As I have documented on this site, over the last few months plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed a series of lawsuits against the directors of companies that allegedly lack African American representatives on their corporate boards. Many of these lawsuits, particularly at the outset of this litigation filing trend, were filed by the same law firm. Among the first of these lawsuits was a shareholder derivative lawsuit filed in July 2020 against the board of the social media company, Facebook. In an order dated March 19, 2021 (here), Northern District of California Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint. The dismissal was without prejudice with respect to the plaintiff’s proxy misrepresentation claims under Section 14(a). As discussed below, the court’s ruling could have important implications for the other pending (and prospective future) board diversity lawsuits.
Continue Reading Facebook Board Diversity Lawsuit Dismissal Motion Granted

Regular readers will recall that last summer and fall there was a series of lawsuits filed against the directors of several publicly traded companies that had no African Americans on their boards. For a time, it seemed as if this litigation outbreak had subsided, as no further lawsuits were filed after the end of September. However, the impression that this phenomenon had played itself out was dispelled in February, when a plaintiff shareholder filed yet another board diversity lawsuit against the directors of Micron Technology. Now, in the latest sign that the board diversity litigation movement may have even further to run, on March 5, 2020, a plaintiff shareholder filed yet another board diversity lawsuit, this time against Florida-based healthcare company, OPKO Health, Inc. The lawsuit against OPKO Health’s board can be found here.
Continue Reading OPKO Health Hit with Board Diversity Lawsuit

President Biden’s nominee to head the SEC, Gary Gensler, faced a grilling today before the U.S Senate banking committee as his nomination  proceeds through Congress. Although the outcome of his nomination technically remains uncertain, his eventual confirmation seems likely. With that possibility in mind, it seems timely to look ahead at some of the issues the agency may address and initiatives the agency may advance under the new administration.  As it is, because of some initiatives that already underway, it is possible to project where we might be headed, at least to a certain extent.
Continue Reading What’s Ahead at the SEC?

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

The directors’ and officers’ liability environment is always changing, but 2020 was a particularly eventful year, with important consequences for the D&O insurance marketplace. The past year’s many developments also have significant implications for what may lie ahead in 2021 – and possibly for years to come.  I have set out below the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2020, with a focus on the future implications. Please note that on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST, my colleague Marissa Streckfus and I will be conducting a free, hour-long webinar in which we will discuss The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2020. Registration for the webinar can be found here. I hope you will please join us for the webinar.
Continue Reading The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2020

In the latest development in what has become a widespread push toward greater board diversity, Nasdaq has filed a proposal with the SEC that would require Nasdaq-listed companies to disclose whether the companies meet Nasdaq-specified board diversity requirements. If approved, the new listing rules would require companies to have at least one female director and one director who is a racial minority or who self-identifies as LGBTQ+, or to provide an explanation why they do not. A copy of Nasdaq’s December 1, 2020 proposal can be found here. Nasdaq’s December 1, 2020 press release concerning the proposal can be found here.
Continue Reading Nasdaq Pushes Proposed Board Diversity Listing Rules

Michael W. Peregrine

In the following guest post, Michael W. Peregrine, a partner at the McDermott, Will, Emery law firm, takes a look at the impact the administration of President-Elect Joe Biden may have on corporate governance. This article is based on a feature Peregrine originally posted on Forbes.com and available here. I would like to thank Michael for allowing me to publish his article as a guest post on this 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 a guest post. Here is Michael’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Biden in the Boardroom: What to Expect On Corporate Governance From the New Administration

As I have noted in prior posts, one of the follow-on effects of the recent racial justice movement has been increased scrutiny of racial diversity within corporate management, and in particular on corporate boards. The boards of several publicly traded companies have been hit with shareholder derivative lawsuits alleging that the directors breached their fiduciary duties by failing to include African-American individuals on the boards, while at the same time the companies were touting their diversity and inclusion efforts.

In addition to the recent litigation, efforts to advance board racial diversity have included legislation. Earlier this year, the California legislature passed a bill mandating the inclusion on boards of California headquartered companies of representatives of “underrepresented communities.” On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law. As discussed below, even though the law has only been in place for a few days, a lawsuit challenging the bill has already been filed.
Continue Reading California Board of Directors Diversity Bill Signed Into Law, Challenged by Lawsuit

California-based high technology firm Cisco Systems is the latest company to be hit with a racial diversity lawsuit, based on allegations that its directors breached their fiduciary duties to the company by failing to include an African-American on the company’s board, despite the company’s numerous statements about its commitment to diversity. Though this latest lawsuit is in many respects similar to the previously filed board diversity lawsuits, it does differ in that it was not filed by the plaintiffs’ firm that has filed most of these lawsuits and also because the lawsuit follows a pre-suit demand on Cisco’s board, by contrast to most of the prior suits where the plaintiffs had made no demand and instead argued demand futility. A copy of the complaint in the Cisco Systems action can be found here.
Continue Reading Cisco Systems Hit With Board Diversity Lawsuit

The current racial justice movement has created an environment in which corporations and other organizations are under pressure to reconsider and address their diversity and inclusion practices. Organizations that lack racial diversity in their corporate leadership – particularly on their boards of directors – have come in for increasing criticism and, as I have noted on this blog (most recently here), the possibility of board diversity litigation. In addition, beyond the scrutiny and litigation, the California legislature has passed a bill that would require publicly traded companies in the state to have at least one director from a minority community by the close of 2021.

It now appears that as a result of both the scrutiny, the legislation, and perhaps even because of the litigation threat, a number of companies have proactively taken steps to address these issues by pleading to add a Black director to their boards within a year.
Continue Reading Growing Number of Companies Pledge to Address Board Diversity Issues