Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Halperin v. Halperin
Brothers Patrick and Thomas each owned one‐third of the stock of Commercial Light, a Chicago electrical contractor. Between 1982 and the 2008 sale of the company, Thomas was the CEO, board chairman, and president. The other officers were the company’s treasurer, and its executive vice‐president. The board of directors had only two members: Thomas and a lawyer. Patrick took no part in the company’s management. Patrick sued, claiming that when Morris became executive vice‐president in 1992, he, with Thomas’s approval, started jacking up the salaries and bonuses paid so that the compensation of the three officers soared, totaling $22 million between 1993 and 2000, and that the lawyer on the board rubber‐stamped Thomas’s compensation decisions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a jury verdict finding breach of fiduciary duty. The jury did not have to find that the compensation was excessive in order to find a breach of fiduciary duty by concealment. Illinois allows as a remedy for breach of fiduciary duty a forfeiture of all the fiduciary’s earnings during the period of breach. The court speculated on why the highly-educated Patrick did not discover the concealment until several years after the sale, but noted that the appeal only concerned jury instructions. View "Halperin v. Halperin" on Justia Law
Manville Pers. Injury Settlement Fund v. Blankenship
A 2007 stockholders’ derivative suit alleged that Massey’s officers and directors breached their fiduciary duties by failing to make sure that Massey employees were complying with environmental and mine worker safety laws and regulations. A 2008 settlement released the claims in exchange for certain reforms to be made a part of corporate governance policies relating to company oversight and conduct regarding environmental and mine worker safety standards. The reforms were incorporated into Massey’s written Corporate Governance Agreement and were to remain in effect for five years. On April 5, 2010, an explosion occurred at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine at Montcoal, West Virginia, killing 29 miners. According to a contempt petition, investigations subsequent to the disaster found systematic mine safety compliance failures leading up to the explosion. The trial court dismissed the civil contempt petition. The West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed. The petitioners lacked standing to pursue contempt proceedings because they no longer own any Massey stock; Massey has been purchased by Alpha Natural Resources; and the respondents were removed by Alpha as corporate directors and officers. View "Manville Pers. Injury Settlement Fund v. Blankenship" on Justia Law
Bourhis v. Lord
Plaintiffs, including a California corporation (Corporation), filed a lawsuit for property damage against Defendants. Before trial, Defendants learned the state had suspended Corporation's corporate powers for nonpayment of taxes. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants. Plaintiffs, including Corporation, appealed. On December 1, 2011, Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss Corporation's appeals because its corporate powers were still suspended. Corporation presented documentation showing its corporate powers had been revived on December 8, 2011 and argued that this revival made its appeal effective. The court of appeals denied the motions. Defendants petitioned for review. At issue was whether a corporation that files notices of appeal while its corporate powers are suspended may proceed with the appeals after those powers have been revived, even if the revival occurs after the time to appeal has expired. Relying on precedent, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appeals may proceed. View "Bourhis v. Lord" on Justia Law
OH Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor’s Fin. Servs., LLC
Plaintiffs are five pension funds operated by the State of Ohio for public employees that invested hundreds of millions of dollars in 308 mortgage-backed securities (MBS) between 2005 and 2008, all of which received a “AAA” or equivalent credit rating from one of the three major credit-rating agencies. The value of MBS collapsed during this period, leaving the Funds with estimated losses of $457 million. The Funds sued under Ohio’s “blue sky” laws and a common-law theory of negligent misrepresentation, alleging that the Agencies’ ratings were false and misleading and that the Funds’ reasonable reliance on those ratings caused their losses. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Even if a credit rating can serve as an actionable misrepresentation, the Agencies owed no duty to the Funds and the Funds’ allegations of bad business practices did not establish a reasonable inference of wrongdoing View "OH Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor's Fin. Servs., LLC" on Justia Law
Continental Holdings, Inc. v. Crown Holdings Inc., et al.
Continental sold its food and beverage metal can and can-end technology to Crown via a stock purchase agreement (SPA) in March 1990. The parties disputed the extent of each other's resultant liabilities, as defined by the indemnity provision in the SPA in concurrent binding arbitration and judicial proceedings. Continental subsequently appealed the grant of summary judgment and the district court's denial of its motion to reconsider or alter or amend its judgment. The court found that Continental failed to meet its burden of proving it was not afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate the meaning of the indemnity provision. Therefore, the district court correctly determined that Continental was precluded from further litigating the provision's meaning, properly granted summary judgment in favor of Crown, and did not abuse its discretion in denying Continental's motion to reconsider. View "Continental Holdings, Inc. v. Crown Holdings Inc., et al." on Justia Law
IMO Krafft-Murphy Co., Inc.
This matter came before the court on the basis of two competing motions related to a petition for the appointment of a receiver under 8 Del. C. 279 for Kraft-Murphy Company, Inc., a defunct Delaware corporation that had been dissolved for more than twelve years. The first motion was a motion to perfect service on the company brought by petitioners, who were claimants in various asbestos-related tort suits filed against the company in various jurisdictions in the mid-Atlantic region. The second motion was a motion to dismiss, filed by the company's insurers on behalf of the company. The court held that service of process could be perfected on the dissolved corporation and that petitioners conceivably could be able to show that a receiver should be appointed for the corporation to enable it to respond to claims brought against it, because the corporation's informal plan of dissolution contemplated using its insurance contracts for that purpose. Therefore, the court granted petitioners' motion to perfect service and denied the company's motion to dismiss. View "IMO Krafft-Murphy Co., Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: Bluetooth Headset Product Liability Litig.
Plaintiffs filed 26 putative class actions against defendants, alleging that defendants knowingly failed to disclose the potential risk of noise-induced hearing loss associated with extended use of their wireless Bluetooth headsets at high volumes, in violation of state consumer fraud protection and unfair business practice laws. The subsequent settlement agreement provided the class $100,000 in cy pres awards and zero dollars for economic injury, while setting aside up to $800,000 for class counsel and $12,000 for the class representatives. William Brennan and other class members (Objectors) challenged the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement and appealed both the approval and fee orders, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in failing to consider whether the gross disproportion between the class award and the negotiated fee award was reasonable. The court agreed that the disparity between the value of the class recovery and class counsel's compensation raised at least an inference of unfairness, and that the current record did not adequately dispel the possibility that class counsel bargained away a benefit to the class in exchange for their own interests. Therefore, the court vacated both orders and remanded so that the district court could conduct a more searching inquiry into the fairness of the negotiated distribution of funds, as well as consider the substantive reasonableness of the attorneys' fee request in light of the degree of success attained. View "In Re: Bluetooth Headset Product Liability Litig." on Justia Law
BP America Prod. Co., et al. v. Marshall, et al.
This case involved two related oil and gas mineral lease disputes that were jointly tried. At issue was whether limitations barred the Marshalls' (respondents and lessors) fraud claim against BP America Production Co., et al. (the lessee and operator), and whether Vaquillas Ranch Co., Ltd., et al. (lessors) lost title by adverse possession after Wagner Oil Co. (successors-in-interest) succeeded to BP's interests, took over the operations, and produced and paid Vaquillas royalties for nearly twenty years. The court held that because the Marshalls' injury was not inherently undiscoverable and BP's fraudulent representations about its good faith efforts to develop the well could have been discovered with reasonable diligence before limitations expired, neither the discovery rule nor fraudulent concealment extended limitations. Accordingly, the Marshalls' fraud claims against BP were time-barred. The court further held that by paying a clearly labeled royalty to Vaquillas, Wagner sufficiently asserted its intent to oust Vaquillas to acquire the lease by adverse possession. View "BP America Prod. Co., et al. v. Marshall, et al." on Justia Law
Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-Papst St. Georgen
Viasystems, Inc., a Missouri-based corporation, filed suit against EBM-Papst St. Georgen GmbH & Co., KG (St. Georgen), a German corporation, alleging several claims in contract and tort. At issue was whether the district court properly concluded that it had neither specific nor general personal jurisdiction over St. Georgen and granted its motion to dismiss. The court held that Viasystems failed to establish a prima facie case that specific and general jurisdiction could be asserted over St. Georgen. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Viasystems' motion for jurisdictional discovery. Therefore, because St. Georgen did not have sufficient "minimum contacts" with Missouri, the maintenance of the suit would offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the case. View "Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-Papst St. Georgen" on Justia Law
International Strategies Group v. Ness
Plaintiff appealed from a judgment granting defendant's motion to dismiss as untimely plaintiff's complaint, which alleged breach of fiduciary duty, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and conspiracy to commit those three offenses. At issue was whether the district court properly ruled that tolling of the untimely claims, on the basis of defendant's continuing concealment, was unwarranted. The court affirmed and held that the lawsuit, commenced on April 2004, arose from an injury suffered no later than June 2000 and therefore, was barred by the applicable statute of repose, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-577. The court also held that plaintiff could not seek the safe harbor of equitable estoppel due to its failure to recognize that it was required to pursue its action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district. View "International Strategies Group v. Ness" on Justia Law