Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The city of Winchester and its collector (Winchester) filed a class action lawsuit against Charter Communications on behalf of itself and other similarly situated Missouri municipal corporations and political subdivisions, seeking a declaratory judgment requiring Charter and other telephone service providers to comply with ordinances requiring them to pay a license tax on gross receipts derived from fees and services connected to their operations and an order requiring Charter to pay all license taxes owed to the class. The circuit court struck Winchester's claims on the basis of Mo. Rev. Stat. 71.675, which bars cities and towns from serving as class representatives in suits to enforce or collect business license taxes imposed on telecommunications companies. The Supreme Court quashed the court's preliminary writ of prohibition and granted Winchester's request for a permanent writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its order, holding that the court exceeded its authority in striking Winchester's class action allegations pursuant to section 71.675, as the statute violated Mo. Const. art. V, 5 because it amended a procedural rule of the Court.View "State ex rel. Collector of Winchester v. Circuit Court (Jamison)" on Justia Law

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Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations implementing the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) require that employers’ group health plans furnish preventive care and screenings for women without cost sharing requirements, 42 U.S.C. 300gg–13(a)(4). Nonexempt employers must provide coverage for 20 FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including four that may have the effect of preventing a fertilized egg from developing. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from the contraceptive mandate. HHS has effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations; an insurer must exclude contraceptive coverage from such an employer’s plan and provide participants with separate payments for contraceptive services. Closely held for-profit corporations sought an injunction under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even by a rule of general applicability unless it demonstrates that imposing the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb–1(a), (b). As amended by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), RFRA covers “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” The Third Circuit held that a for-profit corporation could not “engage in religious exercise” under RFRA and that the mandate imposed no requirements on corporate owners in their personal capacity. The Tenth Circuit held that the businesses are “persons” under RFRA; that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdened their religious exercise; and that HHS had not demonstrated that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of furthering a compelling governmental interest.The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the businesses, holding that RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations. The Court declined to “leave merchants with a difficult choice” of giving up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgoing the benefits of operating as corporations. Nothing in RFRA suggests intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition of “person,” which includes corporations, 1 U.S.C.1; no definition of “person” includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but excludes for-profit corporations. “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law.” The Court rejected arguments based on the difficulty of ascertaining the “beliefs” of large, publicly traded corporations and that the mandate itself requires only insurance coverage. If the plaintiff companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences; the government failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods. The government could assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives or could extend the accommodation already established for religious nonprofit organizations. The Court noted that its decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate, not all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions. View "Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations implementing the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) require that employers’ group health plans furnish preventive care and screenings for women without cost sharing requirements, 42 U.S.C. 300gg–13(a)(4). Nonexempt employers must provide coverage for 20 FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including four that may have the effect of preventing a fertilized egg from developing. Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from the contraceptive mandate. HHS has effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations; an insurer must exclude contraceptive coverage from such an employer’s plan and provide participants with separate payments for contraceptive services. Closely held for-profit corporations sought an injunction under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even by a rule of general applicability unless it demonstrates that imposing the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb–1(a), (b). As amended by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), RFRA covers “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” The Third Circuit held that a for-profit corporation could not “engage in religious exercise” under RFRA and that the mandate imposed no requirements on corporate owners in their personal capacity. The Tenth Circuit held that the businesses are “persons” under RFRA; that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdened their religious exercise; and that HHS had not demonstrated that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of furthering a compelling governmental interest.The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the businesses, holding that RFRA applies to regulations that govern the activities of closely held for-profit corporations. The Court declined to “leave merchants with a difficult choice” of giving up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgoing the benefits of operating as corporations. Nothing in RFRA suggests intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition of “person,” which includes corporations, 1 U.S.C.1; no definition of “person” includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but excludes for-profit corporations. “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law.” The Court rejected arguments based on the difficulty of ascertaining the “beliefs” of large, publicly traded corporations and that the mandate itself requires only insurance coverage. If the plaintiff companies refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, they face severe economic consequences; the government failed to show that the contraceptive mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to the four challenged contraceptive methods. The government could assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives or could extend the accommodation already established for religious nonprofit organizations. The Court noted that its decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate, not all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions. View "Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal required the court to determine what effect, if any, a retiree benefits-related provision included in an asset purchase agreement had on the acquiring company's retiree benefits plans governed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1000 et seq. The court held that the provision constituted a valid plan amendment. Moreover, the court held that the provision was assumed, not rejected, in bankruptcy. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Evans, et al. v. Sterling Chemicals, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that defendant had a personal bank account at Fulton Financial Corporation (Fulton), of which his wife could be a joint holder. Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order enjoining both defendant and his wife from using the funds or removing them from Fulton, pending a final disposition of its claim that the funds were wrongfully removed by defendant from plaintiff's account. The court held that while the complaint stated a colorable claim, the court was unpersuaded that irreparable harm would result absent the entry of a restraining order, ex parte. The court also held that where, as here, the plaintiff sought to freeze the funds of an account legally held, not only by the alleged wrongdoer but jointly by an innocent third party, a request for ex parte action raised concerns of due process. Therefore, since plaintiff failed to show that irreparable harm would occur absent entry of a temporary restraining order ex parte, the court deferred decision on the restraining order request pending service and an opportunity for defendant to be heard. View "Smart Home, Inc. v. Selway, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from an earlier trial relating to the Enron scandal. The government alleged that Enron loaned out the stake in the barges that it owned off the Nigerian coast to Merill Lynch, risk-free and with a guaranteed return, but made it seem like a sale so that it could book a pretend profit. Defendant, a managing director at Merrill Lynch and the head of its Strategic Asset and Lease Finance group at the time of the transaction, challenged his convictions related to the sale on the grounds that the government violated his right to due process by withholding materially favorable evidence that it possessed pre-trial. The court affirmed and held that the district court did not clearly err in holding that the evidence at issue was not material. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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This criminal appeal arose from a "finite reinsurance" transaction between American International Group, Inc. (AIG) and General Reinsurance Corporation (Gen Re). Defendants, four executives of Gen Re and one of AIG, appealed from judgments convicting them of conspiracy, mail fraud, securities fraud, and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Defendants appealed on a variety of grounds, some in common and others specific to each defendant, ranging from evidentiary challenges to serious allegations of widespread prosecutorial misconduct. Most of the arguments were without merit, but defendants' convictions must be vacated because the district court abused its discretion by admitting the stock-price data and issued a jury instruction that directed the verdict on causation. View "United States v. Ferguson, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of possession of child pornography and appealed a judgment that included, as a condition of supervised release, a requirement that monitoring technology be installed on his computer-related devices. The court rejected defendant's argument that his conditions of supervised release should be vacated because he was not afforded adequate notice that the district court was considering imposing them where his procedural rights were not violated. The court also rejected defendant's claims that the computer monitoring condition imposed on him occasioned a greater deprivation of liberty than was reasonably necessary because the term "monitoring" was imprecise and encompassed a broad swath of surveillance methods, some of which would be unnecessary or intrusive. The court noted, however, that in situations like this one, where technological considerations prevent specifying in detail years in advance how a condition was to be effectuated, district courts should be flexible in revisiting conditions imposed to ensure they remain tailored and effective. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Quinzon" on Justia Law

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Martin J. Bradley III and his father, Martin J. Bradley, Jr. (collectively, the Bradleys), owned Bio-Med Plus, Inc. (Bio-Med), a Miami-based pharmaceutical wholesaler that purchased and sold blood-derivatives. This case stemmed from multiple schemes to defraud the Florida and California Medicaid programs by causing them to pay for blood-derivative medications more than once. The Government chose to prosecute the schemes and a grand jury indicted eight individuals, including Albert L. Tellechea, and two companies, Bio-Med, and Interland Associates, Inc. The Bradleys, Bio-Med, and Tellechea subsequently appealed their convictions and raised several issues on appeal. The court affirmed the Bradleys', Bio-Med's, and Tellechea's convictions, and Bradley III's and Bio-Med's sentences. The court vacated Bradley, Jr.'s sentences on Counts I and 54 and Tellechea's sentence on Count 3, and remanded those counts for resentencing. The court reversed the district court's October 4, 2006 order appointing the receiver and monitor, and its supplemental receivership order of May 17, 2007. The court finally held that, as soon as circumstances allowed, the receivership should be brought to an immediate close.