Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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Intervenor alleged that she was terminated by Northrop in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). The Fourth Circuit held that intervenor did not qualify for whistleblower protection under 18 U.S.C. 1514A, because she did not engage in protected activity. In this case, neither of intervenor's complaints about Northrop's arbitration policy nor her complaints about violations of section 1514A(e) involved any of the basic elements of shareholder fraud. Furthermore, her beliefs were not objectively reasonable. Therefore, the court vacated the administrative orders and remanded the case with instructions for the dismissal of intervenor's complaint and entry of judgment for Northrop. View "Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. v. US Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims stemming from failed investments in an electric vehicle startup, GreenTech. Plaintiffs are a group of 27 Chinese investors who invested $500,000 each in a partnership that loaned their money to GreenTech. Plaintiffs claimed that false statements were made relating to the partnership's fundraising efforts, as well as relating to GreenTech's sell of vehicles and business plans. Plaintiffs now seek to recover losses from their failed investments. The court held that the amended complaint failed to adequately allege justifiable reliance, instead relying on general and conclusory allegations. Even if plaintiffs had properly described who relied on each misstatement and how that person heard of it, they failed to plead justifiable reliance because the written offering documents controlled and contradicted the sorts of stray media statements attributed to GreenTech and the partnership. The court held that there was no plausible allegation in the complaint that defendants diverted plaintiffs from conducting a prudent and objectively reasonable investigation before investing. View "Xia Bi v. McAuliffe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Serco in an action alleging numerous claims arising out of a failed business relationship. Plaintiffs alleged that Serco conspired with Jaxon Engineering to "rig" a bidding process related to work for the Air Force, and thus interfered with plaintiffs' reasonable business expectancy in that work. The Court of Appeal held that the district court properly awarded summary judgment to Serco on the claims of tortious interference with business expectancy, because those claims failed as a matter of law. However, the court held that the district court erred in awarding summary judgment to Serco with respect to plaintiffs' conspiracy claims, because they were not time-barred and, in the alternative, the evidence that plaintiffs were the sole providers of HEMP-related services to Serco for several years was sufficient to create a dispute of material fact regarding whether plaintiffs had a valid business expectancy in the task orders awarded to Jaxon. In regard to the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) claims, the court agreed with the district court that the two year statute of limitations applied to the claims but remanded for the district court to determine as a factual matter the particular limitations period for each of the COCCA claims. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "L-3 Communications Corp. v. Serco, Inc." on Justia Law

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A participant in an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) filed suit after owners of a closely held corporation sold the company to its ESOP. The participant contended that the trustee chosen for the ESOP by the corporation breached its fiduciary duties to the ESOP and overpaid for the stock — improperly enriching the corporation's owners at the expense of its employees. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's careful findings of fact concluding that the trustee had breached its fiduciary duties. In regard to liability, the district court found four major failures involving SRR's report; that the trustee failed to act as a prudent fiduciary solely on behalf of the ESOP participants; that the value of Stock Appreciation Rights (SARs) issued in connection with the ESOP's purchase of Constellis should have been deducted from Constellis's equity value for purposes of SRR’s valuation; and that the ACADEMI sale did not constitute a meaningful comparator. Furthermore, the court found no error in the district court's damages award and fee award. View "Tim Brundle v. Wilmington Trust, N.A." on Justia Law

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After the merger of RCA and AFIN, RCA shareholders filed suit alleging that the proxy statement was false and misleading under federal securities laws. In this case, the shareholders alleged that the proxy statements and omissions regarding (A) the AFIN NAV; (B) the sale of the Merrill Lynch properties; (C) SunTrust Bank; and (D) the AFIN Standalone Projections were materially misleading. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims, holding that the statements the shareholders complained of were not false or misleading and the alleged omissions were addressed by narrowly tailored warning language. View "Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Weil" on Justia Law

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Trana, a developer of technology that could help find new drugs to treat HIV, filed suit against Southern, a contract research organization, for fraud and negligent representation. Trana alleged that Southern failed to identify certain promising compounds as potential HIV treatments (false negatives results) and Southern falsely identified other compounds as potential treatments when in fact they were not (false positives results). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Southern, holding that Trana's false negatives theory represented an attempt to shoehorn a claim for professional negligence or breach of contract into one for negligent misrepresentation. Furthermore, in regard to the false positives theory, Trana has not presented any theory that explains the reasonableness of pursuing patents on compounds that it knew had no commercial value. Therefore, Trana's reliance on the false positives was unreasonable. View "Trana Discovery, Inc. v. Southern Research Institute" on Justia Law

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Verisign filed suit against XYZ, alleging false advertising based on a false "gold rush" scheme involving domain names. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for XYZ, but denied it attorney fees under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1117(a). The Fourth Circuit held that a prevailing party need only prove an exceptional case by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than by clear and convincing evidence. The court further clarified that a prevailing party need not establish that the losing party acted in bad faith in order to prove an exceptional case. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider the motion under the appropriate legal and evidentiary standards. View "Verisign, Inc. v. XYZ.Com LLC" on Justia Law

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Verisign filed suit against XYZ, alleging false advertising based on a false "gold rush" scheme involving domain names. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for XYZ, but denied it attorney fees under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1117(a). The Fourth Circuit held that a prevailing party need only prove an exceptional case by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than by clear and convincing evidence. The court further clarified that a prevailing party need not establish that the losing party acted in bad faith in order to prove an exceptional case. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider the motion under the appropriate legal and evidentiary standards. View "Verisign, Inc. v. XYZ.Com LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Cadrillion, Legacy North Carolina, and James Yuhas, alleging claims for breach of contract, conversion, abuse of process, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The Fourth Circuit held that, by failing to pay the Call Price owed under the Agreement, Cadrillion breached a duty it assumed only as a result of that contract. Therefore, the economic loss rule applied and Cadrillion and Yuhas were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiffs' conversion claim. Because the court reversed as to the conversion claim, leaving plaintiffs with only a breach of contract claim, the court must also reverse the punitive damages award. Because the court reversed on the conversion claim and remanded for a new trial on contract damages, the results obtained and extent to which plaintiffs prevailed may substantially change. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's grant of attorneys' fees and remanded for the district court to reassess the proper amount of fees. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of Cadrillion and Yuhas on the abuse of process claim. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the abuse of process and unfair and deceptive trade practices claim. View "Legacy Data Access, Inc. v. Cadrillion, LLC" on Justia Law

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The district court granted DIRECTV’s motion to reverse pierce the corporate veil, finding that Randy Coley's limited liability companies were alter egos of Mr. Coley and were therefore subject to execution of DIRECTV's judgment against him. At issue was whether application of Delaware law in this case permitted the remedy of reverse piercing a corporate veil of an LLC, when the LLC has been determined to be the alter ego of its sole member. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to allow this remedy, based on the court's consideration of existing Delaware law and of the overwhelming evidence that the LLCs at issue were alter egos of Mr. Coley. The court also affirmed the balance of the district court's judgment. View "Coley v. DIRECTV, Inc." on Justia Law