Ontario Statute: Directors and Officers of Dissolved Corporations May be Held Liable for Environmental Liabilities

A new Ontario statutory provision affecting the liability of directors and officers of dissolved corporations for environmental remediation costs recently caught my attention. As discussed in a December 5, 2016 memo from the Dentons law firm (here), apparently Ontario corporations have been in the past voluntarily dissolving in order to try to avoid environmental clean-up. Under provisions of the Forfeited Corporate Property Act 2015, which comes into force on December 10, 2016, along with related amendments to the Ontario Business Corporations Act, corporate dissolution will no longer protect former directors and officers from environmental liabilities. This statutory change, which is consistent initiatives in a number of jurisdictions to try to impose liability on corporate and officers without regard to culpability, raises a number of concerns and also highlights a number of larger issues. Continue Reading

Supreme Court: Gift of Insider Information to Friends and Family Supports Insider Trading Conviction

alito

Justice Samuel Alito

In one of the most watched business cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket this term, the Court on December 6, 2016 unanimously affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling upholding the insider trading conviction of Bassam Salman. Salman had traded on tips he received from the brother of a former Citigroup investment banker; Salman himself was married to the sister of the Citigroup banker. The case raised the question of whether or not the “personal benefit” that the tipper received from passing along the trading information must be pecuniary in nature in order to support an insider trading conviction for the tippee.

 

The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, held that a jury could infer that the tipper personally benefited from making a gift of confidential information to a trading relative. The Court rejected the Second Circuit’s suggestion in its 2014 opinion in U.S. v. Newman that the tipper must also have received something of a “pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.” The Supreme Court’s December 6, 2016 opinion in the Salman case can be found here. Continue Reading

RBS Reaches $1 Billion Partial Settlement of Credit Crisis-Related Collective Investor Action

RBSIn the latest signal of the increasing significance of collective investor actions outside of the U.S., on December 5, 2016, Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to pay £800 million ($1 billion) in a settlement with three of the five investor claimant groups that had sued the bank in the U.K. for alleged misrepresentations in connection with its £12 billion pound fundraising effort just months before the British government bailed out the bank. The case will go forward as to the remaining claimant groups, with whom the bank will now attempt to reach a settlement. If the bank is unable to settle with the remaining claimant groups, the case could proceed to trial in March 2017. The partial settlement is by far the largest collective investor action recovery in the U.K. RBS’s December 5, 2016 SEC filing to which its press release announcing the partial settlement is attached can be found here. A December 5, 2016 Reuters article describing the settlement can be found here. Continue Reading

Enron’s Legacies, a Decade and a Half Later

enronFifteen years ago this month, the once high-flying energy company Enron completed its massive collapse when it filed a petition for bankruptcy protection. In his interesting December 2, 2016 post on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (here), Michael Peregrine of the McDermott, Will & Emery law firm takes a retrospective look at Enron’s downfall and suggests a number of different ways that those events have continuing relevance. As I discuss further below, there are, in addition to the considerations Peregrine notes, a number of other continuing legacies of Enron. Continue Reading

Home Depot Data Breach Derivative Lawsuit Dismissed

home depotFor some time now, many commentators (including me) have been predicting that as a result of rising numbers of companies experiencing date breaches that there would be a resulting wave of D&O lawsuits. Indeed, there have been a small number of high profile data security-related D&O lawsuits filed. However, several of those cases – including, for example, the derivative lawsuits filed against Target (about which refer here) and Wyndham Worldwide (here) – have been dismissed.  Following these dismissals, the sole remaining recent high-profile data breach-related derivative lawsuit was the one filed against the directors and officers of Home Depot. However, the Home Depot lawsuit has now also been dismissed as well. The spate of dismissals certainly raises a question about what we may expect with respect to future cybersecurity-related D&O lawsuits. A copy of Northern District of Georgia Judge Thomas Thrash’s November 30, 2016 opinion in the Home Depot derivative lawsuit can be found here. Continue Reading

Football Player’s Concussion Claims Test D&O Policy Exclusion

aflAs I have previously noted (for example, here), several of the standard D&O policy exclusions are designed to keep claims in the their proper lanes – that is, to make sure that the D&O policy doesn’t wind up picking up losses more appropriately addressed by another policy in a policyholder’s insurance program. One of these standard exclusions is the bodily injury and property damage exclusion – or, as it is more commonly known, the BI/PD exclusion – which precludes coverage for claims of bodily injury or property damage that are more appropriately addressed by a CGL policy.

 

A recent federal court decision considered a D&O insurance policy’s BI/PD exclusion in the context of a kind of claim that is becoming increasingly common – a professional athlete’s liability claims for head injuries sustained in competition. In his November 17, 2016 opinion in the case, Eastern District of Louisiana Judge Eldon Fallon concluded that former Arena Football League’s D&O insurance policy’s BI/PD exclusion precluded coverage for Lorenzo Breland’s claims against the league related to head injuries he sustained as a player. However, the specifics of Breland’s claims raise some interesting issues that Judge Fallon’s opinion does not address. These issues in turn raise questions about the exclusion’s appropriate reach. A copy of Judge Fallon’s opinion can be found here. Continue Reading

U.K. Court Sends Cautionary Note to Fledgling Litigation Funders

ukflagA recent U.K. appellate court sends a strong cautionary note to litigation funders about the need for vigorous and independent pre-litigation due diligence and of the risks that can follow their support of an unmeritorious claim. In a November 2016 Judgment, the U.K. Court of Appeal ruled that the litigation funders that supported a claimant’s unsuccessful claim to oil field production rights are jointly and severally liable for the successful parties’ fees and costs. The Court’s ruling acknowledges litigation funding’s role in the system of civil justice, but the Court’s decision also highlights an expectation that the funders must evaluate the claims they support – and, because they have a substantial stake in a claim’s outcome , must accept the consequences if their evaluation is deficient. The U.K. Court of Appeals’ November 18, 2016 decision in Excalibur Ventures LLC v. Texas Keystone, Inc. et al. can be found here. Continue Reading

The Securities Litigation Storm is Already Here

stormIn an interesting post on his D&O Discourse blog earlier this fall (here), Doug Greene of the Lane Powell law firm raised the question whether there is a securities litigation storm brewing. Citing a number of different factors ranging from the SEC whistleblower program to changes in the plaintiffs’ bar, Greene suggested that we could be headed toward a significantly increased number of securities class action lawsuits. I agree with most of what Greene said, except for one thing. The securities litigation storm isn’t on the horizon – it is already here. Continue Reading

Guest Post: The 101 of Litigation Funding in the German D&O-Claims Arena

Burkhard Fassbach

Burkhard Fassbach

Carsten_Wettich_2

Carsten Wettich

One of the most significant recent developments in the litigation environment has been the rise of third-party litigation funding. However, as I noted in a recent post, the impact of litigation funding has varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on differences in the local law. In the following guest post, Burkhard Fassbach, a German attorney and D&O Advisor to the Frankfurt-based MRH TROWE Brokerage Group, and Carsten Wettich, a founding partner of Berner Fleck Wettich, a Dusseldorf-based corporate law firm, take a look at litigation funding environment in German and its impact on the D&O claims arena there. I would like to thank Burkhard and Carsten for their willingness to allow me to publish their article as a guest post. 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 a guest post. Here is Burkhard and Carsten’s guest post. Continue Reading

SEC’s Annual Report Highlights Whistleblower Awards

SEC logoWhen Congress created the SEC Whistleblower program in the Dodd-Frank Act, one of the requirements was that the SEC’s Office of the Whistlblower would provide an annual report to Congress. On November 15, 2016, the SEC released its annual whistleblower report for the 2016 fiscal year (which ended September 30, 2016). The report shows that the agency continues to make substantial awards to whistleblowers, with six of the ten largest awards being made in FY 2016. The report also shows that the volume of whistleblower tips to the agency continues to increase as well. A copy of the agency’s FY 2016 report can be found here. Continue Reading

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