Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Harrison Co., L.L.C. executed a credit agreement with A-Z Wholesalers, Inc. to supply A-Z with tobacco products and other goods. Barkat Ali personally guaranteed A-Z’s payment. A-Z fell behind $2.6 million on payments for the goods it received, so Harrison sued for breach of contract and breach of guaranty actions against A-Z and Ali. The district court granted summary judgment for Harrison.A-Z and Ali argue there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the sales that Harrison is seeking payment for were, in reality, sales from Imperial following the merger of the two companies. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court wrote that Imperial and Harrison are—and always have been—separate entities with their own employees, customers, and warehouses. As the district court explained, A-Z and Ali do not allege, let alone present evidence, “that A-Z experienced any changes in ordering procedures, pricing, delivery schedules, type or brand of goods, inventory availability, or any other indicia that . . . [shows] it was no longer doing business with Harrison.” Therefore, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment. View "Harrison Company v. A-Z Whsle" on Justia Law

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CAE Integrated L.L.C. and Capital Asset Exchange and Trading, L.L.C. (collectively CAE) sued its former employee and his current employer, Moov, for misappropriation of trade secrets and then moved for a preliminary injunction. The district court denied the preliminary injunction and CAE appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial finding that CAE failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims. The court considered that trade secret information derives independent economic value from being not generally known or readily ascertainable through proper means. What CAE refers to as the “transactional documents” are files from Google Drive with purchase orders, invoices, customer equipment needs, and pricing history. The former employee has not had access to his MacBook since 2016 and he testified that Google Drive contained none of the transactional documents when he started at Moov. The district court found the employee’s testimony credible and the forensic analysis confirmed that before the employee began at Moov, he deleted any remaining transactional documents from his Google Drive. Therefore, the district court did not clearly err in finding that neither the employee nor Moov misappropriated trade secrets. Further, even if CAE had established that the employee or Moov misappropriated trade secrets, it failed to show the use or potential use of trade secrets. View "CAE Integrated v. Moov Technologies" on Justia Law

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This appeal arises from an enforcement action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against Appellants World Tree Financial, L.L.C. (World Tree) and its principals. After a bench trial, the district court found that the principal and World Tree engaged in a fraudulent “cherry-picking” scheme, in which they allocated favorable trades to themselves and favored clients and unfavorable trades to disfavored clients. It also found that all three Appellants made false and misleading statements about the firm’s allocation and trading practices. The court entered permanent injunctions against the principal and World Tree, ordered them to disgorge ill-gotten gains, and imposed civil penalties on each Appellant.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936, 1940 (2020) does not require the district court to conduct its own search for business deductions that Appellants have not identified. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering disgorgement.   The court explained that unlike in Liu, in this case, Appellants did not challenge the SEC’s proposed disgorgement amount in their pretrial or posttrial submissions—instead, they argued only that there was no “basis for disgorgement.” Nor did the principal and World Tree propose specific deduction amounts, either before the district court or to this court. View "SEC v. World Tree" on Justia Law

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Triller Inc., a social media company was being sold to a group of owners, including Carnegie Technologies, Inc. Prior to the sale, Triller executed a promissory note in favor of Carnegie and then immediately assigned the note to a group of “legacy” owners—including Carnegie—as part of the deal’s closing. After the note was defaulted, Carnegie sued Triller to collect the amounts due. Triller claimed that it had no obligations under the note because it had been assigned, resulting in novation. The district court rejected Triller's novation defense and Triller appealed.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that the plain meaning of the agreement was silent on the extinction of any obligation between Triller and Carnegie. The laws of both California and Texas require clear evidence illustrating the parties' intent to replace an earlier agreement, and the agreement's merger clause precludes evidence of a contemporaneous or earlier agreement. Thus, the court held that Triller failed to raise an issue of material fact regarding whether its obligations under the note were extinguished. View "Carnegie Technologies. v. Triller" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a dispute related to Texas liquor laws, the court previously certified the following two questions to the Supreme Court of Texas:1.) Does Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 22.16(f) “continue[] to exempt a public corporation if that corporation sells some or all its shares to a non-exempt corporation, and, if so,2.) Whether the exempt corporation can acquire additional package store permits.The Supreme Court of Texas affirmatively answered both questions, resolving the appeal. Thus, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gabriel Invst v. Texas Alcoholic" on Justia Law

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The Texas Legislature limited beer-to-go sales to brewers and manufacturers that produced no more than 225,000 barrels annually “at all premises [they] wholly or partly owned.” Tex. Alco. Bev. Code Ann. Sections 62.122(a) and 12.052(a).   The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) ordered CANarchy to cease and desist after it determined that CANarchy’s facilities collectively exceeded the 225,000-barrel limit. CANarchy complied with the order but then filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that the 225,000- barrel threshold did not apply to barrels produced at leased premises. The district court agreed with CANarchy that “premises wholly or partly owned” do not include leased premises and granted it summary judgment.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting Plaintiff’s motion for a declaratory judgment. The court held that “premises wholly or partly owned” do not include leased premises and granted it summary judgment.   The court wrote, “it is the Legislature’s prerogative to enact statutes; it is the judiciary’s responsibility to interpret those statutes according to the language the Legislature used, absent a context indicating a different meaning or the result of the plain meaning of the language yielding absurd or nonsensical results.” Here, the ordinary definition of “owned,” when applied to sections 12.052(a) and 62.122(a) of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, establishes that the 225,000-barrel production threshold set in those statutes encompasses only barrels produced at premises owned by the brewer, either in whole or in part, and not at premises leased by the brewer. View "CANarchy Craft Brewery v. Texas Alcoholic" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff buys and collects on delinquent healthcare accounts. Defendant sells such accounts. Business between the two soured, and Plaintiff sued for breach of contract and tortious interference. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims because it believed the disputed portion of the contract was indefinite and unenforceable.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant. The court held that the term “additional Accounts” has enforceable meaning. And because the Forward Flow Amendment was binding, Plaintiff’s claims should not have been dismissed. The court reasoned that the crucial inquiry is whether the term “additional Accounts” rendered the Forward Flow Amendment unenforceable.  The court held that first read in context, the term “additional Accounts” has enforceable meaning. Taken together, the plain meaning of the word “additional,” the contract’s clear architecture, and various settled principles of interpretation reveal that “additional Accounts” refers to all qualifying accounts that accrue quarterly. Second, none of Defendant’s counterarguments were persuasive to the court.   Further, Defendant claimed damages cannot be calculated because, in its view, there is no way to determine the number of accounts they had to offer and Plaintiff was obligated to purchase. Here, Defendant partially performed in a manner consistent with its putative obligation under the Forward Flow Amendment. Such performance may make a contractual remedy appropriate even though uncertainty is not removed. View "Capio Funding v. Rural/Metro Oprt, et al" on Justia Law

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The Bank of Louisiana (“BOL”) and two of its directors appeal the district court’s dismissal of their complaints against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The district court ruled that the complaints rehashed allegations that it had repeatedly held it lacked jurisdiction to consider.On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal holding that preclusion principles bar relitigation of the same jurisdictional issue decided in a prior case. The court reasoned that BOL’s new complaints aim to relitigate the same jurisdictional issue decided previously. Once again, the BOL contendsed there is district court jurisdiction over its constitutional claims against the FDIC. That is the same issue the court decided against the BOL in the prior suits. The new complaints thus repeat rather than remedy the jurisdictional problem that warranted the earlier dismissals View "Bank of Louisiana v. FDIC" on Justia Law

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After assignors and assignees of membership interests in Dongtai Investment Group filed suit against Dongtai's managing member, the district court granted injunctive and declaratory relief, ordering the managing member to turn over his remaining Dongtai membership units partially to satisfy the judgment.The Fifth Circuit affirmed and first concluded that it has jurisdiction to address the rulings challenged by the managing member in this case. In regard to the managing member's motion to dismiss, the court concluded that at least one group, if not both, have sufficient membership interest in Dongtai to confer standing to bring a derivative proceeding; the district court did not err in declining to dismiss plaintiffs' securities fraud claims; the district court properly denied the managing member's argument that plaintiffs did not satisfy the requisite heightened pleading standard; the district court properly overruled the managing member's contention that plaintiffs' securities fraud claims should be dismissed; the complaint lacks evidence that the membership units were purchased in the United States; and the managing member's contention that none of the securities fraud allegations specifically implicate LCL Company are simply untrue. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction where plaintiffs have established a substantial threat they would suffer irreparable injury if an injunction was not granted. Finally, the court discerned no error in the declaratory relief fashioned by the district court and the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the managing member to turn over his remaining membership interest in Dongtai. View "Xiongen Jiao v. Ningbo Xu" on Justia Law

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This case presents a coda to its companion appeal, No. 20-50671. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's post-judgment order, as modified, charging defendant's membership interest in M. G. & Sons, a single-member LLC, and requiring both defendant and M. G. & Sons to obtain leave of court before transferring assets to third parties. The court stated that it is well established that courts have the power to enforce their judgments through injunctive relief. The court concluded that the district court properly exercised this power, in addition to charging defendant's interest in M. G. & Sons according to Texas law, by restricting Hughes from transferring assets to evade the district court's judgment. View "Thomas v. Hughes" on Justia Law