Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
Freedman v. Redstone
Between 2008 and 2011, Viacom Inc. paid three senior executives more than $100 million in bonus or incentive compensation. Compensation exceeding $1 million paid by a corporation to senior executives is not normally deductible under federal tax law, but a corporate taxpayer may deduct an executive’s otherwise nondeductible compensation over $1 million if an independent committee its board of directors approves the compensation on the basis of objective performance standards and the compensation is “approved by a majority of the vote in a separate shareholder vote” before being paid. In 2007, a majority of Viacom’s voting shareholders approved such a plan. Shareholder Freedman sued, claiming that Viacom’s Board failed to comply with the terms of the Plan and that, instead of using quantitative performance measures, the Board partially based its awards on qualitative, subjective factors, destroying the basis for their tax deductibility. Freedman claimed that this caused the Board to award executives more than $36 million of excess compensation. The plan was reauthorized in 2012. The district court dismissed. The Third Circuit affirmed. With respect to his derivative claim, Freedman did not make a pre-suit demand to the Board or present sufficient allegations explaining why a demand would have been futile. With respect to his direct claim regarding participation by stockholders without voting rights, federal law does not confer voting rights on shareholders not otherwise authorized to vote or affect Delaware law permit ting corporations to issue shares without voting rights. View "Freedman v. Redstone" on Justia Law
Delaware Coal. for Open Gov’t v. Strine
In 2009, to “preserve Delaware’s pre-eminence in offering cost-effective options for resolving disputes, particularly those involving commercial, corporate, and technology,” Delaware granted the Court of Chancery power to arbitrate business disputes. That Court then created an arbitration process as an alternative to trial for certain disputes, 10 DEL. CODE tit. 10, 349; Del. Ch. R. 96-98. To qualify for arbitration, at least one party must be a business entity formed or organized under Delaware law, and neither can be a consumer. Arbitration is limited to monetary disputes that involve an amount of at least one million dollars. The fee for filing is $12,000, and the arbitration costs $6,000 per day after the first day. Arbitration begins approximately 90 days after the petition is filed. The statute and rules bar public access. Arbitration petitions are confidential and are not included in the public docketing system. Attendance at proceedings is limited to parties and their representatives, and all materials and communications produced during the arbitration are protected from disclosure in judicial or administrative proceedings. The Coalition challenged the confidentiality provisions. The district court found that Delaware’s proceedings were essentially civil trials that must be open to the public, under the First Amendment. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Delaware Coal. for Open Gov't v. Strine" on Justia Law
Gager v. Dell Fin. Servs. LLC
In 2007, Gager applied for a line of credit to purchase computer equipment. The application required that she provide her home phone number. Gager listed her cellular phone number without stating that the number was for a cellular phone, or indicating that Dell should not use an automated telephone dialing system to call her at that number. Gager defaulted on the loan Dell granted. Dell began using an automated telephone dialing system to call Gager’s cell phone, leaving pre-recorded messages concerning the debt. In 2010, Gager sent a letter, listing her phone number and asking Dell to stop calling it regarding her account. The letter did not indicate that the number was for a cellular phone. Dell continued to call, using an automated telephone dialing system. Gager filed suit, alleging that Dell violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). The district court dismissed on the theory that she could not revoke her consent once it was given. The Third Circuit reversed. The fact that Gager entered into a contract with Dell does not exempt Dell from the TCPA. Dell will still be able to call Gager about her delinquent account, but not using an automated dialing system. View "Gager v. Dell Fin. Servs. LLC" on Justia Law
Mariotti. v. Mariotti Bldg. Prods., Inc.
In the 1960s, the founder’s sons (plaintiff and his brothers) joined the business, later incorporated as MBP. The business grew to have annual sales of $60 million. Plaintiff served as vice-president, secretary, and a member of the board of directors, and was a shareholder. Plaintiff had a “spiritual awakening” in 1995. He claims that the change resulted in antagonism toward him. Plaintiff delivered a eulogy at his father’s 2009 funeral, which upset family members. Days later, plaintiff received notice of termination of his employment and that various benefits would cease. The letter explained that “[y]our share of any draws from the corporation or other entities will continue to be distributed to you.” Plaintiff continued on the board of directors until August, 2009, when the shareholders did not re-elect him. Plaintiff filed charges of religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1) and of hostile work environment. The district court dismissed, finding that he was not an employee under Title VII and did not establish existence of a hostile work environment. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that it was clear that plaintiff was entitled to participate in development and governance of the business. View "Mariotti. v. Mariotti Bldg. Prods., Inc." on Justia Law
Wiest v. Lynch
Wiest worked in Tyco’s accounting department for 31 years, until his termination in 2010. Beginning in 2007, Wiest refused to process reimbursement claims that he believed were unlawful or constituted “parties” at resorts. Wiest sued Tyco and its officers and directors under the whistleblower protection provisions in Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. 1514A, and under Pennsylvania law. The district court dismissed the federal whistleblower claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. The Third Circuit reversed in part, holding that the court erred in requiring that Wiest allege that his communications to his supervisors “definitively and specifically relate to” an existing violation of a particular anti-fraud law, as opposed to expressing a reasonable belief that corporate managers are taking actions that could run afoul of a particular anti-fraud law. View "Wiest v. Lynch" on Justia Law
Maniscalco v. Brother Int’l Corp.
BIC, which has its principal place of business in New Jersey, distributed machines manufactured by BIL, BIC’s parent entity located in Japan. In 2001 BIC began distributing the Brother 3220C, a printer, fax machine, scanner and copier, accompanied by a Limited Warranty and User Manual drafted by BIL in Japan and translated by BIC. Huryk alleges that from 2002 to 2005, BIC and its executives in New Jersey, knew about but concealed information regarding defects in the 3220C that caused printer heads to fail and caused the machines to purge excess amounts of ink when not used frequently enough. The district court dismissed his putative class action claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J. Stat. 56:8 on the ground that South Carolina law, not New Jersey law, applied. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that South Carolina was the place where Huryk acted in reliance upon BIC’s representations, the place where Huryk, a domiciliary of South Carolina, received the representations, and the place where a tangible thing which is the subject of the transaction between the parties was situated at the time. View "Maniscalco v. Brother Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Historic Boardwalk Hall, LLC v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, a state agency which owned a leasehold interest in the East Hall, also known as “Historic Boardwalk Hall”, on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, was tasked with restoring it. After learning of the market for federal historic rehabilitation tax credits (HRTCs) among corporate investors, and of the additional revenue which that market could bring to the state through a syndicated partnership with one or more investors, NJSEA created Historic Boardwalk Hall, LLC (HBH) and sold a membership interest to a subsidiary of Pitney Bowes. Transactions admitting PB as a member of HBH and transferring ownership of East Hall to HBH were designed so that PB could earn the HRTCs generated from the East Hall rehabilitation. The IRS determined that HBH was simply a vehicle to impermissibly transfer HRTCs from NJSEA to PB and that all HRTCs taken by PB should be reallocated to NJSEA. The Tax Court disagreed. The Third Circuit reversed. PB, in substance, was not a bona fide partner in HBH. View "Historic Boardwalk Hall, LLC v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
In Re: Calabrese
The business proprietor, Calabrese, filed for reorganization of the business under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. After failure to confirm a reorganization plan, the bankruptcy was converted to Chapter 7. He also filed an individual petition under Chapter 13. The State of New Jersey Department of Taxation filed several secured proofs of claim in the individual bankruptcy. As proprietor of a restaurant, Calabrese was required to collect sales tax from customers. N.J. Stat. 54:32B-3(c)(1), 54:32B-12(a), 54:32B-14(a). Calabrese successfully moved to have the claims reclassified as unsecured. New Jersey filed amended proofs alleging that Calabrese owes $63,437.19 in taxes collected while operating his business from 2003 to 2009. The Bankruptcy Court held the taxes at issue are trust fund taxes under 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(8)(C) rather than excise taxes under 507(a)(8)(E) and, therefore, not dischargeable. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. Public policy concerns weigh against Calabrese, primarily because sales taxes collected by a retailer never become the property of the retailer; it retains those funds in trust for the state. View "In Re: Calabrese" on Justia Law
In Re: Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp’t Practices Litig.
Plaintiff, a former assistant branch manager at Enterprise, filed a nationwide class action, claiming that Enterprise violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1), by failing to pay required overtime wages. The district court held that the parent company, which is the sole stockholder of 38 domestic subsidiaries, was not a “joint employer,” and granted summary judgment in favor of the parent company. The Third Circuit affirmed after examining a number of factors concerning the relationship between the parent company and the direct employer. View "In Re: Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp't Practices Litig." on Justia Law
Liberty Lincoln-Mercury Inc. v. Ford Motor Co.
Ford provides a warranty, entitling buyers of new vehicles to have Ford repair or replace defective components at any Ford dealer, regardless of where they purchased the vehicle. Ford reimburses dealers, providing a mark-up of 40% over cost for most parts. However, under the New Jersey Franchise Protection Act, Ford must reimburse dealers for parts at the "prevailing retail rate," charged customers for non-warranty work. Ford implemented a Dealer Parity Surcharge to recoup the increased cost. Ford calculated, for each New Jersey dealer, the cost of increased warranty reimbursements and divided by the number of vehicles purchased by that same dealer. That amount constituted the surcharge added to the wholesale price of every vehicle. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment that DPS violated the NJFPA. Ford devised a new system, NJCS, under which Ford calculated its total cost of complying with the NJFPA and divided by the number of wholesale vehicles sold in the state. A dealer’s total NJCS increased in proportion to the number of vehicles it purchased, regardless of how many warranty repairs it submitted. The district court found that NJCS violated NJFPA. The Third Circuit reversed in part, holding that the scheme does not violate the statute.