Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
In re Celera Corp. Shareholder Litigation
This putative class action was before the court on an application for the approval of settlement of the class's claims for, among other things, breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with a merger of two publicly traded Delaware corporations. The target's largest stockholder, which acquired the vast majority of its shares after the challenged transaction was announced, objected to the proposed settlement. In addition, defendants' and plaintiffs' counsel disagreed about the appropriate level of attorneys' fees that should be awarded. The court certified the class under Rules 23(a), (b)(1), and (b)(2) with NOERS as class representative; denied BVF's request to certify the class on only an opt out basis; approved the settlement as fair and reasonable; and awarded attorneys' fees to plaintiffs' counsel in the amount of $1,350,000, inclusive of expenses. View "In re Celera Corp. Shareholder Litigation" 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
Gerber v. Enterprise Products Holdings, LLC, et al.
Plaintiff challenged two transactions in this purported class action brought on behalf of the former public holders of LP units of EPE. On behalf of the first of the two purported classes, plaintiff challenged EPE's sale of Teppco GP to Enterprise Products (the 2009 Sale). On behalf of the second purported class, plaintiff challenged the merger of EPE into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Enterprise Products (the Merger). Defendants moved to dismiss all claims, or in the alternative, to stay this action pending the resolution of a related case. The court held that plaintiff had standing to bring the claims asserted in Counts I, III, and V on behalf of the public holders of EPE LP units who continuously held their units from the date of the 2009 Sale through the effective date of the Merger. However, all six counts were dismissed for failure to state a claim. Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss was granted. View "Gerber v. Enterprise Products Holdings, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Collector of Winchester v. Circuit Court (Jamison)
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
New Jersey Carpenters Pension Fund v. InfoGroup, Inc., et al.
Plaintiff, a former shareholder of infoGroup, Inc., brought its Second Amended Class Action complaint asserting, on behalf of themselves and their fellow former shareholders, that the merger of infoGroup into a subsidiary of CCMP Capital Advisors, pursuant to an agreement entered on March 8, 2010, was the product of breaches by the then-directors of infoGroup of the fiduciary duty of loyalty. The court held that the claim which plaintiff sought to assert was individual in nature and that plaintiff had alleged sufficiently that the merger was not approved by a disinterested and independent majority of the directors. The court also held that, although plaintiff acknowledged that it was not asserting certain claims the dismissal of which had been sought by defendants, for purposes of avoiding confusion, those claims were dismissed. Accordingly, with that limited exception, the court denied defendants' motions to dismiss.
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.
In re Ness Technologies, Inc. Shareholders Litigation
Plaintiffs, shareholders of Ness Technologies, Inc. (Ness), moved to expedite proceedings in this putative class action, which they filed to enjoin a proposed transaction through which Ness's largest shareholder, Citi Venture Capital International (CVCI), would, through a wholly owned subsidiary, acquire Ness in a cash transaction at $7.75 per share (Proposed Transaction). Plaintiffs contended that the Proposed Transaction was the product of a flawed sales process and that the members of the Board, aided and abetted by CVCI, breached their fiduciary duties to plaintiffs and the class by approving the transaction. Plaintiffs asserted both price and process claims and claims that the Board's disclosures regarding the Proposed Transaction were inadequate. The court held that plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Proceedings was granted only to the extent that they could take expedited, but necessarily limited and focused, discovery regarding the question of whether either the Board's or the Special Committee's financial advisors were conflicted because of their relationships with CVCI. The motion was denied in all other aspects.
In re Del Monte Foods Co. Shareholders Litigation
This case arose when Del Monte Foods Company announced that it had agreed to be acquired by a consortium of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., Vestar Capital Partners, and Centerview Partners (collectively, Sponsors). A number of familiar entrepreneurial plaintiffs' firms filed putative class actions challenging the merger. Plaintiffs subsequently sought an interim award of attorneys' fees and expenses for causing defendants to issue supplemental disclosures and obtaining a preliminary injunction. The court held that the application for an interim fee award was granted with respect to benefits conferred by the Proxy Supplement. For those benefits, Lead Counsel was awarded fees and expenses of $2.75 million. Therefore, the court held that the application was otherwise denied without prejudice and could be renewed at a later time.
The Ravenswood Investment Co., L.P. v. Winmill, et al.
Plaintiff, a significant stockholder in a holding company managed by the individual defendants, alleged, both on behalf of a class and derivatively, breaches of fiduciary duty regarding defendants' adoption of a stock buyback plan, their adoption of an options plan, issuance of the options to themselves, and the decision by the company to vote in favor of a transaction involving the sale of a subsidiary's interest in a third entity. At issue was whether the court should grant defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The court denied defendants' motion to dismiss Count II only with regard to the claim that defendants' vote of Winmill & Co. Incorporated's ("Winmill") interest in Bexil Corporation in favor of the York Insurance Services Group, Inc. sale was self-interested and unfair to Winmill. The court otherwise granted defendants' motion to dismiss.
In re AMERCO Derivative Litigation
The Shoen family controls AMERCO. AMERCO engaged in numerous business transactions with SAC entities, which are real estate holding companies controlled by AMERCO shareholder and executive Mark Shoen. Based on several of those transactions, Appellants-Shareholders filed an underlying shareholder derivative lawsuit against AMERCOâs former and current directors and the SAC entities, primarily for breach of fiduciary duty. However, appellants failed to make a demand for corrective action on AMERCOâs board of directors. Subsequently, AMERCO moved to dismiss the lawsuit. Appellants appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed that decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted AMERCOâs motion to dismiss, this time because of a settlement agreement that dated back to 1995 in which shareholders agreed not to bring shareholder derivative lawsuits against AMERCO. Appellants sought the Supreme Courtâs review of the district courtâs second dismissal of their case. They asked whether the settlement bars their present lawsuit against AMERCO. The Supreme Court found that the settlement does not bar Appellantsâ case. The Court again reversed the district courtâs decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings.