Last fall, directors of the life insurance settlement company Imperial Holdings adopted an apparently unique tactic to rein in suits by shareholders. As I reported at the time, the board amended Imperial’s bylaws to require shareholders to deliver written consent from the owners of at least 3 percent of the company’s outstanding shares in order to bring a class action or derivative suit.
Stuart Grant of Grant & Eisenhofer has broken out the exclamation points – three of them in a row – in a new motion asserting that Wal-Mart should be fined more than $1 million for failing to turn over documents related to its internal investigation of bribes allegedly paid by its Mexican operation. According to the filing, Wal-Mart’s lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Potter Anderson & Corroon signed misleading certifications in October, attesting that they had decided what documents Wal-Mart would produce in order to comply with an order from Delaware Chancery Court.
On Thursday, the mining and metals company Freeport-McMoRan filed the long-awaited settlement of shareholder claims in Delaware Chancery Court that it overpaid for two affiliates whose 2013 acquisition was tainted by directors’ conflict of interest. Freeport agreed to pay $137.5 million, $115 million of which will come from its insurers. That’s the third-biggest-ever cash payout in a derivative settlement, behind the record-setting $275 million Activision Blizzard deal last November and the $139 million News Corp settlement in 2013.
I felt downright nostalgic when I saw that Apple and Ericsson have sued each other over licensing fees for Ericsson’s standard-essential patents for wireless technology. It feels so long since the days when smart device patent filings were a daily occurrence!
If you are an employee who has signed a contract requiring you to arbitrate claims against your employer, you’re pretty much stuck with it. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion in 2011 and American Express v. Italian Colors in 2012, employees (and consumers, for that matter) have little to no hope of litigating their cases in court – rather than before arbitration panels – when they’ve agreed to arbitration clauses. But should employees’ arbitration agreements with their employers also force them to arbitrate against co-defendants that haven’t signed the agreements?
I am sure that Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which provides free help to low-income and elderly folks in and around St. Louis, could have done a lot of good with the $2.3 or so million it was designated to receive from the settlement fund in a long-running securities class action over the 1998 merger that created Bank of America. But if you believe in the long-term future of class actions, you should welcome an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week that said that Legal Services isn’t entitled to the money.
A three-judge panel at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Jan. 5 in Phillips v. City of New York, in which three families sued the city and the state over enforcement of New York’s law mandating vaccination for public school children. Just two days later, the appeals court affirmed a trial judge’s dismissal of the families’ constitutional challenge. In a 14-page per curiam opinion, 2nd Circuit Judges Gerard Lynch and Denny Chin and U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of Brooklyn, sitting by designation, said that New York’s mandatory vaccine law does not violate the families’ constitutional due process, equal protection or religious freedom rights.
Companies involved in mergers and acquisitions lost a couple of big decisions Tuesday in Delaware Chancery Court, where Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock assured the future of a burgeoning investment strategy known as “appraisal arbitrage.” But according to a forthcoming study – the first in-depth analysis of the recent explosion in post-merger suits over the fair market value of stock in M&A targets – appraisal arbitrage litigation is a boon to shareholders.
On Monday, JPMorgan Chase filed a letter with U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield of Manhattan, reporting an agreement to settle a big antitrust class action alleging that the bank colluded with 11 other global financial institutions to manipulate benchmark trading prices in the foreign exchange market. My colleague Jon Stempel reported that JPMorgan – which was one of six banks in a $4.3 billion forex deal with U.S. and British regulators in November – will pay about $100 million to private plaintiffs who claim to have lost money as a result of the alleged price-fixing conspiracy.
Based on sheer numbers of people affected, I doubt there’s any litigation bigger than data breach class actions. Information on hundreds of millions of consumers has been exposed by hackers who overcame corporate cyber-defenses at banks and retailers such as JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot and eBay. That’s an awful lot of plaintiffs for privacy breach defendants to face.