Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
USA v. Honeywell International, Inc.
The United States sued Honeywell International Inc. for providing the material in allegedly defective bulletproof vests sold to or paid for by the government. Among other relief, the government sought treble damages for the cost of the vests. It has already settled with the other companies involved, and Honeywell seeks a pro tanto, dollar for dollar, credit against its common damages liability equal to those settlements. For its part, the government argues Honeywell should still have to pay its proportionate share of damages regardless of the amount of the settlements with other companies. The district court adopted the proportionate share rule but certified the question for interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b). The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and held the pro tanto rule is the appropriate approach to calculating settlement credits under the False Claims Act. The court explained that in the False Claims Act, Congress created a vital mechanism for the federal government to protect itself against fraudulent claims. The FCA, however, provides no rule for allocating settlement credits among joint fraudsters. Because the FCA guards the federal government’s vital pecuniary interests, and because state courts widely diverge over the correct rule for settlement offsets, the court found it appropriate to establish a federal common law rule. The pro tanto rule best fits with the FCA and the joint and several liability applied to FCA claims. Thus, Honeywell is entitled to offset its common damages in the amount of the government’s settlements from the other parties. View "USA v. Honeywell International, Inc." on Justia Law
Ho-Chunk, Inc. v. Sessions
Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that they were not subject to federal recordkeeping laws dealing with the distribution of cigarettes. The DC Circuit held that neither the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act of 1978 nor the implementing regulations contain any language exempting tribal entities operating on Indian reservations from the federal recordkeeping requirements. The Act's recordkeeping requirements apply to any person; under federal law, "person" includes "corporations"; plaintiffs are "corporations"; and therefore plaintiffs are "persons" and the Act's recordkeeping requirement applied to them. Furthermore, the statutory context was another reason why the district court correctly held that Congress did not exempt the corporate plaintiffs from the Act's recordkeeping provision. View "Ho-Chunk, Inc. v. Sessions" on Justia Law
Indiana Boxcar Corp. v. RRRB
Indiana Boxcar, a holding company that owns several railroads, petitioned for review of the Board's determination that Indiana Boxcar was an "employer" for purposes of the Railroad Retirement Act and the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, 45 U.S.C. 231, 351. To be an employer under those two Acts, a company such as Indiana Boxcar must be "under common control" with a railroad. Before this case, the Board repeatedly held that parent corporations like Indiana Boxcar were not under common control with their railroad subsidiaries. Under Board precedent, the term "common control" did not usually apply to two companies in a parent-subsidiary relationship. Here, however, the Board did not adhere to that precedent and did not reasonably explain and justify its deviation from its precedent. Therefore, the court held that the Board's decision was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded to the Board. View "Indiana Boxcar Corp. v. RRRB" on Justia Law
Barnes, et al v. Commissioner, IRS
Appellants challenged the IRS's deficiency finding, as well as an accuracy-related penalty. On appeal, appellants argued that the Tax Court misunderstood relevant law when it affirmed the IRS's calculation of their remaining basis in their S corporation. They also challenged the factual basis for the Tax Court's decisions affirming the Service's rejection of their over-reporting claim and upholding its imposition of the penalty. The court rejected defendant's first challenge, concluding that a shareholder's basis was decreased "for any period" by the amount of that shareholder's pro rata share of the corporation's losses, and a shareholder incurred previously unabsorbed losses in the first year the shareholder had adequate basis to do so. In regards to the over-reporting claim, the court held that the Tax Court made no clear error when it upheld the IRS's determination not to reduce the sole proprietorship's income. Consequently, there was no dispute that appellants' 2003 tax return understated their taxes by an amount that qualified as substantial. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Barnes, et al v. Commissioner, IRS" on Justia Law
Friedman v. Sebelius
Appellants were executives at the Purdue Frederick Company when it misbranded the painkiller OxyContin a schedule II controlled substance. The Company was convicted of fraudulent misbranding, and the executives were convicted under the "responsible corporate officer" doctrine of the misdemeanor of misbranding a drug. Based upon their convictions, the Secretary of Health and Human Services later excluded the individuals from participation in federal health care programs for twelve years under 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7(b). Appellants sought review, arguing that the statute did not authorize their exclusion and the Secretary's decision was unsupported by substantial evidence and was arbitrary and capricious. The district court granted summary judgment for the Secretary. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the statute authorized the Secretary's exclusion of Appellants, but (2) the Secretary's decision was arbitrary and capricious for want of a reasoned explanation for the length of the exclusions. View "Friedman v. Sebelius" on Justia Law
Kellmer v. Raines, et al.
Plaintiffs filed derivative actions asserting claims against Fannie Mae's directors regarding accounting irregularities. The district court entered three orders now on appeal, substituting Fannie Mae's conservator, the FHFA, for plaintiff shareholders. The court affirmed the orders but reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint without prejudice. The court also held that dismissal on the grounds of claim preclusion was moot. View "Kellmer v. Raines, et al." on Justia Law
McKesson Corp., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran
McKesson, a United States company, claimed that after the Islamic Revolution, the government of Iran expropriated McKesson's interest in an Iranian dairy (Pak Dairy) and withheld its dividend payments. McKesson filed its complaint in 1982, the case reached the court on five prior occasions, and was remanded by the court for numerous trials by the district court. At issue was whether the court had jurisdiction over McKesson's claim and whether any recognized body of law provided McKesson with a private right of action against Iran. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the act of state doctrine did not apply in this case. While the court reversed the district court's holding that McKesson could base its claim on customary international law, the court affirmed the district court's alternative holding that the Treaty of Amity, construed as Iranian law, provided McKesson with a private right of action, and the court further affirmed the district court's finding that Iran was liable for the expropriation of McKesson's equity interest in Pak Dairy and the withholding of McKesson's dividend payments. Finally, the court reversed the district court's award of compound interest and remanded for calculation of an award consisting of the value of McKesson's expropriated property and withheld dividends plus simple interest. View "McKesson Corp., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law
Business Roundtable, et al. v. SEC
Petitioners, each of which had corporate members that issued publicly traded securities, petitioned for review of Exchange Act Rule 14a-11. At issue was whether the Securities and Exchange Commission promulgated the rule in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., because, among other things, the Commission failed adequately to consider the rule's effect upon efficiency, competition, and capital formation, as required by Section 3(f) of the Exchange Act and Section 2(c) of the Investment Company Act and Section 2(c) of the Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. 78c(f) and 80a-2(c). The court held that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously for having failed once again to adequately assess the economic effects of a new rule. The court also held that the Commission inconsistently and opportunistically framed the costs and benefits of the rule; failed adequately to quantify the certain costs or to explain why those costs could not be quantified; neglected to support its predictive judgments; contradicted itself; and failed to respond to substantial problems raised by commenters. Therefore, the Commission's decision to apply the rule to investment companies was also arbitrary. Because the court concluded that the Commission failed to justify Rule 14a-11, the court need not address petitioners' additional argument that the Commission arbitrarily rejected proposed alternatives that would have allowed shareholders of each company to decide for that company whether to adopt a mechanism for shareholders' nominees to get access to proxy materials. Accordingly, the petition was granted and the rule was vacated.
John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al.
This case stemmed from a contract between the Indonesian government and the Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon), a United States corporation, and several of its wholly owned subsidiaries where Exxon operated a large natural gas extraction and processing facility in the Aceh province. Plaintiffs were fifteen Indonesian villagers. Eleven villagers filed a complaint in 2001 alleging that Exxon's security forces committed murder, torture, sexual assault, battery, and false imprisonment in violation of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. 1350, and various common law torts. Four villagers alleged that in 2007, Exxon committed various common law torts. All plaintiffs alleged that Exxon took actions both in the United States and at its facility in the Aceh province that resulted in their injuries. Plaintiffs challenged the subsequent dismissal of their claims and Exxon filed a cross-appeal, inter alia, raising corporate immunity for the first time. The court concluded that aiding and abetting liability was well established under the ATS. The court further concluded that neither the text, history, nor purpose of the ATS supported corporate immunity for torts based on heinous conduct allegedly committed by its agents in violation of the law of nations. The court affirmed the dismissal of the TVPA claims in view of recent precedent of the court. The court concluded, however, that Exxon's objections to justiciability were unpersuasive and that the district court erred in ruling that plaintiffs lacked prudential standing to bring their non-federal tort claims and in the choice of law determination. The court finally concluded that Exxon's challenge to the diversity of parties in the complaint at issue was to be resolved initially by the district court. Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' TVPA claims, reversed the dismissal of the ATS claims at issue, along with plaintiffs' non-federal tort claims, and remanded the cases to the district court.
Knop, II, et al v. Mackall, Jr., et al
Plaintiff, a shareholder in Avenir Corporation ("Avenir"), brought a shareholder derivate suit naming Avenir and its three principal officers ("principals") as defendants and alleged that the principals engaged in various forms of financial misconduct as Avenir's managers. At issue was whether the district court properly granted attorney's fees for abuse of discretion to plaintiff where plaintiff originally filed in Superior Court and defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under 28 U.S.C. 1441, where Avenir's primary place of business was in D.C., and where the district court found removal improper under section 1441(b). The court held that the district court improperly awarded attorney's fees to plaintiff where Avenir was a nominal defendant and defendants' reasoning had at least some logical and precedential force behind it.