Long-time readers may recall that just a short time ago there was growing concern that New York’s courts might be becoming a preferred forum for aggrieved investors to pursue liability claims against non-U.S. companies’ executives, based on the companies’ home country laws. However, in early 2022, just as the alarm bells began to sound, New York courts issued a series of rulings dismissing various cases of this kind, suggesting that the furor might have been overblown. But even following these events, concern remained that New York’s courts might still prove to be available in at least certain circumstances for claims under home country law against non-U.S. companies and their executives.

A recent decision from a New York trial court, in which the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss a breach of fiduciary duty claim brought under Cayman law against former officers and directors of a Cayman company, confirms that, under some circumstances at least, New York courts may be an available forum for litigants to pursue these kinds of claims involving non-U.S. companies. The fact that the Court accepted the case, and the considerations that proved to be relevant to the court, are both instructive.Continue Reading NY Court Keeps Cayman Law D&O Suit Involving a Cayman Company

It is not news that ESG has become a battleground issue, with prominent ESG efforts now facing an anti-ESG backlash. And while in the recent past institutional investors and advocacy groups tried to push publicly traded companies to establish their ESG credentials, the ESG-related litigation (such as it has been, so far at least) has primarily been filed not against ESG laggards, but rather against companies that have tried to promote their sustainability efforts and other climate-friendly measures.

In the latest example of litigation against a company in connection with its efforts to promote its ESG qualifications, the New York Attorney General, Letitia James has filed a fraud lawsuit in New York state court against the U.S. subsidiary of JBS, a Brazil-based meat and poultry producer, alleging that its sustainability claims and its publicized goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 misled consumers.  A copy of the New York Attorney General’s February 28, 2024, press release about the lawsuit can be found here. The NYAG’s February 28, 2024, complaint can be found here.Continue Reading NYAG Sues Meat Company for Its Net Zero Emissions Claims

Policyholders and their representatives have long pushed to have the definition of “claim” in professional and management liability insurance policies expanded, to bring an increasingly larger kinds of circumstances within the policies’ coverage. However, there are consequences when more kinds of circumstances constitute a “claim,” such as, for example, with respect to the claims-made date and notice obligations. A recent insurance coverage ruling by a New York state court interpreting a lawyers’ professional liability insurance policy underscores how an expanded definition of the term “claim” — in this case, pertaining to a request to toll the statute – can affect the availability of coverage. The court, applying New York law, determined that a tolling request prior to the policy period met the applicable policy’s definition of claim, and therefore, because the claim was first made before the policy incepted, the subsequent claim during the policy period was not covered.Continue Reading Tolling Agreement Prior to the Policy Period Precludes Coverage for Later Claim

The D&O Diary was on assignment this week at the PLUS D&O Symposium. As reflected the accompanying picture of Times Square, the weather in New York was uncharacteristically sunny and warm for this time of year. The Symposium itself was also superlative; the event was surprisingly well-attended and the sessions were great. My congratulations to the event co-chairs, and to the PLUS staff and volunteer leadership for another successful event. Continue Reading PLUS D&O Symposium in New York

Most D&O insurance policies preclude loss resulting from fraudulent or criminal misconduct. However, most policies specify that the exclusion applies only if there has been a judicial determination that the precluded misconduct has taken place. What specific judicial determination is required in order to trigger the exclusion is a matter of policy wording. In an interesting recent ruling, Southern District of New York Judge Denise Cote reaffirmed her prior conclusion that a credit union executive’s criminal conviction precluded coverage for the executive’s cost of appeal – even though his appeal remains pending and even though the applicable policy had the “final adjudication” language. A copy of Judge Cote’s October 18, 2022 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading Court Holds Fraud Exclusion with “Final Adjudication” Language Precludes Coverage for Post-Conviction Appeal

In the latest development in the long-running saga involving the efforts by J.P. Morgan to obtain D&O insurance coverage for the $140 million “disgorgement” that its predecessor-in-interest, Bear Stearns, paid to settle SEC market-timing allegations, the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) has reversed the intermediate appellate court’s ruling that the payment represented a “penalty” for which coverage is precluded. The Court of Appeals rejected the intermediate appellate court’s conclusion, made in reliance on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 Kokesh decision, that a “disgorgement” payment to the SEC is a “penalty.” The Court of Appeals held that Kokesh did not control, and that because the payment was compensatory in nature, it did not represent a “penalty” for which coverage is precluded under the policies. The Court’s November 24, 2021 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading New York’s Highest Court Holds SEC “Disgorgement” Payment Not a “Penalty”

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

In an important development affirming the use of federal forum provisions (FFP) to avoid duplicative parallel state court securities lawsuits, a New York state court judge has granted the securities suit defendants’ motion to dismiss based on the FFP in the corporate defendant’s charter. The ruling appears to be the first in New York – indeed, the first outside of California – to enforce an FFP. The New York court’s enforcement of the FFP is a significant step in companies’ efforts to try to avoid the duplicative litigation problems caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 2018 decision in Cyan. A copy of the August 31, 2021 opinion of the New York state court in the Casa Systems case can be found here.
Continue Reading New York State Court Enforces Federal Forum Provision

In reporting in prior posts on SPAC-related litigation, I have primarily focused on federal court securities class action litigation (for example, here). In addition to the federal court litigation, there has also recently been state-court SPAC-related litigation filed, as I have also briefly noted (here, for example). In early April 2021, the Akin Gump law firm published a client alert memo noting that, at the time, over thirty SPACs has been sued in merger objection lawsuits filed in New York state court. In a May 5, 2021 post on her On the Case blog (here), Alison Frankel updated the Akin Gump filing data and reported that there have now been over 60 New York state court SPAC-related lawsuits filed. As Frankel’s article notes, the litigation itself is only part of the picture, as the plaintiffs’ lawyers involved have also been active in presenting SPACs with pre-lawsuit demand letters as well.
Continue Reading SPAC-Related State Court Merger Objection Litigation

As has been extensively noted on this site and elsewhere, the sheer level of SPAC-related action has been the one of the top business stories of the last few months. However, as I noted earlier this week, there have already been some distant early warning signs of possible problems on the SPAC horizon. Further developments this week suggest there could be growing trouble in SPAC-land. As discussed below, a newly released statement by the SEC about SPAC accounting potentially could cool off the hot market for SPACs, and a statement of intent by a leading plaintiffs’ firm raises the possibility of further SPAC-related litigation.
Continue Reading Trouble Brewing in SPAC-Land?