Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
Villanueva v. U.S. Dept. of Labor
Petitioner filed a complaint with OSHA, asserting that Saybolt and Core Labs had violated Section 806 of the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(a), by retaliating against him for blowing the whistle on an alleged scheme to violate Colombian tax law. OSHA, an ALJ, and the Board all rejected petitioner's complaint. The court concluded that petitioner did not demonstrate that he engaged in protected conduct because he did not complain, based on a reasonable belief, that one of six enumerated categories of U.S. law had been violated. Petitioner had not demonstrated that he engaged in any protected activity, and given this, the court could not say that Core Labs knew that petitioner engaged in a protected activity that was a contributing factor in the unfavorable actions of withholding petitioner's pay raise and ultimately terminating him. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Board's dismissal of petitioner's complaint because he had not demonstrated that his claim fell within the scope of section 806. View "Villanueva v. U.S. Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law
Dallas Gas Partners, L.P. v. Prospect Energy Corp
Muse, Nelson, and Weiss, and two others formed DGP. The five individuals were DGP’s limited partners; its general partner was MNW LLC, consisting of Muse, Nelson, and Weiss. DGP contracted to buy Gas Solutions and Prospect agreed to lend DGP 95% of the purchase price, subject to due diligence. The agreement prevented DGP from negotiating with other lenders. Prospect’s investigation raised concerns and it informed DGP that it would not make the loan. After DGP threatened to sue, Prospect agreed to pay DGP $3.295 million as reimbursement for DGP’s expenses and DGP agreed to assign Prospect its right to buy Gas Solutions. DGP assigned the purchase contract to DGP’s general partner, MNW, owned by Muse, Nelson and Weiss, who then sold Prospect their individual membership interests, transferring the contract to Prospect. Despite a mutual release, DGP sued Prospect alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with contract. Prospect counterclaimed alleging breach of the covenant not to sue. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Prospect and awarded attorneys’ fees in its award. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the covenants did not bind the individuals. Under an interpretation of the agreement giving effect to all its terms, Nelson and Muse breached the agreement by funding DGP’s lawsuits and violated the release and covenant not to sue.View "Dallas Gas Partners, L.P. v. Prospect Energy Corp" on Justia Law
Spring Street Partners v. Lam, et al.
Spring Street, seeking to recover against Bayou and its owner Douglas Lam on defaulted promissory notes, claimed that certain transfers that defendants made were fraudulent: (1) Bayou's transfer of "hard assets" to LT Seafood when LT Seafood took over Bayou's retail operations at the 415 East Hamilton location; (2) Douglas Lam's transfer of his 49% interest in LT Seafood to DKL & DTL; and (3) DKL & DTL's subsequent transfer of this 49% interest to Vinh Ngo. The court concluded that Spring Street could pierce DKL & DTL's corporate veil on the basis of fraud and impose individual liability on the LLC members. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Spring Street with regard to these claims. However, the court concluded that Ten Lam and Ngo have raised a genuine dispute of fact as to both which "hard assets" Bayou transferred to LT Seafood and the value of those assets on the date of the transfer. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment in regards to Spring Street's fraudulent transfer claim against Lam and Ngo for the amount of $150,000 and remanded for further proceedings. View "Spring Street Partners v. Lam, et al." on Justia Law
Rodriguez, et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Petitioner challenged the IRS's determination that the gross income petitioners reported in 2003 and 2004 based on their ownership of a controlled foreign corporation should have been taxed at the rate of petitioners' ordinary income rather than the lower tax rate they had claimed. At issue was whether amounts included in petitioners' gross income for 2003 and 2004 pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 951(a)(1)(B) and 956 (collectively, "section 951 inclusions") constituted qualified dividend income under 26 U.S.C. 1(h)(11). The court concluded that section 951 inclusions did not constitute actual dividends because actual dividends required a distribution by a corporation and receipt by a shareholder and these section 951 inclusions involved no distribution or change in ownership; Congress clearly did not intend to deem as dividends the section 951 inclusions at issue here; and petitioners' reliance on other non-binding sources were unavailing. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the tax court. View "Rodriguez, et al. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
Nevada Partners Fund, et al. v. United States
This appeal arose from eleven notices of final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAAs) issued by the IRS with respect to three Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) treated as partnerships for tax purposes. The IRS claimed that the partnerships' transactions provided one partner with an illegal tax shelter to avoid taxes on his unrelated personal capital gain of the same approximate amount. The court affirmed the district court's determinations that (1) the FOCus transactions lacked economic substance and must be disregarded for tax purposes; (2) the negligence penalty was applicable and the partnerships were not entitled to the reasonable cause defense; and (3) the valuation misstatement penalty was inapplicable. The court vacated and rendered judgment for plaintiffs as to the remaining claims addressing the FPAAs premised on the government's alternative theory under Treasury Regulation 1.701-2 and the district court's approval of the alternative substantial understatement penalty. View "Nevada Partners Fund, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law
Ad Hoc Group of Vitro Noteholders v. Vitro S.A.B. de C.V.
Three cases related to the Mexican reorganization of Vitro S.A.B. de C.V., a corporation organized under the laws of Mexico, were consolidated before the court. The Ad Hoc Group of Vitro Noteholders, a group of creditors holding a substantial amount of Vitro's debt, appealed from the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's recognition of the Mexican reorganization proceeding and Vitro's appointed foreign representatives under Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code. Vitro and one of its largest third-party creditors each appealed directly to the court the bankruptcy court's decision denying enforcement of the Mexican reorganization plan because the plan would extinguish the obligations of non-debtor guarantors. The court affirmed in all respects the judgment of the district court affirming the order of the bankruptcy court in No. 12-10542, and the court affirmed the order of the bankruptcy court in Nos. 12-0689 and 12-10750. The temporary restraining order originally entered by the bankruptcy court, the expiration of which was stayed by the court, was vacated, effective with the issuance of the court's mandate in Nos. 12-10689 and 12-10750. View "Ad Hoc Group of Vitro Noteholders v. Vitro S.A.B. de C.V." on Justia Law
Bemont Investments, L.L.C., et al. v. United States
These consolidated cases sought judicial review of notices of final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAA) issued to Bemont and BPB. Following the review of the district court, the government appealed the ruling on the partnerships' motion for partial summary judgment disallowing the 40% valuation misstatement penalty, and the ruling post trial holding that the FPAA issued to Bemont for the 2001 tax year was time-barred. The partnerships appealed the district court's judgment upholding the imposition of the 20% substantial understatement and negligence penalties. The court reversed the judgment of the district court that the FPAA as to the 2001 tax year was untimely; affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects including disallowing the 40% valuation misstatement penalty and upholding the 20% negligence penalty for both 2001 and 2002. View "Bemont Investments, L.L.C., et al. v. United States" on Justia Law
MC Asset Recovery LLC v. Commerzbank A.G., et al.
This case arose when Mirant, an energy company, sought to expand its European operations by acquiring nine power islands from General Electric. When the power island deal fell through, Mirant made payments pursuant to a guaranty and soon thereafter sought bankruptcy protection. Mirant, as debtor-in-possession, sued Commerzbank and other lenders in bankruptcy court to avoid the guaranty and to recover the funds Mirant paid pursuant to the guaranty. After Mirant's bankruptcy plan was confirmed MCAR, plaintiff, substituted into the case for Mirant. Commerzbank and other lenders, defendants, filed a motion to dismiss based on Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The district court subsequently denied defendants' motion to dismiss based on plaintiff's alleged lack of standing. Thereafter, the district court granted summary judgment for defendants. Both sides appealed. While the court agreed that the district court correctly determined that there was standing to bring the avoidance claim, the court vacated the judgment of dismissal because the district court erroneously applied Georgia state law rather than New York state law to the avoidance claim. View "MC Asset Recovery LLC v. Commerzbank A.G., et al." on Justia Law
The American Cancer Society v. Cook
Karen Cook was appointed receiver over the assets of a number of related corporations and individuals, who the SEC alleged violated multiple federal securities laws. Cook discovered that before the SEC filed its civil complaint, the corporate entities involved had made charitable contributions to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Cook moved to recover the donations on behalf of the receivership, arguing that they qualified as fraudulent transfers under Texas' Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (TUFTA), Tex. Bus. & Co. Code 24.005(a). The court held that the receiver's attempt to liken the scheme in question to a "Ponzi-like fraud," and therefore reduce her burden to proving "presumed intent to defraud," failed for lack of evidence. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court. View "The American Cancer Society v. Cook" on Justia Law
Amco Energy, Inc., et al. v. Tana Exploration Co., et al.
In a bankruptcy adversary proceeding, Capco brought claims of fraud and various business torts against Ryder, Tana, TRT, and Tristone. The claims arose out of a transaction in which Capco purchased from Tana certain oil and gas reserves located in the Gulf of Mexico (the Properties). The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment in favor of Ryder, Tana, TRT, and Tristone and dismissed the claims. The court held that Capco failed to present evidence to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact about whether Ryder was contracted to provide an independent reevaluation of the Properties and advice at the meeting regarding Capco's decision to close on the Properties. The court also held that because the purchase and sale agreement contained a clear intent to disclaim reliance, the lower courts correctly held that Capco was unable to claim fraudulent inducement based on the prior representations of Tana, TRT, and Tristone. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.