Delaware Chancery Court Ruling Could Allow a Second Chance on Demand Futility Rulings

If a “fast filer” plaintiff races to the courthouse in one jurisdiction to file a derivative suit without prior due diligence, should a dismissal of the  lawsuit for failure to plead demand futility preclude a separate derivative lawsuit brought be a different , more diligent plaintiff who files in a second forum? On the one hand, considerations of judicial efficiency and conservation of public resources argues in favor of precluding the second claim. On the other hand, policies in favor of greater pre-suit care prior to filing a lawsuit would militate in allowing the more diligent plaintiff’s claim to go forward.

 

In an interesting July 25, 2017 opinion (here) in which he reviewed these questions of the prior derivate suit dismissal’s claim preclusive effects on subsequent non-party claimant derivative claims, Chancellor Andre Bouchard concluded, in a break with the Court’s prior practices, the prior derivative suit dismissal on grounds of failure to plead demand futility does not preclude the claims of a subsequent claimant. This new approach to the issue of non-party preclusion in derivative litigation has important practical implications, as discussed below. Continue Reading

Cornerstone Research: First Half Securities Suit Filings at Record Pace

Securities class action lawsuits were filed at a record pace in the first half of 2017, according to the latest report from Cornerstone Research. While the surge in securities suit filings is due in part to the rise of federal court merger objection lawsuit filings, both traditional securities suit filings and M&A filings were “at historic levels.” The Report, jointly prepared by Cornerstone Research in conjunction with the Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse and entitled “Securities Class Action Filings – 2017 Mid-Year Assessment,” can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s July 25, 2017 press release about the report can be found here. My own analysis of the first half securities suit filings can be found here. Continue Reading

District Court Holds Crime Policy Covers Payment Instruction Fraud

One of the more vexing threats in the current business environment is the rise of “social engineering fraud” or “payment instruction fraud.” In these schemes scammers using official-seeming email communications induce company employees to transfer company funds to the imposters’ account. Among the many issues involved when these kinds of scams occur is the question of insurance coverage for the loss. In many instances, insurers take the position that because the schemes do not involve a “hacking” of the company’s systems and because the actual funds transfers are voluntary, the loss of funds is not covered under commercial crime policies.

 

However, in a July 21, 2017 decision (here), Southern District of New York Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr., applying New York law, held that Mediadata Solutions Inc.’s commercial crime policy covered the company’s loss of $4.77 million transferred in response to an email instruction that falsely appeared to be from the company’s President. The court’s decision raises and addressed a number of interesting issues, as discussed below. Continue Reading

U.K. Court Halts Effort to Use New Opt-Out Class Action Procedures

The highest-profile attempt to utilize the new U.K. regime for consumer class actions has come to a grinding halt. The case involved a claim alleging that MasterCard’s fee structure had resulted in overcharges to tens of millions of U.K. consumers. On July 21, 2017, the Competition Appeal Tribunal, newly re-organized to oversee the consumer class action regime, declined to grant the necessary collective proceedings order that would have allowed the action to go forward. The tribunal’s ruling is highly fact-specific and its decision to decline the collective proceedings order very much reflects the specific features of the claims against MasterCard, but the ruling nevertheless does raise concerns about the viability of the class action regime and its attractiveness to prospective claimants in other cases. A copy of the Tribunal’s July 21, 2017 order can be found here. Continue Reading

D&O Insurance: Securing Coverage for Books and Records Requests

The right of shareholders to demand inspection of companies’ books and records is of course nothing new. What is new is the increased frequency of books and records demands, often as a result of courts’ requirement for prospective shareholder claimants to investigate alleged misconduct of corporate executives before filing a lawsuit. The scope of the books and records requests is also expanding as well. These developments raise a number of D&O insurance coverage issues, which in turn has led to the rise of a variety of policy wording alternatives, as discussed in a recent paper. Continue Reading

Up Next: Mandatory Securities Claim Arbitration Provisions?

For a while a few years ago, litigation reform bylaws were all the rage – including forum selection bylaws, fee shifting bylaws, even mandatory arbitration bylaws. More recently, discussion of the topic quieted down, in part because the Delaware legislature enacted legislation allowing Delaware corporations to adopt forum selection bylaws while also prohibiting fee-shifting bylaws. However, the topic of litigation reform bylaws may be back on the docket again. In a speech earlier this week, SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar invited companies heading toward an IPO to adopt arbitration provisions in their corporate bylaws. Continue Reading

Turning Events into Securities Suits

It may come as little surprise that litigation has emerged in the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London last month. Some may find it surprising, however, that among the lawsuits arising from the London building fire is a securities class action suit filed in the United States. The lawsuit is just the latest example of the follow-on securities suit, a phenomenon that, as discussed below, is one of several factors that helps explain the current elevated pace of securities class action lawsuit filings in the U.S. Continue Reading

Guest Post: Ransomware Payment: Legality, Logistics, Mitigation, and Insurance

John Stark Reed

Readers undoubtedly are aware of the recent outbreak of ransomware incidents and the problems they present. The threat of ransomware attacks poses a host of issues, among the most significant of which is whether or not ransomware victims should go ahead and make the demanded ransomware payment as the quickest way to try to recover captured systems. In the following blog post, John Reed Stark, President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, takes a comprehensive look that problems involved with making payments in response to a ransomware attack. A version of this article originally appeared on CybersecurityDocket.

 

I would like to thank John for his willingness to publish his article on my site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit an article. Here is John’s guest post. Continue Reading

Professional Services Exclusion Precludes Coverage for All Insureds, Not Just Those Performing Services

If a D&O insurance policy exclusion precludes coverage for loss arising out of the performance of professional services, does the exclusion preclude coverage for all insureds or just the insureds who performed the services? In a July 5, 2017 opinion (here), the Eleventh Circuit, applying Florida law in a case related to the Rothstein law firm Ponzi scheme scandal, held that a bank’s D&O insurance policy’s professional services exclusion’s preclusive effect applied jointly and therefore precluded coverage for all insureds, not just for the individuals delivering the services. The decision raises some interesting issues, as discussed below. Continue Reading

Morrison Issues Cloud Class Certification in Petrobras Securities Litigation

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2010 decision in Morrison v. National Australia Bank, the lower courts have wrestled with the issue of whether or not the transactions at issue in a particular securities suit were sufficiently “domestic” to bring them under the U.S. securities laws. These inquiries mostly have taken place at the motion to dismiss phase. However, as demonstrated in the Second Circuit’s July 7, 2017 decision in the Petrobras securities case, the “domestic” transactions inquiry is relevant at the class certification stage as well. The appellate court held that in determining whether or not Petrobras noteholders’ claims can proceed on a class-wide basis, the district court must, in light of the federal class action procedure’s “predominance” requirement, determine whether or not common questions outweigh individual questions of transactional domesticity. The appellate court’s ruling, which can be found here, could complicate class certification in cases involving non-U.S. companies whose securities do not trade on U.S. exchanges.   Continue Reading

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