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Kevin M. LaCroix is an attorney and Executive Vice President, RT ProExec, a division of R-T Specialty, LLC. RT ProExec is an insurance intermediary focused exclusively on management liability issues.

Last summer and early fall there was a rash of shareholder derivative lawsuits – mostly filed in California, mostly filed against tech companies – based on allegations that the target companies’ boards had breached their duties by failing to include African American board members. The filings of these kinds of lawsuits trickled off after the California legislature adopted a bill requiring companies based in California to meet specified board diversity requirements. However, if a recent lawsuit filied is any indication, the board diversity lawsuit filing trend may not have entirely played out after all.

On February 9, 2021, a plaintiff shareholder launched a new board diversity lawsuit, this time against the board of Micron Technology. As discussed below, this most recent lawsuit is different than the earlier lawsuits in certain key ways. A copy of the complaint against the Micron Technology board can be found here.
Continue Reading Micron Technology Hit with Board Diversity Law Suit

Barely six weeks into the new year, there have already been (according to the SPACInsider website) 127 Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) IPOs so far this year — that is, in less than a month and a half, there have already been more than 50% of the number of SPAC IPOs as there were in all 52 weeks of the record-setting 2020 SPAC offering year. The SPAC IPO extravaganza has many implications, but unquestionably among the many related consequences is that following-on to the wave of SPAC offerings is the possibility that we are about to see an increase in SPAC-related litigation.

Anyone interested in seeing what this coming litigation might look like will want to take review the securities class action complaint filed last week in the Middle District of Tennessee against Clover Health Investments, a health services firm became a publicly traded company in January 2021 through reverse merger with a SPAC from the SPAC IPO class of 2020. The February 5, 2021 complaint, a copy of which can be found here, alleges that the de-SPAC transaction-related documents and disclosures failed to disclose, among other things, that the acquisition target company was the subject of a DOJ investigation.
Continue Reading Securities Suit Alleges Failure to Disclose DOJ Investigation Before De-SPAC Transaction

In my recent annual round-up of the top stories in the world of D&O liability, I noted that among the key D&O issues is the possibility of claims against corporate directors and officers arising out of cybersecurity incidents. One of the more interesting cybersecurity-related D&O claims in recent years is the securities class action lawsuit a plaintiff shareholder filed against FedEx in connection with the company’s disclosures concerning the “NotPetya” virus cyberattack on its European operations. What made the lawsuit interesting is that it involved not the company’s disclosures at the time of the cyber incident but rather concerned the company’s subsequent statements about the company’s recovery from the attack and the attack’s longer-term impact on its finances, operations, and business strategy. In a February 4, 2021 opinion (here), Southern District of New York Judge Ronnie Abrams granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the FedEx NotPetya securities lawsuit, with prejudice. As I discuss below, the opinion has some interesting lessons on the importance of precautionary disclosure.
Continue Reading FedEx “NotPetya” Cyberattack Securities Suit Dismissed

It is not uncommon for coverage disputes to arise in connection with D&O insurance claims, but every now and then there is a coverage dispute so broad that it constitutes a veritable D&O insurance coverage curriculum. That was certainly the case in what a Delaware Superior Court judge called the “sprawling insurance coverage dispute” between a unit of Northrup Grumman and its predecessors-in-interest’s D&O insurers. The coverage dispute arose out of underlying claims relating to the 2015 merger of Alliant Techsystems, Inc and Orbital Sciences Corporation to form Orbital ATK, Inc. The court’s lengthy opinion on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment and for judgment on the pleadings covers a wide variety of recurring D&O insurance coverage issues and makes for interesting reading for anyone involved with D&O insurance. The Delaware Superior Court’s February 2, 2021 opinion in the Northrup Grumman case can be found here.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Addresses “Sprawling” Northrup Grumman D&O Insurance Coverage Dispute

As I have noted in prior posts, there has been a recent renewed focus among observers of Delaware corporate case law development on breach of the duty of oversight claims (sometimes called Caremark claims in reference to the initial Court of Chancery decision elaborating on the duty of oversight). Indeed, at least one academic commentator has suggested, based on a series of Delaware court rulings during 2019-2020, that we have entered a “new era” of Caremark claims.

But though there have been a number of high profile cases in which breach of the duty of oversight claims have been sustained, a recent Delaware Court of Chancery decision underscores the fact that the pleading hurdles for these types of claims are still substantial, and, indeed, as discussed below, at least one set of commentators has suggested that this most recent decision raises the question whether the pleading bar for these types of claims has changed at all. The Delaware Court of Chancery’s December 31, 2020 decision in Richardson v. Clark can be found here.
Continue Reading Del. Chancery Court: Caremark Claims Against MoneyGram Board Not Sustained

Securities class action lawsuit filings declined 22% in 2020 compared to the year prior but remained well above long-term annual averages, according to a February 3, 2021 report by Cornerstone Research published in conjunction with the Stanford Law School Securities Class Action Clearinghouse. The Cornerstone Research report’s analysis of the 2020 filings is consistent with prior reports on the topic; however, the Cornerstone Research report, unlike prior reports, includes data both for federal and for state securities class action lawsuit filings. The Cornerstone Research report can be found here. Cornerstone Research’s February 3, 2021 press release about the report can be found here.
Continue Reading Cornerstone Research: Both Federal and State Securities Suit Filings Declined in 2020

In the latest sign that COVID-19 related securities litigation is on track to continue into 2021, a plaintiff shareholder has filed a securities class action lawsuit against Tyson Foods, Inc. relating to the company’s disclosures and actions in its facilities pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak. The plaintiff’s February 2, 2021 complaint can be found here. As noted below, I have some concerns about the complaint.
Continue Reading Tyson Foods Hit with COVID-19-Related Securities Suit

It has been over ten years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Morrison v National Australia Bank – yet the lower courts continue to struggle with its application in specific situations. Morrison clarified that the U.S. securities laws apply to securities transactions on U.S. securities exchanges and to domestic transactions in other securities. It is Morrison’s second prong, relating to domestic transactions in other securities, that continues to vex the courts.

In a recent decision, the Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a securities lawsuit on the grounds that the underlying securities transaction, even if domestic, was so “predominantly foreign” as to be “impermissibly extraterritorial.” As discussed below, the Second Circuit’s decision underscores an ongoing question of how far beyond Morrison’s “domestic transaction” question courts should go in determining whether U.S. securities laws apply to a transaction. The Second Circuit’s January 25, 2021 decision in Cavello Bay Reinsurance Ltd v. Stein can be found here.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Securities Suit Involving “Predominantly Foreign” Transaction

Long-time readers know that I have a particular interest in the SEC whistleblower program. I have been interested in it since it was first put into effect now almost ten years ago. One reason I was interested in it from the very outset is that I thought that a pattern might emerge in which whistleblowers submitted their reports to the SEC, the SEC launched an investigation or enforcement action, and then company shareholders filed related securities class action lawsuits based on the circumstances revealed in the whistleblower’s report.

By and large, the third step in this anticipated pattern has not emerged. As far as I am aware, there have not been private securities suits filed after SEC whistleblower reports triggered SEC investigation or enforcement actions – until now, that is. On January 28, 2021, a plaintiff shareholder filed a securities class action against Exxon Mobil relating to news reports that the SEC has launched an investigation of the company based on whistleblower reports questioning the company’s asset valuations of its Permian basin oil fields. A copy of the plaintiff’s complaint can be found here.
Continue Reading Securities Suit Filed Against Exxon Mobil Based on SEC Whistleblower Allegations

In a recently recorded PLUS podcast, Willis Tower Watson’s Rob Yellen and I examine the potential impact of the new Presidential administration on the world of corporate directors’ and officers’ liability. Rob and I are joined in the podcast by John Fielding, who is Chubb’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Global Government and Industry