Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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In June 2014, Chester Abbott, as majority shareholder and director of A&H Technologies, Inc., formally noticed a special shareholder meeting. The meeting was to be held on July 23, 2014, in Mississippi. William Boatright, the only other shareholder, could not attend because he was working on an A&H project out of state. Despite William’s conflict, Chester proceeded with the meeting as the sole shareholder in attendance. Chester re-elected himself the lone director of A&H. He further determined he had been the only elected director of the company since 2001. Finally, he addressed the six-figure bonus he gave himself in December 2013, recording on the minutes that it was based on “his extraordinary work and effort to continue to build business and upon his forgoing any bonus for 2009 to 2012.” Chester held a board-of-directors meeting that same day. Chester elected himself president of A&H. Chester replaced William as vice president with his daughter-in-law Cynthia Abbott. And he replaced William’s wife, Kelley Boatright, as secretary/treasurer with his own wife, Carol Abbott. William sued Chester and A&H the next day, alleging that Chester’s oppressive conduct toward William was detrimental to A&H. In his complaint, William sought both to replace Chester as president of A&H and to become majority shareholder. Alternatively, he requested dissolution. Before the lawsuit, Chester owned 51% of A&H’s shares, and William owned 49%. After four years of litigation, the chancellor met William halfway, ordering a stock transfer that would have made William a 50% owner, equal with Chester, and directed William have equal say. The Mississippi Supreme Court gave deference to the equitable remedy the chancellor chose, because it was properly within his authority and discretion. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's judgment. View "Boatright v. A & H Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2005, revelations surfaced that Body Armor—a publicly-traded company—was manufacturing its body armor, which it sold to law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military, using substandard materials. Its stock price plummeted, prompting shareholders to bring numerous actions that were consolidated into a shareholders’ class action and a derivative action on behalf of Body Armor against specified officers and directors. Since then, the matter has traveled, through bankruptcy, trial, and appellate courts throughout three U.S. jurisdictions. In its second review of the case, the Third Circuit affirmed a 2015 Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware order, approving a settlement entered in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of S.S. Body Armor I. The court reversed in part the Bankruptcy Court’s order that granted the objector fees on a contingent basis and remanded for a determination of the appropriate amount of the fee award. The court affirmed the part of that order that denied the objector’s claim to attorneys’ fees and expenses under the Bankruptcy Code and an order awarding fees to counsel in one of the underlying lawsuits. View "In re: SS Body Armor I Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ritchie entities filed suit seeking to recover millions of dollars they loaned Tom Petters, a convicted fraudster, and two of his companies. The Ritchie entities alleged that defendants helped conceal the fraud so that they could recover millions they had tied up with Petters' companies. The district court dismissed the claims as time-barred. The Eighth Circuit first held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction under the Edge Act, and the court need not decide whether the district court also had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1334(b). Furthermore, the district court was correct to apply New York choice-of-law principles to determine that Illinois law applied to the question of whether the action was time-barred. The court also held that the district court erred in concluding that Illinois's statute of limitations applied to three of the plaintiffs because the pleadings do not definitively establish their claims accrued in Illinois. The district court did not err in finding that the remaining claims were untimely under Illinois law and that the doctrines of discovery rule, equitable estoppel, and equitable tolling did not apply. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to grant the Ritchie entities leave to amend their complaint yet again because the Ritchie entities failed to submit a motion to amend or indicate what a proposed amended pleading would have stated. Finally, the court reversed the dismissal of the Ritchie Cayman entities' claims against JP Morgan Europe in order for the district court to permit jurisdictional discovery if it deems necessary to determine whether it has personal jurisdiction over JP Morgan Europe. View "Ritchie Capital Management v. JP Morgan Chase & Co." on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision in Wilson v. Gandis, Op. No. 2018-UP-078 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Feb. 7, 2018). David Wilson, John Gandis, and Andrea Comeau-Shirley (Shirley) are members of Carolina Custom Converting, LLC (CCC). Wilson filed suit against Gandis, Shirley and CCC, alleging they engaged in oppressive conduct against him. Wilson also brought a derivative action against CCC. Wilson sought a forced buyout of his membership interest by Gandis, Shirley, and CCC. CCC counterclaimed against Wilson, alleging Wilson misappropriated its trade secrets and communicated these secrets to Neologic Distribution, Inc. and to Fresh Water Systems, Inc. During a five-day bench trial, the trial court received over three hundred exhibits and heard testimony from ten witnesses. The trial court found Gandis and Shirley engaged in oppressive conduct and ordered them to individually purchase Wilson's distributional interest in CCC for $347,863.23. The trial court found in favor of Wilson on CCC's, Gandis', and Shirley's counterclaim for breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court also found in favor of Wilson, Neologic, and Fresh Water on CCC's trade secrets claim. CCC, Gandis, and Shirley appealed. In an unpublished opinion, the court of appeals affirmed the trial court and adopted the trial court's order in its entirety. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the court of appeals' decision as to Wilson's claim for oppression, affirmed the court of appeals' decision as to Gandis' and Shirley's claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and affirmed the court of appeals' decision as CCC's claim for misappropriation of trade secrets. View "Wilson v. Gandis" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, a district court decided that Defendants RaPower-3, LLC, International Automated Systems, Inc. (IAS), LTB1, LLC, Neldon Johnson, and R. Gregory Shepard had promoted an unlawful tax scheme. Defendants’ scheme was based on a supposed project to utilize a purportedly new, commercially viable way of converting solar radiation into electricity. There was no “third party verification of any of Johnson’s designs.” Nor did he have any “record that his system ha[d] produced energy,” and “[t]here [were] no witnesses to his production of a useful product from solar energy,” a fact that he attributed to his decision to do his testing “on the weekends when no one was around because he didn’t want people to see what he was doing.” Defendants never secured a purchase agreement for the sale of electricity to an end user. The district court found that Johnson’s purported solar energy technology was not a commercial-grade solar energy system that converts sunlight into electrical power or other useful energy. Despite this, Defendants’ project generated tens of millions of dollars between 2005 and 2018. Beginning in 2006, buyers would purchase lenses from IAS or RaPower-3 for a down payment of about one-third of the purchase price. The entity would “finance” the remaining two-thirds of the purchase price with a zero- or nominal- interest, nonrecourse loan. No further payments would be due from the customer until the system had been generating revenue from electricity sales for five years. The customer would agree to lease the lens back to LTB1 for installation at a “Power Plant”; but LTB1 would not be obligated to make any rental payments until the system had begun generating revenue. The district court found that each plastic sheet for the lenses was sold to Defendants for between $52 and $70, yet the purchase price of a lens was between $3,500 and $30,000. Although Defendants sold between 45,000 and 50,000 lenses, fewer than 5% of them were ever installed. Customers were told that buying a lens would have very favorable income-tax consequences. Johnson and Shepard sold the lenses by advertising that customers could “zero out” federal income-tax liability by taking advantage of depreciation deductions and solar-energy tax credits. To remedy Defendants' misconduct, the district court enjoined Defendants from continuing to promote their scheme and ordered disgorgement of their gross receipts from the scheme. Defendants appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "United States v. RaPower-3" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the jury's verdict in favor of Dr. Ronald E. Stevens on Anesthesiology Consultants of Cheyenne, LLC's (ACC) claims for brach of fiduciary duties, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and breach of contract, holding that there was no error. ACC claimed that Dr. Stevens, its former manager and member, took for himself ACC's business opportunity to provide anesthesiology services to an eye surgery center. When this case was first before the Supreme Court, the Court concluded that the district court erred in granting ACC summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed as to ACC's covenant of good faith and fair dealing and breach of fiduciary duty claims. On remand, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Dr. Stevens on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) sufficient evidence supported the jury's verdict that Dr. Stevens did not breach his fiduciary duties of loyalty and care or the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (2) because the law of the case doctrine did not apply to the district court's summary judgment ruling on ACC's breach of contract claim, the court properly submitted that claim to the jury. View "Anesthesiology Consultants of Cheyenne, LLC v. Stevens" on Justia Law

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G&S had a written contract to work as a representative for a manufacturer, R3. The critical term dealing with sales commissions did not show any agreement on commission rates. It said that the parties would try to agree on commission rates on a job-by-job, customer-by-customer basis. While the original 2011 “agreement to agree” would not have been enforceable by itself, the parties did later agree on commission rates for each customer and went forward with their business. In 2014, changes made by customers in their ordering procedures led to disputes about commissions. The district court granted summary judgment for R3, relying primarily on the original failure to agree on commission rates. The Seventh Circuit reversed. A reasonable jury could find that the later job-by-job commission agreements were governed by the broader terms of the original written contract. The rest of the case is “rife with factual disputes that cannot be resolved on summary judgment.” View "R3 Composites Corp. v. G&S Sales Corp." on Justia Law

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The court-appointed receiver filed suit against JPMC, seeking to recover funds that were fraudulently diverted from the Receivership Entities' bank accounts in connection with a Ponzi scheme. The complaint sought to avoid the fraudulent transfers and recover the diverted funds on behalf of the Receivership Entities under the Florida Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (FUFTA), and to collect damages from JPMC for JPMC's alleged aiding and abetting of three torts: breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and fraud. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the receiver failed to state a claim under FUFTA because he failed to allege an applicable conveyance or fraudulent transfer. The court also held that the receiver lacked standing to assert, on behalf of the Receivership Entities, claims against JPMC for allegedly aiding and abetting the Ponzi schemers' breach of fiduciary duties, conversion, and fraud. Finally, the court noted that the district court did not abuse its discretion in staying discovery pending resolution of JPMC's motion to dismiss. View "Isaiah v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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InComm Financial Services issued pre-paid debit and credit cards under the “Vanilla VISA” brand to cardholders who use the cards to buy goods and services. Global Payments, Inc. was a financial data payment processor. Thieves purchased Vanilla VISA pre-paid debit and credit cards and used them to buy goods and services. Then, using certain merchants that were not the merchants who originally sold the goods and services, the thieves initiated counterfeit electronic “reversal transactions” – basically requests for refunds on behalf of the cardholders. Upon receiving the reversal transaction data from the merchants, Global relayed the data to the VISA network. The VISA network then submitted the reversal transaction data to InComm. InComm received the data, posted the reversal transactions to the cardholder accounts, and then issued credits to the merchants who, in turn, passed the credits on to the thieves holding the Vanilla VISA cards. The thieves then converted those credits (in excess of $1.5 million made over 3,600 transactions) to their use. InComm did not allege that Global participated in creating the counterfeit reversal transactions. InComm asserted that Global was liable for the losses InComm suffered as a consequence of those transactions because Global negligently supplied to the VISA network the data created by the reversal merchants. In support of its claim, InComm asserted that Global, as a payment processor, “had a duty to exercise reasonable care in supplying the VISA Network and its participants with the transactions initiated by the Reversal Merchants.” The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's order dismissing InComm's negligent misrepresentation claim against Global. Global's petition for certiorari review was granted, and the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that because the allegations of the complaint showed that Global merely transmitted data concerning debit and credit card transactions without representing that the transactions were legitimate, the Court of Appeals erred, and the Supreme Court therefore reversed. View "Global Payments, Inc. v. InComm Financial Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging a common count claim for "money lent." The trial court found that plaintiff loaned defendant $874,708.44, which defendant never repaid. Defendant argued that the money came from entities controlled by plaintiff rather than from plaintiff himself. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment against defendant because defendant waived his defense of lack of capacity by failing to assert it at the earliest opportunity. The court also held that the trial court properly concluded that proof of an implied promise to repay was legally sufficient for plaintiff's common count claim. In this case, substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding that defendant made such an implied promise. Finally, defendant's statute of frauds argument is meritless. View "Rubinstein v. Fakheri" on Justia Law