Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Gearren, et al. v. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs appealed from a decision granting defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiffs, participants in two retirement plans offered by defendants, brought suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that defendants acted imprudently by including employer stock as an investment option in the retirement plans and that defendants failed to provide adequate and truthful information to participants regarding the status of employer stock. The court held that the facts alleged by plaintiffs were, even if proven, insufficient to establish that defendants abused their discretion by continuing to offer plan participants the opportunity to invest in McGraw-Hill stock. The court also held that plaintiffs have not alleged facts sufficient to prove that defendants made any statements, while acting in a fiduciary capacity, that they knew to be false. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.
Gray, et al. v. Citigroup, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs, participants in retirement plans offered by defendants and covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq., appealed from a judgment dismissing their ERISA class action complaint. Plan documents required that a stock fund consisting primarily of Citigroup common stock be offered among the plan's investment options. Plaintiffs argued that because Citigroup stock became an imprudent investment, defendants should have limited plan participants' ability to invest in it. The court held that plan fiduciaries' decision to continue offering participants the opportunity to invest in Citigroup stock should be reviewed for an abuse of discretion and the court found that they did not abuse their discretion here. The court also held that defendants did not have an affirmative duty to disclose to plan participants nonpublic information regarding the expected performance of Citigroup stock and that the complaint did not sufficiently allege that defendants, in their fiduciary capacities, made any knowing misstatements regarding Citigroup stock. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.
Johnson v. Nextel Communications, Inc.
Appellants appealed the dismissal of their class action complaint against Nextel, the law firm of Leeds, Morelli & Brown, P.C. (LMB), and seven of LMB's lawyers (also LMB). Appellants were former clients of LMB who retained the firm to bring discrimination claims against Nextel. The complaint asserted that, inter alia, LMB breached its fiduciary duty of loyalty to appellants and the class by entering into an agreement with Nextel in which Nextel agreed to pay: (i) $2 million to LMB to persuade en masse its approximately 587 clients to, inter alia, abandon ongoing legal and administrative proceedings against Nextel, waive their rights to a jury trial and punitive damages, and accept an expedited mediation/arbitration procedure; (ii) another $3.5 million to LMB on a sliding scale as the clients' claims were resolved through that procedure; and (iii) another $2 million to LMB to work directly for Nextel as a consultant for two years beginning when the clients' claims had been resolved. The court held that appellants have alleged facts sufficient to state a claim against LMB for, inter alia, breach of fiduciary duty and against Nextel for aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings.
Kasalo v. Harris & Harris, LTD
The parties agree that the company attempted to collect an overdue hospital bill in a way that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692 and that plaintiff is entitled to statutory damages of $1,000. Plaintiff's lawyer endeavored to transform the case into a class action, and the district court, frustrated by the effort, dismissed the whole action. The Seventh Circuit held that dismissal for want of prosecution was an abuse of discretion. All of the errors at issue were the fault of the lawyer and had nothing to do with the claim. The court should have considered other alternatives before dismissal.
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.
Faber, et al. v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
Plaintiffs appealed from a judgment of the district court dismissing their class-action complaint, which asserted a single claim against MetLife under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1001 et seq. Plaintiffs alleged that through the use of "retained asset accounts" (RAAs), MetLife breached fiduciary duties imposed by ERISA by retaining and investing for its own profit life insurance proceeds due them under employee benefit plans that MetLife administered. The court held that the district court correctly determined that plaintiffs failed to state a claim, since MetLife discharged its fiduciary obligations under ERISA when it established the RAAs in accordance with the plans at issue, and did not misuse "plan assets" by holding and investing the funds backing the accounts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.
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.
Belue v. Leventhal
Appellants appealed an order revoking their pro hac vice admissions in connection with a putative class action suit where the suit alleged that appellants' clients breached supplemental cancer insurance policies that they had issued. At issue was whether the district court erred in revoking appellants' pro hac vice status where the revocation was based on motions appellants filed in response to plaintiffs' request for class certification, chiefly a motion to recuse the district judge based on his comments during an earlier hearing. The court vacated the revocation order and held that, even though the recusal motion had little merit, the district court erred in revoking appellants' pro hac vice admissions where it did not afford them even rudimentary process.