Articles Posted in Business Disputes

There are countless stories of a rock band’s members fighting over music and money, but this time it’s the widow of a band’s recently deceased member who’s fighting with the remaining members of the band over the band’s value.

When the singer Chris Cornell died, his widow, Vicky Cornell, inherited his share of the interest in the band, Soundgarden. The other members have offered to buy Cornell’s share for $278,000, but she alleges that amount represents just a fraction of what her share in the band is worth.

Cornell is suing the remaining members of Soundgarden for allegedly devaluing her share in the band, and has asked a judge to decide on an appropriate buyout price based on the value of Soundgarden’s master recordings. Additionally, Cornell is also asking the court to factor in the potential for future sales, including merchandise, tours, and even new music that could be created with artificial intelligence using extant recordings of Chris Cornell’s vocals.

A representative for Soundgarden said the remaining members of the band have acted in good faith in trying to buy out Cornell’s share of interest in the band. The amount they offered was allegedly based on the value of the band as estimated by Gary Cohen, a valuation expert who they claim is highly regarded and respected in the music industry. In trying to settle their disputes with Cornell, the surviving members of the band have allegedly offered to pay Cohen’s estimated value several times over. They say it’s about their music and their legacy, not about the money. But Cornell tells a different story. Continue reading ›

For producers and manufacturers, alike supply contracts have many advantages. For manufacturers, it ensures a steady supply of raw goods for manufacturing, and for producers, it secures a steady stream of revenue. All contracts though come with the risk that one of the parties will breach them. In a recent decision, the Seventh Circuit provided guidance for interpreting the “adequate assurances” provision of Section 2-609 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

The dispute at issue is nearly a decade old. In 2009, BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc., a designer, and manufacturer of rubber and plastic products primarily for the automotive industry entered into a five-year supply contract with Continental Carbon Company for the supply of carbon black, an ingredient often used in the manufacture of rubber products. The agreement included baseline prices for three types of carbon black and provided that the prices were “to remain firm throughout the term of this agreement.”

In 2011, the supply of carbon black became generally tight and shortages were commonplace. In response, Continental sought to unilaterally increase the prices it charged BRC. BRC responded to the news of the price increase by objecting that the increases breached the contract. Continental refused to rescind the increase and its vice president of marketing and development instructed the sales representative in charge of the BRC account to withhold shipments to BRC unless it agreed to the increase.

Even after being informed of the anticipated increase price, BRC continued placing new orders at the contact prices. Continental did not respond to BRC’s objections to the increase but did continue to fulfill the orders until May of 2011. After Continental missed a shipment, BRC contacted Continental but Continental’s representative would not guarantee to supply product under existing purchase orders and claimed that it was “out of his control.” Without a confirmation that Continental would perform in conformity with the contract, BRC scrambled to find alternate suppliers and eventually received a shipment from another provider at spot rates higher than the contract rate. Continue reading ›

Two inventors who were entitled to royalties on the sales of products sued the purchaser of their former company over their royalty rights. The litigation and arbitration took years, and after the third round of arbitration, the arbitrator determined that the inventors were not entitled to compensation from the company they sued. Despite this finding, the two continued to engage in litigation against the firm. After their final suit was dismissed in the district court, the company sought sanctions for bringing a groundless lawsuit. The district court granted the motion, finding that the suit had been barred by the doctrine of res judicata and the plain language of the governing agreements. The appellate panel agreed, determining that the results of the third and fourth rounds of arbitration made the suit frivolous and it affirmed the imposition of sanctions.

In 1997, Tai Matlin and James Waring co-founded Gray Matter Holdings, LLC. In 1999, they entered into a Withdrawal Agreement with Gray Matter. The agreement entitled Matlin and Waring to royalties on the sales of certain key products. In 2003, Gray Matter sold some of its assets to Swimways Corp.

Since that sale, Matlin and Waring have been engaged with Gray Matter in protracted litigation and arbitration over their royalty rights. During the third arbitration, the arbitrator determined that Gray Matter had not transferred its royalty obligations to Swimways in 2003, and therefore remained solely responsible for any royalty compensation owed to Matlin and Waring under the Withdrawal Agreement. Continue reading ›

A disgruntled investor sued the organization that regulates registrations for certain securities brokers after he lost his investment. The investor argued that the securities broker had a history of misconduct dating back more than 30 years and should have had his membership revoked under the organization’s bylaws. The investor claimed that because the organization violated its own bylaws, it was liable for the actions of the securities broker. The district court determined that the organization did not violate the bylaws because the conduct of the broker had not led to the expulsion of an associated organization, only a voluntary withdrawal. The appellate panel agreed and affirmed the decision of the district court.

The Commodities Futures Trading Commission promotes the integrity of the U.S. derivatives markets through regulation via the Commodity Exchange Act. Congress authorized the CFTC to establish futures associations with authority to regulate the practices of its Members. Since 1981, there has been a single CFTC-approved registered futures association under the CEA, the National Futures Association. The NFA is charged with processing registrations for futures commission merchants, swap dealers, commodity pool operators, commodity trading advisors, introducing brokers, retail foreign exchange dealers, and relevant associated persons.

One requirement enforced by the NFA is Bylaw 301(a)(ii)(D), which prohibits a person from becoming or remaining a member if they were, by their conduct while associated with another member, a cause of any suspension, expulsion, or order. Between 1983 and 2015, Thomas Heneghan was an associated person of fourteen different NFA-Member firms. Dennis Troyer, an investor in financial products since the 1990s, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial derivatives through NFA Members and their associates.

Although Troyer chronicled history of misconduct by Heneghan, dating as far back as 1985, the first interaction between Troyer and Heneghan was not until October 2008 when Troyer invested more than $160,000 between October 2008 and March 2011 under Heneghan’s advisement. In 2009, Heneghan came under the scrutiny of the NFA. This scrutiny continued for several years as Heneghan changed affiliation across several NFA member firms. Heneghan was eventually barred from NFA membership, associate membership, and from acting as the principal of an NFA member in 2016. Continue reading ›

A plastics company purchased ingredients from a producer of rubber products for many years under a series of short-term agreements. A few years after signing a long-term agreement, the rubber producer attempted to unilaterally raise the price of the products it was selling to the plastics company. When the plastics company protested that this was not allowed under the agreement, the rubber producer failed to make scheduled deliveries on time. The plastics company then sought an alternate source of rubber and sued the producer for the difference in cost it paid. The district court determined that the rubber company failed to adequately assure the plastics manufacturer of its ability to perform under the contract, and the plastics company was therefore entitled to seek supplies elsewhere and recoup damages. The appellate panel affirmed, finding that the plastic company’s actions were reasonable under the Uniform Commercial Code.

BRC Rubber & Plastics, Inc. designs and manufactures rubber and plastic products, primarily for the automotive industry. Continental Carbon Company manufactures carbon black, an ingredient in many rubber products. Before 2010, BRC bought all the carbon black it needed from Continental, though the two companies did not have a long term supply contract.

In 2009, BRC solicited bids from several suppliers of carbon black, seeking a long-term contract to ensure continuity of supply. Continental won the bidding, and in late 2009 the two companies signed a five-year contract to run to Dec. 31, 2014. Continental agreed to supply BRC with approximately 1.8 million pounds of prime furnace black annually in equal monthly quantities. The contract listed baseline prices for three types of carbon black which were to remain firm throughout the agreement. The contract also included instructions for calculating the feedstock price adjustment to account for fluctuations in the price of oil and gas. Continue reading ›

After a corporation attempted to designate its principal agent the right to file an answer to a complaint pro se, the trial court found that the corporation had not properly appeared before the court and awarded a default judgment to the plaintiff. The corporation attempted to have the default judgment declared void, and the trial court found that the corporation had not demonstrated that it acted with due diligence to explain its failure to file a proper appearance. The appellate panel determined that the trial court did not err and that the corporation’s petition failed under both a standard 2-1401 and a subsection (f) analysis.

AZM Group, Inc. executed an asset purchase agreement with Askew Insurance Group, LLC. The APA addressed AZM’s purchase of Askew. The terms of the agreement stated that Askew would continue its current lease agreement for its office space from September 2014 to April 2017. A separate sublease agreement between AZM and Askew would enable AZM to sublease Askew’s office space from the same time period. AZM agreed to pay Askew $1300 per month for rent. Askew would then add the additional amount to total the monthly rent at $1550, to be paid to the landlord by Askew. Continue reading ›

Best-Chicago-Business-Dispute-Lawyer-1-300x189AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Illinois, was sued by a trading firm after it conducted a Dutch auction to determine the price for its tender offer to repurchase shares of its own stock. Shareholders participated in the auction, offering to sell their stock back to AbbVie, and the lowest offered prices were selected by AbbVie until AbbVie had reached $7.5 billion worth of repurchases. AbbVie hired a company to receive bids and determine the final price it would purchase shares at. That company published preliminary numbers and later corrected them after the market had closed. The trading firm alleged that by publishing the preliminary numbers and correcting them after the close of trading, AbbVie had violated the Securities Exchange Act. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of AbbVie, affirming the decision of the district court and finding no violation.

AbbVie, Inc. made a tender offer to repurchase as much as $7.5 billion of its outstanding shares. AbbVie conducted a Dutch auction to determine the price. AbbVie began the auction by setting the price at $114. Shareholders participated by offering to sell their shares at or below $114. AbbVie then selected the lowest price that would allow it to purchase $7.5 billion of shares from the tendering shareholders.

The auction took place from May 1, 2018, to May 29, 2018. On May 30, AbbVie announced that it would purchase 71.4 million shares for $105 per share. AbbVie’s stock, which had been trading at $100 closed at $103 on May 30. Approximately an hour after the close, AbbVie announced that it had received corrected numbers from the company it hired to receive bids, Computershare Trust Co. Instead of purchasing 71.4 million shares at $105 a share, AbbVie would purchase 72.8 million shares at $103 a share. The next day, AbbVie’s share price fell to $99.

Walleye Trading LLC filed suit, contending that AbbVie’s announcement of preliminary numbers, followed by corrected numbers after trading closed, violated § 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Walley also argued that William Chase, a controlling manager of AbbVie, was liable under § 20(a) of the act. The district court dismissed Walleye’s complaint for failing to state a claim, and Walleye appealed. Continue reading ›

Back in January of 2012, the City of Westland Police and Fire Retirement System filed a class-action lawsuit against MetLife Inc. They alleged that the insurance company used data from the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master File” (DMF) to determine when to stop paying annuities to deceased policyholders, but allegedly did not use the same database to determine when to pay out life insurance policies or the Retained Asset Account, although it could have easily done so.

The insurance company also allegedly failed to include data from the DMF regarding its pending payouts in its quarterly reports to its shareholders, thereby underreporting to its investors the amount of money it would have to pay out to policyholders and overestimating its quarterly profits. This withholding of information made MetLife’s investors think the company had less money in outgoing payouts than it actually had, which allegedly resulted in MetLife maintaining stock prices that were artificially high – as soon as the information was made public, the insurance company’s stock prices allegedly dropped and the plaintiffs of the lawsuit allege they suffered financial damages.

Despite the fact that regulators had looked into the insurance company’s alleged misuse (or at least misreporting) of the data contained in the DMF, MetLife also allegedly failed to disclose to its shareholders the fact that regulators were investigating the insurance company’s misuse of the DMF. Continue reading ›

Gary Ganzi and his sister, Claire Ganzi Breen, sued their cousins back in 2012 for allegedly cheating them out of millions of dollars in royalties over the course of more than 40 years. A state court judge in Manhattan sided with the Ganzi siblings, saying the actions of the defendants, Walter Ganzi Jr. and Bruce Bozzi Jr., constituted a breach of fiduciary duty in which they prioritized their own financial wellbeing above the responsibility they bore their shareholders.

The defendants are the grandsons of the original founders of the iconic Palm steakhouse, and together they own a controlling share of the company, Just One More Restaurant Corp., which owns the chain of restaurants. They have opened more than 20 Palm restaurants across the U.S. and have licensed intellectual property related to the restaurant, including the right to use the name, logo, and the look and feel of the original Palm. The Ganzi siblings own all that intellectual property and the defendants allegedly licensed that property from them every time they opened a new Palm restaurant.

The price of licensing that intellectual property was set at a flat rate more than four decades ago, and as a result, the Ganzi siblings have been paid $6,000 in licensing fees for every new Palm restaurant that opens, but they claim that it’s worth much more. Continue reading ›

Hudson’s Bay (HBC), the Canadian retail company that owns Saks, among other high-end stores, has been sued by lenders who claim the reorganization of the company that happened earlier this year was conducted in an attempt to set up a secret corporate shell game that has robbed the credit that exists as insurance on the $850 million loan the plaintiffs have invested in the company.

The lawsuit centers around the fact that, as the owner of stores like Saks and Lord & Taylor, HBC was responsible for guaranteeing payment on all loans for the stores, including making sure the rent was paid if the stores themselves were in financial distress or unable to make rent for any other reason.

Earlier this year, HBC formed a new Bermuda corporation, which is owned by shareholders with a controlling interest in HBC, as well as executives at the highest levels of HBC’s corporate hierarchy. According to the plaintiff, Situs Holdings, this transfer of assets is not only improper but also violates the loan agreement and puts at risk the company’s ability to repay the loan.

HBC denies all the allegations, claiming the restructuring amounted to little more than a change in name and some paper shuffling. It also alleges that Situs never had any claim on the assets of HBC that were reassigned in the course of the restructuring process. The Canadian retail company insists that Situs’s reaction to the restructuring is far beyond what the restructuring actually accomplishes and that the plaintiff’s claims that HBC allegedly conducted this restructuring in secret, deliberately keeping it concealed from Situs, are likewise false. Continue reading ›

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