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 last month, Judge Vince Chhabbria of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a novel complaint that the court noted stretched the bounds of when directors of a company could reasonably be held accountable for the actions of its executives. Notwithstanding the case’s amusing subject matter, the decision applies typical Delaware standards to dismiss a shareholder derivative complaint formed on the basis of an executive’s out-of-office behavior.
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…
On July 30, 2021, L Brands, the parent company behind Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, settled a rash of derivatives actions which had alleged “toxic” workplace conditions and “a culture of misogyny” at the company. We previously detailed the allegations in this space as part of our ongoing review of shareholder attempts to hold companies liable for perceived diversity failures and workplace discrimination. As we noted, a New York Times report detailing specific allegations of a former Chief Marketing Officer led to the filing of shareholder actions across the country, including in Ohio, Oregon, and Delaware.
A shareholder derivative action which had alleged that Facebook’s lack of diversity caused a negative effect on its stock price was rejected by a California federal magistrate judge last week.
The court held that the shareholder plaintiff had not pled demand futility with particularity, as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 23.1, because she had not “plausibly alleged any facts about the directors’ actual or constructive knowledge . . . their failure to act, or their lack of independence.” Labeling the plaintiff’s allegations as “conclusory,” the court held that the complaint contained inaccurate factual allegations and that the plaintiff “did not plead plausible facts about discriminatory practices,” of the Company. Because the allegations that Facebook’s directors ignored red flags were “contradicted by the record,” and the alleged events occurred before four of the directors joined Facebook’s board, the court held the complaint was unsustainable.
As we move into 2021, shareholders of public corporations continue to seek to hold corporate executives accountable for workplace discrimination and misconduct, a trend that began in connection with the Me Too movement and does not show any signs of stopping.
An interesting shareholder derivative suit was filed on November 30, 2020 in the Northern District of California against Pinterest, Inc. Pinterest, a visual discovery engine popular for collecting ideas for weddings and aggregating recipes, went public in April 2019. The complaint alleges that Pinterest executives “breached their fiduciary duties to the [c]ompany by perpetrating or knowingly ignoring the long-standing and systemic culture of discrimination and retaliation at Pinterest.” Pinterest allegedly payed unequal salaries to women and racial minorities while denying multiple women opportunities commensurate with their job titles and level of experience.