kennedys are practicing Roman Catholics and profess to “believe that they are called to live out the teachings of Christ in their daily activity and witness to the truth of the Gospel,” which includes their business dealings. Regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), 124 Stat. 119, require that Autocam’s health care plan cover, without cost-sharing, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization, and patient education and counseling for enrolled female employees. Autocam and the Kennedys claim that compliance with the mandate will force them to violate their religious beliefs, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb. The district court denied their motion for a preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed for lack of standing. Recognition of rights for corporations under the Free Speech Clause 20 years after RFRA’s enactment does not require the conclusion that Autocam is a “person” that can exercise religion for purposes of RFRA. View "Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius" on Justia Law
In re Info. Mgmt. Servs., Inc. Derivative Litigation
Trusts that owned fifty percent of the common stock of nominal defendant IMS alleged that two of the company's three most senior officers mismanaged the company in breach of their fiduciary duties. Trusts moved to compel IMS to produce the senior officers' work email accounts. The senior officers asserted the attorney-client privilege but did not invoke the work product doctrine. The court concluded that the In re Asia Global Crossing, Ltd. factors weighed in favor of production, absent a statutory override that could alter the common law result. Because IMS conducted its business in Maryland, the federal government and the State of Maryland were the sovereigns whose laws IMS must follow when dealing with its employees' email. The Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. 2510 et seq.; the Federal Store Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701; the Maryland Wiretap Act, Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-401 to 10-414; and the Maryland Stored Communications Act, Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-4A-01 to 10-4A-08, did not change the common law privilege analysis. Accordingly, the court granted the motion to compel. View "In re Info. Mgmt. Servs., Inc. Derivative Litigation" on Justia Law
Weinstein v. Colborne Foodbotics, LLC
Creditors-plaintiffs sued a Colorado LLC claiming the LLC authorized a distribution to members that bankrupted the company and left it unable to pay them. The defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims of unlawful distribution and breach of fiduciary duty, arguing that no creditor had a right to sue for the distribution, nor a right to claim breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court granted the defendants' motion; the appellate court reversed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that under Colorado law, LLC members are liable to the LLC, but not the LLC's creditors. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the manager of an insolvent LLC does not owe the creditors the same duty an insolvent corporation's directors owe a corporation's creditors. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate court and reinstated the trial court's order. View "Weinstein v. Colborne Foodbotics, LLC" on Justia Law
McBride v. Peak Wellness Center Inc.
Petitioner Lisa McBride was an accountant who worked as Respondent Peak Wellness Center’s business manager for about nine years. Peak terminated her in 2009, citing job performance and morale issues. Petitioner claimed she was terminated in retaliation for bringing various accounting improprieties to the attention of Peak’s Board of Directors. Petitioner brought several federal and state-law claims against Peak: (1) whistleblower retaliation under the federal False Claims Act (FCA); (2) violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); (3) breach of employment contract; (4) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (5) defamation; and (6) a federal sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. After discovery, Peak moved for summary judgment on all claims, and the district court granted the motion. Petitioner appealed, arguing that significant issues of material fact remained unresolved and that her claims should have proceeded to trial. She also appealed district court’s denial of an evidentiary motion. Finding no error in the district court’s decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed its grant of summary judgment in favor of Peak.View "McBride v. Peak Wellness Center Inc." on Justia Law
Rude v. Cook Inlet Region, Inc.
In 2008 Robert Rude, then a sitting Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) director, and three other candidates ran as an independent “New Alliance” slate for positions on the CIRI board of directors. Shortly before the election, CIRI filed suit, claiming that the New Alliance proxy materials contained materially misleading statements. Rude and his co-defendants counterclaimed, alleging that CIRI’s election procedures were unfairly tilted toward the interests of the current board and that the directors had improperly refused to disclose shareholder and corporate information to Rude and the other New Alliance candidates. The superior court granted summary judgment on all claims and counterclaims in favor of CIRI. As a result, the New Alliance proxies were voided, and Rude was not re-elected to the board. Rude appealed the rulings both on CIRI’s claims and his counterclaims. Although Rude’s claims were technically moot, the Supreme Court addressed them insofar as they potentially affected prevailing party status. Because no issue of material fact existed as to the claims at issue and because CIRI is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. In a separate appeal, Rude challenged four other rulings of the superior court: (1) the award of attorney’s fees to CIRI; (2) denial of his Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment; (3) the superior court’s exclusion of exhibits filed with that motion; and (4) dismissal of New Alliance as a party to this suit. Because the superior court did not abuse its discretion in any of these rulings, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court in all respects. View "Rude v. Cook Inlet Region, Inc." on Justia Law