Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Daily Services, LLC v. Valentino
Daily Services, owned by Mason, provided short-term temporary employment services. Mason also owned I-Force, which provided longer-term temporary employment services. After losing coverage under the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation group insurance rating plan, I-Force unsuccessfully applied for self-insurance status. I-Force owed $3 million in premiums. Unable to make payments, I-Force closed. Daily acquired some of its customers and began offering longer-term temporary employment services. Ohio law provides the employer with notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Bureau may file a judgment or lien against it and allows the Bureau to deem one company the successor of another for purposes of an experience rating to calculate premiums, and, if an employer “wholly succeeds another in the operation of a business,” to transfer the obligation to pay unpaid premiums. The Bureau decided that Daily wholly succeeded I-Force, but did not provide notice of its assessment or an opportunity to be heard before it filed judgments and liens against Daily for more than $54 million. A state court vacated the judgments. The Bureau tried again and provided prior notice, but filed a lien before hearing an appeal. The court again vacated. The Bureau’s efforts to recover continue. Daily sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of procedural due process. The district court concluded that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, recognizing that under the Supreme Court decision Parratt v. Taylor, a state may sometimes satisfy due process without providing notice or an opportunity to be heard pre-deprivation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the Parratt doctrine does apply, and Daily did not plead that Ohio provided inadequate post- deprivation remedies . View "Daily Services, LLC v. Valentino" on Justia Law
Rizzo v. MI Dep’t of Treasury
In 2011 Rizzo filed a voluntary petition for personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy and received a general discharge. Despite his discharge, the Michigan Department of Treasury sent collection letters demanding that he pay $72,286.39 in delinquent Single Business Tax that had been assessed against a company, for which Rizzo had been an officer. Rizzo filed an adversary action, contending that his personal liability for the unpaid SBT had been discharged in bankruptcy. Treasury claimed that liability for the SBT deficiency is a nondischargeable “excise tax” debt under 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(8)(E). The bankruptcy court agreed and dismissed. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Rizzo’s argument that the debt was derivative, not primary, and therefore not an excise tax. Rizzo conceded that the unpaid SBT was an “excise tax” deficiency as to the company and did not dispute that he was personally liable for the company’s unpaid tax under state law. Michigan law simply confers derivative liability upon Rizzo for precisely the same excise tax deficiency that was assessed against the company. View "Rizzo v. MI Dep't of Treasury" on Justia Law
Food Lion, LLC v. Dean Foods Co.
Until 2001 Dean and Suiza competed to process and sell bottled milk to retailers. Suiza was the largest U.S. processor of milk and Dean was the second largest. Both purchased raw milk from other entities. DFA, a dairy farmer cooperative, was Suiza’s primary supplier and business partner. Dean obtained its raw milk predominantly from independent farmers. Dean and Suiza merged in 2001, becoming Dean Foods, hoping to obtain “distribution efficiencies and economies of scale,” for millions of dollars in cost savings. Certain agreements were negotiated, with input from the Department of Justice, which approved the proposed merger, subject to divestment of particular milk processing plants. Retailers of processed milk sued, charging violation of 15 U.S.C. 1, the Sherman Antitrust Act, by conspiring with a raw milk supplier-milk processor and the purchaser of the divested processing facilities to divide markets and restrict output. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Dean Foods, finding insufficient proof of injury and failure to establish the relevant antitrust geographic market, primarily because plaintiff’s expert’s testimony was excluded. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the expert should not have been excluded and that the conclusions regarding injury were based on flawed propositions. View "Food Lion, LLC v. Dean Foods Co." on Justia Law
Lukas v. McPeak
Lukas owns stock in Miller, a publicly owned corporation engaged in production of oil and natural gas. In 2009, Miller announced that it had acquired the “Alaska assets,” worth $325 million for only $2.25 million. Miller announced several increases in the value of the Alaska assets over the following months, causing increases in its stock price. In 2010, Miller amended its employment agreement with its CEO (Boruff), substantially increasing his compensation and giving him stock options. The Compensation Committee (McPeak, Stivers, and Gettelfinger) recommended the amendment and the Board, composed of those four and five others, approved it. In 2011 a website published a report claiming that the Alaska assets were worth only $25 to $30 million and offset by $40 million in liabilities. In SEC filings, Miller acknowledged “errors in . . . financial statements” and “computational errors.” The stock price decreased., Lukas filed suit against Miller and its Board members, alleging: breach of fiduciary duty and disseminating materially false and misleading information; breach of fiduciary duties for failing to properly manage the company; unjust enrichment; abuse of control; gross mismanagement; and waste of corporate assets. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Lukas brought suit without first making a demand on the Miller Board of Directors to pursue this action, as required by Tennessee law, and did not establish futility. View "Lukas v. McPeak" on Justia Law
Am. Express Travel Related Servs. Co., Inc. v. Hollenbach
AmEx is the world’s largest issuer of traveler’s checks, which never expire. AmEx and third-party vendors sell the checks at face value, and AmEx profits by investing the funds until the TC is redeemed. Although most are cashed within a year, AmEx uses the remaining uncashed checks for long-term, high-yield investments. Until recently, every state’s abandoned property laws presumed abandonment of uncashed traveler’s checks 15 years after issuance. This presumption requires the issuer to transfer possession of the funds to the state. In 2008 Kentucky amended KRS 393.060(2) to change thes abandonment period from to seven years. AmEx claims violation of the Due Process Clause, the Contract Clause, and the Takings Clause. Following a remand and amendment of the complaint to add a dormant Commerce Clause argument and a claim that the legislation did not apply retroactively to checks that were issued and outstanding prior to the effective date, the district court granted the state summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the amendment applies only prospectively and does not violate the Commerce Clause. View "Am. Express Travel Related Servs. Co., Inc. v. Hollenbach" on Justia Law
Venture Global Eng’g, LLC v. Satyam Computer Servs., Ltd.
Satyam approached the Trust about forming a joint venture to provide engineering services to the automotive industry. Satyam represented that it was an IT-services provider with a base of automotive customers, that it was publicly-traded, audited, and financially stable. The Trust formed VGE, a separate legal entity; in 2000, VGE and Satyam formed SVES under the laws of India; VGE contributed $735,000. VGE and Satyam signed agreements calling for binding arbitration. In 2005, Satyam initiated arbitration. VGE counterclaimed that Satyam had breached its obligations. The arbitrator rejected VGE’s counterclaims, found that Satyam never competed with SVES, and found an event of default entitling Satyam to purchase VGE’s shares in the joint venture for book value. Satyam filed an enforcement action. The district court ordered VGE to comply with the award. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Following a 2007 contempt proceeding, VGE complied. In 2010, VGE and the Trust sued, alleging that, starting before the joint venture, Satyam engaged in a massive fraud scheme about its financial stability, and claiming civil violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968. The district court dismissed, based on res judicata defense, and denied leave to amend. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The complaint adequately alleged that Satyam wrongfully concealed the factual predicate to claims, so the defense of claim preclusion does not apply. View "Venture Global Eng'g, LLC v. Satyam Computer Servs., Ltd." on Justia Law
Broz v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue
Broz started a cellular telephone business by organizing a wholly owned S corporation, RFB, in 1991 and purchasing an FCC license to operate a cellular network in Northern Michigan. Broz expanded by organizing additional entities. Alpine and limited liability companies that are taxed as partnerships, were formed to hold and lease FCC licenses. Alpine never operated on-air networks. For the years at issue, Broz deducted: flow-through losses of Alpine on his personal income taxes, on the grounds that he had debt basis in, and was “at risk” with respect to, Alpine; interest, depreciation, startup costs, and other business expenses of the Alpine entities; and the amortization cost of the FCC licenses held by the Alpine entities. The IRS Commissioner determined a deficiency of $18 million in Broz’s income tax filings for the tax years at issue, finding that Broz had insufficient debt basis in Alpine o claim flow-through losses, that Broz was not at risk with respect to investments in the Alpine entities, that the Alpine entities were not entitled to interest, depreciation, startup expense, and other business-related deductions because they were not engaged in an active trade or business. The Tax Court and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Broz v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
American Bank, FSB v. Cornerstone Cmty. Bank
American loaned $429,991 to Saberline to pay an insurance premium; Saberline agreed that, if it defaulted on the loan, American could cancel the policy and obtain return of any unearned premiums. USIG brokered the deal. American would deliver funds to USIG’s account at Cornerstone; USIG would forward the money to the insurer. Instead of placing the money in a trust account for Saberline, USIG told American to deposit the funds in USIG’s general operating account at Cornerstone. USIG was indebted to Cornerstone and had authorized it to sweep the operating account and apply anything over $50,000 to the debt. As a result, when American deposited Saberline’s premiums, Cornerstone reduced USIG’s debt. Saberline defaulted. American canceled the policy and attempted to recover the premium. USIG repaid American with funds drawn from a different bank, but then filed for bankruptcy, turning that transfer into a preference payment. American settled with the bankruptcy trustee, reserving its right to pursue a conversion claim against Cornerstone. A magistrate judge issued a declaratory judgment that American had a superior security interest in the disputed funds and that Cornerstone was liable for conversion. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Premium Finance Company Act, Tenn. Code 56-37-101, gave American a senior perfected security interest in the contested funds. View "American Bank, FSB v. Cornerstone Cmty. Bank" on Justia Law
Advance Sign Grp., LLC v. Optec Displays, Inc.
Advance installs and services signs. It alleges that it entered into a contract to sell Optec’s electronic messaging signs to foodservice customers. Advance claims that Optec agreed not to sell directly to the foodservice companies. Rogers, a franchisee of Sonic Restaurants, was a long-time Advance customer. Advance and Optec undertook a pilot project to install signs at Sonic corporate-owned locations and Rogers’s franchises. Advance claimed that Optec violated the agreement by negotiating with Sonic directly. Advance and Optec entered a second agreement by phone, with Optec to pay Advance 12 percent of net on sales made by Optec to customers introduced by Advance. Advance sent a letter memorializing the terms; Optec made a minor change, unrelated to commission; Advance incorporated the change and returned the letter. Optec refused to sign. Following additional negotiations, Optec signed a two-year agreement with Sonic and installed signs at 1,400 locations, without Advance being involved. A jury found in favor of Advance on breach-of-contract claims and a claim for tortious interference and awarded damages of $3,444,000 for breach of the telephone agreement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that: there was no meeting of the minds for the telephone agreement; Ohio’s Statute of Frauds precluded enforcement; Advance did not prove its tortious interference claim; and that the evidence did not support the damages awards. View "Advance Sign Grp., LLC v. Optec Displays, Inc." on Justia Law
Gardner v. Heartland Indus. Partners, LP
Heartland is an investment firm that formerly held an ownership interest in Metaldyne, an automotive supplier. Leuliette is a co-founder of Heartland and was the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Metaldyne. Tredwell is also a Heartland co-founder and a Metaldyne Board member. In 2006, Heartland agreed to sell its interest in Metaldyne to Ripplewood. Metaldyne submitted an SEC “Schedule 14A and 14C Information” report that detailed the terms of the acquisition, but failed to mention that Metaldyne would owe plaintiffs, former executives, approximately $13 million as a result of the sale, under a change-of-control provision in Metaldyne’s “Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan,” in which Plaintiffs participated. The SERP is subject to Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Ripplewood threatened to back out of the deal when it found out about the obligation. In response, Leuliette and Tredwell persuaded Metaldyne’s Board to declare the SERP invalid without notifying Plaintiffs. The Ripplewood deal closed less than a month later. Leuliette personally collected more than $10 million as a result. Plaintiffs claimed tortious interference with contractual relations. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the state law claims were not “completely preempted” under section 1132(a)(1)(B) of ERISA. View "Gardner v. Heartland Indus. Partners, LP" on Justia Law