Justia Corporate Compliance Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In re: SS Body Armor I Inc.
In 2005, revelations surfaced that Body Armor—a publicly-traded company—was manufacturing its body armor, which it sold to law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military, using substandard materials. Its stock price plummeted, prompting shareholders to bring numerous actions that were consolidated into a shareholders’ class action and a derivative action on behalf of Body Armor against specified officers and directors. Since then, the matter has traveled, through bankruptcy, trial, and appellate courts throughout three U.S. jurisdictions. In its second review of the case, the Third Circuit affirmed a 2015 Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware order, approving a settlement entered in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of S.S. Body Armor I. The court reversed in part the Bankruptcy Court’s order that granted the objector fees on a contingent basis and remanded for a determination of the appropriate amount of the fee award. The court affirmed the part of that order that denied the objector’s claim to attorneys’ fees and expenses under the Bankruptcy Code and an order awarding fees to counsel in one of the underlying lawsuits. View "In re: SS Body Armor I Inc." on Justia Law
Jaludi v. Citigroup
Jaludi began working for Citigroup in 1985 and rose steadily through the ranks. Jaludi was laid off and terminated in 2013 after reporting certain improprieties in Citigroup’s internal complaint monitoring system. Jaludi, believing Citigroup had fired him in retaliation for his reporting, sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962 (RICO), and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. Citigroup moved to compel arbitration, relying on two Employee Handbooks. The 2009 Employee Handbook, contained an arbitration agreement requiring arbitration of all claims arising out of employment—including Sarbanes–Oxley claims. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which amended Sarbanes–Oxley to prohibit pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate whistleblower claims, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(e)). In 2011, Citigroup and Jaludi agreed to the 2011 Employee Handbook; the arbitration agreement appended to that Handbook excluded “disputes which by statute are not arbitrable” and deleted Sarbanes–Oxley from the list of arbitrable claims. Nonetheless, the district court held that arbitration was required for all of Jaludi’s claims. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Although Jaludi’s RICO claim falls within the scope of either Handbook’s arbitration provision, the operative 2011 arbitration agreement supersedes the 2009 arbitration agreement and prohibits the arbitration of Sarbanes–Oxley claims. View "Jaludi v. Citigroup" on Justia Law
Obasi Investment Ltd v. Tibet Pharmaceuticals Inc
Tibet, a holding company, “effectively control[led]” Yunnan, a manufacturer. Tibet attempted to raise capital for Yunnan's operations through an initial public offering (IPO). Zou was an investor in Tibet and the sole director of CT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tibet. Tibet’s control of Yunnan flowed through CT. Zou told Downs, a managing director at the investment bank A&S, about the IPO. A&S agreed to serve as Tibet’s placement agent. Zou and downs were neither signatories to Tibet’s IPO registration statement nor named as directors of Tibet but were listed as non-voting board observers chosen by A&S without formal powers or duties. The registration statement explained, “they may nevertheless significantly influence the outcome of matters submitted to the Board.” The registration statement omitted information that Yunnan had defaulted on a loan from the Chinese government months earlier. Before Tibet filed its amended final prospectus, the Chinese government froze Yunnan’s assets. Tibet did not disclose that. The IPO closed, offering three million public shares at $5.50 per share. The Agricultural Bank of China auctioned off Yunnan’s assets, which prompted the NASDAQ to halt trading in Tibet’s stock. Plaintiffs sued Zou, Downs, Tibet, A&S, and others on behalf of a class of stock purchasers under the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. 77k(a). The Third Circuit directed the entry of summary judgment in favor of Zou and Downs, holding that a nonvoting board observer affiliated with an issuer’s placement agent is not a “person who, with his consent, is named in the registration statement as being or about to become a director[ ] [or] person performing similar functions,” under section 77k(a). The court noted the registration statement’s description of the defendants, whose functions are not “similar” to those of board directors. View "Obasi Investment Ltd v. Tibet Pharmaceuticals Inc" on Justia Law
SS Body Armor I, Inc. v. Carter Ledyard & Milburn, LLP
Brooks, Debtor's CEO, was charged with financial crimes. In class action and derivative lawsuits, Debtor proposed a global settlement that indemnified Brooks for liability under the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), 15 U.S.C. 7243. Cohen, Debtor’s former General Counsel and a shareholder, claimed that the indemnification was unlawful. The district court approved the settlement, Cohen, represented by CLM, appealed. The Second Circuit vacated, noting that the EDNY would determine CLM’s attorneys’ fees award. Debtor initiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Debtor’s liquidation plan, with a trustee to pursue Debtor’s interest in recouping its losses from the ongoing actions. Brooks died in prison. Because his appeal had not concluded, some of his convictions and restitution obligations were abated. Stakeholders negotiated a second global settlement agreement, under which $142 million of Brooks’ restrained assets were to be distributed to his victims; $70 million has been remitted to Debtor. The Bankruptcy Court awarded CLM fees for the SOX 304 claim; the amount would be determined if Debtor received any funds on account of the claim. CLM’s Fee Appeal remains pending at the district court. CLM requested a $25 million reserve for payment of its fees. The Bankruptcy Court ordered Debtor to set aside $5 million. CLM’s Fee Reserve Appeal remains pending. CLM then moved, unsuccessfully, for a stay of Second Settlement Agreement distributions. In its Stay Denial Appeal, CLM’s motion requesting a stay of distributions was denied. The Third Circuit affirmed. The $5 million reserve is sufficient. A $5 million attorneys’ fees award for 1,502.2 hours of legal work totaling $549,472.61 of documented fees would yield an hourly rate of $3,328.45 and a lodestar multiplier of over nine. In common fund cases where attorneys’ fees are calculated using the lodestar method, multiples from one to four are the norm. View "SS Body Armor I, Inc. v. Carter Ledyard & Milburn, LLP" on Justia Law
Jaroslawicz v. M&T Bank Corp
Consumer banks Hudson and M&T merged. Hudson’s shareholders claimed they violated the Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78n(a), and SEC Rule 14a-9, by omitting facts concerning M&T’s regulatory compliance from their joint proxy materials: M&T’s having advertised no-fee checking accounts but later switching those accounts to fee-based accounts (consumer violations) and deficiencies in M&T’s Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering compliance program. They argued that because the proxy materials did not discuss M&T’s noncompliant practices, M&T failed to disclose significant risk factors facing the merger, rendering M&T’s opinion statements regarding its adherence to regulatory requirements and the prospects of prompt approval of the merger misleading under Supreme Court precedent (Omnicare). The Third Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of the suit. The shareholders pleaded actionable omissions under the SEC Rule but failed to do so under Omnicare. The joint proxy had to comply with a provision that requires issuers to “provide under the caption ‘Risk Factors’ a discussion of the most significant factors that make the offering speculative or risky.” It would be reasonable to infer the consumer violations posed a risk to regulatory approval of the merger, despite cessation of the practice by the time the proxy issued. The disclosures were inadequate as a matter of law. View "Jaroslawicz v. M&T Bank Corp" on Justia Law
City of Cambridge Retirement System v. Altisource Asset Management Corp.
Former shareholders alleged that Altisource and several of its officers (collectively AAMC) inflated the price of its stock through false and misleading statements. When these mistruths were revealed to the market, they claimed, the price of AAMC’s stock plummeted, costing shareholders billions of dollars. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the requirements of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), 15 U.S.C. 78u– 4. The Third Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead three elements of a Rule 10b-5 claim: a material misrepresentation (or omission), scienter, and loss causation, with “particularity” as required by PSLRA. The economic harm suffered by AAMC’s investors is "regrettable," but plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that this harm arose from fraud. When a stock experiences the rapid rise and fall that occurred here, it will not usually prove difficult to mine from the economic wreckage a few discrepancies in the now-deflated company’s records. View "City of Cambridge Retirement System v. Altisource Asset Management Corp." on Justia Law
Clientron Corp. v. Devon IT Inc
Devon, a Pennsylvania corporation, sells computer products; Bennett and DiRocco, a married couple, jointly own 100 percent of Devon’s shares as tenants by the entirety. In 2010, Devon obtained a contract from Dell. Devon contracted with Clientron, a Taiwanese company, to manufacture Dell's computers. Clientron shipped them directly to Dell; Dell paid Devon. Devon stopped paying Clientron entirely in 2012, owing over $6 million. Dell terminated its relationship with Devon, paying Devon $2 million, none of which reached Clientron. Pursuant to their contract, Clientron requested arbitration in Taiwan; arbitrators awarded Clientron $6.5 million. Clientron then sued Devon, Bennett, and DiRocco in Pennsylvania to enforce the award and seeking $14.3 million in damages for fraud and breach of contract. Clientron alleged that Devon was the alter ego of the couple. During discovery, the defendants continually failed to meet their obligations under the Federal Rules. The court entered sanctions, and instructed the jury that it was permitted, but not required, to make an adverse inference due to Devon' discovery conduct; the instruction did not reference Bennett or DiRocco. The jury found Devon liable for breach of contract and awarded Clientron an additional $737,018 in damages but rejected Clientron’s fraud claim and declined to pierce Devon’s corporate veil. Post-trial, the court pierced the veil to reach Bennett but not DiRocco, holding Bennett personally liable for the $737,018 damages award and the $44,320 monetary sanction earlier imposed on Devon; it did not make Bennett personally liable for the Taiwanese arbitration award. Devon is insolvent The Third Circuit vacated; the court committed legal error in piercing Devon’s veil to reach only Bennett and in holding Bennett personally liable for only part of the judgment. View "Clientron Corp. v. Devon IT Inc" on Justia Law
Greenfield v. Medco Health Solutions Inc
Accredo delivers clotting medication and provides nursing assistance for hemophilia patients. Accredo makes donations to charities concerned with hemophilia, including HSI and HANJ, which allegedly recommended Accredo as an approved provider for hemophilia patients. Greenfield, a former Accredo area vice president, sued, alleging violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b), and the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A)-(B). If Greenfield prevailed, he would get at least 25% of any civil penalty or damages award. The government did not intervene. The district court, following discovery, granted Accredo summary judgment, finding that Greenfield failed to provide evidence of even a single federal claim for reimbursement that was linked to the alleged kickback scheme. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits kickbacks regardless of their effect on patients’ medical decisions. Because any kickback violation is not eligible for reimbursement, to certify otherwise violates the False Claims Act but there must be some connection between a kickback and the reimbursement claim. It is not enough to show temporal proximity. Greenfield was required to show that at least one of the 24 federally-insured patients for whom Accredo provided services and submitted reimbursement claims was exposed to a referral or recommendation by HSI/HANJ in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. View "Greenfield v. Medco Health Solutions Inc" on Justia Law
Williams v. Globus Medical, Inc.
Globus, a publicly-traded medical device company, terminated its relationship with one of its distributors, Vortex, in keeping with a policy of moving toward in-house sales. Several months later, in August 2014, Globus executives alerted shareholders that sales growth had slowed, attributed the decline in part to the decision to terminate its contract with Vortex, and revised Globus’s revenue guidance downward for fiscal year 2014. The price of Globus shares fell by approximately 18% the following day. Globus shareholders contend the company and its executives violated the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and Rule 10b-5 and defrauded investors by failing to disclose the company’s decision to terminate the distributor contract and by issuing revenue projections that failed to account for this decision. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case. Globus had no duty to disclose either its decision to terminate its relationship with Vortex or the completed termination of that relationship. Plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead that a drop in sales was inevitable; that the revenue projections were false when made; nor that that Globus incorporated anticipated revenue from Vortex in its projections. View "Williams v. Globus Medical, Inc." on Justia Law
Norman v. Elkin
Norman and Elkin were the only shareholders of USM, a company that acquired and sold rights to radio frequencies. Norman held a minority interest and sought legal relief after he discovered that Elkin had transferred to another company the ownership of several frequencies purchased by USM, that Elkin had treated capital contributions as loans, and that Elkin had paid himself from USM funds without giving Norman any return on his minority investment. Despite two juries agreeing with Norman, verdicts in his favor were overturned. Most of his claims were held to be time-barred after the district court rejected his argument that a state court case he had brought to inspect USM’s books and records under the Delaware Code tolled the statute of limitations. Other claims were eliminated for insufficient evidence. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The district court erred in concluding that tolling of the statute of limitations is categorically inappropriate when a plaintiff has inquiry notice before initiating a books and records action in the Delaware courts and erred in vacating the jury’s award of nominal damages for one of Norman’s breach of contract claims. Norman’s fraud claim was not supported by sufficient proof of damages. View "Norman v. Elkin" on Justia Law