Articles Posted in Business Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a shareholder derivative action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.1 for failure to show demand futility. As a preliminary matter, the panel held that binding authority compelled it to apply abuse of discretion review. The panel applied Delaware law and held that the shareholders failed to show demand futility; the Aronson test did not apply in this case because it was limited to board business decisions; and under the Rales test, demand was not excused. View "Tindall v. First Solar Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Supreme Court of California: Does a plaintiff suffer discriminatory conduct, and thus have statutory standing to bring a claim under the Unruh Act, when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services, encounters terms and conditions that deny the plaintiff full and equal access to its services, and then departs without entering into an agreement with the service provider? Alternatively, does the plaintiff have to engage in some further interaction with the business and its website before the plaintiff will be deemed to have been denied full and equal treatment by the business? View "White v. Square, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions regarding D.C. partnership law: (1) Under District of Columbia law does a dissociated partner owe a duty to his or her former law firm to account for profits earned post-departure on legal matters that were in progress but not completed at the time of the partner's departure, where the partner's former law firm had been hired to handle those matters on an hourly basis and where those matters were completed at another firm that hired the partner? (2) If the answer to question (1) is "yes," then does District of Columbia law allow a partner's former law firm to recover those profits from the partner's new law firm under an unjust enrichment theory? (3) Under District of Columbia law what interest, if any, does a dissolved law firm have in profits earned on legal matters that were in progress but not completed at the time the law firm was dissolved, where the dissolved law firm had been retained to handle the matters on an hourly basis, and where those matters were completed at different pre-existing firms that hired partners of the dissolved firm post-dissolution? View "Diamond v. Hogan Lovells US LLP" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action alleging a claim of legal malpractice. The panel held that what little business Lincoln One conducted was done in Missouri—its state of incorporation—making both Lincoln One and its wholly-owned subsidiary, plaintiff, putative citizens of that state alone. Therefore, there was complete diversity between the parties because defendant was a California citizen. The panel conditionally reversed the district court's jurisdictional dismissal and remanded so that it may consider in the first instance whether Lincoln One and plaintiff were alter egos or there was jurisdictional manipulation that would warrant treating plaintiff as a California citizen. In regard to the issue of classifying the citizenship of a holding company such as Lincoln One that has engaged in no activity other than incorporation, the panel held that a recently-formed holding company's principal place of business is the place where it has its board meetings, regardless of whether such meetings have already occurred, unless evidence shows that the corporation is directed from elsewhere. View "3123 SMB LLC V. Horn" on Justia Law

by
Movant-Appellee Nabors Drilling USA, L.P. filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. That filing triggered the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(1), which generally applied to protect a debtor after it has filed for bankruptcy protection. The question presented in this case was whether that stay applied to a lawsuit filed by appellant-plaintiff Jeremy Porter, who has asserted a claim under California’s Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”). Porter contended the exception established in 11 U.S.C. 362(b)(4) applied to exempt his PAGA claim from the automatic stay. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the exception does not apply to a claim brought by a private party under PAGA, and therefore granted Nabors’s motion to recognize the automatic stay. View "Porter v. Nabors Drilling USA, L.P." on Justia Law

by
The SBA guaranteed a loan between a private bank and Michael Bensal's company, BCI. The private bank filed suit against BCI as the borrower and Bensal as a personal guarantor after BCI defaulted on the loan. The private bank recovered a default judgment and assigned that judgment to the SBA. Bensal later received an inheritance from his father's trust that he did not accept and, instead, disclaimed. Bensal's disclaimer of the inheritance legally passed his trust share to his two children and prevented creditors from accessing his trust share under California law. The SBA filed suit seeking to satisfy the default judgment. The court held that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 28 U.S.C. 3301-3308, displaces California's disclaimer law. In this case, the court concluded that Bensal's disclaimer constitutes a transfer of property under the FDCPA, and California disclaimer law did not operate to prevent the SBA from reaching Bensal's trust share. The court also concluded that the portion of the default judgment based on the second loan, which was guaranteed by the SBA, was a debt within the meaning of the FDCPA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "SBA v. Bensal" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, shareholders of Wynn Resorts, challenged two actions the board took on behalf of its subsidiary Wynn Macau: a 2011 decision to donate $135 million to the University of Macau Development Foundation, and a 2012 decision to redeem the shares held by a former director named Kazuo Okada, who was the only director to vote against the donation. Plaintiffs filed a derivative action, alleging that the director defendants breached their fiduciary duties and committed corporate waste by approving the Macau donation because the donation caused the company to incur legal expenses and be exposed to potential liability. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants breached their fiduciary duties by redeeming Okada’s shares because such action had no legitimate purpose and merely encumbered the company with a higher debt load. The district court dismissed the amended complaint. At issue is whether shareholders may pursue a derivative lawsuit against a corporation’s board of directors despite their failure to demand that the board initiate this litigation itself. Plaintiffs argued that demand would be futile. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that jurisdiction is improper under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2) because both plaintiffs and some defendants are American citizens; one of the defendants is neither a citizen of a State nor a citizen of a foreign state for jurisdiction under section 1332(a)(3); but, the court dismissed that defendant as a dispensable party under Rule 19 in order to make jurisdiction under section 1332(a)(3) proper. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the shareholders failed to comply with Rule 23.1 or state law governing demand futility. The court concluded that plaintiffs' broad-based domination theory is simply too speculative and insufficiently particularized to satisfy the heightened pleading requirements of Rule 23.1; the court rejected plaintiffs' theory that demand is excused based on allegations that the directors face a substantial likelihood of liability for approving the Macau donation; and the court rejected plaintiffs' theory that demand is futile because there is a reasonable doubt that the directors will be entitled to the business judgment rule if the Okada redemption is challenged in court. Finally, the court rejected plaintiffs' claim that the district court illicitly considered materials extraneous to the complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "LMPERS v. Wynn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

by
Marcus Katz contributed stock to MK Hillside, a partnership between him and his wholly owned corporation. After the IRS issued a Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment (FPAA) to MK Hillside on January 2, 2008, finding that MK Hillside was a sham, lacked economic substance, and was formed and used principally to avoid taxes, Katz petitioned the tax court contesting the finding and asserting the statute of limitations. The IRS determined that 26 U.S.C. 6501(e)(1)'s six-year statute of limitations applied because Katz’s omission of the $198,000 credit from a collar termination on his 1999 return constituted more than 25% of the gross income reported on the return. The tax court denied summary judgment, holding that a trial would be necessary to determine whether Katz in fact omitted substantial income from his 1999 return. To avoid a trial, the parties agreed to a Stipulation of Facts and a Second Stipulation of Settled Issues. Based on those stipulations, the tax court held that the period for assessing tax on the 1999 MK Hillside partnership items was open as to Katz. The court concluded that, because the tax court had jurisdiction to consider Katz's argument, it necessarily had jurisdiction to reject it, at least for purposes of the partnership proceeding. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "MK Hillside Partners v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Tax Law

by
Millennium filed suit against Ameritox, alleging claims of trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and unfair competition under California Business and Professions Code section 17200. Millennium and Ameritox compete in the medication monitoring industry, and sell urine-testing services to healthcare providers who treat chronic pain patients with powerful pain medications. The district court granted Ameritox summary judgment. At issue is whether a product’s visual layout is functional, defeating a claim for trade dress infringement. The court concluded that, under the Au-Tomotive Gold two-step test, the district court erred by granting summary judgment to Ameritox on Millennium’s trade dress claim. In regard to the first step, genuine issues of material fact remain regarding whether Millennium's claimed trade dress has any utilitarian advantages. Under the second step, because Millennium has presented evidence that the graphical format served in part a source identifying function, Millennium has presented enough evidence to allow a jury to assess the question of aesthetic functionality. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Millennium Labs. v. Ameritox, Ltd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Trademark

by
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against defendants, a group of developers and their agents or affiliates, claiming that defendants' business practices violated California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 et seq. Plaintiffs specifically alleged that defendants failed to make certain disclosures as required by the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (ILSA), 15 U.S.C. 1701 et seq. Although defendants concede that they failed to comply with the disclosure requirements, they raise certain affirmative defenses. The district court rejected defendants' claims and granted partial summary judgment for plaintiffs. In this interlocutory appeal, the court affirmed the judgment. The court concluded that, because the UCL's four-year statute of limitations and its accompanying accrual rules apply, the district court properly concluded that plaintiffs’ UCL claim is not time-barred; defendants failed to overcome the strong presumption against preemption, and ILSA’s three-year statute of limitations does not bar plaintiffs’ UCL claim; plaintiffs' units are "lots" and are therefore subject to ILSA's disclosure requirements; the Improved Lot Exemption does not extinguish plaintiffs’ claims; the text and interpretive history of the statute lead to the conclusion that the agency’s interpretation of “lot” is reasonable and entitled to Chevron deference; and the 2014 Amendment to ILSA does not retroactively apply to the present action where the amendment was a substantive change in the law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Beaver v. Tarsadia Hotels" on Justia Law