Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries
In re Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC
Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC ("ITS") appealed against a decision by the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Sixth Circuit. The dispute centered on a claim originally filed by Cecelia Financial Management, LLC ("Cecelia"), and later transferred to Bay Bridge Exports, LLC ("Bay Bridge"), in ITS's chapter 11 bankruptcy. ITS sought to disallow or reduce the claim, recharacterize the debt as an equity contribution, and hold John J. Siegel, Jr., the non-member manager of both ITS and Cecelia, liable for fraud. The Bankruptcy Court allowed the claim, rejecting ITS's arguments. On appeal, ITS argued that the Bankruptcy Court erred in refusing to admit incomplete deposition testimony from Siegel, who died before cross-examination could take place. ITS also contended that the court erred in applying the presumption of validity to the claim and in refusing to recharacterize the claim as equity. The Appellate Panel upheld the Bankruptcy Court's decision, finding no reversible error. It ruled that the Bankruptcy Court was within its discretion to exclude Siegel's incomplete testimony and found no error in the court's decision to allow the claim and refusal to recharacterize it as equity. View "In re Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
Smith v. Kleynerman
The case in question originated in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The dispute arose after the dissolution of a business partnership between Gregory Kleynerman and Scott Smith, which resulted in Smith obtaining a state court judgment of $499,000 against Kleynerman. This judgment was secured by Kleynerman's membership interest in Red Flag Cargo Security Systems LLC. Following this, Kleynerman filed for bankruptcy and valued his interest in Red Flag at $0. Smith argued in the bankruptcy court that the state court's judgment was a result of Kleynerman's fraud and thus could not be discharged. However, the bankruptcy court rejected this argument.After the bankruptcy case was closed, Kleynerman asked the state court to deem the $499,000 judgment discharged. Smith contended that under Wisconsin law, only debts secured by real property can be avoided. The state court agreed with Smith, which led Kleynerman to request the bankruptcy court to reopen the case and clearly state that both the $499,000 debt and the lien on Kleynerman’s interest in Red Flag no longer existed.The bankruptcy court reopened the case and the district court affirmed the decision. The appellate court agreed with the lower courts, stating that the bankruptcy judge had authority to reopen the case, and that Kleynerman had cause for reopening.Furthermore, the court held that the value of Kleynerman’s interest in Red Flag was a matter for the bankruptcy judge to decide before the discharge. Smith had an opportunity to object to Kleynerman's valuation of his interest in Red Flag but failed to do so until after the bankruptcy court had entered its discharge order. The court concluded that Smith's post-discharge subpoenas seeking information about the value of Kleynerman’s interest in Red Flag were a fishing expedition and an exercise in harassment, which was properly rejected by the bankruptcy judge. Therefore, the court affirmed the decision of the lower courts. View "Smith v. Kleynerman" on Justia Law
Rhode Island Truck Ctr v. Daimler Trucks North America
In Rhode Island Truck Center, LLC v. Daimler Trucks North America, LLC, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit was asked to determine whether a Rhode Island truck dealer could challenge a ruling by a Rhode Island state agency that it lacked jurisdiction to grant relief for alleged violations of a Rhode Island law regulating motor-vehicle dealers and manufacturers. The violations in question were committed by an out-of-state truck manufacturer. The plaintiff, Rhode Island Truck Center, LLC ("RITC"), argued that the manufacturer's establishment of a dealership outside of Rhode Island violated the law and harmed RITC's business. The District Court granted summary judgment to the manufacturer, Daimler Trucks North America, LLC, arguing that the state agency lacked authority to apply Rhode Island law extraterritorially.The Court of Appeals concluded that it had subject-matter jurisdiction over the case under the federal-question jurisdiction. The court then certified a question of state law to the Rhode Island Supreme Court concerning whether a "relevant market area" specified in Rhode Island law could extend beyond Rhode Island's borders. The court affirmed the District Court's grant of summary judgment on another claim, where RITC challenged the Board's dismissal of a claim related to Daimler's denial of a Western Star franchise to RITC. The court held that the District Court did not err in concluding that the relief requested would have an extraterritorial effect that violated the Dormant Commerce Clause. View "Rhode Island Truck Ctr v. Daimler Trucks North America" on Justia Law
SEC v. Gastauer
In this case, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sought to recover approximately $3.3 million from Raimund Gastauer, a German citizen residing in Germany, alleging that Gastauer received the money from his son, who had obtained the money through securities fraud in the United States. Gastauer challenged the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts over him, contending that he had no relevant contacts with the United States. The district court, however, ruled it could assert jurisdiction over Gastauer because it had jurisdiction over his son, the primary defendant. The judgment ordered Gastauer to pay the $3.3 million, plus prejudgment interest, to the SEC.Gastauer appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court rejected the SEC's argument that a court may impute the jurisdictional contacts of a primary defendant to a relief defendant who received ill-gotten funds from the primary defendant. It held that such an approach would violate the relief defendant's due process rights, particularly where, as here, the relief defendant had no relevant contacts with the United States and was not accused of any wrongdoing. The appellate court also underscored that the relief defendant's status as a foreign resident further cautioned against an expansive view of the district court's jurisdiction, given the potential risks to international comity. The appellate court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "SEC v. Gastauer" on Justia Law
Electric Clouds v. FDA
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the petitions for judicial review by Electric Clouds, Inc. and Cloud 9 Vapor Products, L.L.C. against the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The two companies had sought review of the FDA's rejection of their applications to market their flavored e-liquids, arguing that the FDA had misled them about the application process and had not adequately reviewed their proposed marketing plans. The court ruled that the FDA did not mislead the companies and acted reasonably in concluding that their evidence was inadequate to approve the applications. The court also found that even if the FDA erred in not reviewing the marketing plans, any such error was harmless because the FDA had previously found such plans to be ineffective in preventing youth access to e-cigarettes. View "Electric Clouds v. FDA" on Justia Law
Jiajing (Beijing) Tourism Co. Ltd. v. AeroBalloon USA, Inc.
In this case, decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the dispute involved Aeroballoon USA, Inc., and its owner Douglas Hase (collectively, Aeroballoon/Hase), and Jiajing (Beijing) Tourism Co., Ltd. (Jiajing). In 2016, Jiajing contracted Aeroballoon for two tethered helium balloons at a total price of $1.8 million. Despite Jiajing making regular payments totaling $1,018,940, Aeroballoon failed to deliver the balloons. An arbitration panel awarded Jiajing $1,410,739.01 plus interest for Aeroballoon's breach of contract. Following the award, Hase dissolved Aeroballoon and Jiajing subsequently filed a complaint seeking enforcement of the arbitration award.The case focused on two counts: fraudulent transfers in violation of the Massachusetts Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA) and unfair business practices under Chapter 93A of the Massachusetts General Laws. The jury awarded Jiajing $1.6 million for each count. The district court later reduced the damages to $1.113 million for each count, a decision unchallenged by either party.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that Aeroballoon had engaged in fraudulent transfers of at least $1.113 million. The court further held that even a single fraudulent transfer is sufficient to create liability under Chapter 93A, thereby affirming the verdict on the claim of unfair business practices. The court also awarded costs to Jiajing. View "Jiajing (Beijing) Tourism Co. Ltd. v. AeroBalloon USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Protopapas v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co.
In this case, a South Carolina court-appointed receiver brought an action against Travelers Casualty and Surety Company and other insurers, alleging breaches of insurance policies issued to a defunct company within a state receivership. Travelers removed the action to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction. However, the district court granted the receiver’s motion to remand the case back to state court. The court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the case involved property of a state receivership exclusively under the jurisdiction of the state court (based on the doctrine articulated in Barton v. Barbour), and the removal lacked unanimous consent of all defendants due to a forum selection clause in some of the insurance policies issued to the defunct company.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that the district court's conclusions in support of remand were at least colorably supported. The court found that the district court's reliance on a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and procedural defect as grounds for remand were colorably supported, and thus, not reviewable under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). The court also concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court's remand order and dismissed the appeal. View "Protopapas v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co." on Justia Law
Aluminum Recovery Technologies, Inc. v. Ace American Insurance Co.
Aluminum Recovery Technologies (ART) operates a smelter and during a renovation, one of its furnaces failed, causing molten aluminum to escape and damage the plant and the furnace itself. The insurance company, ACE American Insurance, paid for some of the damages but not the cost of replacing the furnace's refractory. ART sued ACE, arguing that an explosion in the furnace caused the damage and thus, the insurance company should cover the refractory replacement costs. However, the insurer argued that the policy specifically excludes coverage for any damage to the refractory lining unless it directly results from specific perils such as fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, or explosion. The United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in favor of ACE. The court held that the explosion did not necessarily cause the leak, and ART failed to provide engineering evidence to support its claims. Additionally, the court found that ART had consented to the investigation protocol proposed by the insurer's experts, which involved destructive testing that led to the need for the refractory's replacement. Therefore, the insurer was not responsible for the additional expenses incurred due to the replacement of the refractory lining. View "Aluminum Recovery Technologies, Inc. v. Ace American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
West Palm Beach Firefighters’ Pension Fund v. Moelis & Company
In the case of West Palm Beach Firefighters' Pension Fund v. Moelis & Company, the plaintiff, a stockholder of Moelis & Company (the "Company"), challenged the validity of certain provisions in a Stockholder Agreement between the Company and its CEO, Ken Moelis. The agreement gave Moelis extensive pre-approval rights over the Company's board of directors' decisions, the ability to select a majority of board members, and the power to determine the composition of any board committee. The plaintiff argued that these provisions violated Section 141(a) of the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL), which mandates that the business and affairs of a corporation be managed by or under the direction of a board of directors, except as otherwise provided in the DGCL or in the corporation's certificate of incorporation.The Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware agreed with the plaintiff, holding that the Pre-Approval Requirements, the Board Composition Provisions, and the Committee Composition Provision in the Stockholder Agreement were facially invalid under Section 141(a) of the DGCL. The court found that these provisions effectively transferred the management of the corporation to Moelis, contrary to Section 141(a). The court reasoned that while Delaware law generally favors private ordering, the ability to contract is subject to the limitations of the DGCL, including Section 141(a). The court emphasized that a provision may be part of a corporation's internal governance arrangement, and thus subject to Section 141(a), even if it appears in a contract other than the corporation's charter or bylaws.However, the court found that certain provisions were not facially invalid, including Moelis’ right to designate a number of directors, the requirement for the Company to nominate Moelis’ designees, and the requirement for the Company to make reasonable efforts to enable Moelis’ designees to be elected and continue to serve. View "West Palm Beach Firefighters' Pension Fund v. Moelis & Company" on Justia Law
IN RE ILLINOIS NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY
Cobalt International Energy partnered with three Angolan companies to explore and produce oil and gas off the coast of West Africa. Later, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announced it was investigating Cobalt for allegations of illegal payments to Angolan government officials and misrepresentation of the oil content of two of its exploratory wells. This led to a significant drop in Cobalt’s stock price and prompted a class action lawsuit from Cobalt's investors, led by GAMCO, a collection of investment funds that held Cobalt shares. Prior to these events, Cobalt had purchased multiple layers of liability insurance from a number of insurance companies, collectively referred to as the Insurers in this case. When the allegations surfaced, Cobalt notified the Insurers, who denied coverage on the grounds that Cobalt's notice was untimely and certain policy provisions excluded the claims from coverage.In 2017, Cobalt filed for bankruptcy and began settlement negotiations with GAMCO. Eventually, a settlement agreement was reached, which stipulated that Cobalt would pay a settlement amount of $220 million to GAMCO, but only from any insurance proceeds that might be recovered. Cobalt and GAMCO then jointly sought approval of the settlement from the federal court and the bankruptcy court, both of which granted approval.The Insurers then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the settlement agreement was not binding or admissible in the coverage litigation, that Cobalt had not suffered a "loss" under the policies, and that GAMCO could not sue the Insurers directly.The Supreme Court of Texas held that (1) Cobalt had suffered a “loss” under the policies because it was legally obligated to pay any recoverable insurance benefits to GAMCO, (2) GAMCO could assert claims directly against the Insurers, and (3) the settlement agreement was not binding or admissible in the coverage litigation to establish coverage or the amount of Cobalt’s loss. The court reasoned that the settlement was not the result of a "fully adversarial proceeding," as Cobalt bore no actual risk of liability for the damages agreed upon in the settlement. The court conditionally granted the Insurers' petition for a writ of mandamus in part, ordering the trial court to vacate its previous orders to the extent they relied on the holding that the settlement agreement was admissible and binding to establish coverage under the policies and the amount of any covered loss. View "IN RE ILLINOIS NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY" on Justia Law