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The plaintiff was a limited partner/unitholder in a publicly-traded master limited partnership (“MLP”). The general partner proposed that the partnership be acquired through merger with another limited partnership in the MLP family. The seller and buyer were indirectly owned by the same entity, creating a conflict of interest. The general partner in this case sought refuge in two of the safe harbor conflict resolution provisions of the partnership agreement: “Special Approval” of the transaction by an independent Conflicts Committee, and “Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval.” The plaintiff alleged in its complaint that the general partner failed to satisfy the Special Approval safe harbor because the Conflicts Committee was itself conflicted. The general partner moved to dismiss the complaint and claimed that, in the absence of express contractual obligations not to mislead investors or to unfairly manipulate the Conflicts Committee process, the general partner need only satisfy what the partnership agreement expressly required: to obtain the safe harbor approvals and follow the minimal disclosure requirements. The Court of Chancery “side-stepped” the Conflicts Committee safe harbor, but accepted the general partner’s argument that the Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval safe harbor required dismissal of the case. The court held that, even though the proxy statement might have contained materially misleading disclosures, fiduciary duty principles could not be used to impose disclosure obligations on the general partner beyond those in the partnership agreement, because the partnership agreement disclaimed fiduciary duties. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the Court of Chancery erred when it concluded that the general partner satisfied the Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval safe harbor, because he alleged sufficient facts to show that the approval was obtained through false and misleading statements. The Supreme Court determined that the lower court focused too narrowly on the partnership agreement’s disclosure requirements. “Instead, the center of attention should have been on the conflict resolution provision of the partnership agreement.” The Supreme found that the plaintiff pled sufficient facts, that neither safe harbor was available to the general partner because it allegedly made false and misleading statements to secure Unaffiliated Unitholder Approval, and allegedly used a conflicted Conflicts Committee to obtain Special Approval. Thus, the Court reversed the Court of Chancery’s order dismissing Counts I and II of the complaint. View "Dieckman v. Regency GP LP, Regency GP LLC" on Justia Law

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Micrins Surgical went out of business in 2009, without paying all of its taxes. Eriem Surgical was incorporated the same day, purchased Micrins’ inventory, took over its office space, hired its employees, used its website and phone number, and pursued the same line of business, selling surgical instruments. Teitz, the president and 40% owner of Micrins, continued to play a leading role in Eriem, though its sole stockholder is Teitz’s wife. Eriem uses “Micrins” as a trademark. The IRS treated Eriem as a continuation of Micrins and collected almost $400,000 of Micrins’ taxes from Eriem’s bank accounts and receivables. Eriem filed wrongful levy suit, 26 U.S.C. 7426(a)(1). The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the IRS, concluding that Eriem is a continuation of Micrins. The Supreme Court has never decided whether state or federal law governs corporate successorship when the dispute concerns debts to the national government; the Internal Revenue Code says nothing about corporate successorship. Illinois law uses a multi‐factor balancing standard to determine successorship. Rejecting an argument that the change in ownership should be dispositive, the court upheld the district court’s conclusion that Mrs. Teitz serves is proxy for her husband, so that there has not been a complete change of ownership. View "Eriem Surgical, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Appellants The Source Store LLC (“Source 1”), The Source LLC (“Source 2”), Michael L. Hodge (“Hodge”), George M. Brown (“Brown”), and Christopher Claiborne (“Claiborne”) appealed the district court’s order denying their Joint Motion to Dismiss, by which they sought to dismiss the derivative claims brought by respondents Donnelly Prehn and Dwight Bandak on behalf of Source 1. The Supreme Court did not reverse the district court’s decision not to hear Appellants’ Joint Motion to Dismiss. Further, the Court affirmed the district court’s finding that Hodge breached his fiduciary duty to Source 1 and its members. Specifically, the Court affirmed the district court’s awards related to the following: (1) Hodge’s breach of his fiduciary duty as to the management of the asset auction; (2) Hodge’s breach of his fiduciary duty related to his failure to minimize expenses during dissolution; (3) Prehn’s entitlement to back salary and reimbursement for the loan; and (4) the unjust enrichment of Hodge and Source 2. The Court affirmed the district court’s award of attorney’s fees. View "Prehn v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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This appeal in a derivative suit brought by a stockholder of Zynga, Inc. centered on whether the Court of Chancery correctly found that a majority of the Zynga board could impartially consider a demand and thus correctly dismissed the complaint for failure to plead demand excusal under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1. The Supreme Court reversed dismissal of plaintiff's complaint: "Fortunately for the derivative plaintiff, however, he was able to plead particularized facts regarding three directors that create a reasonable doubt that these directors can impartially consider a demand. [. . .] in our view, the combination of these facts creates a pleading stage reasonable doubt as to the ability of these directors to act independently on a demand adverse to the controller's interests. When these three directors are considered incapable of impartially considering a demand, a majority of the nine member Zynga board is compromised for Rule 23.1 purposes and demand is excused." View "Sandys v. Pincus, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a conflict among the three members of IE Test, LLC (IE Test). After a dispute between defendant Kenneth Carroll and the other members, Patrick Cupo and Byron James, IE Test filed an action to expel Carroll, pursuant to the Limited Liability Company Act (LLCA). In 2004,Carroll and Cupo formed Instrumentation Engineering, LLC. Carroll owned a fifty-one percent interest in Instrumentation Engineering, and Cupo owned the remaining forty-nine percent. James was employed by Instrumentation Engineering, initially as Business Development Manager and later as Vice President. Carroll, Cupo, and James entered into a preliminary agreement stating intention to enter into an operating agreement for IE Test. Carroll claimed that Instrumentation Engineering owed substantial sums to him and his companies, and that became a point of contention among Cupo, James, and Carroll soon after they agreed to share ownership of IE Test. Carroll acknowledged that IE Test had no legal obligation to repay him for losses sustained because of Instrumentation Engineering's bankruptcy, but pressed for compensation that would allow him to recover some of his lost investment. By early 2010, Cupo and James were actively pursing a strategy to use the LLCA to expel Carroll as a member of the LLC. The trial court found in IE Test's favor on its claim based on subsection 3(c), reasoning that the "not reasonably practicable" language imposed a less stringent standard than did subsection 3(a). The trial court granted IE Test's motion for partial summary judgment and expelled Carroll as an LLC member. Carroll appealed. In an unpublished opinion, an Appellate Division panel affirmed, construing N.J.S.A.42:2B-24(b)(3), and its counterpart provision in the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (RULLCA), N.J.S.A.42:2C-46(e), to mandate that a trial judge engage in predictive reasoning in order to evaluate the future impact of an LLC member's current conduct. The panel found that Carroll's relationship with Cupo and James never recovered from Carroll's demand that he be compensated in a manner that permitted him to recoup his lost investment. The Supreme Court reversed. Applied to the record of this case, the standard of subsection 3(c) did not warrant a grant of partial summary judgment expelling Carroll from IE Test. View "IE Test, LLC v. Carroll" on Justia Law

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In 2011 UJC private jet charter services hired Plaintiff as a co-pilot. After altercations between Plaintiff, a woman, and male pilots, which Plaintiff perceived to constitute sexual harassment, Plaintiff wrote an email to UJC management. About three weeks later, Plaintiff’s employment was terminated. Plaintiff sued, alleging retaliation. Defendants’ answer stated that UJC had converted from a corporation to an LLC. Plaintiff did not amend her complaint. Defendants’ subsequent motions failed did not raise the issue of UJC’s identity. UJC’s CEO testified that he had received reports that Plaintiff had used her cell phone below 10,000 feet; that once Plaintiff became intoxicated and danced inappropriately at a bar while in Atlantic City for work; that Plaintiff had once dangerously performed a turning maneuver; and that Plaintiff had a habit of unnecessarily executing “max performance” climbs. There was testimony that UJC’s male pilots often engaged the same behavior. The jury awarded her $70,250.00 in compensatory and $100,000.00 in punitive damages. When Plaintiff attempted to collect on her judgment, she was told that the corporation was out of business without assets, but was offered a settlement of $125,000.00. The court entered a new judgment listing the LLC as the defendant, noting that UJC’s filings and witnesses substantially added to confusion regarding UJC’s corporate form and that the LLC defended the lawsuit as though it were the real party in interest. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating it was unlikely that UJC would have offered a generous settlement had it genuinely believed itself to be a victim of circumstance, or that it would be deprived of due process by an amendment to the judgment; the response indicated a litigation strategy based on “roll[ing] the dice at trial and then hid[ing] behind a change in corporate structure when it comes time to collect.” View "Braun v. Ultimate Jetcharters, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Internal Revenue Service denied Wells Fargo’s claims for refunds based on interest-netting under 26 U.S.C. 6621(d) between interest on tax underpayments and interest on tax overpayments. Section 6621(d) reads: To the extent that, for any period, interest is payable under subchapter A and allowable under subchapter B on equivalent underpayments and overpayments by the same taxpayer of tax imposed by this title, the net rate of interest under this section on such amounts shall be zero for such period. Absent an interest-netting provision , a taxpayer might make equivalent underpayments and overpayments yet owe the IRS interest because corporate taxpayers pay underpayment interest at a higher rate than the IRS pays overpayment interest. The Claims Court granted Wells Fargo partial summary judgment, finding that it satisfied the “same taxpayer” requirement, although the current embodiment of the company is the result of seven mergers. The companies involved in these mergers made tax underpayments and overpayments. The Federal Circuit identified three merger “situations” and concluded that two qualified for interest netting and one did not. The situations involved consideration of the whether the entities had separate identities at the time of the payments at issue and the amount of change in the entity’s identity as a result of the merger. View "Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Vint Hughes and H-D Transport, an Idaho partnership, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Michael Pogue and Lawson & Laski, PLLC (collectively Pogue) in a legal malpractice action. Hughes and H-D Transport brought suit against Pogue claiming that at various points starting in October 2011, until present, Pogue had an attorney-client relationship with both Hughes and H-D Transport. In August of 2011, Hughes and Andrew Diges entered into a 50-50 partnership, under the name H-D Transport, to haul hydraulic fracturing fluid. Disagreements arose between the partners concerning the operation and finances of the partnership. On October 21, 2011, Diges hired Pogue to draft a formal partnership agreement. Diges told Hughes that he had hired an attorney to prepare a partnership agreement, and about a month later Pogue, Hughes and Diane Barker, the partnership bookkeeper, participated in a conference call regarding the partnership. Despite the efforts to create a partnership agreement, Pogue, on behalf of Diges, sent Hughes a letter “regarding the problems and irregularities concerning the operation of H-D Transport, and to propose a wind-up of the business.” Pogue filed a complaint requesting declaratory relief, an accounting, and a dissolution of the partnership (the Dissolution Action). In the complaint, Pogue named H-D Transport and Diges as the plaintiffs and Hughes as the defendant. Following trial of the Dissolution Action, the district court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law which largely decided issues in Hughes’ favor. Diges was ordered to repay H-D transport more than $50,000, including $1,500 in partnership funds for legal fees paid to Pogue. Following trial, but prior to the district court’s decision in the Dissolution Action, Hughes and H-D Transport filed the present action naming Pogue and his firm as defendants, alleging two counts of professional negligence and breach of fiduciary duty and two counts of unreasonable restraint of trade under the Idaho Competition Act. The district court granted Pogue’s motion for summary judgment on all claims, concluding Hughes and H-D Transport failed to establish that an attorney-client relationship existed with Pogue. The Supreme Court found that it was unreasonable, under the facts of this case, for Hughes to believe he had an attorney-client relationship with Pogue. The Court therefore affirmed the district court judgment. View "H-D Transport v. Pogue" on Justia Law

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HMC was a shipping and shipyard services company, whose president was Hannah. HMC had a collective bargaining agreement with the mechanics union that required it to make contributions to the union’s pension fund to finance pensions for HMC’s employees. Hannah’s son, Mark, formed FCG, which bought the assets of HMC. No significant liabilities of HMC were explicitly transferred to FCG, which tried to negotiate its own collective bargaining agreement with the union. When HMC employees voted to decertify the union in 2009. the pension fund assessed withdrawal liability under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, 29 U.S.C. 1381. HMC had become insolvent, so the fund sought to impose HMC’s liability to the fund on FCG as HMC’s successor. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of FCG. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, stating that lack of evidence that Mark knew about the pension fund and the possibility of withdrawal liability cannot excuse that liability. The court stated that fraudulent intent, while a factor in deciding whether there is alter ego liability, is not necessarily an essential factor, so summary judgment on a theory of successor liability was premature. View "Bd. of Trs. of the Auto. Mechs' Local v. Full Circle Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Shareholders of Diablo Controls submitted a written demand to inspect Diablo’s accounting books and records; the minutes of proceedings of shareholders, the board, and committees of the board; and certain other records. The demand requested the inspection take place at Diablo’s California office. The requested records were located in a Diablo office in Illinois. Diablo shipped records to California and made them available for inspection at its counsel’s California office. The shareholder found those records to be incomplete and sought a writ of mandate, claiming violation of Corporations Code section 1601. After the petition was filed, Diablo mailed the shareholders copies of additional records and made other records available for inspection at its counsel’s California office. The shareholders claimed the records were still incomplete. Diablo argued that section 1601 only obligated it to make the records available for inspection at its Illinois office. The trial court agreed and dismissed the action. The court of appeal affirmed; section 1601 requires that the records be made available for inspection at the office where such records are kept, even if the office is out of state. View "Innes v. Diablo Controls, Inc." on Justia Law