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October 4, 2019 |
Gibson Dunn Ranked in the 2020 UK Legal 500

The UK Legal 500 2020 ranked Gibson Dunn in 15 practice areas and named seven partners as Leading Lawyers.  The firm was recognized in the following categories: Corporate and Commercial: Corporate Tax Corporate and Commercial: Equity Capital Markets – Mid-Large Cap Corporate and Commercial: EU and Competition Corporate and Commercial: M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £500m+ Corporate and Commercial: Private equity: transactions – high-value deals (£250m+) Dispute Resolution: Commercial Litigation Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration Dispute Resolution: Public International Law Human Resources: Employment – Employers Projects, Energy and Natural Resources: Oil and Gas Public Sector: Administrative and Public Law Real Estate: Commercial Property – Hotels and Leisure Real Estate: Commercial Property – Investment Real Estate: Property Finance Risk Advisory: Regulatory Investigations and Corporate Crime The partners named as Leading Lawyers are Sandy Bhogal – Corporate and Commercial: Corporate Tax; Steve Thierbach – Corporate and Commercial: Equity Capital Markets; Ali Nikpay – Corporate and Commercial: EU and Competition; Philip Rocher – Dispute Resolution: Commercial Litigation; Cyrus Benson – Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration; Jeffrey Sullivan – Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration; and Alan Samson – Real Estate: Commercial Property – Investment and Real Estate: Property Finance. Claibourne Harrison has also been named as a Rising Star for Real Estate: Commercial Property – Investment. The guide was published on September 26, 2019. Gibson Dunn’s London office offers full-service English and U.S. law capability, including corporate, finance, dispute resolution, competition/antitrust, real estate, labor and employment, and tax.  Our lawyers advise international corporations, financial institutions, private equity funds and governments on complex and challenging transactions and disputes. Our London corporate practice is at the forefront of cross-border M&A, financing and joint venture transactions, including advising clients seeking to access U.S. and European capital markets.  Team members handle major domestic and multi-jurisdictional commercial cases before English, EU and Commonwealth courts, and have a wealth of experience in taking complex matters to trial.  Gibson Dunn’s London office was founded more than 30 years ago.  Our dynamic team includes many dual-qualified lawyers with extensive language skills.

October 1, 2019 |
Benchmark Litigation US 2020 Gives Top Marks to Gibson Dunn

Benchmark Litigation US recognized Gibson Dunn in eight national litigation practice areas in its 2020 edition and named 67 partners as Litigation Stars and Future Stars across the U.S.  Nationally, the firm received Tier 1 rankings in the Antitrust, Appellate, General Commercial, Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment, Securities and White Collar Crime categories.  The firm also earned the publication’s highest recommendations for its litigation practices in California, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C. The publication also named the firm as one of the “Top 20 Trial Firms” in the nation and named four partners to its annual “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America” list: Century City partner Wayne Barsky, New York partners Randy Mastro and Orin Snyder, and Washington DC partner Richard Parker.  The rankings were released September 25, 2019.

October 1, 2019 |
Anne Champion and Randy Mastro Named Litigators of the Week

The Am Law Litigation Daily named New York partners Anne Champion and Randy Mastro as its Litigators of the Week [PDF] for successfully persuading a district judge that a foreign arbitration award against Chevron was a sham.  The profile was published on September 27, 2019. Anne Champion is a member of Gibson Dunn’s Transnational Litigation, Environmental Litigation, and Intellectual Property Practice Groups.  She has played a lead role in a wide range of high-stakes litigation matters, including trials. Randy Mastro, Co-Chair of the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group, routinely ranks among the nation’s leading litigators and trial lawyers in surveys of corporate counsel and other practitioners.  He has tried dozens of cases in private practice and as a federal prosecutor, and he has also argued more than 100 appeals in federal and state appellate courts throughout the country.

September 24, 2019 |
UK Supreme Court Decides Suspending UK Parliament Was Unlawful

Click for PDF The UK’s highest court has today ruled (here) that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend (or “prorogue”) Parliament for five weeks, from September 9, 2019 until October 14, 2019, was unlawful. The Supreme Court, sitting with eleven justices instead of the usual five, unanimously found “that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification”. It is a well-established constitutional convention that the Queen is obliged to follow the Prime Minister’s advice. The landmark Supreme Court ruling dealt with two appeals, one from businesswoman Gina Miller and the other from the UK Government. Mrs Miller was appealing a decision of the English Divisional Court that the prorogation was “purely political” and not a matter for the courts. The UK Government was appealing a ruling of Scotland’s Court of Session that the suspension was “unlawful” and had been used to “stymie” Parliament. A link to the full judgment is here. A key question before the Court, therefore, was whether the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty was “justiciable”, i.e. whether the court had a right to review that decision or whether it was purely a political matter. The Court held that the advice was justiciable: “The courts have exercised a supervisory jurisdiction over the lawfulness of acts of the Government for centuries”. The next question was on the constitutional limits of the power to prorogue. The Court decided that prorogation would be unlawful if it had the effect of “frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive”. The Court stated that it was not concerned with the Prime Minister’s motive; the key concern was whether there was good reason for the Prime Minister to prorogue as he did. The subsequent question related to the effect of the prorogation. The Supreme Court held that the decision to prorogue Parliament prevented Parliament from carrying out its constitutional role of holding the government to account and that, in the “quite exceptional” surrounding circumstances, it is “especially important that he [the Prime Minister] be ready to face the House of Commons.” The Court held that it was “impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason – let alone a good reason – to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks”. The final question was on the legal effect of that finding and what remedies the Court should grant. The Court declared that as the advice was unlawful, the prorogation was unlawful, null and of no effect; Parliament had not been prorogued. The Supreme Court’s judgment further explained that “as Parliament is not prorogued, it is for Parliament to decide what to do next.” Almost immediately after judgment was handed down, it was announced that both the House of Commons and House of Lords will resume sitting tomorrow, Wednesday September 25, 2019. Prime Minister’s Questions – usually scheduled for each Wednesday that Parliament is in session – will not take place due to notice requirements. The UK Government has pledged to “respect” the judgment and the Prime Minister plans to return to the UK from New York, where he is due to address the U.N. General Assembly. Shortly before Parliament was prorogued, a new law was passed requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension to the current October 31 deadline for the UK to leave the EU unless Parliament agreed otherwise (European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019). The Government has asserted that this legislation is defective and continues to insist that the UK will leave the EU on October 31, 2019. The Supreme Court’s judgment does not directly affect the position in respect of the October 31 deadline. This client alert was prepared by Patrick Doris, Anne MacPherson, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Ryan Whelan in London. We have a working group in London (led by Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues.  Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Sandy Bhogal – Tax SBhogal@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4266 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4236 © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

September 13, 2019 |
Stacie Fletcher and Katherine Smith Named Among Americas Rising Stars

Euromoney Legal Media Group named two partners to its 2019 Americas Rising Stars list. Washington D.C. partner Stacie Fletcher was named “Best in Environment,” and Los Angeles partner Katherine Smith was awarded “Best in Labor & Employment.” The awards were announced on September 12, 2019. Stacie Fletcher represents clients in a wide variety of federal and state litigation, including agency enforcement actions, cost recovery cases, and mass tort actions. Katherine Smith has extensive experience representing employers in individual, representative and class action litigation at both the trial court and appellate level. Her practice focuses on high stakes litigation matters such as wage and hour class actions, whistleblower retaliation cases, and executive disputes.

September 10, 2019 |
Litigation Partner Joshua Lerner Joins Gibson Dunn in San Francisco

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is pleased to announce that Joshua Lerner has joined the firm as a partner in its San Francisco office.  Lerner, formerly a partner at Durie Tangri, will continue to focus on litigating major complex commercial matters. “Josh will be a terrific addition to the firm,” said Ken Doran, Chairman and Managing Partner of Gibson Dunn.  “He has a well-deserved reputation as an accomplished trial lawyer.  Having spent time in-house and in private practice, Josh brings a pragmatic perspective to the business and legal issues confronting our clients, particularly in the tech sector.  Gibson Dunn has one of the premier litigation platforms in the world, and Josh will add to that strength.” “Josh brings excellent experience representing large multinational technology clients in high-stakes matters,” said Charles J. Stevens, Partner-in-Charge of the San Francisco office.  “He will complement our thriving litigation practice in the Bay Area and firmwide.” “I’m thrilled to join the Gibson Dunn team,” Lerner said.  “Gibson Dunn’s reputation as a litigation powerhouse is well-known, and I’m looking forward to expanding my practice.  I’m also confident that the firm’s collaborative culture will be a natural fit.” About Joshua Lerner Lerner advises leading technology companies on complex commercial litigation.  His practice covers a wide variety of areas, including class actions, intellectual property, trade secrets, breach of contract and founder disputes. Before joining Gibson Dunn, Lerner was a partner at Durie Tangri for 10 years.  From 2006 to 2009, he was in-house at Genentech, serving as a Senior Litigation Counsel.  Prior, he also practiced at Clarence Dyer LLP & Cohen and Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP.  Over the course of his career, Lerner has taught business torts at University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Lerner received his law degree in 2001 from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

September 9, 2019 |
Law360 Names Seven Gibson Dunn Lawyers as 2019 Rising Stars

Seven Gibson Dunn lawyers were named among Law360’s Rising Stars for 2019 [PDF], featuring “attorneys under 40 whose legal accomplishments transcend their age.”  The following lawyers were recognized: Washington D.C. partner Chantale Fiebig in Transportation, San Francisco partner Allison Kidd in Real Estate, Washington D.C. associate Andrew Kilberg in Telecommunications, New York associate Sean McFarlane in Sports, New York partner Laura O’Boyle in Securities, Los Angeles partner Katherine Smith in Employment and Century City partner Daniela Stolman in Private Equity. Gibson Dunn was one of three firms with the second most Rising Stars. The list of Rising Stars was published on September 8, 2019.

August 26, 2019 |
Scott Edelman and Michele Maryott Named Among National Law Journal’s 2019 Winning Litigators

The National Law Journal named Century City partner Scott Edelman and Orange County partner Michele Maryott among the 32 lawyers on in its 2019 list of “Winning Litigators,” featuring “star trial litigators” who “took on high-stakes matters and won.” The report was published on August 26, 2019. Scott Edelman has first-chaired numerous jury trials, bench trials and arbitrations, including class actions, taking well over twenty to final verdict or decision. He has a broad background in commercial litigation, including antitrust, class actions, employment, entertainment and intellectual property, real estate and product liability. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Michele Maryott’s practice focuses on business litigation, with particular emphasis on employment litigation, class actions and complex commercial disputes. She has litigated a wide range of labor and employment matters. She also represents clients in a wide variety of commercial litigation, including consumer class actions and other disputes involving environmental and toxic torts, acquisition-related disputes, unfair business practices and business torts. As trial counsel, she has obtained numerous defense verdicts as well as multi-million dollar awards on behalf of clients in a variety of industries.

August 15, 2019 |
2019 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update

Click for PDF The rate of new securities class action filings appears to be stabilizing, but that does not mean 2019 has been lacking in important developments in securities law. This mid-year update highlights what you most need to know in securities litigation trends and developments for the first half of 2019: The Supreme Court decided Lorenzo, holding that, even though Lorenzo did not “make” statements at issue and is thus not subject to enforcement under subsection (b) of Rule 10b-5, the ordinary and dictionary definitions of the words in Rules 10b-5(a) and (c) are sufficiently broad to encompass his conduct, namely disseminating false or misleading information to prospective investors with the intent to defraud. Because the Supreme Court dismissed the writ of certiorari in Emulex as improvidently granted, there remains a circuit split as to whether Section 14(e) of the Exchange Act supports an implied private right of action based on negligent misrepresentations or omissions made in connection with a tender offer. We explain important developments in Delaware courts, including the Court of Chancery’s application of C & J Energy, as well as the Delaware Supreme Court’s (1) application and extension of its recent precedents in appraisal litigation to damages claims, (2) elaboration of its recent holding on MFW’s “up front” requirement, and (3) rare conclusion that a Caremark claim—“possibly the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment”—survived a motion to dismiss. Finally, we continue to monitor significant cases interpreting and applying the Supreme Court’s decisions in Omnicare and Halliburton II. I.   Filing And Settlement Trends New federal securities class action filings in the first six months of 2019 indicate that annual filings are on track to be similar to the number of new cases filed in each of the prior two years. According to a newly released NERA Economic Consulting study (“NERA”), 218 cases were filed in the first half of this year. While there was a relative surge in new cases in the first quarter of the year, this higher level of new cases did not persist in the second quarter. Filing activity in the first half of 2019 indicates a continuation of the shift in the types of cases observed in 2018—an increase in the number of Rule 10b-5, Section 11, or Section 12 cases, and a decrease in the number of merger objection cases. If the filing composition and levels observed in the first half of 2019 are indicative of the pattern for the rest of the year, we will see a 15% increase in Rule 10b-5, Section 11, and Section 12 cases compared to the approximate 1% growth in this category of filings in 2018. On the other hand, merger objection cases filed in 2019 are on pace to be more than 16% lower than similar cases filed in the prior year. While the median settlement values for the first half of 2019 are roughly equivalent to those in 2018 (at $12.0 million, down from $12.70 million in 2018), average settlement values are down over 50% from 2018 (at $33 million, down from $71 million in 2018).  That said, this discrepancy is due predominantly to one settlement in 2018 exceeding $1 billion.  Excluding such outliers, we actually see a slight increase in average settlement values compared to the prior two years. The industry sectors most frequently sued thus far in 2019 continue to be healthcare (22% of all cases filed), tech (20%), and finance (15%). Cases filed against healthcare companies in the first half of 2019 are showing the continuation of a downward trend from a spike in 2016, while cases filed against tech and finance companies are on pace with 2018. A.   Filing Trends Figure 1 below reflects filing rates for the first half of 2019 (all charts courtesy of NERA). So far this year, 218 cases have been filed in federal court, annualizing to 436 cases, which is on pace with the number of filings in 2017 and 2018, and significantly higher than the numbers seen in years prior to 2017. Note that this figure does not include the many class suits filed in state courts or the rising number of state court derivative suits, including many such suits filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery. B.   Mix Of Cases Filed In First Half Of 2019 1.   Filings By Industry Sector As seen in Figure 2 below, the split of non-merger objection class actions filed in the first half of 2019 across industry sectors is fairly consistent with the distribution observed in 2018, with few indications of significant shifts or increases in particular sectors. As in 2018, the Health Technology and Services and the Electronic Technology and Technology Services sectors accounted for over 40% of filings. The two sectors reflecting the largest changes from 2018 thus far are Consumer Durables and Non-Durables (at 9%, up from 6% in 2018) and Consumer and Distribution Services (at 5%, down from 9% in 2018). See Figure 2, infra. 2.   Merger Cases As shown in Figure 3, 83 “merger objection” cases have been filed in federal court in the first half of 2019 —below the pace of 109 cases at this point in 2018. If the 2019 trend continues, the 166 merger objection cases projected to be filed in 2019 will be about 16% fewer than the 198 merger objection cases filed in the prior year. C.   Settlement Trends As Figure 4 shows below, during the first half of 2019, the average settlement declined to $33 million, more than 50% lower than the average in 2018 but higher than the average in 2017. This phenomenon is primarily driven by one settlement in 2018 exceeding $1 billion, heavily skewing the average for that year.  If we limit our analysis to cases with settlements under $1 billion, there is actually a slight increase in the average settlement value in 2019 compared to the prior years. Finally, as Figure 5 shows, the median settlement value for cases was $12 million, which is in line with the median in 2018 and almost double the median value in 2017. II.   What To Watch For In The Supreme Court A.   Lorenzo Affirms That Disseminators Of False Statements May Be Held Liable Under Rules 10b-5(a) And 10b-5(c) Even If Janus Shields Them From Liability Under Rule 10b-5(b) We discussed the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review of Lorenzo v. Securities and Exchange Commission, No. 17-1077, in our 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update, and our 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update. Readers will recall that the question presented in Lorenzo was whether a securities fraud claim premised on a false statement that was not “made” by the defendant can be actionable as a “fraudulent scheme” under Section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and 10b-5(c), even though it would not support a claim under Rule 10b-5(b) pursuant to the Court’s ruling in Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, 564 U.S. 135 (2011). On March 27, 2019, the Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit in a 6–2 opinion by Justice Breyer (Justice Kavanaugh took no part in the decision because he participated in the panel decision while a judge on the court of appeals).  The Court held that the ordinary and dictionary definitions of the words in Rules 10b-5(a) and 10b-5(c) are sufficiently broad to encompass Lorenzo’s conduct, namely disseminating false or misleading information to prospective investors with the intent to defraud, even if the disseminator did not “make” the statements and is thus not subject to enforcement under subsection (b) of the Rule.  Lorenzo v. SEC, 587 U.S. ___ (2019), slip op. at 5–7. Underlying the Court’s opinion is the principle that the securities laws and regulations work together as a whole. The Court rejected Lorenzo’s argument that Rule 10b-5 should be read to mean that each provision of the Rule governs different, mutually exclusive spheres of conduct. Under Lorenzo’s reading, he could be liable for false statements only if his conduct violated provisions that specifically refer to such statements, such as Rule 10b-5(b), and could therefore not be liable under other provisions of the Rule, which do not specifically mention misstatements. The Court noted, however, that it has “long recognized considerable overlap among the subsections of the Rule” and related statutory provisions.  Id. at 7–8.  The opinion further noted that Lorenzo’s conduct “would seem a paradigmatic example of securities fraud,” making it difficult for the majority to reconcile Lorenzo’s argument with the basic purpose and congressional intent behind the securities laws.  Id. at 9. The majority also adopted the SEC’s argument that Janus concerned only Rule 10b-5(b), and thus does not operate to shield those who disseminate false or misleading information from scheme liability, even if they do not “make” the statement.  In response to Lorenzo’s contention that imposing primary liability here would weaken the distinction between primary and secondary liability, the Court drew what it characterized as a clear line:  “Those who disseminate false statements with intent to defraud may be held primarily liable under Rules 10b-5(a) and (c),” as well as Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act, “even if they are secondarily liable under Rule 10b-5(b).”  Id. at 10–11.  Finally, the Court identified a flaw in Lorenzo’s suggestion that he should only be held secondarily liable.  Under that theory, someone who disseminated false statements (even if knowingly engaged in fraud) could not be held to have aided and abetted a “maker” of a false statement if the maker did not violate Rule 10b-5(b). That is because the aiding and abetting statute requires that there be a violator to whom the secondary violator provides “substantial assistance.” Id. at 12. And if, under Lorenzo’s theory, the disseminator did not primarily violate other subsections (perhaps because the disseminator lacked the necessary intent), the fraud might go unpunished altogether.  Id. at 12–13. We noted in our 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update that Justice Gorsuch appeared accepting of Lorenzo’s positions during the oral argument, and he did join Justice Thomas (the author of Janus) in dissent. The dissent contended that the majority “eviscerate[d]” the distinction drawn in Janus between primary and secondary liability by holding that a person who did not “make” a fraudulent misstatement “can nevertheless be primarily liable for it.” Id. at 1 (Thomas, J., dissenting).  The dissent faulted the Court for holding, in essence, that the more general provisions of other securities laws each “completely subsumes” the provisions that specifically govern false statements, such as Rule 10b-5(b). Id. at 3.  Instead, the dissenters argued that these specific provisions must be operative in false-statement cases, and that the more general provisions should be applied only to cases that do not fall within the purview of these more specific provisions. B.   Pending Certiorari Petitions Regular readers of these updates will recall that we wrote about the Supreme Court’s pending decision in Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian, No. 18-459, in the 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update. In April, the Supreme Court heard oral argument and then dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian, 587 U.S. ___ (2019), slip op. at 1. As is common in such dismissals, the Justices offered no explanation of why they dismissed the case. Therefore, there remains a circuit split as to whether Section 14(e) of the Exchange Act supports an implied private right of action based on negligent misrepresentations or omissions made in connection with a tender offer. There is also at least one notable securities case in which a petition for certiorari is pending. Putnam Investments, LLC v. Brotherston, No. 18-926, an ERISA case, presents the question whether the plaintiff or defendant must prove that an alleged fiduciary breach related to investment option selection caused a loss to participants or the plan. The case also raises the issue of whether the First Circuit correctly held that showing that particular investment options did not perform as well as a set of index funds, selected by the plaintiffs with the benefit of hindsight, suffices as a matter of law to establish “losses to the plan.” The Supreme Court has entered an order requesting the Solicitor General file a brief expressing the views of the United States. The government has not yet filed its brief in this case. We will continue to monitor the petition and provide an update if the Supreme Court grants certiorari. III.   Delaware Developments A.   Delaware Supreme Court Affirms Deal Price Is Best Evidence Of Fair Value In Appraisal, And Of Damages In Entire Fairness Regular readers of these updates will recall that, since our 2017 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, we have been reporting on the significant shift in Delaware appraisal law resulting from the Delaware Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Dell, Inc. v. Magnetar Global Event Driven Master Fund Ltd., 177 A.3d 1 (Del. 2017), where it directed the Court of Chancery to use market factors to determine the fair value of a company’s stock. In our 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update, we wrote about the Delaware Court of Chancery’s decision in Verition Partners Master Fund v. Aruba Networks, Inc., where the trial court interpreted Dell as endorsing a company’s unaffected market price and deal price as reliable indicators of fair value under certain circumstances. 2018 WL 2315943, at *1 (Del. Ch. May 21, 2018). In April, however, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the trial court, clarifying that, although the “unaffected market price” of a seller’s stock “in an efficient market is an important indicator of its economic value that should be given weight” under appropriate circumstances, Dell “did not imply that the market price of a stock was necessarily the best estimate of the stock’s so-called fundamental value at any particular time.” Verition Partners Master Fund v. Aruba Networks, Inc., 210 A.3d 128, 2019 WL 1614026, at *6 (Del. Apr. 16, 2019). Eschewing remand, the Supreme Court instead ordered the trial court to enter judgment awarding deal price less synergies as the company’s “fair value.” Id. at *8–9. Then, in May, the Delaware Supreme Court extended the same market-based deference from the appraisal context to damages claims in its affirmance of In re PLX Technology Inc. Stockholders Litigation, 2018 WL 5018535 (Del. Ch. Oct. 16, 2018), aff’d, 2019 WL 2144476, at *1 (Del. May 16, 2019) (TABLE). Late last year, the Delaware Court of Chancery determined in a post-trial opinion that an activist hedge fund aided and abetted a breach of fiduciary duties by directors in connection with their sale of the target company. 2018 WL 5018535, at *1. This was a pyrrhic victory, however, as the Court of Chancery concluded that the plaintiffs failed to prove their allegation that, had the company remained a stand-alone entity, its value would have exceeded the deal price by more than 50%. Id. at *2. Instead, the Court of Chancery found that “[a] far more persuasive source of valuation evidence is the deal price that resulted from the Company’s sale process.” Id. at *54; see also id. & n.605 (citing Dell, 177 A.3d at 30). In affirming the Court of Chancery’s decision on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that “the Court of Chancery erred . . . by importing principles from . . . appraisal jurisprudence to give deference to the deal price.” In re PLX Tech. Inc. Stockholders Litig., 2019 WL 2144476, at *1 (Del. May 16, 2019) (TABLE). B.   Joint Valuation Exercise Constitutes Substantive Economic Negotiations Under Flood, Fails MFW’s “Up Front” Requirement In our 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, we reported on the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in Flood v. Synutra International, Inc., where it held that the element of Kahn v. M & F Worldwide Corp. (“MFW”), 88 A.3d 635, 644 (Del. 2014) that requires a transaction to be conditioned “ab initio” or “up front” on the approval of both a special committee and a majority of the minority stockholders, in turn “require[s] the controller to self-disable before the start of substantive economic negotiations, and to have both the controller and Special Committee bargain under the pressures exerted on both of them by these protections.” Flood v. Synutra Int’l, Inc., 195 A.3d 754, 763 (Del. 2018). In Olenik v. Lodzinski, 208 A.3d 704 (Del. 2019), the Delaware Supreme Court added color to its holding in Flood that “up front” means “before the start of substantive economic negotiations,” Flood, 195 A.3d at 763. In the decision underlying Olenik, the Court of Chancery found that, although the parties to the merger had “worked on the transaction for months” before implementing MFW’s “up front” conditions, those “preliminary discussions” were “entirely exploratory in nature” and “never rose to the level of bargaining.” Olenik, 208 A.3d at 706, 716–17. Disagreeing with and reversing the Court of Chancery, the Delaware Supreme Court held that “preliminary discussions transitioned to substantive economic negotiations when the parties engaged in a joint exercise to value” the merging entities. Id. at 717. In particular, the Delaware Supreme Court found it reasonable to infer that two presentations valuing the target “set the field of play for the economic negotiations to come by fixing the range in which offers and counteroffers might be made.” Id. Thus, the parties could not invoke MFW’s protections because they did not condition the transaction on approval of both a special committee and a majority of the minority stockholders until after these “substantive economic negotiations.” Id. C.   Under C & J Energy, Curative Shopping Process “Cannot Be Granted” To Remedy Deal Subject To Entire Fairness Recently, the Court of Chancery declined to “blue-pencil” a merger agreement resulting from a flawed process based on the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in C & J Energy Services v. City of Miami General Employees’ & Sanitation Employees’ Retirement Trust, 107 A.3d 1049 (Del. 2014). See FrontFour Capital Grp. LLC v. Traube, 2019 WL 1313408, at *33 (Del. Ch. Mar. 22, 2019). Recall that, in C & J Energy, the Delaware Supreme Court cautioned the Court of Chancery against depriving “adequately informed” stockholders of the “chance to vote on whether to accept the benefits and risks that come with [a flawed] transaction, or to reject the deal,” 107 A.3d at 1070, where (1) “no rival bidder has emerged to complain that it was not given a fair opportunity to bid,” id. at 1073, and (2) a preliminary injunction would “strip an innocent third party [buyer] of its contractual rights while simultaneously binding that party to consummate the transaction,” id. at 1054. In FrontFour, the plaintiff proved that the deal at issue was not entirely fair because conflicted insiders tainted the sale process; the special committee failed to inform itself adequately; standstill agreements prevented third parties from coming forward; and other deal protections prevented an effective post-signing market check, among other things. 2019 WL 1313408, at *32. Nevertheless, the Court of Chancery declined to grant “the most equitable relief” available—“a curative shopping process, devoid of [management] influence, free of any deal protections, plus full disclosures.” Id. at *33. The Court of Chancery reasoned that it had “no discretion” to do so under C & J Energy because the injunction sought would “strip an innocent third party of its contractual rights” under the merger agreement. Id. D.   Delaware Supreme Court Holds Caremark Claim Adequately Pleaded As we reported in our 2017 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, a Caremark claim generally seeks to hold directors personally accountable for damages to a company arising from their failure to properly monitor or oversee the company’s major business activities and compliance programs. On June 19, 2019, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Court of Chancery’s dismissal of a derivative suit against key executives and the board of directors of Blue Bell USA, carrying implications for both determinations of director independence and fiduciary duties under Caremark. See Marchand v. Barnhill, 2019 WL 2509617 (Del. June 19, 2019). In its demand futility analysis, the Court held that a combination of a “longstanding business affiliation” and “deep . . . personal ties” cast reasonable doubt on a director’s ability to act impartially. Id. at *2. Notably, the reversal turned on the length and depth of one director’s relationship with the CEO of Blue Bell and his family. Although being “social acquaintances who occasionally have dinner or go to common events” does not per se preclude one’s independence, the current CEO’s father and predecessor had hired, mentored, and quickly promoted the director in question to senior management. Id. at *11. The director maintained a close relationship with the CEO’s family that spanned more than three decades and the family even spearheaded a campaign to name a college building after the director. Id. at *10. This combination of facts persuaded the Court that this director was not independent for demand futility purposes. Id. at *10–11. The Court also held that a board’s failure to implement oversight systems related to a “compliance issue intrinsically critical to the business operation” gives rise to a duty of loyalty claim under Caremark. Id. at *13. The Court concluded that because food safety compliance was critical to the operation of a “single-product food company,” id at *4, neither the Company’s nominal compliance with some applicable regulations, nor management’s discussion of general compliance matters with the board were sufficient to satisfy the board’s oversight responsibilities, id. at *13–14. IV.   Loss Causation Developments The first half of 2019 saw several notable developments regarding loss causation, including continued developments relating to Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 2398 (2014), discussed below in Section VI. Separately, on June 24, 2019, the Supreme Court rejected a petition for a writ of certiorari filed in First Solar, Inc. v. Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, which we discussed in the 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update. First Solar involved a perceived ambiguity in prior precedent regarding the correct test for loss causation under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). Readers will recall that the Ninth Circuit held in First Solar that loss causation can be established even when the corrective disclosure did not reveal the alleged fraud on which the securities fraud claim is based. Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme v. First Solar, Inc., 881 F.3d 750, 754 (9th Cir. 2018), cert. denied, No. 18-164, 2019 WL 2570667 (U.S. June 24, 2019). First Solar filed its petition for writ of certiorari in August 2018, arguing that loss causation can be proven only if the market learns of, and reacts to, the underlying fraud. In May 2019, the Solicitor General filed an amicus brief recommending that certiorari be denied, arguing that the Ninth Circuit correctly rejected a “revelation-of-the-fraud” requirement for loss causation, pursuant to which a stock-price drop comes immediately after the revelation of a defendant’s fraud. Following the Ninth Circuit’s decision in First Solar, some courts have found that a plaintiff adequately pleaded loss causation for the purposes of stating a claim under the Exchange Act when the revelation that caused the decline in a company’s stock price could be tracked back to the facts allegedly concealed, thus establishing proximate cause at the pleadings phase. See, e.g., In re Silver Wheaton Corp. Sec. Litig., 2019 WL 1512269, at *14 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 25, 2019) (denying motion to dismiss); Maverick Fund, L.D.C. v. First Solar, Inc., 2018 WL 6181241, at *8–10 (D. Ariz. Nov. 27, 2018) (denying motion to dismiss and finding that plaintiffs had adequately pleaded facts that, if proven, would establish that disclosures related to misstatements were “casually related” to fraudulent scheme). We will continue to monitor these and other developments regarding loss causation. V.   Falsity Of Opinions – Omnicare Update In the first half of 2019, courts continued to define the boundaries of Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), the case in which the Supreme Court addressed the scope of liability for false opinion statements under Section 11 of the Securities Act. In Omnicare, the Court held that “a sincere statement of pure opinion is not an ‘untrue statement of material fact,’ regardless whether an investor can ultimately prove the belief wrong.” Id. at 1327. Under that standard, opinion statements give rise to liability under only three circumstances: (1) when the speaker does not “actually hold[] the stated belief;” (2) when the statement contains false “embedded statements of fact;” and (3) when the omitted facts “conflict with what a reasonable investor would take from the statement itself.” Id. at 1326–27, 1329. Consistent with past years, Omnicare remains a high bar to pleading the falsity of opinion statements. See, e.g, Plaisance v. Schiller, 2019 WL 1205628, at *11 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 14, 2019) (dismissing complaint that was “[m]issing . . . allegations of fact capable of proving that [the company] did not subjectively believe its audit opinions when they were issued”); Teamsters Local 210 Affiliated Pension Tr. Fund v. Neustar, Inc., 2019 WL 693276, at *5 (E.D. Va. Feb. 19, 2019) (finding that plaintiffs did not “allege facts that create a strong inference that at the time they [made the alleged misstatement], the Defendants could not have reasonably held the opinion” proffered). For example, in Neustar, plaintiffs alleged that defendants’ opinion that a certain transition “would occur by September 30, 2018” was false or misleading. 2019 WL 693276, at *5. Even though defendants were in possession of a “Transition Report, which warned that the transition might not occur” by that date, the court found that “[t]hese statements were far from definitive pronouncements that the transition date would occur later than September 2018.” Id. In addition, courts have continued to flesh out the contours of when a plaintiff has alleged that a company is in possession of sufficient information cutting against its statements to render it liable for an omission. In In re Ocular Therapeutix, Inc. Securities Litigation, the court found that a CEO’s statement that the company “think[s]” it had remedied deficiencies leading to the FDA’s denial of its New Drug Application was inactionable, even where the FDA later rejected the resubmitted application. 2019 WL 1950399, at *8 (D. Mass. Apr. 30, 2019). Not only did the CEO’s language “signal[] to investors that his statement was an opinion and not a guarantee,” but he also cautioned that it was up to the FDA to determine whether or not those deficiencies were corrected. Id. In Securities & Exchange Commission v. Rio Tinto plc, the SEC alleged that Rio Tinto violated securities laws by overstating the valuation of its newly acquired coal business when there had been certain adverse developments concerning the ability to transport coal and the quality of coal in the ground. 2019 WL 1244933, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2019). The court dismissed the claim based on early valuation statements because those statements were opinions that “‘fairly align[ed] with’” information known at the time: namely, the main transportation option had not been entirely rejected, and the SEC did not “allege that Rio Tinto had come to fully appreciate the difficulties” concerning other transportation options and coal reserves by the time of those statements. Id. The SEC has moved to amend its complaint. Gibson Dunn represents Rio Tinto in this and other litigation. This year, courts also weighed in on the question of whether Omnicare applies to claims other than those brought under Section 11. Specifically, a Northern District of California court found that “[t]he Ninth Circuit has only extended Omnicare to Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 claims, not to Section 14 claims,” and therefore “decline[d] to extend Omnicare past the Ninth Circuit’s guidance.” Golub v. Gigamon Inc., 372 F. Supp. 3d 1033, 1049 (N.D. Cal. 2019) (citing City of Dearborn Heights Act 345 Police & Fire Ret. Sys. v. Align Tech., Inc., 856 F.3d 605, 616 (9th Cir. 2017)). Gibson Dunn represents several defendants in that matter. In contrast, the Fourth Circuit applied Omnicare to dismiss a Section 14 claim without any discussion about Omnicare’s limitations, determining that a forward-looking statement was still actionable as an omission. Paradise Wire & Cable Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. Weil, 918 F.3d 312, 322–23 (4th Cir. 2019). Rather, the court emphasized the importance of context when evaluating opinion statements, noting that “words matter” and, as in Paradise Wire, can “render the claim for relief implausible.” Id. at 323. “When the words of a proxy statement, like the ones in this case, . . . contain tailored and specific warnings about the very omissions that are the subject of the allegations, those words render the claim for relief implausible.” Id. Additionally, a District of Delaware court recently declined to apply Omnicare to Section 10(b) claims: “Because the Third Circuit has twice declined to decide that Omnicare applies to Exchange Act claims, the Court is reluctant to decide that issue of first impression in connection with a motion to dismiss.” Lord Abbett Affiliated Fund, Inc. v. Navient Corp., 363 F. Supp. 3d 476, 496 (D. Del. 2019) (citing Jaroslawicz v. M & T Bank Corp., 912 F.3d 96 (3d Cir. 2018); In re Amarin Corp. PLC Sec. Litig., 689 F. App’x 124, 132 n.12 (3d Cir. 2017)). The Southern District of New York also considered whether Omnicare required broad disclosure of attorney-client privileged communications that might bear on whether omitted information rendered an opinion misleading. Pearlstein v. BlackBerry Ltd., 2019 WL 1259382, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2019). In Pearlstein, plaintiffs argued that under Omnicare, a company’s “decision to include a legal opinion in [a] press release waived all attorney-client communications” related to the issuance of that release. Id. at *15. The court noted that Omnicare did not mandate a wholesale waiver, but “[a]t best . . . suggest[ed] that communications specific to a particular subject allegedly omitted or misrepresented within a securities filing may be subject to disclosure and, if the communications happen to be privileged, those communications may be subject to a finding of waiver.” Id. at *16. Accordingly, the company could not insulate itself with the privilege—documents containing relevant factual information were discoverable. However, privilege was not waived over the “side issue” of the company’s legal exposure, including as to documents on the strength and likelihood of any legal claims and “communications conducted solely for purposes of document preservation in connection with anticipated legal claims.” Id. VI.   Courts Continue To Define “Price Impact” Analysis At The Class Certification Stage We are continuing to monitor significant decisions interpreting Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc., 573 U.S. 258 (2014) (“Halliburton II”), but the one federal circuit court of appeal decision issued in the first half of 2019 did little to resolve outstanding questions regarding what it will mean for securities litigants. Recall that in Halliburton II, the Supreme Court preserved the “fraud-on-the-market” presumption, permitting plaintiffs to maintain the common proof of reliance that is required for class certification in a Rule 10b-5 case, but also permitting defendants to rebut the presumption at the class certification stage with evidence that the alleged misrepresentation did not impact the issuer’s stock price. There are three key questions we have been following in the wake of Halliburton II. First, how should courts reconcile the Supreme Court’s explicit ruling in Halliburton II that direct and indirect evidence of price impact must be considered at the class certification stage, Halliburton II, 573 U.S. at 283, with the Supreme Court’s previous decisions holding that plaintiffs need not prove loss causation or materiality until the merits stage? See Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co., 563 U.S. 804, 815 (2011); Amgen Inc. v. Conn. Ret. Plans & Trust Funds, 568 U.S. 455 (2013). Second, what standard of proof must defendants meet to rebut the presumption with evidence of no price impact? Third, what evidence is required to successfully rebut the presumption? As noted in our 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update, the Second Circuit addressed the first two questions in Waggoner v. Barclays PLC, 875 F.3d 79 (2d Cir. 2017) (“Barclays”) and Arkansas Teachers Retirement System v. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., 879 F.3d 474 (2d Cir. 2018) (“Goldman Sachs”). Those decisions remain the most substantive interpretations of Halliburton II. Barclays addressed the standard of proof necessary to rebut the presumption of reliance and held that after a plaintiff establishes the presumption of reliance applies, the defendant bears the burden of persuasion to rebut the presumption by a preponderance of the evidence. This puts the Second Circuit at odds with the Eighth Circuit, which cited Rule 301 of the Federal Rules of Evidence when reversing a trial court’s certification order on price impact grounds, see IBEW Local 98 Pension Fund v. Best Buy Co., 818 F.3d 775, 782 (8th Cir. 2016), because Rule 301 assigns only the burden of production—i.e., producing some evidence—to the party seeking to rebut a presumption, but “does not shift the burden of persuasion, which remains on the party who had it originally.” Fed. R. Evid. 301. Nonetheless, that inconsistency was not enough to persuade the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s decision.  Barclays PLC v. Waggoner, 138 S. Ct. 1702 (Mem.) (2018) (denying writ of certiorari). In Goldman Sachs, the Second Circuit vacated the trial court’s ruling certifying a class and remanded the action, directing that price impact evidence must be analyzed prior to certification, even if price impact “touches” on the issue of materiality.  Goldman Sachs, 879 F.3d at 486. On remand, the district court again certified the class. In re Goldman Sachs Grp. Sec. Litig., 2018 WL 3854757, at *1–2 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 14, 2018). Plaintiffs argued on remand that because the company’s stock price declined following the announcement of three regulatory actions related to the company’s conflicts of interest, previous misstatements about its conflicts had inflated the company’s stock price.  See id. at *2. Defendants’ experts testified that correction of the alleged misstatements could not have caused the stock price drops, both because thirty-six similar announcements had not impacted the company’s stock price and because alternative news (i.e., news of regulatory investigations), in fact, caused the price drop. Id. at *3. The court found the plaintiffs’ expert’s “link between the news of [the company]’s conflicts and the subsequent stock price declines . . . sufficient,” and defendants’ expert testimony insufficient to “sever” that link. Id. at *4–6. In January, however, the Second Circuit agreed to review Goldman Sachs for a second time.  See Order, Ark. Teachers Ret. Sys. v. Goldman Sachs, Case No. 18-3667 (2d Cir. Jan. 31, 2019) (“Goldman Sachs II”). In Goldman Sachs II, the Second Circuit is poised to address what evidence is sufficient to rebut the presumption and how the analysis is affected by plaintiffs’ assertion that the alleged misstatements’ price impact is evidenced not by a price increase when the alleged misstatement is made, but by a price drop when the alleged misstatements are corrected, known as “price maintenance theory.” Defendants-appellants challenged the district court’s finding in two primary ways. First, they argued that the district court impermissibly extended price maintenance theory. See Brief for Defendants-Appellants, Goldman Sachs II, at 28–52 (2d Cir. Feb. 15, 2019). They reasoned that a price maintenance theory is unsupportable where the alleged corrective disclosures revealed no concrete financial or operational information that had been hidden from the market for the purpose of maintaining the stock price, see id. at 28–40, and where the challenged statements are too general to have induced reliance (and thus impacted the stock’s price), see id. at 40–50. Second, defendants-appellants argued that the district court misapplied the preponderance of the evidence standard by considering plaintiffs-appellees’ allegations as evidence and misconstruing defendants-appellants’ evidence of no price impact. See id. at 53–67. Plaintiffs-appellees responded that defendants-appellants’ price-maintenance arguments are not supported by law and that such arguments regarding the general nature of the statements are, in essence, a materiality challenge in disguise and thus not appropriate at the class certification stage. Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellees, Goldman Sachs II, at 20–30 (2d Cir. Feb. Apr. 19, 2019). Plaintiffs-appellees further argued that the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the evidence. Id. at 36–61. Defendants-appellants submitted their reply brief in May, Reply Brief for Defendants-Appellants, Goldman Sachs II (2d Cir. May 3, 2019), and the Second Circuit heard the case in June. Seven amicus briefs were filed in this case, including by the United States Chamber of Commerce and a number of securities law experts supporting defendants-appellants, and by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems supporting plaintiffs-appellees. Our 2018 Year-End Securities Litigation Update also noted that the Third Circuit was poised to address price impact analysis in Li v. Aeterna Zentaris, Inc. in the coming months. Briefing there invited the Third Circuit to clarify the type of evidence defendants must present, including the burden of proof they must meet, to rebut the presumption of reliance at the class certification stage and whether statistical evidence regarding price impact must meet a 95% confidence threshold. The district court had rejected defendants’ argument that plaintiff’s event study rebutted the presumption, and criticized defendants for not offering their own event study. See Li v. Aeterna Zentaris, Inc., 324 F.R.D. 331, 345 (D.N.J. 2018). With limited analysis, the Third Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its consideration of conflicting expert testimony. Vizirgianakis v. Aeterna Zentaris, Inc., 2019 WL 2305491, at *2–3 (3d Cir. May 30, 2019). We will continue to monitor developments in Goldman Sachs II and other cases. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update:  Jefferson Bell, Monica Loseman, Brian Lutz, Mark Perry, Shireen Barday, Lissa Percopo, Lindsey Young, Mark Mixon, Emily Riff, Jason Hilborn, Andrew Bernstein, Alisha Siqueira, Kaylie Springer, and Collin James Vierra. Gibson Dunn lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or any of the following members of the Securities Litigation practice group steering committee: Brian M. Lutz – Co-Chair, San Francisco/New York (+1 415-393-8379/+1 212-351-3881, blutz@gibsondunn.com) Robert F. Serio – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-3917, rserio@gibsondunn.com) Meryl L. Young – Co-Chair, Orange County (+1 949-451-4229, myoung@gibsondunn.com) Jefferson Bell – New York (+1 212-351-2395, jbell@gibsondunn.com) Jennifer L. Conn – New York (+1 212-351-4086, jconn@gibsondunn.com) Thad A. Davis – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8251, tadavis@gibsondunn.com) Ethan Dettmer – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8292, edettmer@gibsondunn.com) Barry R. Goldsmith – New York (+1 212-351-2440, bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com) Mark A. Kirsch – New York (+1 212-351-2662, mkirsch@gibsondunn.com) Gabrielle Levin – New York (+1 212-351-3901, glevin@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman – Denver (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) Jason J. Mendro – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3726, jmendro@gibsondunn.com) Alex Mircheff – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7307, amircheff@gibsondunn.com) Robert C. Walters – Dallas (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Aric H. Wu – New York (+1 212-351-3820, awu@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

August 15, 2019 |
Gibson Dunn Lawyers Recognized in the Best Lawyers in America® 2020

The Best Lawyers in America® 2020 has recognized 158 Gibson Dunn attorneys in 54 practice areas. Additionally, 48 lawyers were recognized in Best Lawyers International in Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.

August 13, 2019 |
Getting the Deal Through: Appeals 2019

Washington, D.C. partner Mark Perry and Los Angeles partner Perlette Jura are the contributing editors of “Appeals 2019,” a publication examining Appellate law and procedure between jurisdictions around the globe, published by Getting the Deal Through in June 2019.  Perry and Jura are the authors of the “Global Overview” and the “United States” chapters of the book, and London partners Patrick Doris and Doug Watson and associate Daniel Barnett are the authors of the “United Kingdom” chapter.

July 29, 2019 |
Delaware Supreme Court Revisits Oversight Liability

Click for PDF In a recent decision applying the famous Caremark doctrine, the Delaware Supreme Court confirmed several important legal principles that we expect will play a central role in the future of derivative litigation and that serve as important reminders for boards of directors in performing their oversight responsibilities.  In particular, the Delaware Supreme Court held that a claim for breach of the duty of loyalty is stated where the allegations plead that “a board has undertaken no efforts to make sure it is informed of a compliance issue intrinsically critical to the company’s business operation.”[1] Although the case addressed extreme facts that will have no application to most mature corporations, the plaintiffs’ bar can be expected to attempt to weaponize the decision.  With all the benefits that hindsight provides, derivative plaintiffs will more frequently contend that a board lacked procedures to monitor “central compliance risks” that were “essential and mission critical.”[2]  The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces that directors need to implement controls that enable them to monitor the most serious sources of risk, and may even caution in favor of a special discussion each year around critical risks. The Decision Marchand involved problems at Blue Bell Creameries USA, Inc., “a monoline company that makes a single product—ice cream.”[3] After several years of food-safety issues known by management, the company suffered a listeria outbreak. This outbreak led to a product recall, a complete operational shutdown, the layoff of one-third of employees, and three deaths.[4] The operational shutdown, in turn, caused the company to accept a dilutive investment to meet its liquidity needs.[5] After obtaining books and records, a stockholder sued derivatively alleging breach of fiduciary duties under Caremark.[6] That theory requires sufficiently pleading that “the directors utterly failed to implement any reporting or information system or controls” or “having implemented such a system or controls, consciously failed to monitor or oversee its operations thus disabling themselves from being informed of the risks or problems requiring their attention.”[7] The plaintiff, though, chose not to make a demand on the board before suing on behalf of the company, so he was subject to the burden of pleading that making a demand would have been futile. In an effort to do so, he tried to allege that a majority of the board was not independent because it could not act impartially in considering a demand and that the directors also faced liability under Caremark. The Delaware Court of Chancery rejected both arguments, holding that the plaintiff came up one director short on his independence theory and that the plaintiff failed to plead liability under Caremark.[8] The Delaware Supreme Court reversed both holdings.[9] On independence, Chief Justice Strine continued his instruction from Delaware County Employees Retirement Fund v. Sanchez, 124 A.3d 1017 (Del. 2015) and Sandys v. Pincus, 152 A.3d 124 (Del. 2016) that Delaware law “cannot ignore the social nature of humans or that they are motivated by things other than money, such as love, friendship, and collegiality.”[10] “[D]eep and long-standing friendships are meaningful to human beings,” the Chief Justice reasoned, and “any realistic consideration of the question of independence must give weight to these important relationships and their natural effect on the ability of parties to act impartially towards each other.”[11] The director at issue, although recently retired from his role as CFO at the company, owed his “successful career” of 28 years at the company to the family of the CEO whom the director would be asked to sue.[12] And that family “spearheaded” an effort to donate to a local college that resulted in the college naming a new facility after the director.[13] These facts “support[ed] a pleading-stage inference” that the director could not act independently.[14] This was so despite the director’s previously voting against the CEO on whether to split the company’s CEO and Chairman position. Although the Court of Chancery reasoned that this militated against holding that the director was not independent, the Delaware Supreme Court held it was irrelevant to the demand futility analysis.[15] Voting to sue someone, the Supreme Court explained, is “materially different” than voting on corporate-governance issues.[16] The Supreme Court thus held that the number of directors incapable of acting impartially was sufficient to excuse demand. On Caremark liability, the Court focused on the first prong of the Caremark test: whether the board had made any effort to implement a reporting system. It explained that a director “must make a good faith effort” to oversee the company’s operations. “Fail[ing] to make that effort constitutes a breach of the duty of loyalty”[17] and can expose a director to liability. To meet this standard, the board must “try”[18] “to put in place a reasonable system of monitoring and reporting about the corporation’s central compliance risks.”[19] For Blue Bell, food safety was “essential and mission critical”[20] and “the obviously most central consumer safety and legal compliance issue facing the company.”[21] Despite its importance, the complaint contained sufficient facts to infer that no system of board-level compliance monitoring and reporting over food safety existed at the company. For example: “no board committee that addressed food safety existed”; “no regular process or protocols that required management to keep the board apprised of food safety compliance practices, risks, or reports existed”; “no schedule for the board to consider on a regular basis, such as quarterly or biannually, any key food safety risks existed”; “during a key period leading up to the deaths of three customers, management received reports that contained what could be considered red, or at least yellow, flags, and the board minutes of the relevant period revealed no evidence that these were disclosed to the board”; “the board was given certain favorable information about food safety by management, but was not given important reports that presented a much different picture”; and “the board meetings [we]re devoid of any suggestion that there was any regular discussion of food safety issues.”[22] These shortcomings convinced the Delaware Supreme Court that the plaintiff had pleaded sufficient allegations that Blue Bell’s “board ha[d] undertaken no efforts to make sure it [wa]s informed of a compliance issue intrinsically critical to the company’s business operation.” Id. at 33. So the Court could infer that the board “ha[d] not made the good faith effort that Caremark requires.”[23] That management “regularly reported” to the board on “operational issues” was insufficient to demonstrate that the board had made a good faith effort to put in place a reasonable system of monitoring and reporting about Blue Bell’s central compliance risks.[24] So, too, was “the fact that Blue Bell nominally complied with FDA regulations.”[25] Neither of these facts showed that “the board implemented a system to monitor food safety at the board level.”[26] In light of these facts, the Supreme Court held that the plaintiff met his “onerous pleading burden” and was entitled to discovery to prove out his Caremark claim.[27] Key Takeaways Independence: Close Personal Ties Increase Litigation Risk Directors should be aware that the greater the level of close personal or business relationships amongst themselves, management, and even each other’s families, the greater risk they face of being held incapable of exercising their business judgment in a demand futility analysis, even in circumstances where they have plainly demonstrated independent or dissenting judgment on corporate-governance matters. Caremark Increased Litigation Risk over Compliance Efforts Derivative Litigation. Although Caremark claims will remain “the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment,”[28] we expect an increase in attempted derivative litigation over a purported lack of board-level monitoring systems for specific risks as plaintiffs try to shoehorn as many standard business and non-business risks as possible into Marchand’s “essential and mission critical” risk category. Whereas to date many Caremark claims have focused on the second prong of the standard—alleging that a board consciously failed to monitor or oversee the operation of its reporting system or controls and by ignoring red flags disabled themselves from being informed of risks or problems requiring their attention—Marchand likely will focus plaintiffs on the first prong: whether in particular areas a board failed to implement any reporting or information system or controls. The plaintiffs’ bar is bound to focus on the full array of corporate risks, including many that are not correctly characterized as “central compliance risks” for most companies. These areas could range from risks disclosed in the company’s SEC filings to cultural issues, like harassment or bullying, and more broader environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) issues. Books and Records Litigation. Similarly, we expect a rise in Section 220 books and records demands seeking to investigate a board’s specific oversight of central compliance risks. Assessing Central Compliance Risks Marchand does not change the core principle that a company’s board of directors is responsible for seeing that the company has systems in place to provide the board with information that is sufficient to allow directors to perform their oversight responsibilities. This includes information about major risks facing the company. The Delaware Supreme Court emphasized in Marchand that these systems can be “context- and industry-specific approaches tailored to . . . companies’ business and resources.”[29] Accordingly, boards have wide latitude in designing systems that work for them. In light of this, boards should be comfortable that they understand the “central compliance risks” facing their companies. They should satisfy themselves that they are receiving, on an appropriate schedule, reports from management and elsewhere on these central risks and what management is doing to manage those risks. In recent years, many boards have devoted significant time to thinking about how best to allocate responsibility for risk oversight at the board level. Boards should be comfortable that there is adequate coverage, among the full board and its committees, of the major compliance and other risks facing the corporation, and that the full board is receiving appropriate reports from responsible committees, as well as from management. They also should periodically evaluate the most effective methods for monitoring “essential and mission critical” risk to their companies, even where these risks do not relate directly to operational issues, and whether the current committee structure, charters, and meeting schedules are appropriate. These efforts, reports, and discussions should be documented. Boards should establish systems so that management provides them with an adequate picture of compliance risks. In Marchand, although management received many reports about food-safety issues, “this information never made its way to the board.”[30] Boards should remain mindful of the second prong in Caremark by overseeing the company’s response when they are informed of risks or problems requiring their attention. When reporting systems or other developments demonstrate that risks are becoming manifest, directors should assess whether a need exists to implement a heightened system of monitoring, such as setting additional meetings and requiring additional reports from management about the steps the company is taking to address the risk. Boards should hesitate to leave the response entirely to management. Documenting the Board’s Work Minutes of board meetings, and board materials, should not just reflect the “good news.” Instead, they should demonstrate that the board received appropriate information about issues and challenges facing the company, and that the board spent time discussing those issues and challenges. The goal should be to create a balanced record demonstrating diligent oversight by the board, while recognizing that those minutes could be produced in litigation. ________________________    [1]   Marchand v. Barnhill, No. 533, 2018, slip op. at 33 (Del. June 18, 2019).    [2]   Id. at 36.    [3]   Id. at 5.    [4]   Id. at 1.    [5]   Id.    [6]   Id. at 19.    [7]   Stone v. Ritter, 911 A.2d 362, 370 (Del. 2006).    [8]   Marchand, No. 533, 2018, slip op. at 20-23.    [9]   Id. at 3. [10]   Id. at 25. [11]   Id. at 28. [12]   Id. at 26. [13]   Id. [14]   Id. at 29. [15]   Id. at 27. [16]   Id. [17]   Id. at 37. [18]   Id. at 30. [19]   Id. at 36 (emphasis added). [20]   Id. [21]   Id. at 37. [22]   Id. at 32-33. [23]   Id. [24]   Id. at 35-36. [25]   Id. at 34. [26]   Id. [27]   Id. at 37. [28]   Stone v. Ritter, 911 A.2d 362, 372 (Del. 2006). [29]   Marchand, No. 533, 2018, slip op. at 30. [30]   Id. at 12. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist with any questions you may have regarding these issues. For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, any member of the firm’s Securities Litigation or Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance practice groups, or the authors in Washington, D.C.: Securities Litigation Group: Andrew S. Tulumello (+1 202-955-8657, atulumello@gibsondunn.com) Jason J. Mendro (+1 202-887-3726, jmendro@gibsondunn.com) Jason H. Hilborn (+1 202-955-8276, jhilborn@gibsondunn.com) Securities Regulation and Corporate Governance Group: Elizabeth Ising (+1 202-955-8287, eising@gibsondunn.com) Ronald O. Mueller (+1 202-955-8671, rmueller@gibsondunn.com) Gillian McPhee (+1 202-955-8201, gmcphee@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact any of the following leaders of the Securities Litigation group: Brian M. Lutz – Co-Chair, San Francisco/New York (+1 415-393-8379/+1 212-351-3881, blutz@gibsondunn.com) Robert F. Serio – Co-Chair, New York (+1 212-351-3917, rserio@gibsondunn.com) Meryl L. Young – Co-Chair, Orange County (+1 949-451-4229, myoung@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 26, 2019 |
New UK Prime Minister – what has happened?

Click for PDF Boris Johnson has won the Conservative leadership race and is the new Prime Minister of the UK. Having been supported by a majority of Conservative MPs, this week the former mayor of London won a 66% share (92,153 votes) in the ballot of Conservative party members. Although there is some criticism of the fact that the new Prime Minister has been elected by such a narrow constituency, it is the case that most political parties in the UK now select their leaders by way of a members ballot. As things stand, the UK is due to leave the European Union (EU) at 23:00 GMT on 31 October 2019. Boris Johnson’s new Cabinet, and the 17 related departures, has set a new tone of determination to leave the EU by that date with or without a deal – “no ifs or buts”. Although only 12 of the 31 members of the new Cabinet originally voted to leave the EU, these “Brexiteer” MPs now dominate the senior Cabinet positions. The newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has however indicated she is willing to support another extension to Brexit talks. In Parliament the Conservatives govern in alliance with the Northern Irish DUP and can only stay in power with the support of the House of Commons. Following defections earlier in the year and the recent suspension of a Conservative MP facing criminal charges, the Government now has an overall working majority of only two MPs (and if, as expected, the Conservatives lose a by-election on 1 August, the Government’s working majority will fall to one). A number of the members of Prime Minister May’s Government who resigned before Boris Johnson took office have made it clear that they will do everything they can to prevent the UK leaving without a deal including voting against the Government. There is therefore a heightened prospect of a general election. This theory is supported by the appointment as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of political strategist Dominic Cummings who was the chief architect of the campaign to leave the EU in 2016. There has been some debate about whether the new Prime Minister would prorogue Parliament (effectively suspending it) to prevent it stopping a no deal Brexit. That would undoubtedly trigger a constitutional crisis but, despite the rhetoric, it feels like an unlikely outcome. Indeed Parliament recently passed a vote to block that happening. It is difficult to tell where the mood of the House of Commons is today compared to earlier in the year when Prime Minister May’s deal was voted down three times. Since then both the Conservative and Labour parties suffered significant losses in the EU election in May. The new Brexit Party which campaigned to leave made significant gains, as did the Liberal Democrats who have a clear policy to remain in the EU. The opinion polls suggest that, if an election was called today, no party would gain overall control of the House of Commons. It is just possible, however, that some MPs on both sides of the House who previously voted against the May deal would now support something similar, particularly to avoid a no-deal exit from the EU. It may be the case that Boris Johnson, who led the campaign to leave the EU, is the last chance those supporting Brexit have to get Brexit through Parliament. If he fails then either a second referendum or a general election will probably follow. It is not clear what the result of a second referendum would be but it is likely that Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP would all campaign to remain. The EU has consistently said that it will not reopen Prime Minister May’s Withdrawal Agreement although the non-binding political declaration is open to negotiation. The so-called “Irish backstop” remains the most contentious issue. The backstop is intended to guarantee no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland but Boris Johnson is concerned it could “trap” the UK in a customs union with the EU. Boris Johnson claims that technology and “trusted trader schemes” means that checks can be made without the need for a hard border. Others, including the EU, remain to be convinced. Parliament has now gone into recess until 3 September 2019 and then, mid-September, there will be another Parliamentary break for the two week party conference season. The Conservative Party Conference on 29 September – a month before the UK’s scheduled exit from the EU – will be a key political moment for the new Prime Minister to report back to the party supporters who elected him. Finally, it is not clear what “no deal” really means. Even if the UK leaves without adopting the current Withdrawal Agreement, it is likely that a series of “mini deals” would be put in place to cover security, air traffic control, etc. A new trading agreement would then still need to be negotiated to establish the ongoing EU-UK relationship. And the issue of the Northern Irish border will still need to be resolved. This client alert was prepared by Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Anne MacPherson in London. We have a working group in London (led by Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues.  Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Sandy Bhogal – Tax SBhogal@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4266 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4236 © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 26, 2019 |
Greta Williams Named Among 2019 D.C. Rising Stars

The National Law Journal named Washington, D.C. partner Greta Williams among its 2019 D.C. Rising Stars, featuring 40 attorneys who have “excelled on some of the biggest stages.” The list was published on July 24, 2019. Greta Williams represents clients in a wide range of employment matters, including those involving non-competition agreements and trade secrets, executive employment disputes, wage-hour and discrimination laws, and whistleblower protection laws. She has also handled numerous employment-related investigations, including investigations involving sexual harassment allegations and the possible misappropriation of trade secrets.

July 25, 2019 |
Navigating Cross-Border Investigations Involving Switzerland

Washington D.C. partner F. Joseph Warin and associate attorneys Jason Smith and Susanna Schuemann are the authors of “Navigating Cross-Border Investigations Involving Switzerland” [PDF] published by the Global Investigations Review on July 12, 2019.

June 24, 2019 |
Webcast: Impacts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Electric Utilities

This webcast brings together a diverse panel of professionals in electric utility tax issues to discuss the impact of the 2017 Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) on electric utilities, with a particular focus on the impacts on utility accounting and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) ratemaking. Although the industry awaits a final FERC rulemaking addressing these issues, the impacts of the TCJA are already being felt, with some utilities already adjusting rates, recording regulatory liabilities for excess accumulated deferred income taxes (“ADITs”), and taking other ratemaking actions. And once the rulemaking issues, utilities will want to be ready to move quickly to implement any mandates as stakeholders will be anxious to capture the benefits of the TCJA for themselves. The panelists for the webcast have extensive experience on these issues and represent a cross-section of professionals in this area—an electric utility attorney, an electric utility tax manager, and a “Big Four” accountant—each of whom will discuss their own experiences with these issues. Anyone involved in utility tax accounting or ratemaking will want to attend to hear their insights into these evolving issues. View Slides (PDF) PANELISTS: David Davoren is the Corporate Tax Manager for Emera Maine, an electric utility company operating in eastern and northern Maine. At Emera Maine, Mr. Davoren is responsible for, among other things, the determination and financial disclosure of corporate income tax expense (federal and state) used in audited financials and regulatory reporting. Mr. Davoren has also assisted in developing filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and its effects on ADITs. Prior to joining Emera Maine in 2012, Mr. Davoren previously worked as a Corporate Tax Consultant for the Corporate Tax Group, a regional tax consulting firm specializing in corporate tax clients. Mr. Davoren is a Certified Public Accountant in the state of Maine and holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Boston College.elect Jeffrey M. Jakubiak is a partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York and Washington, D.C. offices and a member of the firm’s Energy, Regulation and Litigation Practice Group who counsels clients regarding matters at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Holding a bachelor’s degree in quantitative economics, Mr. Jakubiak’s practice focuses on matters at the crossroads of law and economics, particularly those involving electric company ratemaking, mergers, and power sales, as well as the workings of energy markets. Mr. Jakubiak also has developed proprietary quantitative analytical tools that he uses to advise clients on electric asset transactions, market-based rate authorizations, and litigation risk. Kimberly Johnston is a National Tax Partner in Ernst & Young’s Power & Utilities tax practice serving clients, industry groups, and regional teams throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico to deliver sustainable value for tax operations, regulatory proceedings, and investment growth plans. Ms. Johnston has 25 years of energy sector experience in corporate tax, including experience leading tax efficient M&A strategies, legislative advocacy efforts, regulatory proceedings, audit settlement negotiations, tax operational effectiveness, and merger integration and divesture plans. Her areas of focus include serving investor-owned utilities, independent power producers and midstream energy companies on regulatory strategy, rate case proceedings, tax planning strategies, due diligence on investment growth opportunities, and tax operations. Prior to rejoining Ernst & Young, Ms. Johnston served as the Vice President of Tax for CenterPoint Energy and Tax Director of Spectra Energy. Moderator: Jennifer C. Mansh is a senior associate in Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office and a member of the firm’s Energy, Regulation and Litigation Practice Group. Ms. Mansh advises clients on a wide range of energy litigation, regulatory, and transactional matters before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Department of Energy, and state public utility commissions. Ms. Mansh has represented a wide variety of electric utilities, merchant transmission companies, power marketers, and natural gas and oil pipeline companies in rate, licensing, and enforcement proceedings before FERC, CFTC, and state public utility Commissions. In addition to her litigation experience, Ms. Mansh assists clients on a variety of transactional matters and compliance issues. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.0 credit hour, of which 1.0 credit hour may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast. Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.0 hour. California attorneys may claim “self-study” credit for viewing the archived version of this webcast.  No certificate of attendance is required for California “self-study” credit. © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

June 25, 2019 |
New York State Enacts Sweeping Emissions Reduction Law

Click for PDF Last week, the New York State Legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Senate Bill S6599 (“CLCPA”).[1]  It is considered to impose “the most aggressive legal mandate in the country” for emissions reduction.[2]  New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called the bill “the most aggressive climate change program in the United States of America, period.”[3]  Governor Cuomo is expected to sign it into law. The timing of the CLCPA is notable given that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has just promulgated a rule requiring rather scant emissions reductions.[4]  Indeed, one supporter of the CLCPA remarked that “[a]s the White House continues to put fossil fuels first, this legislation is a model for other states to follow.”[5] New Law Will Apply to Anything Regulators Deem a “Greenhouse Gas” Notably, the CLCPA does not only target carbon emissions.  Instead, it requires emissions reductions of anything regulators deem to be a “greenhouse gas.”  In addition to usual suspects like carbon dioxide and methane, the CLCPA defines the term “greenhouse gas” to include “any other substance emitted into the air that may be reasonably anticipated to cause or contribute to anthropogenic climate change.”[6]  The law thus potentially allows New York to regulate any business that emits substances into the air. Required Aggressive Emissions Reductions The CLCPA requires New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (“Department”) to promulgate regulations to aggressively and rapidly curtail the emission of anything deemed a greenhouse gas.  By 2030, greenhouse gas emitters must reduce emissions to “60% of 1990 emissions” levels, and by 2050 they must achieve “15% of 1990 emissions” levels.[7]  The regulations requiring these reductions must be promulgated within a year of the CLCPA’s becoming effective.[8]  Already, some have questioned whether businesses in New York, including those in energy and real estate, can meet the goals set forth in the bill.[9] The law also seeks “reduction of emissions beyond eighty-five percent,” and “net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy.”[10]  The details of how these aggressive goals will be met is left to a “state climate action council” (“Council”), which will prepare a “scoping plan” and report within two years of the CCLPA’s becoming effective.[11]  The Council will consist of twenty-two members, including the heads of twelve state agencies “or their designees;” “two non-agency expert members appointed by the governor;” “three members to be appointed by the temporary president of the senate;” “three members to be appointed by the speaker of the assembly;” “one member to be appointed by the minority leader of the senate;” and “one member to be appointed by the minority leader of the assembly.[12]  The Council must “provide meaningful opportunities for public comment” before issuing its recommendations.[13]  Once completed, the Council’s report “shall [be] incorporate[d]” into the “state energy planning board’s” “state energy plan,” which will establish the State’s “clean energy goals” and how to meet them.[14]  The Council is broadly empowered to consider all manner of methods for achieving emissions reductions, including “displacing fossil-fuel fired electricity with renewable electricity,” “land-use and transportation planning,” “establishing appliance efficiency standards, strengthening building energy codes,” and “limit[ing] the use of chemicals” that may “contribute to global climate change.”[15] Alternative Compliance Through Net Zero Emissions Reduction While the CLCPA generally mandates gross emissions reductions, entities may be able to meet their reductions requirements through “an alternative compliance mechanism” under which they would need to achieve “net zero emissions.”[16]  But use of this alternative mechanism will be significantly limited.  First, the Department is left to decide whether to create this alternative compliance structure at all.[17]  Second, to utilize the alternative compliance mechanism, entities must go through “an application process” in which they must demonstrate that “compliance with” the normal emissions limits is not feasible and that they “ha[ve] reduced emission to the maximum extent practicable.”[18] Renewable Energy Requirements for Power Companies Serving End-Users The CLCPA requires New York’s Public Service Commission (“Commission”) to impose new regulations on companies that “secure[] energy to serve the electrical energy requirements of end-use customers in New York.”[19]  These companies will be required to meet demand with renewable energy.  Specifically, such companies regulated by the Commission will have to meet their customers’ needs with at least 70% renewable energy by 2030, and they will need to meet all demand with zero emissions by 2040.[20]  These targets may be suspended or modified if the Commission finds that they will adversely impair safety, existing agreements, or if they cause “arrears or service disconnection.”[21] Conclusion The CLCPA will impose hefty requirements on all industries that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, including energy, transportation, real estate, and any others that New York’s regulators may identify in deciding which emissions contribute to climate change.  And because of the size of New York’s economy, businesses that operate within New York to any extent will likely need to adjust their operations and compliance structures to meet the CLCPA’s requirements.  Additionally, businesses and other stakeholders may wish to provide comment on how the CLCPA is to be implemented, whether before the Department, the Commission, or the newly-created Council. They may also wish to apply for the alternative net zero emissions compliance channel, or provide comment on what should or should not be considered a greenhouse gas.  Thus, in addition to expending considerable resources to adapt to the new law’s requirements, many businesses may also decide it is necessary to spend resources to engage in the new regulatory processes established by the CLCPA. _______________________    [1]   https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6599    [2]   https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2019/06/19/senate-passes-ambitious-renewable-energy-measure-1067167    [3]   http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/06/new-york-state-to-approve-impressive-ambitious-climate-bill.html    [4]   https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/trump-epa-finalizes-rollback-of-key-obama-climate-rule-that-targeted-coal-plants/2019/06/19/b8ff1702-8eeb-11e9-8f69-a2795fca3343_story.html    [5]   https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/velmanette-montgomery/senate-democratic-majority-passes-historic-climate    [6]   Senate Bill S6599 § 2.    [7]   Id.    [8]   Id.    [9]   https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/18/nyregion/greenhouse-gases-ny.html [10]   Id. [11]   Senate Bill S6599 § 2. [12]   Id. [13]   Id. [14]   Id. [15]   Id. [16]   Id. [17]   Id. [18]   Id. [19]   Id. § 4. [20]   Id. [21]   Id. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s lawyers are available to assist with any questions you may have regarding these issues.  For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, any member of the firm’s Public Policy or Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort practice groups, or the authors: Mylan L. Denerstein – Co-Chair, Public Policy Practice, New York (+1 212-351-3850, mdenerstein@gibsondunn.com) Abbey Hudson – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7954, ahudson@gibsondunn.com) Michael Klurfeld – New York (+1 212-351-6370, mklurfeld@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact the following practice group leaders: Environmental Litigation and Mass Tort Group: Daniel W. Nelson – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3687, dnelson@gibsondunn.com) Peter E. Seley – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3689, pseley@gibsondunn.com) © 2019 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

May 31, 2019 |
Gibson Dunn Named Winner in Two Categories for D.C. Litigation Department of the Year

In its 2019 D.C. Litigation Department of the Year contest, the National Law Journal named Gibson Dunn as one of three winners in the General Litigation [PDF] category and as the winner in the Labor & Employment [PDF] category. The publication noted the firm’s “knack for taking on fights that will shape the law.” This is the firm’s second consecutive win for the general litigation category and third consecutive win in Labor & Employment. The winners were announced on May 31, 2019. Acclaimed as a litigation powerhouse, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and the members of the Litigation Practice Group have a long record of outstanding successes. The members of our litigation practice group are not just litigators, they are first-rate trial lawyers.  Each year, we try numerous cases to verdicts before juries, judges and arbitrators.  Our clients have trusted us to try their most significant disputes to verdict, and we believe our trial win-loss record is unsurpassed.  

April 25, 2019 |
Gibson Dunn Earns 79 Top-Tier Rankings in Chambers USA 2019

In its 2019 edition, Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business awarded Gibson Dunn 79 first-tier rankings, of which 27 were firm practice group rankings and 52 were individual lawyer rankings. Overall, the firm earned 276 rankings – 80 firm practice group rankings and 196 individual lawyer rankings. Gibson Dunn earned top-tier rankings in the following practice group categories: National – Antitrust National – Antitrust: Cartel National – Appellate Law National – Corporate Crime & Investigations National – FCPA National – Outsourcing National – Real Estate National – Retail National – Securities: Regulation CA – Antitrust CA – Environment CA – IT & Outsourcing CA – Litigation: Appellate CA – Litigation: General Commercial CA – Litigation: Securities CA – Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations CA – Real Estate: Southern California CO – Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations CO – Natural Resources & Energy DC – Corporate/M&A & Private Equity DC – Labor & Employment DC – Litigation: General Commercial DC – Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations NY – Litigation: General Commercial: The Elite NY – Media & Entertainment: Litigation NY – Technology & Outsourcing TX – Antitrust This year, 155 Gibson Dunn attorneys were identified as leading lawyers in their respective practice areas, with some ranked in more than one category. The following lawyers achieved top-tier rankings:  D. Jarrett Arp, Theodore Boutrous, Jessica Brown, Jeffrey Chapman, Linda Curtis, Michael Darden, William Dawson, Patrick Dennis, Mark Director, Scott Edelman, Miguel Estrada, Stephen Fackler, Sean Feller, Eric Feuerstein, Amy Forbes, Stephen Glover, Richard Grime, Daniel Kolkey, Brian Lane, Jonathan Layne, Karen Manos, Randy Mastro, Cromwell Montgomery, Daniel Mummery, Stephen Nordahl, Theodore Olson, Richard Parker, William Peters, Tomer Pinkusiewicz, Sean Royall, Eugene Scalia, Jesse Sharf, Orin Snyder, George Stamas, Beau Stark, Charles Stevens, Daniel Swanson, Steven Talley, Helgi Walker, Robert Walters, F. Joseph Warin and Debra Wong Yang.

April 11, 2019 |
President Trump Issues Two Executive Orders on Energy Infrastructure

Click for PDF On April 10, 2019, President Trump issued two long awaited executive orders (“EOs”) intended to promote the development of energy infrastructure through several regulatory reforms.  In many respects, the EOs are driven by concerns that some states are thwarting the development of much needed energy infrastructure.  Indeed, a central feature of the first EO addresses reforms seeking to expedite and remove barriers to domestic energy projects.  The second EO reforms the process for permitting international cross-border projects, including oil pipelines. EO ON DOMESTIC INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES President Trump’s first EO takes aim at a range of regulatory issues hindering the development of energy infrastructure projects domestically, including the Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certifications and outdated safety regulations for LNG facilities.  The EO also requires reports on a number of energy issues, including, among others, constraints for entering the energy markets of New England and economic growth in the Appalachian region. Clean Water Act Section 401 Review There has been a great deal of concern that some states are impermissibly using  delegated federal authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to impede construction of natural gas pipelines.  As a result, President Trump declared that outdated federal guidance and regulations on Water Quality Certifications are causing confusion and uncertainty and hindering the development of energy infrastructure.  EO I at Sec. 3.  Accordingly, President Trump ordered the Administrator of the EPA to consult with states, tribes and the relevant executive departments and agencies to review these materials to determine whether any provisions should be clarified to reduce confusion and regulatory uncertainty.  Id. at Sec. 3(a).  This review will include existing guidance issued under President Obama, which, among other things declares that the one-year time limit for states to act on a Section 401 certification begins when the certifying agency deems an application complete—contrary to recent case law.  See, e.g., N.Y. State Dep’t of Envtl. Conserv. v. FERC, 884 F.3d 450 (2d Cir. 2018) (finding that the one-year time limit begins when the applicant submits the application). The review that EPA must conduct appears aimed at addressing recent efforts in some states to exploit the Section 401 process to hinder energy projects by focusing on the following: The need to promote timely Federal-State cooperation and collaboration, EO I at Sec. 3(a)(i); The appropriate scope of water quality reviews, id. at Sec. 3(a)(ii); Types of conditions that may be appropriate to include in a certification, id. at Sec. 3(a)(iii); Expectations for reasonable review times for various types of certification requests, id. at Sec. 3(a)(iv); and The nature and scope of information States and authorized tribes may need in order to substantively act on a certification request within a prescribed period of time, id. at Sec. 3(a)(v). New EPA Section 401 Guidance:  President Trump ordered that upon completion of the review of existing guidance and regulations, but no later than 60 days from the date of the order (June 9, 2019), the Administrator of the EPA shall issue new guidance to States and authorized tribes to supersede the Section 401 interim guidance.  Id. at Sec. 3(b). The new guidance will, at minimum, clarify the issues listed above.  Id. Revised EPA Section 401 Regulations:  President Trump ordered that upon completion of the review, but no later than 120 days from the date of this order (August 8, 2019), the Administrator of the EPA shall review the Section 401 implementing regulations for consistency with the policies set forth above and publish revised rules for notice and comment.  Id. at Sec. 3(c).  Such revised rules shall be finalized no later than 13 months after the date of the order (May 10, 2020).  Id. Updated Guidance for 401 Implementing Agencies:  Following the issuance of the new Section 401 guidance, the Administrator of the EPA will lead an interagency review, in coordination with the head of each agency, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, that issues permits or licenses subject to Section 401 certification requirements, of existing regulations and guidance for consistency with the EPA guidance and rulemaking.  Id. at Sec. 3(d).  The heads of these agencies will then update their respective agency’s guidance within 90 days (i.e., no later than September 7, 2019).  Id.  Within 90 days of the EPA finalizing revised rules regarding Section 401, the heads of these agencies shall initiate a rulemaking to ensure their respective regulations are consistent with the EPA’s revised rules (i.e., no later than August 8, 2020).  Id. LNG Safety Regulations Currently, the Department of Transportation’s safety regulations for LNG facilities in 40 C.F.R. Part 193 apply uniformly to all LNG facilities regardless of size (e.g., small-scale peak shaving and large-scale import and export terminals).  Id. at Sec. 4(a).  Because the current rules were developed to regulate small facilities and new LNG export terminals are in various stages of development, President Trump ordered the Secretary of Transportation to initiate a rulemaking to update Part 193 using risk-based standards (i.e., those that impose regulatory requirements commensurate with the associated risk) to the maximum extent practicable.  Id.  The EO requires the Secretary to finalize that rulemaking no later than 13 months after the date of the order.  Id. In addition, President Trump directed that the Secretary of Transportation propose for notice and comment rulemaking, no later than 100 days from the date of the order, a rule that would allow LNG to be transported via rail in approved tank cars.  Id. at Sec. 4(b). The rule shall be finalized no later than 13 months from the date of the order. Capital Markets Because a majority of project financing is done through the United States capital markets, President Trump directed the Secretary of Labor to complete a review of the data filed with the Department of Labor by retirement plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to identify whether there are discernable trends with respect to such plans’ investments in the energy sector.  President Trump directed that within 180 days of the issuance of the order the Secretary of Labor shall complete the review and provide an update to the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy on any discernable trends in energy investments of such plans.  Id. at Sec. 5. The President also directed that the Secretary of Labor complete a review of existing Department of Labor guidance on the fiduciary responsibilities for proxy voting to determine whether any such guidance should be rescinded, replaced, or modified to ensure consistency with current law and policies that promote long-term growth and maximize return on ERISA plan assets.  Id. Rights-of-Way Renewals and Reauthorizations To address the issue of automatic sunset provisions in rights-of-way granted for energy infrastructure projects, President Trump directed the Secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture, and Interior to develop a master agreement for energy infrastructure rights-of-way renewals or reauthorizations, and within a year of the date of the order, initiate renewal or reauthorization for all expired energy rights-of-way.  Id. at Sec. 6. Reports on Barriers to National Energy Market Report on New England Constraints:  President Trump directed the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, to submit a report regarding the economic and other effects caused by the inability to transport sufficient quantities of natural gas and other domestic energy resources into the States in New England and, as appropriate, other regions of the United States.  The report must be submitted within 180 of the order and assess to what extent state, local, tribal, and territorial actions have contributed to these issues.  Id. at Sec. 7(a). Report on West Coast Export Constraints:  President Trump also directed the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, to submit a report regarding the economic and other effects cause by limitation on the export of coal, oil, natural gas, and other domestic energy resources through the west coast of the United States.  This report shall also be submitted within 180 days of the order and assess to what extent state, local, tribal, and territorial actions have contributed to such effects.  Id. at Sec. 7(b). Report on Intergovernmental Assistance Due to the vital role state and local governments play in supporting energy infrastructure projects, President Trump directed the heads of agencies to review existing authorities related to the transportation and development of domestically produced energy resources and report within 30 days on how those authorities can be most efficiently and effectively used to promote energy infrastructure development.  Id. at Sec. 8. Report on Economic Growth in Appalachian Region President Trump directed the Secretary of Energy to submit a report describing opportunities, through the federal government or otherwise, to promote economic growth of the Appalachian region, including growth of petrochemical and other industries.  The report shall also assess diversifying the Appalachian economy and promoting workforce development.  The report is due within 180 days of the order.  Id. at Sec. 9. EO ON INTERNATIONAL CROSS-BORDER PERMITTING Citing concerns that the policies of certain executive agencies have hindered the permitting process and relations with neighboring countries, President Trump’s second EO transfers authority from the Secretary of State to the President to issue, deny or amend Presidential permits for certain international border crossing facilities, including oil pipelines.  EO II at Sec. 1.  Under the EO, such decisions shall now reside solely with the President.  Id. at Sec. 2(i).  The EO requires the State Department to complete its review of any application and to provide any opinion supporting the issuance of a permit to the President within 60 days of receipt of the application.  Id. at Sec. 2.  The EO will effectively eliminate what has, at times, been a lengthy State Department review process.  These reforms would allow the President to permit a project like the Keystone XL, which was famously denied after the type of State Department review that is being eliminated here. Subject to a few significant exceptions, the EO applies to all Presidential permits for “pipelines . . . and similar facilities for exportation or importation of all products,” “facilities for the transportation of persons or things,” “bridges,” and “motor and rail vehicle” border crossings.  EO II at Sec. 2(b).  The EO specifically excepts, however, natural gas import and export facilities, electric transmission lines, and licenses to land or operate submarine cables.  Id.; see also Executive Order 10486 at Sec. 1(1)-(2); Executive Order 10530 at Sec. 5(a). The EO requires the Secretary of State to “adopt procedures to ensure” that if taken, certain actions are “completed within 60 days of the receipt of an application for a Presidential permit.”  EO II at Sec. 2.  While not required, during that 60-period the Secretary “may” “[R]equest additional information from the applicant,” or “refer the application and pertinent information” to other agency heads, id. at Sec. 2(c)(i)-(ii); “[A]dvise the President” on whether to “request the opinion, in writing, of any heads of agencies concerning the application,” id. at Sec. 2(d).  Should the President request such opinions, the agency heads are to provide them in writing “30 days from the date of the request, unless the President otherwise specifies,” id.; and “[S]olicit such advice from State, tribal, and local government officials, and foreign governments, as the President may deem necessary,” but must “seek responses no more than 30 days from the date of a request,” id. at Sec. 2(e). If after reviewing the additional information received from the applicant, the “opinions” of other agency heads, or “advice from State, tribal, and local government officials, and foreign governments,” the Secretary considers other information necessary for the President’s evaluation, the Secretary “shall advise the President accordingly.”  Id. at Sec. 2(f).  If directed by the President, the Secretary shall request such additional information.  Id. Within 60 days of receipt of the application, and after receiving or requesting the information discussed above, if the Secretary “is of the opinion” that issuance or amendment of a permit “would” or “would not serve the foreign policy interests of the United States, the Secretary” shall provide the reasons supporting that opinion to the President in writing.  Id. at Sec. 2(g)-(h). The EO also revokes Executive Orders 13337 and 11423, which had previously granted the Secretary of State authority to grant, deny or amend Presidential permits for the covered international border-crossing facilities.  Id. at Sec. 2(k). Notably, the EO makes no provision for the Secretary of State to make public notice of or seek public comment on a proposed permit.  Nor does it make allowance for any review that may be required under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) or any other statute.  The current State Department’s NEPA regulations provide that an environmental assessment is normally required for “actions for which the Department has lead-agency responsibility and which may significantly affect the human environment of the United States,” including the “[i]ssuance of permits for construction of international bridges and pipeline[.]”  22 C.F.R. § 161.7(c). Gibson Dunn’s Energy, Regulation and Litigation lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the developments discussed above.  To learn more about these issues, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, or the authors: William S. Scherman – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3510, wscherman@gibsondunn.com) Ruth M. Porter – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3666, rporter@gibsondunn.com) Jason J. Fleischer – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3737, jfleischer@gibsondunn.com) Amy E. Mersol-Barg – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8529, amersolbarg@gibsondunn.com)