Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

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The DC Circuit affirmed the tax court's judgment that certain partnership currency option transactions lacked economic substance and were shams designed to look like real world trades without any of the risk or concomitant opportunity for profit. The court held that the tax court did not clearly err in concluding that the parties agreed in advance on the exact rates to be used in determining earnings and losses under the option agreements, together with a related evidentiary point. In this case, the parties fixed the forward exchange rates, ensuring that they could predict the precise amount that the winning and losing trades would pay—and ensuring that the trades had no ex ante profit potential and lacked any other legitimate nontax business purposes. The court rejected the partnerships' remaining claims and held that the tax court did not err in any material respect. View "Endeavor Partners Fund, LLC v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the potential liability of two private equity funds for pension fund withdrawal owed by a company owned by the two funds when the company went bankrupt, the First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court holding the two funds jointly and severally responsible for the company's withdrawal liability, holding that summary judgment should be granted to the two funds. At issue was whether two private equity funds, Sun Capital Partners III, LP (Sun Fund III) and Sun Capital Partners IV, LP (Sun Fund IV), were liable for $4.5 million in pension fund withdrawal liability owed by a brass manufacturing company that was owned by the Sun Funds when the manufacturing company went bankrupt. Under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, the issue of liability depended on whether the two funds had created an implied partnership-in-fact that constituted a control group. That question, in turn, depended on the application of the partnership test in Luna v. Commissioner, 42 T.C. 1067 (1964). The district court that there was an implied partnership-in-fact constituting a control group. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the Luna test was not met in this case and that there was no firm indication of congressional intent to impose liability on the private investors. View "Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension Fund" on Justia Law

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This case challenged a circuit court default judgment against Muhammad Wasim Sadiq Ali and others in favor of Mike Williamson after a case ordered to private arbitration was remanded to the trial court. Williamson, Patrick Watson, Ali, and others formed RPM, a regional supplier of rental cranes based in Birmingham, in 2008. Williamson was employed as RPM's general manager. Ali was the primary investor and majority owner of RPM, and Ali and Watson allegedly represented to Williamson at the time RPM was formed that Williamson would own a 12% share of the company. In 2012, Watson and Ali told Williamson that, in order to accrue his 12% equity interest in RPM at the end of his five-year employment term, he needed to pay $1,000,000, and that, if Williamson could not pay, his employment would be terminated unless he signed an employment agreement. Williamson signed an employment agreement with RPM which contained an arbitration clause. The employment agreement also contained a noncompetition clause that prohibited Williamson, for two years following the termination of his employment with RPM, from competing with RPM and from being employed by any business that is in competition with RPM. In 2013, a dispute between Williamson and RPM arose concerning Williamson's insurance coverage with respect to RPM vehicles. RPM terminated Williamson's employment "for cause," citing his failure to obtain an appropriate certificate of insurance. In 2014, Williamson filed a complaint against RPM Cranes, LLC ("RPM"), asserting claims of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, conversion, unreasonable restraint of trade, and misrepresentation arising from his alleged ownership of, his employment with, and the termination of that employment with RPM. Ali contended the default judgment was void because the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded. View "Ali v. Williamson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that a $52 million payment from taxpayer's predecessor in interest to the predecessor's subsidiary was not a bad debt under 26 U.S.C. 166 or an ordinary and necessary business expense under 26 U.S.C. 162. In this case, BJ Parent's $52 million payment to BJ Russia created no debt owed to BJ Parent, and the payment discharged no guarantor obligation of BJ Parent's. Therefore, the court held that the payment was not deductible as a bad debt under Section 166. Furthermore, the court held that the IRS correctly disallowed any deduction based on the Free Financial Aid (FFA) as an ordinary and necessary business expense under section 162. The court explained that the FFA was not an expense of BJ Parent, and it was not provided to pay any expense of BJ Russia. The court reasoned that even if BJ Parent's long-term strategy included recapitalizing its Russian subsidiary to meet Russian capitalization requirements, this did not itself make the funds deductible. View "Baker Hughes, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by a federal district court regarding W. Va. Code 31E-3-304(b)(2), holding that beyond the derivative suit mentioned in the statute, a member of a nonprofit corporation's board of directors may not file a derivative suit against another director to recover damages or other relief on behalf of the nonprofit corporation. Section 31E-3-304(b)(2) permits a member of a nonprofit corporation's board of directors to file an "ultra vires" derivative suit against another member of the board of directors to challenge the validity of an action taken by the corporation. At issue in this case was whether the Legislature intended to preclude such derivative suits brought by a member of the board of directors against another director to recover damages or other relief on behalf of nonprofit corporations. The Supreme Court answered in the negative, holding that, other than as expressly authorized by section 31E-3-304(b)(2), the West Virginia Nonprofit Corporation Act does not confer the right upon a director to bring a derivative action on behalf of the nonprofit corporation. View "John A. Sheppard Memorial Ecological Reservation, Inc. v. Fanning" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellees, Cloudi Mornings and Austin Miller (collectively Cloudi Mornings) filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief with the District Court of Tulsa County. In the petition, Cloudi Mornings stated that it was an L.L.C. with its primary business activities located within the City of Broken Arrow and that Austin Miller was a resident of Broken Arrow, and that as a "business within city limits," they had a vested interest in City enacted medical marijuana rules related to the voter approved June 26, 2018, Initiative Petition 788 which legalized medical marijuana in the State of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained this case to address the authority of a city, such as the City of Broken Arrow, to zone/regulate a medical marijuana establishment within city limits. However, because this case lacked any case or controversy as to these plaintiffs, and was merely a request for an advisory opinion, the Court dismissed the appeal. View "Cloudi Mornings, LLC v. City of Broken Arrow" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing this direct action brought by Plaintiffs, a sub-group of limited partners in a Limited Partnership, against Defendants to remedy losses incurred when the Decedent disposed of the Limited Partnership's real property, holding that Plaintiffs must seek their remedy through a derivative action on behalf of the Limited Partnership. In their motion to dismiss, Defendants argued that Plaintiffs alleged derivative harms that had to be filed as a derivative action. The district court agreed. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing the complaint, holding (1) Plaintiffs' complaint failed to assert any facts entitling them to relief in the form of a direct action; (2) Wyoming courts are without discretion to allow direct actions to remedy derivative injuries; and (3) Plaintiffs can satisfy the demand rule by pleading "demand futility." View "Fritchel v. White" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the 2009 bankruptcy of Old GM, which resulted in a sale under 11 U.S.C. 363 of the bulk of its assets to a new entity that has continued the business (the new General Motors). The New General Motors assumed the liability of Old GM with respect to post‐Sale accidents involving automobiles manufactured by Old GM. The claims assumed included those by persons who did not transact business with Old GM, such as individuals who never owned Old GM vehicles and persons who bought Old GM cars after the Sale. At issue was whether the New General Motors was liable for punitive damages with respect to such claims. The Second Circuit held that the new General Motors did not contractually assume liability for punitive damages in its predecessor's bankruptcy sale, and thus the Post-Closing Accident Plaintiffs may not assert claims for punitive damages based on the predecessor's conduct. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's decision on the issue of punitive damages. View "In re Motors Liquidation Co." on Justia Law

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CalFire filed suit against PCCC to recover costs arising from a fire started by a PCCC employee. PCCC demurred, arguing that the Third Appellate District's opinion in Department of Forestry & Fire Protection v. Howell (2017) 18 Cal.App.5th 154, precluded liability. The trial court disagreed and overruled. The Court of Appeal denied PCCC's petitioner for writ of mandate, holding that Health and Safety Code sections 13009 and 13009.1 include principles of vicarious corporate liability. The court agreed with the dissenting opinion in Howell, and held that sections 13009 and 13009.1 expressly permit the recovery of fire suppression and investigation costs from a corporation, like PCCC, when one of its agents or employees negligently, or in violation of the law, sets a fire, allows a fire to be set, or allows a fire kindled or attended by them to escape onto any public or private property. Therefore, the trial court correctly overruled PCCC's demurrer to CalFire's complaint. View "Presbyterian Camp & Conference Centers, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court in this action alleging breach of contract, conversion, and tortious interference with a business relationship of expectation, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action in his own name. Kim Hawley, the only named plaintiff, brought this action against John Skradski alleging that he purchased a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) business from an entity affiliated with Skradski and that, after Hawley ceased operating the business, Skradski began operating the business and converted the business's assets to his use. During trial, an asset purchase agreement was received into evidence showing that the HVAC business was purchased by KNR Capital Corp. and not by Hawley individually. The district court granted Skradksi's motion for a directed verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence of any of the three theories of recovery. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Hawley failed to prove his standing to bring this suit in his own name, and therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. View "Hawley v. Skradski" on Justia Law