Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
Hermelin v. K-V Pharmaceutical Co.
Plaintiff, a former corporate officer, sued defendant, his former employer, for advancement and indemnification in connection with several proceedings that arose out of regulatory and criminal investigations at the defendant corporation following defendant's distribution of oversized morphine sulfate tablets into the market. The dispute centered around whether plaintiff succeeded on the merits of any of the proceedings at issue, thus entitling him to indemnification as a matter of law, or whether additional discovery was required to determine whether plaintiff acted in good faith, in which case he would be entitled to indemnification under the Indemnification Agreement. The court found that plaintiff was not entitled to advancement for the Jail Records Matter; was not entitled to mandatory indemnification for the Criminal Matter or the HHS Exclusion Matter; was entitled to mandatory indemnification for the FDA Consent Decree Matter; and that the evidence relevant to plaintiff's claims for permissive identification was limited to plaintiff's conduct, and the facts related to that conduct, underlying the proceedings for which indemnification was sought. View "Hermelin v. K-V Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law
Dweck, et al. v. Nasser, et al.
This case involved the dispute between Gila Dweck, the CEO, director, and 30% stockholder in Kids International Corporation (Kids) and Albert Nasser, the Chairman and controlling stockholder of Kids. Dweck and Nasser accused each other of breaching their fiduciary duties and Nasser asserted third-party claims for breach of fiduciary duty against Dweck's colleagues Kevin Taxin, Kids' President, and Bruce Fine, Kids' CFO and corporate secretary. The court found that Dweck and Taxin breached their fiduciary duties to Kids by establishing competing companies that usurped Kids' corporate opportunities and converted Kids' resources; Dweck further breached her fiduciary duties by causing Kids to reimburse her for personal expenses; Fine breached his fiduciary duties by abdicating his responsibility to review Dweck's expenses and signing off on them wholesale; Dweck, Taxin, and Fine breached their duties by, inter alia, transferring Kids' customer relationships and business expectancies to their competing companies; and Dweck, Taxin, and Fine were liable to Kids for the damages they caused by their breaches of duty. The court largely rejected Dweck's breach of fiduciary duty claims against Nasser. Nevertheless, Nasser failed to carry his burden of proving that it was entirely fair for Kids to pay him a consulting fee that compensated him equally with Dweck when he performed no work for kids. Nasser was liable to Kids for those fees. Dweck also established her entitlement to an accounting from Nasser for some of the amount in cash that Kids had on hand at the time of the split. View "Dweck, et al. v. Nasser, et al." on Justia Law
Steinhardt, et al. v. Howard-Anderson, et al.
Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on behalf of a class of stockholders of Occam. Defendants moved for sanctions against all plaintiffs other than Derek Sheeler for trading on the basis of confidential information obtained in this litigation. With respect to Michael Steinhardt and the funds, the motion was granted. Consistent with prior rulings by this court when confronted with representative plaintiffs who have traded while serving in a fiduciary capacity, Steinhardt and the funds were dismissed from the case with prejudice, barred from receiving any recovery from the litigation, required to self-report to the SEC, directed to disclose their improper trading in any future application to serve as lead plaintiff, and ordered to disgorge profits. With respect to Herbert Chen, the motion was denied. View "Steinhardt, et al. v. Howard-Anderson, et al." on Justia Law
Rivers, Jr. v. Wachovia Corp., et al.
Appellant, a former shareholder in Wachovia, sought to recover personally for the decline in value of his shares of Wachovia stock during the recent financial crisis. The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that appellant's complaint stated a claim derivative of injury to the corporation and that he was therefore barred from bringing a direct or individual cause of action against defendants. The court held that because appellant's varied attempts to recast his derivative claim as individual were unavailing, the judgment of the district court was affirmed. View "Rivers, Jr. v. Wachovia Corp., et al." on Justia Law
Encite, LLC v. Soni, et al.
This case involved a claim for breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty that stemmed from a dispute regarding assets of IFCT, a now defunct tech startup company founded by Stephen Marsh to develop potentially revolutionary micro fuel cell technology. The crux of plaintiff's argument was that the Director Defendants conducted an unfair and disloyal bidding process, whereby they favored the Echelon-backed bid and refused to follow up on or negotiate with other superior bids. As a result, IFCT missed its chance to sell its assets at the peak of their value and was forced to sell its assets at a discount in bankruptcy. Given that the Director Defendants have conceded the applicability of entire fairness review and given the fact-intensive nature of that review, the court found that the Director Defendants have not met their burden at this stage to achieve summary judgment against Encite. The court also found that material facts remained as to the liability of Echelon for aiding and abetting the alleged breach of fiduciary duty by the Director Defendants and therefore, the court denied Echelon's motion for summary judgment on that claim. The court finally found that material facts also remained regarding Echelon's third party claims, and so denied Marsh's motion for summary judgment. View "Encite, LLC v. Soni, et al." on Justia Law
Winshall v. Viacom Int’l, Inc., et al.
This case involved a dispute over earn-out payments related to a merger between Viacom and Harmonix where plaintiff was one of the selling stockholders of Harmonix. Plaintiff sued on behalf of the selling stockholders, alleging that Viacom and Harmonix purposefully renegotiated the distribution contract with EA so as to reduce the earn-out payments payable to the Harmonix stockholders, and thus breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in the Merger Agreement. The court dismissed plaintiff's claim and held that it would be inequitable for the court to imply a duty on Viacom and Harmonix's part to share with the selling stockholders the benefits of a renegotiated contract addressing EA's right to distribute Harmonix products after the expiration of the earn-out period. View "Winshall v. Viacom Int'l, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
In re Alloy, Inc. Shareholder Litigation
This case was a class action brought on behalf of the former shareholders of Alloy, challenging a going-private transaction (Merger) that cashed out the company's public shareholders for allegedly inadequate consideration. Although the shareholders voted to approve the Merger, two of Alloy's nine directors retained their senior management positions at and received an equity interest in the now privately-held company. The former shareholders claimed that those two directors thus unfairly extracted for themselves an opportunity to share in Alloy's continued growth without offering the same opportunity to the public shareholders. Regarding the alleged breaches of fiduciary duty by the directors in negotiating and approving the Merger, the court found that the complaint failed to state a claim for damages. The court also found that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to support an inference that the alleged disclosure violations were the product of anything other than good faith omissions by the directors who authorized them. Because of the exculpatory provision of Alloy's certificate of incorporation, the complaint thus failed to state a claim for damages against the Alloy directors for beach of their duty of disclosure. Finally, the court also dismissed the claims for aiding and abetting against defendants who were not affiliated with Alloy. Therefore, the court granted defendants' motions to dismiss in all respects. View "In re Alloy, Inc. Shareholder Litigation" on Justia Law
In re: The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Shareholder Litigation
This matter was before the court on a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 23.1, for failure to make a pre-suit demand upon the board, and Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. At issue was whether actions taken by certain director defendants fell outside of the fiduciary boundaries existing under Delaware case law - and were therefore subject to judicial oversight - or whether the acts complained of were within those broad boundaries, where a law-trained judge should refrain from acting. The court held that the facts pled in support of allegations that the director defendants violated fiduciary duties in setting compensation levels and failing to oversee the risks created thereby, if true, only supported a conclusion that the directors made poor business decisions. Thus, plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim. Consequently, the court need not reach the Rule 12(b)(6) issue. View "In re: The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Shareholder Litigation" on Justia Law
Johnston, et al. v. Pedersen, et al.
In this action brought pursuant to 8 Del. C. 225, plaintiffs sought a determination that certain written consents validly removed defendant directors and replaced them with a new slate. Defendant directors contended that they could not be removed or a new slate elected without the consent of a majority of the Series B Preferred Stock. Applying enhanced scrutiny, the court held that defendant directors breached their fiduciary duties when issuing the Series B Preferred Stock where, although they honestly believed they were acting in the best interests of the company, they breached their duty of loyalty by structuring the stock issuance to prevent an insurgent group from waging a successful proxy contest. Therefore, the class provision could not be given effect and the written consents validly elected a new board. View "Johnston, et al. v. Pedersen, et al." on Justia Law
Phillips v. Hove, et al.
This post-trial opinion determined the voting membership of GnB, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company. The parties disputed whether Firehouse Gallery, LLC, a Florida limited liability company, was a voting member of GnB. The parties also disputed whether GnB possessed an exclusive license to use the first-tier, generic domain name candles.com; held an option to purchase candles.com; and owned other assorted domain names relating to the candles business. The court held that Firehouse and plaintiff, who controlled GnB, each held a 50% voting membership interest; GnB owned the exclusive license and option to purchase candles.com and the other domain names; and plaintiff and defendant, the current principal of Firehouse, each breached their fiduciary duty of loyalty to GnB and must account for the profits and personal benefits they received. The court held that defendant was not otherwise liable to GnB or plaintiff. Because all of the litigants engaged in misconduct that could support fee-shifting, the doctrine of unclean hands applied with particular salience. Accordingly, the court held that all parties would bear their own fees and costs. View "Phillips v. Hove, et al." on Justia Law