diversity and inclusion

Starting last summer and through the early part of this year, plaintiffs’ lawyers filed several shareholder derivative lawsuits against the boards of a number of companies alleging that the directors had breached their fiduciary duties by failing to include African American individuals on their boards. As I have detailed in previous posts (most recently here), these suits have not fared well, as courts have granted the motions to dismiss each of the cases in which courts have ruled on dismissal motions. In the past week, the courts in two more of these cases – involving the boards of NortonLifeLock and OPKO Health – granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss. The August 30, 2021 order in the NortonLifeLock case can be found here and the September 1, 2021 order in the OPKO Health case can be found here.
Continue Reading Two More Board Diversity Lawsuits Dismissed

The shareholder derivative lawsuit filed against the directors of Danaher Corporation is the latest board diversity lawsuit to fail to survive initial pleading hurdles. In a June 28, 2021 order (here), District of Columbia District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the shareholders’ claims, based on his determination that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that pre-suit demand on the board would have been futile. In making his rulings on the motion, Judge McFadden made several interesting and noteworthy observations about the plaintiffs’ board diversity allegations.
Continue Reading Board Diversity Lawsuit Against Danaher Directors Dismissed

The importance of ESG issues for companies and their executives is nothing new, but in recent days ESG issues seem to have taken center stage. The surprising success of activist investor Engine No. 1 in electing climate change-focused candidates to the board of ExxonMobil and the order by the Dutch court requiring Royal Dutch Shell to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50% of 2019 levels by 2030 are just two of the recent examples of the ways in which ESG issues increasingly have come to predominate corporate agendas. As discussed below, challenges related to ESG issues seem likely to continue. Among other things, these developments present new risks for potential D&O liability exposures as well.
Continue Reading The Predominance of ESG-Related Issues and the Implications for Corporate Boards

Regular readers will recall that last year and earlier this year, plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a series of shareholder derivative lawsuits against the directors of several companies alleging that the lack of diversity on the companies’ boards breached the directors’ fiduciary duties. In the latest ruling to address preliminary motions in these various cases, the court in the board diversity lawsuit filed against directors and officers of Oracle has granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. As discussed in greater detail below, the plaintiffs’ track record on the board diversity lawsuits is not good so far; the ruling in the Oracle suit represents the third successive dismissal granted in these suits.
Continue Reading Dismissal Motion Granted in Oracle Board Diversity Lawsuit

In the second dismissal motion ruling in one of the many board diversity lawsuits filed in recent months, a magistrate judge has granted the defendants’ dismissal motion in the suit against the board of clothing retailer The Gap. This latest ruling follows the dismissal motion grant last month in the similar lawsuit against Facebook’s board. As discussed below, the court’s dismissal of the case against The Gap’s board was based on the forum selection clause in the company’s bylaws. Northern District of California Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim’s April 27, 2021 ruling in the case can be found here.
Continue Reading Board Diversity Lawsuit Against The Gap Dismissed Based on Forum Clause

Sarah Abrams, Esq.

The pandemic’s disruption has had divergent effects on different population segments. In the following guest post Sarah Abrams, Esq., Director, Management Liability Markel, takes a look at the implication of this divergent population impact upon organizations’ diversity and inclusion efforts. The viewpoints expressed in the article are the authors alone and that not that of Markel. I would like to thank Sarah for allowing me to publish her 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 Sarah’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Achieving Organizational Diversity in the Wake of the Pandemic

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

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

In a derivative lawsuit settlement with one of the highest nominal dollar values ever – and in what is one of the largest #MeToo-related D&O lawsuit settlement ever – Google parent Alphabet has agreed to establish a $310 million diversity, equity, and inclusion fund as part of the settlement of the consolidated derivative litigation relating to the company’s alleged mishandling of sexual harassment allegations against senior executives and the company’s alleged overall culture of sexual discrimination and harassment. The company also agreed to adopt extensive reforms to its employment policies and to implement a number of governance reform measures as part of the settlement. The settlement is subject to court approval.
Continue Reading Alphabet Establishes $310 Million Fund in Google Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit Settlement