Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
SEAVIEW TRADING, LLC, AGK INVE V. CIR
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) generally has three years from the date a taxpayer files a tax return to assess any taxes that are owed for that year. In this case, we must decide whether a partnership “filed” its 2001 tax return by faxing a copy of that return to an IRS revenue agent in 2005 or by mailing a copy to an IRS attorney in 2007. If either of those actions qualified as a “filing” of the partnership’s return, the statute of limitations would bar the IRS’s decision, more than three years later, to disallow a large loss the partnership had claimed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s decision. The court held that neither Seaview Trading LLC’s faxing a copy of their delinquent 2001 tax return to an IRS revenue agent in 2005, nor mailing a copy to an IRS attorney in 2007, qualified as a “filing” of the partnership’s return, and therefore the statute of limitations did not bar the IRS’s readjustment of the partnership’s tax liability. The court concluded that because Seaview did not meticulously comply with the regulation’s place-for-filing requirement, it was not entitled to claim the benefit of the three-year limitations period. The court wrote that its conclusion was consistent with cases from other circuits and a long line of Tax Court decisions. The court also rejected Seaview’s argument that the regulation’s place-for-filing requirement applies only to returns that are timely filed—not to those that are filed late. View "SEAVIEW TRADING, LLC, AGK INVE V. CIR" on Justia Law
NOELLE LEE V. ROBERT FISHER
Plaintiff brought a shareholder derivative action alleging that The Gap, Inc. and its directors (collectively, Gap) failed to create meaningful diversity within company leadership roles, and that Gap made false statements to shareholders in its proxy statements about the level of diversity it had achieved. Gap’s bylaws contain a forum-selection clause that requires “any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of the Corporation” to be adjudicated in the Delaware Court of Chancery.Notwithstanding the forum-selection clause, Plaintiff brought her derivative lawsuit in a federal district court in California, alleging a violation of Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. Section 78n(a), along with various state law claims. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint based on its application of the doctrine of forum non conveniens, holding that she was bound by the forum selection clause.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal and held that Plaintiff did not meet her burden to show that enforcing Gap’s forum-selection clause contravenes federal public policy, rejecting as unavailing the evidence Plaintiff identified as supporting her position: the Securities Exchange Act’s anti-waiver provision and exclusive federal jurisdiction provision, Delaware state case law, and a federal court’s obligation to hear cases within its jurisdiction. The court, therefore, concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the complaint. View "NOELLE LEE V. ROBERT FISHER" on Justia Law
Meland v. Weber
California Senate Bill 826 requires all corporations headquartered in California to have a minimum number of females on their boards of directors. Corporations that do not comply with SB 826 may be subject to monetary penalties. The shareholders of OSI, a corporation covered by SB 826, elect members of the board of directors. One shareholder of OSI challenged the constitutionality of SB 826 on the ground that it requires shareholders to discriminate on the basis of sex when exercising their voting rights, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit for lack of standing. The plaintiff plausibly alleged that SB 826 requires or encourages him to discriminate based on sex and, therefore, adequately alleged an injury-in-fact, the only Article III standing element at issue. Plaintiff’s alleged injury was also distinct from any injury to the corporation, so he could bring his own Fourteenth Amendment challenge and had prudential standing to challenge SB 826. The injury was ongoing and neither speculative nor hypothetical, and the district court could grant meaningful relief. The case was therefore ripe and not moot. View "Meland v. Weber" on Justia Law
Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.
Bio-Rad and its CEO appealed a jury verdict in favor of the company's former general counsel finding that defendants violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the Dodd-Frank Act, and California public policy by terminating general counsel's employment in retaliation. General counsel produced an internal report that he believed Bio-Rad had engaged in serious and prolonged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in China.The Ninth Circuit vacated in part and held that the district court erred by instructing the jury that statutory provisions of the FCPA constitute rules or regulations of the SEC for purposes of whether general counsel engaged in protected activity under section 806 of the SOX. However, the panel rejected Bio-Rad's argument that no properly instructed jury could return a SOX verdict in favor of general counsel. The panel held that the district court's SOX instructional error was harmless and affirmed as to the California public policy claim. The panel remanded for further consideration. View "Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law
Arduini v. Int’l Gaming Tech.
Shareholders are required to make a “demand” on the corporation’s board of directors before filing a derivative suit, unless they sufficiently allege that demand would be futile. Before Arduini filed his derivative action against IGT and its board, four shareholders filed derivative suits that were consolidated. They argued that a demand was excused because: the IGT board extended the employment contract of IGT’s former CEO and chairman of IGT’s board of directors, and allowed him to resign rather than terminating him for cause; three directors received such high compensation from IGT that their ability to impartially consider a demand was compromised; six directors faced a substantial likelihood of liability for breaches of their fiduciary duties as committee members; and that other members had engaged in insider trading. The district court dismissed the consolidated suit for failure to make a demand or sufficiently allege futility; the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The district court then dismissed Arduini’s action, holding that Arduini had failed to make a demand and could not allege demand futility based on issue preclusion due to its ruling in the prior suit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that under Nevada law and these facts, issue preclusion barred relitigation of futility. View "Arduini v. Int'l Gaming Tech." on Justia Law
Rosenbloom v. Pyott
Allergan, the pharmaceutical manufacturer of Botox, settled several qui tam suits concerning allegations that it had acted illegally in marketing and labeling Botox, and pled guilty in a criminal case. Plaintiffs, all Allergan shareholders, subsequently filed a derivative action alleging that Allergan's directors are liable for violations of various state and federal laws, as well as breaches of their fiduciary duties to Allergan. Plaintiffs failed to make a demand on Allergan's board requesting that Allergan bring the derivative claims in its own name. The court concluded that the district court misapplied governing Delaware law and improperly drew inferences against plaintiffs rather than in their favor when the district court dismissed the action on the ground that plaintiffs failed to allege particularized facts showing that demand was excused under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.1. The court concluded that demand was excused where plaintiffs' particularized allegations established a reasonable doubt as to whether the Board faces a substantial likelihood of liability and as to whether the Board is protected by the business judgment rule. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court.View "Rosenbloom v. Pyott" on Justia Law
In re: Fitness Holdings Int’l
Fitness Holdings, the debtor in this bankruptcy case, was a home fitness corporation. At issue was whether debtor's pre-bankruptcy transfer of funds to its sole shareholder, in repayment of a purported loan, could be a constructively fraudulent transfer under 11 U.S.C. 548(a)(1)(B). The court held that a court has the authority to determine whether a transaction created a debt if it created a right to payment under state law. Because the district court concluded that it lacked authority to make this determination, the court vacated the decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Fitness Holdings Int'l" on Justia Law
National Elevator Industry Pension Fund v. VeriFone Holdings, Inc., et al
National Elevator, lead plaintiff on behalf of investors who purchased VeriFone stock, appealed the dismissal of its securities fraud class action. National Elevator alleged that VeriFone, the CEO and former Chairman of the Board of Directors, and the company's former CFO and Executive Vice President, violated sections 10(b), 20(a), and 20A of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78t-1(a), and 78t(a), and Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10-b, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5(b), in connection with a December 2007 restatement of financial results. The court held that National Elevator adequately pleaded violations of section 10B and Rule 10b as to all defendants; its section 20A claim against the individual defendants was sufficiently pled; but the section 20(a) claim was properly dismissed. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and dismissed in part. View "National Elevator Industry Pension Fund v. VeriFone Holdings, Inc., et al" on Justia Law
Cook Inlet Region, Inc. v. Rude, et al.
CIRI filed suit against defendants, shareholders of CIRI, alleging that they had violated the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), 43 U.S.C. 1601-1629(h), and Alaska law. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's holding that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the ANCSA claims. The court held that there was federal jurisdiction under the general federal question jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. 1331, over plaintiff's ANCSA claims because federal law created the cause of action in the claims and because the claims were not frivolous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Cook Inlet Region, Inc. v. Rude, et al." on Justia Law
Taproot Admin. Serv. v. CIR
Under Internal Revenue Code 1361(a) and 1362(a)(1), qualifying small business corporations could affirmatively elect S corporation status for federal income tax purposes. Under Internal Revenue Code 1363(a) and 1366(a)(1)(A), an S corporation's "profits pass through directly to its shareholders on a pro rata basis and are reported on the shareholders' individual tax returns." At issue was whether a corporate taxpayer was ineligible for S corporation status, and therefore must be taxed as a C corporation, because its sole shareholder was a custodial Roth IRA. Taproot contended that a Roth IRA could not be distinguished from its individual owner under a reasonable interpretation of the governing statute. Adhering to this construction, Taproot thus argued that it satisfied the S corporation requirements. The court agreed with the Tax Court that Revenue Ruling 92-73 provided persuasive guidance that IRAs were ineligible for S corporation shareholders. Here, the 2004 amendment, coupled with the prior legislative history, unequivocally supported the IRS's interpretation of the S corporation statute and promulgation of Revenue Ruling 92-73. The court also agreed with the IRS's narrow interpretation of Treasury Regulation 1.1361-1(e)(1), restricting its application of custodial accounts in which corporate dividends were taxed in the year received. Moreover, the court found persuasive the IRS's opinion that ownership of custodial IRAs and Roth IRAs should not be attributed to the underlying individual for purposes of S corporation eligibility. Accordingly, the decision of the Tax Court was affirmed.