State law antitrust claims in North Carolina seem to go together with unfair and deceptive trade practices claims (Chapter 75 claims) like peanut butter and jelly. Section 75-2 of the General Statutes says that “any act, contract, combination in the form of trust, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce which violates the
Judge Robinson boldly went where no North Carolina Judge writing published Opinions had gone before last month in the case of Wheeler v. Wheeler, 2018NCBC117. The subject was a corporate officer’s right to the advancement of legal fees incurred in defending against a lawsuit.
Judge Robinson noted that there was only “one case…
The Business Court Opinion last month in Shaw v. Gee, 2018 NCBC 108, deals with two interesting trial procedure issues: how to preserve all your arguments for making motions for judgment not withstanding the verdict and for a new trial.
Shaw had won at…
This hurricane — Florence — has proved so far to be underwhelming in Greensboro.
But North Carolina is nevertheless taking this hurricane very seriously. It’s seen as so devastating that the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court has issued blanket extensions of time in cases pending in 14 Counties, most on the coast…
I have been complaining about the fees approved by the NC Business Court for those lawyers obtaining disclosure only settlements since there was a Wachovia Bank. Some of you may not be old enough to remember that venerable bank.
Now, at last, Judge Gale has found a disclosure only settlement to have yielded (almost)…
The title of Judge Bledsoe’s Opinion in Carolina Home Solutions 1, Inc. v. Crystal Home Solutions, Inc., 2018 NCBC 57, is ominous in itself. It is titled “Order and Opinion Denying Pro Hac Vice Admission and Referral to the Georgia and North Carolina State Bars.”
How hard is it to get a pro…
The attorney for the Plaintiff in Preiss v. Wine and Design Franchise, LLC, 2018 NCBC 53, apparently didn’t bother to read the Business Court’s Rules on what must be done in order to file a document under seal. That lawyer failed on three separate occasions to comply with the Court’s procedures for sealing a…
Statements made in the course of settlement negotiations are inadmissible at trial, per Rule 408 of the NC Rules of Evidence. But does that dead end to admissibility protect against the production of such items during discovery?
No, said Judge Bledsoe, in his Opinion late last month in Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC v. AG …
I guess that every North Carolina lawyer doesn’t know that since October 2014, appeals of final decisions by the NC Business Court go directly to the NC Supreme Court instead of to the NC Court of Appeals.
You didn’t know that? Well you are not alone. The Notice of Appeal of Judge Gale’s Opinion in…
It’s been a while since the Business Court devoted a full opinion to a shareholder’s rights to inspect corporate records. But last week, Judge Bledsoe filled that gap with his Order and Final Judgment in Sharman v. Fortran Corp., 2018 NCBC 27.
Fortran? If you are thinking that Fortran Corp. must control the rights to the Fortran computer coding language, like I was, you are wrong. This Fortran Corporation is a "telecommunications system integrator dedicated to designing, sourcing, implementing and maintaining complex communications solutions." That’s what its last Annual Report says.
The Sharman Opinion deals with the request of multiple Fortran shareholders to inspect a wide swath of Fortran’s corporate records. I can’t think of another area of the law where you get a statutory right to discovery before filing a lawsuit (though it’s limited to what the statute says you can get). And you are entitled to a response in five business days! No thirty or sixty days waiting for a response. Plus you might be entitled to recover your attorneys’ fees. I wonder why every claim by a shareholder against a director or officer for, say, a breach of fiduciary duty, isn’t preceded by the use of this powerful tool.
There are two "separate and distinct categories" of inspection requests. Op. ¶16 (quoting Russell M. Robinson, II, Robinson on North Carolina Corporation Law § 10.0 1(7th ed.2017)). These are generally referred to as "absolute rights of inspection" (per. G.S.§55-16-02(a), and "qualified rights of inspection (per. G.S. §55-16-02(b)).
Absolute Right Of Inspection
Section 55-16-01(e) of the General Statutes lists certain records which a corporation is required to keep. A shareholder is "entitled" to inspect these records:
(1) Its articles or restated articles of incorporation and all amendments to them currently in effect;
(2) Its bylaws or restated bylaws and all amendments to them currently in effect;
(3) Resolutions adopted by its board of directors creating one or more classes or series of shares, and fixing their relative rights, preferences, and limitations, if shares issued pursuant to those resolutions are outstanding;
(4) The minutes of all shareholders’ meetings, and records of all action taken by shareholders without a meeting, for the past three years;
(5) All written communications to shareholders generally within the past three years and the financial statements required to be made available to the shareholders for the past three years under G.S. 55-16-20;
(6) A list of the names and business addresses of its current directors and officers; and
(7) Its most recent annual report delivered as required by G.S. 55-16-22.
"Absolute" Doesn’t Mean Automatic
Not every shareholder has these "absolute" inspection rights. Only "qualified shareholders" can exercise them. Only those who have held their shares for more than six months before making their demand for inspection, or who hold at least five percent of any class of the corporation’s shares are "qualified." N.C. Gen. Stat. §55-16-02(g).
"Qualified" Rights Are Tougher To Obtain
Those shareholders trying to exercise the "qualified rights" of Section 55-16-02(b) have to satisfy a more difficult standard. The requesting shareholder must show that his: