Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
Villanueva v. U.S. Dept. of Labor
Petitioner filed a complaint with OSHA, asserting that Saybolt and Core Labs had violated Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(a), by retaliating against him for blowing the whistle on an alleged scheme to violate Colombian tax law. OSHA, an ALJ, and the Board all rejected petitioner's complaint. The court concluded that petitioner did not demonstrate that he engaged in protected conduct because he did not complain, based on a reasonable belief, that one of six enumerated categories of U.S. law had been violated. Petitioner had not demonstrated that he engaged in any protected activity, and given this, the court could not say that Core Labs knew that petitioner engaged in a protected activity that was a contributing factor in the unfavorable actions of withholding petitioner's pay raise and ultimately terminating him. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Board's dismissal of petitioner's complaint because he had not demonstrated that his claim fell within the scope of section 806. View "Villanueva v. U.S. Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law
Dallas Gas Partners, L.P. v. Prospect Energy Corp
Muse, Nelson, and Weiss, and two others formed DGP. The five individuals were DGP’s limited partners; its general partner was MNW LLC, consisting of Muse, Nelson, and Weiss. DGP contracted to buy Gas Solutions and Prospect agreed to lend DGP 95% of the purchase price, subject to due diligence. The agreement prevented DGP from negotiating with other lenders. Prospect’s investigation raised concerns and it informed DGP that it would not make the loan. After DGP threatened to sue, Prospect agreed to pay DGP $3.295 million as reimbursement for DGP’s expenses and DGP agreed to assign Prospect its right to buy Gas Solutions. DGP assigned the purchase contract to DGP’s general partner, MNW, owned by Muse, Nelson and Weiss, who then sold Prospect their individual membership interests, transferring the contract to Prospect. Despite a mutual release, DGP sued Prospect alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with contract. Prospect counterclaimed alleging breach of the covenant not to sue. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Prospect and awarded attorneys’ fees in its award. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the covenants did not bind the individuals. Under an interpretation of the agreement giving effect to all its terms, Nelson and Muse breached the agreement by funding DGP’s lawsuits and violated the release and covenant not to sue.View "Dallas Gas Partners, L.P. v. Prospect Energy Corp" on Justia Law
Spring Street Partners v. Lam, et al.
Spring Street, seeking to recover against Bayou and its owner Douglas Lam on defaulted promissory notes, claimed that certain transfers that defendants made were fraudulent: (1) Bayou's transfer of "hard assets" to LT Seafood when LT Seafood took over Bayou's retail operations at the 415 East Hamilton location; (2) Douglas Lam's transfer of his 49% interest in LT Seafood to DKL & DTL; and (3) DKL & DTL's subsequent transfer of this 49% interest to Vinh Ngo. The court concluded that Spring Street could pierce DKL & DTL's corporate veil on the basis of fraud and impose individual liability on the LLC members. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Spring Street with regard to these claims. However, the court concluded that Ten Lam and Ngo have raised a genuine dispute of fact as to both which "hard assets" Bayou transferred to LT Seafood and the value of those assets on the date of the transfer. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment in regards to Spring Street's fraudulent transfer claim against Lam and Ngo for the amount of $150,000 and remanded for further proceedings. View "Spring Street Partners v. Lam, et al." on Justia Law
Rodriguez, et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Petitioner challenged the IRS's determination that the gross income petitioners reported in 2003 and 2004 based on their ownership of a controlled foreign corporation should have been taxed at the rate of petitioners' ordinary income rather than the lower tax rate they had claimed. At issue was whether amounts included in petitioners' gross income for 2003 and 2004 pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 951(a)(1)(B) and 956 (collectively, "section 951 inclusions") constituted qualified dividend income under 26 U.S.C. 1(h)(11). The court concluded that section 951 inclusions did not constitute actual dividends because actual dividends required a distribution by a corporation and receipt by a shareholder and these section 951 inclusions involved no distribution or change in ownership; Congress clearly did not intend to deem as dividends the section 951 inclusions at issue here; and petitioners' reliance on other non-binding sources were unavailing. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the tax court. View "Rodriguez, et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
Nevada Partners Fund, et al. v. United States
This appeal arose from eleven notices of final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAAs) issued by the IRS with respect to three Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) treated as partnerships for tax purposes. The IRS claimed that the partnerships' transactions provided one partner with an illegal tax shelter to avoid taxes on his unrelated personal capital gain of the same approximate amount. The court affirmed the district court's determinations that (1) the FOCus transactions lacked economic substance and must be disregarded for tax purposes; (2) the negligence penalty was applicable and the partnerships were not entitled to the reasonable cause defense; and (3) the valuation misstatement penalty was inapplicable. The court vacated and rendered judgment for plaintiffs as to the remaining claims addressing the FPAAs premised on the government's alternative theory under Treasury Regulation 1.701-2 and the district court's approval of the alternative substantial understatement penalty. View "Nevada Partners Fund, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law
Wooley, et al v. Faulkner, et al
Debtors, Schlotzsky's Inc. and certain affiliates, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and appellants were one of the creditors. On appeal, appellants challenged the denial of their motion to pursue post-confirmation causes of action on behalf of the reorganized debtor. The court concluded that the joint plan of liquidation (Plan) did not specifically reserve the state law claims that appellants wished to assert. Without this specific reservation, the Plan Administrator - and, by extension, appellants - lacked standing to pursue the proposed claims. Thus, the claims were not colorable, and the bankruptcy court did not err in denying appellants' motion to pursue causes of action on behalf of debtors. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Wooley, et al v. Faulkner, et al" on Justia Law
Ad Hoc Group of Vitro Noteholders v. Vitro S.A.B. de C.V.
Three cases related to the Mexican reorganization of Vitro S.A.B. de C.V., a corporation organized under the laws of Mexico, were consolidated before the court. The Ad Hoc Group of Vitro Noteholders, a group of creditors holding a substantial amount of Vitro's debt, appealed from the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's recognition of the Mexican reorganization proceeding and Vitro's appointed foreign representatives under Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code. Vitro and one of its largest third-party creditors each appealed directly to the court the bankruptcy court's decision denying enforcement of the Mexican reorganization plan because the plan would extinguish the obligations of non-debtor guarantors. The court affirmed in all respects the judgment of the district court affirming the order of the bankruptcy court in No. 12-10542, and the court affirmed the order of the bankruptcy court in Nos. 12-0689 and 12-10750. The temporary restraining order originally entered by the bankruptcy court, the expiration of which was stayed by the court, was vacated, effective with the issuance of the court's mandate in Nos. 12-10689 and 12-10750. View "Ad Hoc Group of Vitro Noteholders v. Vitro S.A.B. de C.V." on Justia Law
Keller, et al v. United States
Maude Williams passed away in May 2000, leaving behind both a substantial fortune and incomplete estate-planning documents. Originally believing this omission precluded transfer of the relevant estate property to a limited partnership, her Estate paid over $147 million in federal taxes. The Estate later discovered Texas state authorities supporting that Williams sufficiently capitalized the limited partnership before her death, entitling the Estate to a substantial refund. In this refund suit, the Estate claimed a further substantial deduction for interest on the initial payment, which it retroactively characterized as a loan from the limited partnership to the Estate for payment of estate taxes. The district court upheld both the Estate's contentions. The court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that Williams' intent on forming the partnership was sufficient under Texas law to transfer ownership of the Community Property bonds to the partnership. The district court also correctly concluded that the post hoc restructuring of the transfer as a loan from the partnership back to the Estate for tax purposes was a necessarily incurred administrative expense; the Estate retained substantial illiquid land and mineral assets that justified the loan, and the loan did not constitute an "indirect use" of the Community Property bonds. View "Keller, et al v. United States" on Justia Law
American Airlines, Inc. v. Sabre, Inc., et al.
This case arose when American Airlines filed a lawsuit alleging state-law causes of action for breach of contract and tortious interference with prospective business relations. On appeal, Sabre challenged the district court's award of attorney's fees to American pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1447(c). The court affirmed the district court's ruling, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney's fees to American based on its assessment that Sabre did not have objectively reasonable grounds to believe removal of the case from state court to federal district court was legally proper. View "American Airlines, Inc. v. Sabre, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Westlake Petrochemicals, LLC v. United Polychem, Inc.
Defendant United Polychem, Inc. (UPC) and Lynne Van Der Wall (collectively, Appellants) and Plaintiff Westlake Petrochemicals, LLC (Westlake) appealed different results of a jury trial. At the core of the trial was an agreement between UPC as buyer and Westlake as seller of ethylene, a petroleum product. The jury found that (1) the parties had formed a binding contract, (2) UPC breached that contract, and, as a result, (3) UPC was liable to Westlake for $6.3 million in actual damages and $633,200 in attorneys fees. The district court also held Van Der Wall jointly and severally liable under the terms of a guaranty agreement. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) a binding contract was established, (2) the district court applied the incorrect measure of damages, and (3) Van Der Wall, as UPC's president, was not jointly and severally liable with UPC for the jury verdict under the terms of the guaranty. The Court vacated the damages award and remanded for the district court to calculate the damages under Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. 2.708(b). View "Westlake Petrochemicals, LLC v. United Polychem, Inc." on Justia Law