The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a statement of opinion that reflects some subjective judgment can nevertheless be actionable under the securities laws if it misleads investors into thinking that the issuer had historical or factual support for the judgment made. But the court also held that corporate officers’ certifications of financial statements are nonactionable opinions in the absence of allegations that the officers either did not believe their certifications or knew that the financial statements were false or misleading.
The en banc Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a shareholder derivative action in light of an exclusive-forum bylaw requiring assertion of derivative claims in the Delaware Court of Chancery, even though the plaintiff had pled a federal claim that was subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction and could not have been litigated in the Delaware court. The June 1, 2023 ruling in Lee ex rel. The Gap, Inc. v. Fisher could further encourage the adoption of similar forum-selection provisions and could discourage shareholders’ efforts to circumvent state-forum provisions by filing derivative actions alleging federal-law proxy claims in federal court.
Earlier this spring, yet another lawsuit alleging a company failed to adequately promote diversity was dismissed for a failure to properly allege demand futility.
In City of Pontiac Police & Fire Ret. Sys. v. Jamison, the plaintiff, a shareholder of Tractor Supply Company, had alleged that the company and members of its Board falsely stated in securities filings that they were committed to promoting diversity. The plaintiff alleged that diversity maximizes shareholder wealth and that the lack of racial diversity at Tractor Supply contributed to economic disparities at the company. Because, according to the plaintiff, the defendants had failed to sufficiently promote diversity within the company while, at the same time, made statements in Tractor Supply’s 2020 proxy statement that the Board was “committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion,” they had violated Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a shareholder derivative action in light of an exclusive-forum bylaw requiring assertion of derivative claims in the Delaware Court of Chancery, even though the case included a federal claim that was subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction and could…
Another shareholder derivative suit claiming diversity shortcomings within the company was dismissed last week: A judge in the Northern District of California dismissed allegations that Cisco Systems Inc. falsely and improperly represented itself as an industry leader in diversity.
Another diversity-based derivative suit was dismissed this week by a federal district court, joining a list of decisions that have rejected similar shareholder allegations.
This most recent decision, from the District of Delaware, dismissed claims alleging Qualcomm Inc. had allowed unlawful and discriminatory practices to exist within its executive ranks. Though the complaint was initially filed in the Southern District of California, Qualcomm’s Bylaws contain a forum-selection provision designating Delaware as the exclusive forum for derivative litigation, and thus the case was transferred to Delaware in March 2021.
Last week, yet another federal court dismissed a shareholder derivative suit that claimed a company had failed to diversify its corporate leadership team. Shareholders had alleged that Opko Health Inc., a Miami-based medical company, failed to nominate or appoint minorities to the board and executive management team despite public statements celebrating the company’s diverse staff.