Commercial Litigation Alert Blog

New Jersey Chancery Division Adopts Watered-Down Trulia Standard and Approves Disclosure-Only Settlement of Merger Litigation

New Jersey Chancery Division Adopts Watered-Down Trulia Standard and Approves Disclosure-Only Settlement of Merger Litigation

Nearly three years ago, the Delaware Court of Chancery issued its landmark opinion in In re Trulia, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, in which Chancellor Bouchard strongly criticized the use of disclosure-only settlements in class-action merger challenges and subjected such settlements to a heightened level of judicial review. In a disclosure-only settlement the merging parties agree to enhance their disclosures about the challenged merger in exchange for a broad release from a settlement class comprised of their shareholders. According to Chancellor Bouchard, all too often the enhanced disclosures in such settlements provide little, if any, value to the shareholders, while class counsel get large fee awards and the corporations get “deal insurance” because their shareholders have released them and their boards from liability arising from the transaction. Because disclosure-only settlements so rarely give meaningful relief to the shareholders, Chancellor Bouchard held that a court should approve them only if “the supplemental disclosures address a plainly material misrepresentation or omission[] and the subject matter of the proposed release is narrowly circumscribed.” In the first published New Jersey state court opinion addressing the Trulia standard, the Chancery Division in Strougo v. Ocean Shore Holding Co. followed Trulia in holding that disclosure-only settlements are to be...

Accepting the Risks of Arbitration Clauses: The Southern District of New York Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision Allowing Class-Wide Arbitration

Accepting the Risks of Arbitration Clauses: The Southern District of New York Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision Allowing Class-Wide Arbitration

On January 2, 2019, the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in Wells Fargo Advisors LLC v. Tucker, declined to vacate an arbitrator’s clause construction award, which construed the parties’ arbitration agreement as permitting class-wide arbitration. Importantly, prior decisions from the SDNY and Second Circuit concluded the parties’ arbitration agreement clearly and unmistakably expressed the parties’ intent that an arbitrator should decide the gateway issue of whether the agreement permitted class arbitration. Having delegated that authority to the arbitrator, the District Court found no basis in law to overturn that clause construction award. The two prior decisions in this matter, addressing the issue of who should decide whether an agreement permits class arbitration, align well with the United States Supreme Court’s January 9, 2019 holding in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. There—resolving a circuit split—the High Court held that when the parties’ contract delegates the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, a court may not override the contract, and possesses no power to decide the arbitrability issue, even if the court believes the argument that the arbitration agreement applies to a particular dispute is “wholly groundless.” The clause construction award in Wells Fargo Advisors LLC arose out...

New Jersey Federal Court Holds that Cryptocurrency Allegations Sufficiently Alleged a “Security” Subject to ’33 Act Registration Requirements

New Jersey Federal Court Holds that Cryptocurrency Allegations Sufficiently Alleged a “Security” Subject to ’33 Act Registration Requirements

In Solis v. Latium Network, Inc., Susan D. Wigenton, a United States District Judge in the District of New Jersey, held that a class action plaintiff adequately alleged that a particular cryptocurrency was a “security” subject to the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 and, by extension, the regulatory strictures of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Solis alleged that Latium operates a blockchain-based, crowdsource tasking platform, which allows users to create tasks, find people to complete the tasks, and then verify completion of the tasks according to specified standards. Users of the platform pay for the completed tasks using Latium X tokens, Latium’s proprietary cryptocurrency, which can be used only on Latium’s platform. Solis also alleged that, to raise money for the platform, Latium offered its tokens for sale to the public in exchange for U.S. dollars or the cryptocurrency Ether. The sale was conducted in several stages, with the cost of a token increasing with each successive stage. When marketing the tokens, Latium stressed the limited quantity of tokens to be issued and characterized its tasking platform, particularly in tandem with the tokens, as a “unique investment opportunity.” Solis purchased $25,000 in Latium X tokens and...

Third Circuit Rejects Buyer’s Remorse as a Cognizable Injury Under Article III

Third Circuit Rejects Buyer’s Remorse as a Cognizable Injury Under Article III

In In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that buyer’s remorse, without more, does not constitute an economic injury sufficient to establish standing under Article III of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff brought a putative class action against defendant Johnson & Johnson, alleging that perineal use of defendant’s baby powder by women could lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Plaintiff did not allege that she had developed or was at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Nor did she allege that the product was defective in performing the functions for which it was advertised. Furthermore, Plaintiff had used all the product and, thus, was not seeking reimbursement for a product she cannot use. Rather, Plaintiff alleged that she would not have bought the baby powder had she known that it could lead to an increased risk of cancer. The District Court of New Jersey dismissed her complaint for lack of Article III standing. The Third Circuit affirmed. It relied on its analyses in Finkelman v. Nat’l Football League and Cottrell v. Alcon Laboratories to determine that Plaintiff’s allegations were too...

Eleventh and Seventh Circuits Hold Class and Collective Arbitration Are Questions of Arbitrability

Eleventh and Seventh Circuits Hold Class and Collective Arbitration Are Questions of Arbitrability

In two recent precedential decisions, JPay, Inc. v. Kobel and Herrington v. Waterstone Mortgage Corp., the Eleventh and Seventh Circuits, respectively, held that whether an arbitration may proceed on a class-wide basis (or as a collective action when a claimant is seeking relief under the Fair Labor Standard Act) is a “question of arbitrability” to be decided by the courts, unless the parties specifically delegate that responsibility to an arbitrator. The Supreme Court previously noted the lack of a majority decision on the subject in Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corp. and declined to address this question in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, leaving the decision to the circuits. In JPay, the dispute arose when two plaintiffs, users of JPay’s fee-for-service amenities to send money to inmates, filed suit alleging the service dissuaded users from sending funds through free paper money orders, and that the fees charged by JPay were “exorbitant” and used to “fund kickbacks to corrections departments.” JPay’s Terms of Service included a provision that the American Arbitration Association (AAA) would arbitrate and govern any disputes, claims, or controversies that arose between the parties and “[t]he ability to arbitrate the dispute, claim or controversy shall likewise be determined in...

New Jersey Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement that Fails to Designate an Arbitration Forum

New Jersey Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement that Fails to Designate an Arbitration Forum

The New Jersey courts have consistently held that the mutual assent necessary to support a binding arbitration agreement is not present where the agreement does not sufficiently put the parties on notice that, by agreeing to arbitrate, they are giving up the right to have their dispute resolved in a judicial forum and are waiving whatever rights they might have to a jury trial. In Flanzman v. Jenny Craig, Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division has now held that the mutual assent necessary to support a binding arbitration agreement will also be found lacking when the agreement does not designate the forum in which the arbitration will take place and otherwise fails to define the arbitration process. Background The plaintiff, Marilyn Flanzman, after being terminated from her position as a weight loss counselor for the defendant, a weight loss and nutrition company, brought suit in Superior Court, Law Division under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, alleging age discrimination and harassment. The defendant moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement into which the parties had entered during the plaintiff’s employment, which, in relevant part, stated: Any and all claims or controversies arising out of or relating to [plaintiff’s]...

Third Circuit Relies on Spokeo to Shed Light on What is Needed For Article III Injury-in-Fact Standing

Third Circuit Relies on Spokeo to Shed Light on What is Needed For Article III Injury-in-Fact Standing

In Long v. SEPTA, the Third Circuit considered whether and when a violation of a statute is a standing-conferring injury-in-fact satisfying the Constitution’s “case or controversy” requirement. At issue in Long was whether the plaintiffs, who were denied employment by SEPTA when background checks disclosed disqualifying criminal histories, could sue SEPTA for failing to provide them with copies of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and copies of their background consumer reports before being denied employment, both of which are required by FCRA. The district court dismissed the complaint, stating that the plaintiffs did not allege a “concrete injury in fact,” because the alleged FCRA violations were “bare procedural violations.” On appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim based on SEPTA’s failure to provide the plaintiffs notice of their FCRA rights. The Court held that, because the plaintiffs understood their rights well enough to bring the suit, they were not injured by SEPTA’s failure to give them notice of those rights and, therefore, lacked standing to pursue the claim. But the Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claim based on SEPTA’s failure to provide copies of the plaintiffs’ consumer reports. The Third Circuit...

Recent ERISA Preemption Decision in District of New Jersey Marks Departure from Prior Precedent

Recent ERISA Preemption Decision in District of New Jersey Marks Departure from Prior Precedent

In Glastein v. Aetna, Inc., et al., the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, departing from several recent decisions in the District, denied Defendant Aetna, Inc.’s motion to dismiss a medical provider’s claim for reimbursement of insurance benefits on the ground that such claim was preempted by ERISA. Glastein, an out-of-network orthopedic surgeon, allegedly performed a medically necessary surgery for an Aetna-insured patient. Prior to the surgery, Glastein secured a written authorization for the service from Aetna. Glastein later billed Aetna $209,000, allegedly the “normal and reasonable” charges for the procedure. Aetna did not pay any portion of the charged amount. Glastein sued Aetna, alleging several state common law claims, including breach of contract, promissory estoppel, accounting, and fraudulent inducement. After removing the action from the Superior Court of New Jersey to the District of New Jersey, Aetna moved to dismiss Glastein’s complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant’s sole argument for dismissal was that Plaintiff’s state-law causes of action were expressly preempted by ERISA’s “express preemption” provision, under which ERISA preempts state laws where the state law refers to an ERISA plan or has an impermissible connection with an ERISA plan. In support of...

In Affirming Dismissal of Putative Securities Class Action, Third Circuit Provides Important Guidance for Evaluating Sufficiency of Scienter Allegations

In Affirming Dismissal of Putative Securities Class Action, Third Circuit Provides Important Guidance for Evaluating Sufficiency of Scienter Allegations

A recent precedential decision from the Third Circuit may make it more difficult for putative securities class actions to withstand motions to dismiss and provides useful guidance for district courts in making the often difficult determination whether a complaint adequately pleads the strong inference of scienter necessary to sustain a federal securities fraud claim. In In re Hertz Global Holdings, Inc., certain pension funds brought a securities fraud class action alleging that Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. and certain of its current and former executives violated sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. Plaintiffs’ complaint relied heavily on a financial restatement Hertz issued with its fiscal year 2014 Form 10-K, which corrected errors to Hertz’s 2011, 2012, and 2013 financial statements. According to the restatement, Hertz had overstated its pre-tax income by a total of $215 million and its net income by a total of $132 million during the three-year period. The restatement explained that “an inconsistent and sometimes inappropriate tone at the top was present under then existing senior management” which “resulted in an environment which in some instances may have led to inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information critical...

Ninth Circuit Adopts Expansive Definition of Autodialer Under the TCPA, Creating Circuit Split With Third Circuit

Ninth Circuit Adopts Expansive Definition of Autodialer Under the TCPA, Creating Circuit Split With Third Circuit

In Marks v. Crunch San Diego, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, considering anew the statutory definition of automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), held that an ATDS includes a device that stores telephone numbers to be called, “whether or not those numbers have been generated by a random or sequential number generator.” The Ninth Circuit expressly declined to follow the Third Circuit’s interpretation of ATDS in Dominguez v. Yahoo, Inc., thus setting up a clear Circuit split. Both Marks and Dominguez were issued after the D.C. Circuit invalidated the FCC’s interpretation of ATDS in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission. In Marks, plaintiff brought a TCPA class action after receiving three text messages from Crunch Fitness where he had a gym membership, asserting that the texts were sent using an ATDS. The messaging system was a “web-based marketing platform designed to send promotional text messages to a list of stored telephone numbers.” Phone numbers were either manually entered into the system or provided directly by customers. To send text campaigns, a Crunch employee would log in, select the intended recipients, generate the content of a message, and select the time and date for...