In one of the largest shareholder derivative lawsuit settlements ever, involving a very unusual derivative claim under Cayman Island law prosecuted in a U.S. court on behalf of a China-based Cayman Islands company, the parties to the Renren derivative litigation have agreed to settle the case for at least $300 million. The settlement is subject to a “true up” process that could increase the ultimate amount of the settlement payments. The settlement is also subject to court approval. The parties’ October 7, 2021 settlement stipulation can be found here. Renren’s October 8, 2021 press release about the settlement can be found here. An October 8, 2021 press release from the lead plaintiff’s counsel about the settlement can be found here.
Continue Reading N.Y. Derivative Suit Against China-Based Cayman Islands Company Settles for $300 Million

As I noted in prior posts (here and here), in the last few days a group of plaintiffs’ lawyers that includes former SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson and Yale Law Professor John Morley filed shareholder derivative suits against the boards of three SPACs alleging that the SPACs had improperly failed to register as investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940. In response, a group of 49 corporate law firms has now issued a joint statement decrying the lawsuits and trashing the plaintiffs’ arguments that SPACs are investment companies merely because the SPACs invest their IPO proceeds in trust accounts while seeking a merger partner. The corporate law firms’ joint statement sheds interesting light on the legal theories asserted in the new lawsuits. A copy of the August 27, 2021 joint statement can be found here.
Continue Reading 49 Corporate Law Firms Trash SPACs-Are-Investment-Companies Lawsuits

On my beat here at The D&O Diary, I cover the liabilities of corporate directors and officers. One objection I frequently hear is that I focus too much public companies and not enough on private companies. The reason I write about public company issues more than private company concerns is that the public company world usually is more eventful. However, every now and then, something comes up involving a privately-held company that reminds all of us that plenty happens in the private company D&O world, too. The most recent example is the shareholder derivative and class action lawsuit filed last week against executives of the electronic cigarette company, Juul Labs. As discussed below, this new lawsuit highlights the exposures that private company directors and officers can face and underscores the fact that even private companies can get hit with shareholder class action lawsuits.
Continue Reading Private Company Directors and Officers Hit with Shareholder Class Action Lawsuit

The Northern California wildfire known as the Camp Fire – reportedly the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history – has finally been fully contained. But while the fire has been doused, the fight about the fire has only just begun. Investigators will now undertake to determine the fire’s cause. And the inevitable lawsuits will now get rolling as well.

As I noted last week, investors already filed a wildfire-related securities class action lawsuit while the fires were still burning. And now a shareholder has filed a shareholder derivative lawsuit in federal court against the board and certain officers of PG&E Corp., and its regulated utility operating company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, relating to the companies’ alleged role in causing the Camp Fire. As discussed below, this recent lawsuits may represent examples of the kinds of lawsuits we may expect to see in increasing numbers as a result of climate change-related effects. The derivative lawsuit complaint, filed in the Northern District of California on November 21, 2018, can be found in two parts here and here.
Continue Reading Further Wildfire-Related Management Liability Litigation: Harbinger of Things to Come?

Marc Casarino
Doug Greene

In the following guest post, Marc Casarino, a partner in the White & Williams law firm, and Doug Greene, the National Practice Leader of BakerHostetler’s Securities and Governance Litigation Team, take a look at the special litigation committee process and examine the ways in which the SLC process can be “robust, successful and efficient.” I would like to thank Marc and Doug for their willingness to allow me to publish their article as a guest post 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 a guest post. Here is Marc and Doug’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Back to Basics: Board and Special Litigation Committee Investigations in Shareholder Derivative Litigation

The news headlines have been dominated in recent days by appalling revelations that leading politicians, entertainers, political candidates and others have engaged in sexual harassment, assault, and even worse behavior. As these stories have emerged, a dynamic has evolved in which the victims come forward with their stories and seek to hold the wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct. Now, a blockbuster settlement entered on Monday suggests that this dynamic may not be limited just to attempting to hold individuals to account but may also involve efforts to hold the wrongdoers’ companies’ executives accountable for allowing the misconduct or for turning a blind eye.

In what is one of the largest shareholder derivative settlements ever, senior officials of 21st Century Fox have agreed to a $90 million settlement (to be funded by insurance) of allegations the company’s management permitted a culture of sexual and racial harassment to permeate the company, ultimately resulting in financial and reputational harm to the company. The settlement includes provisions for interesting governance and compliance enhancements, including the creation of a Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council. As discussed below, the procedural circumstances of the settlement are interesting as well, as the settlement arises out of a lawsuit that had been threatened but not filed until the same day as the settlement agreement was submitted to the court.
Continue Reading Massive Derivative Suit Settlement for Alleged Management Failure to Prevent Sexual Misconduct

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

home depotDuring the period 2014-2015, several companies –including Home Depot — that had experienced high-profile data breaches were hit with cybersecurity-related D&O lawsuits. All of these lawsuits, including the one against Home Depot, were dismissed. The plaintiffs in the Home Depot case filed an appeal of the dismissal. Now it appears that while the appeal was pending the parties to the Home Depot data breach-related derivative lawsuit have reached a settlement. The settlement could have interesting implications for the plaintiffs’ bar’s ongoing efforts to pursue data breach related D&O litigation.
Continue Reading Home Depot Settles Data Breach-Related Derivative Lawsuit

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 Home Depot Data Breach Derivative Lawsuit Dismissed

nystateDelaware’s courts have recently made it clear that the days where they would routinely approve disclosure-only settlements in merger objection lawsuits may be over (as discussed here). It now appears that other states also are no longer willing to approve these kinds of settlements. In a blistering October 23, 2015 opinion (here), New York (New York County) Supreme Court Judge Charles E. Ramos refused to approve the disclosure-only settlement proposed in the Allied Healthcare merger objection lawsuit, saying that courts’ willingness to approve these kinds of settlements “reflects poorly on the profession and on those courts that, from time to time, have approved these settlements.”
Continue Reading New York Court Pans Merger Objection Lawsuit Disclosure-Only Settlement